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!
  • We try to show things that get less exposed to the public here. We don’t look to document things that are nice or that people would like. We don’t try to show this place as a beautiful place.”
  • A new Gallup poll shows that only 25% of Americans under 35 support the war in #Gaza. Does this statistic worry you?
  • “You will stomp us into the dirt,” is how her mother responded to Anya Ulinich’s new tragicomic graphic novel. Paul Berger has a more open view of ‘Lena Finkle’s Magic Barrel." What do you think?
  • PHOTOS: Hundreds of protesters marched through lower Manhattan yesterday demanding an end to American support for Israel’s operation in #Gaza.
  • Does #Hamas have to lose for there to be peace? Read the latest analysis by J.J. Goldberg.
  • This is what the rockets over Israel and Gaza look like from space:
  • "Israel should not let captives languish or corpses rot. It should do everything in its power to recover people and bodies. Jewish law places a premium on pidyon shvuyim, “the redemption of captives,” and proper burial. But not when the price will lead to more death and more kidnappings." Do you agree?
  •'s Allison Benedikt wrote that Taglit-Birthright Israel is partly to blame for the death of American IDF volunteer Max Steinberg. This is why she's wrong:
  • Israeli soldiers want you to buy them socks. And snacks. And backpacks. And underwear. And pizza. So claim dozens of fundraising campaigns launched by American Jewish and Israeli charities since the start of the current wave of crisis and conflict in Israel and Gaza.
  • The sign reads: “Dogs are allowed in this establishment but Zionists are not under any circumstances.”
  • Is Twitter Israel's new worst enemy?
  • More than 50 former Israeli soldiers have refused to serve in the current ground operation in #Gaza.
  • "My wife and I are both half-Jewish. Both of us very much felt and feel American first and Jewish second. We are currently debating whether we should send our daughter to a Jewish pre-K and kindergarten program or to a public one. Pros? Give her a Jewish community and identity that she could build on throughout her life. Cons? Costs a lot of money; She will enter school with the idea that being Jewish makes her different somehow instead of something that you do after or in addition to regular school. Maybe a Shabbat sing-along would be enough?"
  • Undeterred by the conflict, 24 Jews participated in the first ever Jewish National Fund— JDate singles trip to Israel. Translation: Jews age 30 to 45 travelled to Israel to get it on in the sun, with a side of hummus.
  • "It pains and shocks me to say this, but here goes: My father was right all along. He always told me, as I spouted liberal talking points at the Shabbos table and challenged his hawkish views on Israel and the Palestinians to his unending chagrin, that I would one day change my tune." Have you had a similar experience?
  • 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.