Key Text: “I speak in a gentle voice, I know, and you can be misled to think that my message is also calling to form a gentle and compromising center. But it’s the exact opposite. The center I’m talking about is a principled center, a zealot’s center, that’s not willing to compromise about its “centeredness.” About its responsibility for all of the residents of our country. About the role that it plays for all those who really want to live together.
It puts a limit on self-righteousness, a limit on selfishness. A center that is willing to sacrifice in the name of moderation and democracy, of a Judaism that makes place for others. A center that with its very being protects the rules that allow us to manage our differences without breaking us into pieces.”
- Like Peter Beinart’s controversial essay that came out at the same time as her speech, most of Tehilla’s Friedman’s vision is based on an interpretation of the circumstances that led Yochanan Ben Zakkai to establish Yavne. Yet Friedman takes a very different lesson from the events of 70 CE. In her first speech to the Knesset, the religious Zionist feminist MK called to establish a “covenant of moderates” with Haredi, Arab, Druze, Ethiopian and other minority MKs, to take the power away from the extremes on both sides and bring it to the radical center. In an era where people on both the far left and far right are the ones usually called extremists, with those in the center being classified as moderates, what does it mean to be a ‘zealot centrist’?
- For which values and beliefs should someone who describes themselves as a ‘radical centrist’ refuse to compromise?
- Referring to the pandemic, Friedman says, “In the middle of the Corona days, in the heart of a health, economic and social crisis the likes of which we’ve never experienced before, after a year and a half without an approved budget, with a troubling deficit and an economic depression, we have again those voices that would like us to chop off our brother’s head, that want to take every social wound and scar and scratch it until it bleeds, once again indifferent and scornful of the pain of others.We have to stop this. We need to stop trying to win. We shouldn’t let the first Israel impose their will over the second Israel, but we also shouldn’t let the second Israel impose their will over the first Israel. We must not try to beat each other.”Given that we live in a world where many view politics as something akin to a bloodsport with clear winners and losers, why do you think Friedman was so at pains to emphasize the purpose of politics as being nation building rather than winning or holding on to ideological purity at all costs?
- Why do you think her party’s decision to break an election promise by sitting with Netanyahu, even though they believed it was for the good of the nation, cost them so badly in the polls? What lesson can this teach us about what Israelis expect from their political leaders?