Tekuma’s vote to remain on the Bayit Yehudi list, instead of defecting to Eli Yishai’s Yahad Ha’am Itanu party, showed that, contrary to its reputation, the party does not put its rabbis’ word before all else.
The “hardal” or religious-Zionist- leaning-toward-haredi party seeks guidance from several like-minded rabbis, the most high-profile of which is Kiryat Arba Chief Rabbi Dov Lior, who strongly supported running with Yishai. However, Tekuma went against his ruling and Lior is looking for a new political partner.
What comes ahead of the rabbis for Tekuma’s central committee? Foremost, it seems, staying in a position of influence in a party that will surely pass the electoral threshold and for Construction Minister Uri Ariel, the party’s leader, to have a good shot at remaining a minister - though Ariel’s relationship with Bayit Yehudi leader Naftali Bennett had soured to the point that he was apparently willing to give both of those up to take part in Yishai’s experiment.
But something else was more important to Tekuma’s central committee than the rabbis’ word: The role of women in the party – or, more specifically, the role of one woman. If Tekuma had chosen to run with Yahad Ha’am Itanu, it would not have been able to have a woman on its list, as Yishai’s Rabbi Meir Mazuz says that would be problematic.
And if no woman can run on Tekuma’s list, that means Struck would be out of the picture.
Whether the members of Tekuma’s secretive central committee, which is rumored to have less than 10 women out of nearly 100 delegates and never had a woman as an MK before Struck, have become staunch feminists is debatable, but if anyone could inspire them to take a stand on this issue, it’s Struck.
Struck advocated for Tekuma to stay in Bayit Yehudi, despite her close ties to Lior, saying she felt that as religious- Zionists, the two parties are closely ideologically related.
The MK said ideology came first in the central committee meeting, but the topic of women was on the table.
“There was almost full consensus that [banning women] doesn’t work for us. We don’t accept this norm of saying a woman can’t be an MK just because she’s a woman…It’s pretty clear we were all against it…It clearly influenced the final decision,” Struck told The Jerusalem Post.
According to Struck, most of the rabbis advising Tekuma also came out against not allowing women to run, though Lior is not one of them.
The 54-year-old Hebron resident, the founder of the Human Rights Organization of Judea and Samaria and mother of 11, was a popular and respected figure among Tekuma (then part of the National Union list) voters and a fixture in Knesset committee meetings on the rights of Israeli West Bank residents, even before she was elected to the 19th Knesset.
In her freshman term as MK, Struck has proven to be one of the most effective advocates for her constituents, increasing funding to make their cars rock-proof, co-sponsoring a bill requiring a national referendum on giving up sovereign land, limiting future Palestinian terrorist releases and working to apply Israeli laws to the West Bank, ensuring that both Israeli and Palestinian women employed by Israeli companies over the Green Line get maternity leave, for example.
Perhaps, though, the clearest indication that Struck has become one of the most recognizable political faces of Israelis in the West Bank is that when Meretz made a video mocking Bayit Yehudi last week, the left-wing party’s leader Zehava Gal-On dressed up like Struck, with a floor-sweeping skirt and a large scarf covering her hair and flowing down her back.
In general, when the Left wants to show a “crazy” or “pyromaniac” settler, Struck is a popular target, along with her party’s leader, Ariel.
Ahead of the Tekuma vote, Struck’s former spokesman Moshe Meirsdorf expressed disappointment at the party’s even considering dropping her to run with Yishai and paid tribute to her modesty in a long Facebook post - although it made his job as a media liaison difficult - revealing that, until she earned a Knesset member’s salary, her family had to accept charity to get by.
“The public doesn’t know how important this woman is to our land, nation and Torah.
Forty percent of her activities, I didn’t even know about; 30% she wouldn’t let me publicize and the other 30% I tried to reveal to the public as best as I could,” Meirsdorf wrote. “We can’t give up on her.”
A source close to the Tekuma central committee deliberations said the delegates agreed.
“Tekuma is very ideological in its dedication to the Land of Israel, but a lot of the central committee was bothered by having a rule that the list could not have women, in particular Struck, who’s very popular. They just didn’t want to vote to give her up,” he said.
In fact, the source suggested Struck would have a good chance if she ran against Ariel in a central committee vote for party leader, though she has neither announced nor alluded to having such plans.
As for whether this signals a feminist revolution in Tekuma or if the central committee just reveres Struck, the source said the fact that the party is very ideological about the Land of Israel does not necessarily reflect the delegates’ stances on other religious issues.
When confronted with the central committee not wanting to give her up, Struck did not seem surprised, as she was offered “attractive jobs with good pay,” but she wanted to “fight for the public question, against accepting this norm.”
“I’m glad there was a consensus that matched my opinion on this matter,” she added.
Tekuma’s central committee still has to elect four candidates for the slots the party has on the Bayit Yehudi’s list, but considering the role the cult of Struck’s personality played in tipping the scales toward Bennett and not Yishai, she is a sure thing for a realistic spot - whether Tekuma rabbis like it or not.