Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu responded this evening (Tuesday) to criticism surrounding the plan of Minister of National Security Itamar Ben-Gvir to hold a prayer gathering in Dizengoff Square at the end of the week, calling for action to calm the spirits. In his words, he hinted that "it is expected of all public leaders to act responsibly."
"Prayer is not provocation. But now, after the difficult event in Tel Aviv, the most important thing is to act to calm the spirits," said Netanyahu. "Therefore, it is expected of all public leaders to act responsibly and to avoid anything that will not contribute to calmness."
As mentioned earlier today, Ben Gvir announced that in response to the violent attack against the worshippers in Dizengoff Square, he will arrive at the location on Thursday and hold a mass evening prayer there. He said, "I say to those anarchists who tried to drive away the worshippers on Yom Kippur - I and Otzma Yehudit members are coming on Thursday to the same place to pray the evening prayer. We'll see if you try to drive us away." He added, "I call upon everyone, secular and religious, traditional, Ashkenazi, and Sephardi, to come. The prayer belongs to all, this is the State of the Jews."
Ben Gvir's announcement has received widespread criticism, even from his coalition partners who opposed his intention to hold the prayer. "Itamar, your intentions are desirable, but your actions are not," said Knesset member Simcha Rothman, who chairs the Constitution Committee. "There is no doubt that the action of a small and violent minority that attacked worshippers on Yom Kippur tears our hearts apart, but the response to the provocation of the extreme and noisy progressive minority that does not want a Jewish and democratic state here is not a counter-provocation that will lead to an expansion of violence and hatred and capture a wide audience around those extremists."
Rothman added, "Darkness is not expelled with clubs, but by adding light. The consistent action of many, religious, traditional and secular, who have strengthened their Jewish identity as a response to the extreme progressive violence and silencing, is the true response. Israel will be Jewish and democratic because that is what the absolute majority of the public wants and demands."
Member of Knesset Ohad Tal from the Religious Zionism party also came out against Ben-Gvir's intention and wrote, "Itamar, take responsibility and cancel the event on Thursday. Prayer should not be a battleground. Period. Judaism should not be built on this unnecessary provocation. Don't give legitimacy to the actions of the unruly minority."