The Israel election season started early and enthusiastically for hundreds of English-speaking Israelis, who offered a standing-room-only audience at Jerusalem's Heichal Shlomo Wednesday evening for an unusual forum featuring the Jewish Home Party current head, Minister Daniel Hershkowitz, and challenger Naftali Bennett, a high-tech entrepreneur who most recently served as the Director General of the Yesha Council. Current head of the party Zevulun Orlev was forced to cancel his attendance but delivered prepared remarks which were included in the program.
The event was organized by two young American-born media personalities, Jeremy Gimpel and Ari Abramowitz, as the launch event for their campaign for the Knesset. The party's national primary vote is scheduled for September. The event allowed the people in attendance to register as members of the party.
Gimpel and Abramowitz are the names behind TheLandofIsrael.com, an online media effort that has registered hundreds of thousands of followers on social media and recorded millions of views for their YouTube film series on Israel.
"Electing Pollard as president following the conclusion of Peres’ term would highlight the injustice of his imprisonment and apply unparalleled pressure on America to release him," said Gimpel. "Why has no Israeli prime minister in the past 26 years ever publicly called on the US to free Jonathan Pollard and repatriate him to Israel? “
"Clearly, our belief that many, many people in Israel are still drawn to the key values of religious Zionism was confirmed this evening," said Gimpel, whose announcement for the Knesset was met with extended applause "Seldom has a primary-related event drawn 500 people in Israel for any of the larger parties, much less for the much smaller one we hope to represent in the next Knesset."
Abramowitz, who conceded that he wasn’t a “traditional politician," yet if elected is "committed to making a real difference in Israel’s parliament,” added, "The people are aware of what we're trying to do to revitalize the philosophy of Rav Kook, but we see now that the leadership is also attuned to our message. The leaders of the party came together for the first time in a forum like this to state their case and tell our voters why they should also support each of their candidacies for party chair."
Minister Hershkowitz stressed his belief that theJewish Home Party should never be diverted from its core message of religious Zionism. “The Party can never deviate from these ideals of dedication to Torah, without ever forgetting about our connection to the land, and true leadership means adhering to those two principles.”
Bennett defended his outlook that the Jewish Home needs to reach out to Jews both religious and secular. “The party is Jewish in its very name and as part of that understanding it would be a profound mistake to push away Jews just because they think or act differently than we might,” he said.