The Wizard of Shas Returns

Are not two sparrows sold for a farthing?Matthew 10:29

Following a four-month delay in the elections of the Chief Rabbis, those were elected hurriedly on July 24, 2013. For the second time in 2013, Prime Minister Netanyahu emerged from an electoral process battered and weakened. This time he took down with him The Jewish Home, the Religious Zionists,* a party that is a key coalitional partner.
Netanyahu’s substantial weakening** in the 2013 Knesset Elections led to his refusal to lobby openly for his favored candidate in the Chief Rabbi elections. He left the job to the rookie leader of the Jewish Home, Naftali Bennett, Minister of Industry, Trade and Labor, and Religious Affairs. Rabbi Stav—the Religious Zionism candidate—lost.

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Yitzhak Yosef—David Lau
New Chief Rabbis
We Belong to the Land: The Story of a Palestinian Israeli Who Lives for Peace & Reconciliation

On July 25, Bennett became the target of juicy insults over the Hebrew media after his lame attempt to bless the winners while saying that he will cancel their jobs by creating a single Chief Rabbi position.
The softest thing said to him was “Learn how to lose with honor! Until today, you have achieved nothing!” said Knesset Member Gafni from United Torah Judaism, one of the opposition parties that emerged as winners. His claim was not exact, bringing Netanyahu’s downfall a bit closer amounts to something.
Nasty Nepotism
As stated in Arafat vs. Chief Rabbis, the elections were plagued with nepotism. Four out of the ten candidates were sons of former Chief Rabbis. The two winners were in this group, which was mockingly nicknamed “The Princes.”
The winner in the Sephardic category was Yitzhak Yosef, son of Ovadia.+ The latter is the spiritual leader of Shas, the largest Ultra-Orthodox party.

Ovadia and Yitzhak Yosef

 In the Ashkenazi slot, the winner was David Lau, son of Yisrael Meir. All other liturgical groups are ignored by the Zionist masters.

Yisrael Meir and David Lau

To become Israel’s Chief Rabbi, one doesn’t need to study Judaism or to understand what “good” means. Merits needed for the post can be summarized as “being born to right father.”
“Aleluya! May God bless Nasty Nepotism!” are the winners singing now.
Yet, their victory spoke of the merits of another man. Let’s reach the crux of the matter.
Deri’s Victory
Since the late 1980s, Shas has been targeted by the State of Israel as an undesirable party. Since its views are legal, the State adopted a different tactic. In the Zionist Paradise,  entrapment is the State’s favorite way of achieving revenge, its highest and apparently only value.
Shas got political prominence thanks to a charismatic follower of Ovadia Yosef. Aryeh Deri became the political leader of Shas and a government minister at the age of 24. His becoming prime minister in the near future seemed a fact.
In the 1999, elections he achieved a record 17 seats in the Knesset, out of the 120. Alas, in 2000, he was entrapped in a bribe affair and sent to jail. He was replaced by Eli Yishai, who lacks the charisma of Deri. Shas strength deteriorated. Other leaders of the party were framed using similar tactics; nobody had warned them that the State uses illegitimate means.

