rabbi uri regev 88.
(photo credit: )
The pro-religious freedom organization Hiddush worked behind the scenes to persuade Kadima to move matters of religion and state to the top of the party’s agenda immediately before Kadima leader Tzipi Livni gave a series of high-profile interviews on the topic, The Jerusalem Post has learned.
Livni made headlines when she complained about haredim not serving in the army, not joining the work force, and not learning the core curriculum in interviews with the Hebrew press at the beginning of May. In the interviews, she accused Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu of “paying off” the haredim so that he could avoid making a decision on the peace process.
“Israel 2010 is a country in which women ride in the back of the bus,
dry bones take precedence over saving lives, conversion is a mission
impossible, the Zionist vision has blurred and defining the Jewish
state has been given to a monopoly of ultra-Orthodox politicians that
are taking advantage of the system and politicians,” she complained in
A few days before the interviews, Hiddush leaders conveyed the findings
of a comprehensive Smith Research poll they sponsored that found that
some 80 percent of Kadima voters favor ending the Orthodox monopoly on
marriage and conversion, support separating religion from state,
believe the haredi parties have too much power and back cutting state
funding for yeshivot and child welfare payments.
Hiddush also presented the findings at an April 29 Kadima council
meeting on matters of religion and state and sent them to all Kadima
Since then, Kadima also announced a full-day symposium on Jewish
identity that will take place at the Knesset Thursday and Kadima MK
Shlomo Molla formed a new Knesset caucus for religious pluralism in
Israel on Tuesday with 11 MKs.
“The numbers we learned at that council meeting had a big impact on me
and many other Kadima MKs,” Molla said. “I believe the time has come to
welcome American Reform and Conservative Jews to Israel through the
front door and not the back door. We planned on forming the lobby for a
while but Hiddush strengthened our opinion that it was essential.”
The Hiddush poll also found that 35% of respondents said there was a
good chance they would vote for a party that would support the struggle
for religious freedom and equality. The number was 44% among undecided
voters and 48% among respondents who defined themselves as Kadima
voters, as secular or as immigrants.
When asked whether additional political activity for religious freedom
would make them more likely to vote for a party, 58% of Kadima voters
and 57% of Meretz and Labor voters said yes. Just 10% of Kadima voters
said this would make them less likely to vote for the party again.
Hiddush also provided Kadima leaders and council members with
statistics of haredim not serving in the IDF, Israelis prohibited from
marrying in the country, and gender-segregated bus lines.
“Clearly the political arena is ready to focus on religious freedom
again years after the meltdown of Shinui,” Hiddush director-general
Rabbi Uri Regev said.
“While one cannot take polls to reflect scientifically accurate
numbers, they indicate a tendency that cannot be underestimated. There
is too high a percentage of voters who say religious freedom is a top
priority and may shape their votes. Clearly Tzipi Livni is attentive to
the public feelings because she is astute and because we brought the
figures to the attention of Kadima’s leaders.”
Regev stressed that he believed that the importance of Israel remaining
a Jewish-democratic state had always been a top priority for Livni, but
he said he would be surprised if Hiddush’s numbers did not affect her
thinking ahead of her spree of interviews on matters of religion and
“I think she is a work in progress, but she is gradually realizing that
this issue will not go away and she needs to focus on it more,” Regev
Livni’s associates responded that “anyone who has heard her speak over
the past 10 years knows that the diplomatic issue and the importance of
keeping Israel both Jewish and democratic are the two issues she speaks
about the most, so I don’t think anyone thinks they can take credit for
what she says about those issues.”