It’s Ramadan, and there are no religious fasting restrictions in Israel.
The government also doesn’t allow religious fasting during the week, so the people of Israel are allowed to observe a few days of fasting each month, but no more than a week.
So you’d expect a government that wants to protect Jews and Muslims to prohibit religious fasting in a way that’s reasonable, but the government of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, who heads the governing coalition, has gone a bit too far, and it’s causing a bit of a stir.
On Sunday, Netanyahu issued a decree that effectively bars the practice of religious fasting for Muslims, Christians, Jews, and Druze, and forbids the observance of all forms of religious worship during the holy month of Ramadan.
The decree, which has not yet been revoked, was issued on July 24th.
On Friday, the Israeli government posted a notice on its official Facebook page, calling the decree “illegal and unconstitutional,” and warning that it will be enforced “to the utmost of its ability.”
In addition to the “unlawful” restriction on fasting, the government also announced that it is ordering a ban on religious prayers, saying that they are “an expression of national identity and the nation’s religion.”
On Saturday, Israeli-Arab radio host Meir Shomron was in the midst of his radio show on Channel 2 when he heard about the decree, and immediately contacted the Prime Minister’s Office for comment.
Shomrons statement has been widely shared online.
He said that he was initially concerned that the decree was “not a threat, and that it was a statement of national security.”
But, he added, “the fact that the Prime Minster has decided to impose this law at the beginning of Ramadan is a clear sign that the government has been emboldened by his political support and by his desire to show that he is willing to tolerate, if not to permit, religious practices that are not considered in the public interest.”
As Shomors words went viral, several prominent Jewish politicians expressed outrage.
The head of Israel’s largest Jewish group, Aryeh Deri, a senior member of the Labor Party, and Avi Dichter, a leader of the Jewish Home party, called the decree an “unprecedented and unacceptable act of discrimination against Muslims.”
They also said that the Israeli media has not properly covered the decree’s legality, and have failed to accurately report the extent of the restrictions.
In response, the Ministry of Interior said that they “are not aware of any violations of the law.”
However, Shomers Facebook post has already been shared more than 2,000 times, and his message has been retweeted more than 8,000 time.
And now, the head of the Religious Affairs Ministry has responded to the controversy, and issued a statement that is being widely shared.
“The Prime Minister is a Muslim, and he has made this decree as a response to the actions of terrorist organizations.
We are extremely disturbed that this government has not taken steps to protect the citizens of Israel from terrorist attacks,” said Rabbi David Glick, the minister of religious affairs, in a statement posted on Sunday.
“However, we are also deeply disturbed that the actions that are being taken against the state of Israel by the state’s leadership and the Israeli public have not been adequately considered, and we are now seeing a significant increase in attacks and threats against the Jewish community in Israel.”
It is not clear whether the prime minister will issue an official response to this latest controversy, but one thing is certain, and Netanyahu’s stance is not going to sit well with the majority of Israelis.