Who dwells in the Jewish Home?

With the alliance of the former National Religious Party and National Union heading for big election gains, the hardline slate’s many unknown faces are about to become much more familiar

Raphael Ahren is a former diplomatic correspondent at The Times of Israel.

Senior Jewish Home members after the party's primaries results are announced, November 14, 2012. (photo credit: Yossi Zeliger/Flash90)
Senior Jewish Home members after the party's primaries results are announced, November 14, 2012. (photo credit: Yossi Zeliger/Flash90)

All recent polls agree: the right-wing Jewish Home is going to be the 2013 election’s big surprise.

A survey published Thursday predicted that the party — which held three seats in the outgoing Knesset, and has merged with the National Union, which had four — might win as many as 18 seats, thus becoming the second-largest faction in the 19th Knesset, tied with Labor. Most polls are a little less generous, giving it 13-15 seats — still more than enough to seriously rattle the Likud-Beytenu alliance and cause the center-left to lament an Israeli electoral lurch to the right.

But besides chairman Naftali Bennett — who served for two years as Prime Minister Benjamin’s Netanyahu’s chief of staff and later as head of the Council of Jewish Settlements, and who only won the party leadership two months ago — few of the list’s prospective legislators are really known to the public.

So who lives in the Jewish Home?

Uri Ariel (No. 2) and Uri Orbach (No. 6) are the only two current MKs in the list’s top 20. Nissan Slomiansky (No. 3) is a three-term former lawmaker, and Gila Finkelstein (No. 18) was deputy Knesset speaker between 2003 and 2006. This quartet and some other members of the party slate come from the former National Religious Party and the far-right National Union, including two candidates with municipal experience: Beersheba Deputy Mayor Avi Wortzman (No. 8) and Binyamin Local Council deputy head Mordechai Yogev (No. 9).

But the rest of the crew, which includes two American-born candidates, is mostly composed of fairly unknown activists and educators, some of whom have raised eyebrows with controversial statements.

Eli Ben Dahan (No 4.), for example, was criticized this week for calling homosexual marriage a “recipe for the destruction of the Jewish people.”

“Every sociology professor will tell you that the foundation of every nation is the family unit,” he said.

Eli Ben Dahan in 2010 (photo credit: Yossi Zamir/Flash90)
Eli Ben Dahan in 2010 (photo credit: Yossi Zamir/Flash90)

An article in the mass daily Yedioth Aharonoth on Thursday noted that two of the party’s top 20 prospective legislators come from the tiny hard-core Jewish settler community in Hebron, and said the list includes candidates with “extremely radical views” regarding homosexuals and women’s rights.

The party rejects such accusations. “This is another failed spin,” said Jeremy Saltan, a campaign manager. “There is a spectrum of opinions in the Jewish Home like there is in every large party. Every person is entitled to their own personal views, and the faction members, as a whole, are committed to following their chairman Naftali Bennett in future Knesset votes.”

Here is a list of the party’s candidates with a small taste of who they are:

1) Naftali Bennett — Ex-IDF commando and high-tech millionaire who beat party veterans for the top spot in November, seeks to annex Area C of the West Bank (some 60% of the territory, where Jewish settlements are located), sparked a huge political row last month by declaring he would go to jail rather than follow IDF orders to evacuate settlements

2) Uri Ariel — Four-term MK, chaired the State Control Committee in outgoing Knesset

3) Nissan Slomiansky — Broke the attendance record in the 16th Knesset (100 percent of all sessions)

4) Eliahu Ben Dahan — Former rabbinical court judge with degrees in business administration and public policy

5) Ayelet Shaked — Founder of the “My Israel” movement, the party’s first secular woman to enter the Knesset

6) MK Uri Orbach — Former journalist, served as deputy speaker in the outgoing Knesset

MK Uri Orbach votes in the Jewish Home primary on November 13, 2012 (photo credit: Yossi Zeliger/Flash90)
MK Uri Orbach votes in the Jewish Home primary on November 13, 2012 (photo credit: Yossi Zeliger/Flash90)

7) Zvulun Kalfa — Only kibbutz member in a realistic spot from any party

8) Avi Wortzman — Holds the welfare portfolio in the Beersheba municipality

9) Mordechai Yogev — Former secretary-general of the Bnei Akiva youth movement

10) Orit Strock — Mother of 11 from Hebron, heads an organization fighting for human rights for Jews living in the West Bank

11) Yoni Chetboun — Co-founded the “Ra’ananim” national-religious youth movement

12) Shuli Moalem — Led the movement for the rights of IDF widows

13) Hillel Horovitz — A rabbi from Hebron, formerly a top aide of education minister Tzvi Hendel

14) Jeremy Gimpel — Grew up secular in Atlanta, co-hosts a popular English-language pro-Israel advocacy TV show

15) Nachi Eyal — Heads the Legal Forum for the Land of Israel, formerly a senior aide to MK Hanan Porat

16) Rachamim Nasimi — A settler rabbi born in Sderot, created several educational initiatives, convicted of blocking roads during protests against the 2005 disengagement from Gaza

17) Amitai Cohen — Advisor to the mayor of Rehovot

18) Gila Finkelstein — Ex-deputy Knesset speaker, chaired department for personal welfare at Israel Teachers’ Union

19) Uri Bank — Born in Detroit, currently manager of the National Union Knesset faction, formerly top aide to MK Benny Elon

20) Doron Danino — Kibbutz member, teaches university courses about Moroccan and Spanish Jewry

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