Haim Amsalem....at odds with the leaders of Shas (Photo: Alex Levac)
He's been called a renegade and the bete noire of the Sephardi ultra-orthodox party Shas, but the Algerian-born rabbi and Knesset member Haim Amsalem simply wants to reclaim the lost spirit of Eastern Jewry. Zionism comes naturally to North African Sephardim who have never suffered the sectarian schisms of Ashkenazi orthodoxy. Traditionally, Sephardi rabbis combined a trade with Torah study, but in Israel the number of unemployed Haredi scholars has jumped to an unsustainable 65 percent in 30 years. Amsalem believes the 'lithuanisation' of orthodox Sephardim is threatening to turn them into anti-Zionists and parasites feeding off the Israeli state. Haaretz reports:
MK Haim Amsalem, who has been at odds with the leadership of his Shas party for the last few months, accused the ultra-Orthodox faction Saturday night of turning a large populace of Israel's Sephardi sector into "anti-Zionists".
The rebel MK told an audience in the West Bank settlement of Beit El that Shas had lost the spirit of Eastern Jewry. He added the faction had begun to flex its opinions to be more in line with Ashkenazi rabbinical leaders who he claimed "carry no responsibility for what happens to the nation of Israel".
Amsalem reiterated during his speech on Saturday night his calls to ease the laws of conversion, and furthermore declared that the ultra-Orthodox population must enter the work force.
"How many Rabbi Ovadia [Yosef]s will there be?" he asked, in reference to the spiritual leader of the Shas party. "Just one in a generation. Everyone else can work."
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