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April 21, 2014 / 21 Nisan, 5774
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Bad Boy

"My engagement in medicine has taught me that in order to heal one must come in contact with the most repulsive things you can imagine."
Power for Israel leader Aryeh Eldad.

Power for Israel leader Aryeh Eldad.
Photo Credit: Yori Yanover / JewishPress.com

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National religious Israeli voters like yours truly have three choices this coming Tuesday:

Vote for Likud-Beitenu and strengthen the hand of Benjamin Netanyahu, whose party list includes at least six national-religious candidates in realistic spots. The polls are giving them between 32 and 38 seats.

Vote for Jewish Home, so that it would be large enough for Netanyahu to be forced to include it in his coalition government and necessarily stick to pro-settlement, anti-Palestinian state policies. The polls are giving them between 12 and 16 seats.

Or vote for Power for Israel, a small party made up of vehement lovers of the land of Israel and the Jewish nation, and which has been teetering between 3 and 4 seats and the prospect of not passing the blocking percentage at all.

Power for Israel has captured the much disdained corner of Israel’s political map once occupied by “right wing extremists” from Rabbi Meir Kahane to Rehavam Zeevi (both of whom were assassinated by Arabs), to rabbi Benny Alon and Benny Begin, who are considered more moderate (and are very much alive, thank God).

But in the process of taking on the mantle of ultimate right wingers, the two co-leaders of Power for Israel, MKs Michael Ben Ari and Aryeh Eldad have done a lot to make being right wing extremists sound cool and very much in.

Like the time they challenged Tel-Aviv’s wealthy liberals, who support letting illegal workers from Africa stay in the country—as long as they hang around the poor neighborhoods in south Tel Aviv: Ben Ari and Eldad got 50 Sudanese illegals together, bought them bathing suits, and took them into the prestigious Gordon swimming pool off of Dizengoff. The wealthy north-Tel Avivians were irate, they decried the “provocation,” and Power for Israel scored a great point.


Or their latest campaign, “No Duties, No Rights,” which demands—in signs written in Arabic—that Israel’s Arabs start paying taxes, obey traffic laws, submit formal requests for home extensions, and declare their loyalty to the Jewish state. Both leaders taped a video in Arabic stating all these points. The campaign was accused of racism, but the point was made, loud and clear.

I’ve been enamoured with political circuses since 1968, when legendary street theater performers like Daniel Cohn-Bendit (Danny the Red) and Abbey Hoffman used humor and pathos to defeat state systems. The fact that Danny and Abbey were on the left and Michael and Aryeh are on the right is trivial. They’re all good Jews, as far as I’m concerned, teaching the world that a little sense of humor and political conviction can defeat lines of cops in riot gear, and even, on occasion, tanks.

I shudder at the thought that the Palestinians might some day develop a sense of humor. But then I remember Hanan Ashrawi and I know we’re safe for a while.

Still, looking at MK Aryeh Eldad, the last thing that comes to mind is a radical provocateur. His co-chairman, Ben Ari, looks the part, with the salt and pepper hair and beard, the burning, dark eyes and the big mouth, full of teeth. Eldad, in comparison, looks like someone you’d ask to do your taxes.

He comes from radical stock, though. His father, the late Israel Eldad, was a leader in the Lechi underground (the Stern gang, as the British named it). Incidentally, a disproportionate number of today’s leaders in Israel are children of Stern gang members: Tzipi Livni, Yair Shamir, Dan Meridor, Tzahi Hanegbi. Surprisingly, many of them are center-left, if not altogether leftists.

I ask him if, as an ex general (he was chief of the IDF medical corps), and a famous plastic surgeon, he’s not setting foot in political water that’s too murky for someone of his stature.

“You say murky water,” Eldad responds with a glint in his eye, “but my engagement in medicine has taught me that in order to heal one must come in contact with the most repulsive things you can imagine: birthing, draining abscesses. I don’t have the privilege to be spoiled.”

