Historic Opportunity or National Tragedy?
As I always comment, the State of Israel manufactures news at a furious pace. New headlines are constantly emerging—about the security situation, about the political situation, and about the coronavirus crisis. And that is to say nothing of the conflict over applying sovereignty in Yehuda and the Shomron.
Today, while I was on my way to the Knesset, I noticed two new protest tents outside the Knesset building. For the past two weeks, there has been a tent manned by demonstrators from the Israeli music industry, who are demanding restitution from the government for the loss of income they have suffered due to the coronavirus shutdown. The protestors note that the shutdown has harmed the livelihoods of a broad circle of people, since a loss to any performer impacts numerous other people as well, including sound technicians, stage managers, ticket salesmen, and many others. The protestors claim that the entire industry has collapsed, and they have been left penniless and starving. Many Knesset members have joined them in their tent in a show of solidarity. Personally, however, I do not understand why they are different from any other workers in Israel. Everyone knows that the coronavirus has devastated the Israeli economy; why does their plight demand more attention than anyone else’s situation?
In any event, two new tents appeared outside the Knesset today, indicating the protest against Israel’s sovereignty plan. The most amazing thing about this issue is the sheer diversity of the plan’s opponents and the wide range of arguments against it. On the one hand, many of the plan’s opponents are leftists and Arabs, who oppose the annexation of any territories in Yehuda and the Shomron. But the most extreme right-wing elements and the most radical leftists have come together in a bizarre alignment, as both have labeled the sovereignty plan a “national tragedy,” each for their own reasons. At the same time, many other right-wing figures consider it just the opposite: a historic opportunity to gain recognition of a large portion of the area, an opportunity that may never return in the future.
The Shomron Regional Council has launched an aggressive public relations campaign against the prime minister. They are infuriated by the fact that the plan would leave several Israeli settlements within an isolated enclave surrounded by Palestinians. One of those communities is Elon Moreh, and they have proclaimed passionately, “It is unthinkable that a right-wing government would abandon the community of Elon Moreh!” The same threat is faced by Maaleh Amos, Meitzad, Yitzhar and Itamar. Their fear is certainly understandable. According to the plan’s opponents, there are 19 Jewish settlements that will find themselves in the heart of a Palestinian state and at the mercy of the Palestinian police.
A Difference of Opinion Between Kushner and Friedman
The opponents of Netanyahu’s plan have warned him that he will go down in history as the prime minister who allowed the establishment of a Palestinian state, rather than being remembered for applying Israeli sovereignty to Yehuda and the Shomron. In any event, only 30 percent of the Yehuda-Shomron area would actually fall under Israeli sovereignty, according to the map drawn by the Americans. Of course, the prime minister cannot possibly alter the map that has been handed to him by the White House….
This week, Ron Dermer, the Israeli ambassador to Washington, wrote a column promising that Israel will apply its sovereignty only to the territories specified by the Trump peace plan; it will not annex any territories that are slated to be part of a future Palestinian state. He pledged that Israel will not perform construction in the areas designated for the Palestinians. At the same time, Dermer insisted that the Palestinian state will not actually be formed, since the Arabs will not abide by the conditions imposed by Trump.
Meanwhile, it seems that the White House officials themselves haven’t completely made up their minds about the plan. A debate is taking place in Washington as to whether the schedule specified by Trump’s plan should be maintained and Israel should be permitted to begin the process of imposing sovereignty on July 1. If I understand the situation correctly, the dispute is between Ambassador David Friedman, who is in favor of beginning the process now, and Jared Kushner and Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, who wish to postpone the implementation of the plan. Why should it be delayed? So that the United States can ascertain Benny Gantz’s position on the subject, and in order to coordinate the move with the Arab states, especially Jordan, which has completely opposed any form of annexation. Ambassador Friedman left for Washington to participate in the discussions, and rumor has it that Trump himself will attend at least one of the meetings.
Meanwhile, the dispute between the plan’s supporters and opponents here in Israel has begun to heat up. For the time being, no one knows the exact borders that appear on the sovereignty map. Even the IDF does not know the specifics of the plan. Yet Netanyahu has already ordered the army to prepare for imposing sovereignty; the question of where the border will lie should make no difference to them, he asserted. Even Benny Gantz hasn’t been informed of the exact borders, in spite of the fact that he is the Minister of Defense.
