Sacked MK vows to run new party

By Anshel Pfeffer, December 2, 2010
Errant rabbi Amshallem

Errant rabbi Amshallem

Rabbi Chaim Amsellem, the Knesset member banished last week by his party Shas for his "heretical" views, is now threatening to form a new party for "traditional" Sephardi voters.

Rabbi Amsellem, a second-term MK, has repeatedly angered conservative Charedi rabbis and politicians with his over-liberal positions on religious and social issues.

Last week, the Council of Sages, the supreme body of Shas, headed by Rabbi Ovadia Yosef, ruled that he had to resign from the Knesset. If he refused, the Council, in its ruling, hand-written by Rabbi Yosef, called "upon anyone to whom the Torah is dear, to keep a bow-shot distance away from this man and from his weird and heretical opinions."

The rabbi's "sins" are manifold. In a series of interviews in both the Charedi and secular media, he declared that only a small number of yeshiva students should continue learning Torah indefinitely, the rest must serve in the army and then work for their living.

Charedi schools must be prepared to teach secular subjects such as maths, science and English. He even questioned the stringent conversion laws, saying that immigrants of Jewish ancestry, especially those who had served in the IDF, should be allowed an easier fast-track path for conversion.

Rabbi Amsellem publicly refused to follow party chairman Eli Yishai's instructions and desist from interviews. By this stage, the Council ruling, which amounts to a virtual excommunication, was a certainty.

But Rabbi Amsellem announced he was forming a new party. "I am a new Charedi who speaks to the entire nation," he said.

Last updated: 4:06pm, December 2 2010