Avigdor Leiberman became known as "the strong man" in the
Netanyahu administration. During the recent elections, he ran
as head of the Yisrael Beiteinu slate. But not many people
know that Leiberman, a Russian immigrant and an avowed
secularist, has a daughter who is a chozeres
b'teshuva, who drew closer to yiddishkiet on her
own initiative after visiting Shabbos observant homes.
In an interview in the newspapers she said: "It was a
process. It stewed in my mind. In the eighth grade I made an
independent decision to keep Shabbos. It was very hard for
me. I was a child, and it was hard to remember not to turn on
lights on Shabbos. I remember that suddenly I couldn't make
things that I wanted to, such as coffee, or an omelet. But
that trained me, and placed me in a framework. It forced me
to gain control of my urges.
"My father couldn't swallow the situation," she recalled.
"He said that it would pass, that he would overcome it. But
from the outset, my mother understood that it was serious.
She supported me tremendously. She helped me enforce my self-
discipline. She told me: Go ahead. She encouraged me and
helped me to say kiddush. She helped me not to break.
She drew my father into taking lessons from a Rav.
"Afterward she founded a Tanach class for the entire
settlement. It was given by a Rav in our home. She plunged
into things deeply. She forced my father to make
kiddush every Shabbos, and even when he had important
meetings, he would arrive home for kiddush. My mother
bought a samovar and a hot plate for Shabbos. My father put
scotch tape on the refrigerator, to prevent the bulb from
lighting up on Shabbos.
There should be no mistake. Leiberman has remained secular.
His daughter keeps Shabbos and kashrus in that same house.
She says: "The change is mainly deep within me, in the way I
look at things. When I was non-observant, I was more self-
centered. Everything focused on what I wanted to do. Today, I
am not in the center. Hashem is the center of the world. I
was once a slave to my inclinations. Now I am not. This
teaches me to look at the world in a humanistic way, and
teaches me modesty and humility."
The Leiberman family lives in one of the settlements, and it
was natural that their daughter became close to the national-
religious community. But in her heart, she feels critical
about that group.
"I am very curious about the chareidi way of life. I would
like to talk with them, to meet them, to know them. They
think like I do. But they're very different. Their rigid
framework fascinates me. Perhaps they are right, because they
are the only ones who have succeeded in preserving the
European tradition of hundreds of years ago. I admire how
they remain so firm, especially in respect to tznius
and the way they maintain separations between men and women.
The national religious are far more compromising.
"I sharply disagree with certain aspects of the religious
Zionist movement to which I belong. I don't accept the fact
that we are always apologizing for our very existence. This
trend began after the assassination of Rabin, which I of
course totally condemn. But why do we have to justify
ourselves all of the time?"
Moreover, she said, "Our youth are getting lost. You can see
national-religious kids roaming about Freak Square in
Jerusalem, and doing everything in order to be like the
secular youth. We're going to get lost. I see this. I am a
member of the youth council of Gush Etzion. They're holding
seminars for us in order to strengthen us. A short while ago
there was argument between the chareidim and the secular
about whether to close a certain road on Shabbos. At the
seminar in our school they asked us with which world view we
identified. Many of the girls in the class raised their
hands and said: To the secular one. This bothered me
terribly. There was a stormy debate, until I walked out
slamming the door behind me. I'm more of a Rightist, and I'm
more religious than they are and can't stand their apologetic
liberalism. If you are going to do something, believe in it
and go all the way."