Shivtei Yisrael Synagogue lies at the border between Ramat Gan and Givatayim, two suburbs on the eastern edge of Tel Aviv, separated by a long road named after Israel’s first prime minister David Ben-Gurion. A modest building, it stands amid a typical middle class area that, in recent years, has seen an influx of young Israelis who couldn’t afford rent in Tel Aviv, and have instead opted for cheaper residences a couple of miles away.
But the people gathered in front of the synagogue on a warm Sunday evening in early September represent an older, less affluent generation. They are mostly Mizrahi men, some wearing a kippah, along with a few Haredim and several teenagers. They have come to hear Itamar Ben Gvir, the 46-year-old Knesset member who has been dominating the news cycle ahead of Israel’s fifth election in three years.
A lawyer by profession, Ben Gvir is the current leader of the extreme right-wing Otzma Yehudit (“Jewish Power”) — the political heir of Rabbi Meir Kahane’s Kach party, which was designated as a terrorist organization both in Israel and in the United States. His faction recently merged with the pro-settler National Union party, led by Bezalel Smotrich, who was once considered Israel’s most radical politician but is now overshadowed by his junior partner.