JERUSALEM (May. 18)
The Knesset, Israel’s Parliament, today rejected by a vote of 61 to 6, a motion of non-confidence by the ultra-Orthodox Agudat Israel party in an attempt to rebuke Prime Minister David Ben-Gurion for his challenge last week to the traditional biblical version of the Exodus story.
Premier Ben-Gurion had claimed that only 600 Israelites left Egypt in the Exodus instead of the 600,000 mentioned in the Bible. He also suggested that the Israelites were in Egypt for two generations rather than the 400 years indicated in the traditional version.
The six Agudah deputies were the only members voting in favor of the motion. Members of the National Religious Party, which participates in the Government coalition, voted against the motion on the grounds that the Knesset was not a suitable forum for a discussion of the issue. In setting forth his version of the Exodus story last week, Mr. Ben-Gurion stressed that his views were personal ones.
In replying to the Agudah motion today in the Knesset, the Premier categorically rejected any suggestion that his opinions were “anti-biblical.” His views on the Bible, which were sharply attacked by the religious press and in sermons over the weekend, also included the opinion that it was the Jews who chose God and not God who chose the Jews.
Despite their vote against the non-confidence motion today, leaders of the National Religious party as well as “Hatzofe,” the official organ of the party, bitterly criticized the Premier over his expressed views challenging the biblical statements.
Rabbi I. M. Levin of the Agudah, who introduced the motion, begged the Prime Minister to retract, describing Mr. Ben-Gurion’s theory as absurd and a “Hillul Hashem” (Desecration of the Name.)
The Prime Minister, replying, reiterated that his views were those of an individual and said he was just as proud of the Jewish past as was Rabbi Levin. He added that the motion was not a subject for debate in the Knesset “which cannot reconstruct the history of over 3,000 years.” He urged Rabbi Levin to respect other views as he expected others to respect his.
The Prime Minister did, however, express regret that Kol Israel had “redundantly” rebroadcast his theory as he gave it to the press. The right wing He rut and the General Zionists abstained in the note.