Nearly three weeks after the first tent was pitched on Rothschild Boulevard, the
national religious leadership seems to be officially taking a proactive stance
in joining the public outcry, albeit separately from the secular Tel Aviv
protest leaders, while at the same time influential rabbis from the sector are
having a say on the doctors’ strike.
Bnei Akiva – the flagship of
national religious youth movements – along with Im Tirzu, Ra’ananim, Israel
Sheli and neighborhood committees have united as the “Forum of 20,” and
announced they will be marching in Tel Aviv on Tuesday. The name of the forum
implies their demand that the government reduce the prices of living by at least
Israeli men working less than they did a decade ago Haredim support 'tent city' protests, but won't join in
Some of the first tents pitched on Rothschild were occupied
by members of Bnei Akiva, but those left the scene after getting the impression
that the protest was motivated by extreme-left political bodies, whose sole wish
was to do away with the current regime and its head, noted Yossi Mandel, who is
in charge of Bnei Akiva’s post-high school programs.
Such sentiment was
what kept many from the Right and religious Zionism away from the Tel Aviv
protest. But last week a senior rabbi from the sector, Chief Ramat Gan Rabbi
Yaakov Ariel, who also heads the Tzohar rabbinic movement, said that despite the
political elements to the protest, it should be partaken in, since the high cost
of living is a problem shared by everyone.
As the protest grew in
momentum, popularity and locales, politicians from the Right joined the
“Education, health, welfare and worthy living accommodations
are what all the nationalreligious public wants,” MK Uri Orbach (Habayit
Hayehudi) posted on his Facebook page Sunday.
“We are part of any protest
that calls to reevaluate the distribution of the state’s assets.”
did they join just now? “We felt all along that we couldn’t join the protest,
which was leading an anti-government line we do not agree upon. They are still
unsure exactly what they do want,” Mandel said on Tuesday evening. “At the same
time, they are saying harsh things against the government, while not really
seeking solutions. We tried to get there, speak with them, offer solutions – but
they didn’t want to hear them, they just wanted to protest.
“At the same
time, we – as a youth movement active in all parts of the country, are acutely
aware of the high cost of living, which is manifest in difficulties some of our
members have paying fees and taking part in activities, or daily challenges
facing them regardless of the movement.
We want to be part of the
movement for change, but one that will bring solutions for a new social
Head of Bnei Akiva in Israel Rabbi Benny Nachteiler said his
movement came with a purpose.
“We come with a real statement, that the
battle against the high cost of living is one of the duties of the government,
and will bring welfare to the people of Israel,” he said. “Our style will be
different, not rude and condescending; we won’t demand that the prime minister
sit with us in an open studio.”
On Tuesday, director-general of the Yesha
Council Naftali Bennett paid a visit to the student’s tent in Tel Aviv and spoke
with its leaders.
Itzik Shmuli, head of the students union, said the
protests were not about politics.
“This isn’t a struggle of the Left or
Right, rather over the image of the State of Israel,” he said.
And in another expression of broader social responsibility, the modern orthodox Tzohar rabbinic organization submitted late Tuesday a letter of support to the striking doctors, calling on the prime minister and finance minister to change the working patterns of the doctors. The letter also bore the signature of influential rabbis from different parts of the national religious sector, such as Aharon Lichtenstein, Dov Lior and Haim Druckman.
"Rabbis normally don't get involved in labor disputes, but when it became apparent that some of the issues in question could endanger the lives of patients, the rabbis understood that the Torah also has a say here," said Tzohar chairman Rabbi David Stav.