Friday, January 4, 2013

Which Politician Is Frummest? (And Not the Relgious Ones)

It's becoming increasingly clear that the Israeli public will vote in a right-leaning government, a fact that seems logical, given that the left-wing goal of giving land to the Arabs for free hasn't worked out all that well (read here: rockets falling on the south). The real question is how right wing?
People here take it for granted that Bibi Netanyahu and Likud will once again garner the most votes and remain Prime Minister. The big fight is who takes second (and third and fourth) place. For years, the religious Zionist population has been slowly migrating to the Likud. Sick and tired of an ineffective, sectarian leadership running the classic religious parties (Mafdal, Ichud Haleumi, etc.), religious voters turned to the Likud in ever increasing numbers, a fact evident by the sizable list of religious Likud members of Knesset.
All that has quickly changed with the sudden rise of Naftali Bennett, whose charisma, freshness and success (personally, militarily and professionally - he sold his high-tech firm for somewhere around $150 million) has drawn voters from across the spectrum.
Plenty of commentators fill the blogosphere with political screed. I'm much more interested in the cultural shift that Bennett's rise both indicates, and has accelerated. On his Facebook feed (which is really worth following), Bennett recently shredded Tzippi Livni, who doesn't actually seem all that interested in her own candidacy, truth be told. The interview is a great lesson in talking points and political strategy. Yet, at the end of the interview, the host (who was interviewing both Livni and Bennett) asked her about whether she'd be celebrating the New Year in a club. He was clearly waiting to ask her the question in order to show footage of her dancing and make her look silly. She gave a glib answer, and then the host turned to Bennett and asked the same question. He said, "First of all, I'm a terrible dancer. But more importantly, the New Year that I celebrate is Rosh Hashanah on the first of Tishrei." Poor Livni was left to insist that she too celebrates the New Year on Rosh Hashanah, of course. Ouch.
It was no surprise to see that the on the very next day, Livni took a visit to...you guessed it, the Kotel. She's got a lot to daven for, and it probably doesn't hurt to have her photo taken as she's praying for political salvation.
On Netanyahu's Facebook feed, he sends out Shabbat Shalom greetings, and shares insights from his monthly Tanach group. The entire country is bending over backwards to demonstrate just how frum, how Nationalistic, and how connected to the Jewish people he or she really is. They're all fighting for the vote of the religious and traditional community, in any way they can.