With Israel’s Knesset elections set for Nov. 1, the story everyone is talking about is the unparalleled grassroots enthusiasm for Itamar Ben-Gvir, Bezalel Smotrich and their Religious Zionist Party. Many committed religious Zionists, however, are not planning to vote for the party, because of the controversy surrounding its leadership. Therefore, I want to share the top three reasons to do so.
1) The Proud Platform
2) The Political Calculation
3) Fighting Against Fake News
The Nation of Israel, the Land of Israel, the Torah of Israel
In the spirit of Rabbi Abraham Kook, the founder of religious Zionism, the Religious Zionist Party believes that the State of Israel has great spiritual significance, but we are a work in progress.
As a lifelong modern-Orthodox and religious-Zionist Jew, I feel that we have become complacent and even a bit stale due to political correctness. As a result, I have been impressed by how Ben-Gvir and Smotrich have energized religious Zionism with their outspoken and courageous love for the Jewish people. They are loud while we have become quiet. They are fiery while we have become polite.
I understand that this makes some of my fellow modern Orthodox uncomfortable. But we owe it to ourselves and our children to remain open-minded and become passionate again on behalf of the Religious Zionist Party’s proud platform: the Nation of Israel, the Land of Israel and the Torah of Israel.
A vote for Religious Zionism is a vote for Bibi (but not vice-versa)
Israeli politics are complicated, but I will try to explain the tactical advantage of voting for the Religious Zionist Party.
While anything can happen on election day, it seems that Netanyahu will once again become prime minister. In the past, however, he has invited left-wing parties to join his coalition. Especially with President Isaac Herzog’s recent trip to the United States, I am concerned that Netanyahu will cave to American intervention and turn leftwards, forming a coalition with Defense Minister Benny Gantz.
Thus, if you want a strong right-wing government, remember that a vote for Bibi is not necessarily a vote for the right-wing, but a vote for the Religious Zionists is also a vote for Bibi. Your vote would count twice.
Whatever The New York Times and Haaretz say, believe the opposite
I’m a newspaper nerd. That means I read Haaretz, The New York Times and The Jerusalem Post every morning.
To save you a stomachache and thousands of dollars in subscription fees, I will summarize what I have learned from the two Israeli dailies: Don’t believe everything you read in The Jerusalem Post, and believe the opposite of whatever you read in Haaretz. Just because the mainstream media calls someone an extremist, fascist or racist doesn’t mean it’s true. It’s an old trick the left likes to play in order to shut down legitimate debate.
Most people I know are smart enough to realize that one can hate terrorists and not be a racist.
Ben-Gvir has said repeatedly in interviews, “I don’t hate Arabs, I love Jews” and “I am an extremist in my love for the Jewish people.” The basic desire to live securely and not fear for our children’s safety seems to be motivating more and more friends of mine here in Israel to vote for the Religious Zionist Party.
I grew up in America and appreciate democracy as much as anyone, which is why I can’t understand why so many forces from outside of Israel are trying to interfere with our election in order to “save democracy” here in Israel.
In contrast to the fake news, several pro-Smotrich and Ben-Gvir articles have been published recently.
David Israel in The Jewish Press said that despite disagreements, he will vote Religious Zionist because “I see them as great reformers of the Zionist enterprise.” He asked, “Did you know that Ben Gvir is a successful civil liberties attorney? That he advocates for freedom of worship in Israel? That he has expressed warmth and empathy for homosexuals?”
At Arutz Sheva, Rabbi Professor Dov Fischer offered historical context on how the left has always vilified charismatic leaders on the right. He noted, “Ben Gurion called Ze’ev Jabotinsky ‘Vladimir Hitler’ and deemed Menachem Begin a terrorist for commanding the Irgun.”
In a six-minute video at Pulse of Israel, Avi Abelow calls out those who condemn Ben-Gvir’s “racism” while giving a free pass to leftists and Arabs who discriminate against Jews by denying them the right to pray on the Temple Mount.
In contrast to claims that Smotrich and Ben-Gvir are opposed to non-Orthodox Jews, Martin Oliner at The Jerusalem Post noted that Smotrich has said, “There are many things I disagree about with Reform and Conservative Jewry. But I understand that we are brothers. We need to speak and have a dialogue and look for common ground.”
I believe there is a silent majority of olim in Israel who are tired of the same old politicians and see a way out of our endless election cycle. We represent tens of thousands of voters who are largely untapped politically and can tip the scales in what is sure to be another close race.
These are the three reasons I am voting for Smotrich and Ben-Gvir next week, and I think you should too. If you are interested in learning more, join the Religious Zionist Anglos WhatsApp group and the Ben Gvir Anglos WhatsApp group.
Rabbi Tuly Weisz is the founder of Israel365.com and the editor of The Israel Bible, the world’s first Tanakh to highlight the special relationship between the Land and People of Israel.
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