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October 21, 2014 / 27 Tishri, 5775
At a Glance

Posts Tagged ‘United Torah Judaism’

Yair Lapid Losing Popularity

Thursday, August 29th, 2013

The Yesh Atid party, chaired by Yair Lapid, continues to lose popularity in the latest poll, with Meretz picking up the pieces and Likud, Jewish Home and Labor holding on to their strength.

If elections were held today, Lapid’s party would win only 12 seats, compared with 19 Knesset Members that it won in the elections last February, according to the Smith polls commissioned by Globes business newspaper.

In the previous poll, Yesh Atid won 14 seats, and the reasons for Finance Minister Lapid having fallen into disfavor range from his cuts in welfare support and child allowances to tax hikes and his undiplomatic remarks that his critics are like “nervous schnauzers left out in the rain.”

The left-wing Meretz party picked up another two seats in the latest poll, which now gives it 11 projected seats in the Knesset, almost double its current strength.

The Likud-Beiteinu, Labor and Jewish Home parties are unchanged, and Tzipi Livni managed to pick up one seat after seeing her popularity plummet in the last poll. Her HaTnuah party now would win four seats, two less than it currently has. Shas lost one seat in the poll to the United Torah Judaism Haredi party.

Haredi MKs’ Holy Vision: Draft Law behind Israel’s Woes

Wednesday, May 29th, 2013

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?

Lapid Clashing Openly with Haredi MKs as Country Cheers

Tuesday, April 23rd, 2013

Israel’s C-Span is the Knesset Channel (33) which political junkies like myself are hooked on. It’s better than Hollywood boxing matches because it’s just as bloody but with real athletes. A case in point was Monday’s fantastic bout between fresh Finance Minister Yair Lapid and three Haredi MKs which the former won, in this sportscaster’s opinion, if not by a knockout then surely by points.

Lapid, who actually does some amateur boxing in his spare time, was at the Knesset podium to discuss the coming cuts his office will introduce, in order to stop the deficit hemorrhaging of state funds (holding at about $13 billion at last count). It was Lapid’s first speech in his new capacity, which the chairman, MK Meir Sheetrit used when asking the Haredi MKs to cut him some slack this being his “virgin speech.” Lapid mumbled that it was the first time in many years his name and the concept of virginity were used in the same sentence.

It was that kind of a parliamentary confrontation, stormy, angry, and deliciously witty.

As soon as Minister of Finance Lapid rose to get to the podium, he was already attacked by members of the United Torah Judaism, accusing him of a slew of sins, all of which stemmed, supposedly, from his bigoted attitude towards Haredim.

“I empathize with Mr. Porush sorrow over the fact that you are no longer members of the coalition government,” Lapid shot back, clearly enjoying himself. “these must be very difficult times for you.”

That was funny! But Lapid had just begun. Next he turned on the same Haredi MKs, after they accused him of running a deficit budget. “Did you juts come down to Earth from mars?” he asked. “Were you not partners over the last thirty years in the governments that created this deficit? This deficit is written on your name, my job is to solve the deficit you created. And, mind you, you were not exactly the cheapest coalition members…”

When he presented his proposed vote of no-confidence (there was a whole bunch of those Monday), MK Meir Porush (United Torah Judaism) made the tactical mistake of mentioning that Israel is a country surrounded by enemies.

Lapid replied: “You had the courage to come and say that the most important issue is security. You are worried about the decline in the rates of IDF recruitment? Do not concern yourself, this government will make sure that there will be many new recruits from your very own backyard. Do not concern yourself about the strength of the IDF. Every draft dodging is unacceptable, everyone will be drafted.”

Swoosh! Score! Three pointer!

Haredi Mk Gafni asked Lapid: “Why do you issue Facebook Messages on Shabbat?” to which Lapid responded angrily: “I’m entitled to send messages on Shabbat, I’m not a religious man, you are free to do what you want on Shabbat, and I’ll do what I want on Shabbat.”

