Uri Orbach, Pensioner Affairs Minister of Israel, former head of Jewish Home party and journalist, was raised in Petach Tikwah and is a graduate of the Nechalim Yeshiva and the Hesder Yeshiva in Kiryat Shmona.
Nationality: Jewish or Israeli?
Clearly Judaism is at the base of my Israeli identity, but I cannot imagine being Jewish without the Israeli expressions: Yom Hazikaron (Memorial Day), Yom Haatzmaut (Independence Day) , spoken Hebrew, Hebrew music, IDF service. My Judaism is very Israeli and my Israeli identity is entirely Jewish. Non-identical Siamese twins if you wish.
Religion and State: Together or separate?
Overall together, without an expression of Judaism and its customs by the state we would just be another Belgium. The Sabbath, personal status and conversion are obviously matters of the Jewish state. In my opinion a Jewish state cannot be entirely secular. Having said that, I am convinced that the connection between religion and state can be made in an easier and more user friendly way than what is acceptable today.
Society: Equality in sharing the burden?
There are interesting procedures that will eventually lead to the Haredim serving in the IDF and being a valuable part of the work force. But nothing will be achieved by force only by political and social understanding. Time will solve it. With the Arabs it will take a lot more time.
Sabbath: What should the Israeli Sabbath look like?
I am in favor of Sunday being added as an extra day to the weekend. The Sabbath needs to be a day of rest. We must minimize commerce and employment on Saturdays. The Sabbath is the day of culture for all Israelis and Jews. There will come a day where all the synagogues will be full on Friday nights by religious and secular Jews. Unfortunately Sabbath is the day that we are two nations divided.
Education: In your opinion, what is the ideal approach to education?
In my eyes the best education is a more open approach in religious schools and a more conservative and Jewish approach in secular schools. A Jewish child should receive a well-rounded general and Jewish education from school, though sometimes I just find myself hoping that children should at least know how to write and read properly. Anyone who knows and likes to read and write is already half educated
Citizenship: The next big protest should be about…
I would be happy to see a huge protest against bad taste in our lives, especially against the commercial trash broadcast on television. But I worry that if we were to organize it on the same night of the Big Brother Final no one would show up.
Community involvement: What social project would you invest in if you had a blank check?
Well there are many projects in social welfare and charity. I would invest in something that I am already connected to – Opening of more synagogues for the entire public to have a Jewish experience. A synagogue should be the social center of all citizens in terms of culture, welfare etc. The community of a synagogue should be a community that helps and gives charity. We are on the right track but we have a long way to go.
Lunch: Who from the "other side" would you like to meet for lunch? Who would you not want to meet?
I would be glad to have a kosher lunch with anyone from the "other side" as long as they have a sense of humor and respect. I will not have lunch with anyone ignorant. I won’t mention names because I might leave someone out…