Meimad's Melchior to work in civil society

“For the first time since 1999 I am not running in the Knesset elections,” the former MK posts on his public Facebook page.

Rabbi Michael Melchior 521 (photo credit: Courtesy)
Rabbi Michael Melchior 521
(photo credit: Courtesy)
With state politics headed in what he called the “opposite direction” of a socially conscious welfare state and amid a year of family crisis, Rabbi Michael Melchior decided that this was not the right time to run for Knesset.
“For the first time since 1999 I am not running in the Knesset elections,” the former MK posted on his public Facebook page on Wednesday. “I was privileged to represent a party that was, and probably will always remain small in scale, but large in spirit – the only party of which I have ever been a member: Meimad.”
Born in Copenhagen in 1954, Melchior spent time studying in Jerusalem in 1980 and then moved to Scandinavia to become the chief rabbi of Norway.
After immigrating to Israel in 1986, he retained that title and is still the chief rabbi of Norway today. Following the assassination of prime minister Yitzhak Rabin in 1995, Melchior decided to enter into politics, and in 1999 he began serving as member of Knesset for the next decade in the Meimad party. During his time there, he served as the founding chairman of Taglit-Birthright Israel from 1999 through 2004.
During the 2009 Knesset election, Melchior ran unsuccessfully on the same ticket as the Green Movement headed by Prof. Alon Tal. When questioned by The Jerusalem Post two weeks ago about whether Meimad, like the Green Movement, was intending to join Tzipi Livni’s list, Melchior said only that “we are in contact with her and we will see.”
While Meimad did enter negotiations with Livni, Melchior told the Post on Thursday that he found “no reasonable suggestion that would justify us running on that list” despite the fact that Meimad had given him the authority to take part in talks. There was no arrangement, he decided, that “was in any way dignified for Meimad’s platform.”
In his Facebook address this week explaining why he chose not to run, Melchior began by stressing that his decade in the Knesset was overwhelmingly characterized by the opportunity to make “tangible changes in policy” and partake in reforms that were vital to Israel.
Melchior lauded his party for its “endless dedication to the Jewish values and identify of Israel society” but for its refusal to force religious legislation – emphasizing the importance of peace and equality over fear and hatred. He likewise praised the party for believing that the Jews can only return to their land successfully through values “based on environmental and social justice, a welfare state of the highest principles.”
“Unfortunately, this is the opposite direction toward which we are heading today,” Melchior wrote.
Comparing his state of mind to that of a high priest exiting the Holy of Holies on Yom Kippur, Melchior said he could identify with the feeling of the high priest when he “exited the sanctuary safely and unharmed.”
“My feeling when I left the Knesset and the government was similar,” he wrote. The political world is so full of pitfalls easy to succumb to, to lose face and demean oneself and others. It is a world where we must make compromises every day.”
In addition to the intrinsic problems that he felt constitute today’s political system, he also had face a year of grief with the loss of his son, he explained.
“I was hesitant as to whether I had the inner strength to rise to the challenge of a task I am not sure I desired,” Melchior wrote.
Ultimately, he said he felt that all opportunities toward running in these elections seemed like they would be unsuccessful, and there was no “agreement or formula that would honor Meimad and its reputation amongst the public.”
“I will continue to work so that the center-left block will grow and will succeed in replacing the current powers, both those on the political front and those on the socioeconomic one, even though chances look slim today,” Melchior concluded in his Facebook address.
Among the most problematic issues to Melchior is the fact that “Israel has practically the biggest gap of the Western world” in terms of internal socioeconomics, he told the Post on Thursday.
“We just feel that we cannot do anything about it and we just go with the flow and we don’t look at what the real values are,” he said. “We don’t take responsibility for our future in all areas of life, in economic areas, in social areas, in green areas.”
Meanwhile, Melchior said that it troubles him that the government seems to have decided that “there is no partner to make peace with and we are forever doomed.”
“I don’t think we’re doomed like that forever and ever,” he added. “I think we should pursue a different path and we have just given up.”
Although he will not be directly involved in government decision anymore, Melchior said that he will continue to work to achieve his values in the public and civil society in the “endless number” of organizations that he leads.
When asked if he would consider running for Knesset again in the future, Melchior responded, “You should never say never.”
“You should never close all doors for possibilities,” he continued.
“If I find in the future an efficient way to work from within the political realm then I think that’s a good way, and if I can find a way to work from the civil society then that’s a good way.”