Burg, Yosef

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BURG, YOSEF (1909–1999), national-religious political leader and member of the First to Eleventh Knessets. Burg was born in Dresden, Germany. His father, Abraham, who came from East Galicia, was active in the *Mizrachi and in the establishment of religious institutions in Dresden, and Yosef Burg attended the talmud torah founded by his father, receiving a religious education side by side with a general education. He was ordained a rabbi by the Hildesheimer Rabbinical Seminary in Berlin and, after studying at the universities of Leipzig and Berlin, received his doctorate from the latter. During his student days he was active in Berit Ḥalutzim Datiyyim (Baḥad; "Covenant of Religious Pioneers") in Berlin, and during the Nazi regime worked for *Youth Aliyah, until settling in Eretz Israel in 1939. In that year, just before the outbreak of the World War ii, Burg was a delegate to the Twenty-First Zionist Congress in Geneva, and after being elected to the Zionist General Council, remained in Geneva as a director of Youth Aliyah until 1940, when he returned to Eretz Israel. From 1942 to 1946 he taught and directed a religious school for youth and adults in Tel Aviv. From 1946 until the elections to the First Knesset, he was director of the Central European section of *Mizrachi and *Ha-Po'el ha-Mizrachi in Paris, which offered aid to Holocaust survivors and displaced children.

After returning to Israel, he became politically active in Ha-Po'el ha-Mizrachi, and set up the Lamifneh faction that called for cooperation with the nonreligious labor movement, moderation in the political sphere, and settlement activities in the spirit of the slogan "Torah va-Avodah" (Torah and Labor). Burg was elected to the First Knesset within the framework of the United Religious Front. He was deputy speaker in the course of the First Knesset. In 1956 he was one of the founders of the *National Religious Party, which united Mizrachi and Ha-Po'el ha-Mizrachi. Burg served in all the Israeli governments from 1951 to 1986, except for a brief period at the beginning of the first Rabin government in 1974 and at the end of the 1976–77 term, after he was dismissed from the government when he and his colleagues abstained in a vote of no-confidence in the government over the alleged desecration of the Sabbath as a result of a military ceremony held at an air force base. Burg served as minister of health (1951–52), minister of postal services (1952–58), minister of welfare (1959–70), minister of the interior (1970–76), and minister of the interior and police (1977–81). In the Tenth Knesset (1981–84) Burg was minister of the interior and police as well as minister for religious affairs, and in the first National Unity Government, led by Shimon *Peres (1984–86), he served as minister for religious affairs. Following the signing of the peace treaty with Egypt, Burg headed the ministerial committee that held talks with Egypt on an autonomy plan for the Palestinians, but these talks broke down in 1980. From 1977 to 1986 he stood at the head of the nrp, but under his moderate policy, in a period when the national-religious public in Israel started moving to the right, the party lost around two-thirds of its seats. Burg resigned.

Burg served as a member of the board of directors of *Bar-Ilan University, chairman of the Social Welfare Council in Israel, and chairman of the board of *Yad Vashem. He wrote Das leben geht weiter ("Life Goes On," 1980) and Perakim me-Otobiographiah ("Chapters from an Autobiography," 2001).

Yosef Burg's son Avraham (Avrum) *Burg was a member of the Twelfth to Thirteenth and Fifteenth to Sixteenth Knessets and speaker of the Knesset.

[Susan Hattis Rolef (2nd ed.)]