Am Shalem is seeking unusual partners for a party led by a haredi rabbi, working
hard to attract secular Israelis and English-speaking supporters, building its
social-media presence and negotiating with other, non-haredi parties, in keeping
with its platform of promoting Jewish unity.
The political movement led
by maverick Shas MK Rabbi Haim Amsalem is garnering most of its support from
outside the haredi world, Rabbi Dov Lipman, director of Anglos for Am Shalem and
one of Amsalem’s closest allies, told The Jerusalem Post on
Amsalem launched Am Shalem last year, saying that Shas no longer
reflects the values it was founded to promote. However, he is technically still
an MK for Shas, though the party no longer allows him to submit
“Rabbis will say we’re treif [not kosher] and horrible people,”
Lipman said of the movement, an NGO that has yet to officially register as a
political party. “But we know there are haredim on Facebook. Some are afraid to
press ‘like’ on our page, but we are still able to get information to
The party’s internal polls have shown that 40 percent of its
support comes from people who identify as secular, 40% from religious Zionists
and 20% from haredim.
Lipman attributes the party’s support from secular
Israelis to a search for something new in politics, with a focus on internal
In fact, Lipman added, there are many similarities between Am
Shalem’s goals and those of Yair Lapid, such as requiring all haredi schools to
teach the Education Ministry’s core curriculum and having most haredim serve in
He did, however, deny rumors that the former Channel 2 news
anchor has asked Amsalem to run for the Knesset with his party, though he opined
that it would be a good idea.
Meanwhile, several other parties have asked
Am Shalem to run with them.
Amsalem is seriously considering these
offers, one of which is from Habayit Hayehudi, as long as he can maintain Am
Shalem as a separate party within a faction.
Lipman said Am Shalem is
looking to do what it can do “within reason” to get into the Knesset. This way,
Amsalem can meet his ultimate goal of being religious services minister, so he
can reform rabbinate services such as marriage, divorce, conversions and burial,
so they can be friendlier to the average Israeli, while staying in the confines
According to the party’s polls, Am Shalem is likely to get
two to three seats in the next Knesset, while Shas will probably drop two
“Shas will come after us before the elections,” Lipman said.
“We’re prepared for [Shas spiritual leader] Rabbi Ovadia Yosef to make
statements against us.”
Meanwhile, Am Shalem continues to recruit support
outside the Sephardic-haredi box, with over 43,007 “likes” on its
Hebrew-language Facebook page, far more than the party it broke off from, which
has only 565 fans, its leader Interior Minister Eli Yishai, who has 5,666, or
even Yosef, who has 10,758 fans on two unofficial Facebook
Lipman was quick to clarify that 90% of Am Shalem’s Facebook
fans live in Israel, since Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu’s profile was shown
to be “liked” mostly by people abroad after his office bragged that he was the
most popular Israeli politician in Israel.
“A ‘like’ is not a vote, but
it’s a good indicator of popularity,” Lipman pointed out, adding that the party
has an active YouTube channel and Twitter account.
Lipman has accompanied
Amsalem on two trips to the US, where he said he received positive feedback from
large crowds in Los Angeles, New York and other large Jewish and Israeli expat
“People said they were waiting for someone like Rabbi
Amsalem to come along. They are scared about extremism in Israel on conversion,
women’s issues and others,” he stated.
“It was eye-opening to see that
our success is important to the Jewish world.”
Anglos for Am Shalem,
which Lipman leads, has held events and recruited activists in several areas
with many English-speakers, such as Modi’in, Ra’anana, Efrat and
Lipman, who hails from Silver Spring, Maryland, explained that
he got involved with Am Shalem after reading about Amsalem in the Post and years
of frustration over rock-throwing and antagonism from haredim in Beit Shemesh,
where he resides.
“There really is a lot Anglos can do,” Lipman
explained, calling for more Anglo activists to be involved in Am
“We can be a major force in Israel.”
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