By Shmuel Katz

Four weeks off. Well, at least off from writing. Working to open the yeshiva never stops. I was in the U.S. for two weeks for recruiting, and running around here in Israel continuing to work on setting up the academic and learning schedule for year one.

As you have seen over the past few weeks, our electoral process trumps anything you guys can come up with in terms of craziness and the potential for radical changes to the political landscape over an extremely short time. When I last wrote about the elections, Bibi was going to win handily as head of the Likud, with the Right bloc likely to be mostly unchanged as a group.

The Center/Left was going to be dominated mostly by Labor and the new Yesh Atid, with Kadima losing their former dominance of this demographic. Almost all the pundits saw the election wrapping up that way, with most of the interest surrounding the possibility of a continuance of the same voting bloc as the ruling government or the possibility for Bibi to align with one of the liberal parties in an attempt to make a coalition with them.

The following week, Bibi merged the Likud with Avigdor Lieberman’s Yisrael Beiteinu party. Then, the jockeying began. Parties courted politicians from across the spectrum to jump ship and join them. We had a very brief war with terrorists in Gaza, further complicating the political landscape and driving voters, including my wife Goldie, away from Bibi and into the open arms of the more Right wing parties like Habayit Hayehudi (which merged with Ichud Leumi) in order to strengthen the power of those parties in any coalition.

The jockeying continues. Yesh Atid’s chances at a large haul of seats was apparently derailed by Tzipi Livni founding what seems to be the “sore losers” party, after turning down an offer to join Yesh Atid in the number two spot (this move coming after Yair Lapid, the founder of Yesh Atid, had reportedly said that he would not have any former politicians in his new party–so much for integrity). Ehud Barak retired from politics when it became clear that his new party would not earn any seats in the upcoming elections. And the moves continue.

Larry Gordon asks me regularly what I think is going to happen in the elections and I have simply given up trying to figure it out. There is still too much change going on. I tell him to speak with me in January, when we know who and what will be where and when.

I am not even sure for whom to vote. Goldie plans to back the Bayit HaYehudi party (Right) with her vote (and in truth, I am sorely tempted to vote radically Right with the Otzma L’Yisrael list, since I am a huge fan of Arieh King who is number four on their list). Yet, I am concerned that Bibi will simply ignore the Right when forming his coalition, in favor of the Center/Left Labor and Yesh Atid parties, who might be so grateful to be in the government that they give him much more power than would the Right.

With the most recent polls showing the Biberman (Likud/Beiteinu) party at around 38 seats and the Labor Party at around 20 seats, a combination of the two would only need to find one small party with whom to form a coalition (no party in the Knesset can hold less than 3 seats). The only consolation against that? I am not sure the future Members of Knesset who are running with him would actually support such a move.

So we just go on, wait to see what our choices end up being, and living our lives. For us, that means another year of Chamshushalayim activities (the annual December weekends festival of free/cheap performance art and late night museum openings). We skipped opening weekend but had a great time last Thursday night, except for the 15 minutes spent looking for parking in Jerusalem.

We began the evening outside the Gerad Behar Theater on Betzalel for a dance and music performance. It sounds silly, but the dancers dressed up in full costumes (you couldn’t see their faces or any body features–they were totally covered in the costumes) and the live music combined with the chilly night air made for a very nice display. We enjoyed it a lot.

After a dinner stop in the Ben Yehuda area, we went for a free tour of the Menachem Begin Heritage Center, which we also enjoyed. The museum, which I have visited before (but Goldie had not) essentially tells his life story and his influence on Israel’s history. It is extremely well done, and they (like many other museums here) have an English simulcast for the entire exhibit (you are given your own headset free of charge).

You have joined us in davening for rain, and the Kineret watch has begun. We are much higher than last year, the year that I hope is the last one in which we will ever dip below the Lower Red Line level in the lake. We gained 6 cm in the lake level this week, so things are looking up.

With the kids off for Chanukah break this week, we will be going (or will have gone by the time you read this) with them to the Jerusalem Science Museum, the Rishon Letsiyon zoo, a hachnassat sefer Torah for our shul, and the Underground Prisoners Museum’s Chamshushalayim nighttime tour. We did the Prisoners Museum last year with another couple and were enthralled by the nighttime atmosphere. The dark and cold (I think it was also rainy last year) added a unique dimension to the tour and we think the kids will enjoy it.

I will miss the final week of Chamshushalayim as I am returning to North America on the last day of Chanukah for more (out of town) recruiting. It is a busy season for us, but busy is usually good.

I hope you and your families enjoy the remainder of Chanukah and pray that you join our family here in Israel. With the elections coming, your vote can make a huge difference in the future of our country. Come be a part of it. v

Shmuel Katz is the executive director of Yeshivat Migdal HaTorah (, a gap-year yeshiva opening in 2013. Shmuel, his wife Goldie, and their six children made aliyah in July of 2006. Before making aliyah, he was the executive director of the Yeshiva of South Shore in Hewlett. You can contact him at


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