Monday, May 27, 2024

My Take on the News

A Razor-Thin Majority

When Defense Minister Lieberman resigned, it wasn’t only Lieberman who resigned. His entire party, Yisroel Beiteinu, left the government coalition. As a result, the coalition shrank to 61 members of the Knesset. This means that every Knesset member must remain available at all times. Last Wednesday, the MKs who were out of the country received an urgent summons to return to Israel immediately, and all the government ministers and members of the Knesset were barred from leaving the country. Even Prime Minister Binyomin Netanyahu will now have to remain close to the Knesset. In fact, last Wednesday he spent almost the entire day in the Knesset, and he even had lunch in the Knesset cafeteria in a startling departure from his usual habits. His intent might have been to create the impression that things are still routine, and that the government is not in crisis. Or perhaps he simply wanted the newspaper headlines to focus on his unusual choice of venue for his lunch, rather than the upheaval within the coalition.

Under ordinary circumstances, a member of the Knesset who wishes to be absent from a vote can make an agreement with someone on the opposite side to abstain from the vote in order to offset his absence. At this time, though, the coalition does not trust the opposition; they fear that a member of the opposition might promise to abstain and then renege on his commitment. Last Thursday, the newspapers carried a picture of a Knesset member who came to the Knesset from the hospital, with an IV attached to her arm, to participate in a vote.

At this time, it isn’t clear exactly what motivated Lieberman’s resignation. What is clear is that he is a serial resigner; he has quit almost every position that he has ever held. In all likelihood, it was a ploy to position himself on the far right of the political map in advance of the upcom-ing elections. Then again, it is possible that he resigned because he feels that his hands have been tied. His resignation will also have a major impact on the chareidi MKs’ approach to the issue of the draft law. Lieberman has supported the chareidi efforts until this point, but now that he is in the opposition, there isn’t even the slightest chance that he will continue to assist them.

This new development also led to another change: The coalition will no longer promote bills sponsored by Yisroel Beiteinu. The first bill to be discarded is a law that would have mandated the death penalty for terrorists. This was a flagship piece of legislation for Lieberman and his colleagues. The government has announced that it opposes the law. If the same measure were proposed by a member of the coalition, it would pass; because Lieberman advanced the law it will not be approved.


Get Used to It: The Right is in Charge

Bennett doesn’t speak very often, but when he does, his performance is incredible. Ayelet Shaked, the Minister of Justice, was recently blasted in the Knesset for denouncing Dina Zilber. Bennett, the chairman of the Bayit Yehudi party of which Shaked is a member, was permitted to speak in response. He turned his attention to the benches of the opposition and proceeded to excoriate them, labeling them a “pack of whiners.” Bennett declared, “You always used to chal-lenge us to take charge; you asked why we were always complaining, and you said that the right does not know how to rule the country. Then, after forty years, people finally voted for the right and received a right-wing government, and we became the rulers – and now you are complain-ing that we are implementing our policies.”

His remarks were greeted with a hail of indignant shouts, but Bennett continued, “We have come to rule, and you can just keep complaining.”

“You are not ruling this country,” Yoel Hasson interjected.

“You are throwing sand in our eyes. This isn’t a way to rule,” Ayelet Nahmias-Verbin added.

“The right controls every area – academics, education, and justice,” Bennett said. “We are here to rule, and you can go on finding fault. The days when people voted for the right and received the left instead are over.” Amid another deluge of indignant shouts, Bennett concluded, “From now on, people will vote for the right and receive the right. The public will decide! Thank you very much.”

The Positive Side of the Status Quo

Several Knesset members introduced a bill that would broaden the use of public transportation on Shabbos. In the absence of Minister of Transportation Yisroel Katz, the government’s re-sponse was delivered by Housing Minister Yoav Gallant. His verbose remarks were clearly an effort to stall for time until the coalition had a majority in the room. “It must be emphasized,” he said, “that this proposal is commensurate with the arrangement that is currently in place, which authorizes the Minister of Transportation to enact ordinances regarding the ban on run-ning public buses on the days of rest. On the one hand, this arrangement authorizes the Minister of Transportation to make regulations concerning the ban on public transportation on the day of rest, which is defined in the State of Israel as Shabbos, and thus preserves the character of the State of Israel as a Jewish state. On the other hand, it allows local governments to operate transportation services in places where there is a necessity, including hospitals, as well as in non-Jewish communities and places where a transportation line is vital for public safety or for the continued existence of public transportation, which preserves the character of the State of Israel as a democratic state…”

Nachman Shai of the Zionist Camp interjected, “I can see that you are trying to stall for time.”

