By: Tal Schneider, Noga Tarnopolsky
Jewish Home, a new party that remains an enigma for many Israelis, held primaries only for the second time in its existence. The first time, two and a half years ago, a young, secular Tel Avivit called Ayelet Shaked ran against the old Mafdal gents (a woman? secular??) but won, and since then they’ve gotten all lovey-dovey. She was just easily elected to the number two post, and, in fact, may be the only comfort to party leader Naftali Bennett, who failed to get most of his proteges into safe slots.
Scholars of matters Israeli may have to devote precious years of research to figure out how the party of knitted kippa-wearing West Bank settlement machers and old synagogue gossips has transformed itself into the coolest, youngest most happening campaign operation. For now, Bennett and his strategists hold the secret.
But its not all rosy for Bennett, who’s saved the number two and number nine seats on his party list to members of the tiny, sneering extremist party Tkuma, that operates as a subsection of the Jewish Home. Its is their acid edge that could still do Bennett in. Tkuma’s Uri Ariel, the Housing Minister, is a blustery provocateur who gets a kick out of pugnacious announcements timed to throw a wrench in the general working of things. His latest stunt? Holding a meeting to reviewing the expansion of settlements as accommodation for French immigrants, on Monday. Tkuma’s #2, Bezalel Smotrich, 34, was under Shin Bet surveillance at the time of Israel’s disengagement from Gaza and was briefly held for organizing to attack elements of the national infrastructure.
And another thing that’s a thing: Jewish Home likes installing its primary polling places in synagogues. What is inconceivable for anyone with a minimally American political awareness here in Israel is kind of a wink. If the Israeli left likes to gather in community centers, Jewish Home likes hanging as close to the Torah as possible.
The feminism that has spread like wildfire over modern orthodoxy in Israel has not passed over the Jewish Home. A notable aspect of this uber-young, uber-cool party’s elections is the significant number of religious women who are active, influential, and in front. As a result, Ayelet Shaked, a rising right wing star (though secular) came out first in the Primaries results, gaining more female power on the far right end. Shuli Mualem, an influential settler came out within the first group of ten on the Party’s candidate list and more women are are spread in the party list for the next Knesset, in stark contrast to the Likud nearly-all-male Knesset List. In short, this isn’t the Manischewitz-sipping old boy’s club any more. It’s been conquered by the ladies.