On Tuesday morning, MK Gafni told the Army radio it was a mistake to confront Lapid as he and his two colleagues had done. Lapid ate them for lunch and the entire country cheered him on. A Haredi journalist told The Jewish Press he was begging the Torah Judaism MKs not to play into Lapid’s hands, and instead get him where it hurts, make fun of him and his dubious liberal arts education. The Haredim will have to think outside the box on this one, or the next four years will be an endless sitcom with themselves in the role of the village idiots.

The pièce de résistance of Lapid’s manhandling of the three Haredi amigos was the issue of cutting back child support. Of all the coming cuts, this one is expected to be the cruelest. So you’d have thought that the Haredi MKs would score big on this obvious slow ball over center plate? Not on Monday.

“The people who are expected to take care of children in the first place are their parents,” he said sternly, and then poured forth a hundred years of prejudiced, Haredi loathing criticism about making all these babies without a care in the world, because the nanny state will take care of them. It was hard to watch, and if the Torah Judaism MKs are not careful, their own Haredi voters would go for Lapid next time. Already Time Magazine has included the new handsome in its list of 100 most influential people – while dropping Netanyahu altogether!

What Are They Crying About?

Wednesday, April 10th, 2013

It is difficult to understand the ultra-Orthodox reaction to its exclusion from the government coalition. After all, that’s how it goes in politics – sometimes you are in, sometimes you are out. For many long years, the ultra-Orthodox were in the coalition and the religious Zionists were out. Now they have changed places.

So what? Why all the lamenting, cries of despair and threats of destruction of the settlements, God forbid? Everybody with some common sense knows that nobody is going to send the yeshiva boys to prison camps and that no serious Torah learner is going to have to stop learning. What is causing such an exaggerated ultra-Orthodox reaction? It doesn’t make them look very good, so why throw years of friendly cooperation into the trashcan? Why incite baseless hatred of their constituency? What is going on here?

To understand the ultra-Orthodox, religious Zionists must remember how they felt and reacted after the Expulsion from Gush Katif. “How can you possibly compare the two?” you may ask. “Entire communities were razed in Gush Katif and with the ultra-Orthodox, it is simply a questions of politics.”

That is true. The destruction experienced by the religious Zionists was entirely real, and the pain of the expelled unbearable. But the intensity of the grief and the religious Zionist reaction to the Expulsion were much more than simple sharing of the pain of those driven from their homes. Settlements were destroyed before Gush Katif – and subsequently, as well.

In Gush Katif something much bigger than houses was destroyed. It seemed that what was destroyed there was ideology. That was the source of the deep pain and grief. That was what motivated the lamentation and the heartbreaking images, images like the picture of the Netzarim expellees carrying the menorah from their synagogue, creating an immediate association with the image of the menorah from the Beit HaMikdash being carried by the Jews exiled from Jerusalem.

That same destruction of ideology is what is being experienced now by the ultra-Orthodox. Interestingly, the reaction of the religious Zionists then and the ultra-Orthodox now are amazingly similar.

Until the expulsion from Gush Katif, the religious Zionists still believed that the redemption process was on “automatic pilot.” True, there were some malfunctions (some of them major) here and there but they could be explained away or ignored.

In Yamit Israel succumbed to the enticement of “peace,” and Oslo could be blamed on the Left. But when the Expulsion took place, Yair Lapid offered this explanation: “We had to teach you a lesson.” In other words, we drove you from your homes and destroyed your communities because we – the mainstream of the return to Zion – are simply unwilling to accept your interpretation, your ideology and your Rabbi Kook. So please get out of our sights and let us live our daily lives without your unbearable Messianism.

That is why we cried so bitterly. Not only about Gush Katif. We cried because they threw us out, threw out our belongings after us, and slammed the door shut – while life in Israel continued as if nothing had happened. It was much more than Gush Katif. It was the ideological breaking point and ultimate humiliation. The tears were meant to make our mainstream “father and mother” open the door for us once again.

Now that we understand what happened to the religious Zionists, we can understand what the ultra-Orthodox are experiencing. Certainly not with the same intensity, for to them Zionism is much less a father and mother than it is to the religious Zionists. But it is the same insult, based on the ultra-Orthodox feeling of belonging to the state. The Neturei Karta sect, for example, vociferously opposed to the state, was not insulted at all.