“I study things in depth before I speak about them, Nachman,” Gallant retorted. “I am not as talented as some of my colleagues here, who are capable of doing two things at once – speaking and thinking. For me, it works differently. I can either speak or think. It takes me a little bit longer. But I want to make it clear that the government’s policy is not to abrogate the existing status quo.”

Mossi Raz of the Meretz party tried to convince his colleagues to support the law anyway. “Tell me,” he demanded, “how can you say that a single bus creates a greater chillul Shabbos than 50 private cars? Where is that written? What sort of logic is that?”

“Have you become a rov?” asked Eli Ben-Dahan, the Deputy Minister of Defense.

“I am not a rov, but you are,” Raz replied. “What do you say about this?”

When the speeches had finally ended, the Knesset voted on the bill. Thirty members of the Knesset supported it, while 43 voted against it. The bill’s opponents included many more MKs than the members of the chareidi parties (UTJ and Shas). The entire coalition is bound by an agreement to preserve the status quo.

Is the Government “Bored” by the South?

Once upon a time, there was a rule that if someone did something without advertising it, it was as if he hadn’t done it. Today, the bar has been raised higher. The current wisdom has it that if a person publicizes something without making a provocative statement, his efforts at publicity are worthless. The news media is regularly inundated with statements and reports for public consumption, but only the most inflammatory statements seem to be deemed worthy of publi-cation. For instance, Minister Tzachi Hanegbi explained in a recent interview that Israel’s re-sponse to the rocket fire from Gaza has been lukewarm because Hamas has concentrated its fire on the area in the immediate vicinity of Gaza. If they were to target Tel Aviv or Ben Gurion Airport, he said, the Israeli army would react accordingly. Following that statement, Hanegbi came under intense fire for his comments. Everyone from the prime minister through the most obscure member of the Knesset saw fit to denounce him publicly. And the media’s attention was captured specifically by the most virulent reactions.

Most of the responses to Hanegbi were relatively run-of-the-mill. Some asserted that he was wrong and called upon him to explain himself or retract his comment, while others insisted that the government cares as much about the vicinity of Gaza as it does about Tel Aviv. In a single newspaper article, I found responses quoted from several ministers in the government, includ-ing Prime Minister Netanyahu, and many members of the Knesset, including Itzik Shmuli, Meir Cohen (a resident of Dimona), Betzalel Smotrich (who declared that “if Tzachi Hanegbi isn’t expelled from the Likud today, the Likud will lose its right to exist”), Shelly Yachimovich, Leah Fadida, Kerin Elharrar, and others. But it was Chaim Yellin’s response that dominated the headlines, thanks to his dramatic proclamation that “the Netanyahu government isn’t the least bit interested in the residents of the Gaza envelope. They have no problem with us living in our security rooms between elections. We are boring to them!”


99 Years Since the Murder of Rav Dovid Abuchatzeirah zt”l

Rav Dovid Abuchatzeirah zt”l was murdered on Shabbos, the 14th of Kislev, 99 years ago. We are now entering the hundredth year since his passing.

Rav Dovid was a son of Rav Masoud Abuchatzeirah, the eldest son of Rav Yaakov Abuchatzei-rah, the Abir Yaakov, who was the founder of the illustrious dynasty and was buried in Daman-hour, Egypt. Rav Masoud had three sons and one daughter. His sons were Rav Dovid, Rav Yitzchok, the Baba Chaki, and Rav Yisroel, the Baba Sali. The Abir Yaakov passed away when Rav Dovid was thirteen years old. He was 42 when his father, Rav Masoud, was niftar, at which point he became the leader of Moroccan Jewry. At first, Rav Dovid delegated most of his re-sponsibilities to various family members and proceeded to spend six years secluded in his home, subjecting himself to a grueling regimen of fasting and self-affliction.

In his younger years, Rav Dovid once experienced a remarkable miracle. One night, he was learning with great intensity. He was so thoroughly absorbed in his learning that he did not even notice the late hour. Ultimately, fatigue overcame him and his eyelids closed of their own accord, as his head lowered itself to the tabletop and sleep overcame him. In his sleep, he knocked over the lamp that was burning on the table, and the fabric tablecloth caught fire. Rav Dovid remained sound asleep, unaware of the fire that was raging mere inches away from him, but his grandfather, the Abir Yaakov appeared in his dream and called to him, “Get up, my grandson. You are in danger!” He awoke after dreaming that his grandfather had taken hold of him and shaken him to rouse him from his slumber.

