Monday, Jun 24, 2024

Concern For Israeli Torah Community

The Israeli government's plot to oppress the Torah world through enlistment of Yeshiva students and change to its chinuch system is gathering steam. Torah leaders from Eretz Yisroel and the United States have declared a special day of tefillah on erev Rosh Chodesh Sivan to beg Hashem to save us from these decrees. Army and Economical Decrees Science and Technology Minister Yaakov Peri, who chairs the Ministerial Committee in charge of reforming enlistment policy, announced the completion of the draft proposal for recruiting chareidim into the military. Beginning in 2017, those who avoid military or national service will be slapped with sanctions both upon themselves and the institutions they learn.

Israeli Arabs, on the other hand, will be permitted to volunteer for national service, but not forced or fined in any way. Peri is hurrying to include the proposal in the biennial budget to be submitted this month.


Roshei yeshiva rejected an invitation from Peri to come to the committee and air their opinions, saying it was “crystal clear that anyone who teaches Torah could not possibly give even one iota of recognition to a committee with destructive aims.”




A letter signed by Rav Aharon Leib Steinman, Rav Chaim Kanievski, and Rav Nissim Karelitz states:


“Our enemies outside shout out, Let us go and destroy them from being a nation. The troubles of both individual and public are multiplying; the ill of Klal Yisroel struggle with harsh, bitter yissurim. We have nothing but the skill of our forefathers in our hands – our whole strength is in our mouths. Therefore, we call upon all the kehillos hakodesh in Eretz Yisroel and overseas to gather like one person with one heart in a world day of prayer in shuls and yeshivos, kollelim, and schools, on Thursday erev Rosh Chodesh Sivan when the Torah was given, to cry out and repent, reciting the tefillah of Yom Kippur Koton and the tefillah of the Shelah, and saying chapters of Tehillim… and women should say these in their places.”


In similar vein, Rav Shmuel Wosner wrote:


“Through our many sins we are witness to the destruction of many young homes through the ‘terrible illness,’ in Eretz Yisroel and overseas, a number that never existed before, and also the death of children through our many sins… Through our many sins we are now surrounded by enemies of all the nations. Enemies have risen from within who seek, with various strategies, to disturb and prevent children and precious avreichim from studying Torah, which is the last merit for the continued survival of Klal Yisroel.


The Moetzes Gedolei Torah of America  also called upon the public everywhere to join this day of tefillah, writing in a proclamation:


“It is a time of concern for Torah and its lomdim in Eretz Yisroel. Various people of power and political influence have risen to tunnel beneath the treasure of our lives and the soul of our nation – the study of Torah in holy yeshivos and kollelim, which are full of beautiful bochurim and precious avreichim toiling in Torah and growing through it, and from whom Torah will go out to Klal Yisroel. There is a real danger that, chalilah, Torah learners may be forced from the bais medrash through various means of force and pressure on the yeshivos and avreichim, burdening their lives physically and spiritually. This must not happen.


“We also hear of government decrees against the pure chinuch against the young flock. They want to interfere with the learning of chinuch institutions and alter the path handed down to us from ourrabbonim, the eyes of the people, from generation to generation… At this time of distress… we join the call of the gedolei hador in the King’s palace to establish a day of tefillah…




Lapid presented the government with his ministry’s final budget proposal for 2013/14. he is proposing to close Israel’s $11 billion deficit but it will become a heavy burden on the public in general and the Torah tzibbur in particular.


The proposal includes a higher VAT of 18% that also includes fruit and vegetables, a higher corporate tax of 26% (up by 1%), and an extra 1.5% income tax (by January) for people earning over 5,000 shekels a month. A uniform 15% tax bracket will be imposed on all major corporations instead of a scaled tax that ended up with Israel’s four largest corporations being taxed only 3.3% between 2003 and 2010.


Regarding the favoring of Israel’s tycoons, Lapid remarked this week, “The middle class is not upset because it has to pay taxes to support those who are less privileged. They are upset because they feel, and justifiably so, that for many years their hard-earned money has been taxed and instead of helping the weak, those taxes funded certain sectors, irresponsible tycoons and unnecessary government ministries. It’s our job to change that and create a just system.”


