Hoarse from campaigning, Environmental Protection Minister Gilad Erdan, in an
interview with Israel Radio’s Arye Golan on Thursday, expressed concern that the
19th Knesset may be more factionalized than ever because a large percentage of
the electorate assumed that if it was a given that Binyamin Netanyahu will – as
all surveys project, be the next prime minister – then they could allow
themselves to vote for smaller niche parties with specific interests, which will
result in an extremely divisive Knesset. Erdan refused to be drawn into a
discussion about which portfolio he will receive in the event that surveys
relating to his party are correct, saying that it doesn’t make much difference
because, if the 19th Knesset is highly factionalized, the nation will again go
to the polls within the next year and a half.
■ IF THE reception given to
Bayit Yehudi leader Naftali Bennett at Jerusalem’s Great Synagogue on Wednesday
night at the panel discussion co-hosted by The Jerusalem Post, the Association
of Americans and Canadians in Israel and the Great Synagogue was indicative of
the possible outcome of the elections, Netanyahu has major cause for worry,
regardless of the results of surveys that have shown that although support for
Likud Beytenu is slipping, the combined ticket is still ahead. Bennett was
mobbed by the media when he entered the synagogue, and when Jerusalem Post
Editor-in-Chief Steve Linde introduced the speakers, it was Bennett who received
the loudest and most sustained applause.
Three of the eight speakers
could claim direct relationship with AACI. Alon Tal, an environmentalist and
former paratrooper who fought in the first Lebanon War and who is 13th on The
Tzipi Livni Party list, boasted that he was the only representative on the panel
who was a lifetime member of AACI.
Bennett said that he had been closely
linked to AACI since childhood because his mother had been the director of AACI
Laura Wharton, who represents Meretz on the Jerusalem City
Council, said that she was a member of AACI but could not claim lifetime
membership. She also mentioned that she was proud of the fact that no Meretz MK
has ever been investigated or charged by the police.
The debate between
the above-mentioned and Yuli Edelstein (Likud-Beytenu); Arieh Eldad (Strong
Israel); Dov Lipman (Yesh Atid); Isaac Herzog (Labor); and Menachem Shem Tov
(Shas) followed all the rules of civilized debate, and the audience was equally
civilized – except when Wharton voiced the hope that Israel would take note of
the 2002 Saudi peace initiative. Her statement was followed by loud
There were two other short-lived disturbances, one by an immigrant
from Egypt who claimed to be stateless and shouted that after living in Israel
for 13 years, why was he still unable to get citizenship even though both his
parents were Jewish? The question was ruled out of place and, because he
continued to yell while pacing around the room, he was escorted out of the
building before he could disrupt proceedings any further.
event was scheduled to end at 10 p.m., there was no time to allow all the people
who wanted to ask questions to do so. One man who had spent a lot of time
preparing his question was furious and began screaming, but lost his battle, and
his question remained unasked.
Attendance at the event rivaled that of
the High Holy Days, and age-wise spanned three generations.
issues, all eight speakers shared similar views, causing Bennett to remark that
listening to Herzog at another debate in which they had both participated, he
had come to the realization that he agreed with 70 percent of what Herzog was
“We have real issues to solve, but we won’t solve them if we keep
fighting all the time,” said Bennett.
“We have to work hard to bring the
Arabs and the haredim into society, but we have to put aside hate.”
example of focusing on the positive, Bennett told a story about the legendary
Rabbi Aryeh Levin, who he had discovered had been Herzog’s
Levin had been walking in Jerusalem when he noticed one of his
former students dressed in an army uniform.
The young man crossed the
street to avoid him whenever Levin was about to approach him. Eventually their
paths collided, and Levin asked him why he was being so evasive. The young man,
who was no longer religiously observant said, “Reb Aryeh, my head isn’t covered,
and I was embarrassed.”
“I’m short,” replied the rabbi. “I can’t see your
head. I can only see the heart of a brave soldier fighting for
Eldad, who was head of the plastic surgery and burns unit at
Hadassah before entering the political arena, used his medical background as an
analogy for the problem between Israel and the Palestinians. If your physician
keeps changing your antibiotics and there’s no improvement in your condition,
you change your physician, he said, noting that the disease has obviously been
misdiagnosed. The situation with the Palestinians has also been misdiagnosed, he
“This is not a territorial war. It is a religious war,” he said.
“We are here because God promised this land to the Jewish people.”
continued to advocate the two-state solution, while Shem Tov, half in jest, said
there is already a two-state solution in place – the state of the poor Israelis
in Yeruham and the state of the rich Israelis in Caesarea. He wanted an
explanation as to why, in a country like Israel, staple products such as bread
and milk are more expensive than gasoline.
Lipman, Tal and Wharton all
called for inclusiveness.
