Likud Youth, Me and My Hair

Let's not fool ourselves. Many of the kids came to the activities of the Likud Youth because we had a reputation for throwing excellent parties. The Purim party in 1978 was particularly successful.

In the underground it's different. It might be because of the atmosphere of secrecy that I don't recall the identity of the senior Herut member with whom a Likud Youth delegation met in 1978 in a cafe on Tel Aviv's King George Street, at the foot of the Metzuda (Likud headquarters). He sat with his back to the wall, which he explained to us was a habit left over from his days in the underground. He was not the last one to ask me if my coal-black hair was dyed, but he was the first. It was quite a surprising question, considering the fact that I was 16. But maybe things were different in the underground.

The youth faction. During the period after the 1977 revolution, the Likud Youth had about 200 members all over the country. In spite of the great enthusiasm over the revolution, it was not easy to recruit new members, nor to get them to come to activities. Most of them didn't even know the Likud had factions. The chair of the organizational wing of Herut, MK Michael Dekel, sat with us and explained that the Likud Youth had to be organized according to the structure of the party - in other words, it had to be divided into Herut Youth, Liberals Youth and La'am Youth. La'am, incidentally, was the political home of Ehud Olmert, the young MK who fought against organized crime. We learned a chapter in political thought.

A political text. The 1980 class of "Lyada," the high school connected to the Hebrew University of Jerusalem, was especially political in nature. Guy Mar Haim was the chair of Labor's youth organization. The chair of Sheli Youth was also in our class, as was Orna Angel, who was not yet connected to Ehud Barak. Udi Barzilai, who later became the deputy income tax commissioner, and is now no. 41 on the Kadima slate, was the chair of Likud Youth, and I was its no. 2. The organization was run from our desks. In Jerusalem we worked in the La'am branch on Strauss Street, which was headed by young MK Olmert. Udi was his neighbor in Beit Hakerem.

A city that stops. Let's not fool ourselves. Many of the kids came to the activities of the Likud Youth because we had a reputation for throwing excellent parties. The Purim party of 1978 was particularly successful. That night I discovered for the first time that alcohol does not lift my spirits. It just gives me a headache.

There were lots of drinks at the party, and the participants splashed them on the walls. The secretary of the clubhouse, attorney Moti Berkowitz, was not pleased and threw us out. We moved our activities to the Liberals' clubhouse, on Hahavatzelet Street. The clubhouse was much more luxurious and there were armchairs, but it wasn't the same. The high point of the organization was the national convention held in Jerusalem's Moriah Hotel. Even Nahum Barnea wrote about us in the newspaper Davar, calling us "150 Little Roni Milos." Even then I understood that this wasn't much of a compliment.

The death penalty for terrorists. At the age of 16, I was a vegetarian, for reasons of conscience. Not only did I not eat meat, I didn't wear leather shoes either and bought belts made of fabric only. At the time, the Likud believed strongly in the death penalty for terrorists, a belief to which I was vehemently opposed, as I was to all killing. My refusal to participate in activities in favor of the death penalty for terrorists was a considerable hindrance to my work - I was in charge both of disseminating information to the press and of printing informational material. My colleagues in the organization's leadership claimed I should have been a leftist. As history has proven, there was something to that.

Shahar or Shaharit? Deputy defense minister Mordechai Zipori received the Likud Youth delegation in his crowded office in the Knesset. As a serious military man, he sported a neat crew cut. My hair, on the other hand, which as you will recall had already aroused a certain interest in the Likud, was long and unkempt. I introduced myself. Zipori stared at me and then asked wittily: "Shahar or Shaharit?" [the masculine and feminine forms of the author's name]. There were a lot of jokes at my expense afterward - even more than the time when I came to a meeting with prime minister Menachem Begin in a sweatshirt.

A song to peace. The day when Egyptian president Anwar Sadat came to Israel was a great day for us. I came to school the next day and sang peace songs to the leftists. On the other hand, the euphoria dissipated quickly, and the result was a split in the Likud youth. All the national religious students from the Himmelfarb School, who were opposed to the Sinai withdrawal that was part of the peace agreement with Egypt, left the party.

Blocking Naveh. In our senior year Barzilai decided to bring in Danny Naveh as head of the organization - the guy who had been mayor of the Youth City and the chair of the Zionist Youth Congress. This meant I would move down from the no. 2 position to no. 3. So I blocked him. I was never a great politician. Since I succeeded, it appears that neither was Danny. On the other hand, he got to be health minister and I didn't, so apparently he was nevertheless a much better politician than I.

Learning lessons. In 1978 Yigal Bibi, of the National Religious Party, was elected mayor of Tiberias for the first time. Afterward he was to have an impressive career as an MK and a deputy minister. But in 1978 he was forced to run in a second round against the Likud candidate, and our delegation came to help his opponent. Since then, once every few years I remind Bibi that I worked against him in the elections. We didn't help the Likud candidate much, but in Tiberias I met Batya (the first one; there was a second one, too), a Likud youth activist from the Tel Aviv branch. Batya was pretty, smart and good-hearted. Maybe that's why she was the only girlfriend I broke up with. After Batya, I learned that I was incapable of breaking up with someone, because the guilt feelings kill me. Any girl who didn't break up with me was stuck with me for years.