In a Tel Aviv club, sweaty young people danced close to one another under
flashing lights, as the latest Rihanna hit boomed out of speakers.
midnight neared on Wednesday, a bald man with a toothy grin took the DJ stand
and announced: “This is a party of love!” No, not that kind of love.
smiling man with the microphone was wearing a kippa, and the party of love he
was talking about was Bayit Yehudi.
Bayit Yehudi chairman Naftali Bennett
stopped by the “Party of Parties” – an event organized for the Tel Aviv
international community, mostly immigrants to Israel from the US and Western
Europe, to knock back a few beers with politicians at the Wonderland club in Tel
The Wonderland was clearly preparing for New Year’s Eve, with giant
papier-mâché “2013” signs. The usual disco lights and decorations were joined by
posters for political parties – Likud Beytenu, Labor, The Tzipi Livni Party,
Bayit Yehudi, Meretz and Am Shalem.
Balloons stuck to the ceiling with
logos of seven parties, prompting one reveler to joke: “That would be the
ultimate national unity government.”
Bumper stickers and fliers were
spread out on the bars.
The Calcala party, founded by two American
brothers from Ashkelon and now led by Kadima MK Yulia Shamalov Berkovich, was
the first to arrive and the last among the politicians to leave.
a good place for young men and women to meet,” Shamalov Berkovich said
conspiratorially. “A lot of couples I’ve introduced are now married.”
Calcala leader, a Kadima MK who ran, unsuccessfully, in last month’s Likud
primary, expressed certainty that her party would make it into the next Knesset,
citing an internal poll giving it four seats.
She flagged down
photographers in hopes of getting her picture in the paper.
Later in the
night, venture capitalist Erel Margalit, who is No. 10 on the Labor list for the
next Knesset, appeared and ordered a beer.
He sat in the VIP section,
where he was joined by Likud MK Carmel Shama-Hacohen and Shamalov
They struggled to hear one another over the thumping bass,
smiling politely and sipping their drinks.
Then the Kadima team walked
in. Party leader Shaul Mofaz canceled at the last minute, and instead the list’s
boyish, blue-eyed duo sauntered in. MK Yohanan Plesner sported a leather jacket
and a big smile, while MK Yuval Zellner stayed close behind, in a blazer and
“I go to a lot of these events, and they’re great, but I look so
young that people often just think that I’m just another partier,” Zellner, who
is 34 years old, explained apologetically.
“I try to stay near Yohanan so
people connect the dots.”
Plesner is the more recognizable of the duo,
since his photo was on the front pages of nearly every newspaper when his
eponymous committee tried to replace the “Tal Law” while Kadima was in the
coalition. Zellner became an MK in May, when Tzipi Livni resigned from the
party, and is probably best known for marrying Dafna Shahar of reality TV show
The Real Housewives of Israel.
After an hour in the safety of the VIP
section, the MKs and candidates left the club, shaking hands as they made their
The party raged on and the club filled up with young people –
including Dan Shapira, who portrayed the villain on the popular stoner-mystery TV
show Asfur, and members of the dance-pop band Terry Poison, who played a
Shortly after 11 p.m., the DJ announced that Bennett had arrived. A
throng crowded around him as he slowly made a lap around the venue without
stopping to grab a beer, but taking photos with whoever asked.
point, a drag queen on stilts dressed as the Queen of Hearts, complete with
playing-card sidekicks, bent over to give the national-religious party leader a
hug, which he barely escaped.
“Bayit Yehudi is a party of love for
religious and secular people, people from Tel Aviv and Kiryat Shmona and
Beersheba,” Bennett announced amid applause and cheering.
“We love the
Land of Israel and the IDF! Enjoy the party!” With that, he slowly made his way
out of the noisy, smoke-filled room, and the young Tel Avivians continued to
dance to the music.