The Jewish Chronicle

RAFI PERETZ

- PROFILE BY ANSHEL PFEFFERTHE

COMMITTEE which selected a new leader of Jewish Home earlier this year was determined to select the antithesis to Naftali Bennett, who had just defected to set up his New Right party.

To replace the young business entreprene­ur, who at times had seemed determined to offend the sensibilit­ies of the party’s old guard, especially senior rabbis, members sought a more reassuring­ly conservati­ve figure.

Rafi Peretz, 63, seemed the perfect candidate. A mild-mannered and unassuming rabbi, he combined a military career as a helicopter pilot and former IDF chief rabbi together with an exemplary record as a charismati­c educator at the Atzmona pre-military academy for 18 year-olds.

Rabbi Rafi, so called in the nationalre­ligious community, appeared to be a unifying figure. He came to the notice of most Israelis 14 years ago during the disengagem­ent from Gaza, when he ordered his students not to oppose the eviction and instead led them in dancing, together with the soldiers, out of their settlement.

He seemed a rather odd choice to lead a political party. No-one remembers the smiling, always-courteous Mr Peretz ever raising his voice or being involved in any underhand dealings.

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