Daily Israel Report

Nationalist Parties Unite; Arutz 7 Founder 'Ketzaleh' Leads List

The number one position on the new National Union Knesset list will be occupied by Yaakov 'Ketzaleh' Katz, co-founder of Beit El and Arutz-7.
By Gil Ronen and Hillel Fendel
First Publish: 12/28/2008, 10:45 PM

Israel News photo

The National Union-Moledet Knesset list will be headed by Yaakov (Ketzaleh) Katz, the Executive Director of Beit El Yeshiva Center Institutions and Arutz-Sheva/Israel National News.

The appointment of Ketzaleh to party leader led to the nullification of all the smaller nationalist parties which were planning to run on separate lists. They have all united behind Ketzaleh in one unified Knesset list.

MK Uri Ariel of the Tekumah faction will be in second place, followed by MK Aryeh Eldad who headed what was to be the new HaTikvah party. The new list will be named the National Union party.

Baruch Marzel and Rabbi Shalom Dov Wolpe, who joined together recently to form a new party - named Our Land of Israel - agreed to back the list Sunday evening and will not be running independently, after the new list placed their representative Dr. Michael Ben-Ari in the fourth slot. The Moledet party's Uri Bank, an immigrant to Israel from North America, will be in fifth place; Moledet Chairman Rabbi Benny Elon announced his resignation from politics last week. 

Alon Davidi of Sderot will be in sixth place; he, like MK Ariel, had been on the National Home list, but they resigned because of its apparent "moderate" tilt.  Ariel had been third and Davidi had been seventh. 

The seventh slot on the new list is held by media personality and educator Avi Rath, and the eighth position is held by Dr. Ron Breiman, chairman of Professors for a Strong Israel.

Ketzaleh is a legendary figure among the national-religious public, especially among residents of Judea and Samaria. During the heyday of Jewish settlement in Samaria, in the late 1970s and 1980's, Katzaleh emerged as one of the settlement movement's top visionaries and leaders. He is a co-founder of the town of Beit El - the 10th-largest in Judea and Samaria - and, together with Rabbi Zalman Melamed, founded the prominent Yeshivat Beit El network of educational institutions.

Katzaleh served in the elite Shaked commando unit in the Yom Kippur War and was seriously wounded when the unit held off vastly superior Egyptian commando forces at the beginning of the fighting. He was taken for dead by fellow soldiers, but at the personal insistence of his commander, Maj.-Gen. Ariel Sharon, he was flown to a hospital and regained consciousness. He spent the next year recovering in the hospital, where he also met his future wife Tami, who was volunteering there as a nurse.

The Blessing of Rabbi Tzvi Yehuda Kook
During that year he decided to re-establish Beit El in Samaria, after almost 2,000 years since the community was destroyed. He received the blessing of the late Rabbi Tzvi Yehuda HaKohen Kook, Dean of Yeshivat Merkaz HaRav Kook, for the project.

Shortly after outbreak of the Arab 'Intifada' in December 1987, Katzaleh founded Arutz-7/Israel National Radio – which quickly became Israel's third largest commercial radio station. The station celebrates Zionist values and plays exclusively Israeli and Jewish music. In 1995, the station founded a website which became the Jewish State's first 24-hour broadcast on the Internet.

From 1990 to 1992, then-Housing Minister Ariel Sharon (in the Shamir government) appointed Ketzaleh to be a top advisor. Ketzaleh initiated countless building startups throughout Judea, Samaria and Gaza, and broke the record for the number of building contracts signed in a single year of Israel's history.

Tekumah and Apartments
In 1998, Ketzaleh was instrumental in starting Tekumah as a movement within the National Religious Party, explaining that its purpose was to help the NRP's Knesset Members stand firm against the Netanyahu plan to withdraw from 13% of Judea and Samaria.  He was also involved in many other initiatives, including a project to bring one million visitors to Yesha within 18 months, a call to Diaspora Jews to purchase apartments in Israel when prices were low, and more.