As I mentioned, the demonstrators have erected two protest tents outside the Knesset. I will try to visit the tents, speak with the protestors, and report to you about my impressions. If I am able to find some interesting people who are capable of explaining their position, perhaps I will make it into a separate article. This will probably be the main topic in the news next week!
Yeshivos Set an Example with the Capsule Program
The coronavirus is still the dominant topic on everyone’s minds, and rightly so, since the situation appears to be worsening progressively. Of course, that is a direct result of the fact that many people have become lax in observing the Health Ministry’s guidelines. But, in a sense, the tables have turned. During the first phase of the pandemic, the chareidi community was vilified, accused of disregarding the government-issued guidelines and thereby causing the virus to spread. This perception seemed to be supported by the number of corona cases in the chareidi community and the fact that certain chareidi population centers were “hot spots” for the outbreak. In recent weeks, however, it has become clear that it is the chilonim who are callously disregarding the rules.
It is also important to note that in their case, the laxity in following the regulations is a result of dangerous apathy and disdain. The chilonim are aware of the dangers of infection, and they know that the situation is still dangerous. After all, they are exposed to the media, and they are well aware of everything that is happening in the world. For the chareidim, on the other hand, the initial failure to practice social distancing stemmed from a lack of knowledge. When the pandemic first began, the chareidi community was simply unaware of the danger posed by the virus or of the means that were necessary in order to stop it. And that makes a huge difference! As soon as the chareidi community grasped the nature of the situation, the entire picture changed dramatically.
For example, consider the situation in the country’s yeshivos. The Vaad HaYeshivos has successfully implemented the capsule arrangement in the yeshivos without triggering a spate of infections. Confirmed coronavirus cases were found specifically in the yeshivos that did not follow the rules meticulously. With the ongoing discussion about a second wave of corona (chas v’sholom), the yeshiva world has been preparing tensely for that scenario and urging talmidim to follow every rule to the letter. Unfortunately, a measure of laxity has crept into the chareidi community as well, and the results were seen almost immediately. Several yeshivos were forced to close their doors and to send their talmidim home. In the chassidish community, large events such as tishen were canceled. Several chadorim have also been closed after students or rabbeim were found to have contracted the virus. The problem has also been rampant in preschools. In some situations, all it takes is a single bochur or child who is diagnosed with corona to cause an entire school to shut down.
Sadly, there have been reports of new cases of coronavirus in Telz Stone, Bnei Brak, and even Elad. Once again, even a single person who contracts the virus has the potential to infect many others, and certainly to force a large number of people into isolation. We had hoped that we had moved past this point, but it seems that we have not. Nevertheless, the chareidi community as a whole has internalized the severity of the situation.
Netanyahu Warns Against Drop in Discipline
This week began with a bombshell: A report by the Military Intelligence Directorate had been submitted to the prime minister, warning that a second wave of the coronavirus was beginning. According to the report, the second wave is different from the first, but it is no less serious, and if the situation continues and the government does not take drastic steps to resolve it, we might be facing hundreds of deaths and about 1000 new cases every day within a month. This is the basic gist of the report; I will not go into all the details, since there are many minutiae that will not interest you.
On Sunday morning, the prime minister quoted the report at the beginning of the cabinet session. “All of the predictions that have been presented to us are very dire,” Netanyahu said gravely. “The coronavirus cabinet will be discussing the next steps, but if we do not observe the guidelines, we will have to reinstate the closures.
“At the end of the week, I had several consultations regarding the sharp rise in coronavirus infections,” Netanyahu continued. “This morning, I met with the directors-general of the relevant ministries and representatives of the local authorities, and we spoke with the head of the National Security Council and with various experts who gave their assessments. They presented several predictions made by various groups, all of which were very ominous. We must flatten the curve now. I will convene the coronavirus cabinet tomorrow, and we will discuss the steps that must be taken in order to halt the spread of the virus. If we don’t change our behavior immediately with respect to wearing masks and practicing social distancing, we will bring the return of the closures upon ourselves. None of us wants that. Therefore, I am asking all of you, the citizens of the State of Israel, to wear masks and to maintain social distancing.”
