Hiddush’s mission reflected in defense of Chabad, irrespective of beliefs

Hiddush standing up in defense of Chabad

Following demands by Or Yehudah municipal inspectors to local residents to remove a Chabad "Messiah Flag" from their home windows, threatening them with fines if not removed, Hiddush demanded that the municipality retract the illegal demand and ensure that similar measures be avoided in the future.

Chabad flag and removal notice, source: https://chabad.info/news/611419/Chabad flag and removal notice, source: https://chabad.info/news/611419/

Hiddush Director Rabbi Uri Regev, Esq. wrote to the Or Yehudah Municipality, demanding the retraction of demands made by its inspectors to city residents to remove Chabad "Messiah Flags" from their apartment windows or visible premises. According to the ultra-Orthodox media website "Behadrei Haredim" and a Chabad website [Chabad Info], the inspectors issued them written warnings that they would be fined NIS 475 if they did not remove the flags immediately, as they constituted an “environmental disturbance” or public hazard.

Hiddush may not agree with Chabad’s entire religious worldview, but Hiddush’s pluralistic mission and commitment to core democratic principles and religious freedom for all are reflected in our intervention in defense of these rights, irrespective of our personal beliefs. According to Hiddush, “This is an abuse of authority and damaging to the fundamental values of freedom of religion and freedom of expression, which are an integral part of Israel’s legal system and the foundations of its society.”

The ‘Messiah Flag’ is not one of the hazards / disturbances that the municipality is legitimately and justifiably entrusted with removing.

According to the letter from Hiddush, “[Even] a cursory examination of the report is sufficient to illustrate the degree to which it is irregular, for the ‘Messiah Flag’ is not one of the hazards / disturbances that the municipality is legitimately and justifiably entrusted with removing. The by-laws authorize the municipal inspectors to primarily prevent: ‘bursts of water or sewage; pruning of weeds, hedges, branches; furniture; scrap in the yard of a building, which constitutes a public hazard’. A complete review of the bylaws of Or Yehuda does not reveal a legitimate basis for the inspectors' demand, leading to the conclusion that this is a serious breach of authority and abuse of freedom of religion and expression. The city leaders may consider the Messiah Flag to be a visual or theological eyesore, but that does not grant the authority to remove it.”

Hiddush’s letter further emphasized that “the municipality's act is illegal, whether directed towards the Chabad ‘Messiah Flag’ or whether directed against Pride Flags that hang from many windows and balconies. Both of these are protected by law, and the municipality must not abuse its authority over public hazards to undermine these core values, regardless of whether the inspectors and their superiors like them or not.”

Hiddush requested a quick response, and will consider taking legal action against the municipality if it does not retract its illegal intervention regarding Chabad flags symbolizing belief in the late Lubavitcher Rebbe as ‘The King, The Messiah’.

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