Daily Israel Report

New Religious Party Urges Hareidim to 'Share the Burden'

New party Am Shalem, led by former Shas MK, urges hareidim to contribute to the state.
By Maayana Miskin
First Publish: 12/28/2012, 10:26 AM

Hareidi man, IDF soldiers at Kotel
Hareidi man, IDF soldiers at Kotel
Israel news photo: Flash 90
The new party Am Shalem, led by an MK who broke away from the hareidi-religious Shas party, has taken a stance opposite the traditional hareidi parties, and is urging the hareidi community to change its stance on employment and the army.
 
"The hareidim get money but don't take part in bearing the burden and we plan to change that," the party's number-three candidate, Reuven Agassi, told Channel 10 news. The phrase "bearing the burden" is often used to refer to IDF service.
 
While Am Shalem is led by former Shas MK Chaim Amsalem and includes largely hareidi candidates, Agassi is a secular businessman from the field of high-tech.
 
Agassi told interviewers, "I'm not against hareidim. I'm against stupid people."

He expressed frustration with Shas minister Eli Yishai's call to "send Gaza back to the Middle Ages" during Israel's latest counter-terror operation in Gaza, as Hamas fired rockets on Tel Aviv and Jerusalem. "It's our children bleeding, but what about Eli Yishai's children?" he asked, an allusion to the fact that hareidi-religious politicians' children largely avoid military service in favor of full-time Torah learning.
 
"I don't need anyone to pray for me," he added, a reference to the argument, common in the hareidi world, that men who learn Torah full-time rather than serving in the army provide the entire nation with spiritual protection.
 
The Am Shalem party urges "a return to moderate Judaism and social justice." It's head, MK Amsalem, has accused Shas of straying from the traditional religious lifestyle of Sephardic and Mizrahi Jews (Jews of Middle Eastern descent) in favor of the European-Jewish hareidi approach.
 
Polls have shown the party struggling to get the minimum number of votes needed to enter Knesset.