THE ongoing saga surrounding attempts to extradite Malka Leifer has impacted on the Israeli election, for one Australian oleh at least.
Howard, who asked that his surname be withheld, said he could no longer bring himself to vote for the United Torah Judaism (UTJ) party because its leader Yaakov Litzman has been accused of falsifying psychiatric assessments to help the former Adass Israel principal evade extradition.
Litzman is Israel’s Deputy Health Minister.
Howard said he lived in Melbourne during the time that Leifer allegedly committed at least 74 acts of child sexual abuse. Attempts to extradite her have foundered amid claims she is unfit to stand to stand trial.
Referring to the party by its Hebrew shorthand, Gimmel, Howard told The AJN: “I voted for Gimmel in the 2013 and 2015 Knesset Elections. I decided not to vote for Gimmel this time as a result of the alleged conduct of Deputy Health Minister Litzman in falsifying Malka Leifer being mentally ill in order to prevent her to face the justice system of the State of Victoria.”
Instead, Howard cast what is called an informal ballot on which he penned a note, “Extradite Malka Leifer to Australia.”
Meanwhile, Israel’s ultra-Orthodox parties are desperate to avoid a Blue and White-led government, fearing that it would mean conscription for yeshivah students.
They engaged in frantic last-minute campaigning, with one party even holding a huge election rally, despite normally rejecting such events as unbefitting religious leaders.
There, one of the party’s leaders, Moshe Gafni, predicted doom if his party didn’t come out of the vote strong, telling the crowd of thousands that they are “in the middle of a war over Shabbat” and “a war for yeshivah students”, meaning to avoid their conscription.
Now, the ultra-Orthodox parties look poised to hold on to their 13 Knesset seats – but only after the fight of a lifetime.
They struggled hard to avoid losing votes to right-wing parties. The unprecedented election rally brought together rabbis from rival camps who don’t normally talk. The event for the UTJ party, in Jerusalem, united people from Chassidic and non-Chassidic communities.
The sense of threat comes from the fact that Yair Lapid is one of the leaders of Blue and White, and is widely seen by Charedim as antagonistic to their values. He entered politics on the back of a campaign to draft yeshivah students.
Shas, the other Charedi party, upped the ante even further, claiming that Blue and White would try to hold Jerusalem’s Pride March at the Western Wall and broaden sales of pork. Its campaign material declared that a vote for the party would earn people a place in the Garden of Eden.
The parties faced an uphill struggle because the wide choice of religious candidates in other parties led to some voters abandoning both Charedi parties, and partly because significant numbers of Charedi voters have become disillusioned, feeling that politicians have sold out to secular authorities. “There’s no one to vote for,” Michael Stern, a 40-year-old from Bnei Brak, told The AJN on Tuesday.
He said that the politicians “have lost the Charedi way”, allowing the state to regulate Charedi education and encourage Charedi youngsters to go to university. “Every agreement with the state on these issues is a sacrifice,” he said, adding: “Torah is everything, everything, everything.”