Dr. Avishai Ben-Haim

Dr. Avishai Ben-Haim, born in 1968, is a journalist and commentator specializing in ultra-Orthodox (Haredi) affairs at Channel 13 News. He previously served as a writer for the Maariv newspaper. He holds a Ph.D. in Israeli thought from the Hebrew University of Jerusalem and is a researcher on Shas, Haredi Orthodoxy, and folk religion.

Early Life and Education

Avishai Ben-Haim was born in Jerusalem to a family of Moroccan descent and has been a resident of Jerusalem for most of his life. During his childhood, his family moved to Dimona for a few years before returning to Jerusalem. He studied at the Netiv Meir Yeshiva and Yom HaMelfarb High School. He served in the Paratroopers Brigade's 202nd Battalion. After completing the IDF Officer's Course, he returned to the brigade and served as a company commander. In the reserves, he held various staff and command positions, reaching the rank of Sgan Aluf (Lieutenant Colonel). He earned both a bachelor's and master's degree in the history of the Jewish people and a Ph.D. in Israeli thought from the Hebrew University.

Journalistic Career

As a journalist, Avishai Ben-Haim covered various topics related to Haredi communities, including prominent figures like Rabbi Ovadia Yosef, Rabbi Kadouri, and Aryeh Deri. He delved into subjects such as the Lithuanian Haredi community, Kabbalah, Eastern traditions, and the tensions between religion and state.

His career as a journalist began at the Maariv newspaper. His appointment was reportedly influenced by political pressure from Aryeh Deri. For years, he served as Maariv's correspondent on Haredi affairs. During this period, he published a weekly column titled "Knesset HaShabbat" and exposed the controversial burning of New Testament books led by the Deputy Mayor of Or Yehuda on behalf of Shas. He also covered the abduction of Rabbi Nir Ben-Artzi, Rabbi Shlomo Aviner's involvement in conversions, and the confrontations within the Shas movement.

In January 2010, Ben-Haim left his position at Maariv and joined Channel 10 News as a journalist and commentator specializing in Haredi and religious matters. Some of his notable work included the first interview with Rabbi Motti Elon following the scandal surrounding him, an interview with the convicted murderer Ami Popper, and documents alleging that Shas received 150,000 shekels from the State in the Hulilan affair. His last interview was with Rabbi Ovadia Yosef on Channel 10.

Academic Achievements

In March 2017, Avishai Ben-Haim earned his Ph.D. from the Hebrew University for his dissertation titled "'Do We Have No Business with Mysteries?' Rabbi Ovadia Yosef, His Attitude Towards Kabbalists, and His Relations with 'Mystical Matters'," conducted under the supervision of Professor Benjamin Brown. The central thesis of his doctoral work posits that Rabbi Ovadia did not reject Kabbalah outright but rather resisted the Kabbalistic rabbis active in Jerusalem during his time. He rejected the Kabbalistic stance in specific matters while adopting it in others, even against the halakhic decisions of Rabbi Chaim Amsalem, in order to unify the Sephardic public around a single halakhic authority, namely Rabbi Ovadia Yosef. His academic and political activities were interconnected, both aiming to restore the crown of Sephardic Judaism to its former glory.

Personal Life

Avishai Ben-Haim is married to Merav Bukshitzki, a senior official at the Ministry of Health, and they have three children. He resides in Har Adar and is the nephew of Rabbi Rafi Peretz.

Television Productions

Ben-Haim produced television series on Haredi, Jewish, and Israeli themes, exploring the conflicts arising from the intersection of these topics. His prominent works in this field include

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