Ultra-Orthodox 'Bridge Between Religion and State'
By Nathan Jeffay for The Jewish Daily Forward
Jerusalem — When Israel’s most revered rabbi died last October, there was much talk about who would be the main figure to perpetuate his legacy and how he would do it. Nobody suggested that it would be a woman, or that her instrument of influence would be the state’s highest office.
But Rabbi Ovadia Yosef’s daughter, Adina Bar Shalom, has told the Forward that she is considering running as president of Israel this spring, when members of the Knesset, Israel’s parliament, are expected to select someone to succeed Israel’s current head of state, Shimon Peres. If she does compete and win, she will be the country’s first female president and its first Haredi, or ultra-Orthodox, president.
Rumors of Bar Shalom’s candidacy began spreading on January 22, when an un-sourced report in the daily newspaper Ma’ariv suggested that she was considering running. Her response then was that she wasn’t dismissing the idea but had “still not talked with anyone.”
Speaking with the Forward on February 10, Bar Shalom stopped short of a definitive declaration. But her earlier diffidence had dissipated. For the first time, she indicated that she is seriously considering a run.
Bar Shalom said that she is now in regular contact with people who want her to declare her candidacy. The 69-year-old Tel Aviv mother-of-three described the possibility of doing so as “very exciting,” adding that her supporters believe she can be a “bridge between religion and the state.”
The main factor delaying her final decision, said Bar Shalom, is the question of who else will put their hat in the ring. She plans to “see who are the candidates, and then decide.” If Bar Shalom takes the plunge, she will be up against at least one other non-politician. Dan Shechtman, a scientist at Haifa’s Technion University who won the Nobel Prize for chemistry in 2011, declared his intention to run last January. The other declared candidates are two respected veteran Knesset members: Reuven Rivlin of Likud and Benjamin Ben-Eliezer of the Labor party.