Rabbi Yigal Levenstein, one of the heads of a military preparatory academy in the town of Eli in Samaria, required police protection after he was attacked and chased in Tel Aviv by irate protesters on Tuesday night.
In footage of the harassment, protesters shout, “You are nothing, you have no God. You are scum. You are not Jews. Get out of here.” Others yell, “Go away, fascist. Go back to the settlements. You don’t belong in this place.”
The protesters numbered about 300, according to reports. They targeted Levenstein for opposing the integration of women in the military and for speaking against homosexuals, calling them “deviants.”
Levenstein told Army Radio after the incident that “there used to be a liberal state here; everyone could express their opinion. Recently, I feel that this is not the case. People who claim liberalism as their banner prevent others from expressing a Jewish opinion.”
“The violent incident touches the core of our values as a country—a free country and the right to express an opinion. Even if there are disputes, it is legitimate. But silencing voices is not legitimate,” Levenstein said.
“The fact that I want to teach Judaism to people who are interested in Judaism, in the first Hebrew city in which the flag of pluralism flies above it, and policemen have to protect me with their bodies so that I can teach a lesson—this is something that goes against all the basic values of the country.”
The rabbi came to Tel Aviv to lend support to Israel Zaira, who heads Rosh Yehudi, a nonprofit that seeks to connect young people in the city to Judaism.
Zaira was holding an event at the group’s synagogue related to the municipality’s decision to ban partitions separating men and women, a necessary fixture for Orthodox Jewish prayer services. Zaira’s group holds annual Yom Kippur services at Dizengoff Square in the city.
Zaira was chased together with Levenstein.
“I thank the Holy One, blessed be He, and the police who protected us and saved us from a pogrom,” Zaira told Channel 12.
“There was spitting, pushing and an attempt to deal us light blows with Israeli flags. There was no severe violence but definitely a pursuit. I was chased for half a kilometer and there was a police security cordon around me. They hoped they would stop after a hundred meters and that did not happen. In the end, they placed me in the second Rosh Yehudi center. The protesters deployed around it and the police shut down the place,” Zaira said.
“We were surprised by the intensity of the hatred, the blunt words and the violent behavior of the mob,” he added, saying they acted like “savages.”
“At the same time, we understand that they came to scare us on account of the activity of the yeshiva and the mass prayer we will be holding at Dizengoff Square on Yom Kippur,” Zaira said.