Mainstream haredi MKs decline debate at Hebrew U

Students sought for several weeks to get MKs from the two mainstream haredi parties, UTJ and Shas, to participate in the debate, making numerous requests of the MKs various aides.

February 25, 2015 19:14
3 minute read.

A view of Jerusalem's Mount Scopus . (photo credit: MARC ISRAEL SELLEM)

A political debate for haredi MKs that was organized by a group of haredi students at the Hebrew University is facing difficulties getting any lawmakers to attend.

Moshe Kelemen, 28, who is studying communications and political science, has, in conjunction with other students, been organizing the debate for some time.

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Haredi MKs from United Torah Judaism, Shas and Yahad were invited, as well as MK Rabbi Dov Lipman from Yesh Atid and a representative of the haredi women’s campaign “No Representation, No Vote,” in which women are threatening not to vote for UTJ or Shas since neither has a female Knesset candidate.

The students sought for several weeks to get MKs from the two mainstream haredi parties, UTJ and Shas, to participate in the debate, making numerous requests of the legislators’ various aides but to little avail.

According to Kelemen, UTJ MK Yisrael Eichler refused an invitation to attend the debate, with an aide saying that Eichler would rather sit and debate with the controversial Arab MKs Ahmed Tibi and Haneen Zoabi than with Lipman.

A request for comment from Eicher’s office was unanswered.

Lipman says that MKs from UTJ have for some time not interacted with him at all in the Knesset.

Kelemen added that UTJ MK Yaakov Asher’s office had said he would not participate in the debate since he is opposed to haredim studying in secular institutions. Asher is does not oppose haredim studying for professional or academic courses in haredi institutions.

In response to a request for comment from The Jerusalem Post, a spokesman for the MK denied that he refused to participate because he opposed haredim studying in a secular institution, but did not elaborate further.

MK Ya’acov Margi of Shas initially agreed to attend the debate but subsequently pulled out without explanation.

Lipman will no longer be attending the event.

It will, however, go ahead on Tuesday. Dudi Shomenfled, a haredi candidate for the Yahad party and No. 7 on the party’s electoral list, will be in attendance, as will Yitzhak Findrus, a member of the Jerusalem City Council, Michal Tzernovitzky of the No Representation, No Vote campaign, and Yaakov Vider, a haredi representative from the Likud.

Kelemen said that it was hard for him to understand the complacency of the MKs from the mainstream parties.

“There are a lot of haredi students who are on the fence politically,” he told the Post. “On the one hand they see themselves as within the Torah and haredi world, but on the other hand they want to know that their political representatives are helping and taking care of the concerns of those who are not in yeshiva,” said Keleman.

“The haredi world is a big and broad place and there are people who work in full-time jobs, who study in academic institutions and those who are in yeshiva as well. A lot of people have not yet decided who to vote for and that’s why we set up the debate.”

Lipman said in response that it was time for “an open and honest debate about all the issues relating to the haredi community” and that instead of “sound-bites in the press and in the Knesset,” MKs should enter into open dialogue with each other.

“I have my reasons and list of sources to explain why I believe haredim need to serve, work and have general studies, and believe it would be helpful for the community to hear how the other representatives respond to them,” he said.

“I know that they have strong questions for me and welcome the opportunity to answer them in a public setting.

“It is a shame that the MKs from the haredi parties are unwilling to participate in such a discussion and I believe this exposes the reality that they no longer represent the best interests of the haredi community,” Lipman said.

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