(photo credit: REUTERS)
Bayit Yehudi's 20,000 member boost came from surprising sources, analysis of the numbers shows after the party's two-week membership drive came to a close this week.
More than half of the new members are under age 34 and only 22 percent of them are over age 50. In 2012, when Bayit Yehudi held a membership drive ahead of the party's first open primary, the 36% were under 34 and the same amount was over 50.
Many of the new members do not come from national-religious strongholds; more of them come from Tel Aviv than from Givat Shmuel, party leader Naftali Bennett's hometown Ra'anana or Modi'in. One-fourth of Bayit Yehudi's new members are from the periphery and only 22% are from Judea and Samaria.
The party saw a bump in membership on Sunday and Monday, with thousands of people joining on those days alone, which they credited to the announcement that Bennett promised Walla news site editor-in-chief Yinon Magal a spot on the list.
Bayit Yehudi says the party's membership drive was the largest in Israeli history in proportion to time – 20,000 joining in two weeks. In 2012, 57,000 people joined, but the membership drive was four months long.
"The data shows we have become the party of the people, a party connected to the younger generation, of those who believe in the people of Israel, Land of Israel and Torah of Israel and don't feel a need to apologize for it, no matter where they live," Bayit Yehudi spokesman Pinhas Wolf said. "We are letting a large population participate in the democratic game and directly influence the Bayit Yehudi's list."
The drive brought the party to 77,000 members, making it the second-largest party in Israel after Likud. All of the party's members will be able to vote on the January 14 primary, in which over 50 candidates are running.
The party has been polling between 15 and 18 seats. Bennett has the first spot, followed by Construction Minister Uri Ariel, the head of Tekuma, another national-religious party running on a joint list with the Bayit Yehudi, but not in its primary. The ninth, 14th and 18th spots are also saved for Tekuma.
Bennett can appoint people to the third, sixth and 11th slots on the party list. One will go to Magal, but sources in the party say Bennett will wait until after the primary to see if he will use the other two.
Of the candidates, 36 are men, who are competing for five realistic open spots – the fifth, seventh, 13th, 15th and 16th – and five of those men are current MKs.
The fourth, eighth, 12th and 17th spots are saved for women, and two are likely to go to MKs Ayelet Shaked and Shuli Moalem-Refaeli. Women who rank high enough in the primary not to need a gender-designated spot can fill one of the other open ones, and cancel the next spot for women by ranking higher.
The 11th spot on the list is saved for a member of the Bayit Yehudi central committee, for which four people are running: party director-general Nir Orbach, Netanya chapter chairman Daniel Bashari, party chapter leader forum chairman Amiad Taub, and Chagit Moshe, wife of the chairman of the Jerusalem chapter, the party's largest. Each needed to get support of 150 out of 1,200 central committee members in order to run.