Lipman reminded the audience that there are
immigrants of Russian and Ethiopian background who should be represented in the
Knesset, and also spoke of the need to find a solution for Russians who are not
halachically Jewish. But his key emphasis was on education reforms, in which, if
his party has its way, there will be more compulsory general studies in haredi
schools and more Jewish studies in secular schools.
Wharton said it was
tragic that 10,000 couples traveled abroad to get married because they could not
conform to rabbinical strictures. The title of Theodor Herzl’s visionary work
had been mistranslated, she said. It was not called The Jewish State as is
commonly interpreted, but The State of the Jews.
Tal, who is
Conservative, found it traumatic that one of his daughters had been spat on,
cursed and humiliated for wearing a prayer shawl in the women’s section of the
Western Wall, and urged that Israel become a more pluralistic society in which
everyone could find a place at the table and feel comfortable.
Gimpel, 14th on the Bayit Yehudi list, replaced Bennett during the Q&A
period of the evening, and explained why it was important for his party to be a
member of the next coalition. There were things that Netanyahu wanted to do, but
couldn’t do without censure from Israel’s friends abroad, he explained. But with
Bayit Yehudi in his coalition, he can always say that he didn’t want to do this
or that, but Bayit Yehudi pushed him.
■ EARLIER IN the day both Arye Deri
of Shas and Labor leader Shelly Yacimovich separately visited Jerusalem’s
Mahaneh Yehuda market, long known as a Likud stronghold. For Yacimovich, it was
akin to Daniel walking into the lion’s den, though generally speaking, she was
treated politely, and here and there managed to find a little support. Deri,
however, was welcomed with open arms both by stall keepers and shoppers, with
the latter making a beeline to greet him and wish him well.
CONDITIONS notwithstanding, there was a full house last week as there is every
year for the annual gala of the Kibbutz Contemporary Dance Company at the
Herzliya Performing Arts Center.
Again as always, a place of pride in the
audience was taken by the Dance Company’s patron, Raya Strauss Ben Dror. Other
well-known faces in the audience belonged to lawyer Ori Slonim, Discount Bank
chairman Yossi Bahar, theater personality Ya’acov Agmon, head of the Rabin
Center Dalia Rabin, Labor MK Avishay Braverman,Orly Dankner, Agriculture
Minister Orit Noked, actor Oded Teumi whose daughter Amira Teumi is the manager
of the Dance Company, former Israel ambassador to the UN Dan Gillerman,
philanthropist in the field of education Dov Lautman, and many others.
the cocktail reception preceding the performance, couture designer Gideon
Oberson, whose daughter Karin is also a fashion designer, told all and sundry
that she had designed the elegant cocktail dress worn by Amira Teumi. Some of
the novice dancers in the KCDC, surprised those mingling at the cocktail
reception by dancing amongst them before everyone entered the
The traditional showbiz slogan “the show must go on” proved
to be more than just a slogan once the performance began. An electrical fault
plunged the auditorium into total darkness, and the music was suddenly silenced,
but the dancers kept dancing in the dark. The audience, to its credit, did not
panic and remained seated.
■ IN A DEMOCRACY, there should be no room for
racism, but in Upper Nazareth, the democratically elected Mayor Shimon Gapso,
who has on several occasions in the past demonstrated racist attitudes against
the city’s Arab community, both Christian and Muslim, has done it
A report in Haaretz
on Thursday states that Gapso has rejected an
appeal for an Arab school to be built in the city, claiming that the request
conceals “a provocative racist statement intended to disrupt the status
When the Association of Civil Rights attempted to intervene on
behalf of the Arab community, Gapso’s response was that Upper Nazareth was
founded to make the Galilee Jewish, and this role must be
Gapso compared the establishment of an Arab school to that of
a Muslim cemetery or mosque in the city, and pledged that none of these would
occur so long as he was mayor.
According to the Haaretz
report, some 20
percent of the 52,000 residents of Upper Nazareth are Arab, but there is no Arab
school in the city even though there are around 1,900 such students, who have to
travel to schools outside Upper Nazareth. Two years ago, Gapso refused to allow
the city’s Christian community, who are mainly Arabs, to put up a Christmas tree
at the entrance to the city.
■ AFTER BEING released on early parole for
good behavior, former finance minister Avraham Hirchson, who was released from
prison this week and who will celebrate his 72nd birthday on February 11, will
not sit at home idle, but will engage in volunteer work on behalf of Holocaust
Hirchson, who was born in Israel and whose family had no
direct contact with victims of the Holocaust, has nonetheless been closely
involved with promoting Holocaust awareness for more than half his
He was the one who conceived of March of the Living, through
which untold numbers of Jewish youth from around the world have not only learned
of the most tragic period in contemporary Jewish history, but have in many cases
touched base with their roots and have developed Jewish and Zionist pride in
learning about resistance to the Nazi firstname.lastname@example.org