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December 9, 2016 / 9 Kislev, 5777

Posts Tagged ‘Haredi’

Haredi MK Blocks Train Funding over Shabbat Works

Monday, September 19th, 2016

Knesset Finance Committee Chairman MK Moshe Gafni (United Torah Judaism) has not approved the transfer of $171 million to the new projects of Israel Railways, according to a Tweet by journalist Amalia Duek. Duek cites sources in the Transport Ministry who accuse Gafni of revenge tactics, saying the delay in payment would result in delays in carrying out the work in preparation for the new fast rail from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem. The Ministry is also concerned about potential lawsuits from contractors who haven’t been paid. MK Gafni, meanwhile, has told Duek he would examine the transfer request “when I see fit.”

Meanwhile, the renovation and preparation works continue full blast. At midnight Sunday Israel Railways shut down its three (out of four) stations in Tel Aviv for eight days, to be reopened a week from Tuesday. The massive project will match the stations and the rails passing through them with the new, electric, fast rail to Jerusalem.

Over the next eight days, the railway service will be running buses between Herzliya and Tel Aviv, in both directions, as well as buses from Herzliya to Ben Gurion International. Police on Monday morning reported worse than usual traffic delays in all the arteries leading into Tel Aviv.

The war between the Haredi coalition partners UTJ and Shas and Prime Minister Netanyahu over railway works that had been scheduled to be performed on Shabbat two weeks ago turned out to be a mere skirmish, as neither side was interested in fighting. However, the real battle ensued between Netanyahu and his Transport Minister Yisrael Katz (Likud), followed by a more reserved showdown with Welfare and Labor Minister Haim Katz (Likud). That internal fight in the Likud party was resolved with a win by points for Netanyahu (no knockouts, both ministers are still alive and kicking). Against this background, MK Gafni’s decision appears both vindictive and unhelpful.

Transport Ministry officials told Kikar Hashabbat that “if it turns out Gafni is operating out of political considerations we will view it seriously and act accordingly.”

Gafni, one of the most powerful committee chairmen in the Knesset, responded, “I’m not obligated to debate every agenda item that comes up. I will weigh it, and if the proposal has merit, the money would be transferred.” Which means the Railway will get the money eventually, because this is a government project, but the folks at Transport will have to sweat blood over it because of their Shabbat works fiasco.

According to Kikar Hashabbat, the Haredi parties are angrier at Police Commissioner Ronnie Alshich, an Orthodox Jew, more than anyone else, because Alshich was the one who came up with the idea that those works constituted “pikuach nefesh,” meaning saving a life, which is permitted on Shabbat. Which stands to show you, never go to a cop for halakhic rulings.

JNi.Media

Haredi Interior Minister Plans Closing TA Businesses on Shabbat Save for 3 Malls

Tuesday, September 6th, 2016

After several years in which Israel’s coalition governments have not been rocked by battles over the status of Shabbat, the past two weeks have seen a possible reemergence of those old barricades, with both secular and religious politicians mouthing predictable platitudes about holiness and tradition vs. freedom and rights. In that context it should be noted that until Tuesday this week the Haredi parties did not look particularly eager to return to those tiresome confrontations, seeing as they had turned a blind eye for ten years on Shabbat works carried out by the Ministry of Transport, until the same ministry, intentionally or due to political myopia, made public its intentions to conduct massive works on Shabbat, complete with blocking off many of Tel Aviv’s vital traffic arteries.

Now Interior Minister Aryeh Deri (Shas) has launched his own campaign in an attempt to torpedo the recommendations of a committee of experts that examined the Tel Aviv municipality’s bylaw which permits operating businesses in the city on Shabbat. Deri is advancing legislation to impose a sweeping ban on all businesses in Tel Aviv, including newsstands and kiosks, with the exception of three open air malls: Tel Aviv Harbor, Jaffa Harbor, and HaTachana Mall in Jaffa. The bill will also permit keeping open convenience store attached to gas stations.

The commission of directors of government ministries that was appointed to look at the Tel Aviv municipal bylaw will submit its findings sometime this September, and according to leaks in Israel’s media, those will include three recommendations: the first one recommends accepting a new bylaw crafted by the Tel Aviv municipality allowing 160 businesses to operate on Shabbat; the second recommends reducing the number of businesses currently permitted to operate by 20%; and the third recommendation, proposed by former Interior Minister Gideon Sa’ar, to designate specific areas where businesses are permitted to stay open on Shabbat.

