Rabbi Haim Amsalem
Rabbi Haim AmsalemEfrat Tzahor

Former MK Rabbi Haim Amsalem has joined the Jewish Home and intends to run in the party's upcoming primaries.

Rabbi Amsalem began his political career with Shas following a request from Rabbi Ovadia Yosef.

Before entering the Knesset halls, he served as a community rabbi and as the head of the Abuhatzira family's institutes in Netivot. Afterwards, he founded a teaching kollel (an advanced religious seminary) in Jerusalem and headed the Sephardi community Heichal Hanes in Geneva.

Rabbi Amsalem was elected to the Knesset in 2006, as the tenth person on Shas's list. Following the Supreme Court ruling on the Emmanuel school, he chose to focus his efforts on fighting discrimination against Sephardi students. In doing so he violated the party's instructions not to respond or act on the issue, and raised ire among his fellow Shas members. Ultimately, they kicked him out of the party.

In an interview shortly before this transpired, Rabbi Amsalem said, "There are two ways to leave Shas - either to Ma'asiyau Prison or by having your own opinions."

During his time as a Knesset member, Amsalem received much support from the public, both secular and religious, and was even awarded the title of Knight for Quality Government in 2011.

He created his own Am Shalem (One Nation) party for the 2013 election and received nearly 50,000 votes. The party's supporters came from a cross-section of the Israeli population: religious, secular, traditional, Ashkenazi and Sephardi.

In addition, he has written numerous books on halacha. The best known is Zera Israel, which deals with conversions. He is a leader in outreach programs aimed at preventing assimilation.

As noted, Rabbi Amsalem has now decided to sign up with the Jewish Home party and to compete for its leadership. He will file the paperwork next week.

"Everyone who considers themselves Sephardi will find a place in Jewish Home," he said. "The Biton Committee was created by Minister Bennett. He wants to improve rather than to enshrine the poor and unfortunately Sephardim, and to encourage the community's great and developed heritage are what made me join Jewish Home.

"I now call on the Sephardi public. This is our hour of glory. This is the renaissance of the heritage that was previously held by professional busybodies - come home to the Jewish Home. This is our place, where we will find real representation, and concern for the Jewish tradition and our history. Join the party and, God willing, we will win."

The Jewish Home party released a statement: "We are delighted to welcome Rabbi Amsalem, who adds to the Jewish Home's momentum towards leading the country. The Biton report, which was initiated by the Education Minister, is now causing a revolution in the educational system. It is natural that Rabbi Amsalem should find his place in Jewish Home as it expands its ranks and includes all of the Jewish people."