Wednesday, January 23, 2013

Yair Lapid

Terribly interesting man in the news these days – Yair Lapid, the politician who surprised everybody in the recent Israeli elections by coming in a very healthy second in Parliament with 19 seats, instead of the anticipated 13 or 14 as polls suggested. Netanyahu will now have to work with him and his newly founded party, Yesh Atid (There is a Future).

I went looking to see what I could find out about this man just as a friend in New York sent a link to a speech Lapid gave to a group of Haredi (ultra-orthodox) law students which I found riveting and want to recommend, if only to watch a Barack Obama kind of pull-'em-together centrist at work, with considerably more charisma.  He speaks in Hebrew, but his text is excellently subtitled.

I then found another video of Lapid addressing a conference of American rabbis in Atlanta in May of last year.  That one turned out to be equally interesting at getting the measure of the man.    (The introduction is in Hebrew.  Lapid speaks in English and begins his talk at minute 4:55.)

I’m not making any political endorsement.   I have no place in Israeli domestic politics.  I simply find this a fascinating man to listen to.   I have linked you to the few pieces of information I have on the man.  I know, because he says in the Atlanta talk, that he is a centrist, not a leftie, not a socialist.   Actually,  one columnist from Haaretz, Israel’s well-known liberal newspaper, has called him “the candidate of ‘capital’.” 

He is a secular Jew with Hungarian roots.  A handsome man.   Former boxer.  Former actor.  Would appear to have a beautiful Hebrew – not that I’m a judge, but I think you’ll reach the same conclusion, somehow.  And he’s powerfully articulate in English, as well.  Probably has something to do with the fact he was a talk show host at one point, although that says nothing about cause and effect.

He’s clearly very smart.  Very funny.  And very much the man to pull the country back toward the left – remember, the center is left of where Israel is now.  Listening to him makes me think more than anything else of an old-fashioned Rockefeller Republican trying to pull the party away from Tea Party influence. 

One thing he and Netanyahu agree on is that the time has come for the Haredim to start sharing the load.  Outsiders may not be aware that the men study the Torah full time (or want to) and don’t work.   That means they are supported by mainstream Israelis.  They also don’t do military duty.  Lapid’s address to the law students in the first video will put that in perspective.

Maybe not your cup of tea, I understand.  And I’m ready to hear that I am in no position to endorse or criticize this man, with my knowledge that is all of maybe twenty-four hours old.  But my guess is he’s going to figure large in Israel’s future, and there’s no time like the present to get to know more about him.  And it doesn’t really matter where you start, so why not start here.

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