Two On The Election

Here are two items to think about, without getting too political. The first depicts a one person’s experience of Israel’s first elections after statehood, in 1949. It is arguably true that things were different then. In fact, what separates different camps within the Orthodox world is articulating just what has changed. The second is a link to a speech that the biggest surprise winner in yesterday’s election gave last March in front of a haredi crowd, before Yair Lapid became a candidate. Reasonable people might disagree about what to believe concerning a speech given by a politician. Nonetheless, many of our readers will find themselves identifying with the essential upshot of his argument, even while finding the historical development somewhat wanting. After winning a stunning 19 seats, some of us are going to be scrambling to get a handle on the man and his vision.

A Recollection of Israel’s First Election (thanks to Caren May)

The following item was taken from the diary of Rabbi Moses Yekutiel Alpert of blessed memory who was a teacher in the Etz Chaim Yeshiva in Jerusalem and lived from l917 – 1955. Due to his knowledge of foreign languages and his sterling character Rabbi Alpert was appointed “Muchtar” (official leader) of the Jewish neighborhoods in North Jerusalem by the British Mandate Government in l938—including Beit Yisrael, Musrara, Mt. of Olives, Sanhedria, Machanaim and Sneller. This allowed him to move unhindered between the various blockades during the many curfews that the British decreed to restrict free movement by the Jews throughout Jerusalem. Many tales are told of his heroic deeds and acts of chesed which he carried out then.

His grandfather came on Aliya from Slonim in l860. His son Dov was Menachem Begin’s personal secretary for l3 years. He was known as the medic with the flying payot and highly praised by Begin in his book “Revolt”. Rabbi Moses Alpert was an unusual person, a Torah scholar, an outstanding teacher, with a poetic soul, a very moral person and a lover of Zion. He was an active member of Agudat Yisrael and in the elections of l949 he voted “Bet” since that year all the religious parties united and chose the letter “Bet” for their symbol. Here is his description of that momentous day.


At 5:35 A.M. my wife and I got up early, as did my brother, Reb Shimon Lev, my brother-in-law, Reb Netanel Sleduchin and my son Dov. After we drank a quick cup of coffee we dressed in our Shabbat clothes in honor of this great and holy day for which we recite: “This is the day proclaimed by G-d; let us rejoice and be happy”. After 2,000 years of Exile, actually since the six days of Creation, we have never had an opportunity as today—that we can go and vote in a Jewish State. Blessed be He that He has enabled us to live to see this day. My son, Dov, left the house at 5:45 A.M. and went off wherever he went, because he’s a big supporter of the Herut Party, and he didn’t return all day and all night.

My wife and I and my brother and brother-in-law went to the voting station of District l0, in the Hapoel Hamizrachi Building on Habashim Street, holding our State of Israel issued Identity Card in our hands. We walked the short distance from our house to the poll with great joy. We were currently living downstairs from the Dvasha Goldsmidt family in Batei Wittenberg since our house in Beit Yisrael had been hit by a rocket and was being repaired. That’s why we were assigned to vote at this station, rather than the one in Beit Yisrael.

All the way to the polling station I felt like on Simchat Torah when we dance with the Torah (during the Hakafot), but instead of a Scroll I held my Israeli Identity Card in my hand. You can’t imagine the happiness and joy I felt. At 5:50 A.M. we came to the Hapoel Hamizrachi building. We were the first ones there. Only the janitor was there, and the light were on. I asked the janitor, “Where are the polling officials? They haven’t arrived yet?” We waited until 5:54 A.M. Two members of the committee arrived. At 6:02 the chairman finally came, Mr. —– a lawyer. I complained that he didn’t come on time because by law the polling station was supposed to be open from 6:00 A.M. The chairman apologized.

Then he announced since there was a quorum, the two committee members, an observer from Herut and himself, they could begin to work. The janitor brought the ballot box and the chairman then called me and my brother over to give honor to the elderly and asked us to witness the fact that the box was empty and observe its sealing. This was recorded in the protocol where he wrote, “I, the chairman, arrived at 6:00 A.M. (which isn’t true because we came at 5:50 and he only got there at 6:02), and at 6:23 we opened the proceedings.” The chairman said since I’m the oldest person there I would have the privilege of being the first voter.