In other words, the more insulted the ultra-Orthodox are, the more they show how much they belong to the collective. And that is good news.

…To be continued

New Netanyahu Coalition Govt All Cobbled and Ready, Maybe

Monday, March 18th, 2013

On Monday evening, the Knesset will host the swearing in ceremony for Israel’s 33rd government, and Benjamin Netanyahu’s third term—second consecutive—as prime minister (his first term ran from June 1996 to July 1999).

Immediately after the ceremony, Netanyahu will convene a brief cabinet meeting, with a toast. Then the bunch (22 ministers and 8 deputies) will travel to the presidential residence, for the traditional group picture.

The Knesset session will open with the selection of the Speaker of the House. It will likely be Likud MK Yuli Edelstein, who will replace the former Speaker, Reuven Rivlin, who wanted very much to continue in his post but, unfortunately, had committed the ultimate sin of criticizing the Prime Minister’s anti-democratic tendencies, not the kind of slight which Netanyahu’s wife Sara easily forgives.

As usual, Netanyahu never shared with Rivlin his plan to depose him. In fact, as far back as a year ago, he assured the popular Speaker—who is also closely associated with the Settlement movement—that he’d have his support for the post of President when Shimon Peres completes his 7-year term, 2014.

Yuli Edelstein’s life’s story is fascinating: Born in the Soviet Union to Jewish parents who converted to Christianity (his father is a Russian Orthodox priest), Edelstein discovered his Jewish connection through his grandparents. He studied Hebrew back when that was considered a subversive act, for which, in 1984, he was sent to Siberia (the charges were drug related, but everybody knew it was the Hebrew thing). He made aliyah with his wife, Tanya, served in the army, and entered politics, ending up in the Knesset in 1996. He has switched between several parties, until finally landing in the Likud, and has held several ministerial portfolios. And if he doesn’t catch Sara’s ire, he could become as memorable a Speaker as Rubie Rivlin.

But the biggest losers, without a doubt, are the Haredi parties, Shas and United Torah Judaism. They were almost literally kicked out by Yair Lapid, who stated openly that, should he be seen in the government group picture with the Haredim, his voters would abandon him. Surprisingly, Naftali Bennett, his newly found brother from a different father (Yair’s father, the late MK Tommy Lapid, was a true hater of the religion), supported the dubious position that, in order to truly help the Haredi public, government had to first be cleared of Haredi partners.

Shas, a party that depends completely on patronage for its very existence, is seething with anger over Bennett’s “betrayal.” It’s hard, however, to take seriously the victimized self-pity of Shas, whose spiritual father Rav Ovadia Yosef dubbed the Jewish Home party a “Goy Home.” Altogether, it appears that, perhaps counter intuitively, the National Religious leaders as well as the rank and file, have been harboring heaps of resentment against the Haredim. The Haredi slights of several decades, including their occupation of the Ministry of Religious Services and the Chief rabbinate, doling out jobs to Haredi officials who reigned over a population that looks nothing like them—those slighted chickens have been coming back to roost.

Take for instance Rabbi Hayim Drukman, who responded to both the Haredi pols and to Netanyahu, who accused the Lapid-Bennett axis of “boycotting” the Haredi parties. Rabbi Drukman Argued that “the Haredi public are the biggest boycotters, boycotting for years the Torah of the national religious public.”

“Any Haredi apparatchik who gets elected to the Knesset, immediately becomes a rabbi, while the real rabbis of the national religious public are noted in the Haredi press by their first names (without the title ‘Rabbi’). Is this not boycotting?” Rabbi Druckman wrote in the Saturday shul paper “Olam Katan.”

Inside Shas, the short knives have already been drawn and they’re aimed at MK Aryeh Deri, the former convict who came back from the cold to lead Shas into a glorious stalemate (11 seats before, 11 after).

“We were very disappointed in Deri,” a senior Shas pol told Ma’ariv. “He did not bring the votes he promised Rav Ovadia, there was no significant change in seats, and, in fact, Deri is responsible for our failure.”

In United Torah Judaism they also seem to regret their alliance with Shas, it’s highly likely that, in a few months, they’ll opt to enter the government without Shas.

