Haredi parties deploy rabbis, coronavirus amulets to boost voter turnout

As the day progressed, Shas leader Arye Deri, UTJ leader and Health Minister Ya'acov Litzman and senior UTJ MK Moshe Gafni all started hitting the panic button.

Interior Minister Arye Deri at a Shas campaign rally (photo credit: MARC ISRAEL SELLEM)
Interior Minister Arye Deri at a Shas campaign rally
(photo credit: MARC ISRAEL SELLEM)
Election Day for ultra-Orthodox parties Shas and United Torah Judaism always brings with it a raft of traditional tactics to boost voter turnout in the sector, and Monday saw all the golden-oldies, from drafting in the rabbis to warning of impending electoral doom because of low voter turnout in haredi strongholds.
But there were also two new plays thrown in for good measure: fear of the coronavirus and the magical healing properties of voting for an ultra-Orthodox party, as well as revenge against Yisrael Beytenu leader Avigdor Liberman and his ferocious campaign against Shas and UTJ.
Shas leader and Interior Minister Arye Deri started Election Day as is his custom by praying at the grave of the party’s late spiritual leader, Rabbi Ovadia Yosef, and warned there of the perils of a Blue and White-led government “together with the Joint List and Liberman.”
UTJ MKs were likewise eager to warn their voters of how a government headed by Blue and White could negatively impact them, and harm the Jewish character of the state, but like Shas also underlined the supposed dangers Liberman poses to the ultra-Orthodox community’s way of life.
“Imagine Liberman when he’s told that he’s gone down to five seats [from his current eight], and UTJ goes up to nine [from seven],” if you imagine this then we can even get to 11 seats,” UTJ MK Yakov Asher suggested in a video he posted on social media.
Shas too raised the specter of Liberman as a reason to go vote, posting a campaign poster on social media with a picture of the Yisrael Beytenu leader laughing heartily and the words, “Today, we’re wiping the smile off his face” written above it.
And it was Shas that primarily deployed the coronavirus tactic, handing out amulets with prayers and excerpts from Jewish liturgy and scripture at its election stands stating that it would protect from the virus, as well as calling in its senior rabbinic leadership to pray at the Western Wall for Shas’s electoral success and to stop the spreading contagion.
The Central Elections Committee fined Shas during the course of the day for its amulet distribution and told the party to desist.
As the day progressed, Deri, UTJ leader and Health Minister Ya’acov Litzman and senior UTJ MK Moshe Gafni all started hitting the panic button.
UTJ brought its heavy rabbinical weaponry to bear, posting a video to social media of the most senior rabbi in the Ashkenazi ultra-Orthodox world, Rabbi Haim Kanievsky, reciting psalms due to the supposedly low turnout in ultra-Orthodox stronghold cities.
Deri warned that Likud was increasing its vote share at the expense of Shas, which has a constituency of religiously traditional, working-class voters, which Likud has sought to pry away.
“The Likud is getting bigger, they’re going to be the biggest party, God-willing, but they are also getting stronger at our expense. The Likud has taken many votes from us. We need tens of thousands of more votes to get the ninth seat but we’re far from it,” he declared.