Thank you Zehut International members!

Dear Zehut International members,

zehut_logo_newThank you!  Thank you for being part of this historic process. Thank you for electing me to the prime Zehut International slot in Zehut’s Knesset list. We are breathing a badly needed breath of fresh air into the Israeli political system, and we are already seeing positive changes.

Israel’s political landscape has been dominated by personality politics and failed ideologies (or lack of ideologies). Zehut is not about one personality or another. Zehut is about having a clear understanding of who the Jewish people are and what our purpose here is. It’s about having a clear vision for the future of Israel. It’s about having a clear plan, fully documented and articulated as to how to repair the affairs of Israeli society. The plan includes how to reduce and remove government’s toxic and insidious involvement in too many aspects of our private lives. The plan includes clear, logical, achievable ways to reduce the cost of living in Israel, to reduce the price of housing, to boost the economy, to improve education, health care and to safeguard our land, our people and our future.

The Zehut platform is comprehensive and ambitious. It is comprehensive in that it believes that with proper leadership there are a tremendous number of policy initiatives that we can undertake. It is ambitious in that it seeks and requires nothing less than leadership of the State of Israel.

Now the hard work begins. That of bringing our message to the Israeli electorate. Many voters are both politically cynical and creatures of habit. They cannot imagine a new party making significant gains on their first election. They will tell you without a shadow of a doubt that there is no chance of Zehut passing the electoral threshold. They are simply wrong, short-sighted and unimaginative. There are some people who it’s just not worth talking to. They are often the first to complain about any given situation, but ultimately the last to do anything to help.

However, there is an entire country of Israelis that are seeking a new solution. They are thirsty for clear leadership, vision and direction. We need to show them we have within Zehut that leadership, that vision, that direction. Our job, the job of Zehut International members did not end with the primaries yesterday. Our job is just beginning.

Our job is to engage with every Israeli voter we can, even if you don’t currently live in Israel. Our job is to a shine a light on the mess that is the Israeli political situation and state loud and clear: “We can fix this!” We know how, we have a roadmap and we have the people.

I beg every one of us to become familiar with our platform. It is not something that can be easily reduced to slogans or pithy statements. There is depth, there is intelligence, there is nuance. Our political challenges will not be overcome by soundbites. They will be overcome by educating the public as to the solutions to the myriad issues we are facing.

Zehut, fixing Israel, realizing what Jewish identity means in a Jewish state, defining what we seek from a Jewish state, should be part of our daily discussions and dialogue.

I am humbled by the collective trust you have given me as your Zehut International representative. I thank you again for this trust, I take the task and mission seriously and I hope I will live up to your expectations.

As always, I am available for all discussions and inquiries on this important subject.


Ben-Tzion Spitz

Diaspora Jewry Knesset Representation

Diaspora Jewry Knesset Representation

Our forefathers made one mistake. What they should have fought for was representation without taxation. -Fletcher Knebel

There’s an apocryphal statement that goes as follows: “One third of Israelis serve in the army, one third of Israelis work, and one third of Israelis pay taxes. The problem is that it’s always the same third.”

Since announcing my candidacy for Zehut International’s slot in the Zehut Knesset list, more than one person has complained that they feel it is unfair for non-Israeli citizens to have any say in the make-up of our parliament. If they live here, if they pay taxes, then they can vote, they say. There is an obvious logic to their argument. Just as we believe there should be no taxation without representation, the converse can also hold true that there should not be representation without some type of taxation.

However, there is a limit to that logic, especially regarding Israel.

If the State of Israel were merely a country of its citizens, a country like many other countries in the world, then it would be quite sensible to prevent any outsiders from meddling in our internal political process. However, Israel is so much more than that.

Israel is the Jewish homeland. Israel is a state for all Jews, wherever they are in the world. The relationship between Israel and world Jewry is an unbreakable bond that transcends politics. It is a yearning and a bond and a prayer that have been on our lips and in our hearts for two millennia. Israel is made up of our ancestors, our grandparents, our cousins, our brothers and our sisters who have come back from the far reaches of our planet to resettle the land. And they continue to do so. Distinctly from any other country in the world, every Jew can and should have a say as to the destiny of the State of Israel.

Understandably, those of us who are blessed and have the merit to live in Israel, to work in Israel, to pay taxes in Israel, to have children who serve in the army of Israel, should have a significantly greater say in our fate and destiny. Right now Israeli citizens have an exclusive say in Knesset elections and in the primaries of all of the political parties that hold primaries.

The innovation which Zehut has introduced for its primaries is to allow every tenth spot to be determined by vote of Jews in the Diaspora. This is a significant and meaningful innovation, though at this early stage of Zehut’s development it may be seen as a symbolic gesture. Keep in mind, there are a number of Israeli political parties which have no primaries at all, where their list is determined directly by the party leadership. Also, we’re talking here about the primaries, not the government election.

In reviewing Zehut’s decision to assign one tenth of its list to votes from the rest of the world, I thought it highly appropriate that they choose specifically that ratio.

The Babylonian Talmud in Tractate Kiddushin 49b states: “Ten measures of wisdom descended upon the world. Israel took nine of them, and the rest of the world took one.”

Israel and the Israeli electorate do not possess all the wisdom of the world, nor do they have the sole right to an opinion as to the fate of Israel. Jewish Diaspora has a role. That role may be limited and tightly circumscribed, but it is an important and meaningful role nonetheless. To give Diaspora Jewry a disproportional role in Israeli elections would be inappropriate. But to give them no role whatsoever misses the point of the connection and the dependence we have to each other. A tenth of the vote is both sensible and talmudically based.

I look forward to our Diaspora siblings taking advantage of this unique opportunity to participate in a meaningful way in the Israeli political process, and I hope that my Israeli friends will both appreciate and welcome this important, though limited, participation of our brethren in the electoral process.

Shavua Tov,

Ben-Tzion Spitz

Zehut International Candidate for the Knesset

Running for the Knesset

I’m returning to Israeli politics. This time in a new party and in a new role. I’ve been invited to run in the primaries of the Zehut party to compete for a spot in their Knesset list.
However, there is a new and unique twist. The Zehut party has assigned spots on their list that non-Israeli Jews can vote for, for those who are members of Zehut InternationalThis is the first time in the history of the State of Israel that Jews from the Diaspora are given a voice to determine potential Knesset members. Mind you, it’s not a huge say, but it is a start. Zehut is assigning every tenth spot on its list to a Zehut International candidate. Meaning spots 10, 20 and 30 on their list are reserved for candidates voted on by Zehut International members.
Now for any party, especially a new one, there is always the possibility that they will receive fewer seats than hoped for, if any. Realistically, based on the latest polls, it would be incredibly impressive if even one Zehut International candidate makes it into the Knesset. Nonetheless, that is the spot I’m running for.
I would like to ask of you three things:

1. I generally use this email list for my Torah writings and want to keep it that way. I will create a separate list for my political updates. If you want to be on that list, please let me know.

2. Check out Zehut International. If it’s interesting to you, join, and then vote for me in the primaries. Note: Membership in Israeli political parties is fee-based, unlike in the US or other countries. Consequently membership numbers are often low and each vote carries a lot of weight. Because Zehut International is such a new initiative, its membership is just getting started, and members will have a dis-proportionally large impact on the coming election. 

3. If you’re interested in helping out with my campaign, please let me know.

Ben-Tzion Spitz