The Reform movement and Yariv Levin, the Israeli Minister of Tourism, have experienced a falling-out. Levin is one of the most prominent ministers in this government, a close associate of Israeli Prime Minister Bibi Netanyahu and one of the senior members of the Likud party. Levin is the most likely candidate to take over the position of Minister of the Economy, which was previously held by Aryeh Deri and is now occupied by Netanyahu. This is being held off only because the Supreme Court is currently debating whether to disqualify Deri from holding the post of Interior Minister. Netanyahu doesn’t want to appoint anyone else to hold the Economy portfolio until the court renders its verdict, since that post will likely be returned to Deri in the event that the court decides to bar him from the Interior Ministry on the grounds that “a thief may not return to the scene of his crime.” That is a particularly infuriating argument, but it was the subject of a debate in the Supreme Court last week. We will report on that story at a different opportunity.
In any event, Yariv Levin has some particularly harsh things to say about the Supreme Court, and a recent session of the government gave him another opportunity to air his views. One of Levin’s verbal attacks was against the Reform movement, based on his experience with their actions in his capacity as Minister of Tourism. Levin also spoke about their attitude toward the state and Zionism.
“The Reform communities,” Levin declared, “do not lend their backing to the State of Israel. Two generations from now, they will be completely unimportant. In America, the Reform world is disappearing. There is massive assimilation taking place there.”
His remarks evoked hysteria in the ranks of the Reform. Levin himself, after all, is totally secular and is one of the most influential ministers in the government. The director-general of the Reform movement in Israel called to boycott Levin until he retracts his comments. Galei Tzahal also reported this week that Rabbi Rick Jacobs, the president of the Union for Reform Judaism in North America, announced that as long as Levin maintains that Reform Jews do not have the right to voice their opinions regarding the Kosel, he will not be invited to speak in any Reform congregations or organizations in America. “Levin will not teach us what it means to support Israel,” the Reform clergyman added. A meeting that was planned between Levin and Reform representatives has been cancelled, at least temporarily, as a result of these tensions.
In response to the Reform denouncements of his words, Levin announced, “It is appalling that precisely at this time, when we are trying to explain to the world that a boycott is an unacceptable and illegitimate tool, the Reform movement has chosen to use that very tactic of boycotting an individual and suppressing his views.” Levin added that it is important to combat assimilation and concluded that no one will deter him from voicing his views.
By Tzvi Yaakovson – Matzav.com Israel