07:46 GMT25 July 2021
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    Avigdor Lieberman has vowed to implement a number of initiatives, including cutting subsidies for kindergartens for the children of 18,000 religious students, cancelling or limiting flights to a holy site in eastern Ukraine or introducing a purchase tax on disposable plastic. But his plans have already caused an uproar on social media.

    Avigdor Lieberman, the chief of the party Yisrael Beitenu, has been in charge of Israel's Ministry of Finance for just slightly more than a month now, but he has already become a controversial figure in the nation's politics.

    A Blow to the Ultra-Orthodox

    The reason for this is a number of reforms he is currently pursuing. One such is the decision to let private bodies issue kosher certificates, thus dealing a blow to the Rabbinate, that currently holds a monopoly over the issue.

    Issuing kosher certificates gives the Rabbinate great influence and a steady flow of cash. Being the only body that decides what's kosher and what's not, their permissions are costly and they are the ones who can close down a restaurant or remove a product from the shelves of supermarkets, simply because it doesn't meet their strict kosher standards.

    Lieberman has vowed to change that and his decision has already sparked a discussion on social media platforms.

    Social Media is Raging

    Some Twitter users have praised the move.

    "Listen, if Lieberman is going to implement only half of what he has promised, he will become one of the best ministers of finance we have had in the past several decades. Good luck to us. I am optimistic".

    "High costs of living have become one of the most burning issues in the past several years. So here comes a blessed move by Lieberman that will end up making it easier for all of us".

    "Lieberman is the only one who sticks to his promises", wrote another user.

    But not everyone welcomed the initiative. For many, especially those in religious circles, Lieberman's move is an attempt to take revenge on the Ultra-Orthodox community and the politicians that represent them.

    "You are so evil. [If you want competition], open other institutions for competition such as Israel's courts, medical institutions, the security forces... you are a bunch of bullies. You ruin everything that somehow smells of religion. Go to hell already!"

    "As an observant Jew, I will never go to a restaurant, whose certificate was given by a private company. I want to know that the food I am consuming adheres to my kosher standards..."

    "You are an Israel hater. Your goal is to severely harm the religious Jews. I am ashamed that you are still in politics".

    Targeting the Weak?

    Yet, the anger of netizens has also been mounting over a number of other initiatives planned by Lieberman.

    Initially, it was the decision to cut the funding of kindergartens for the children of 18,000 Yeshiva students, who dedicate themselves to Torah studies and thus rarely work. The move that's set to be implemented in November risks pushing thousands of religious families, who are already struggling, into poverty.

    Then it was the decision to introduce a purchase tax on disposable plastic, a move that's believed will harm the Ultra-Orthodox, the biggest group of plastic consumers.

    And, finally, it was the recent plan to limit or cancel flights to Uman in eastern Ukraine that houses the grave of a prominent rabbi and that receives thousands of Jewish worshippers annually.

    Although Lieberman put that decision down to his concern about Israel's healthcare system, which is now witnessing a spike in COVID-19 cases, netizens suspect his plans are aimed at harming the Ultra-Orthodox community. 

    "What's interesting is that Finance Minister Lieberman and Health Minister Nitzan Horowitz are talking about [cancelling flights to] Uman, while Ben Gurion International Airport is flooded with coronavirus patients (most of whom are not Ultra-Orthodox), who come back to Israel after a vacation abroad".

    "The airport is packed with dozens of Israelis who go on vacation but Lieberman says the problem lies with the Hasidic Jews who will travel to Uman in one and a half months from now..."

    For now, Lieberman remains tight-lipped, preferring not to comment on the allegations being levied against him. But as the number of "anti-Ultra-Orthodox" policies continues to grow, the Israeli press is already raising an eyebrow about the finance minister's real intentions. And some say that he, just like many others before him, will fail to change that community's habits.

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