ZAKA founder mulls politics, solving Kotel crisis

Yehuda Meshi-Zahav is a Haredi (ultra-Orthodox) rabbi, who led aggressive Haredi protests against the secular establishment and the state’s institutions in the 1970s and 1980s.

Yehuda Meshi Zahav (photo credit: MARC ISRAEL SELLEM)
Yehuda Meshi Zahav
(photo credit: MARC ISRAEL SELLEM)
Rabbi Yehuda Meshi-Zahav, the chairman and founder of the ZAKA volunteer emergency-services organization, will enter politics if he could help resolve disputes such as the controversy over the Western Wall framework deal, Meshi-Zahav told The Jerusalem Post Sunday.
Meshi-Zahav is a Haredi (ultra-Orthodox) rabbi who led aggressive Haredi protests against the secular establishment and the state’s institutions in the 1970s and 1980s. But now he heads ZAKA, which helps all Israelis, his sons serve in the IDF, and he works to bring the secular and religious together.
Rather than join a Haredi party like United Torah Judaism, Meshi-Zahav is considering to run with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s Likud Party either for Knesset or mayor of Jerusalem. He has been invited to next month’s Likudiada, the largest annual gathering of Likud activists.
Meshi-Zahav said he has been approached by multiple parties in the past. For instance, former prime minister Ariel Sharon’s son Omri urged him to join Kadima. But he said he would only run if he could use the post he wins to build relations between Israelis and maintain his image as a consensus figure.
“I am a man who cares about getting things done, and I know how to do it,” Meshi-Zahav said. “The Knesset is where you can potentially get things done. I don’t want to waste time in the Knesset when I can advance my agenda without it. I also like it that I get along with all 120 MKs, and I don’t want to change that. So whether I join will depend on those two things.”
Meshi-Zahav said he does not want to represent a Haredi party because he opposes religious coercion and favors separating religion from state. He said he hoped serving in a ruling party like Likud could help him bridge religious-secular gaps.
Asked about the Western Wall crisis, he said the Holy Temple was built for all Jews and the same should be true of the Kotel. He offered himself as a mediator between those in dispute.
“Who would have thought decades ago we’d have a Kotel to fight about?” he said. “If the Haredim wouldn’t have made noise, nothing would have happened. They made it a political fight but it did not have to be that way. Everything can be resolved by coming to the table and talking.”
Meshi-Zahav made news last month when he was attacked by a lion while on a Safari in South Africa. He said entering politics could be similar.
Founder of Zaka gets attacked by a lioness. (ZAKA)
“It might be easier to deal with lions who are honest about whether or not they want to eat you than to deal with who Bogie [former defense minister Moshe Ya’alon] called snakes,” he said.