Tuesday, May 28, 2024

Election for Israel’s Chief Rabbis Victory for Chareidi Candidates

Israel's most tumultuous chief rabbinate election in living memory ended in a resounding victory for the chareidi candidates. The race was won by Rav Yitzchok Yosef, son of former Sefardi Chief Rabbi Rav Ovadiah Yosef, and Rav Dovid Lau, son of former Ashkenazi Chief Rabbi Rav Yisroel Meir Lau. Their triumph was a crushing defeat for Naftali Bennett, who had promised his party “at least one Zionist rabbi.”

The basis of the chareidi success was a deal forged between Rav Yosef and Rav Aharon Leib Shteinman barely a week before the election, each agreeing to support both candidates. Both Torah leaders invested huge efforts influencing people to vote for their candidates. The success was especially welcome amid the Torah world’s present political low, with both Shas and United Torah Judaism locked out of the governing coalition, It was also a knockout blow to Naftali Bennett, who dreamed of revolutionizing the rabbinate in his capacity as Minister of Religious Services.


Rav Yitzchak Yosef and Rav Dovid Lau both received 68 votes from a panel of 147 rabbonim, religious council heads, mayors, ministers, and MKs. Three voters were absent. Sefardi runners-up were Rav Shmuel Eliyahu of Tzefas, who received 49 votes, and Rav Tzion Boaran, who garnered 28 votes. Ashkenazi runners-up were Rav Dovid Stav, rov of Shoham and chairman of the Tzohar movement, with 54 votes, and Rav Yaakov Shapira, rosh yeshiva of Yeshiva Mercaz Harav, who received 25 votes.


Princes Alliance


Nicknamed the “Princes Alliance” due to their fathers having served as chief rabbis in the past, the winners, Rav Yosef and Rav Lau, will serve as chief rabbis of Israel for the next ten years. Rav Yosef is presently head of Yeshiva Chazon Ovadiah and is the author of the popular Yalkut Yosef, which contain his father’s pesokim. He studied in Yeshivas Hanegev of Tifrach and at Yeshivas Chevron in Yerushalayim.


Rav Dovid Lau studied in Yeshiva Hayishuv Hachodosh in Tel Aviv and in Yeshivas Beis Matisyahu in Bnei Brak. He is rov of the mostly secular town of Modi’in, where he has used innovative tactics to draw every sector of the community closer to Torah and mitzvos.


Both winners stressed that they will be chief rabbis for everyone.


“This is a joyous occasion, of course, but there is also a sense of great responsibility,” Rav Lau said. “I was sitting with my father when the results came in. He hugged me and told me that I have a heavy burden to carry. I pray that I will be everyone’s rov and that the chief rabbinate will be everyone’s rabbinate.”


“In these times, when polarity of the Jewish people is widening, the chief rabbi must serve as a bridge and use all his strength to unite the people and not distance them, to find a way to draw people close and not drive them away from the mesores,” he said later. “With Hashem’s help, we will achieve this.”


“I thank Hashem that I will now sit on the same seat as my father, the seat of the Rishon LeTzion of gedolei olam,” Rav Yosef said. “It is no secret that the Chief Rabbinate has been facing tumultuous times and there is a very important need to rehabilitate its status amongst the people. I will be the chief rabbi of everyone, whoever they are, observant or non-observant, chareidim or Religious Zionist, the whole nation of IsraelI will do everything possible to make the Torah beloved by all sectors.”


The morning of the election began with Rav Dovid Lau attending the bris of his first grandson. At the same time, Rav Dovid Stav was on his way to daven at the Kosel and Rav Yitzchok Yosef was delivering a daily shiur. Later in the day, many candidates visited kivrei tzaddikim .


At 3 p.m., the 147 voters began entering Yerushalayim’s Leonardo Plaza Hotel to cast a secret ballot. They were greeted in the lobby by a wall-to-wall crowd that included most of the rabbinical candidates and their lobbyists. Just before the two winners were announced at about 8 p.m., Habayit Hayehudi politicians crowded towards the microphone, certain that their candidate, Rav Stav, would be the winner. Two minutes later, they left the hotel in despair.


