Shas council to deliberate MK Amsalem’s future in party

Amsalem has caused Shas grief on more than one occasion – most notably regarding discrimination against Sephardi children in schools.

November 16, 2010 02:34
2 minute read.
Shas MK Haim Amsalem

Haim Amsalem 311. (photo credit: Ariel Jerozolimski)

The Shas Council of Torah Sages will convene Tuesday to decide on the political future of MK Haim Amsalem, who has been at the center of a heated debate in the haredi world for over a week since an article cited him as slamming the Shas movement and suggested he was about to break off and form a new religious Sephardi party.

As reported by The Jerusalem Post, veteran political commentator Shalom Yerushalmi drew up the lines for Amsalem’s projected new party in the November 5 weekend Maariv, based on conversations with the lawmaker and sources close to him. The party would promote haredi employment and army service, all from a halachicly committed standpoint, according to the report. Yerushalmi also mentioned the name of former Shas leader Aryeh Deri as a figure who could join Amsalem’s new party.

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That same Friday, Amsalem issued a statement saying that he was “a member of Shas and active in it, and from within it, in order to change and amend what is needed, for the benefit of the people of Israel and the Torah of Israel” – without explicitly denying Yerushalmi’s thesis.

Shas chairman Eli Yishai seized the opportunity to convince Amsalem’s spiritual leader and political patron, Rabbi Meir Mazuz, that his protegé desecrated the name of heaven not only in the recent article, but in many other instances as well, and presented an entire file last Thursday proving his point.

Amsalem has caused the other Shas politicians grief on more than one occasion – most notably regarding discrimination against Sephardi children in the haredi education system, with Amsalem leading a continuous and clear line of separation from dependency on Ashkenazi institutions. In addition, Amsalem, a rabbi by training, does not hesitate to draw on Jewish sources to prove the importance of employment for those incapable of dedicating their life to Torah study, or to advocate that the rabbinical establishment encourage conversion for Israelis with Jewish roots who have tied their fate with that of the Jewish people, such as the hundreds of thousands of olim from the former Soviet Union who are not halachicly Jewish but serve in the IDF.

Following the discussion with Yishai, Mazuz reportedly informed Council of Torah Sages head Rabbi Ovadia Yosef that as far as he was concerned, Amsalem could be ejected from the party.

In addition, Rabbi Moshe Maya, also a member of the council, said in a radio interview Sunday that Amsalem was in need of mental health care due to the statements attributed to the lawmaker.

Amsalem, who was out of the country for a week and did not respond directly to the maelstrom, returned to Israel Monday evening from Canada, where he had attended the Ottawa Conference for Combating Anti- Semitism, and headed off to meet with Mazuz.

The MK expressed confidence that he would be able to set things straight with his mentor, whom he believes was deliberately misinformed by Yishai.

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