Questionnaire: A yiddishe kopf

Uri Orbach opened the floodgates for religious Zionists to enter the Israeli press.

With his creativity, sense of humor and easy-going personality, he became one of Israel’s most well-known and respected journalists. Drafted into the Knesset where he serves as Habayit Hayehudi faction chairman, he now wants to change the face of religious Zionism in politics.
✐■ What gets you out of bed in the morning? Morning prayers and other obligations and habits.
What keeps you up at night? Different obligations. I stay up late working, writing, and getting done what I didn’t get done earlier in the day. I usually don’t go to bed before 1 a.m.
What’s the most difficult professional moment you’ve faced so far? The most difficult was when a kids’ magazine I edited closed down. In my current job, it doesn’t feel good to vote against raising payments for handicapped people, for instance, but I understand the need for coalition discipline. In general, my life is good and pleasant.
How do you celebrate your achievements? By working to get more of them. They increase my appetite. Passing laws is really satisfying. I had a party when I turned 50, but I don’t consider that an accomplishment.
If you were prime minister, what’s the first thing you would do? First, I would invest NIS 1 billion in education. Then, I would establish a national program to bring together religious and secular people in an extended and significant way. In my party, we have a program opening synagogues to secular people so they feel at home there. The government should also care more about family issues: marriages, divorces, single mothers, parenting. What kind of families does Israel encourage? Our party helps people find shiduchim. The first project should really be finding a groom for Tzipi Hotovely.
Which Israeli should have a movie made about him? There needs to be a movie about Natan Sharansky. I don’t know who should play him though. [Interviewer suggests the guy who played Mini-me in Austin Powers.]
What would you change about Israelis if you could? I would convince them that they can watch serious shows and not just reality TV.
iPad, Blackberry or pen and paper? iPhone.
If you had to write an advertisement to entice tourists to come to Israel, what would it say? I would not advertise Bar Refaeli. I’d advertise the Western Wall and our democracy so people we will know they can feel comfortable, free and holy here. They can see our economy and worship as they choose. Our advantage is we can sell them freedom and holiness together. Israel is offering the most holy and the most free place in the world. Unlimited holiness.
What is the most serious problem facing the country?
It’s always easy to say that we are facing an existential threat. I think the level of education and learning is going down. So is our good taste. When we are educated we can get along better. When we are lower and vulgar, it harms Israel and makes it harder for people to live here.
How can it be solved?
Invest in education from early education to university. Every Israeli child should know to read and write. It is a myth that all Israelis can read and write. Reading the sports section doesn’t count. They need to know to read a poem and a verse and put it in context. That is the basis for education.
In 20 years, the country will be:
Better than today. There will be at least another half million Jews from America and a similar number from Western Europe. The Jews who care about keeping their Judaism will want to come due to the assimilation. They will realize that America doesn’t give them what they want. American Jews who come here will bring their spirit and make Israel a better place.