Quivering with emotion of awe and sanctity I gave the chairman my Identity Card. He read out my name from the I.D. card and the deputy chairman wrote it on the voters list in front of him as number one. He gave me an envelope and I went into the closed off area where all the party letters were placed. With a shaking hand and a feeling of holiness I chose a note marked “Bet”, the United Religious parties’ letter, placed it carefully in the envelope and returned to the polling station. I showed them all that I only had one envelope in my hand, and then, at the moment of greatest exhilaration in my life, a moment that neither my father, nor my grandfather, nor any of my ancestors experienced, (only I had the privilege), I recited the Shechiyanu blessing and carefully placed the envelope in the ballot box. “Blessed am I and blessed is my portion!” I shook the chairman’s hand heartily and the other committee members’ hands too and went out. I waited for my wife, my brother and brother-in-law and at 6:28 we left. I went off to pray and my wife went home. A great holiday indeed!


Yair Lapid’s Speech at the Haredi Law Track, Kiryat Ono College

Thanks to Dr. Arnold Lustiger

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22 Responses

  1. Sarah Elias says:

    A technical question – was Rabbi Alpert really born in 1917, as you wrote? That would have made him only 32 when he voted in 1949 and hardly an elderly man, as he writes in his diary.
    [YA – I was wondering the same thing. I just reproduced the original article.]

  2. dr. bill says:

    lest one get the wrong impression, listen to his talk at the rabbinical assembly in 2012 and particlarly his comment on the chazon ish and ben gurion.

    it is not just him, but as i told friends that even tzippi livni is sounding like a rebbitzen. however, their form of judaism is pluralistic.

    what has happened is really remarkable. the old generation of zionists had a nostalgic attachment to a religion they rejected. the new generation accepts a religion that they want to believe is important. the new group believes in the value of religion and will not allow a “tribe” to control it.

  3. joel rich says:

    Dr. Bill,
    and the question is, what is the chareidi response? A cage match or accomodation? The answer must become clear sooner or later.

  4. Shimon says:

    There is obviously a mistake here as he couldn’t have been born in 1917 since he describes his son as a big supporter of Herut. He isn’t speaking about a ten year old kid.

  5. Shimon says:

    On a more fundamental point, Rabbi Adlerstein, anyone who reads your posts can read between the lines, and see what you are getting at. Why don’t you just come out and say openly what you have been hinting at for a long time, namely, you are sick and tired of the close-mindedness and extremism in the charedi world, especially in Israel. There is nothing wrong with admitting that you have developed and grown, and you now see the problems of that community. Please, stop beating around the bushes and speak openly as R. Weinreb did.

    [YA – I am happy to go one-up on Brisk. The old adage was, “Not everything that is thought needs to be said. The first addition was, “And not everything that is said needs to be written.” Brisk added, “Not everything that is written needs to be published.” To which I am (not) happy to be mosif nofech misheli: “Not everything that is published need be explained.”

  6. Dovid Teitelbaum says:

    Rabbi Alderstein already explained that in the Chareidi world one needs to read between the lines! It’s painful buts its true.

  7. lacosta says:

    the irony is that right now [ before the zionist soldier votes are counted] the haredi parties [ aguda with 7!?! ] balance lapid’s 19.

    unfortunately for them , ALL the major players believe in ‘nachnu naavor chalutzim’ to the army , and Lapid , it’s maybe his no 1

    issue. though the haredi parties need the mother’s milk of tax dollar inflow , they also need the government’s lassaiz faire [leave us alone!]

    on military service and educational content…. DAAS TORA was a major winner –in the numbers that followed maranan’s instructions and a major loser

    — in vetoing in word and action viable general solution to the national service issue …. let’s pray there will be a solution other than 1000’s injured in street demonstrations
    or spending their yeshiva years in jail……

  8. lacosta says:

    dr bill

    there are supposedly 38 religious knesset members . i looked at the pictures—
    2 rabbis with Lapid , 1 kippa with Livni ….. dati/haredi no longer need be a ‘fringe’…. achdus could have made them THE largest party

  9. dr. bill says:

    Joel Rich, Nevuah is (slightly) above my pay-grade. My suspicion is that UTJ leadership is between a rock and a hard place. OTOH Shas has changed positions in the past and will assert greater independence from the chareidi gedolim.

    with a likud, lapid, bennet coalition forming a core of 60-61 seats, anyone who joins from kadima, livni and shas will be a junior partner.

    imho, this may one day be seen as a day on which chareidim say hallel, while their leaders in UTJ mourn. in any event, the interests of charedim and UTJ will diverge.

    but i can be dead wrong or guilty of wishful thinking/dreaming.

