Finance Minister Yair Lapid on Wednesday froze the money going to Haredi yeshivas, following a Tuesday Supreme Court ruling that ordered the state to halt all payments to yeshivas whose students’ draft has been postponed.
Lapid instructed the Finance Ministry’s comptroller to freeze the payments, but on Thursday he issued a statement saying that, after discovering that the funds had already been sent to the Education Ministry, he convened an emergency meeting with his comptroller following which he ordered her to block those funds as well.
Lapid’s statement said that this was done in an effort to obey the high court’s ruling.
Now the two offices will be cooperating to separate the 18- to 20-year-old yeshiva students with an August draft postponement, who will not be paid, from the rest of the yeshiva students.
“These will no longer receive state funds,” said the Lapid statement. “Only once the Education Ministry’s examination of their cases is concluded will the Finance Ministry release the funds to those yeshiva students not included in the court ruling.”
The Supreme Court ruled on several appeals from so called good government groups. The court ordered government to issue an updated announcement by March 31 regarding the pay, saying the justices might issue a new decision should the Knesset not come up with new legislation by then.
Meanwhile, the justices have prohibited government to transfer any funds “intended to support Torah institution students born in 1994, 95 and the first half of 96, who received their draft date starting in August, 2013, and who have not shown up to be drafted based on general decisions to postpone their draft made by the IDF Chief of Staff.”
So, everybody wins: Lapid gets to show his few remaining potential voters that he’s tough on parasitic Haredim; the Haredi yeshiva deans get to show the world that Israel hates Torah; and Yeshiva students and their families get a rare opportunity to drop their nasty habit of eating several times a day and living in homes.
Beit Shemesh rose to international notoriety during Chanuka 2011, with a TV documentary hosted by then TV journalist Yair Lapid. During the documentary, we are introduced to a very scared 7 year old girl, Naama Margolise, who refused to go to Orot girls school in Beit Shemesh, due her being harassed by extremist ultra-orthodox protesters (“Kanoim”).
In addition, we see a national religious woman being spat at by an extremist ultra-orthodox man.
The central issue in dispute during that period was the attempted land-grab at Orot School, a national religious designated girls school located on the seam between the national religious and ultra-orthodox communities, by a group of extremist Kanoim.
The image of Naama Margalit became a symbol, overnight, of the struggle for peaceful neighborly relations in Beit Shemesh, respect for the law, and against the alleged ‘free-hand’ policy of the city towards hundreds of out-of-control Kanoim extremists.
Almost exactly two years later, this week MK Moshe Gafni has called upon Yair Lapid, now Finance Minister, to apologise for the “anti-chareidi tirade” which, he claims, was based on a slanderous lie. According to Gafni, there never was a spitting incident.
Gafni said that the police had closed the file, and that Internal Security Minister Yitzhak Aharonovich had stated this was because such a spitting incident never took place:
“Everyone knows that an Israeli political party was founded based on that spitting incident. One man made a television report of the incident on a Friday night, involving mass chilul Shabbos, and told all his viewers that a chareidi man spit at a girl in Beit Shemesh. We chareidi political representatives told whoever would listen that we do not believe the reports and that we never heard of such an awful thing happening.
“The incitement [against the entire chareidi community] that followed was terrible. Now it turns out that Yesh Atid [the political party of Treasury Minister Lapid] was founded based on a spitting incident that never existed. A chareidi did not spit. The Minister testified here in the Knesset plenum that no complaint was ever filed in the matter.
“I now expect that the one who prepared that report on Friday night, and is now the Treasury Minister, Yair Lapid, will come to the Knesset plenum and apologize. He should apologize to the chareidi community whom he turned into a society that spits at little girls. Let us see if Yair Lapid has the courage to ask for forgiveness.”
(Report by Eliezer Rauchberger in Yated Neeman)
The police reportedly closed the “spitting file” – and this has promoted the sudden flurry of activity from the ultra-orthodox political leadership,who are now claiming that their public has been finally vindicated.
It is important to clarify there were actually two incidents in the Lapid documentary (see full Channel Two documentary below) involving spitting/harassment in Beit Shemesh:
Case One: Na’ama Margalese – the iconic 7 year old, filmed being scared and refusing to go to school.
Case Two: Alisa Coleman – the modern orthodox woman seen being spat at by an ultra-orthodox man
Case 1 did not go to the police. Perhaps this was because the TV item was filmed several months after the traumatic events, or because it was unclear what those events were, or who the culprit was. When Interior Minister Aharonovich reported that there was no complaint received by the police, he is referring to this case.
