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Photo by: Courtesy Habayi Hayehudi
Meet the MK: Avi Wortzman
By LAHAV HARKOV
17/02/2013
This Bayit Yehudi MK hopes to help thousands of young families settle in the Negev and Galilee.
 
Name: Avi Wortzman
Party: Bayit Yehudi
Age: 42
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 development.

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 Galilee.

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 arena.

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 brings?
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, and firefighting.

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?
I see 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 increased.

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?
Parts of 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?
Bayit Yehudi’s 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 it.

Do you support the adoption of the Edmund Levy Report, which recommends the state approve unauthorized Jewish settlements in the West Bank?
I support it and expect the new government to adopt its findings immediately.
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