UTJ on verge of yearned-for seventh seat

The party did obtain seven seats in 2013, but dropped back down to six in 2015, likely due to the bitter internal war within the Ashkenazi haredi, non-hassidic community.

By
April 9, 2019 22:39
2 minute read.
Yaakov Litzman voting

Yaakov Litzman voting. (photo credit: SHLOMI COHEN)

United Torah Judaism appeared on the verge of the seventh Knesset seat it has craved in what would be a good, if unspectacular, result for the Ashkenazi haredi party, with all three major exit polls gave UTJ seven seats.

The party did obtain seven seats in 2013, but dropped back down to six in 2015, likely due to the bitter internal war within the Ashkenazi haredi, non-hassidic community.

Analysts have frequently pointed to UTJ’s failure to increase its electoral strength in line with the haredi community’s rapid population growth, but Tuesday night’s results, if accurate, would demonstrate that its vote winning machine powered by the religious edicts of the senior haredi rabbinic leadership is alive and well.

And UTJ did indeed break out its heavy artillery on election day, as the senior, and very elderly, rabbinic leadership of the haredi world led by example and went to the polling booths early Tuesday morning to cast their votes and demonstrate to their flock the import of voting to the haredi community.

Rabbi Haim Kanievsky, 91, the supreme authority of the non-hassidic haredi community, went early in the morning to vote in Bnei Brak, accompanied by a his retinue and a clutch of journalists clamouring to see the sage cast his vote. 

And Rabbi Gershon Edelstein, 96, and the second most senior haredi rabbi, voted early in Bnei Brak too, telling UTJ MK Yaakov Asher that when voting “one must have in mind the commandment of sanctifying God’s name.”

Like almost every other party, UTJ engaged in the widespread faux-panic tactics of claiming that voting percentages amongst the sector were low, with MK Moshe Gafni declaring that the party was facing “electoral disaster” which spelled “disaster for Judaism” if the haredi public did not immediately go out and vote.

The party even issued a list of questions purportedly answered by Kanievsky in which he said that anyone who had used the day for a family excursion was “obligated” to return and vote; that voting for UTJ was literally a matter of life and death and more important even than Torah study; and blessed anyone who went to vote for UTJ with long life.

MK Asher also helped the get-out-the-vote campaign, and issued a video on social media where he told a haredi individual on the phone of the importance of voting.

״Rabbi Nissim Karelitz is close to 100, he’s ill, and yet he went out to vote,” said Asher of yet another of the senior haredi rabbis who took to the polling booths today.

“This is your duty if you are in the haredi community. If someone so elderly can go out and vote then you’ll find time too. Get up, get out and vote.”


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