Boston resident Yosef Israel Abramovitch, third on the list for the Atid Ehad Party, justifies his status as an American citizen running for the Knesset by explaining that his party has a global perspective on Israeli issues.
"[Party leader] Avraham Neguise has a global view and wanted to bring the best minds of the Jewish world together to strengthen Jewish life in Israel," said Abramovitch in a telephone interview Sunday.
Atid Ehad (One Future) is one of a large number of new, small parties running for a slot in the next Knesset. It is the first political party to have an Ethiopian immigrant at its helm, though it claims not to be a strictly Ethiopian party -there are five Ethiopian candidates and five non-Ethiopians on its list.
Despite the fact that Atid Ehad has not made a dent in any of the polls taken in recent weeks, Neguise is sure that his party will cross the vote threshold needed to make it into the Knesset.
"The Israeli media has not given us a chance. Our base is 90 percent in the Ethiopian community and they are not well represented in the polls," commented Abramovitch.
Knesset spokesman Giora Pordes said that it was irrelevant that Abramovitch currently resides in the US. "We only check whether the candidates have Israeli citizenship, not where they are currently living. I can't check where all the 700-plus candidates live. If they win a place in the Knesset then they must renounce any other citizenships."
He cited Binyamin Netanyahu as a Knesset member who was forced to renounce his US citizenship when he gained a place in the Israeli parliament.
"It does not matter that he lives in the US," said Atid Ehad leader Neguise, speaking from his Jerusalem headquarters Monday. "He only lives there for his work; he is an Israeli citizen and the minute we win he will give up his American citizenship."
Abramovitch said Atid Ehad's platform promotes aliya, immigrant absorption, education and social justice and stays well away from religious and security debates. He added that he hoped the final push for the party would come from voters looking for Jewish heritage in education without the religion
He asserted that though his permanent residence is currently in the US, he would give up his American citizenship in a second and that he and his wife want to move to Israel soon.
As to why he is not in Israel now, rallying with his party for next week's election, Abramovitch said, "I would have come to campaign but I have just adopted my fifth child from Ethiopia and personal developments in our family prevented me from coming."
Abramovitch's connection to the Ethiopian community began in the early 1980s and was strengthened later that decade when he was the chairman of the World Union of Jewish Students (WUJS) in Arad. It was during this time that he first met Neguise and the two formed a firm alliance, with Abramovitch offering help and advice to the Ethiopian community in its struggle for acceptance in Israel.
Following his role as a student leader, Abramovitch served in the IDF during the first intifada. He went on to become a journalist and in the late 1990s finally visited Ethiopia as a reporter. Abramovitch is currently the CEO of Jewish Family & Life! (http://www.jflmedia.com) and was awarded the Covenant Award for Excellence in Jewish Education in 2004.
"[Abramovitch] can offer us a lot as an educator," said Neguise. "He is first and foremost an educator, he led an important organization in Arad back in the 1980s and today he is the head of a Jewish educational movement in the United States."
Abramovitch has much to say about Israel's education system, pointing out that Israel had one of the best educational systems in the world but now has one of the worst.
"We need equal education for all people in the State of Israel," Neguise added. "We live in a democratic country and multiculturalism is our message. This is an opportunity for Israelis to make history."