Orthodox Jews Harass Deri As He Tries to Pray in Hebron

Jewish worshippers at the Tomb of the Patriarchs in Hebron harassed Interior Minister Arye Deri and his wife during morning prayers on Thursday, disrupting his reading from the Torah.

Deri came to the Tomb of the Patriarchs on the eve of the 1st of Av, as he does at the beginning of every Jewish month.

When the Torah scrolls were taken out, several worshippers, Jewish residents of Hebron and neighboring Kiryat Arba, began shouting and demanding that he be prevented from reading the Torah.

They hurled epithets at him and accused him of having enabled the outspoken left-wing Meretz leader Shulamit Aloni to become minister of education.

Deri, leader of the Sephardi ultra-Orthodox Shas Party, said he was especially bitter about the incident since it was he who had raised the funds to purchase a Sephardi Torah scroll for the synagogue at the tomb.

Deri has been the subject of widespread criticism among the haredi community since he and Shas spritual leader, Rabbi Ovadia Yosef, defied the order of Rabbi Eliezer Schach and joined the new government led by Labor Party head Yitzhak Rabin.

The criticism has become more pungent because he is now aligned with Aloni, who is reviled by a broad spectrum of Orthodox Jews for her liberal Judaism and frequent statements against the religious establishment.

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