Rav Ovadiah Yosef spoke briefly to his son, Rav Yitzchok, before going down to his bais medrash and describing his relief at the victory.


“I almost lost hope. I was in great distress,” he said. “Many were fighting against us. But Hashem fulfilled the verse, ‘He does the will of those who fear Him.’ I just said a few words to [Rav Yitzchok], instructing him, ‘My son, if your heart is wise, my heart too shall rejoice. Deal with people gently and with ahavas Yisroel, for the Torah’s ways are darchei no’am. Have compassion upon agunos,for they are unfortunate. My son, have love for Jews and have mercy upon them.’”


At a celebration in Rav Dovid Lau’s Modi’in home, Rav Yisroel Meir Lau said that his son’s victory was a triumph over the Holocaust he survived as a child.


“I am the 38th generation of a rabbinic dynasty,” he said. “37 generations were in Europe, starting, as I know, with the Maharam of Padua in Italy. We were in Poland, Galicia, Czechoslovakia, Hungary, Romania, mainly in Poland. Now I am the first chief rabbi of the family to live in Israel and my son, who was elected tonight, is the first of the family born in Israel. He is the continuity of the dynasty. So I hope that everyone understands that this is a victory to show the Nazis, who wanted to extinguish the candle, that we are a nation of immortality and eternity.”


Speaking to the new rabbis in his Tel Aviv office, Prime Minister Binyomin Netanyahu stressed the need for love and unity.


“You are the rabbis of the whole Israeli people,” he said. “You are the rabbis of the non-religious public that needs your help, your patience, and forbearance. Work for the unity of Israel and to achieve ahavas Yisroel. 


What was the secret of the chareidi triumph? Deputy Minister of Religious Affairs Eli Ben Dahan admitted that they won because of obedience to great Torah leaders. When Rav Ovadiah Yosef asked chief rabbinate candidates to drop out the race, most left, and when he encouraged people to vote for his son, they voted.


“On the one hand, I see this as a positive thing. It’s good to see the public listening to a Torah sage,” said Ben Dahan. “But on the other hand, the public passed up on the Religious-Zionist rabbis who are connected to the state… If Rav [Avrohom] Shapira or Rav [Mordechai] Eliyahu had told a certain rov, ‘Withdraw your candidacy. You are doing harm,’ he would have done it. But we do not have that today.”


“The mayors and heads of the religious councils who visited Rav Ovadiah in his home and who in turn were blessed by him and encouraged to elect [Rav] Yosef and [Rav} Lau simply could not say no to him after they gave him his word,” a Shas source said. “Very few would dare to lie and vote for another candidate in the voting booth after promising Rav Yosef that they would support his candidate.”


MK Aryeh Deri spent the previous week bringing over 70 members of the voting panel to Rav Ovadiah’s home for his personal encouragement. Deri said that he would have resigned if Rav Yitzchok Yosef lost and that he even wrote a resignation letter in advance for the purpose.


Rav Shteinman told people to do everything possible for the nomination of Rav Lau and Rav Yosef, and constantly davened and recited Tehillim for their success.


Rav Stav lost despite spending millions of dollars on a public relations campaign for over a year and despite his sponsor, Naftali Bennett, adding ten new people to the voting body, and despite support from Yair Lapid’s Yesh Atid, Hatnuah, and many Likud and Labor MKs.


Rav Stav was a sore loser, insisting that his loss of the race was a loss to Israel.


