On Wednesday, an otherwise popular satirical television show titled “Eretz Nehederet” sparked outrage after it portrayed Ashkenazi Haredi sage Rabbi Chaim Kanievsky in an offensive and disrespectful light.
Facing flak on social media and otherwise, politicians and members of the public called the skit on “Eretz Nehederet” disrespectful and offensive to the religious community, under the backdrop of the recent protests in Israel where the Haredi community has expressed defiance against the imposition of another coronavirus lockdown.
The “Eretz Nehederet” skit focused on Rabbi Chaim Kanievsky, and Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s close relationship with him. The skit opened with anchor Eyal Kitzis welcoming the prime minister of Israel to his show, but instead of Netanyahu, an actor playing Kanievsky, 93, was wheeled out, accompanied by another actor portraying his grandson, Yaacov (Yanki,) who acts as a spokesman to the rabbi. A short while later Netanyahu shows up, begging the rabbi for permission to do almost everything; come on the show, sit down, or even take a sip of water.
This was an unjust parody of the situation where Netanyahu had requested the ultra-Orthodox to abide by lockdown rules and keep schools closed. The portrayal was largely a criticism of Netanyahu, but it also sparked outrage from the ultra-Orthodox and from religious politicians, primarily since it insulted the Rabbi.
Diaspora Affairs Minister Omer Yankelevich, who is the first female ultra-Orthodox minister in Israel said, “The exalted Rabbi Chaim Kanievsky is the rabbi and spiritual guide for many Jews in Israel and around the world. Creating a hurtful and disparaging imitation of him is deeply hurtful to religious sentiments.”
Meanwhile, National Union MK Bezalel Smotich condemned the “harm to the honor of Rabbi Chaim Kanievsky” by posting on Twitter. He wrote, “These satirists are not just mocking the rabbi but the entire traditional, religious and ultra-Orthodox communities who revere the sages of Israel.”
One of Kanievsky’s grandsons, Aryeh, also told local media that the family was not happy with the portrayal. “This really hurts a lot of people. My grandfather is a spiritual guide to hundreds of thousands of people who do not move without him. For them this is difficult,” he said.