Netanyahu also mentioned his visit last week to the Institute of Biological Research. “At the same time,” he noted, “we are doing everything in our power to produce a vaccine. This is part of an international effort, part of which is taking place in the Institute of Biological Research in Israel, and which includes our investment in Moderna. The race is on to find a vaccine, and we hope that someone will succeed, but until that happens, we have no choice and no alternative other than observing responsible and wise policies, so that we will be able to continue reopening our economy and living our lives in a reasonable fashion under the new corona routine. Wear masks and keep your distance. We will have more to say on this subject later in the week.”
Military Intelligence and Corona—What’s the Connection?
You are probably wondering why the report on the coronavirus was released by the Military Intelligence Directorate, an agency that is purely army-related. The agency’s function is to gather information on matters related to Israel’s army and security and to relay that information to the IDF and the government. What do they have to do with the coronavirus? I will answer that question for you.
The Corona National Information and Knowledge Center is a research agency under the jurisdiction of the Military Intelligence Directorate. The center, which was established as part of the effort to combat the coronavirus pandemic, monitors the spread of the disease both in Israel and in the world at large and attempts to remain up to date on the latest events. It is actually subordinate to three different entities: the Ministry of Health, the National Security Council, and, of course, the Ministry of Defense. The agency’s reports are intended to be used by the government to formulate national policies. The knowledge center is headed by a colonel in the IDF who serves in the research division of the Military Intelligence Directorate.
This does not mean that the IDF is interested in expanding into the health care sector. On the contrary, the initiative came from the Ministry of Health, which asked to tap into the knowledge and capabilities of the army’s intelligence division. The Knowledge Center was established in March 2020, when the coronavirus first reached Israel, at the express request of the Ministry of Health. The main purpose of the center is to conduct detailed research on the spread of the virus in order to provide information on risks and opportunities to the decision makers in the Health Ministry, the National Security Council, and the defense establishment. Part of the center’s work is investigating the main areas of risk and infection trends in Israel, while also studying the spread of the virus in other countries in the Middle East and throughout the world. It has produced some of the world’s leading medical reports on the virus and gathers information about various means of testing for the virus and medical equipment that has proven effective in combating it.
It is no wonder, then, that the report released by the intelligence division set off a wave of panic. The agency was even criticized for sowing fear. Many have also criticized the agency, which is naturally secretive and is not bound by the rules to which other government bodies are subject. The Military Intelligence Directorate does not usually explain the reasons for its decisions or recommendations. As you can imagine, the report triggered a wave of debate over whether the agency is entitled to drop a bombshell of this nature and then hide behind a veil of secrecy.
Medical News from the Institute for Biological Research
The Institute for Biological Research, which Netanyahu mentioned in the cabinet meeting, issued a statement of its own this week.
It isn’t every day that a research incident publishes intermediate results of a study that hasn’t yet proven itself completely. Scientists tend to announce their findings only when they are completely confident. That is why many people were surprised when the Institute for Biological Research in Nes Tziona published a detailed 26-page document for the international community last week, which contained a report on the various stages of its experiments to develop a vaccine for the coronavirus. The Israeli team’s innovation was the use of a VSV virus, which does not cause sickness in humans. The VSV virus was attached to genetically engineered proteins that form the “crown” of the coronavirus, and when the human body identifies it as the coronavirus, it creates antibodies. A series of tests were performed on hamsters over the past few weeks, and the results were unequivocal: The hamsters that received the vaccine did not contract Covid.
Whether the vaccine can be tested on humans will depend on the approval of the Ministry of Health. According to the scientists in the institute, if the ministry approves the process, they will be able to begin testing the vaccine on people in the coming weeks, and it will be possible to mass produce a vaccine by the end of this coming winter. The Israeli media reported that out of about 140 vaccines currently under development throughout the world, only two seem very promising and likely to be available very soon. One of those vaccines, which was developed at Oxford University, is already in the third stage of testing, and according to the most optimistic predictions, it may be approved for use in specific situations in October. Another vaccine that appears to be highly promising is being developed by a company named Moderna, and Israel has paid for priority to receive the vaccine if the trials turn out to be successful. The Institute for Biological Research slammed the health care establishment for that deal; in a letter of protest, they complained that the agreement was signed behind closed doors and without consultation with their experts.
We all hope that the talk of a second wave of corona will turn out to be exaggerated and that, b’ezras Hashem, we will see a steady decline in the rate of infection. Let us hope that we will soon see the great light at the end of this dark tunnel, both for Eretz Yisroel and for the world as a whole.