Israel Has New Government

Friday, March 15th, 2013

Reshet Bet announced early Friday morning that the Likud and Habayit Hayehudi have resumed their talks, after a 12-hour disconnect, and reached a final agreement on a new government, which will be introduced later today, Friday.

The agreement was reached after Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu called up Habayit Hayehudi Chairman Naftali Bennett and asked him personally to overlook the slight of not receiving the title of Deputy Prime Minister. He told him that in the new government there will be no Deputy Prime Ministers at all.

Both Bennett and Yesh Atid Chairman Yair Lapid responded curtly to a news item they heard over the radio on Thursday, that the Deputy positions, about which they had reached a verbal agreement with the Likud-Beiteinu negotiating team, were taken away.

Likud circles not particularly enamoured with the PM spread the rumor that it was Sara Netanyahu, Benjamin’s wife, who insisted, at the last minute, on sticking it to her husband’s new coalition partners.

The PM’s circles denied the rumors, saying it was just another vicious attack on Sara Netanyahu, and her personal arch-enemy, Naftali Bennett.

Habayit Hayehudi circles said in response that it was not a reassuring way of ushering in a new coalition—killing unilaterally an item everybody had shaken hands on.

The Bennett people refused to attend the meeting Thursday evening in which the government deal was supposed to be finalized, and the first coalition crisis appeared to have erupted even before there was a coalition in place.

Netanyahu had to swallow a frog in apologizing to Bennett personally, and Bennett and Lapid in return swallowed the frogs of not becoming acting PMs when Bibi is away touring the world.

Now the fact that Sara’s contribution effectively killed the position of Deputy PM, Netanyahu will not be able to dole out bites at this honor to senior Likudniks, such as MK Silvan Shalom, who won’t receive a real portfolio. Thank you, Sara.

The Shas and United Torah Judaism factions are livid, obviously, arguing that if they’re out of office, their constituency is going to be ignored. Well, not exactly ignored, more like enlisted and made to study Math and English in yeshiva.

MK Aryeh Deri, who was reinstated in the Shas Knesset list with the hope of increasing its size (they ended up with 11 – just like the Knesset before), was making the rounds all day Thursday, promising to be part of a fighting opposition, whose utmost goal would be to topple this government. A renowned Haredi leftists, who pushed his party into signing on to the Oslo Accords, Deri said he had no problem cooperating with Labor, Meretz, and the Arab lists, to bring down Netanyahu.

Unless he get a government seat sometime down the road.

Habayit Hayehudi will possess five portfolios in the new government, although those will be divided among only three ministers. So Naftali Bennett is now also Minister of Religious Services.

The 20 Likud MKs are competing over a mere 15 positions of power: seven ministerial roles, four deputy ministers, four heads of Knesset committees and the role of Speaker of the House. The portfolios of Homeland Security, Agriculture, Tourism and Absorption has been given to members of the Israel Beiteinu, while members of the Likud will take Interior, Transportation, Communications, Homeland Defense, and the Strategic Affairs Ministry.

A big improvement would be the appointment of former IDF chief of staff Moshe “Bogie” Yaalon as Defense Minister. Yaalon, whose boss at the time, Defense Minister Shaul Mofaz, opted not to renew his contract in 2005, because he did not trust the former to pursue zealously the evacuation of thousands of Gush Katif Jews. Mofaz appointed Dan Halutz to the job, and Halutz promptly bungled an invasion of Gaza and a war in Lebanon.

Beginning next week, probably on Monday, Israel’s 33rd government—Netanyahu’s third—will be sworn in, featuring 22 ministers, including the Prime Minister, and eight deputy ministers. The Speaker is expected to be the current Minister of Information and Diaspora, MK Yuli Edelstein.

In the almost-final compromise agreement reached Thursday, Netanyahu agreed to give up the education portfolio, which will go to Yesh Atid’s MK Rabbi Shai Piron, Likud-Beiteinu will get Interior, and Habayit Hayehudi will head the Knesset Finance Committee.

Strange Bedfellows

Sunday, March 10th, 2013

If there was ever a question about whether all Orthodox Jews support settlers this should end it. Haredi media personalities last week called for a boycott of Judea and Samaria products. That’s right. They have joined the BDS movement. At least the “B” part of it.