“Personally, I feel fine. I feel greatly relieved,” he said. “But on a public level, it’s a great loss for the Jewish people. I didn’t run for myself. I wasn’t looking for a position or a job. I came to offer the Jewish people something new. But unfortunately, the chareidi system of askonim defeated the Jewish people, and I think that the Jewish people will respond accordingly. Thousands of more couples will go to Cyprus to marry and tens of thousands more Jews will not be recognized as such by religious law because no one will help them. Israeli farming could collapse because of matters having to do with Shmittah. But we at Tzohar are not giving up. We will continue bringing people close to the Torah of Israel.”


Rav Stav added that his loss in the elections would increase the power of his alternative rabbinical organization, Tzohar.


“Hashem’s will was for us not to achieve the Tzohar revolution within the system,” he wrote. “But we will confidently continue striving to unite Judaism to the whole Jewish people according to halachah and with love, so that we should not, chalilah, split into two peoples. Hopefully, just as we changed the agenda of all the candidates of this election who, because of Tzohar, spoke primarily of kiruv levavos and unity with the secular and traditional public, so will we continue to influence the approach of the rabbinate on burning issues such as determining a person’s Jewish identity, kashrus, Shmittah, geirus, and marriage according to halachah.


Rav Stav is abhorred by the chareidi community for his opposition to chareidi rabbonim andhis progressive halachic views. His dream was to continue the halachic revolution of his Tzohar organization within the Chief Rabbinate.


Like Rav Stav, Bennett also played down the defeat, claiming that he would revolutionize the rabbinate even if its new chief rabbis were not to his liking.


“The present voting process emphasized the need to make substantive changes in the rabbinate,” he said. “Rav Yosef and Rav Lau will be part of a revolution Habayit Hayehudi will lead in the Religious Ministry. This has already begun with the ‘choose your own rov’ [for wedding ceremonies], with a reduction in the number of religious councils, and the end of political appointments in religious councils. Next time around, just as Israel has only one chief of staff and one president, so it will have only one chief rabbi.”


Bennett was referring to a plan to allow couples to register their marriages wherever they please and escape excessive scrutiny of their credentials, and another plan to provide communities with government funding for rabbis of their own choosing, instead of government-appointed rabbis, which would enable Reform and Conservative rabbis to get official positions.


“He is a big chutzpan,” MK Moshe Gafni said in reaction to Bennett’s statement. “His behavior is a big chutzpah. He simply doesn’t know how to lose honorably. I’ll tell you why. Obviously, if two chief rabbis identified with him were elected, he would have been happy and not said such a thing. It may be true that only one chief rabbi is needed, but what’s that got to do with the present? Right now, two worthy chief rabbis were chosen, one Sefardi and one Ashkenazi, for a period of ten years. No one can stop them from serving, so what’s there for you to talk about? Where will you be in ten years’ time? Why are you talking now about the [future] nomination of a chief rabbi? You should know how to lose honorably.”


Yair Lapid played down Rav Stav’s defeat even more dramatically, saying that the rabbinate was in any case irrelevant to much of the Israeli public.


“The elections for the chief rabbinate are over,” he said. “The institution that was already irrelevant to the lives and worldview of many Israelis will continue to be so for the next ten years. Whoever wants to use the services of the rabbinate may certainly do so, but it is unfeasible that they should have no alternative. The time has come to have [secular] marriage covenants that will provide a solution to non-Jews and all those nice Israelis who simply want to get married without the involvement of the religious establishment.”


Anatomy of a Defeat


Prime Minister Netanyahu is close to the Lau family and encouraged electors to vote for Rav Dovid Lau. Former Prime Minister Ehud Olmert and Avigdor Lieberman, head of Yisrael Beiteinu, also supported the chareidi candidates.


Habayit Hayehudi would have been better advised to back a candidate more acceptable to the chareidim.


UTJ representatives reportedly tried to engineer such a deal, secretly meeting Habayit Hayehudi politicians five times in an attempt to persuade them to replace Rav Stav with a more acceptable candidate, such as Rav Eliezer Igra, Rav Yaakov Shapira, or Rav Micha Levi, the rov of Petach Tikvah.


“Set one of these up as your candidate and you will get our support,” they said.


