As the chief political correspondent analyst for the Jerusalem Post, Gil Hoffman usually considers the Knesset from a coldly objective perspective. But in a recent tweet, Hoffman, a religious Jew, weighed in on the shifting spiritual composition of the newly formed government, which Hoffman dubbed a “Leviocracy”.
“For all those into the tribes of Israel, @netanyahu is a Levite and he’ll be replaced by Naftali Bennett, who’s not,” Hoffman wrote. “But Israel will soon have Levites as president in Isaac Herzog, Knesset speaker in Mickey Levy & Finance Minister Avigdor Liberman, so it will remain a Leviocracy!
For all those into the tribes of Israel, @netanyahu is a Levite and he’ll be replaced by Naftali Bennett, who’s not. But Israel will soon have Levites as president in Isaac Herzog, Knesset speaker in Mickey Levy & Finance Minister Avigdor Liberman, so it will remain a Leviocracy!
— Gil Hoffman (@Gil_Hoffman) June 4, 2021
Despite his reputation as a political journalist, Hoffman is sensitive to the Biblical aspects of the Israeli government. Two years ago, when Israel was just beginning its dizzying wave of multi-elections, Hoffman made a similar observation.
Biblical ramifications of #IsraElex19v2: If @netanyahu loses, it ends the longest reign of the Levite tribe over Israel since Hasmonean dynasty ended in 67 BCE. @gantzbe & @yairlapid are not. Possible Likud successor @Israel_katz is a Kohen & @YuliEdelstein‘s father is a priest.
— Gil Hoffman (@Gil_Hoffman) September 16, 2019
Crown of Priests, Kings, and Torah
His observation requires a bit of unpacking. Though it is not widely known, Netanyahu is a Levite. The Hasmoneans who ruled Israel from 140 BCE to 37 BCE were Kohanim, the priestly subset of the tribe of Levi, who also served in the Temple. The Hasmoneans ruled for 103 years until they were deposed by Herod the Great, an Edomite whose ancestors had converted to Judaism.
The Mishna (Avot 4:17) denotes three crowns in Israel:
Rabbi Shimon said, there are three crowns: the crown of Torah, the crown of priesthood, and the crown of kingship. And the crown of a good name is superior to them all.
The crown of Torah study should be an integral part of the other two, as described in the Midrash:
“Three crowns are: the crown of Torah, the crown of priesthood, and the crown of royalty. The crown of priesthood – Aaron merited and took; the crown of royalty – David merited and took; the crown of Torah is there for the generations, and whoever merits the Torah, it is as though he merited all three” (Ecclesiastes Raba, chap. 7)
Like royalty, priesthood is merited through inheritance, even if a person is not worthy of it but in Judaism, there is no intellectual elite and the crown of Torah is meant for everyone. Though it may seem exemplary to embody two crowns in one person, the crown of priesthood and of kingship,, this is not the case. This was illustrated in the troubled and tragic Hasmonean rule over Israel. The Hasmoneans, who were Kohanim (priests), quickly capitulated to the Hellenist culture they initially roise to combat.
No one knew that Netanyahu was a Levite until 2011 when a Likud conference was held in Tzfat (Safed). At the afternoon prayers, the rabbi asked if there was a Levite for the appropriate portion of the Torah reading and Netanyahu announced that he was a Levite. It is now common knowledge however it is significant that he first made this known in Tzfat, which means ‘to look out over.’ It was so named since it overlooks the upper Galilee which is prophesied to be the first pace the Messiah will be revealed.
Netanyahu became the longest-serving prime minister in July 2019 when he surpassed David Ben Gurion’s 4,876 days (over 13 years) in office, though neither served uninterrupted terms.