Once the committee recommendations are delivered, and the new Tel Aviv bylaw goes into effect, Interior Minister Deri will have 60 days to respond, after which the new law stays. Deri apparently plans to fight all three recommendations, even at the cost of eroding the Netanyahu coalition, and his staff has also been instructed to craft an atomic solution, to be used only if the coalition is certain to collapse, declaring Shabbat as the day of rest for all of Israel and barring everything that moves from doing it on Shabbat.

JNi.Media

Everything You Wanted to Know About the Shabbat Train Coalition Crisis – and Weren’t Afraid to Ask

Sunday, September 4th, 2016

The Shabbat infrastructure railroad works that have rocked Israeli politics over the past two weeks have been going on quietly during Shabbat for the past ten years, with the Haredim turning a blind eye on them, and everybody remaining happy. Now at least two wars are being waged over the same routine works, one between Prime Minister Netanyahu and Transport Minister Yisrael Katz, the other between UTJ and Shas and the Prime Minister and Transport Minister — because the rule of thumb for Israel’s Haredi parties is that as soon as a government violation of Shabbat is exposed publicly, it must stop or the Haredim walk. That was the reason the Haredim stood up on their hind legs a week ago, when the Israel Train Company announced delays in entering Tel Aviv on Shabbat due to infrastructure work that could not be done during the week.

The Israel Railways corporation is state-owned. It means that, unlike the privately owned bus and taxi services, which operate during some or all of Shabbat, depending on the city, the railroad must obey the laws of Shabbat, at least as long as the Haredim are part of government. “Had the railroad company continued to perform those projects quietly, without media attention, the Haredim would have kept quiet,” a source inside UTJ told JNI.media. “But as soon as it became known, no Haredi party could remain in government with those works going on.”

This was the root of the crisis which on Sunday morning is paralyzing traffic across Israel. Someone at the IR decided to make a big announcement — most likely because they had the public’s interest in mind. The infrastructure works necessitated closing down Rt. 20, an eight-lane highway that cuts through the Tel Aviv metropolitan area and on Shabbat ushers in thousands of shoppers and entertainment seekers from around Israel.

As soon as they became public, those railroad projects turned into a ticking bomb. Last week, the Haredim accommodated the Netanyahu government, because, frankly, Netanyahu has been the most pro-Haredi prime minister ever, and anyone who would replace him would necessarily be harder to work with. So they agreed to the concept that there were some infrastructure projects that had to be carried out on Shabbat, because on regular weekdays they would threaten the lives of the thousands of motorists roaming nearby.

The following Thursday, before the most recent Shabbat, the Haredi parties again examined the planned works and approved three out of the 20 proposed projects as, in fact, constituting risk to lives on weekdays.

But over the past week there were growing voices in the Haredi community that expressed doubt regarding the very idea that the secular Transport Ministry, which is not run by rabbis, would rule on halakhic issues such as Pikuach Nefesh (Heb: saving a life). As a result, those three approved projects received added scrutiny from the Haredi politicians, who concluded they were no different from the rest and should be carried out on weekdays as well.

The former chief rabbi of Israel, Rabbi Yisrael Lau, told Israel Radio that secular politicians are trying to “hold the stick on both its ends,” a Talmudic term meaning trying to argue both ends against the middle. On the one hand, Rabbi Lau said, secular politicians are demanding that businesses be permitted to stay open on Shabbat, because Shabbat is the only time hundreds of thousands of Israelis are able to pack Tel Aviv in search of shopping, dining and a good show; on the other hand, Shabbat is when those railroad works should be carried out because that’s when the city is empty, and none would be harmed from potential work accidents.

The train infrastructure works which began at 5:30 PM Friday, were interrupted two hours later by an order from the prime minister’s office, after Shabbat had already begun. These works constituted the three out of 20 projects which the Haredi Parties initially agreed were dangerous to life had they been carried out during the week, but then those same Haredim had a change of mind and/or heart, at the very last minute, literally.

