yuli edelstein with a beard 370.
(photo credit: Facebook)
Knesset Speaker Yuli Edelstein will come to the parliament clean-shaven on
Wednesday for his press conference with State Comptroller Joseph Shapira after
his facial hair raised eyebrows.
Edelstein surprised many when he decided
to grow a beard for the traditional three weeks of mourning ahead of Tuesday’s
observance of Tisha Be’av.
A resident of Neveh Daniel in Gush Etzion,
Edelstein is a national-religious Orthodox Jew whose community traditionally
refrains from shaving during the three-week mourning period. But many men in
that community who have high-profile roles receive permission from rabbis to
For instance, Deputy Foreign Minister Ze’ev Elkin, who also lives
in Gush Etzion, received a ruling from the moderate Orthodox rabbinical
organization Tzohar permitting him to shave for all but the final three days of
the mourning period.
Edelstein said he could have easily received such a
ruling but decided against it.
“I gave it a lot of thought,” he said. “I
may not be the most meticulous person on every last element of observance, but I
keep the commandments, and I decided that this is something that is important to
Edelstein explained that when he started learning about Judaism in
the early 1980s in the Soviet Union, it was very difficult for him. There was no
kosher food, no way to avoid working on Shabbat, and the closest synagogue was a
75- minute walk away.
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“When I made aliya [in 1987], things were so much
more comfortable,” he said.
“Everything is kosher at the supermarket and
everything is closed on Yom Kippur. I looked for something uncomfortable that
would cause an uneasy feeling and make people ask me questions.”
past three weeks, Edelstein met at the Knesset with several foreign
He said he either had his staff inform the groups in advance
about why he was not shaving or he told them himself and used it as an
“When I met with a Spanish group, I told them
that I usually look more decent,” he said.
In a survey of secular Knesset
members, none of them objected to Edelstein’s decision.
Knesset speaker Dalia Itzik, who cracked down on wearing sandals and jeans at
the parliament when she was in charge, said she did not believe Edelstein
The only criticism for Edelstein has come from
religious men who work at the Knesset and had their own rulings permitting them
to shave due to respect for the Knesset quashed by the speaker himself not
shaving. Edelstein said that on the contrary, he has received praise for keeping
to his convictions.
“When I saw the Knesset speaker at a ceremony I
immediately noticed the beard and my heart filled with Jewish pride,” Irit
Yichye, a mother from Haifa, wrote on Edelstein’s Facebook page.
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