Welcoming New Members to the Knesset
This time, there is some good news from the halls of government: A couple of new chareidi legislators will be joining the Knesset.
You may be scratching your heads upon reading that, since the elections are already behind us. How can anyone be joining the Knesset at this time? Well, these new Knesset members have the Norwegian Law to thank for their new positions.
In general, a minister in the government is also a member of the Knesset. After all, the ministers are usually chosen from among the members of the Knesset. This, however, does not have to be the case. The prime minister has the right to appoint ministers who are not members of the Knesset. The late onetime justice minister Yaakov Neeman, for instance, was not a member of the Knesset, but was appointed by Netanyahu to serve in that position. Another justice minister, Professor Daniel Friedman, was likewise not a member of the Knesset and was appointed by Ehud Olmert to combat his left-wing prosecution. The finance minister in the previous government, Moshe Kachlon, also was not a member of the Knesset. Only the prime minister is required by law to be a Knesset member. And according to the law, if an MK who was appointed to a ministerial position resigns from the Knesset, he remains a government minister while the next member of his party takes his seat in the Knesset, just as the seat of any MK who resigns (or passes away) will be transferred to the next person on his party’s list. At this time, for instance, two Knesset members (who were also government ministers) have resigned from the Knesset: Gilad Erdan, who has been assigned to serve as Israel’s ambassador to the United Nations and then to assume the post of ambassador to Washington, and Tzipi Hotovely, who will become the Israeli ambassador to England. Both legislators will be replaced by the next members of the Likud list.
The Norwegian Law stipulates that any government minister or deputy minister may resign from the Knesset and allow the next person on his party’s list to take his place, but there is a twist: If the minister, for some reason, ceases to serve as a minister, then he can return to his seat in the Knesset, and the MK who replaced him will be removed. This past week, Meir Porush resigned from the Knesset while retaining his position as Deputy Minister of Education, and Yitzchok Pindrus took his place in the country’s parliament. Aryeh Deri also took advantage of the Norwegian Law to resign from the Knesset; he has remained the Minister of the Interior, while his departure from the Knesset has made room for Uriel Bosso (the grandson of the Baba Chaki, Rav Yitzchok Abuchatzeirah zt”l) to enter the legislature. On Sunday evening, Yaakov Litzman and Uri Maklev announced that they, too, intended to resign from the Knesset, making room for two more members of UTJ to join: Eliyohu Chossid, a member of the Gerrer chassidus, and Eliyohu Baruchi of Degel HaTorah. It is also possible that two of the three deputy ministers from the Shas party (Ben-Tzur, Meshullam Nahari, and Yitzchok Cohen) will also resign from the Knesset and allow their seats to be filled by other members of their party. It should be noted, though, that the Norwegian Law imposes a limit on the number of members of each party who are permitted to resign from the Knesset; I believe that there is a cap of three people per party. For the meantime, let us welcome the new Knesset members, Yitzchok Pindrus and Uriel Bosso, who were sworn in to their new positions early this week.
If you are wondering why the government waited so long before implementing the Norwegian Law, there is a reason: The Blue and White party was struggling to find a solution for a problem unique to them. The party has many ministers and very few Knesset members, but their party list is officially shared with Yesh Atid. They had no desire for one of their own members to resign from the Knesset and to be replaced by a member of Yesh Atid, and therefore they searched for a way to ensure that the vacated seats would be filled specifically by members of their own party.
The Coalition Strikes Down an Anti-Religious Law
Last Wednesday was a day of palpable tension in the Knesset. It was also a day when we discovered precisely what the new coalition had helped us avoid. The agenda for the day included a bill proposed by a member of the Meretz party, which would have either permitted or required the operation of public transportation on Shabbos. If the government had consisted of an alliance of the leftist, centrist, and Arab parties, or even of Likud and Blue and White, this law certainly would have passed, accompanied by the jubilant cries of an assortment of anti-religious agitators. But under the current coalition, the law was struck down by a majority vote. Even certain members of the Knesset who would have favored the law were forced to vote against it due to their commitments to the coalition. The results of the vote evoked ridicule and protest from the left and from Lapid. The main targets of their verbal barbs were the members of what was once the Labor party and of the Blue and White party, whom they considered close to them on the ideological spectrum. Lieberman also voiced his objections, but the deed was done; the bill was defeated by coalition discipline.