Initially, the PM’s office and the Transport Ministry ordered the Israel Train Company to proceed with the works into Shabbat, as had been the case every month for the past 10 years. A group of 200 employees arrived at 5:30 PM at the railroad track segment between Tel Aviv and Hertzlia, and started to take it apart. But later that same early evening, the Haredi parties announced they reject the compromise, which is why at 6:30 PM, moments before the start of Shabbat, the PM’s office ordered the work to stop.

The order reached the workers at the site at about 7:30 PM, and they dropped everything and left. No one bothered to consider what would happen Saturday night and Sunday, since it would take about 25 hours to complete the work. A similar infrastructure project near Atlit, south of Haifa, was likewise interrupted Friday night.

So, who is the real culprit in this crisis? The Haredim for insisting that a government in which they are members not openly desecrate Shabbat? The Prime Minister’s office, which capitulates to Haredi pressure because this coalition is probably the best political combination Netanyahu could have hoped for, and he’s not giving it up over one day’s suffering by Israeli passengers? Or is it Transport Minister Katz, who chose to turn an ordinary, behind the scenes project that’s been going on uninterrupted — into a full-blown coalition crisis?

We suggest all of the above. And the solution to this crisis will probably be the firing of Transport Minister Katz, because he started it, looking to erode the boss’s coalition. Expect blood — Yisrael Katz has friends inside Likud, who may rise up to defend him, as Welfare Minister Haim Katz has already done.

JNi.Media

Netanyahu OKs Major Road Works on Shabbat with Tacit Haredi Approval

Friday, August 26th, 2016

After a tense night of negotiations, on Friday morning Prime Minister Netanyahu announced that he succeeded in resolving the potential coalition crisis with the two Haredi parties in his government over work that had been scheduled for Shabbat at the Derekh HasHalom (Heb: Peace Road) train station in Tel Aviv. The resolution was that works which must be carried out because of risk to human life will proceed on schedule on Shabbat, while other works will be delayed until after Shabbat.

The Prime Minster’s office released a statement announcing the establishment of a new committee, headed by Netanyahu’s chief of staff Yoav Horowitz, to look into enhancing communication between the Ministry of Transport and the Haredi factions.

Haredi party officials have told Walla that “the crisis is behind us. The Prime Minster’s announcement was made in full coordination with us. We see it as our success, when Netanyahu announces that works which do not pose risk to human life will not be carried out on Shabbat.”

Members of Netanyahu’s inner circle have reportedly requested that the Haredim not turn the resolution into a victory celebration, and so they have maintained a restrained response.

Over the past 24 hours, Interior Minister Aryeh Deri (Shas), Health Minister Yakov Litzman and MK Moshe Gafni (both from UTJ) sent Netanyahu an urgent letter Thursday night, demanding a halt to the works on Shabbat, warning of a possible coalition collapse. “Should these works be performed by order of the Israeli government, causing public desecration of Shabbat, this would constitute a serious precedence and a blatant violation of the status quo,” they wrote.

What ensued was a back-and-forth debate as to who is in fact in charge of making Shabbat-work decisions: Transportation Minister Yisrael Katz, Welfare Minister Haim Katz, who is in charge of Work and Rest decisions, or Prime Minister Netanyahu. They approached Attorney General Avichai Mandelblitt who ruled that the authority is, indeed, with Haim Katz, but since this constitute a coalition breaking issue, it should be sent up to the PM.

David Israel

An Auspicious Haredi Generation Gap

Thursday, July 28th, 2016

{Originally posted to the Commentary Magazine website}

Reading the Israeli headlines lately, one can see why many American Jews are convinced that ultra-Orthodox extremism is getting worse. On Monday, the Haredi (ultra-Orthodox) parties got the coalition to pass legislation barring non-Orthodox converts from using state-run ritual baths; earlier this month, the Haredi-dominated rabbinical courts refused to recognize conversions by an esteemed American Orthodox rabbi, Haskel Lookstein; and for months now, the Haredi parties have blocked implementation of Natan Sharansky’s sensible compromise on non-Orthodox worship at the Western Wall. Yet to look only at these headlines is to miss a crucial part of the story: Younger Haredim, while remaining passionately committed to Orthodox Judaism, are increasingly rejecting their rabbinic leadership’s hardline positions on numerous issues, including work, army service, academic study, and communal isolation.

