Israeli election, view from a Shas driver’s seat

Hodesh tov.

I put in an intense 48 hours during the Israel election,(1) first handling media issues then (2) as part of a team driving cross-city and cross-country to get stranded voters to their polling booths.
(1)Media issues: I became alerted to a last minute glitch from a letter in the Jerusalem Post by a floating voter who thought my arguments for voting for Shas were persuasive (I emphasized their accomplishments in education.)
But the letter writer changed his mind Mar.27 when he saw a headline that Rav Ovadia Yosef allegedly said those who did not vote for Shas would be cursed.

After obtaining a copy of the short notice that the Rav had sent to Sefardi yeshiva students who were going to sit out the election, I wrote the Post and they were very fair, printing my explanation the morning of the election.

Sir, – The latest election pronouncement of Rabbi Ovadia Yosef, spiritual mentor of the Shas Party, was as American as motherhood and apple pie. He even mentioned, approvingly, the famous Yiddishe Mama.
He quoted the prophetess Deborah, whom the Bible terms “mother in Israel.” Deborah said that those who do not join in the fray and participate actively in national struggles are “cursed… for they failed to come to aid the nation of Hashem… against the mighty” (Judges 5:23).
Rabbi Yosef wrote a letter to Sephardi yeshiva boys who are passive or indifferent to the election, praising those who do go out and vote (for Shas, to be sure). He feels strongly that everyone should participate…This is Zionist activism.

If you want to see how hatred and derision contribute to a party’s downfall, see the nasty video on the Shinui anti-haredi party’s website. Shinui went from 15 Members of Knesset to zero now. Also, see some of the videos on the Meretz far-left party’s website where their mockery extends to the Western Wall, to rabbis, and others.
Click on “tashdirim” (broadcasts)
View the scenes at the Western Wall where a man prays at the Kotel that he be permitted to “wed” his boyfriend, and another titled “The rebbe told us” (to vote Meretz) showing 3 actors dressed as bearded rabbis doing the tango at the Kotel with young women. (Meretz declined from 5 to 4 seats).

(2)Driving: While Shas works all year long helping the those in need, they work especially hard on election day. I was called to help drive a dozen members of a Tel Aviv family sitting shiva in Netanya. They had to go to several different voting booths in Tel Aviv and received rabbinic permission to go vote and come back immediately to the house of mourning. Other typical cases- a mother needed a babysitter and a driver so she could leave the bedside of her son in Laniado Hospital, go across town to vote, and return to the hospital. A Laniado nurse needed to get back to her home out-of-town in time to vote. These missions also gave me a chance to meet the Shas constituents and appreciate the difficulties of their lives. I drove only a few missions, but other volunteers were on the road all day without stop.
Needless to say, I was glad to see that Shas increased its representation (from 10 to 13) so it is now the third largest party.
My comments, along with those of others, on the meaning of the election results, appear in the Jerusalem Post (RoshHodesh Nisan, Mar.30) in “What the elections mean – an array of views.”

Shira Schmidt

Shira Leibowitz Schmidt was raised in an assimilated Jewish home in New York, and became observant while studying at Stanford University in California. In June 1967 she told her engineering school professor she would miss the final exam because she was going to Israel to volunteer during the Six Day War. “That’s the most original excuse I have ever been offered,” he responded. She arrived during the war and stayed, receiving her BSc in absentia. She subsequently met and married the late Elhanan Leibowitz, and they raised their six children in Beersheba. Mrs. Leibowitz acquired a Masters in Urban & Regional Planning from the Technion, and an MSc in Civil Engineering from University of Waterloo. Today she lives with her husband, Dr. Baruch Schmidt, in Netanya. She co-authored, with Nobel prize-winning chemist Roald Hoffmann, Old Wine New Flasks. She has co-translated from Hebrew to English (with Jessica Setbon) From the Depths (the autobiography of Rabbi Israel Meir Lau); The Forgotten Memoirs (memoirs of Rabbis who survived the Shoah, edited by Esther Farbstein); and Rest of the Dove (Parashat Hashavua by Rabbi Haim Sabato). She and her husband appear in the documentary film about the Sanz-Klausenberger Rebbe, “Hidden Face.” She is available to lecture in Israel and in the US and can be contacted via

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4 Responses

  1. yaak says:

    Hizki Uvirchi, Shira!
    It’s nice to know that someone in the media stands up for R’ Ovadia and Shas.

  2. Perplexed says:

    KOl Hakovod to Shas they ran on a social platform to help the poor and the elderly and you see people were impressed and went out to vote for them and they increased their existing numbers. I wish the the UTJ would learn from them. You see even the seculare party Labor did well because of the platform they ran on.

    I am not point fault at the gedolei Yisrael but at the members of the UTJ party themselves of the UTJ party itself. i am amazed that the pensioners were able to get 7 seats and UTJ could only garner 6. Perhaps the english speaking spoke person Rav Rosenblum could expalin what it it is with UTJ that they behave in such a matter that people do not go out to vote for them.



  3. Shira Schmidt says:

    Rosh Hodesh Nissan
    Seems that today Shas went down to 12 seats, because the soldiers’ votes were counted and factored in.
    The reason the Pensioners’ Party got so many votes, and other election results, is explained in two articles from Haaretz. Avirama Golan writes about the Pensioners and how that success has many negative ramifications and is a “bubble party” for many who wanted a trendy place to cast their floating vote. See “The Pensioners’ Party:Compassion, Inc.”

    Shahar Ilan, who is usually anti-religious, writes rather mildly about Shas, the Pensioners, and others in “Things are Different when it Comes to Shas”
    Now back to Pesah cleaning. Hodesh tov.

  4. Steve Brizel says:

    Just curious-would the author be able to give a rough estimate of whether Shas won votes at the expense of its UTJ or Mafdal?

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