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Wednesday, November 20, 2013

Haredi Press ignores Rabbi Metzger Arrest


The judge who extended the remand of former Chief Rabbi Yona Metzger warned this week that the investigation material "will make the two ears of everyone exposed to it tingle."

Well, it appears that ultra-Orthodox media consumers have no cause for concern:
The sector's radio station and newspapers have been ignoring the serious affair involving the former Ashkenazi chief rabbi – whether out of embarrassment and "blasphemy" or due to a decision to abstain from criminal reports.

The four haredi daily newspapers - Yated Ne'eman, Hamodia, Hamevaser and Hapeles – did not write a single word about the suspicions against Metzger. "The chief rabbi" was only mentioned in a critical context in a report on the bill to cancel the duality of separate spiritual leaders for the Ashkenazi and Sephardic communities.

'There are more interesting issues'

In haredi radio stations operating under the Second Authority for Television and Radio the issue remained on the editing floor as well, and was not mentioned in the regular news editions or in the leading current affairs shows.

The only exceptions were haredi journalists Yedidia Meir of Radio Kol Hai, who mentioned the affair on the morning show and escaped the managers' radar, and Avi Mimran of Radio Kol Barama, who criticized "the recent phenomenon of arresting rabbis" during the main news edition – without explaining who he was referring to.

"Dealing with this criminal affair is disrespectful to the haredi and religious listeners of Kol Hai, and especially to the Rabbinate institution," explained Bezalel Kahn, head of the radio station's news division.

One of the station's news editors added, "There are other issues, more interesting ones, which we are trying to fill the programs with: The assembly of the municipal coalition in Jerusalem, the Shaked Committee (on an equal share of the burden), and more. The Rabbi Metzger affair is a sensitive issue, and if there is other news – it's better to just ignore it."

Haredi websites, on the other hand, which practice the highest level of freedom of press in the sector, dealt with the arrest and the suspicions with the required caution, usually as a news report without any commentary.

Haim Iluz, editor of the Kikar Hashabat website, explained that "as the leading haredi website, we report on the variety of issues relating to the haredi public, and we also deal with and bring up issues which the haredi media has been ignoring so far, in light of the fact that unlike newspapers the website is not accessible to children, and this case is no different than other cases."

Metzger won the position of chief rabbi thanks to the support of the haredim and late Rabbi Yosef Shalom Elyashiv, regarded by many Ashkenazi Jews as the contemporary leading authority on Halacha.

On Monday he was arrested for the second time in five months on suspicion of taking a bribe. According to the suspicions, millions of shekels collected in donations were transferred to associations linked to the rabbi. His remand was extended by nine days.

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