“What unites an Orthodox rabbi like Dov Lipman and…me? Are we telling the same story? Are we capable of agreeing about the past in order to work together to create a common future?”
Those words were written by Yair Lapid in his preface to my book “To Unify a Nation.”
It is a question which I was asked time and again when I first joined Yair’s Yesh Atid party, and which I have been asked hundreds of times since: What do you two have in common? How are the two of you working together?
The truth is, it was just that question which at first prevented me from considering Yair and his new party when I was exploring getting involved in Israeli politics. All I had heard about Yair was that he was very secular, and would never work together with me, a religious rabbi. But then I watched a speech he gave to young ultra-Orthodox men at Kiryat Ono.
In that speech, I saw a person clearly secular, but with tremendous respect for the religious community and a desire to work together with religious Jews. Seeing that speech led me to go listen to Yair speak live, mostly in secular settings. After hearing those presentations and hearing his vision for the future of Israel — which always included a respect and desire to work together with religious Jews, and to work toward a more unified Israeli society — I decided to reach out to explore whether he and I could indeed work together.
This ultimately led to our meeting, when we sat and talked about our backgrounds including the personal loss of our fathers that each of us had suffered just a few years before. We talked about our dreams for the State of Israel. And we talked about all the difficult issues on the table, both issues of security and questions of religion and state.
Toward the end of that meeting Yair said to me: “Dov, we come from different planets. But we have just talked for close to an hour and have discovered that we actually agree on about 80 percent of the issues. Regarding the other 20% we disagree, and sometimes quite strongly. Israeli society has told us that we have to be in different camps — you in the religious camp, and me in the secular camp — and we have to fight against one another. Let’s do something different. Let’s change the paradigm. Let’s break down that barrier and work together. We will move forward on the 80% over which we agree, and with regards to the 20% over which we disagree, we will sit around a table and come to compromises and mutual understanding. That process won’t be easy, and will often be uncomfortable. But in the end we will have found a way to get along with one another.”
Those last words touched me, and I joined Yesh Atid. Immediately, I was shunned and criticized by many groups, religious and political.
In the face of that outside noise and criticism, my relationship with Yair Lapid and everyone else in Yesh Atid deepened, and I soon felt part of a broader family. Despite the differences in our personal and religious lives, we were unified by a joint vision for the future of Israel, and the clear reality that when all is said and done, here in Israel, we really are brothers and sisters.
My wife and I hosted Yair and the rest of the party for a Purim feast, and we all celebrated family occasions together as well as comforting each other in times of sadness and mourning.
In the Knesset, we became a well-oiled machine, making progress on all our core platform issues. It was a joy to go to work every day alongside such professional and values-centered colleagues, even when we had our disagreements. As Yair foresaw, we had many meetings to discuss the difficult issues where we disagreed, and they were not always pleasant. Indeed, at times they were quite confrontational and challenging. But in the end, we came to a consensus and developed our joint approach on all those difficult issues.
All along, I told my critics just one thing: if each of you would have a few minutes to sit and talk with Yair Lapid, or be a fly on the wall during those party meetings or gatherings, you would understand why I joined Yesh Atid, and would likely even consider joining the party yourself. You would understand Yair’s sincerity, his vision, his honesty, and his passion for the Jewish people, Jewish unity, Zionism, and Israel.
Now you have that chance. Yair Lapid is holding a Town Hall Meeting in English, during which he will present his vision for Israel’s future followed by your chance to ask questions — unfiltered and unscreened. Plain and simple, a public conversation. This is the chance for you to get to know who he is, and understand why I am working hard for him to become Israel’s next prime minister.
Please join me at this gathering with Yair Lapid at the Bible Lands Museum in Jerusalem on Wednesday, September 6, at 8 p.m. Registration is required. Please click HERE to register.
I look forward to seeing you there.
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