The last such meeting took place a month ago, shortly before Habayit Hayehudi settled on Rav Stav as its official candidate.


“This shows Bennett’s political ineptness,” a UTJ source said. “His obstinate pact with Lapid destroyed his chance of success.”


Rav Mordechai Nagari, Religious-Zionist rov of Maaleh Adumim, said that Religious-Zionist candidates lost the race as Divine retribution for their war against the chareidim.


“Unfortunately, the terrible stupidity of the Religious-Zionist movement, which supported the enlistment law just this week, created a war of the general public against the Torah scholars,” he told Arutz Sheva. “Of course the Torah scholars rose like lions to vote against Religious-Zionism, no matter who its candidates were. It was a war, one camp against the other. The minute that the great Torah sages, Rav Ovadiah [Yosef] and Rav Shteinman entered the picture, the battle was decided.


“Every time the Religious-Zionist community goes up against the chareidi community, it loses,” he added. “We fought against the Torah, we got the Disengagement. We fought against the Torah again and we got the European boycott which hurts Yehuda and Shomron, and [now] the rabbis’ loss [in the rabbinate elections]. I advise Naftali Bennett not to talk about a national referendum. That’s not what will save us. What will protect Eretz Yisroel is protecting the Torah world.”


Rav Nagari said that another reason Rav Stav lost the race was because many in the Religious-Zionist camp opposed his candidacy.


“After all, Rav Stav opposed the view of Torah espoused by normative Religious-Zionist rabbis. Rav [Chaim] Druckman wanted to run Rav [Shlomo] Amar and Rav Ariel. It’s no wonder that this is the result,” he said.


550 Bochurim in the Balance

400 chareidi youngsters are expected to join the Netzach track of the IDF this week. The track includes the Netzach Yehuda brigade and various technological sections of the IDF. This is the largest chareidi recruitment cycle since suchenlistment began.


Brig. Gen. Gadi Agmon told the Shaked committee preparing the draftbill for its second and third readings that the IDF aims to enlist 2,000 yeshiva bochurim this year and that it would be founding a new Nachal Chareidi battalion next month.


Despite Defense Minister Moshe Ya’alon’s decision to defer the drafting of 550 chareidim who were supposed to enlist on August 18th until November, Osher Grunis, president of Israel’s High Court, ordered the government to explain within a week whether it intends to draft the 550 bochurim supposed to join the IDF in August in the absence of any law to exempt them. He also asked the government to explain why the High Court should not issue a temporary order forbidding the deferment of yeshiva students until the draft law passes its second and third readings.


This was in response to a petition filed by the Movement for Quality Government in Israel, the Chiddush movement for religious freedom and equality, the Israeli Forum for Citizen Equal Rights and Obligations, and several other groups, complaining that in the absence of a legislated draft law, the draft of the 550 bochurim may be deferred or postponed.


At the same time, High Court judge Uzi Fogelman ordered Netanyahu and Ya’alon to answer within two months why the government is targeting chareidim more than the Arab populace. This was in response to a petition of a Chassidic lawyer, Akiva Meir of Bnei Brak, who complained to the High Court that “placing sanctions upon those who do not join the IDF or national service – sanctions not applied to similar exempted people, such as non-religious Jews exempted from serving or Arabs – is an invalid discrimination aimed exclusively at their different lifestyle.”


At the same time, Sar Shalom Jerbi, director of the National-Civilian Service Administration, complained to Education Minister Shay Piron that many schools are refusing to allow Arab national service volunteers to help in their institutions. Volunteers are called “lepers” and are warned that no one will marry them.


“Unfortunately, we are running into trouble in the elementary schools in the Arab sector due to strong opposition by the local political leadership,” Jerbi wrote. “This phenomenon also occurs in the high schools in the sector, where school principals refuse to incorporate national service volunteers. Therefore, I would appreciate your help in instructing all the schools in the sector to cooperate with the National Civil Service Administration and allow the volunteers to practice in their fields while ensuring their safety and wellbeing. I urge you to take harsh, decisive measures against school principals who refuse to allow volunteer activity.”