He criticized “the tycoons, big unions and certain sectors that are willing to do anything it takes not to be taken as fools … but have no problem making a fool of the middle class. We will fight monopolies, aggressive debt reconstruction schemes and excessive concentration of wealth in the economy, because these are bad for the working public.”


The question is to what extent this will be possible. The political clout that bought these favors in the first place has not diminished.


The budgetary proposal also cuts 3 billion from child allowances by reducing them by 15 to 35 shekels per child (depending on the amount of opposition to the cut), and cuts day care subsidies by raising the criteria for their eligibility.


He is even adding VAT to the tourist industry, despite warnings that Israel is already not a cheap tourist destination.


Regarding Lapid’s intent to make the financing of chareidi schools contingent upon them introducing the core curriculum subjects, the senior leadership of the Tekuma Party (the conservative faction of Habayit Hayehudi) wrote to its party leadership calling on them not to agree to this and also to not agree to the expanding of the electoral committee for electing chief rabbis, which would weaken the power of the committee’s rabbis.


“It is unthinkable that we would be partners to the demands to harm the budgets of these Torah institutions, whether they are Zionist or chareidi elementary schools, high schools or yeshivos,” four leading Tekuma rabbis wrote. The independent [chareidi] school system and chareidi elementary schools should not be harmed, and the content of the education programs should be left alone to be according to what has been accepted for generations in the hands of those who guide this educational framework.”


In the end, the chareidim won out on this issue – so far. The arrangements bill that comes with the proposed budget has deleted the clauses stipulating that funding would depend on the adoption of core curriculum. However, the clause could still be added.


MK Moshe Gafni suggested, maybe with his tongue in his cheek, that the budgeting of individual schools should be made dependent upon their level of violence. The more violence, the less funding. Perhaps this would help solve the chronic violence in Israel’s secular schools.


However, other financial deprivations that target chareidi families are still in place. These include reducing subsidized child daycare, eliminating municipal tax breaks, and providing affordable housing only for couples where both spouses work. 




Even secular Jews are becoming aware of the extent of Lapid’s senseless hatred against the chareidi public.


The Yated Neeman of Israel ran an article by Chaim Walder, which compares Lapid’s complaint that chareidim don’t work to a similar complaint raised by Nazi Germany. After citing “someone famous” saying that “Jewry must adapt itself to respectable constructive work, as other peoples do, or it will sooner or later succumb to a crisis of unimaginable proportions,” Walder revealed that the speaker was none other than Adolf Hitler in a 1939 speech.


“Let it be clear: I am of course not comparing anything to the Holocaust, in any way. Obviously those who hate religion do not want to physically destroy chareidi Jews,” Walder added. “But they have evil plans regarding the quality of life, the ability to live a normal life, stripping us of basic rights like payments, tax discounts, welfare, food for our children… there are even those who speak of taking away the freedom to vote, or of leaving Israel, which is true dictatorship.”


Shelli Yachimovich of Labor also expressed disgust of Lapid’s aggression, whose purpose, she says, is to lull the general public into complacency.


“Lapid speaks aggressively against the chareidim and it serves its purpose,” she said. “The public applauds him. But this won’t enable us to buy an apartment, or to at least pay the grocery bills.”


Deputy Defense Minister Dani Danon said that Lapid’s anti chareidi bias is skewing Israeli politics.


Speaking about the Peri Committee in charge of army conscription Danon said: “It is wrong for the Peri Committee to be influenced by Lapid’s hatred of the chareidim. It would seem that his urge to control the chareidi populace is overcoming the need to make a comprehensive and deep change for the Israeli population in general.”


“It is important that the committee deal with all the sectors that do not contribute to society and the state,” he added. “This includes the Arab sector. Why should the Arab from Chaifa not contribute a year or two in a hospital or fire station before starting his academic studies?”


Even Naftali Bennett is tiring of Lapid’s constant attacks against the chareidi sector. He said that while he considered it problematical that 30% of elementary school students today are chareidim and many of them will not work down the road but rather learn, this did not justify the ongoing assaults against the chareidi public in the past two weeks, which did more harm than good.