That is exactly my point. A coalition obligates all of its component parts—including the chareidi parties, of course. Everyone is also bound by the status quo—once again, including the chareidi parties. Therefore, when the left attempts to pass an anti-religious bill, then it is not only the chareidim who will vote it down; it will also be opposed by the likes of Avi Nissenkorn, Eitan Ginsbug, and even Itzik Shmuli. These are staunch chilonim who have spent their entire lives advocating for chillul Shabbos, yet are forced by their commitment to the coalition to vote down a bill that supports that very cause. At the same time, there is a downside to this arrangement. If someone such as Betzalel Smotrich, who has already promised to embarrass the chareidi parties, advances a bill that would prohibit missionary activity, for instance, the chareidim would be obligated to vote against it. Such is the nature of a partnership.
This first became apparent in the Ministerial Committee for Legislation, which is headed by Justice Minister Avi Nissenkorn. Every Sunday, the committee discusses the laws that will be brought to the entire Knesset on the following Wednesday. This past week, one of those laws was the Shabbos transportation bill presented by the Meretz party, and the committee decided that its official position was to oppose the bill—in spite of the fact that many members of the committee personally approved of it. That position then forced the entire coalition to adopt the same stance.
Guns Seized En Route to Chevron
There is a famous comment on the posuk, “Laud Hashem, all the nations; praise Him, all the peoples.” Why does this posuk exhort the nations of the world, rather than Bnei Yisroel, to praise Hashem? The answer is that there are times when other nations are in a better position to praise Hashem than we are. We do not always know what they are plotting against us, yet Hashem saves us from their nefarious schemes even without our knowledge.
I was reminded of this insight when I read that several Arabs had been indicted after a Border Guard patrol discovered that they were transporting 23 guns to the vicinity of Chevron. The newspapers reported it as follows: “At the beginning of the week, Border Guard officers operating at the kiosk checkpoint in Abu Dis stopped a car that aroused their suspicions. Upon searching the car, they discovered 23 airsoft-type guns that are believed to have been heading toward Chevron.”
It is chilling to think about the number of Jews who might have lost their lives if these guns had been permitted to reach their destination. Yet the guns seemed to have been discovered by “chance.” The car had aroused the suspicion of the Border Guard officers, but it could just as well have passed them without evoking their suspicions. They could also have failed to perform a thorough search of the car, or the guns could have been hidden more effectively. But because none of these things happened, the weapons were seized before they could cause any harm. We must certainly give thanks to Hashem and contemplate the instances of His kindness of which we are not even aware.
Then there was another news item from this week: “Commissioner Doron Yedid, the commander of the police force in the Yerushalayim district, signed an order this week barring a Waqf worker from Har Habayis for a period of five months, after the worker acted in a way that was liable to undermine peace and public security.” Simply put, this Waqf employee advocated acts of terror. A worker in the Waqf holds a position parallel to that of an employee of the Ministry of Religious Affairs or, l’havdil, of the Chief Rabbinate. In other words, a Waqf worker has a certain degree of religious authority and thus is in a position to inflame the passions of others. But I must question whether the action taken against him is sufficient. Now that he has been distanced from Har Habayis, will he refrain from supporting terror? Will he suddenly become a peace activist when he returns? What have we gained from the fact that he was barred from the site? In my opinion, the government ought to come up with a more effective and significant means of preventing incitement to terror.
An Attorney General Vulnerable to Blackmail
I have been reluctant to report on this issue, but I see that the controversy and uproar has been growing, and it is time for me to address it.
The attorney general of Israel, Avichai Mandelblit, is a charming fellow who wears a yarmulke. In the past, Mandelblit held the position of chief military prosecutor of the IDF, later moving on to serve as the cabinet secretary. Prime Minister Netanyahu later pushed for Mandelblit to become the attorney general. To his chagrin, Mandelblit repaid the favor by adopting a harsh approach toward the prime minister and indicting him on numerous criminal charges.
