Bennett’s group promised one thing and delivered another

A week after making aliyah in 1985, I took care of four essential elements of personal affairs: I immediately enrolled in the ulpan that took place at the Ra’anana absorption center (merkaz klita) where my family and I were staying; I enrolled in one of the health funds based on the recommendations given by friends who were already in Israel; I opened an account at the bank closest to my residence; and finally, I became a member of the National Religious Party (NRP), which at the time represented the driving force behind our aliyah, religious Zionism.

Well, the ulpan gave me the basic language skills necessary to start my new life in Israel. The health fund I joined, of course, still exists, but it no longer includes me in its registry. I must have changed banks half a dozen times before deciding which one I have been affiliated with for the past 30 years. And as for the NRP, well, you can’t win them all, right?

I am more than a little concerned that there is no longer a holiday that truly represents the interests or well-being of someone who embraces a commitment to both the State of Israel and the Torah. Until the NRP disbanded in 2008 and merged into something called The Jewish Home, it had a political anchor. My loyalty to the party, to tell the truth, was not always free from misgivings, particularly when they became part of a center-left coalition. However, I was confident that my priorities, which were embedded in the NRP platform, were being addressed.

The party secured the respect of those wearing military uniforms and kippots, engaged in urban planning to establish modern religious neighborhoods in any number of cities, and pushed for the design of two parallel educational systems. In short, they made no demands on those who did not live observant lifestyles and provided the necessary services and resources for those who did. The pride of being an Israeli that I found absent from the haredi festivals prevailed abundantly in the NRP, among which the miracle of our existence and the celebration, with due gratitude to God, of Independence Day were recognized.

It would be an unfair exaggeration to say that I have been adrift politically for the past 13 years. Thanks to its perpetual alliance with the haredim, the Likud has kept the secular left from getting too far into my comfort zone. And while the anti-Zionist DNA of the Haredim can certainly be a troublesome and embarrassing quality, they are certainly less threatening to my way of life than Meretz or Labor.

To be honest, I was hoping to find The Jewish Home as a suitable replacement, but I couldn’t rank the priorities and principles of the other three parties (National Union, Tkuma, and Moledet) that the NRP partnered with. With each subsequent election, the confusion about alliances and deals increased exponentially, and my NRP membership card became increasingly worn out. The Likud, in the end, won my support, if not complete trust, but longed for the day when leaders committed to both strong statehood and respect for the traditions that have sustained the Jewish people for some 1,900 years would return. at the helm.

Now, however, we have something called the “change” of government, a makeshift group of parties with little in common and certainly no focused commitment to protect the rights and interests of those who engage in religious Zionism. And while the pandemic and international events have consumed much of the prime minister’s time and energy, it is imperative that the current coalition pay attention to issues that Netanyahu avoided or largely ignored. These include, but are not limited to, the shameful violence that occurs at the Kotel, the need to incorporate the energy of Conservative and Reform Judaism into the religious paradigm of this country, and to find a way to alleviate the plight of agunot (wives whose husbands refuse to sign divorce agreements).

These are urgent matters that must be addressed within the limits that Jewish law deems acceptable. And while it is true that the government is still relatively young and understandably entering the water one foot at a time, I am concerned that the platform that has been chiseled does not appear to be interested in a program dedicated to strengthening the alliance between the Torah. observance and civic responsibility.

Yamina, the party led by Prime Minister Bennett, promised its supporters that the party would work to strengthen Jewish identity and that a greater connection will be forged between Israeli students and the Torah, the Land of Israel and our religious heritage. Sadly, the coalition, led by Bennett, has drifted off course and seems more concerned with finding ways to allow civil marriage and intends to loosen its belt regarding kashrut certification and oversight. The coalition’s more secular partners will likely push aggressively for public transportation on Shabbat and less intensive requirements for conversion.

I have no doubt that the members of Meretz and Yesh Atid see themselves as proud Jews, but their definitions and parameters of what constitutes Judaism are different from mine. To be sure, there is a middle ground between the uncompromising stiffness of the haredim and the “each his own” attitude of the secular contingent of the coalition. However, what is not clear is who will create that critical space.

I do not share the hope that many others have that the government will fail and the Netanyahu / Haredim faction will once again control the destiny of this country. I would like nothing more than to see him succeed and raise Israel’s stature as an example of how respect for the past is essential to a bright and flourishing future. The National Religious Party, which for many years served as a bridge between the two, has not been replaced. And without that bridge, the effort to reach that height will be considerably more difficult.

The writer is a retired technical communicator currently assisting nonprofits in preparing grant presentations and struggling to master the ins and outs of social media.

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