New Faces of Israel's Election

Competition on Right and Center and for Orthodox Vote

Fresh Face: Ex-news anchor Yair Lapid may not become the next Israeli prime minister. But he leads a crop of fresh faces contesting this month’s general election.
getty images
Fresh Face: Ex-news anchor Yair Lapid may not become the next Israeli prime minister. But he leads a crop of fresh faces contesting this month’s general election.

By Nathan Jeffay

Published January 07, 2013, issue of January 04, 2013.
  • Print
  • Share Share
  • Single Page

(page 4 of 10)



Haim Amsalem was the Shas politician who dared speak the unspeakable: Haredim should work and not rely on state funds. He also criticized the strict Haredi requirements for conversion to Judaism, and Haredi refusal to undertake national service.

The party expelled him two years ago for taking these positions. “There are only two ways to leave Shas,” he quipped some time afterwards. “Sit in jail or voice your own opinions.”

Amsalem set up his own party, Am Shalem — chosen to sound like his name but also because it means “Whole Nation.”

Amsalem, 53, describes himself as “a Jew, a Haredi and a Zionist.” In contrast to other Haredi politicians who avoid showing patriotism towards the State of Israel for ideological reasons, he calls it “our beloved state.”

He wants to take practical steps to integrate Haredim, currently one of Israel’s poorest populations, into the workforce. He suggests programs to employ them in high tech, as well as the establishment of an institution like New York’s Yeshiva University that will combine religious study with academic degrees.

Shmuel Sandler, a political scientist at Bar Ilan University and expert on religious politics, said that Amsalem is giving a voice to the “big revolution” that is taking place among Haredim, with many becoming more open to the idea of secular study.

Since the last elections, secular and religious citizens have clashed over ultra-Orthodox-favored moves such as attempting to implement gender segregation in public spaces. Amsalem publicly opposes such attempts.

Together with the positions that led to his expulsion from Shas, this has won him admirers outside the Haredi community. Haaretz’s economic affairs correspondent Nehemia Shtrasler crowned him “the most courageous man in Israel politics,” who brings a “breath of fresh air” to the scene. The latest polls indicate that enough voters agree, and likely will send him into Knesset along with two other candidates from his list.

The Jewish Daily Forward welcomes reader comments in order to promote thoughtful discussion on issues of importance to the Jewish community. In the interest of maintaining a civil forum, The Jewish Daily Forwardrequires that all commenters be appropriately respectful toward our writers, other commenters and the subjects of the articles. Vigorous debate and reasoned critique are welcome; name-calling and personal invective are not. While we generally do not seek to edit or actively moderate comments, our spam filter prevents most links and certain key words from being posted and The Jewish Daily Forward reserves the right to remove comments for any reason.

Find us on Facebook!
  • When is a legume not necessarily a legume? Philologos has the answer.
  • "Sometime in my childhood, I realized that the Exodus wasn’t as remote or as faceless as I thought it was, because I knew a former slave. His name was Hersh Nemes, and he was my grandfather." Share this moving Passover essay!
  • Getting ready for Seder? Chag Sameach!
  • "We are not so far removed from the tragedies of the past, and as Jews sit down to the Seder meal, this event is a teachable moment of how the hatred of Jews-as-Other is still alive and well. It is not realistic to be complacent."
  • Aperitif Cocktail, Tequila Shot, Tom Collins or Vodka Soda — Which son do you relate to?
  • Elvis craved bacon on tour. Michael Jackson craved matzo ball soup. We've got the recipe.
  • This is the face of hatred.
  • What could be wrong with a bunch of guys kicking back with a steak and a couple of beers and talking about the Seder? Try everything. #ManSeder
  • BREAKING: Smirking killer singled out Jews for death in suburban Kansas City rampage. 3 die in bloody rampage at JCC and retirement home.
  • Real exodus? For Mimi Minsky, it's screaming kids and demanding hubby on way down to Miami, not matzo in the desert.
  • The real heroines of Passover prep aren't even Jewish. But the holiday couldn't happen without them.
  • Is Handel’s ‘Messiah’ an anti-Semitic screed?
  • Meet the Master of the Matzo Ball.
  • Pierre Dulaine wants to do in his hometown of Jaffa what he did for kids in Manhattan: teach them to dance.
  • "The first time I met Mick Jagger, I said, 'Those are the tackiest shoes I’ve ever seen.'” Jewish music journalist Lisa Robinson remembers the glory days of rock in her new book, "There Goes Gravity."
  • from-cache

Would you like to receive updates about new stories?

We will not share your e-mail address or other personal information.

Already subscribed? Manage your subscription.