JERUSALEM (JTA) — An Israeli woman seen in a video mocking a Chabad rabbi at Ben Gurion Airport as he helped another man don tefillin said the men insulted her before the filming began.
Pnina Peri, whose actions were captured on a cellphone video posted on Facebook, is seen laughing at the men on Monday morning as they practiced the religious rite. She yelled at them in Hebrew to “move because you are bothering me” and asked rhetorically, “Why are you doing this here? There are people here.” Several people in the terminal are heard in the video asking her to calm down, but instead she became louder.
The video, which since Monday has had more than 300,000 views, was posted by Gad Kaufman, the businessman who put on the tefillin with the help of the Chabad rabbi staffing a booth at the airport.
Peri said in a statement to the Ynet Hebrew news website that the video clip is one-sided and does not capture the entire incident, calling it “nasty personal shaming.” She said that she first “politely” asked the men “if they could allow me my personal space.”
She said that in response, the men “shouted at me to move, called me misogynist names and cursed me out, saying that ‘It’s too bad that Hitler didn’t kill you and your entire family.’” She said the remark about Hitler led to her outburst.
“It is important for me to say that I am not against religious values and believe that each person should live by his or her faith,” Peri said. “However, this attempt to tell me that it is too bad that my family and I were not killed in the Holocaust caused me to respond so sharply, particularly since it was made by a member of my own people in Israel.
“I apologize for losing control, but I also look forward to an apology for the terrible things that hurt me and caused me to be angry.”
Rabbi Meir Herzl, the director of the Chabad House in the Jerusalem suburb of Pisgat Zeev, disputed Peri’s version of the incident. He said the men were separated from Peri by rows of chairs when they started putting on the tefillin.
“Neither before her outburst, nor during her horror show that lasted for many minutes, did I or the Jewish worshipper do anything except request the right to pray in silence,” Herzl said.
Herzl said that following the outburst, Kaufman told Peri that he did not think that even the Nazis would have behaved as she had.
Peri, a visiting assistant professor of Israel studies at the University of Maryland, formerly taught at Israel’s Sapir Academic College and is an expert in multicultural theories.
Kaufman, who was leaving Israel for a business trip, wrote a post in Hebrew with the video.
“An amazing incident took place this morning at the airport, when I was politely asked by a Chabad man if I wanted to put on tefillin,” he wrote. “I said yes, and then a woman with a crazy look jumped up and started cursing, harassing and disturbing! It is really shameful that being a Jew in this country means being persecuted by leftist Bohemians. If I were a Muslim or a Christian, would it be more legitimate for her …?”
The video appears to have been removed from Kaufman’s post but has been shared on news websites.