Israel’s cabinet approved a goal to have 6,000 Arab national service volunteers by 2017. 


Last week, after hearing that the draft bill had passed its first reading, Rav Aharon Leib Shteinman was fearful of the consequences and cited a warning of the Sefer Chassidim: “The non-Jews never do evil [to Jews] unless Jews first do evil to each other, and talmidei chachomim are not denigrated unless they first denigrate each other, or if people denigrate the Torah and no one protests.


“To make a law like this against bnei Torah who study Hashem’s Torah is an absolute denigration of the Torah,” he said. “After this beginning, who knows what will happen?”


When he heard that MKs tore their clothes in protest at the denigration of the Torah and that their disapproval was publicized worldwide, he was somewhat appeased, but he maintained that Klal Yisroel will still need great Heavenly mercy.


Speaking at Ateres Yisroel Yeshiva’s summer camp, Rav Shteinman said that although Torah life consists of na’aseh and nishma, learning and fulfilling mitzvos, the principle way a young person builds himself up is through nishma, intensive Torah study.


“A bochur who wants to build himself up must toil in Torah, for this is the only way to fight the battle of Torah,” he said. “Bochurim must know that it is essential to invest effort and toil in Torah. This is the only way to grow.”


Rav Boruch Mordechai Ezrachi, rosh yeshiva of Ateres Yisroel, explained what Rav Shteinman was hinting at.


“You should know that lately, the rosh yeshiva is suffering terribly because of what we spoke about [the danger to the Torah world]. He cannot sleep because of the gezeiros. You are in the thick of battle, you are the ones who must fight. How? By sitting and learning. This is how to fulfill the nishma of Torah.” 


In a Knesset speech, chairman of Habayit Hayehudi, Ayelet Shaked, head of the committee preparing the yeshiva draft law for its second and third readings, admitted that sharing the burden includes Torah study. Unfortunately, she didn’t follow the idea to its logical conclusion.


“Perhaps we have missed the point by turning shivyon banetel into an anti-chareidi concept,” she said. “…If we analyze this slogan for a moment we will realize that the Jewish state has three burdens, the burden of defense, the burden of work, and the burden of Torah and Jewish tradition. Whoever fails to carry one of them according to his ability can  be termed a deserter… Let’s begin with Jewish tradition.


“For two thousand years, believing Jews carried this burden. Without them, it is doubtful we would be here today. Without them, it is doubtful we would exist at all. As a non-religious woman I feel that I do not take part in carrying this burden. Some say it is the heaviest burden of all. It is carried not for only three years [like the army] and not from nine to five [like work] but every day, every hour one’s whole life.”


She went on to say that, nevertheless, it would be nice if the yeshiva world contributed some of its talmidim to become Israel’s future Einsteins.  


Draconian Budget Approved 


Monday was a stormy day at the Knesset, as MKs battled the opposition for over 15 hours to approve Israel’s 2013-2014 budget and its accompanying Economic Arrangement Law.


The Economics Arrangements Law passed without too much difficulty. Then the opposition threatened to filibuster the budget by demanding roll-call votes on each of 4,700 objections they had filed against it. As each roll-call takes about 15 minutes, this would have taken weeks and pushed the budget approval long past its deadline at Wednesday noon. In theory, if this deadline was missed, the government could fall and necessitate new elections.


“We will not allow the budget of decrees to pass,” the opposition MKs said in a joint statement. “Our demand is simple — on every meaningful clause in the budget we will demand a roll-call vote. Every MK that is prepared to participate in the destruction of Israeli society will have to declare this personally, in his own voice.


 “Netanyahu and Lapid are determined to crush Israeli society for the benefit of the tycoons and the power brokers, while] Lieberman is determined to underhandedly steal the system of government to benefit his own narrow political interests. Faced by these attempts we, the members of the opposition, plan to be a protective barrier defending the citizens of Israel.”


