(photo credit: Channel 1)
If MK David Azoulay (Shas) has his way and finds a better job, Rabbi Mazor Bayana, No. 13 on Shas's candidates list, will become Israel's first haredi Ethiopian MK.
Azoulay is looking for something more productive to do on the municipal level, and he will gladly clear his seat for Bayana, who is active in Beersheba's Ethiopian community.
Bayana served as an MK for about two days, immediately after the elections in March 2006. But after the soldiers' votes were counted, it turned out that Shas had 12 mandates, not 13.
Adisu Messele, who represented Labor from 1996 to 1999, was Israel's first Ethiopian MK.
Azoulay told The Jerusalem Post that he was interested in leaving the Knesset after 11 years as an legislator. "I am looking for something different," said Azoulay, who added that he had no ideological or personal disputes with his party.
He said he knew nothing about a rumor published in the haredi weekly Mishpacha saying that he would be appointed head of Katzir-Harish, a new haredi town near Wadi Ara.
Bayana said that Shas Director-General Ya'acov Margi notified him two weeks ago that there was a chance Azoulay would resign.
He had two main objectives if he were appointed MK, Bayana said. The first is to bring to Israel about 17,000 to 18,000 Falash Mura presently stuck in Ethiopia. The second is to provide about a dozen Ethiopian rabbis with the same salaries and benefits provided to white neighborhood rabbis.
Bayana, 34, reached Israel via Sudan in 1982 and began studying in the Shas-affiliated Torat Haim Yeshiva in Bnei Brak. He said he ended up in a haredi yeshiva out of a "thirst for more spirituality."
He then studied at Shas's flagship Porat Yosef Yeshiva in Jerusalem for three years.
Bayana received his rabbinic ordination from the Chief Rabbinate after studying for five years at a Beersheba kollel.
Rabbi Ovadia Yosef, Shas's spiritual mentor, has been outspoken in support of Ethiopian Jewry. He was one of the only haredi halachic authorities who ruled that Ethiopians were full-fledged Jews. Most insisted that members of the community convert.
"I was the only Ethiopian placed high enough on a party ticket to stand a chance of making it into the Knesset," said Bayana. "As a result, a lot of Ethiopians voted for Shas."