Bayit Yehudi and the Quest for National Unity

Election season in any country tends to highlight the ugly side of the political process. In Israel, election season often causes irreparable damage as divisions are brought to the surface and the Jewish people become embroiled in a very bitter and very public family feud.

Around the same time that campaigning moved into high gear, we read of the events surrounding the story of Yosef and his brothers in the Torah. Within these Parshiot, the Torah presents the paradigm of individual ego harming a nation’s collective destiny. The brothers allowed their judgment to be clouded by ego and self-righteousness. Not only was the majority wrong in this instance, but their actions would cause great harm to the Jewish people for many generations to come. Sinat Chinam (causeless hatred) and division among Yaakov’s sons led to the Egyptian exile and over 200 years of servitude. Furthermore, the Gemara (Yoma 9b) teaches that the second Beit Hamikdash was destroyed and the nation dispersed into a 2,000 year exile because of sinat chinam.

As a nation, we’ve had to cultivate certain character traits in order to survive this long, devastating exile. Just as Rabbi Yochanan Ben Zakkai famously compromised with the Romans, stating “give me Yavneh and its wise men,” our ancestors learned to compromise with brutal leaders and remain passive in the face of tyranny. Powerless, the Jew in Galut had to adapt in order to survive. In doing so, we came to embrace a very different conception of our Jewish identity.

As 2,000 years of exile draw to a close, we re-build our country and national institutions, and mere survival is no longer best case scenario, we find that we have far more in common with our Biblical ancestors than with those who endured the exile. It is time to return to our pre-compromised Jewish identity. Nearly every great sage from the Biblical era doubled as a great warrior. Nearly every Jewish warrior of the Biblical period was learned and pious. Think about it – beginning with Avraham Avinu and continuing with Moshe, Joshua, the Shoftim, the kings, Kohanim, Chashmonaim and right through the destruction of the Second Beit Hamikdash.

I refuse to believe that this combination of character traits found throughout Torah and early Jewish history are coincidental. The ideal Jewish leader combined strength and righteousness, worldliness and godliness. In much the same way, the Jewish people have always combined the two foundational pillars of Torah and nationalism. Until a more perfect ideology develops, the Jew whose life embodies the values of the Dati Leumi movement is without doubt, the closest in character to the ideals set forth in the Torah through the lives of our ancestors.

A political leader who lacks either one of these qualities will lack the conviction necessary to withstand crushing international pressure and if we as Jews fail to embrace either of these two complementary values, we will question ourselves, our identity, our right to live in our homeland, and even the morality of doing so. Those who possess a love for Torah alongside a love for the Land of Israel, exude a healthy and respectable sense of Jewish identity. Since making Aliyah nearly eight years ago, I have seen time and again that Olim who embrace both of these values, plant the strongest roots and experience the most successful Aliyah. Bayit Yehudi leader, Naftali Bennett, fits this mold of Jewish leadership – shomer mitzvot, veteran of the elite Sayeret Matkal, and successful businessman, while the party itself is based upon these very principles of Torah Judaism combined with Jewish nationalism. The diversity of its members a microcosm of the Jewish nation and its message of unity a reflection of Kibbutz Galuyot.

Bayit Yehudi is the embodiment and expression of the ideal of Aliyah.  -Jeremy Gimpel

One of the biggest surprises of this election season is the way Bayit Yehudi has come to energize and inspire individuals across the political and religious spectrum. A few days ago I had the opportunity to sit down with Jeremy Gimpel, who is number 14 on the Bayit Yehudi list. I wanted to know how one party can unite voters of such diverse backgrounds and beliefs. In answering, Mr. Gimpel elaborated on the party’s ideology, which is conveyed by three core values. The first is to create a more Jewish Israel. Not in the sense of forcing halachic observance but in re-invigorating the nations withering Jewish identity. The second core value is Zionism and a mission to rid our youth of having to feel apologetic for who they are and the psychological burden of shame placed upon them by our post-Zionist educational system. The third and most important core value of Bayit Yehudi is that of Achdut – Jewish unity.

There is no higher Zionist endeavor than working to make life in Israel great for everyone.  –Jeremy Gimpel

There is NO other party on the Israeli political scene today that can even come close to matching the diversity of the Bayit Yehudi party list, period. Ayelet Shaked, a secular woman living in Tel Aviv, holds the number five position on a list that includes three women within the top 12 slots, the highest number of ANY party. Bayit Yehudi includes more veteran IDF combat soldiers than ANY other party, includes the only kibbutznik among all parties, has five Sephardim within the top 12 slots, includes two Anglos, five residents of Yehuda and Shomron, together with residents of Raananna and Tel Aviv, and is the only party with a resident of Beersheba. A tremendous misconception is that Bayit Yehudi is a party for ‘religious’ Jews only. Aside from fielding a very large number of secular candidates, almost every poll conducted demonstrates that nearly 45% of Bayit Yehudi voters identify themselves as non-religious.

The party composition speaks volumes. With its clear ideology and identifiable, unwavering values Bayit Yehudi is the political manifestation of the twelve tribes of Israel, gathered together and united as one. The Jewish nation is held together through tolerance of diversity while promoting our underlying unity. Bayit Yehudi reflects this principle by placing national unity above politics as usual. Rather than producing anonymous attack ads or trying to smear individual members of the Knesset, Bayit Yehudi has focused on presenting a policy-oriented, principled and unambiguous message. At the same time, they have maintained a level of respect sorely lacking in Israeli politics by treating others as political challengers rather than mortal enemies.

This election season, let’s try to see past what divides us and focus instead on what unites us. There is enough irrational hatred towards us as a people without encouraging internal hatred and divisiveness. There is nothing more important than Achdut – national unity, and this is exactly what Bayit Yehudi represents.

About the Author
Mike Kavitsky made aliya from the United States in 2005. He is married and has four small children.