Concerning Lapid’s recent anti-chareidi tirade in the Knesset Bennet said, “It is a mistake. I don’t have a problem with chareidim. I don’t hate them. They are my brothers and to attack them is a major mistake. I certainly don’t agree with his words.”


Bennett warned also disagreed with Lapid’s wicked claim that parents are primarily responsible for their children and not the state, saying, “I don’t agree with a viewpoint that makes it a sin to bring children into the world. We need a lot of children and we must be certain to make them part of society.”


Habayit Hayehudi even established a team to examine Lapid’s plan of cutting the current one billion shekel annual budget of yeshivos down to 660 million shekels. The team has consulted with representatives of UTJ and Shas.


“I strongly object to cutting NIS 340 million [to the yeshivos], and think disproportionate cuts to the yeshiva budgets should not be carried out,” said Deputy Education Minister Avi Wortzman, a member of the Habayit Hayehudi team.


Bennett also warned that the plot he hatched together with Lapid to exempt some 50,000 chareidim aged 22 and over from enlistment over the next four years in order to encourage them to join the work force will fail unless jobs are created for them.


“This coming August will see 30,000 chareidim receive exemption from military service,” he said. “This will be a national test. If we fail to integrate them into the workforce then the government’s entire burden equality scheme is doomed.”




Many chareidim are incensed at MK Dov Lipman who, while insisting that he is a chareidi rabbi, has the nerve to serve as an MK of Lapid’s rabidly anti-religious Yesh Atid party.


The resentment reached a climax this week when MK Yaakov Asher of UTJ mocked a comment Lipman made after Gafni cried out against the Women of the Wall.


“When I see a woman putting on tefillin at the Kosel it pains my heart,” Gafni had said last week. “Hundreds and thousands of men and women regard this as chillul hakodesh. I beg you – come to pray but do not make provocations. Do this [your practices] in a synagogue, but not in a place where there are so many people.”


To this Lipman mockingly commented: “I sat at the discussion next to MK Gafni, I heard him say that ‘itpained his heart to see women at the Kosel wearing talleisim and putting on tefillin.’ As a chareidi I must say that I am surprised. I don’t understand why men’s eyes are shifting in the direction of the ezras nashim.”


Lipman continued by presenting his view regarding the kedushah of the Kosel.


“True, my wife and daughters do not behave like that, but the fact that women put on talleisim at the Kosel imposes nothing upon me, so why prevent it?” he said. “This is especially correct if one considers the fact that the Kosel is not an Orthodox shul, but a holy place for the whole Jewish people, and as we know, most of the Jewish people are not Orthodox. No one comes to my shul and tries to change our customs.”


During a Knesset session this week, MK Yaakov Asher expressed anger at Lipman’s views, particularly Lipman’s claim that he was expressing them as a chareidi:


“I have one request, honored MK Lipman,” Asher said to a smirking Lipman. “Please don’t say ‘as a chareidi’’ when you are not one… and don’t ridicule people after you entered Knesset only because people erred and thought that because of your appearance you are a chareidi.”


To this Lipman smilingly replied:


“MK Yaakov Asher stood here and tried to say that I am not chareidi, before he fled. Very interesting. Eliyahu Hanovi taught us, Hashem Tzevakos is a righteous judge, testing the kidneys and heart. He did not mention MK Yaakov Asher who, at the end of the day is only flesh and blood. But more than this, a chareidi, according to the verse, is someone who fears the word of Hashem, chareid lidvar Hashem. Someone who fears Hashem believes, It’s ways are ways of pleasantness and that derech eretz preceded the Torah… The one who fears Hashem does not judge who is chareidi or not but leaves it to Hashem, etc.”


Rav Aharon Feldman, Rosh Yeshiva of Yeshivas Ner Yisroel where Lipman studied in former years, released a letter stating that Lipman does not represent the yeshiva’s views or its chinuch. The letter also accuses Lipman of distorting the views of Rav Yaakov Weinberg who served as rosh yeshiva during his time there:


“In reply to your question, the views and statements of MK Dov Lipman do not represent in any way the opinions and chinuch of Ner Yisroel Yeshiva or of the past Rosh Yeshiva, the Gaon Rav Shmuel Yaakov Weinberg. Our yeshiva is based on the foundation that Torah study is the greatest treasure (tzippor nafsho) of Klal Yisroel. Therefore, in our opinion, no individual or government body considering itself Jewish may interfere in any way with those who are moiser nefesh to study Torah.”


