Former chief rabbi’s daughter forms new Israeli political party

Adina Bar Shalom founds new, inclusive party, expressing disappointment in direction her father’s former party, Shas, has taken over the last few years.

By: Batya Jerenberg, World Israel News

Adina Bar Shalom, Israel Prize winner and founder of Haredi College of Jerusalem, announced at a conference of alumni of the Gesher Institute Sunday that she has co-founded a new political party that will hopefully contend in the upcoming elections, whenever they may be.

The party, which includes people from all over the religious spectrum, has been in the works for some time, explained Bar Shalom.

“Our party is made up of secular, haredi, and religious people who have formulated [a platform] of common values, which is no small thing,” she noted. “For two years already. We have time, we’re working on running in the upcoming elections. I will be one of the party’s founders, not an actual MK.”

This would be in keeping with the ultra-Orthodox rabbinical ruling that women should not hold public positions such as Knesset members. She added, however, that even so, women could “make use of politics.”

The 72-year-old daughter of the late former chief rabbi of Israel, Rabbi Ovadia Yosef, who co-founded the Shas party in 1984 to gain more political power for Sephardic Jews as well as raise their cultural pride, has slammed the party and its leader, Aryeh Deri.

“Deri has changed a lot since he entered prison [in 2000],” she said. “Before that, he knew how to mediate, how to bridge between worlds. He was a truly special person. I knew him from then. It’s a shame that he went to jail and became completely corrupted.”

Before the last elections, Bar Shalom was invited by Deri to form a council for women in the party, promising to listen and act upon their concerns, but nothing ever came of it and it was disbanded officially last year.

“I trusted Aryeh Deri,” she said. “I thought he was true to my father’s legacy. But he didn’t work to keep the [Haredi College of Jerusalem] open. As an elected politician and as the Interior Minister, he could have done so, and he could have helped, if he had wanted to,” commented Bar Shalom, in reference to the institution’s closing after 15 years due to massive debts and falling enrollment.

Bar Shalom was awarded the “lifetime achievement” Israel Prize in 2014 for setting up the groundbreaking institution, where first only women, but then men, could earn academic degrees while learning in separate classes to conform to ultra-Orthodox mandates regarding gender separation.

At the conference, when the interviewer asked her if Shas was “history,” she replied, “If it was up to me, then yes.”