Rav Dovid had a first cousin and close friend named Rav Moshe Adahan. Rav Moshe was a son of the Abir Yaakov’s daughter and had been driven out of Morocco to Algeria. At that time, a century ago, Morocco suffered through many wars. The country was first conquered by the French army, but Moroccan rebels fought off the French conquerors. At that point, the country was virtually held captive by a cruel partisan army. The leader of the rebels, Mullai Muham-mad, terrorized the citizens of Morocco, slaking his thirst for blood in the areas inhabited by Jews. The war had ended, but a period of terror began. That was when Rav Dovid Abuchatzei-rah emerged from his seclusion to lead the Jews of Morocco.

Rav Moshe returned from Algeria to Morocco in order to join his suffering brethren. Upon his return, he became ill and was bedridden. He also lost his natural eyesight, but he retained some form of supernatural vision. People were afraid to visit him, lest he reveal all of their sins. Rav Dovid once asked his brother, the Baba Sali, who was 22 years younger than he, to visit their cousin, but the Baba Sali humbly expressed his concern that Rav Moshe would reveal all of his own sins and he would be ashamed. Rav Dovid ultimately prevailed upon the Baba Sali to set aside his fears and to approach their ailing cousin.

When the Baba Sali entered Rav Moshe’s room, his cousin did not utter a word. The Baba Sali asked the reason for his silence and he replied, “Rav Yisroel is kadosh.” Then he added, “Only you and I will atone for the generation.” Shaken, the Baba Sali hurried to inform his brother of their cousin’s comment, and Rav Dovid said, “He also told me that a terrible enemy will mur-der me in an unusual way for the atonement of our generation, and that he and I will atone for the generation together. Do not be afraid,” Rav Dovid reassured his brother. “You will secure atonement for our generation during your life. You will be given many long years.”

On leil Shabbos the week of Parshas Vayishlach, in the year 5680/1919, Rav Dovid arrived at the Friday night meal in his weekday clothes. Hamily members were mystified by his actions. That Shabbos afternoon, hundreds of soldiers of Mullai Muhammad surrounded the streets of the Jewish neighborhood in Rissani (a town in the area of Tafilalt). The soldiers entered the neighborhood and ordered the Jews to gather in the town square. It was clear that they were to be murdered there. Rav Dovid stood in the entrance to his home and offered words of encour-agement to the other Jews. He told the people who gathered around him, “I know about the de-cree of destruction that was passed against us…I asked Hashem to take my own life as atone-ment for the entire community.” Indeed, when the wicked ruler arrived on horseback to order his soldiers to put the Jews to death, he was advised to leave them alive so that they would con-tinue paying taxes, and he accepted the suggestion that they would be dispirited by the murder of their rov alone. The tyrant ordered a group of soldiers to bring the rov, and then he ordered Rav Dovid put to death in full view of his entire community.

Rav Dovid was a link in the chain of the Abuchatzeirah dynasty, which was carried on through his brothers, the Baba Chaki and the Baba Sali. Rav Meir zt”l of Ashdod was a son of the Baba Sali. One of Rav Meir’s sons is Rav Dovid Abuchatzeirah of Nahariya. Several years ago, Rav Dovid published Chumash Abir Yaakov, containing the chiddushim of the progenitor of the dynasty under the titles Pituchei Chotam, Machsof HaLavan, Levonah Zakah, and Ginzei Hamelech, along with the peirushim authored by the previous Rav Dovid Abuchatzeirah Hy”d, Petach Ha’ohel and Reisha V’seifa.

A Poll with Surprising Findings


I recently read about a poll that was conducted in the wake of the submarine affair, the scandal in which several of Netanyahu’s close associates have come under suspicion of criminal wrongdoing. According to the results, 66 percent of the Israeli public believes that the allega-tions are serious, and 90 percent of the public has heard about the affair.

I was surprised to read these statistics. Did anyone need a poll to tell them that the crimes were serious? If the Israeli navy purchased submarines from a specific manufacturer solely because certain people would profit from the choice, is there any doubt that it was a serious crime? Even if the submarines that were purchased are not inferior to the merchandise offered by other companies, that does not detract from the severity of the offense. And if the submarines were actually of poor quality, then it was not only a serious crime, but actually treasonous. There-fore, I cannot understand the purpose of this poll.

The fact that 90 percent of the country has heard about the scandal means only one thing: The other ten percent of the populace either is not exposed to the news at all or is suffering from advanced memory loss. The media has covered this affair obsessively; it is virtually impossible to have been oblivious to it.

In short, I cannot fathom the purpose of this poll. I do not understand its goal, and I do not un-derstand the rationale for reporting on it in the newspaper.



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