Meet the MK: Avi Wortzman
This Bayit Yehudi MK hopes to help thousands of young families settle in the Negev and Galilee.
AVI WORTZMAN Photo: Courtesy Habayi Hayehudi
Name: Avi Wortzman
Party: Bayit Yehudi
Hometown: Beersheba, capital of
the Negev, born and raised
Family status: Married to Ilanit, four children,
Amichai, Harel, Halel and Moriah Profession before becoming an MK: Deputy mayor
of Beersheba, held welfare and community portfolio; director-general of Jewish
education at the Mibereshit Israel NGO, director-general of Yeshivat HaKotel
in Jerusalem and adviser to the Construction and Housing Ministry on Negev
Why did you decide to enter politics? Six months ago,
Naftali Bennett spent Shabbat in Beersheba when he was running for chairman of
the Bayit Yehudi. On Saturday night, he asked me to run on his list and become
one of his partners.
Several days later I agreed to join this amazing
team and run for the Knesset.
I have always been a public servant.
Anytime the public has needed me, I have said “here I am,” and I have always
done all I can. In all my years of work, I have gained a lot of experience and
knowledge in many areas of Israeli society. I feel that the time has come to
work on a national level and take advantage of my experience to influence and be
active on behalf all of Israel and of the Jewish world.
What are the
first three bills you plan to propose? I want to ensure that single mothers have
the opportunity to support themselves with dignity; also bills that promote
teaching Torah and Jewish identity; and bills that strengthen the Negev and
What was the most interesting experience on the campaign trail?
Daily meetings with thousands of religious, secular and traditional citizens
from all over the country who want to live in a fairer, more Jewish state, with
roots and values.
We held a major conference in Beersheba about a week
before the election, together with Bennett, during which we felt the warmth and
love of the 1,000 people who attended. That was the height of the campaign for
me. There is no doubt that something new has begun, and that religious Zionism
has returned to its natural role, leading and influencing the political
This Knesset has a record high of women and religious people. How
do you think this will affect the way it functions and the kinds of changes it
The major change in this Knesset is the number of new MKs, including
many women. I see this as a great blessing. This is a Knesset of public
representatives who come to contribute to the nation, who don’t owe anything to
wealthy donors or to large workers’ unions. This is a rare opportunity to
achieve deep, significant reforms in social and economic areas and be a direct
influence on improving the lives of millions of citizens.
Do you think
haredim and Arabs should perform military or national service, and if so, how
should the State enforce it?
I think there is great value in learning Torah,
which has kept the nation of Israel alive for thousands of years, and those who
really learn all day should continue to do so. At the same time, there are
thousands of young people among the haredi public who do not learn, and they
should find a framework in which they can combine army or civilian service with
their lifestyle. It is also important that they learn a profession so they can
support themselves with dignity.
I also don’t see any reason Israeli
Arabs should not do civilian service, specifically in areas that are important
in strengthening their own communities, such as clinics, hospitals, the police,
Equality of burden is a moral and national value and it
is important that all populations be included.
Do you support a
religious-Zionist candidate, such as Rabbi David Stav, for chief rabbi?
great value in appointing Zionist chief rabbis in the State of Israel. The role
of the chief rabbi influences religious services and courts. The entire country
uses these services, and unfortunately at present there is much alienation and
distancing of the public from the rabbinate.
Today, a third of couples
prefer to marry outside the rabbinate. Religious services must be offered in a
friendly and professional manner, and significant reforms must take place in
making them more accessible.
The time has come for religious Zionists to
run the religious services. Appointing a religious- Zionist chief rabbi is a
basic condition for us entering the coalition.
What can be done to lower
the cost of housing in Israel?
This is a complex issue. The Israel Lands
Authority owns 93 percent of the land in Israel.
The prices of land must
be significantly lowered, and the amount of land sold must be
Bayit Yehudi wrote a comprehensive plan for giving land in
preferred areas in the Negev and the Galilee to every young person who finishes
army or national service. This plan will lower housing prices and will be the
first Zionist plan that emphasizes settling the Negev and Galilee with tens of
thousands of young families.
What do you think can be cut in the budget,
which must be passed within 45 days of the government’s swearing in?
the defense budget that have nothing to do with preparation for fighting and
operational goals could be cut, and there could be an equal cut in all
government offices. However, funds given to the elderly, the handicapped, the
poor or to children should not be cut.
What is your position on talks
with the Palestinian Authority and a possible Palestinian state?
stance is clear. The Land of Israel belongs to the Jewish people. We oppose a
two-state solution. The nations of the world appreciate those who stick to their
principles and their historic roots. As long as we are determined that our
connection to the land is deep, the rest of the world will appreciate and accept
Do you support the adoption of the Edmund Levy Report, which
recommends the state approve unauthorized Jewish settlements in the West Bank?
support it and expect the new government to adopt its findings immediately.