Rabbi David Fine, Founder and Dean of the Barkai Center
Rabbi David Fine, Founder and Dean of the Barkai CenterIsrael National News

The Religious Zionist movement has always been on the front lines of change, progress and development in Israel.

One only has to look at the Religious Zionist pioneers who came to reclaim, redeem and plough the land long before our more secular partners.

Since the reestablishment of Jewish sovereignty in our historic, ancestral and indigenous homeland, Religious Zionists have been at the forefront in Israel’s military victories, scientific breakthroughs and general Jewish cultural renaissance.

Religious Zionists have led the way with a sense of pride, patriotism and contribution to the country for all of its inhabitants.

However, the one area where it has not led up to now is on the political front.

For the last 74 years of the state, the National Religious Party, or many of the incarnations since its demise, have been largely an addendum to the ruling coalition. It was given what were seen as more peripheral government portfolios, which, while important - education and religious affairs, for example = were seen as suitable for that community and resulted in our largely being kept at arm’s length from the real decision-making, whether by Likud or Labor-led governments.

Our parties were seen as sectoral, much like the haredi are seen today, and it was one reason for the hemorrhaging of our community and its supporters to larger parties that were making the paradigm-defining decisions.

Even today, the Likud dismisses the Religious Zionist community by claiming that it is the correct party for these votes just because it has a few kippot amongst its dozens of potential members of the next Knesset.

It does not, nor can it, say why it is a party that cares about the values of the Religious Zionist community, because more often than not, when it comes to a decision between siding with the haredi or the Religious Zionist perspective, it chooses the former.

Far too often, we are taken for granted, perhaps precisely because we come to serve and contribute and not to create tensions within the ruling coalitions.

That is precisely why there has been a lack of members from amongst the Religious Zionist community in national religious leadership positions for decades and our perspective on issues relating to Jewish identity in the State of Israel has long been seen as of secondary importance.

We are now calling for this to change.

For the first time, the Religious Zionist party could potentially become the third largest party in the Knesset, and the second largest in a Right-wing government positively oriented towards religion. This will provide an unprecedented opportunity to lead from the front on issues of great and grave importance for the future of our Jewish and democratic state.

As we have always done, we will make decisions by bringing together disparate parts of Israeli society but with a firm commitment to Jewish identity and tradition.

This is a voice that Israel desperately needs in politics as we try and end the divisions that have plagued it over the last few years.

To achieve this historic position, we need all those committed to ensuring Israel’s Jewish identity, whether traditional, religious or haredi, to vote for the only party which holds this flag high and waves it proudly.

The Likud will undoubtedly make the case in the coming days and weeks that only a vote for them will ensure a Right-wing pro-religious government, but this is far from the truth. A vote for another party in the bloc will achieve exactly the same aim. Likud will be the largest party, and will be given the chance to form a government, not a single poll says anything different.

However, to ensure that Likud is pulled in the right direction and does not make coalition agreements with other parties antithetical to our interests, as it has done regularly in the past, we need a strong Religious Zionist Party.

If we achieve a strong showing at these elections then we can bring our determination to contribute to make Israel flourish and succeed in its national mission, and our commitment to Jewish identity to the front and center.

This is a once in a lifetime opportunity for our community. Israel has already witnessed what Religious Zionists can do in many fields and now it is time for us in politics, leadership and governance.

It is in the hands of the Israeli voters.

We have a clear vision of an Israel robustly committed to its Jewish identity, something that the overwhelming majority of Jewish Israelis support.

If we become the third largest party, we will humbly undertake a mandate to steer the country away from those who want to make it a state of all of its citizens and are embarrassed by and seek to erase its Jewish character.

For this, we need your support.

Rabbi David Fine is a candidate for the 25th Knesset on the list of the Religious Zionist Party, founder and dean of the Barkai Center for Practical Rabbinics and Community Development and was formerly a rabbi in Kansas City and Milwaukee.