By Moshe Ronen
It happened on the 28th of June, towards evening. 16 year old volunteer David Feiglin and two older firefighters had just finished their shift at the fire station in Alfe Menashe and were on their way home in one of the other firefighter’s cars. Another car made a sudden U-turn on the entrance road to the town without giving the right of way and hit them, throwing them into a street light. The two firefighters were lightly wounded. David was critically wounded and was transported to the hospital unconscious with his life in real danger.
In the three months that passed since then, his parents set up a makeshift bed next to his hospital bed and have stayed with him 24 hours a day. His father, Moshe Feiglin, chairman of the Manhigut Yehudit (Jewish Leadership) faction of the Likud, spent the three day Rosh Hashanah holiday at his bedside. The center of the Feiglins’ lives has moved to their son’s room, the fourth of five children. First it was Schneider Hospital in Petach Tikva, and afterwards the rehabilitation wing of Safra Children’s Hospital in Tel HaShomer.
“Leading up to Yom Kippur we decided that my wife would stay with David,” Feiglin retells, “and I would go back home to Ginot Shomron to be with our youngest son Avraham.”
Feiglin arrived at his home in the afternoon and went to have his pre Yom Kippur meal by neighbors. Shortly before the beginning of the fast he went out to the empty street and called his wife at the hospital. “I asked her to put me on speaker so I could speak to David,” he says, and explains that as the months passed since the accident, the family has been vigilant about speaking to the wounded boy despite the lack of response.
Just like every other time, Feiglin held the phone and said “Shalom David,” insistent on talking to the unconscious youngster, not really expecting any response. But David, in a frail voice, answered one word. “Shalom.”
“I’m alone in the street, 15 minutes before the beginning of the holy day, and my wife screams: ‘Did you hear? Did you hear? He said Shalom!’ Chills swept through my body. I heard her say to him: ‘Say it again’ and he said, again, ‘Shalom’ in a weak but clear voice. I could hear it well on the telephone,” says Feiglin with excitement that was almost tangible. Immediately, at that moment, in the middle of the empty street, he says the shehchayanu blessing. “This Yom Kippur was full of excitement. I got my son back. That night I thought about [the Biblical character] Chana, who when she was given a son she sang, ‘my heart rejoices in God.’ I felt like her. My heart rejoiced.”A New Ideological Playing Field
Moshe Feiglin’s exactness is well known by anyone who has been reading newspapers these past 16 years. Face to face he is even more impressive: Very tall, thin, nearly an asceticist.
He is described in the newspapers as a dangerous and extreme right winger. They typecast him as the Bad Boy, the cunning and unwanted one who forced himself on the Likud. They’ve called him a provocateur, a black sheep that infuriates Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.
This is the man that in 2005 resigned from the Likud Knesset list claiming that he “fears entering a bottle that’s in [Israeli Supreme Court Chief Justice] Aharon Barak’s pocket,” the man that in 2007 received close to a quarter of the votes in the primaries for the party’s leadership, who was elected to the 20th slot on the Likud list, but was moved to an unrealistic slot after an appeal was filed to the party’s internal court. This is also the man who caused Netanyahu to threaten his colleagues on the Likud Knesset list that anyone who makes a deal with Feiglin will not be appointed a cabinet minister.
He is described as a cold, dangerous man, a megalomaniac that does not make friends with anyone and does not reveal any emotion. But in the children’s rehabilitation wing that has transformed into his second home, I met a warm, heartfelt man, who talks a lot but is also willing to listen, who well understands that his opinions are far from the consensus.
Moshe Feiglin was born in Haifa 48 years ago to a family that has in its ranks, according to him, Haredim and leftists, Meretz voters, supporters of right wing parties and dedicated followers of United Torah Judaism. His mother is religious and his father secular, and one of his sisters works in the State prosecutor’s office. He has, he says, a good and close relationship with all of them. “Despite the differences of opinion, we are a warm family.”
He grew up in Rehovot, where he also met his wife Tzipi, then a new immigrant from the United States. He studied in the Or Etzion Yeshiva High School, served in the Israel Defense Forces as a combat engineer, and was discharged with the rank of Captain. After his release, he founded the first rappelling window washing company in Israel, and as he cleaned the windows of the diamond exchange building in Ramat Gan hanging from a rope, he became familiar with the security procedures at the building and decided to found a start-up high tech company that would “streamline and optimize security.”
But his business ventures were nipped in the bud. When Feiglin was 30, the Oslo Accords were signed and he stood at the head of their detractors. Together with Shmuel Sackett and Rabbi Benny Elon, he founded and led the Zo Artzeinu movement, and in August 1995 he brought out 100,000 demonstrators that blocked traffic at 80 intersections throughout the country. “A Stopped-Up State” read the next day’s front headline in Yediot Acharonot.(Translator’s note: The original word used for “Stopped-Up” has a double meaning along the lines of “stupid bimbo” in Hebrew.)
The movement, he says, was a safe springboard into politics. But the offers that came, according to him, from every right wing party did not interest him. “I didn’t want to get involved in politics. I fought against the accords and I wanted to get back to my business.”