Zionist Rabbis Switch From Naftali Bennett to Eli Yishai

Signatories of public letter announcing support of ultra-right party include rabbis Dov Lior, Zvi Tau, and Shlomo Aviner, among others.

Yair Ettinger
Yair Ettinger
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Rabbi Dov Lior
Rabbi Dov LiorCredit: Tomer Appelbaum
Yair Ettinger
Yair Ettinger

A group of senior rabbis from the religious Zionist movement announced Thursday it had withdrawn its endorsement of Habayit Hayehudi in the March 17 election in favor of Yahad, the party established recently by former Shas chairman Eli Yishai.

The announcement was in the form of an open letter published as an advertisement in the religious Zionist weekly BeSheva.

“At this time, we are called upon to make our calculations according to the Torah’s truth,” the letter said.

“Of all the tickets running for the next Knesset, there’s one whose representatives promise to listen to the Torah’s instructions on matters of principle in their leadership of the public, so as to maintain the state’s Jewish character, and with special attention to the integrity of the Land of Israel.”

The letter’s two most prominent signatories are rabbis Dov Lior, who resigned as the spiritual leader of Tekuma after the party decided to run on a joint ticket with Habayit Hayehudi again, as it did in the last election, and Nahum Neria, a yeshiva head whose father was Rabbi Moshe Zvi Neria, one of the founders of religious Zionism.

Another noteworthy signatory is Rabbi Zvi Tau, head of Har Hamor Yeshiva. A founder of Yahad, Tau threatened to withdraw his support after the party agreed to run on a joint ticket with Baruch Marzel’s Otzma Yehudit.

Additional signatories include rabbis Amiel Sternberg, Shlomo Aviner and David Hai Hacohen; Rabbi Yisrael Ariel, who heads the Temple Institute; and Rabbi Avraham Yitzhak Kalev, the head of a private rabbinical court in Jerusalem and a former teacher in the religious Zionist movement’s flagship yeshiva, Mercaz Harav.

The letter was published just two days after Habayit Hayehudi, in an effort to keep “hardalim” (ultra-Orthodox religious Zionists) from deserting it for Yahad, set out its principles in a leaflet.

In it, the party, which is headed by Naftali Bennett, said it was loyal to its rabbis, committed to preserving the status of the Chief Rabbinate and opposed to any change in the religious status quo. It also praised the party’s one secular Knesset member, Ayelet Shaked, as someone who “fought more for the rights of Haredim than any other MK.”

Ironically, both the pro-Yahad open letter and Habayit Hayehudi’s leaflet have nearly identical headlines. The former’s is “The Torah of Israel, the nation of Israel, the Land of Israel! Without apologies or confusion.” The latter’s, “No more apologies — the Land of Israel, the nation of Israel, the Torah of Israel.”

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