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Photo: Yosef Burg

Photo: Yosef Burg and Anwar Sadat

Yosef Burg (1909–1999)

Yosef Burg, a leader of the National Religious Party, a member of the Knesset, and a minister holding various portfolios was born in 1909 in Dresden, Germany. His education consisted of comprehensive Torah studies and he certified as a Rabbi in Berlin. He also studied in the universities of Leipzig and Berlin, where he obtained his doctorate in philosophy. Burg made Aliyah in 1939 and worked in education and other activities within the religious Zionist sector. During the years 1946 through 1949 he attended to Holocaust survivors in Paris, and upon his return he became an active member of the "Mizrahi – HaPoel HaMizrahi" movement. He headed the “LaMifne” faction within the movement which called for cooperation with the Labor movement, for political moderation, and for settlement of the land in the spirit of the slogan "Torah and Labor." In 1956 he became a founding member of the National Religious Party.

Burg was a member of the Knesset from the First Knesset and throughout the Eleventh Knesset (1949–1988). He served as Deputy Speaker of the Knesset in the First Knesset, and in the years 1951 through 1986, was a member of the government as minister in the following roles: Health Minister, Minister of Postal Services, Minister of Welfare, Minister of the Interior, and Minister of Religious Affairs. There was a short period during which he was not a minister: Burg resigned from Yitzhak Rabin’s Government in 1976, following the abstention of the National Religious Party in a no-confidence motion concerning an alleged desecration of the Shabbat on an air-force base. He was later appointed by Menahem Begin in 1977 as Minister of the Interior and of Religious Affairs. In 1979 he was appointed as Chairman of the Cabinet Committee for the Autonomy Negotiations, until a deadlock was proclaimed in 1980.

In the years 1977 – 1986, Burg headed the National Religious Party, but his moderate ideology had brought about an electoral decrease, equal to 8 faction members. Under the National Unity Government of Shimon Peres, Burg was appointed in 1984 as Minister of Religious Affairs, as the Ministry of the Interior was given to Shas. He had declared several times his intention to retire in favor of a younger leadership. Following his retirement in October 1986, he was replaced in Yitzhak Shamir’s Government by Zevulon Hammer. In his later years he served as President of the World Mizrahi movement and as Chairman of Yad Vashem. He also devoted his time to writing.

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