The Tov Movement’s Beit Shemesh branch held a vote this week to determine its
slate of candidates for October’s city council elections.
party head Aharon Salomon called it the first primary in a haredi
Tov was established several years ago to represent moderate
members of the ultra-Orthodox community, known as the “new haredim,” in
municipal elections in several cities. It does not compete for seats in the
“We proved for the first time that it is possible for
ultra-Orthodox parties to hold open and clean elections for candidates without
intrigue in order to reflect the will of the public and without the involvement
of askanim [behind-the-scenes wheeler-dealers] and improper considerations,”
Salomon announced in a post on his Facebook page.
According to local news
website Beit Shemesh Corner, 450 registered party members voted in Tuesday’s
primary, with Salomon winning the leadership race with 70 percent of the
Citing a Talmudic narrative detailing how Moses was divinely
instructed to seek public approval for his appointment of those tasked with
designing the tabernacle, Salomon said there was a religious mandate to seek
public approval of one’s leaders.
“We are proud to be the first ultra-
Orthodox party that fulfills this requirement,” he said.
Salomon’s boast, however, Tov is not the first ultra-Orthodox party to hold a
primary. Despite both the Sephardic Shas and Ashkenazi United Torah Judaism
parties’ practice of allowing senior rabbinic figures to choose their Knesset
candidates, Agudath Israel – one of the two factions comprising UTJ – did hold
its own primaries until 1976, said Shahar Ilan, vice president of research and
information at religious liberties NGO Hiddush.
Since then, he added, no
ultra-Orthodox party has held a primary.
Salomon and Ilan contrasted the
Tov primary with one held by members of the local branch of UTJ in Betar Illit
two weeks ago, noting that in the Betar Illit elections only a cadre of chosen
party loyalists were given the right to decide the slate of candidates for
Tov’s internal elections are significant, Ilan said,
because they “express a democracy” that is not dependent on the approval of
“Gedolei Hatorah,” the leading Torah sages of the ultra-Orthodox
Speaking with The Jerusalem Post on Wednesday, Salomon said
that despite not allowing rabbis to dictate the party’s composition, Tov is not
Rather, he said, “we are very much against wheeling and
dealing,” a statement that taps into widespread distrust of askanim, the
activists and powerbrokers surrounding Gedolei Hatorah.
“All of us ask
our rabbis how to behave; I ask my rabbi,” he said. However, he added, “we are
against wheeling and dealing from above that dictates to us what to do.” He said
that he and all his party members actively consult with their rabbis for
Asked about the possibilities of primaries among the more
established national parties, Salomon said that while he would like to see such
a change, he believes that it is not in the cards.
Shas and UTJ “don’t
operate in a democratic way,” he said.
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