Israeli Leaders Attend Shiva of ultra-Orthodox Power Broker's Father

Cabinet members, hospital heads and the incoming Mossad chief headed a roster paying their respects to Menachem Gesheid, who is mourning his father.

Menachem Gesheid.
Emil Salman

Even if you’re familiar with the world of Israeli business and politics, you may very well never have heard of Menachem Gesheid.

But a shiva – the seven-day mourning period Jews observe after the death of a loved one – for Gesheid’s father last week provided a display of the son’s power and influence in the world where politics and business meet.

Among those paying a shiva call at the home of Gesheid’s father in Kiryat Ata, a Haifa suburb, were Attorney General Yehuda Weinstein and Yossi Cohen, the head of the National Security Council who a few days later was named the next Mossad chief. Also on hand were cabinet members including Transportation Minister Israel Katz, Social Affairs Minister Haim Katz and Health Minister Yaakov Litzman.

Knesset members from across the political spectrum were in attendance, too: Avigdor Lieberman, the chairman of Yisrael Beiteinu, and Shelly Yacimovich of the Zionist Union. Former Prime Minister Ehud Olmert also showed up, as did a host of officials from Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s office.

The health care system was also represented, including Eli Defes, the CEO of Israel’s biggest health maintenance organization, Clalit. There was also Roni Gamzu, a former Health Ministry director general and now CEO of Ichilov Hospital, and Yiftach Ron Tal, the chairman of Israel Electric Corporation.

Gesheid, 40, doesn’t hold a position that would award him such rich and powerful associates, but the business adviser and PR man sits at the center of movers and shakers in the ultra-Orthodox and secular worlds.

Gesheid acts as a consultant on Haredi affairs for Israeli businesses that increasingly see Haredim as a key market. He’s also an unpaid adviser to Rabbi Elimelech Firer, who provides medical advice to the ultra-Orthodox community. Gesheid is considered close to Litzman and Netanyahu’s people.

Gesheid jokingly describes his work as adviser to Firer as a form of “voluntary national service,” but it also opens doors to business and political leaders.

Among Gesheid’s client is the U.S. energy company Noble, the operating partner of the giant Tamar and Leviathan natural gas fields, although Gesheid prefers not to talk about it.

He’s also a powerful force in journalism, writing under the name M. Carmeli for the Haredi newspaper Hamodia, which is aligned with Litzman and the Gur Hasidic court. He also occasionally writes under his own name for the mainstream press. He usually focuses on health care, taking the side of government hospitals in policy disputes.

In one recent case, he criticized a plan to reduce the pay of senior doctors and administrators at a hospital and came out in favor of private medical services being performed at government medical centers.

Gesheid also maintains a strong influence in the Haredi world. Among those at last week’s shiva was Rabbi David Abuhatzeira, who rarely attends public events, Chief Rabbi David Lau, and the chief rabbi of the Western Wall, Shmuel Rabinovitch.