It was only a year and a half ago that right-wing activist Yehuda Glick was dangling between life and death. After being shot point-blank four times by a terrorist, he managed to utter "Shema yisrael" (the Jewish declaration of faith that the devout strive to say before death) before falling into a dark sleep from which he arose ten days later. This week, following Minister of Defense Moshe Ya'alon's resignation, Glick is to be sworn in to the Knesset, which will make him perhaps the most controversial MK in the current government, having incited severe criticism from the Palestinians, the left, and the right.
"I feel that God hugged me, and that he didn't let me go for a minute while my life was in danger, wrapping me up in so much love," said Glick. "I was in such critical condition that a lot of people thought I wasn't going to make it, and that if I were, I'd be severely disabled for the rest of my life. And now here I am, standing on my own two feet and being sworn in to the Knesset. God must have thought I still have things to do in the Knesset. I'm glad to be alive and have God put his faith in me."
Glick's politics are tricky to pin down. On the one hand, he is considered an extremist who fights for the entry of Jews to the Temple Mount, which could potentially ignite the Middle East and the entire world at large. On the other hand, he is one of the most vocal detractors of Sgt. Elor Azaria, who shot a neutralized terrorist to death earlier this year. His stance earned Glick some new enemies, this time from the right. Glick has also voiced criticism over Yisrael Beytenu Leader Avigdor Lieberman's appointment as minister of defense and has pushed instead for a unity government with the Labor Party. This is despite the fact that it was Lieberman's recent agreement with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu that facilitated Glick's entry to the government.
"I understand Ya'alon's pain," said Glick. "But I think he shouldn't have resigned, and I even call upon him now—if there is still a chance—to stay. Ya'alon is an asset to the people of Israel and certainly to Likud."
Do you recant the things you said about Lieberman?
"I wish him a lot of luck. His success is our success. The position of minister of defense is the most senior position apart from that of the prime minister, and I hope he understands the obligation that comes with it. I also didn't like the comments Lieberman made against (Zionist Union Leader) Isaac Herzog. (Herzog) tried to do what he thought should be done, but the level of ridicule aimed at him at this point is beyond the pale."
Attacks from the rightGlick, 51, vividly remembers October 29, 2014. "I was at an annual event celebrating the Rambam's visit to the Temple Mount," he recalled. "The event included a left-wing speaker and a Muslim and invoked a feeling of solidarity and strength. As it was winding down, the only people left were me and two of my friends, Moriah and Shai. My wife Yafi was bringing the car around. I started walking toward the car to load it up, when a short man with a small container stopped next to me. He said, 'I'm so sorry,' and since I didn't understand what he was referring to, I came closer. That was when he pulled out a gun, said, 'You're an enemy of Al-Aqsa' and shot me point-blank with four bullets in the center of my body.
"All four bullets entered and exited my body. I started bleeding. Moriah and Shai ran over to me, and I ran toward them, or rather limped. Then I lay down on the sidewalk. A few seconds later, Shai reached me. I hear Moriah saying, 'He's completely pale,' and Shai saying, 'We just witnessed a murder. Go take care of Yafi, and I'll take care of Yehuda.'"
"Shai lay on me, took my shirt off and screamed into my ear something I'll never forget: 'Rabbi Yehuda, don't leave us, we need you.' That was when I realized I was in mortal danger. Shai was on the phone with a paramedic friend of his, who was guiding him in how to treat me. He was trying to stop the blood when I began to stutter 'Shema Yisrael.' They put me in an ambulance, and my wife came in with me and held my hand. She spoke to me while I tried to calm her down. That was when I started losing consciousness."
Did the assassination attempt change you?
"I suppose it did. It became even clearer to me how dangerous violence can be, and how we as a democracy need to make sure that elected officials working toward certain principles are safe. One of the surgeons who operated on me was Muslim, and I think he did a lot more for Islam than the Muslim who shot me in the name of Islam. People who think God wants them to promote hatred are misinterpreting his will. Despite being all the more committed to the mission God has created me, I feel it has given me a new path for a dialogue with the many people who are willing to listen."
The Palestinians see you as a symbol for the extreme right, with your entry in to the Knesset together with Lieberman's new appointment seen as a radical break to the right.
"The Palestinian press is full of attacks against me as a radical Jew. They're right. I'm very extreme in my belief in peace. I'm extreme in my faith in a respectful dialogue, and that bothers those whose agenda is built on violence and hate. I'll keep working toward peace as well as human rights for everyone, and I'm sorry for any person who refuses to engage in a dialogue with me."
The father of eight (two of them foster children) and grandfather of six, Glick, who lives in the settlement of Otniel, has repeatedly enraged Palestinians, left-wing activists and moderate centrists. Over the last few months, he has even managed to anger his friends from the right when expressing his shock at the Hebron soldier who shot a neutralized terrorist. "The fact that the terrorist who set out on this mission didn't believe he would survive does not justify the soldier's horrifying actions," Glick had written on Twitter, adding that, despite the incident, the IDF remains the most moral army in the world.
Not that defending the IDF did him any good. Moments after the tweet went up, the soldier's supporters already began attacking him. The same day, Glick posted another tweet, saying, "It is grotesque and sickening to see the malicious satisfaction of those who dance upon the blood and protest the IDF following the soldier's behavior. No less sickening, though, are those who praise his actions." At this point, his Twitter and Facebook feeds began to fill up with personal threats, among them, "I'll get you yet, you stinking leftie," "Too bad they didn't murder you when you were injured" and "Too bad this is the man we were happy didn't die."
'We will be victorious at the Temple Mount!'Glick's Facebook cover photo has "We will be victorious at the Temple Mount!" written in bold letters, with his redheaded face appearing in his profile picture below. His father, former dean of the Faculty of Health Sciences at Ben-Gurion University, Prof. Shimon Glick, described his son during an interview to Ynet's sister publication, Yedioth Ahronoth, after his assassination attempt. "We agreed to disagree, and I love him with all my heart," said the senior Glick, whose political views differ from those of his son.
How does your father, a human rights activist, react to your joining the Knesset?
"My father is a very dear man. I myself am a human rights activist. I'm a very extreme person, who believes in human rights in an extreme way, and I got all that from my father. He is a humanist; he truly loves mankind."
"We don't always see eye to eye, but he was the one who taught me Jewish and Western values, which talk about a plethora of opinions. My parents taught me about human dignity, and that you should listen to the opinions of those who don't necessarily voice your own. The two of us communicate on a daily basis. He advises, encourages, supports and sometimes reprimands me. At times I accept what he tells me and at times I don't. He respects that."
What will do as an MK?
"I don't want to come out with any big declarations yet. Working in the Knesset is a team effort, not a solo one, and I'm going to be part of a wonderful, diverse group called Likud. We have a real democracy complete with distinct opinions. I am entering a government that is headed by a man, who despite what is said about him cares about the country and its people. I hope that I'll act in a cordial and open manner, and enter into a dialogue with people from all walks of life, both from the coalition and the opposition. I hope to be a part of promoting peace."
Glick continued, "I was elected to represent the Judea and Samaria region, and as their representative I am committed to doing anything to improve the security and quality of life in the area. There are half a million citizens living in the area (Jewish citizens. —NB) who should all have equal rights, and I hope we will figure out how to cohabitate in peace with the Arabs living with us."
Will you visit the Temple Mount as an MK?
"I hope so. I'm all for Jews and Muslims visiting the Temple Mount together, but if Prime Minister Netanyahu asks me not to go there, I won't."
You said the Temple Mount will be a center for peace.