During a day to salute Chabad at the Israeli Knesset, Speaker of the Knesset Amir Ohana addressed the recent controversy over tefillin stands. He then took action as well…
By Bruria Efune – Chabad.org
Moments before one of the most contentious voting sessions in memory, and just as mass protests were about to break out across Israel, an unusual gathering took place in a Knesset auditorium, where politicians from both coalition and opposition parties sat side-by-side, sharing memories, jokes, and even Chassidic songs.
“This is like a relaxation pill,” declared MK Boaz Bismuth. “On a day so full of tension, we are very lucky to sit in a room without arguing, but with consensus and love.”
The special event was held in honor of the Rebbe and with gratitude to the Chabad-Lubavitch movement in Israel and around the world. Highlighting the unity that Chabad brings to Jewish communities, the event was co-hosted by MK Michal Bitton of the National Unity party and MK Amit Halevi of the Likud.
Ahead of the main session, three special committee meetings were held on issues important to Jewish communities in Israel and around the world.
At the Committee on Jerusalem Affairs and Jewish Tradition meeting, Minister Rabbi Meir Porush hosted a large delegation of Chabad emissaries from Israel and the United States, led by Rabbi Yosef Yitzchak Aharonov, chairman of the Chabad Youth Organization of Israel. The delegation shared stories of efforts to strengthen Jewish tradition in Israel and around the world, and then the committee discussed ways to work together to accomplish even more for the Jewish people.
Meanwhile, at the Health Committee meeting, Chairman MK Uriel Bosso hosted a delegation from Lev Chabad, led by Rabbi Levi Mendelson of Chabad of Holon. Lev Chabad is an organization of Chabad emissaries who assist hospitalized patients and their families with a wide variety of support needs.
Bosso expressed his appreciation for the work of Lev Chabad and offered his commitment to help as much as possible. MK Chili Topper then shared his personal experience from when his own son was hospitalized a few years back, and the loving support he received from the Lev Chabad emissaries. The table opened up, with others sharing their stories too.
Another special session was held by the Absorption Committee meeting, where Chabad emissaries explained the important work they do in helping new immigrants settle in Israel, especially in light of the recent mass aliyah during the war in Ukraine, and ways in which the Knesset members can help.
Unity Around The Rebbe’s Vision
After the committee sessions, the Knesset auditorium filled and dozens of politicians of all stripes who were all invited by the event hosts to share their own stories and appreciation for the Rebbe and the Chabad movement.
Knesset Speaker Amir Ohana of the coalition’s Likud Party opened up with his personal story of connection with Chabad and reflected on the warm welcome he and his family always received. “Chabad welcomes everyone regardless of their affiliation, with no conditions—just a desire to help every Jew feel at home. They embrace and unite with every Jew who wants to know and learn about their heritage and their people.”
Reflecting on a recent controversy around tefillin stands around Israel, Ohana declared that he makes sure to stop at any tefillin stand he sees, and makes sure to do the mitzvah. “Don’t stop, don’t slow down—continue to put tefillin on every Jew! And after this speech, I will go to the Knesset tefillin stand, and put on tefillin!”
Ashkenazi Chief Rabbi Dovid Lau then opened with blessings. The Chief Rabbi stressed the message of the Rebbe to love every single Jew, telling the political and spiritual leaders in the audience that we learn from the Rebbe’s example how to be a real leader.
“We are Jews. We are brothers and sisters. We are one country,” said Lau. “We have no permission to harm it, spoil it, or destroy it. We have dreamed for generations to live in a Jewish homeland. We have no permission to harm this dream. We have no permission to do actions that will dismantle the structure created here. Let’s learn from the Rebbe who welcomed each and every person.”
As politicians took the stage, one by one, similar calls for unity in the spirit of Chabad were echoed.
Minister of Intelligence, Gila Gamliel, after thanking her local Chabad rabbi, declared, “we need more of the unconditional love of Chabad for the Jewish nation!”
For over two hours, the lineup of speakers shared their personal stories of connection and inspiration, of how their lives were personally touched and affected by Chabad—between attending Shabbat parties as children, joining Chabad youth clubs, being hosted by Chabad emissaries around the world, and feeling empowered to act as emissaries of the Rebbe in their own initiatives.
MK Matan Kahana of the opposition’s Israel Resilience Party surprised the audience when he took the microphone and gave a perfect rendition of the Tzivos Hashem theme song from memory. Tzivos Hashem, literally “The Army of Hashem,” is a youth club established by the Rebbe to empower Jewish children to fill the world with the light of Torah and Mitzvot.
Referring to his service in an elite intelligence unit and then as a fighter pilot in the IDF, Kahana told the audience, “Before I was a soldier in the IDF, I was a soldier in the Army of Hashem!”
Closing Speech Displays Unity
In a highly moving moment, Aharanov gave the closing speech flanked by the co-hosts, MKs Bitton and Halevi, from opposition and coalition, standing together on stage with him.
After the co-hosts expressed gratitude to have worked together on the beautiful event, the rabbi shared his hopes that this unity can go much further.
“The Rebbe teaches us to set aside the external differences, the different opinions, the different behaviors, the external appearance,” said Aharonov. “We need to look at the inner point of every Jew, where we are all the same. Because in every Jew, no matter who he is and no matter what his actions are—there is a warm Jewish heart, and there is a burning divine soul.
“The Rebbe applied this attitude in his relationships with all parts of the people of Israel,” he continued. “That is why they came to him from all shades and from all ends of the political spectrum. He received each and every one with a smile and cordiality, and listened to him or her, in such a way that each man or woman felt that the Rebbe was now completely theirs, and the Rebbe was only thinking about them and their innate goodness.”
Aharonov spoke about the more than 3,000 Chabad emissaries around the world who try to help every Jew in the spirit of the Rebbe, and hope that this will be emulated by every Jew.
“This is what the Rebbe teaches us—that when two Jews meet, they should concentrate on what unites them and not on what differentiates them. When we act in this way, we discover that what we share and unites us is much greater than what separates us.”
Reprinted with permission from Chabad.org.