A story that made the rounds a few years ago has Dr. Eldad, then chief of the Hadassah Medical Center Dept. of Plastic Surgery, taking care, free of charge, of a teenage girl from Gaza, who was honor-burned by her family. The girl would come in frequently for follow-up visits. One time she was caught on her way to his Jerusalem clinic, wearing a suicide vest. It turned out that her family told her they would forgive her romantic transgressions if she blew up the doctor who healed her.

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About the Author: Yori Yanover has been a working journalist since age 17, before he enlisted and worked for Ba'Machane Nachal. Since then he has worked for Israel Shelanu, the US supplement of Yedioth, JCN18.com, USAJewish.com, Lubavitch News Service, Arutz 7 (as DJ on the high seas), and the Grand Street News. He has published Dancing and Crying, a colorful and intimate portrait of the last two years in the life of the late Lubavitch Rebbe, (in Hebrew), and two fun books in English: The Cabalist's Daughter: A Novel of Practical Messianic Redemption, and How Would God REALLY Vote.


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10 Responses to “Bad Boy”

  1. Alexis Worlock says:

    Great article. One edit: you meant to write "teetering", not "tittering".

  2. Alexis Worlock says:

    You've been in Israel long enough that you now hear English in your head in an Israeli accent. :)

  3. Liad Bar-el says:

    Informative and inspiring article Yori. For such a good article, the title does not do it justice for it is misleading and of poor choice. Even though they may be in humor, there are far too many people reading the Jewish Press with weak English that they will take your words seriously; then, the sin is on your head. Not worth it, IMO. Aryeh Eldad is one of the very few in the Israeli government who is very straight forward and that speaks the truth without a forked tongue. He has never minced words and nobody should mince words with him. The more I learn about Aryeh Eldad, the more I like. Thank you for this article.

  4. Hadar Israel says:

    In Hebrew Arieh Eldad can be called, among the rest of politicians and Knesset Members, without fear of being wrong or excessive, צדיק בסדם, that is a "righteous in Sodom".

  5. Elisheva Barre says:

    This Arab "loyalty" is a double edged sword that could easily turn against Israel.
    So they WILL serve in the army and pay duties and get all the privileges of Jewish citizens including being appointed chief judges and PM – that is if they keep Palestine (as it is to them) democratic and not turn it into an Islamabad…
    Because Ben Ari and Eldad will not stir the pot too much – let alone BREAK IT.
    The change will come from elsewhere.

  6. Felecia Rosenberg says:

    Eldad says: “There’s this ancient Jewish yearning to redeem humanity. I don’t share it. " Who else sees this as problematic? This isn't a cat we want to let out of the bag.

  7. This is a problem. I certainly don't mean in terms of some simplistic liberal idea of a large dissipation of limited national financial resources on a world where there are a lot of larger, wealthier, more secure countries, well able to do so. But in terms of caring, of wanting to see the world better, and wanting to be a role model, a true Jewish and Israeli unity — not just for mutual self-protection, but in mutual concern and responsibility even were there no external threat — this is our entire national raison d'etre from time immemorial!

    Our calling is to be a Light onto the nations, not merely "a nation." And when we insist that we are "just another nation" is all we are, then even as fallacious a national entity as "Palestine" — whose name can't even be pronounced in its national language (no P-sound in Arabic) — is brought into existence and granted the Chutzpah to call Israel illegitimate.

    Devorim 32:21 — "They provoked Me with a non-god, angered Me with their vanities; so I shall provoke them with a non-people, with a vile nation shall I anger them." There is no greater provocation of the G-d who is One, than with the no-god of disunity. If we do not rise above, we will be pushed under. "Normal" has never been, and never will be, an option for Jews or Israel.

  8. Felecia Rosenberg says:

    WOW! consider the implications Israel ——
    Mr. Ponderer writes: "Our calling is to be a Light onto the nations, not merely "a nation." And when we insist that we are "just another nation" is all we are . . .

  9. RabbiRachamim Pauli says:

    My wife was the Yaffo Arab Mr. Taya as in Tayadent who was going for his PhD in Biology-Medicine. He loves Eretz Yisrael on the Muslim Bro grill.

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