"I don’t believe it was relevant to invite such a person to deliver a speech at the Bnei Akiva convention. What kind of message can he convey to them? They are fighting against Israel's sanctity, the State's identity as a Jewish state," he said Sunday in response to a question posted on the Beit El yeshiva website.
Rabbi Lior was asked, "Were the Bnei Akiva rabbis and the organizers of the annual convention held in Passover allowed to invite MK Chaim Oron, the chairman of Meretz, to speak before thousands of youths from our public?"
The rabbi replied that Oron should not have been invited, adding, "What kind of festive and life sanctifying message can a person who belongs to a party which does not identify with Israel's holiness, deliver to the youth. I believe it's a mistake, and I don’t know who made this decision."
Bnei Akiva's secretary-general, Rabbi Benny Nechtailer, said in response, "The Bnei Akiva movement is not afraid of listening to additional voices and opinions from the Israeli public discourse. The Meretz chairman's performance did not harm and even strengthened the committee into making national decisions, calling on the Israeli government to bolster the settlement in the Judea and Samaria and not harm the Golan Heights.
"It should also be noted that the decision to invite guests to take part in the conference was made along with the movement's rabbis. We would like to tell Kiryat Arba's rabbi that the convention held this year was the first to tour the City of the Fathers in Hebron and to pray at the Cave of the Patriarchs."
'Listen and argue'Former Bnei Akiva Secretary-General Dr. Amnon Shapira, who also took part in the discussions, said that he believed Rabbi Lior's approach was flawed and contradicted Judaism.
"Those who make these claims are trying to push us to the haredi path, where Rabbi Lior's books are banned from seminaries, as are those of Rabbi Kook and Rabbi Soloveichik. In our library one can also find books by Neturei Karta. This is the way of Judaism and this is the way of Bnei Akiva, which has always invited representatives from the Shomer Hatzair Movement and the Working Youth movement, and this year the Meretz chairman."
Shapira notes that the students at the House of Hillel seminary did not ignore the House of Shammai, which they greatly disagreed with. "The question here is whether we want to live in our ghetto without meeting those who don’t like us and oppose us. I believe this view is flawed. We have the power to invite everyone and listen to them, as well as argue with them."
'Let's work together'
The Meretz chairman was greeted hospitably by hundreds of the Bnei Akiva annual convention delegates during the conference held in Passover.
"I call on you to put our political differences aside. Let's work together in the social field and on other issues we share," Oron urged Bnei Akiva's leaders. He said that he was familiar with the religious youth movement's work and stated that "we have many good things to do together."
The Meretz chairman added during the discussion that "my views regarding the occupation are not derived from a 'Tel Avivian' point of view, but from my concern for the State's Jewish majority."
Oron was asked by a group of girl who were evacuated from Gush Katif during the disengagement whether Israel was not strong enough to hold on to the West Bank territories. "I presser a small and moral Israel than a strong and occupying one," he replied.