MK Omer Bar-Lev (Zionist Camp, a.k.a. Labor) said at a rally in Ramat Hasharon on Saturday that in his opinion, soldiers who pray at the Western Wall are an example of religious coercion exercised by the state.
Writing in a Facebook post, Bar-Lev, son of the late IDF Chief of Staff Haim Bar-Lev, protested: “I discovered that after [2014 Gaza operation] Protective Edge, one of the Golani battalions that was moving up from the south made a small deviation on their way and hopped to the Kotel, where the entire battalion said the Gomel blessing (thanking God for saving their lives following a dangerous event).”
“This is an example of religious coercion at our expense,” MK Bar-Lev said, arguing that the battalion went to the Western Wall “at the expense of the taxes we pay.”
Fewer than 20 people attended Bar-Lev’s rally, but the vehemence with which he attacked one of the most common practices of IDF soldiers, religious and secular alike, suggests the gap between right and left in Israel is stretching even wider.
During what had to be a particularly angry evening for the MK, Bar-Lev added that one of the examples of religious coercion was the fact that “the Education Ministry headed by Naftali Bennett has issued a notebook for secular schools about the Rabin assassination, which says that Rabin was murdered in the context of political tensions in Israeli society,” ignoring the fact that “rabbis have issued a ‘fatwa’ against Rabin,” as well as the fact that “the despicable murderer was wearing a skullcap and was connected to a particular sector.”
“This is another attempt at rewriting history,” Bar-Lev said.
Besides mixing religious coercion and historical revisionism, the MK – like many in his party – is critical of the Education Minister for not resorting to the classically anti-Semitic reference to the sins of “the Rabbis,” lumping together every Orthodox clergyman, as well as avoiding the device of guilt by association, meaning that the yarmulke worn by Rabin’s assassin, Yigal Amir, implicated every Orthodox Jew in the murder.
Bar-Lev suggested what he termed religious coercion – essentially an attempt on the part of Minister Bennett to familiar secular children with their Jewish tradition – a “nationalistic” activity on the part of “a very small party which I believe today leads the country – Yisrael Beiteinu – together with a large part of the Likud MK.”
Which may be Bar-Lev’s failure in fundamental math, seeing as the “very small minority” he described comes up to 38 MKs, give or take, while his own party has only 24 Knesset seats.