The ultra-Orthodox community shocked Rabbis Chaim Druckman, Yaakov Ariel and Shmuel Eliyahu in the last few days. Those three rabbis, who are all associated with the national-religious camp, received a number of phone calls in which solicitors invited — if not begged — them to attend meetings with leading Hasidic rabbis in the ultra-Orthodox community.
The meetings were so warm and conciliatory that the rabbis quickly forgot the "Druckman conversions" scandal only three years earlier, when the national-religious rabbis were accused of a too-lax Halachic approach to conversion and were consequently humiliated by the haredi sector when their conversions were retroactively annulled. Several newspapers expunged Druckman's title of "rabbi", labeled him "Reform" and proceeded to degrade him with derogatory nicknames.
Three days before the elections, Shas' spiritual leader Rav Ovadia Yosef mercilessly attacked Habayit Hayehudi, fearing that some of his flock might switch sides and vote for Naftali Bennett's party.
"This is Habayit Hayehudi [‘The Jewish Home’]? This is a house of gentiles and heretics!" Yosef ridiculed.
Two weeks later, Shas' joint leader Eli Yishai was already singing a different tune. Turning to national-religious rabbis above Bennett's head, Yishai implored the community to avoid causing a "national rupture." Yishai feared reports of Bennett and secularist Yair Lapid teaming up to force a change in the national burden.
Such is politics — merciless, short of memory and lacking so much as a drop of humility.
Throughout the campaign season ahead of the Jan. 22 parliamentary elections, Shas buried all of its good faith, inciting against Yisrael Beytenu's chairman and former Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman, and the Likud with its scandalous "Dial 'Star' for Conversions" video. The ultra-Orthodox party slandered Habayit Hayehudi, and attacked centrist Yesh Atid (primarily "Tommy's son," party head Yair Lapid). Shas' other chairman, Aryeh Deri, said that what is said in elections season, stays in elections season. Deri may discover soon that (again) he was completely wrong.
The national-religious influence is encroaching on the haredi world, and in no way does Shas' self-declared title as "the natural partner" for safeguarding the Torah and status quo come gratis.
"Those people who call us gentiles and heretics shouldn't be surprised that we're walking with them hand in hand," a Habayit Hayehudi official joked on Monday.
The national-religious community has waited years for this day to arrive. After ascending to prominent roles in the army, the legal system and academia (only in the Knesset have they hitherto remained marginal), those Jews donning knitted kippot have returned to center stage. Bennett must be wary of the precarious position he holds standing at the edge of the stage — so many people are waiting to nudge him off.
Anger against the ultra-Orthodox community is justified, but the motto that "Bennett is not Lapid" is certainly correct. Military service is important to Bennett's voters, but so is Torah study. The middle class' struggle is significant, but so is preserving the laws of Shabbat.
The only principle that can save Bennett now is perhaps the most sacrosanct of all: modesty.