What was the reason for the filibuster? The opposition was angered that the coalition sought votes on two controversial bills before the Knesset adjourns for its summer break.


These included the contentious governability bill which demands that new parties must have at least four members, and which also creates conditions making it harder to topple the government, and the Tzohar bill, which proposes to allow marriage registration at any rabbinate in the country.


The coalition agreed to delay the two bills until the Knesset’s winter session leaving the road clear to approve the budget and its hundreds of austerity measures. These include huge cuts to the funding of yeshivos and chareidi schools such as the annulment of the Nahari law, which required local authorities to provide funding to chareidi schools, a 1% to 2% income tax hike, the elimination of numerous benefits and tax breaks, a “green tax” that raises car tax by 3,000 to 10,000 shekels, a hike in the tax on lottery and prize wins from 25% to 30%.


The approved budget also reduces child allowances to 140 shekels for each child born after June 1, 2003. Until now, parents received as much as 459 shekels monthly for a fourth child. But one important proposal was turned down — a 10% pay cut for Ministers, MKs and senior civil service officials. With their hand in the till, the bigwigs had no difficulty reducing the cut to a puny 1%.


“This budget will hurt 99% of the public with unprecedented force, the likes of which has not been seen in Israel since the Netanyahu budget of 2003,” Opposition Leader MK Shelly Yachimovich of Labor complained. “Raising income tax and value added tax rates, raising the corporate taxes paid by small businesses and cutting child benefits, health care and education services is simply unforgivable. This is a wholly uninspired budget, which is devoid of both hope and growth engines. This budget will only widen the socio-economic gaps in Israeli society and will perpetuate the destructive erosion of the middle class.”


MK Uri Maklev of UTJ claimed that Yair Lapid made his support to free the terrorists conditional on the government agreement to his decrees against the yeshivaworld.


“He made his vote in favor of freeing terrorists with blood on their hands in exchange for the Prime Minister passing this law,” Maklev said. “He works towards drafting bochurim and imposing financial edicts on yeshivos and succeeds by pressuring the Netanyahu, because unfortunately we have a weak prime minister.”


During the debate, MK Menachem Eliezer Moses of UTJ attacked the government for agreeing to release Arab members and Habayit Hayehudi for continuing to give the government its support.


“What more can we expect from this government after yesterday’s decision regarding releasing prisoners with blood on their hands?” he said. “The government stands on a foundation of lies and deceit. Constantly, we heard the prime minister saying he would never enter negotiations with preconditions. Constantly we heard him say we would not start talks or give them anything until they recognized us as a Jewish state. Now, before the talks even start, we are accepting not only preconditions, but a fait accompli.


“They are releasing murderers of the worst kind,” Moses continued. “We must remember the 21st of Cheshvan 5749, the terrible day when Rachel Weiss and her three daughters were burnt alive. The wonderful soldier David Dolorosa ran into the bus to try to save them and was burned as well. Their killers are about to be released. What else will deter a terrorist from harming us if he knows that he will be released anyway? What more can deter someone from attacking us?”


Moses also addressed the disturbing attacks on Jews in East Yerushalayim.


“We see the level of vulnerability in East Yerushalayim worsening every day,” he said. “Throwing stones is already considered small stuff. In one week, three people were stabbed in united Yerushalayim. They have no fear. I was standing on Har Hazeisimand a group of boys coming out of school fearlessly took out sharp stones they had ready and threw them straight into a car.


“Why are you fooling yourselves?” he asked the Habayit Hayehudi MKs. “You’ll go on supporting this government until it reaches the solution of two countries for two nations and then they’ll throw you away like squeezed-out lemons. You’ll go on supporting this government until the Labor party enters the coalition or provides a safety net. Now is the time you can truly stop these terrible processes.”


