British Diplomat Meets with Prominent Rabbi as Part of GI Effort to Engage Ultra-Orthodox Community

By Yair Ettinger, Haaretz
The Geneva Initiative has been working extensively with the ultra-Orthodox community in Israel, including Shas and Haredi groups, to engage them in the peace process. To read more about our efforts click here.
In an unconventional visit Tuesday at the home of one of ultra-Orthodox Judaism’s leading figures, British Under Secretary of State Alistair Burt asked for a blessing from the Belz rebbe. The British diplomat asked Rabbi Yissachar Dov Rokeach that his efforts to restart the peace process be fruitful.
Burt arrived for a four-day visit to Israel and the Palestinian Authority to advance diplomatic initiatives in coordination with U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry. On Tuesday Burt decided to visit Rokeach, leader of one of the world’s largest Hasidic sects.
The meeting was part of a series of efforts undertaken in recent years, backed by the United Nations and the private Geneva Peace Initiative, to include Israel’s ultra-Orthodox population in the peace process.
“The possibility for peace to reign here is open, it’s the politicians that spoil the peace process,” Rabbi Rokeach said to two other officials during the meeting that took place in his lavish Jerusalem house.
Also at the meeting were Matthew Gould, the British ambassador to Israel, and various leading ultra-Orthodox figures, including MK Israel Eichler ‏(United Torah Judaism‏).
“It’s been a great honor to be here,” said Burt. “It’s been extraordinary to see something of the story of the revival of Belz and the community from the ashes of where it was, and to see the yeshiva and the synagogue, and to see what was built here was extraordinary.
“And to have time with the Belz rebbe, to listen to him as he’s talked about not only his own community, but his interest in the U.K., especially as we appreciate the Haredi community in the U.K., was also great.”

Various officials at the meeting, including Eichler, said Burt engaged Rokeach in conversation regarding the Belz community’s ability to maintain its traditional lifestyle in the modern age, and on how the ultra-Orthodox parties are managing in the opposition.
Those in attendance said Rokeach answered that “Haredim, around the world, are essentially free of political motivations, and all they want is to maintain the status quo.”
The rabbi did not answer specific questions regarding the issue of the ultra-Orthodox being drafted into the Israel Defense Forces.
However, he said “what is important for the Haredim is that they continue to embody three basic ideals − education, tradition, and family values.”