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Inside Outside

Aryeh Ehrlich

The challenges of power and protektziya can corrupt even the most idealistic of politicians, yet for 27 years, senior MK Rabbi Moshe Gafni has stayed out of the branja. “I know the system inside out, but I’ve made sure not to become part of it,” he says of a Knesset career that has earned him unanimous respect as a maverick for social causes. Yet nothing matched the bill he pushed through last week.

Tuesday, December 01, 2015

The humble apartment on Bnei Brak’s Rechov Rabi Nissim Gaon isn’t usually open for media briefings. Even now, as we speak, MK Rabbi Moshe Gafni squirms, clearly determined to protect his family’s privacy. The access we’re enjoying to this small dining room is largely unprecedented, a rare chance to speak — really speak — with this paradoxical figure. Moshe Gafni is one of the most powerful lawmakers in Israel; yet by his own admission, he holds no power at all, for he makes no decisions on his own. An unapologetic and fierce advocate for chareidim who’s widely respected across Israeli society for his integrity and fairness. An expert in the legalities and mechanics of the law who’s never lost the fiery zeal of a sidewalk protester. A shrewd, practical operator whose values still burn inside him, a seasoned maverick fueled by a simple passion for what’s right and holy. Gafni is the most veteran chareidi parliamentarian, now beginning his 28th year in the Knesset. In all that time, he’s rarely been quiet — except when it comes to himself. As vocal as he can be, the inner core of his persona has always remained somewhat elusive. Of course, there are the images of the politician building his succah, shopping for toys with his eineklach, catching a Minchah, but they are the result of quick-acting paparazzi rather than careful planning by a public relations staff.

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