Rav Feldman has also denounced Lipman verbally, saying: “Last night, one of former talmidim who, nebach, was shoneh upireish, said on the Israeli radio that they should close down all the yeshiva ketanos in Israel because they don’t have enough secular studies… Those yeshiva ketanos which are the yesod of the gedolim that come out of Eretz Yisroel, he would close them down,… a rosho… He didn’t learn that here in yeshiva.”  




After being led by a troika of leaders since October, Shas has finally appointed MK Aryeh Deri as chairman of the political party. His two partners were demoted to lesser positions. MK Eli Yishai will serve as chairman of the party’s education network, while MK Ariel Atias will become chairman of the party’s Knesset faction. The prevailing view in Shas is that rule by troika contributed to Shas’s mediocre election result of eleven seats and led its way into the opposition. One Shas leader even said that “the movement was at the point of collapse.”


“If a decision hadn’t been made, there would have been a hefty price to pay, among the local authorities as well, to the point of collapse,” he said.


“The Council of Torah Sages made its decision, and the decision is clear,” Deri said. “I want to thank Eli Yishai, who, for a long time, skillfully navigated the ship through stormy waters, high waves, in the opposition and in the coalition, with finesse.”


“This is not a joyous occasion,” he added. “We are facing tough tasks because we are in the opposition now. We have the local elections, the state budget, laws seeking to change the status quo on issues pertaining to Judaism and efforts to hurt the poor… I was appointed to conduct an orchestra in which every player has a role. The orchestra is going to play beautiful music. We are embarking on a new path, together, united, and there is a lot of work ahead. We will be a fighting opposition.”


Towards the end of his Motzoei Shabbos shiur, Rav Ovadiah Yosef praised Deri and Yishai for their contributions of the past years.


“Rav Aryeh Deri was a founder of the movement,” he said. “For about ten years he was the Interior Minister and benefitted all the yeshivos without distinction, both Ashkenazi and Sephardi… For years he supported the yeshivos. Many kollelim were about to collapse and he saved them… What happened, happened. They took him to prison. Afterwards when he came out, it was illegal for him to return [to politics]. What could we do? We couldn’t bring him back.


“A few months ago the time expired and we were able to bring him back. There was a pledge in our hands. Before he went to prison we promised him, ‘This is a pledge in our hands, when you come out I will let you return.’ But we could not. Now, it is possible for us to return him here. No one can harm us. So we have taken the pledge back into our hands. This is why we have appointed him as head of the party.”


“Our friend, Rav Eliyahu Yishai is a righteous and upright person,” added Rav Ovadiah. “In my whole house he was faithful. I am grateful that he always did everything with wisdom and humility. He was never arrogant. Whatever he succeeded in, he said it was because he listened to the voice of Torah. I thank him for what he did. May Hashem lengthen his days and years and may he succeed in all he does. May Hashem be with him.”


“Know, rabotai, that everything we did was lesheim Shamayim,” he concluded. “We meant him [Yishai] no harm. We were obligated to return the pledge to its owner; therefore we returned it. Judge us in the scale of merit and may Hashem judge your likewise.”


Deri has much on his agenda. He needs to rekindle the enthusiasm of the party’s electorate, bring the party success in this autumn’s municipal elections countrywide, and preserve Shas’s power in the chief rabbinate, municipal rabbinates, and rabbinical courts. Above all, he will need to fight the government’s plan to alter chareidi education and force bnei Torah into the army.


Lesser political appointments this week included Moshe Gafni’s appointment as chairman of the Knesset’s Science Committee, and MK Yaakov Litzman’s appointment as a member of the Monetary Committee and Public Relief Committee.




Walking the Walk Have you ever had the experience of recognizing someone in the distance simply by the way they walk? I have, many times.

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