September 13, 2020
(L) United Torah Judaism leader Yaakov Litzman with Corona Czar Prof. Ronni Gamzu (R).
Housing and Construction Minister Yaacov Litzman (UTJ) handed in a resignation letter to Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu in protest of the government's plan to lockdown the country, and specifically the synagogues during the upcoming High Holidays. Litzman said the lockdown should have been initiated a month ago and the government should not have waited until the holidays. Litzman was the Health Minister in previous governments, including during the first Coronavirus wave when the infection was temporarily put under control.
Litzman blamed Coronavirus Czar professor Ronni Gamzu as having purposely planned in advance to lock down the country for the holidays. He has been at loggerheads with Gamzu ever since Gamzu was appointed the Coronavirus commissioner.
In his resignation letter, Litzman wrote it is difficult decision that will reduce and limit the number of people that go to shul on Rosh Hashana and Yom Kippur, and it will affect hundreds of thousands of Jews from all sectors, for many of whom this is the only time of the year they go to synagogue.
Litzman said that he repeatedly protested against a holiday season lockdown, and warned and argued at the cabinet meetings and in other forums that if a full-blown shutdown would be needed, then the government needed to do so immediately instead of waiting until he numbers rose so high. The government, Litzman said, needed to enforce a lockdown two weeks ago, or a month ago, when the numbers were already rising, and not wait until the holidays.
Litzman accused Gamzu of repeatedly telling him that a holiday shutdown was not his plan, but yet this is exactly what Litzman warned Gamzu would do, and he was apparently right. Furthermore, Litzman says that by waiting until the holidays for a lockdown, the infection rate only got needlessly higher.
In his letter, Litzman wrote that the agreement between Netanyahu and Litzman regarding shuls and holidays was breached, and therefore, he is resigning and utilizing the Norwegian Law to return to the Knesset as an MK.
UTJ will remain in the coalition. In effect, the resignation is actually more of a symbolic gesture than anything else.
According to Wikipedia, Litzman was born on 2 September 1948 to Polish survivors of the Holocaust, in a displaced persons camp in Germany. When he was two years old, the family immigrated to the East New York section of Brooklyn, and then to the Borough Park section of Brooklyn, where he grew up. In 1966, at age 17, he immigrated to Israel, and continued his Torah studies. Litzman is married, has five children, and lives in Jerusalem.