Rabbis in Plea to Unite Religious Zionist Groups into One Party

Rabbis affiliated with religious Zionism are calling for all religious Zionists to unite into one political party that will run a unified list in the country’s upcoming general election.

Scott Shiloh, | updated: 15:57

In an unprecedented move, reflecting an unusually high degree of unanimity, the Rabbis, ranging from Rav [Rabbi] Aharon Lichtenstein (head of Yeshivat Har Etzion in Alon Shvut) on the left, to Rav Dov Lior on the right, have issued a joint statement, calling for political cooperation “in order to ensure the Jewish character of the state and of the future government.”

Rabbi Lichtenstein is one of the backers of Meimad, a religious Zionist party that ran in the last elections on a list with the Labor party. Meimad generally favors withdrawing from parts of the Land of Israel in order to attain peace.

In contrast, Rabbi Lior was an ardent opponent of the government’s disengagement plan from Gaza and northern Samaria, and held that a soldier must refuse to obey orders if called on to implement the plan. Rav Lior heads the Council of Yesha [Judea and Samaria] Rabbis.

The joint statement opens with words recalling the destruction of Jewish communities in Gush Katif and northern Samaria, saying it should be used as a “lever to unify the ranks, despite differences of opinion on various matters.”

The statement cites the “tremendous responsibility” of religious Zionists to ensure faithfulness to Torah and Zion in the State of Israel. As a result, the Rabbis “call on all the political forces among the religious Zionist parties, and in other groups, to immediately unite and work as one joint political body.”

The Rabbis state, however, that such unity does not come to negate the uniqueness of each separate party or group.

Among the prime issues ripe for cooperation among religious Zionists are “the education of our sons and daughters in Torah institutions, and the education of all Jewish children in the values of Judaism,” and preservation of the Sabbath.

Also noted were “issues of morality and social justice,” fighting poverty, providing religious services, settling in all parts of the land of Israel, and dealing with national constitutional issues, a matter that generally refers to the precarious relationship between the state and Torah authority.

Other Rabbis who signed the declaration include Rav Zalman Melamed, head of Yeshivat Beit El and a supporter of the Tekuma party; Rav Shlomo Aviner, co-Rabbi of Beit El; Rav Chaim Druckman, associated with the National Religious Party; and Rav Shlomo Riskin, Rabbi of Efrat.

The Rabbis’ declaration is expected to catalyze negotiations between the National Union (which includes Tekuma) and the National Religious Party to field a joint list in the next general election.