Deputy defense minister Eli Ben-Dahan meets with Sephardic community organizer in Toronto Max Benaim at the Knesset .
(photo credit: Courtesy)
Supporters of the Bayit Yehudi party locally and in the Diaspora are pushing for the creation of a “World Bayit Yehudi” movement in the style of World Likud.
The idea was raised on Wednesday in a meeting at the Knesset between Deputy Defense Minister Eli Ben-Dahan of Bayit Yehudi, Sephardic community organizer in Toronto Max Benaim and Shlomi Turgeman, Finance Director of the Shaalei Torah network of Torah-based communities.
“Likud Olami has access to key players in Israel,” he noted, remarking that it’s important for Bayit Yehudi to do the same.
World Likud unites the members of the different Likud branches in Israel and in the Diaspora, maintaining a connection between the party in Israel and in Jewish communities around the world.
Bayit Yehudi, he said, should not confine themselves to the borders of Israel but should also be open to input from the Diaspora. “Diaspora members also have something to give, and they care,” he emphasized, pointing to the regular delegations of World Likud that visit Israel and bridge between the communities.
Turgeman served as a Jewish Agency emissary in Toronto in 2013, when he met Benaim who was at the time the president of the Sephardic Kehila Center. Benaim supports the idea of creating a global Bayit Yehudi movement, noting that he admires the ideas of party leader Naftali Bennett and prominent party member Ayelet Shaked. He also opines that in general, Diaspora Jews should be more connected to the political parties they identify within Israel.
Ben-Dahan promised to discuss the subject with Bennett and to help promote it.
Benaim also appealed to the Moroccan heritage he and Ben-Dahan share, to urge the deputy minister to promote rapprochement between Israel and Morocco. Benaim left Tangier in 1964 at age 13 and Ben-Dahan left Casablanca at age 2, in 1956.
“You should meet the king of Morocco. It’s very important for you to go back to your roots,” Benaim urged Ben-Dahan.
He noted that King Mohammed VI of Morocco had renovated all the Jewish cemeteries in the country. “He does believe in Jewish presence in Morocco,” he stressed.
Benaim takes groups of Canadian Jews to retrace their roots in Morocco, and recalled a trip he took where his group of 40 came across a group of Israelis of the same size at the Beth-El synagogue in Casablanca. “We all started dancing and singing,” he said, remembering that the entire group sang the Israeli national anthem Hatikva together. “When we lived in Morocco, we couldn’t even say the name Israel. We used the code-name ‘Jerez’,” he said in contrast.
Ben-Dahan was for the most part quiet in response, only saying that he would consider the suggestion.
Ben-Dahan has never been back to Morocco since making aliya as a toddler, and this is not the first time he has been called on to do so. In his regular participation in events put on by Israelis of Moroccan descent, he has also been called on to visit his country of origin. Members of the community share Benaim’s view that as an MK and deputy minister, visiting Morocco would make an important statement.