Bayit Yehudi leader Naftali Bennett.
(photo credit: MARC ISRAEL SELLEM/THE JERUSALEM POST)
The Bible gives Israel the right to the Land of Israel, Jerusalem and Diaspora Affairs Minister Naftali Bennett told an international gathering of rabbis in Jerusalem on Monday.
One hundred and thirty Orthodox rabbis from 42 countries attended a conference to discuss anti-Semitism and other challenges facing their diverse communities.
The annual conference, organized by the World Zionist Organization, this year dealt with the theme of “unity of the Jewish people in times of crisis.”
“We gather in Jerusalem... in order to emphasize the centrality of Israel in the life of Jews in the Diaspora and discuss ways of dealing with the waves of anti-Semitism in the world,” said conference organizer Rabbi Yechiel Wasserman, who heads the WZO’s Center for Religious Affairs in the Diaspora.
Speaking at the conference, Bennett, who heads the national- religious Bayit Yehudi party that according to a recent poll may secure 17 Knesset seats in the upcoming election, said that members of the diplomatic corps have been coming to meet with him because their countries “want to figure out who this guy is.”
In a conversation with an Arab diplomatic, Bennett told the assembled rabbis, he was exhorted to support a Palestinian state and replied by taking down a Bible from his shelf and said that he was not influenced by public opinion on the issue.
“Public opinion isn’t my compass, the Torah is my compass.
For 3,000 years the Land of Israel has belonged to the Jewish people,” he said.
The conference was opened Isak Haleva, the chief rabbi of Turkey, alongside Jerusalem Chief Rabbi Aryeh Stern.
Haleva’s presence is notable given the high level of tension between Israel and Turkey in recent years, and Turkey’s community is known for its policy of studied silence. Despite high-profile figures, including President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, making statements construed by many as anti-Semitic, the community has dug in and parries all inquiries from the media.
Two of the primary focuses during Monday’s meeting were the security of French Jewry, which has deteriorated severely in recent years with anti-Semitic violence becoming increasingly common, and the challenges, such as assimilation, of living in open Western societies.