  10. Josh Kahn says:

    That Yair Lapid speech was extremely effective and sensitively done. My estimation of his rhetorical and political skills just went through the roof. If he actually follows up on it with content to make IDF service accommodating to halacha, any counter argument is going to sound extremely venal.

  11. cvmay says:

    I am going to assume that Rav Moses Yekutiel Alpert lived in Yerushalayim and taught at Etz Chaim during the years 1917-1955. Wondering if he was a grand relative to Rav Nissan Alpert z”l of Far Rockaway?

  12. Daniel says:

    Lapid’s speech is incredible. I was a bit turned off in the beginning, but he more than made up for it. I’d likely have voted for him if I had been at that speech.

  13. Crazy Kanoiy says:

    Lapid had some valid points and the speech was most interesting. However he did come across rather stuck up and condescending when he said things like “you weren’t taught this or that” and “your parents wouldn’t let you do this or that” . He spoke like an egotistical individual who was lecturing what he believed to be naive and uneducated Chareidim.

  14. Baruch Dov says:

    I think the charedim are in trouble. In the past, there were two main blocks – Labor and Likud, divided mainly on the issue of land/peace/Arabs, etc. A party would edge out the other, and bring in the charedim to form a coalition. In this election, the security issue was relegated to the back burner and domestic, social and economic issues came to the fore. There are now enough seats to come together and form a coalition without the charedim (likely Likud-Lapid-Bennet-Kadima), and changing the conscription/exemption is going to be a number 1 priority.

    An important part of this change is Israeli society’s long overdue move away from ideological purity toward pragmatism. Bennet energized the dati leumi community because he is not an old-time Mafdalnik who talks all day about Rav Kook, geula, kedushat ha’aretz, and so on, but rather a businessman with a head on his shoulders who also believes in religious Zionism. And Lapid Jr., unlike his father, energized intelligent secular Israelis who realize that yelling and screaming about how bad the charedim are is not going to accomplish anything productive, and he has shown he is committed to tackling the charedi issue with tact, intelligence and realism.

    It’s hard to know tachlis what’s going to happen, but this rise of pragmatism and the trend away the traditional barking and shouting is IMHO a good thing.

  15. Baruch Gitlin says:

    Just want to express my appreciation for this very fine article. I also want to mention that I share “Shimon”‘s sentiments, but I loved Rabbi Adlerstein’s answer. I’m not necessarily satisfied by this answer, but I loved it anyway.

    [YA – I hope people realize that I am not satisfied with it either!]

  16. dr. bill says:

    lacosta, you write: “there are supposedly 38 religious knesset members . i looked at the pictures — 2 rabbis with Lapid , 1 kippa with Livni ….. dati/haredi no longer need be a ‘fringe’…. achdus could have made them THE largest party.”

    I say, God forbid. achdus would mean religious representation in all parties and no (so-called) religious parties at all.

  17. Lawrence Kaplan says:

    I also was very impressed with Lapid’s speech. I am curious how the Haredi students reacted.

  18. shmuel says:

    What Lapid doesn’t understand is that while the secular Jews now acknowledge that the state can’t exist without Charedim, Charedim do not admit the converse. Most Charedim believe that ultimately the secular will either (hopefully) do teshuva or get fed up and move out. As he said the secular ask themselves who needs to live in the midst of millions of hostile Arabs in and unbearable humidity unless they accept that G-d wants us there

  19. j. langer says:

    left unsaid is the worldwide media image of the ultra orthodox drain on the state underscored by outlets throughout the western world reinforced by this electorial campaign. i suspect this is just the start as we witness the political posturing in forming the next government. hope the frum parties have a strategy in addressing these issues that is much more profound than the current verbage we have seen. serious impact on world jewry should not be discounted including our own communities both subliminlly and defacto. yeshivas moving out of israel as the primary response does not sell well even to the extremely committed. Hashem Y’Rahame.

  20. Ellen says:

    the new group believes in the value of religion and will not allow a “tribe” to control it.

    Here, here! Hashem will be very happy to see all His children acknowledge their chelek. It’s time for the charedim to stop claiming – and all the others to stop believing – that they have a monopoly on Torah or Judaism. Return the scholars to their exalted role as one group within klal yisrael, not one apart from it.

  21. cvmay says:

    “unless they accept that G-d wants us there (israel)”
    Not sure that this is an acceptance within the Charedei world, either?!?!

  22. jo says:

    He is the classic politician.

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