|AM SHALEM LEADER Rabbi Haim Amsalem.(Photo by: Lahav Harkov)|
Poll: Amsalem more popular than Ovadia Yosef
By LAHAV HARKOV, JEREMY SHARON
Party to focus on leader’s ‘courage’ in standing up to Shas, which in turn says there is ‘no truth to his claim.’
Am Shalem is the choice of the brave, according to the new election campaign
announced on Monday by the party led by Shas renegade MK Rabbi Haim
Strategist Eilon Zarmon presented statistics suggesting that
Amsalem is more popular than Shas spiritual leader and former Sephardic chief
Rabbi Ovadia Yosef.
According to research by Jerusalem Post pollster Rafi
Smith, commissioned by Am Shalem, 76 percent of Israelis have a positive opinion
of Amsalem, 49% said the same of Yosef, and only 39% view Shas chairman Eli
In addition, 7% of the population said there is a high
or very high chance they’d vote for Am Shalem.
Polls commissioned by a
party tend to be flattering to that party. At the same time, Am Shalem surveyed
2,000 people, four times as many as most newspaper polls, reducing its margin of
“Our campaign is taking inspiration from Amsalem’s courage,”
Zarmon explained, pointing to findings that 86% of the population think the Am
Shalem leader is brave, ostensibly because he stood up to Shas.
to make a change, political power is not enough. You mainly need will and
courage,” Amsalem said.
Amsalem decried his former party, saying Yishai
claims to fight poverty, but actually created it.
“Shas took [Sephardic
haredim] from a public that works and serves in the IDF, and made it extreme
‘Sephardic Lithuanians,’” said the Am Shalem leader, referring to the stringent
“I tell these people to look at photos of their
grandfathers and fathers. Weren’t they Zionists? Didn’t they work and go to the
army?” Amsalem also accused most haredi rabbis of being unaware of their
followers’ poverty and real life problems, which said can often be solved by
joining the workforce.
In addition to haredi enlistment in the IDF and
employment, Amsalem emphasized the importance of learning the Education
Ministry’s core curriculum as a way to ensure success in the future.
reference to haredi parties not having women on their list, while his has women
in the fourth, sixth and ninth slots, Amsalem said “women should be in the
Knesset, because no one can represent women’s interests better than a
The Am Shalem leader said he is on a “historic mission” to bridge
the gap between different populations in Israel and to make Judaism “moderate
and welcoming, like it used to be.”
“My motto is a quote by Rabbi David
Ben Zimra from 400 years ago: Torah laws have to work with logic and thought,”
Amsalem stated. “We are for all Israelis – haredi, religious, non-religious –
and we have real potential to make a change.”
The Shas party has an
official policy of not commenting on Amsalem’s statements or on the Am Shalem
party in general.
However, a Shas source rejected the claim that Shas
keeps people in poverty and pointed out that the Shas network of elementary
schools teaches the core curriculum subjects mandated by the state, unlike most
other haredi schools.
The Shas official also pointed out that Adina
Bar-Shalom, Yosef’s daughter, established the Haredi College in Jerusalem, the
first academic college for haredi men and women in Israel, and that Yosef has
helped raise money for the institution and visits students at the college campus
“No other haredi rabbi or leader has supported academic
studies for haredim like Rabbi Ovadia,” the source argued. “There is simply no
truth in these claims.”