(photo credit: MARC ISRAEL SELLEM/THE JERUSALEM POST)
If I had to describe Yesh Atid in one sentence, it would be “a party which represents the full spectrum of Israeli society, demonstrating how we can work together and create unity.” That was the vision Yair Lapid had in mind when he established Yesh Atid and that is what we in the party experienced working together on a daily basis in the 19th Knesset.
Israel is turning 67 years old and it is time for us to shatter the old paradigms.
A quick glance at the Yesh Atid list no doubt raises a few questions: How does Yair Lapid work to lead the party in close contact and consultation with me, a religious rabbi, as his number two? How is a religious woman like Dr. Aliza Lavie solving women’s issues along with Dr. Ruth Calderon? How is a secular person like Ofer Shelah resolving religionand- state issues along with Dov Lipman, a rabbi and alumnus of ultra-Orthodox rabbinic seminaries? How are MKs who used to belong to the left- or right-wing camps now working together? These questions are magnified in the face of the “us or them” slogans that we have seen throughout this election campaign.
To answer these questions I can proudly report that not only has our approach proven to be successful but it is the only way to make progress in our ever-developing state.
For decades we have been fighting among ourselves – Right versus Left, secular against religious, Sephardi versus Ashkenazi, new immigrants against native Israelis. And this has held us back, only serving to deepen the divides between us and preventing us from reaching solutions to the problems which plague Israeli society. Yesh Atid had the courage to break down those barriers, and as a result we are seeing progress on some of the most difficult issues we face.
Mondays at 2:30 p.m. was the time this vision came into full fruition. That was when we sat as a party and discussed the major issues on the public agenda – religion and state, minority rights, security, economic issues, immigration and more. Instead of religious people coercing their secular counterparts, or vice versa, we would talk and find solutions. And we did it together. Instead of immigrants from one population trying to care only of their own, we have immigrants from all backgrounds seeking to find solutions for all immigrants.
Instead of the Right attacking the Left and the Left attacking the Right, we are the center.
The center isn’t a compromise, but rather an ideology of pragmatic solutions and consensus- building. Diversity isn’t a problem, it is the basis for our success, as a party and, by extension, as a people.
Yesh Atid’s 273-page platform, which lays out our ideology and plans regarding 26 major issues facing Israel today, is the fruit of this labor. (The platform is available on the party’s website in English.) Our vision for the haredim (ultra-Orthodox) in Israel and our progress in this realm is a classic example of the success of our approach. For decades secular Israel has been demanding that haredim serve in the army. The ultra-Orthodox community responded by preparing themselves for battle. And we got nowhere. Yesh Atid came into office and began working on legislation for equality in national service. The religious and rabbinic presence in Yesh Atid ensured that this was not an anti-religious law or a law which would cause damage to the yeshiva world or the religious establishment.
The law passed, the goals for haredim serving are being met, there is a 300 percent increase in haredim joining the workforce which translates into thousands supporting their families with dignity, and no one’s religious status has been threatened or damaged.
My background and area of expertise is in education. A passion for Jewish education drove me into public life. As education minister I began the process of overhauling Israel’s education system – a process which is now sadly stalled and which we will resume immediately after the elections. Out of all the projects and programs which we established and implemented, the one which I believe will have the most important impact on our future is “the other is me.”
We are proactively teaching the value of respecting others, celebrating our differences, and breaking down barriers throughout Israeli society.
Yesh Atid has taken this model to a national leadership level. Our progress and success on almost every key issue will be determined by our courage to move away from the failed approach of partisan politics by uniting and working together.
Yesh Atid’s momentum heading into the elections fills me with hope and optimism that we will continue to lead the way, with this unique and critical approach, in the 20th Knesset and beyond.
The writer is number two on the Yesh Atid list for Knesset.