Naftali Bennett, leader of the Bayit Yehudi party, gestures as he leaves the Western Wall in Jerusalem's Old City (Reuters)
Israel's 5.6 million voters are poised to elect the most extreme government in the Jewish state's 65-year history.
For many Jews, raised on the liberal democratic values of tolerance, minority rights and equality before the law, the direction Israel is taking is depressingly bleak.
Israel's political system of absolute proportional representation will no doubt propel into top cabinet positions the settlers' champion Naftali Bennett, leader of the new far-right Jewish Home (Bayit Yehudi) party, joined by the muscular nationalists of Yisrael Beiteinu, backed by the Russian-Jewish voting bloc, and a pottage of self-centered religious parties.
Up to one-sixth of the incoming legislature is expected to be settlers, who advocate holding on to captured land wanted by the Palestinians for a future state.
Inevitably, Bibi Netanyahu will be boxed-in and incapable of stopping their diplomatic kamikaze acts, without rending his coalition. Conflict-orientated, the right-front - whose motto is 'Pass the Ammo and Praise the Lord' - relish insulting world opinion which they believe is naive and/or anti-Semitic.
The westernised, secular Israelis - still the majority - accept the status quo because it has brought relief from Islamic and Palestinian terror; the nightmare of the suicide bomber in their midst that irreparably scarred their psyche at the turn of the century. Thus, for ordinary Israelis, hopes of peace have been replaced by mind-numbing consumerism. While they go shopping, the settlers fulfil their "Greater Israel" fantasies out of sight, literally and figuratively, beyond the "security wall".
But if the Israel that Jews around the world know and love, the Israel within the '67 borders, believes that it is safe from the zealots and the fundamentalists waging their judaic jihad on the West Bank, they are mistaken.
Jewish Home et al is the Trojan Horse of dynamic, determined counter-revolutionares, a Jewish Falange, and once "every inch" of the Occupied Territories has been wrested they will turn on Israel itself and anybody who is not with them or of them; and the democratic, freedom-loving, pluralistic homeland for the Jews dreamt of by the original Zionist pioneers will be doomed.
Underpinning the seismic shift to the far-right and its brawny Serbian-style nationalism is the threat of Jewish fundamentalism.
Israel's founding fathers were committed modernists and believed the archaic Jewish sects would wither and die out in Zion's brave new world. But, nurtured by bucket loads of tax shekels and an exponential birthrate, today ultra-orthodox Judaism - for the first time in 2,000 years a state-sponsored religion - is a political power in its own right.
The rabbis are now infringing on every aspect of Israeli life - even death. For example, when the former Liverpool footballer Avi Cohen was killed in a motorcycle accident in 2010, he had an organ donor's card in his wallet. His family agreed that his organs should be donated before he was taken off his life-support machine, but several so-called "miracle worker" rabbis objected. They told the family that taking his organs while his heart was still beating was murder according to Jewish law. The family succumbed to the pressure, even though potential recipients had been told organs had been located for them.
If these were purely domestic concerns they would be worrying enough for supporters of democracy and individual rights - but there are wider, existential ramifications. As Israel and her friends around the world battle a raising tide of anti-Zionist demonisation of the Jewish state, they are being dangerously undermined by extremism from within.
Julian Kossoff is the Managing Editor of IBTimes UK, and has written extensively on the Middle East.
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