Leaders want to close schools so pupils can fight territorial compromise.
By MATTHEW WAGNER
Leading religious Zionist rabbis and educators gathered in Jerusalem Thursday and called to close all high schools, yeshivot and ulpanot ahead of elections and send students out to campaign against Kedima, Labor and other parties that support territorial compromise.
Rabbi Yigal Kaminetsky, former rabbi of Gush Katif, was the first to recommend relieving religious Zionist schools' student body from studies for the days leading up to elections to advance the Greater Israel cause and fight secularization.
Benny Elon, Chairman of Nation Union, said "It is not just about Greater Israel. We are waging an ideological war against those who want Israel to be just another state like all the others, devoid of any Jewish values."
Many other rabbis, such as Rabbi Elyakim Levanon of Elon Moreh, Rabbi Eitan Eiseman, head of Tzvia high schools for girls, Rabbi Shabatai Sabbato of Mitzpe Yericho, Rabbi Yehoshua Weizman of Maalot and others joined Kaminetsky's call during the rally which launched 'Panim Le'Panim' [Face to Face], which was also attended by NRP-NU MKs.
Panim Le'Panim, based on a verse in Proverbs (As in water face answers to face, so the heart of man to man), is a grassroots effort among religious Zionist communities to influence Kedima and Labor voters and those who are still not sure to vote for the NRP-NU.
Young men and women go from door to door meeting families and attempting to convince them not to vote for political parties that support territorial compromise or that have anti-religious agendas.
The hope is to repeat in the upcoming vote for the 17th Knesset the success of the Panim LePanim effort that convinced Likud's Central Committee to buck Prime Minister Ariel Sharon's leadership and oppose disengagement.
The rabbis expressed their hope that as a result of the effort the National Religious Party-National Union would succeed in obtaining 17 mandates, which is gemmatria for "Tov", the party's ballot symbol.
Recent polls have given the NRP-NU about 10 mandates.
The organizers of Panim LePanim, led by former NRP MK Chanan Porat, said they have already managed to reach 41,000 households and the goal is to reach at least 300,000, or a total of 1 million voters.
There are Panim LePanim centers in dozens of cities across the nation in which young religious Zionists, dressed in orange and armed with questionnaires and stickers, hope their warm smiles and wholesome idealism will win over the deliberating voting masses.
Levanon said that it was God who had opened the way for a major turnaround that would put the right-wing parties at the head of the next government.
"First, the elections are taking place in the [Hebrew] month of Adar, a month in which decrees are suddenly overturned, like what happened to Haman in the book of Esther. Second, the rise of the Hamas will strengthen the right. Third, Amona. Fourth, the release of the Comptroller's report on the disastrous treatment of the evacuated families of Gush Katif," Levanon explained.
"God is giving us these opportunities. Now all we have to do is take advantage of them," he concluded.
Rabbi Avraham Zuckerman of Kfar Haroeh yeshiva high school said that "the strength of spirit and enthusiasm that we witnessed at Amona must be tapped ahead of the elections. God is waiting for us to act."
NRP Chairman Zevulun Orlev said the key to success was the willingness of rabbis and educators to use their influence to organize the youth.
"The decision to close the Talmud and go out into the streets is a difficult decision for a rabbi to make," said Orlev. "But if we succeed in turning the tide in the upcoming elections than we'll save ourselves all those future demonstrations that we will be forced to organize if, God forbid, Kedima and Labor make up the next government."
Porat said that the days of study that are missed can be made up during the spring break.
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