Indeed, Minister Aharonovich stated in response to MK Moshe Gafni: “I did not say that such an incident did not occur. Only that the police never got a complaint in the matter.”
Case 2 was reported immediately to the police by Mrs. Coleman, and criminal charges were brought in court against an ultra-orthodox resident of Beit Shemesh. Although there is video of the incident, and numerous witnesses, the case has now been closed by the police. According to reports, this was due to the two sides deciding not to pursue the case further.
Mrs. Coleman said today that she has not been contacted by the court, nor was she a party to any agreement to not pursue the case further. She is now seeking an explanation from the state prosecution department “why they decided to drop such a cast iron case, which was so politically charged?”.
When asked to comment on this case, MK Rabbi Dov Lipman, whose political journey which brought him to the Knesset started with the Orot Girls School protests, stated:
“We have a clear video of a man spitting on a woman. The police didn’t say the spitting didn’t happen. They simply could not prove that the guy who they arrested for it did it. That is the entire story.
“This does not relate to the four months of assaults on little girls that we experienced and that were also caught on video.”
The protests and campaign during Chanuuka 2011 in Beit Shemesh was about the land-grab at the Orot school by extremist “Kanoim”, and the intolerable behaviour by Kanoim to other members of the Beit Shemesh community.
In conclusion, with the closing of the Case Two, the alleged spitting at a national religious woman by an ultra-orthodox man, the police have not “vindicated the ultra-orthodox public” who Moshe Gafni stated in the Knesset that he represents.
The police have closed a file on one individual, in unclear circumstances, which did not constitute vindication for this particular man, and certainly not for his colleagues, arguably a few hundred extremist “Kanoim”.
As for the “entire ultra-orthodox public”, to whom Yair Lapid apparently now owes an apology, the closing by the police of the Coleman spitting case is neither here nor there.
As far as I know, no one ever alleged that the “entire ultra-orthodox public” was guilty of spitting at Mrs. Coleman!
A late night debate at the Knesset, about a bill to correct the Prisons code, focusing on the subject of “entering objects into prisons,” was instantaneously turned into a show of irrepressible laughter, to the point of tears, the likes of which has not been seen in the House for years.
Education Minister Rabbi Shai Piron took the podium, with the full intent of discussing entering prohibited objects into prison under aggravated circumstances, a seemingly boring topic that makes the late night hour seem even later. But shortly after he began to speak, a few MKs from United Torah Judaism who were all on hand for some reason, cracked a joke—which took Piron by surprise and drove him to uncontrollable laughter. He just couldn’t go on with his comments.
Now, according to a Haredi journalist friend, all MK Gafni did was let out a kind of harrumph sound, making fun of Piron who was about to represent the Netanyahu government on an issue completely outside his field of expertise. He was, basically, saying “here comes the expert…” and that caught Piron off balance.
Peron—a former yeshiva dean—made several attempts to become serious, especially since the deputy speaker, MK Moshe Feiglin, asked everybody present to try and calm down, after all, it’s the Knesset, and people are watching (on Israel’s Channel 99, which is the local version of C-Span) – but the late hour and the fact that the MKs were really tired turned Piron’s desperate attempts to curb his own laughter into even bigger outbursts.
And MK Gafni and his MK buddies—who got Piron in trouble in the first place—continued to giggle and cover their faces with their hands. It was grade school revisited.
Finally, Piron gave up and asked to be replaced by his colleague, Welfare Minister Meir Cohen – who appeared to be struck by the same laughter virus as soon as he had taken the podium.
Jewish Home MK Shuli Mualem took out her smartphone and documented the entire event, possibly planning to use the video as blackmail over future sensitive legislation. But we got our feed from Channel 99…
I’m enclosing the old Monty Python sketch about the lethal joke that brought down the German Army in WW2 – just for comparison. It’s been that kind of a day.
Two leading Haredi Knesset Members have delivered a revelation, apparently based on their Kabbalic insights, that Israel’s latest security and economic woes are a direct results of God’s vengeance for the universal draft that recognizes Haredi youth as equal to other Jewish citizens required to serve the country.
MK Moshe Gafni of the United Torah Judaism party handed down to the common people his prophetic insights.
Everything was just dandy before Yair Lapid came along, according to his understanding. There were no missiles from Gaza threatening Tel Aviv and Jerusalem. There was no poverty. The deficit, to a certain extent bloated by funding for yeshiva education, did not exist.
Syria was not a threat, and the Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt really liked Israel.
So what happened that all of a sudden Syrian President Bashar Assad threatens Israel with missiles and Finance Minister Lapid raises taxes and cuts spending?