Let’s start with work. Officially, the rabbinic leadership still holds that men should study Torah full-time. But the proportion of Haredi men entering the workforce is rising steadily, and last year, it exceeded 50 percent for the first time since Israel started tracking the data. It’s now 51.2 percent, and the government hopes to raise it to 63 percent by 2020.

As for Haredi women, anyone who thinks they’re confined to the kitchen is way behind the times. Last year, 73.1 percent of Haredi women worked, up from 61.5 percent just five years earlier; that’s already far above the government’s target of 63 percent by 2020. And since the Haredi community can’t provide enough jobs for all these women, they are increasingly integrated into the broader economy, including high-tech. This obviously entails more contact with non-Haredim.

New attitudes toward work are also influencing a new generation of Haredi politicians. Today’s Haaretz has a fascinating profile of Yisrael Porush, the 36-year-old mayor of the Haredi city of Elad, whose father and grandfather were prominent Knesset members and deputy ministers. The elder Porushes focused on traditional Haredi concerns. But the young mayor has a different goal: In the words of reporter Meirav Arlosoroff, it’s “for as many of the city’s residents as possible to work.” To this end, he has not only brought business ventures like a software development center into town, but has negotiated agreements with two neighboring local governments–a secular Jewish one and an Arab one–to create joint industrial parks.

On education, the change is equally dramatic. Not only did the number of Haredim in college jump by 83 percent, to 11,000, from 2011-2015, but attitudes toward secular studies in high schools are also changing.

You wouldn’t guess this by looking at the older generation of politicians: On Sunday, at the Haredi parties’ behest, the coalition agreed to repeal a law imposing financial penalties on Haredi schools that don’t teach the core curriculum.

But the next day, the Jerusalem Post quoted a new survey which found that 83 percent of Haredi parents would like their sons to attend high schools that teach secular subjects alongside religious ones, as Haredi girls’ schools already do. Another 10 percent would consider this option. Moreover, the article noted, the number of Haredi boys attending yeshiva high schools, which prepare students for the secular matriculation exams, has doubled since 2005. Though the number remains tiny (1,400 enrollees last year), the survey results indicate that this may be due less to lack of demand than to lack of supply: Today, just over a dozen such schools exist.

The survey also lends credence to Education Minister Naftali Bennett’s claim that coercive legislation isn’t necessary to solve the secular studies problem. Helping other such schools get started, instead of putting obstacles in their way, might be equally if not more effective.

On army service, too, change is apparent. In 2014, 2,280 Haredim enlisted – about one-third the number that would have enlisted if all Haredi men joined the army at 18. And in some places, the numbers are higher: In Porush’s Elad, about 40 percent of men do army service.

Moreover, the stigma against army service is rapidly crumbling. As Rachel Levmore, a member of the government panel that appoints rabbinical court judges, noted recently, until this month, Israel’s highest rabbinical court had never included a judge who served in the army. But following this month’s round of appointments, fully half its judges are now veterans, including two Sephardi Haredim and one Ashkenazi Haredi. The latter is particularly noteworthy because army service is much less common among Ashkenazi Haredim.

As Levmore wrote, these appointments send an important message: Army service no longer disqualifies Haredim for prominent rabbinical positions. Today, you can serve and still be appointed to the Supreme Rabbinical Court, with the unanimous approval of a panel that includes the Haredi chief rabbis and a Haredi Knesset member.

Admittedly, these changes in Haredi society won’t lead to changes in attitude at the top anytime soon. The leading Haredi rabbis are in their nineties, and their replacements will be men of similar age. In other words, they are products of a very different world – one where the Holocaust had wiped out most of European Jewry, where Israel’s army and school system actively sought to create “new Jews” in the mold of the ruling secular elite, where rebuilding the Torah world was the overriding imperative, and where isolation from secular knowledge and secular society was deemed essential for achieving this goal. This is the worldview they imbibed in their formative years, and they won’t abandon it in their old age.

But younger Haredim grew up in a very different world–one where Torah study is flourishing, the religious population is growing, and state institutions from the army to the universities now welcome Haredim without trying to make them stop being Haredi. Consequently, this generation feels less threatened by the secular world; it’s confident of its ability to work, attend college and even do army service without losing its Haredi identity.

