Former OC Human Resources Maj.-Gen Elazar Stern (res.) has joined the Am Shalem party, it was confirmed on Thursday.How interesting. Shas may have discriminated against Ashkenazi girls in their schools, but if even Sepharadi girls didn't fare much better, then that's something to frown upon too. I certainly hope that Am Shalem will find success in this election, since their platform is a very positive one.
Stern, a well-known public figure, is a significant addition to the Am Shalem candidates list, which is headed by MK Rabbi Haim Amsalem, formerly of Shas until his expulsion from the party two years ago.
According to Amsalem’s office, he and Stern have maintained a close relationship for several years and have collaborated on a number of issues, including conversion for IDF soldiers of Jewish descent who are nevertheless not considered Jewish according to Jewish law.
Although the former general is not yet commenting on the development, Amsalem confirmed Thursday morning on Army Radio that Stern was indeed joining his party.
“Maj.-Gen. Stern is a good man and I’m very happy that someone like him really believes in our approach,” Amsalem said.
Two central aspects of Am Shalem’s election platform are the hot-button issues of increasing haredi enlistment in military and national service programs, and integrating ultra-Orthodox men into the work force, both issues in which Stern has experience.
Amsalem has also vowed “to bring back moderate and beautiful Judaism to the Jewish people,” and has harshly denounced Shas for abandoning its constituents.
Amsalem was expelled from Shas in 2010 due to his public criticism of the party regarding discrimination against Sephardi girls in haredi schools, and failing to encourage members of the haredi community to perform military service and integrate into the work force. He nevertheless refused to vacate his Knesset seat.
According to a recent poll conducted by Panels – a research and polling institute – Am Shalem will garner three seats in the coming elections, putting it above the electoral 2-percent threshold and into the Knesset.
Speaking of military service, some good news is that they are getting an increase in recruits:
In two weeks, about fifty haredim will enlist in the IDF Technological and Logistics Directorate through the Shahar project, a program aimed at balancing the religous obligations of the haredim and the desire to serve the country, which has already enlisted around 300 haredi youth.While the segregation part may not be great news, that haredim are willing to serve their country and study/work on technology research is a positive development in itself.
The program was launched in 2007 by then commander of the Israeli Air Force Elazar Shkedy, who looked to the haredim to fill the gaps in the Air Force's technical units. Soldiers ain this program serve as mechanics, computer programmers and electricians.
What makes a haredi unit different from your average IDF unit is that genders never mix in these units - female soldeirs, commanders or instructors are not allowed in the unit. Also, soldiers are given time during the day to pray and learn Torah and all food served is glatt kosher.