Religious, Meretz member and proud

David Waimann sticks out like a sore thumb as party prepares for primary.

waimann  (photo credit: )
(photo credit: )
David Waimann stuck out like a sore thumb in the audience at Monday's debate between the three candidates in next Tuesday's Meretz leadership race. For starters, Waimann was the first non-journalist to arrive wearing a kippa to the debate at the capital's Reform Kol Haneshama synagogue, which was hosted by the party's Jerusalem branch. His British-accented Hebrew made him stand out further. "I am religious and I vote Meretz and I have a tough time explaining to other religious people that they should vote for Meretz too," Waimann told the candidates, who each explained how Meretz could be pro-Jewish while anti-religious coercion. Leading Meretz contender MK Haim Oron told a story about Shinui leader Yosef "Tommy" Lapid heckling him for mentioning God's name from the Knesset podium. "There is a difference between anti-religious and fighting for both freedom of and freedom from religion," Oron said. Waimann declined to name who he decided to vote for, but he said the answers he received from all the candidates reinforced his decision to keep on voting for Meretz, as he has since he moved to the country from London in 1986. "Right-wing religious people think that parties with progressive, non-fundamentalist views are anti-religious," Waimann said. "But Meretz views religious practice as completely integral to the State of Israel. The fact that they put a haredi woman, Tzvia Greenfield, at No. 6 on their list shows that they are pluralistic and comfortable with people of a religious bent." Waimann, an engineer who lives in Jerusalem's Arnona neighborhood, said he supported the party because he believed in its social-democratic values and advocacy of the diplomatic process, and because its leaders were not corrupt. Oron will face off on Tuesday against MKs Ran Cohen and Zehava Gal-On. Oron is favored to win by a large margin, but he would need 50 percent of the vote to avoid a runoff two weeks later. Cohen said he had polls that showed him running "neck-and-neck." Gal-On sent a video to the 15,000 Meretz members' e-mail addresses on Thursday in which she appealed to them to "think outside the box" by voting for her. A Shvakim Panorama poll broadcast on Israel Radio Thursday found that 74.3% of the public did not care about the Meretz race, 19.7% said they were not very interested in the race, and just 6% said it mattered to them.