When I met Uri Orbach

I have met many Israeli politicians, but Uri Orbach, of blessed memory, had the greatest impact

I have met many Israeli politicians.  More than which I can count. I have met members of Likud, Yisrael Beiteinu, Kulanu, Hatnua, Labor, Yesh Atid, and Bayit Yehudi. No matter what faction they belonged to, each of these political figures had a huge impact on me.

But one, in particular, I viewed as being out of the ordinary, unlike any other government  official I have ever met. The way he behaved, the way he spoke, the way he listened. This individual was none other than Minister Uri Orbach, of blessed memory.

I was privileged to meet Uri when he visited the United States two years ago. At the time, I was working as a staff member at Camp Moshava, a summer camp affiliated with Bnei Akiva, which is located in Indian Orchard, Pennsylvania.

Uri was in the area that week for a Claims Conference, in which he was asked to represent the government of Israel. He generously accepted an invitation to visit and speak at Moshava, even though it was a long, two hour drive each way, from his hotel.

David Aaronson with Uri Orbach (left), during the latter's visit to the Camp Moshava in 2013.
David Aaronson with Uri Orbach (left), during the latter’s visit to the Camp Moshava in 2013.

Uri arrived at around dinnertime, and the camp offered him a private dinner table. He refused the offer. Instead, Uri insisted on eating in the dining hall with the campers.

During dinner, several campers, one by one, each began approaching the minister to introduce themselves. Each time a camper came over to him during the course of the meal, Uri would stop eating, put down his fork and knife, and give the camper his full attention.

“Please, please, eat!” — the camp staff would tell him. But each time, Uri said that it would be disrespectful for him be sitting there chewing his food while a camper was having a conversation with him.

Uri was particularly impressed by the enthusiasm of the campers when they all got up on their benches to dance to the “Al Hamichya” song at the end of the meal. He had never before seen young children who were this excited to recite the grace after meals.

We then took Uri to the Beit Midrash, where he addressed a gathering of the camp staff. He spoke in Hebrew, as he did not feel his English was strong enough for a such formal speech.

He spoke about a variety of issues. But what impressed me the most was Uri’s views on the decorum in the Knesset.

Uri bemoaned the high amount of heckling, distrupting, shouting, and arguing that would often break out in most sessions. He viewed it as disrespectful and immorally wrong to interrupt a fellow member of the Knesset before he or she could finish his or her statement.

He claimed that as Jews, we should treat one another with honor and dignity. He seemed extremely upset that most members of the Knesset could not uphold this important value.

I then realized how Uri was different from all other politicians. He never publicly raised his voice to a fellow human being. He always gave people the attention and patience that they deserved. He made sure to see the good in everyone, whether they belonged to his party or not.

Uri was one of a kind. We should take to heart the lessons that he taught us. Through Uri’s morals, let’s all work together to continue his legacy and build a better future.

About the Author
David Aaronson is a senior communications advisor to Danny Ayalon, former Israeli Deputy Foreign Minister and Ambassador to the United States. He is currently studying for a degree in political science from Yeshiva University.
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