With three weeks to go until the Israeli elections, the chareidi parties are shifting into high gear.
Yahadut HaTorah, which until now had been focusing its campaigning on the chareidi community, has decided for the first time to have an outward-reaching campaign that targets all segments of Israeli society. Billboards were posted in central areas throughout the country with a photograph of Rav Chaim Kanievsky and the heading, “Barcheinu avinu kulanu k’echad” alongside the party slogan: “B’rega ha’emet mitachdim—Gimmel,” or, “At the moment of truth we unite— Gimmel” (the letter that represents the party).
The person responsible for this dramatic step is Ron Levy, whose day job is to represent businesses that are part of general Israeli society. Levy tells Ami that “according to the polls and research that we conducted, we realized that there is a very large community of traditional people who are followers of Rav Kanievsky. We also realized that this support is great enough to cause them to want to vote for Yahadut HaTorah because of the rav. That’s when we came up with the idea of showing his picture to the general public, and to turn to them with a message of blessing, a brachah.”
This is a tactic Yahadut HaTorah learned from Shas, which uses the picture of the party’s founder, Rav Ovadia Yosef, zt”l. “We realized that they have used their campaign very successfully to draw voters from the masorti community and even from the chiloniim,” Levy says.
That said, Levy is quick to stress that they are not trying to draw voters away from Shas. “We are absolutely turning to the masorti community that has a connection with Yahadut and rabbanim, but we aren’t turning to the people who vote for Shas.”
As far as the actual substance of the message, Levy explains, “We felt that specifically at a time when political parties are choosing to polarize and create conflict between chareidim and chiloniim, we would run a campaign that turns to all of am Yisrael with one message.”
Alongside the billboards—there is no full agreement within the party on their effectiveness—the party’s Knesset members are also working very hard to bring in new voters, mainly from those who support right-wing parties.
For example, Deputy Education Minister Rabbi Meir Porush has been working to convince Chabad chasidim and those who belong to chareidi le’umi communities to vote for Yahadut HaTorah. Among other things, he has been meeting with the rosh yeshivah of Od Yosef Chai, which is located in Yitzhar, near Shechem. The yeshivah is considered to be extremely nationalist.
Speaking to Ami, Rabbi Porush confirms these activities. “I have always had a very close relationship with Chabad, for whom shleimus haaretz is very important, and I have also had relationships with various parts of the chareidi le’umi community—all without any connection to elections or votes.”
Porush says that when he speaks to right-wing voters he hears a lot of concerns about voting for Ayelet Shaked’s Yeminah Party. “Chareidi voters are concerned about voting for a party that is led by a woman. Others are concerned about the members of the party who don’t represent ruach haTorah, which means that despite their wonderful talents no one knows what they’ll decide to do tomorrow. It’s not the real right-wing, it’s a counterfeit right-wing—a fake right. I explain to them that Yahadut HaTorah has always stuck to its ideological backbone, and that the ‘right’ we believe in isn’t something temporary for election purposes. Rather, it is a true ‘right’ that comes from koach haTorah. If they have a dilemma about whom to vote for, we can certainly be the solution for them.”