Aryeh Deri – Shas

In late 2012, Deri decided to return to politics, and was placed second on Shas’ list behind Eli Yishai. Regardless of the situation he faces, Deri makes smart decisions. Shas campaign was not centered on his return despite this being the main new, but in the evils of the secular state. “State with a Soul,” was their slogan.
On December 27, 2012, Aryeh Deri said about Likud, “Once the party of the people, it has turned into an arrogant and haughty party that represents Russians and whites,” and cost Netanyahu’s party valuable votes. Lieberman with a “kipah,” Netanyahu as a leader obtuse to social needs. “Revenge” is the word, “religious war” is the reality.
Since Deri returned, Shas was led by a troika.++ Yet, everybody understood that the new arrangement is temporary. Deri is a political giant in a desperate quest to save the party. Yesterday, he delivered.
“I lost because the electoral body is controlled by the Ultra-Orthodox parties,” Rabbi Stav—Netanyahu’s Manchurian Rabbi—said to the press after his especially humiliating lose.
This was only a partial truth. He lost because Deri did what in Hebrew is called “committed suicide on the task.” He gave everything he had, and then once again. After that, he gave everything one more time; unstoppable wisdom confronting lazy Zionism.
In the elections day, most candidates and people related to the event were nervously waiting in one of Jerusalem’s posh hotels. Those unaware of what was going on were surprised. Aryeh Deri was not there. Had he gave up? Was Zionist Rabbi Stav about to taste an ultra-sweet victory over ultra-Orthodox Judaism?
Deri spent the entire day with his spiritual mentor Rabbi Ovadia Yosef. They weren’t praying. Deri was cooing key electors by inviting them to a personal meeting with his rabbi. This is not a meaningless secretarial job; ultra-Orthodox rabbis are also ultra-territorial, they seldom cooperate. Deri brought them all. Yosef charmed them. Their candidates wiped out Religious Zionism.
Zionists are quivering; the Wizard of Shas is back.
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* The delay and the dirty war that preceded the elections were the result of Netanyahu’s new coalition attempt to change the Haredi dominance in the Chief Rabbi’s post. Haredim are not members of the current coalition. A key partner of the current government is the Jewish Home, the settlers’ Religious Zionist party.
One of their goals was to create a substantial change in the Chief Rabbinate structure by placing at the top a non-Ultra-Orthodox candidate.
Likud and Labor are nationalistic and secular parties. Haredi parties are religious and non-nationalistic or slightly nationalistic. For many years, the National Religious Party was the bridgeallowing the unholy alliance between Zionism and ultra-Orthodox Judaism. Their most visible characteristic is a “Kipah Sruga” (handwoven skullcap) in contrast to the black skullcap used by the Haredim and Hasidim. In 2009, the party was dissolved, and most of its former members created The Jewish Home. In the 2013 elections, it got 12 seats in the Knesset (out of 120), getting substantial power and becoming a central member in the government.
In February 2013, a public campaign promoted Rabbi Stav, one of the founders of Yeshivat Hesder Petah Tikva, to be nominated as Chief Rabbi. “Yeshivat Hesder” is a generic name for religious colleges that combine Talmudic studies with military service in the army; they belong to the Nationalistic Religious framework. Most religious Jews are exempted from military service; the new Conscription Law was one of the main reasons leading to the 2013 early elections.
The party attempted to recruit the secular voice (the majority) to support a “militaristic-rabbi” to the post of Chief Rabbi. Accordingly, an organization called “Secular Headquarters for the Election of Rabbi Stav” was created and is led by Eran Rols. The scene is surrealistic. On February 2, he said to Channel 7, “You must understand, the Haredim lead seculars away from the rabbinical world. I am sorry to say that Zionist rabbis live within their own ghettos, and do not understand that the secular public must be encouraged to take part in the election of Chief Rabbis.” Rabbi Stav claims not to be involved in this initiative. In any case, the electoral body is closed to the secular public.
** In the aftermath of the elections in Israel, only one person is laughing hard. On January 11, 2013, former Prime Minister Ehud Olmert gave an interview to Channel Two’s “Friday’s Studio.” He accused Netanyahu of spending $3 Billion on “hallucinated adventures that were not implemented and would not be implemented,” referring to an exercise of an airstrike, as described in Israel Spent $3 Billion on Iran Attack.
Most Israelis are naive, but not naive enough to believe that military exercises for an airstrike can cost so much. Former Prime Minister Ehud Olmert, who was acquitted after having been forced to leave office, used his regained innocence to hit the most probable figure behind his impeachment: Netanyahu. Olmert’s careful whisper destroyed Netanyahu’s dreams. Instead of increasing his power as polls predicted, Netanyahu lost 11 seats in the Knesset, giving place to the current situation in which West Bank Settlers are essential partners in the government’s coalition. Amused by his success, Olmert hit Netanyahu again, now on the EU-Ban Affair (seeEU Hits Israel).
+ “Restoring the Crown to its Old State” (“Leahzir Atara LeYoshna”) was the Shas party’s slogan during its first years; it’s an excellent summary of Ovadia Yosef, the party’s leader views. It means restoring the pride of Mizrahi Jews, which suffer from discrimination in Israel; it also means rejecting Kabbalah wherever it contradicts earlier writings; in other words, he isn’t a mystic. Yosef holds a Halakhically ambivalent view towards Zionism, considering it “Atchalta D’Geula” (“Redemption’s Beginning” in Aramaic; almost equal to the Hebrew). In 2010, Rabbi Yosef and Shas’ “Moetzet Chachamei HaTorah” (Council of Torah-Sages) approved the party’s membership in the World Zionist Organization, transforming it into the first Zionist-Haredi party in Israel. Yet, that’s only due to political interests. In an interview, Yosef said, “What is a Zionist? By our understanding, a Zionist is a person who loves Zion and practices the commandment of settling the land. Whenever I am overseas, I encourage Aliyah [immigration to Israel]. In what way are they more Zionist than us?”
++ Yishai, Deri, and Atias had an equal weight on political decisions despite Yishai formally keeping remaining head of the party. Following their failure to increase power in the elections and their remaining out of Netanyahu’s government, Yishai’s fate was set. A journalist described their recent relations as “they were stabbing each other occasionally with short knives; now they are using axes.” Deri became head of the party, Atias leads the list in the Knesset, and Yishai was demoted to be the director of the party’s educational system (in Israel, education is defined by “streams,” like secular, socialist, Ultra-Orthodox, Arabic, and others).


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Roi Tov is a graduate—among others—of Tel Aviv University and the Weizmann Institute of Science. In addition to his memoir, Tov is published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, Molecular Physics and other scientific journals. He won various travel writing and photography awards. In his writings, he tries to reveal life in Israel as a Christian Israel Defense Force (IDF) officer—from human rights violations to the use of an extensive network of underground agents. He was recognized first as a refugee and subsequently as political prisoner of Bolivia.