Ultra-Orthodox Shas Party Launches New Paper With Unknown Backers

Shas' old publication was acquired by an advertising executive - the first ultra-Orthodox woman in Israel to run a weekly paper

Interior Minister and Shas Chairman Arye Dery at a party conference, July 30, 2017.
Emil Salman

Shas Chairman Arye Dery launched his party’s new newspaper, Baderekh, on Sunday.

The paper, aimed at the Sephardi ultra-Orthodox community, was founded in haste over the last few days, after Shas’ former party newspaper, Yom Leyom, was acquired by an ultra-Orthodox advertising executive, Naama Idan. Idan thereby became the first ultra-Orthodox woman in Israel to run a weekly paper.

At a conference in Jerusalem on Sunday, Dery urged Shas mayors and city council members to sign up as many subscribers to the paper as possible. The interior minister complained that existing Haredi papers don’t pay proper attention to Sephardim, even though they are the largest ultra-Orthodox community.

“Everyone must understand that this is the most important thing to Him,” Dery said. “I ask each of you to take this on as a mission. I’ll check who succeeds in signing up more subscribers. I’m not playing games.”

Shas spokesman Asher Medina went even further. “Anyone who doesn’t work for this paper and doesn’t have a subscription will be outside the camp,” he said. “The new paper is Shas.”

Medina also assailed “those journalists who dare to criticize the party’s rabbis and representatives,” adding that this is why the new paper is essential for Shas.

None of the Shas officials at the conference agreed to say who is funding the new paper. “There are people who took out loans to establish the paper,” Dery said, but declined to name them.

He made it clear that the paper’s purpose is to restore his control over public opinion among Shas voters. “If we don’t manage to get this [paper] to take off, I’ll see it as a personal failure,” he added.

Idan told Haaretz that Dery could have bought Yom Leyom himself, but didn’t. She also said she has gotten threats from various parties in recent days warning her to withdraw from acquiring the paper.

Sources involved in the sale said Idan paid over one million shekels ($280,000) for Yom Leyom.

Idan said Shas still has control of the paper through its faction in the Histadrut labor federation, which holds two of the paper’s five management shares and two of its four editorial shares.

Sources in both Shas and the media world said that several businessmen whose identities remain unknown are behind Idan. She denied this, saying, “I’m the one who bought the paper, and only I.”

But she admitted that “several businessmen, good friends, very much want me to succeed. They told me that if I run into trouble with the paper, they’ll help me.”