The Tel Aviv municipality announced that religious kiosks, including Chabad’s famous Tefillin (Phylactery) booths, are now illegal. The new city-wide legislation stipulates that the city will deny permits for “stands in general and prayer stands in particular” that are located within 1,000 feet from educational institutions. These institutions include schools, kindergartens, community centers and “any other institution that primarily serves minors.” Israel’s Channel 20 reported that the new law was sponsored by Tel Aviv Deputy Mayor Reuven Ladiansky, leader of the “Chai – Secular Greens”, a party known for its anti-religious stance.
But a group of secular students in Tel Aviv decided not to let the local government decide what they put on their bodies. So they placed a tefillin booth inside the college. Chair of the UNO Academic College Student Association, Elhanan Pelheimer, wrote:
“Live and let live – Deeds and not talk. Following the Tel Aviv municipality’s decision to deny the possibility of placing tefillin booths next to educational institutions, starting tomorrow as a sign of protest, the student union will place a permanent stand on the lawn where it will be offered to anyone wishing to don tefillin. While people are trying to exclude the Jewish people and their commandments, the association will strengthen and give the right and ability to as many Jews as possible by putting on tefillin. The Student Union is a pluralistic society that respects every person according to their religion and belief and allows all Arab students as Jews, ultra-Orthodox, religious and secular, all together, to live their lives without limitations”.
With the announcement by the Tel Aviv Municipality that it was banning tefillin stands near schools in the city, calls came in for Education Minister Rafi Peretz to act. United Torah Judaism’s outreach committee to the Religious Zionist community said in a statement that all observant Jews – as well as the Yemina Party, which represents the community – must fight the ban.
“Tel Aviv is increasingly turning into an ‘external territory’ of the State of Israel,” the statement said. “Public transportation is operating on Shabbos without hindrance, with Transportation Minister Betzalel Smotrich unwilling to sign measures that will stop it. And now the municipality has decided to make war against the locating of tefillin stands outside schools. Education Minister Rabbi Rafi Peretz must intervene immediately to cancel this dangerous decision, and to tell Mayor Ron Huldai that the deterioration of religion in Tel Aviv stops here.”
The effort to ban tefillin stands from Tel Aviv’s streets is being led by the Green Secular Party, a member of Huldai’s coalition. The new rules require tefillin stands to be placed at least 100 meters away from schools, parks, community centers, or any other institution that serves children.
Deputy Mayor Reuven Ladianski, who heads the faction, said Tuesday that “the city has been getting many complaints about tefillin stands set up next to schools, sometimes right at the entrance. As a parent, I do not want organizations to recruit my children to various causes when they are in the public space, certainly not near where they go to school. We must protect our children, both at school and at parks, from all peddlers of ideology or propaganda. We must prevent exposing our children to these things while they are at school or on the way there.”
The Yemina Party also called for action. “Shame on the Tel Aviv municipality for doing this, as if children need to be ‘protected’ from tefillin. This disrespectful attitude to anything holy in Judaism further removes Tel Aviv from the consensus of Israelis, who are connected to and respect their Jewish identity. Yemina will continue to strengthen the Jewish identity of Israelis,” the party said in a statement.