Koah Lehashpia: Affecting Shas Voters

This is actually a one-man party, Rabbi Amnon Yitzhak, best known for bringing secular Jews into the fold of traditional Judaism.

The party: Koah Lehashpia (“the power to influence”), under the spiritual guidance of Rabbi Amnon Yitzhak. Founded in 2008 as a party of the disabled, but started operating in its current format only in 2012.

The starters: 1. Attorney Aryeh Samarly, an expert on real estate and family law; 2. Dr. Eliyahu Shiffer, a dentist and lawyer by training; 3. Moshe Ben Moshe, a businessman; 4. Liad Pratkov, works in computers; 5. Ronen Levy, a yeshiva student.

Main ideas: The party is primarily interested in closing social gaps. The platform includes the following points: reducing the cost of basic foodstuffs and setting the price of subsidized bread at NIS 1; price controls on basic goods; having kibbutzim and moshavim return lands to the state and providing affordable construction solutions to young couples on those lands; complete exemption from municipal taxes, electricity, water and public transportation fees for Holocaust survivors; legislation governing “haircuts” and forgiving debts owed by businesspeople; setting a minimum retirement pension; reducing the cost of land in the geographic periphery and giving state land free of charge to young couples, the homeless and people struggling with mortgages; instilling Jewish values in state schools; canceling the psychometric entrance exam to universities; providing financing for tuition at colleges and teachers’ training colleges; recognizing rabbinic ordination as an academic degree; raising the speed limit on highways to 140 kilometers per hour; reenacting the Tal Law and giving military exemptions for full-time yeshiva students.

Chairman’s statement: This is actually a one-man party, Rabbi Amnon Yitzhak, best known for bringing secular Jews into the fold of traditional Judaism. He is not running for the Knesset himself, but handpicked the ticket. He gave the number 1 spot to Attorney Aryeh Samarly, a resident of Netanya.

“I returned to Jewish practice thanks to a videotape by Rabbi Yitzhak 17 years ago,” says Samarly. “The rabbi is the leader. The party platform is a platform shaped in the image and spirit of Amnon Yitzhak: to return the Jewish people to religious practice for its own benefit. That is the socioeconomic platform that would benefit every stratum of society, without regard for religion, race or nationality.”

Samarly attended state religious schools and served as a combat medic in the paratroopers. He supports providing an exemption from military service to a limited number of yeshiva students. “We’re in favor of every 18-year-old serving in the army, other than in exceptional cases including full-time yeshiva students, but they really have to be the most outstanding and talented men. I’m talking about people who study Torah for 8-12 hours every day, not those ultra-Orthodox pretenders who hang around the yeshiva all day long doing nothing. There are such people; they are the weeds of the community that need to be uprooted.”

The entire party slate is made up of men. “The rabbi and we think that a woman’s place is at home,” he says.

The campaign: Amnon Yitzhak is, without a question, the campaign’s true star. On the party’s website, Facebook page and even in the written material, no clue is provided as to the Knesset candidates; their photographs don’t appear and there’s no background information about them. Yitzhak’s photograph, on the other hand, is everywhere.

Problems: In a word − Shas. Rabbi Ovadia Yosef did not look kindly on the establishment of this party. His people brought a great deal of pressure to bear on Amnon Yitzhak to change his mind about running for the Knesset, but without luck. In the meantime, Koah Lehashpia supporters are complaining about aggressive tactics by Shas to deter activists and potential voters.

On Monday, the conflict came to a head when dozens of Shas supporters broke up an Amnon Yitzhak rally in Beit Shemesh and even sprayed tear gas into the crowd.

Previous experience: This is the first time the party is running for the Knesset in its current format.