New Diaspora Affairs Minister and Social Equality Minister Amichai Chikli said recently he wouldn’t compromise on the Diaspora portfolio, since he was seeking a platform to garner political support in the Likud and felt that a ministry like this one, with influence on social issues in Israel, would assist his political endeavors.
And from past interviews, it’s clear the topic of Israel-Diaspora relations is very important to him.
The 41-year-old politician has been on a dramatic roller coaster since he was first elected in 2021 as an MK for Yamina, headed by Naftali Bennett. In May 2021, he announced that in accordance with the party’s commitments prior to the elections, he would oppose a government on the basis of a rotation between Yamina and Yesh Atid’s Yair Lapid, especially with participation of Meretz and the Joint List. He voted against the decisions of the government and later left the party, joining Likud.
Another obstacle, one he will be dealing with a lot as minister, is how to engage Diaspora Jews and to help them connect to Judaism.
“I am very worried about what is happening on [university] campuses,” he told The Jerusalem Post in a previous interview. “It is heartbreaking to see Jewish young people who concede their connections to their people and their heritage in order to connect to the latest fashionable movement that they are calling woke."
He also said that a family who wants to pray at the Kotel needs to have a place to go that is not only for men or women, so the Ezrat Israel is an important solution.
“It’s important to do it in coordination with the haredim and not behind their backs by people who say they want to put them in the trash [referring to Avigdor Liberman]. I respect haredim, and haredim should respect secular people, too.”
He said Israelis don’t understand the huge differences between Reform and Conservative Jews.
“In Israel, Reform and Conservative are seen as the same,” he said. “But the Reform in Israel took the wrong direction,” he said, adding that “the Reform movement has identified itself with the radical Left’s false accusations that the settlers are violent, so they have earned criticism against them and I cannot identify with them. They are going back to their roots in Germany of anti-Zionism and anti-nationalism. It’s a tragedy that they are going there. They are anti-nationalist, and it’s important for them to wake up.”
Even though he is a member of a Conservative Kibbutz and an alum of a Conservative summer camp, he doesn’t define himself as Conservative today.
“I am very worried about what is happening on [university] campuses. It is heartbreaking to see Jewish young people who concede their connections to their people and their heritage in order to connect to the latest fashionable movement that they are calling woke."Amichai Chikli
“I went to [Camp] Ramah and Noam [youth group], but I never defined myself as Conservative and part of that movement,” he said “I see myself as a Jew who keeps tradition. I have no problem with them [the Conservative movement]. I respect it and don’t worry about it or see it as negative.”
In an interview with Makor Rishon in 2021, Chikli said he is worried about the state of American Jewry. “People who live and breathe American Jewry say the community there has died,” he said, adding “it is a bit like a sinking luxury ship: it still makes a lot of noise, but it won’t prevent [it going down]… In my eyes, it’s a tragedy. But I don’t look at them and say ‘hey, we won’. I say: ‘hey, we lost.’”
He added, “Think of Peter Beinart, with all the filth and slander he spreads about Israel. In my opinion, some of Reform Judaism – the progressives and organizations like IfNotNow – are alienating themselves from their own people. It used to be difficult to be Jewish, so they made their Judaism easier; today it is difficult to be a Zionist, so they say to themselves: ‘We’ll go to the other side, where it is more convenient.’”
“The term Conservative is a kind of curse word in Israel and they [Conservative Israeli Jews] don’t deserve it. They are bound by Halacha. Their prayer is indeed without separation between men and women, but is that why we will declare that everyone who belongs to the Conservative movement is an enemy of Judaism and of the people? To think that there are those who think it’s okay to beat them [Conservative Jews]? This situation is very sad.”
In the Diaspora Affairs Ministry, he will replace Nachman Shai, who is more than 30 years his senior, leading projects from the ministry worth hundreds of millions of shekels.
Amichai Chikli's background
CHIKLI IS a member of Kibbutz Hanaton, established by the Conservative movement and the Jewish Agency. He is the son of Conservative Rabbi Eitan Chikli, who serves as the president of the Jewish University in Mexico and was a leading rabbi in Israel.
Chikli was a member of the Social Leadership Institute and afterward served in the Golani Brigade and the Shayetet 13 naval unit as well as becoming a company commander in the Egoz unit. He earned a master’s degree in diplomacy and security from Tel Aviv University.
He established the Tavor Academy for Social Leadership in Nof Hagalil (Upper Nazareth) in 2010 as a pre-army academy.
He is married to Hadas, a school psychologist in Nahalal, and they have three children. The family also adopted a lone soldier from the US whose family lives abroad to stay with them during the course of her studies and military service, according to his official Knesset web page.