Bottom-up change is usually slower than the top-down version, but it also tends to be more lasting. And therefore, the headlines of recent months are misleading: Developments in Haredi society as a whole actually provide strong grounds for optimism.

Evelyn Gordon

Reports: Haredi Establishment Using MikvahCams to Prevent Scandals

Monday, July 18th, 2016

Following an increase in reported sex scandals in the Haredi community, rabbis and Mikvah managers have increased supervision in ritual baths using guards, compulsory modesty aprons in the saunas, and even cameras, Mosher Heller reported Sunday in Yedioth Jerusalem. According to Heller, mikvahcams and daytime supervisors have already been installed in Jerusalem baths.

Enhanced supervision of mikvahs is one of the ways the ultra-Orthodox establishment is dealing with reports of scandals in Jerusalem, both in and out of the mikvahs.

A source in the Haredi establishment who requested to maintain his anonymity has confirmed to JNi.media that just about every mikvah has a hidden camera. “No one cares about these pictures,” the source said, “they’re only there in case something happens, and then the value of having a record of the event far outweighs the issues of privacy.”

Apparently the mikvahcams are hidden from sight, using technology similar to nannycams that monitor how your babysitter treats your children when you’re away.

According to the Heller story, in the Shomrey Hakhomot mikvah in the Beit Israel neighborhood there are hidden cameras in the locker rooms, outside the showers, in the saunas and in the hallways. In many mikvahs the cameras are hidden over the dipping pools as well.

Access to the video records is restricted to certified rabbis, who may only watch the material in groups of three, and must verify their identities using their fingerprints.

A source told Heller that many regulars were upset to discover that they were being taped in their birthday suits. There was an outcry in Meah Shearim after a mikvah there announced that it had installed cameras “to maintain the sanctity of our camp.”

The most troublesome issue in daytime dipping in the mikvah, which is for men only, is the potential contact between unaccompanied children and adults. To this end the Skver mikvah in the Geula neighborhood in Jerusalem has hired a special daytime supervisor who walks in and out the small pool enclosures, monitoring the unsupervised children and “keeping an eye” on suspicious adults.

The reason for the intense involvement of the Haredi establishment in preventing sex scandals can be attributed to the proliferation of Haredi news websites, which over the past decade have been exposing numerous cases of sexual misconduct of every flavor, in a community that until recently maintained a code of silence over such crimes. The Haredi websites avoid vulgar language and stay away from lurid pictures — they use code words, innuendo, even scriptural citations, to wink and nudge at their readers who have no problem understanding the full message. In the past three years intense competition among more than five such websites has pushed the reports of Haredi scandals to levels of exposure they never received since the prophet Nathan rebuked King David over the “poor man’s sheep.”

And that archaic scandal also began at the bath, you’ll recall…

JNi.Media

Coalition Kills Core Curriculum Prerequisite for Haredi Schools

Thursday, July 7th, 2016

After the previous Netanyahu cabinet set a prerequisite requirement for all Haredi educational institutions to teach core curriculum subjects such as English and Math, a new bill will change the rules to absolve the same institutions of those requirements, Israel’s Channel 10 News revealed Wednesday.

During the coalition negotiations for the current Netanyahu government, United Torah Judaism and Likud agreed that the core curriculum law would be revoked. Education Minister Naftali Bennett (Habayit Hayehudi) has objected to this move earlier this year.

According to Channel 10, the elimination of the obligation to teach core curriculum subjects will not result in reducing the budgets of Haredi yeshivas who pass on the extra material. This way these institutions will get more money but will not incur new expenses.

The current law sets three prerequisites for declaring Haredi educational institutions as eligible for state funding: teaching core curriculum subjects, testing to measure growth and effectiveness, and eliminating discrimination against students from non-Ashkenazi ethnic groups.

According to the emerging legislation, advanced by Deputy Education Minister Meir Porush (UTJ), Haredi institutions will be absolved of having to teach any foreign language at all. They will also not be obliged to teach math if they don’t want to. These same institutions will also be absolved of participation in testing.

The only change the new legislation introduces is stronger controls on the prevention of discrimination in Haredi yeshivas.

David Israel

Printed from: http://www.jewishpress.com/news/breaking-news/coalition-kills-core-curriculum-prerequisite-for-haredi-schools/2016/07/07/

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