Other stars of the budget debate were Yair Lapid, opposition was living in a fantasy world, and opposition leader Shelly Yachimovich, who said that Lapid had reneged on his campaign promises.


“The opposition MKs are living in a fantasy world,” Lapid said. “I would like to give and give. I would like to give to the center [of the country] and to give to the periphery. I would like to give to everyone. I would love to lower income tax by 2%, give a car to every worker, a plane to every family… But now that the fantasy is over, it’s time to return to reality.


“This budget dealt with the question: ‘Where is the money?’ And to close a financial pit of 35 billion shekels, a problem no one wanted to handle, we formulated a difficult budget, but still placed the middle class in the middle. The middle class that acted as Israel’s cash card for years was the last place we took money from this time. First we took from yeshivot and the wealthy and we raised the taxes for giant companies. We took from the Defense Ministry. Only after taking from everywhere else, when it turned out there was no choice, did we take a little from the middle class.”


Making the questionable claim that he has increased financial incentives for technology and small businesses as well as for social services, health, education, transportation, and Holocaust survivors, Lapid justified cutting child allowances.


“He who works receives,” he said. “Work is the basis of a healthy society. To move from a culture of stipends to a culture of work is the basis of every economy. The cut in child stipends is not a budget cut, but an ethical decision. Our job is [to ensure] that there should not be hungry children in Israel, but if someone brings children to this world, he, not the state, is responsible for them.”


MK Aryeh Deri of Shas retorted that cutting child stipends meant cutting off food from poor families.


“This is a budget with no mercy or compassion,” he said.


Shelly Yachimovich accused Lapid of acting as Netanyahu’s publicity man and continuing the prime minister’s legacy of helping the rich at the expense of the poor.


“I remember another finance minister [Netanyahu] who thought that if one gives a lot, really a lot, to the wealthy, it would somehow make things good,” she said. “Through some mysterious process, growth would filter down to all the Israelis. If we privatized everything, it would be better. If we lowered taxes for tycoons, it would be better for business… I presume that finance Minister Yair Lapid knows whom I mean. He knows him very well. He used to make protests against him. Today, he sits with him in the government.


“Your conduct is so strange that sometimes it seems [that because] you came to make changes, you [think you] have already done so. As far as you’re concerned, the price of apartments has already dropped because you set up a committee. As far as you’re concerned, the corporate giants are already paying taxes because you met Jeremy Levine. As far as you’re concerned, Ricky Cohen is already doing well because you promised that in two years everything will be all right. Facts are not a newspaper article, where you can write whatever you please. You have seriously betrayed the public trust.”


In line with Lapid’s policies, the Social Affairs Ministry’s new director general, Yossi Silman, who formerly worked for Lapid’s party, vowed to change his ministry’s policies and provide more to the disabled and less to chareidim,whom he accused of “making a living” from the child allowances.


“We have already cut chareidi public institutions in favor of therapeutic institutions for people with disabilities, for example,” he told Haaretz. “We have big plans to change the face of the [Social Affairs] Ministry, and welfare services will be reinforced. Unfortunately, there are populations that are living on child allowances. It is more common in the chareidi sector. I think there are sectors like these and others, including the Bedouin community – people who also make a living off of this.”


When challenged that a chareidi family with seven children could not live on the current rough amount of 1,700 shekels the government provides as child allowance, Silman backed off a little, saying, “I didn’t say they make a living just from this, but that this is one of their sources of income. It’s not the main one… I can say that, up until now, Israel’s governments have not really combated poverty,” he added. “The fight against poverty is carried out through employment, education. A real fight is needed here, rather than the trick of raising child allowances.”


Incidentally, despite spending most of his energies in the opposition fighting anti-Torah legislation, it was announced that MK Moshe Gafni has achieved the distinction of being the most productive MK of the Knesset in terms of passing new laws. Since the January elections, he has pushed four bills through to legislation. He is followed by MK Uri Maklev of UTJ and coalition chairman Yariv Levin, who passed three new laws.



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