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Courage of His Convictions

Yossi Elituv and Aryeh Ehrlich

Gilad Erdan speaks frankly, in measured tones, and without spouting the clichés that politicians so often use. That has endeared him to Likud voters

Wednesday, October 18, 2017

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LAND, HO! The courage of Erdan’s convictions enabled him some years back to stand at the Knesset podium, open a Chumash Bereishis, and look the Arab MKs squarely in the eye as he read them the first Rashi, noting how G-d gave the Land of Israel to the Jews (Photos: Ezra Trabelsi, Flash90, GPO)

M ost politicians are unafraid to speak their minds — while others are not mindful of what they say.

Gilad Erdan falls squarely into the first category. The number two man on the Likud Party list behind Binyamin Netanyahu, Erdan is near the top of the short list of party members who might one day be prime minister. In the current Knesset, he holds the cabinet posts of Public Security, Strategic Affairs, and Information. Not every Knesset Member, especially those on the left, agrees with Erdan’s positions, but his consistency and ability to express his views without being strident has won him respect even from political opponents.

Growing up in the 1970s in Ashkelon, then a development town along Israel’s Mediterranean coast, Gilad Erdan experienced a series of culture shocks with his family’s sudden decision to enroll him in a top yeshivah high school in Jerusalem.

For one, he had no yeshivah background. Up to that point, he had attended only a public elementary school.

“When I was 13, my father said to me one day, ‘It’s important to me that you attend a top-level yeshivah,’ ” Erdan recalls.

The yeshivah his father chose was Yeshivah Netiv Meir in Bayit Vegan, one of the leading yeshivos in the national-religious stream, under the leadership of rosh yeshivah Rav Aryeh Bina.

“I wanted to make my father happy, so I went there,” Erdan says.

The second adjustment involved getting up to speed in Yiddishkeit.

The Erdans were moderately observant, Gilad recalls. His father, Avinoam, was a Romanian immigrant from a family that included some Vizhnitzer chassidim; his mother, Yehudis, hailed from Hungary. “When I started yeshivah, I didn’t have command of the Shulchan Aruch. I wasn’t aware that you had to tear toilet paper before Shabbos,” Erdan says.

Besides getting used to the details of religious observance, Erdan also found himself ill at ease with some of his classmates, who grew up in upper-class Jerusalem homes. The yeshivah schedule was demanding: Rise and shine at 6:30 a.m. — even earlier during late Elul and early Tishrei for Selichos — and on the go until 8:30 p.m.

Erdan felt out of place. He was also homesick. This was the early 1980s, and the yeshivah had only one public telephone, which was shared by all the students.

Gilad returned home after his first Elul zeman and announced that he was quitting. “Then my father told me, ‘Once you start something in life, you have to finish it.’ ”

Gilad Erdan shares his view with editors Aryeh Ehrlich and Yossi Elituv of the Hebrew language Mishpacha

And Gilad acquiesced to his father’s wishes. He spent four full years in Netiv Meir before enlisting in the IDF, and he retains a strong attachment to Torah learning to this day. He learned how to be a baal korei, and he even earned money during his years in Netiv Meir teaching others to read from the Torah.

But more than that, Gilad Erdan’s yeshivah years equipped him with a keen appreciation for the Land of Israel and molded him into a staunch defender of Eretz Yisrael. Once he got into politics, that background emboldened him to challenge senior Likud Party leaders such as Ariel Sharon and other defectors who had climbed on board the Oslo bandwagon.

“My deep identification with Eretz Yisrael and our legitimate rights to the Land, by virtue of G-d’s promise, is an acquisition from my yeshivah years,” Erdan said. “Much of my ambition, self-confidence, ability to work long, hard hours, and learning how to be resolute were also acquired in yeshivah,” Erdan says.

The courage of Erdan’s convictions enabled him some years back to stand at the Knesset podium, open a Chumash Bereishis, and look the Arab MKs squarely in the eye as he read them the first Rashi, noting how G-d gave the Land of Israel to the Jews. (Excerpted from Mishpacha, Issue 681)

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