It’s the draft, stupid, the draft that demands that Haredi young men actually stop studying in yeshivas – except for the ones who don’t – and serve the country like every other Jew in Israel is supposed to.
The argument has been heard hundreds of times that studying Torah protect Israel through its spiritual rewards.
But this time, MK Gafni seems to have stayed on Mount Sinai too long since the Shavuot holiday.
When they [Yesh Atid] didn’t harm the Torah, there was quiet, also on the security front,” he said. “Syria was a country far away. There was quiet. Israel’s credit rating rose. We were in an excellent economic situation. They started harming the Torah; Syria got closer to us….Missiles are now pointed at Tel Aviv. I believe in this with full faith. There are thousands, hundreds of thousands, and maybe millions like me who believe this. They harmed the Torah and so Israel’s credit rating is plummeting.”
Another Haredi MK, Yisrael Eichler, has identified two wars in Israel. “The first, against the Arabs, stems from security reasons, and the second is a cultural one, aimed against the Torah and the Jewish lifestyle,” said, according to the Yisrael HaYom newspaper.
“Anyone who is truly concerned about Israel’s security knows that only soldiers who are fit for battle should be drafted, subject to security officials’ discretion, not the commissars of secular culture.”
After the Knesset passed the universal draft law, Gafni announced that only two countries in the world have jailed Jews for learning Torah: Rome and Israel.
Thousands of Israeli men fight in the army and learn Torah in their spare time. Combat soldiers serving next to my community in the southern Hevron Hills come to our synagogue daily and open up their Talmud after praying.
So far, no has arrested them. Our security seems to be more or less okay, and the community’s budget is tight but balanced.
Could it be that these soldiers guarding the country and guarding the Torah know something that Gafni and Eichler don’t know?
Yesh Atid’s Deputy Finance Minister Mickey Levy said on a Haredi radio station Wednesday that Haredim are “parasites.” He immediately apologized, but the damage was done.
Yair Lapid, chairman of the Yesh Atid party and now Finance Minister, is widely hated by the Haredi community for his position that everyone in Israel, Haredi or not, should serve in the army or at least spend would-be army time doing national service
He angered the Haredi community even more this week with his proposed two-year budget that would cut payments for child support, a move that would be felt in the Haredi community, where families have a higher than average number of children. Money for yeshivas also would disappear.
Levy said on the Kol BaRama radio program that Haredim “should share in the burden, to integrate into the job market, stop being parasites drawing on the Israeli public’s resources… You can’t keep leaning on those who pay taxes, who enlist to the army, who serve the country.”
He immediately apologized for the use of the word “parasites” and then defended himself with a routine of “some of my best friends are Haredim.”
“I still visit the rabbis and pay them respect. I hold great respect for tradition and culture, and I come from a religious home,” he said.
Levy said that regardless of the faux pas, his point stands. “You are citizens of equal rights, thus you should be equal in your obligations as well.”
Haredi Knesset Members lost no time in criticizing Levy and Lapid, who irritated them even more in the Knesset on Monday when he told Haredim, “I understand you’re going through tough times. Weren’t you sitting in the government which created the deficit? Were you on Mars?”
He said the Haredi MKs are partly to blame for a bloated government deficit because of funding for yeshivas and other funding for the Haredi community.
Lapid came in for across-the-board criticism, even for posting Facebook messages on the Sabbath Haredi MK Moshe Gafni of Yehudat HaTorah said Lapid posts on the Sabbath because he loves it and wants a fight.”
“I suggest to my fellow hareidi MKs not to play into his hands,” he added. “He comes and says, ‘We’ll deal with the Haredi Jews.’”
The head of the Reform movement in Israel was ejected from a discussion on state funding for non-Orthodox rabbis Tuesday.
Gilad Kariv, a Reform rabbi and director of the Israel Movement for Progressive Judaism, was thrown out of Tuesday’s debate in the Knesset Finance Committee for speaking out of turn and using aggressive language.
Kariv was ejected by the head of the panel, Moshe Gafni, of the United Torah Judaism Party, who called non-Orthodox rabbis “clowns” and said they “did not exist.”
Late last month, the Israeli government agreed to begin paying some non-Orthodox rabbis and recognizing them as community leaders in response to a Supreme Court lawsuit.
The non-Orthodox rabbis will receive their salaries through the Culture and Sports Ministry rather than the Religious Services Ministry, which funds Orthodox rabbis, in order to prevent the resignation of Minister for Religious Services Yaakov Margi of the Orthodox Shas party.