The Head of Shas's Council of Torah Sages, Rabbi Shalom Cohen, mocked the national anthem Sunday and called it “that stupid song.”
Speaking to supporters in Netivot, he recounted an occasion in which Rabbi Ovadia Yosef ztz”l was present at a ceremony for “crowning” a new rabbi. Cohen himself was a young man at the time.
He was surprised to see Rabbi Ovadia standing along with the other people present when the anthem, Hatikva, was sung. “I said, 'What are these people, crazy? What, are they crowning a prime minister? What is this? I did not stand,” he recounted. “Everyone stood. I asked the rabbi, 'Why did you say [it]?' He said: 'I will tell you the truth, I said [the] Aleinu Leshabeah [prayer].”
"Why did he say Aleinu Leshabeah, why? He did not want this song, this stupid song, to influence him in any way,” Rabbi Cohen told the crowd. He added that a person who was present told him he had thought about punching him when he refused to stand for the anthem, and that he replied – 'Go ahead and see what you will get.'”
Asked for a response, Shas issued a statement saying: “No one will teach the Wise Shalom Cohen, who grew up between the walls of Jerusalem his entire life, about Zionism and the way to regard the Land of Israel. It is his right and obligation to think that the sources of the Torah of Israel are ten times better than a song that was only created in recent decades. We respect every person for the way in which he chooses to connect to Zion,. What is important is the very connection of the Nation of Israel to its land, and not the way in which it is carried out.”