For those unfamiliar with the term – BDS stands for Boycott, Divest, and Sanction. This is a campaign started in 2005 by Palestinians and their sympathizers who claim that Israel is an oppressive occupier of innocent Palestinians. They have called for a boycott of all products and divestment of any businesses who have dealings with Judea and Samaria. They have also called for sanctions against the State of Israel itself until they give in to all the Palestinian demands including but not limited to “returning” the territory to its “rightful owners” the Palestinian people.

Most of us thought that anyone who supports sanctions like these are either anti-Semites or seriously misguided if well intentioned people. Many of whom are Jews. Misguided because they fail to see the broader picture; do not factor in historical facts or security issues. Well intended because at least in some cases they see what appears to be injustices and want them to be corrected.

The Haredi world apparently feels the same way. They could not care less if Israel retains Judea and Samaria – as long as their Mosdos (religious institutions) get funded. That is the reason for the boycott. From JTA – here is the way some Haredi media personalities put it:

“We need to think twice about supporting those who hate us. It’s about time we stop being suckers,” commentator Avi Bloom said, according to the Times of Israel. “When Bennett cries about mothers not being able to sleep at night, you can come and ask him by what right does he not allow Tel Aviv mothers, and now ultra-Orthodox mothers as well, to sleep at night because of the need to protect some random outpost.”

Kol Baramah commentator Yaakov Rivlin echoed the sentiment. “It’s time to end all these relations with the real estate dealers in the West Bank territories,” he said.

A senior columnist for the Hamodia newspaper, Yisrael Hershkowitz, wrote, “The settlements will pay the price for the costly arrogance” of Bennett.

Hershkowitz said companies located in Jewish settlements in the West Bank or companies owned by settlers could go out of business if boycotted by haredim.

Now I am no supporter of settlements. Certainly not those “random outposts” that are there for Religious Zionist reasons about settling all of Eretz Yisroel. Although I do believe in that religious principle I do not believe now is the time for that. In fact believe that Israel should do whatever it can to avoid conflict with Palestinians or exacerbate their enmity. Israel should bend over backwards to avoid oppressive measures to the extent that it is able to do so without compromising the safety of its citizens. I believe that Israel tries to do that to the best of their ability despite accusations to the contrary by the BDS people.

I believe that Haredim are on the same page with me on the issue of West Bank settlements. But where I part company with them is when they start boycotting people – not because they think Israel is being excessively harsh on the Palestinian people. But because they think it will pressure the government into continuing its financial support at previous levels. And also because of their opposition to the political right wing (that champions the cause West Bank settlements and includes Religious Zionists) that insist Haredim have to subject themselves to the draft equally with all citizens. Haredim want them to ‘pay a price’! for all of that, it seems.

So there you have it – BDS and Haredim uniting to boycott the Jewish State – even if not in common cause. Never in a million years would I have ever predicted this unholy coalition. And yet… there it is.

There is something not quite right when religious Jews unite with enemies of the Jewish people to undermine the Jewish State. Even if one does not support the settlements, to boycott them along with our enemies because of financial considerations or as a means to punish political opponents does not become people who claim to be the most religious and God fearing among us.

Although it is off-putting to see all of this happening, one can understand why they do it. The Haredi world in Israel exists financially to a great extent because of government largess. That is why the Haredi parties always join in coalition with the governing party regardless of whether it is a right wing or left wing one. It is their way of getting the most financial support by promising to vote with them on political matters.

Haredim are not political right wingers or left wingers. They are interested only in continuity. They know that much of their community depends on those government stipends just to survive at poverty level. As do their institutions. They believe that dedication to full time Torah study and nothing less is the true Derech HaShem. They therefore see all of this as Hishtadlus – putting forth maximum effort to see that their lifestyle continues unabated.

Desperate men do desperate things. If that means destroying the livelihoods of Judea and Samaria residents via a boycott of their products – so be it.

Visit Emes Ve-Emunah.

Printed from: http://www.jewishpress.com/blogs/haemtza/strange-bedfellows/2013/03/10/

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