Today, however, Mandelblit himself has come under a hail of criticism from many directions. The political right claims that he has a tight connection with Gabi Ashkenazi, the current foreign minister and a senior member of Blue and White, who was recently one of Netanyahu’s most prominent political rivals. Mandelblit’s connection to Ashkenazi can be traced back to the time when the latter served as chief of staff of the IDF, when the so-called “Harpaz affair” erupted. Without going into too many details, this took place when there was a bid to appoint General Yoav Galant (today the Minister of Education) as the IDF chief of staff. In order to discredit him, a forged document was released that purported to prove that Galant had attempted to undermine his rival’s appointment through illegitimate means. Galant was therefore disqualified from serving in the position, but it was later discovered that the document had been faked. A recording has recently come to light in which Mandelblit, the chief military prosecutor at the time, can be heard assuring Ashkenazi that he will be exonerated. It certainly appears to be an incriminating exchange.
In fact, Mandelblit himself was suspected of forging the document at the time. The case against him was closed, which is what made it possible for him to be appointed attorney general. When he took the position, the appointment was challenged in the Supreme Court, but the court ruled that since the case against him was closed due to a lack of guilt (rather than a lack of evidence), there was no impediment to his serving as attorney general. It has since come to light, though, that the closure of the case was not due to a lack of guilt or to a lack of evidence. The case was simply closed, without any reason, and Mandelblit did not inform the judges that they were mistaken. In fact, had they known the truth about the closure of the case against him, they might not have approved his appointment at all.
Another detail has also been exposed: After Mandelblit was appointed to his position, he asked State Prosecutor Shai Nitzan (who has since stepped down from his position) to make the official determination that the case against him in the Harpaz affair had been closed because he was deemed innocent. In other words, Mandelblit tried to order his own subordinate to clear his record. That certainly seems very bad. Moreover, Shai Nitzan actually left the matter unresolved for many months, and throughout that time Mandelblit was likely vulnerable to extortion. Many have speculated that this was the reason that Mandelblit agreed to Nitzan’s demands to prosecute the prime minister. After all, no one denies that Nitzan adopted the harshest possible stance toward Netanyahu, and no one understood at the time why Mandelblit was going along with him without protesting. Now, it seems, the answer has become clear: Mandelblit was being blackmailed. His entire future was in Shai Nitzan’s hands. And Nitzan never even accommodated his superior’s request; the question of why the case against Mandelblit was closed remained unresolved. On the other hand, as long as the official records do not state that the case was closed due to a lack of evidence—which would have implied that Mandelblit was guilty but there simply wasn’t enough evidence to prosecute him—his political career will be fairly secure.
Pity for Avichai Mandelblit
With new facts coming to light every day, the overall result is that the entire judicial system in Israel has been losing the public’s trust. The Israeli people are losing faith in both the Ministry of Justice and the Supreme Court. Every day, another news station announces another dramatic new discovery or publicizes a new recording. Day after day, the public images of the judicial system, the Supreme Court judges, and the country’s politicians are being steadily eroded. The people have begun to question the integrity of the judges and prosecutors; the media has been fomenting public loathing both for the Ministry of Justice, which is located at the eastern end of the city, and for the Supreme Court, which is on its western side. The ruthless Israeli media takes no victims.
At the same time, the journalists seem to delight especially in spilling Netanyahu’s blood. And that isn’t to say that the journalists themselves are without fault; on the contrary, they have been exposed as sickeningly one-dimensional and one-sided. There is hardly a single person in the country who actually believes them. Time after time, they have shown that they pursue the prime minister the way a cat chases a mouse—out of pure obsession and without restraint. And the people do not believe their stories anymore. The results of the election after Netanyahu’s indictment should make that clear. If Netanyahu managed to defeat his opponents in spite of the fact that he had been indicted and that the media was bombarding him with criticism, that says quite a lot.
Binyomin Netanyahu deserves to be pitied, along with his son and his wife. They have been mercilessly denounced by the media from one end and the judicial system from the other, with both entities doing everything in their power to destroy all three of them as their most basic rights are viciously trampled.
But Avichai Mandelblit himself must also be pitied. Even if there is a tiny shred of truth to the accusations against him, he has suffered much more than he deserved. Even if Mandelblit tried to extricate himself from criminal punishment, that does not make him malevolent. If he succumbed to extortion from the state prosecutor when he agreed to indict Netanyahu, that means that it was Shai Nitzan, not Mandelblit, who was the villain in this story. A victim of blackmail deserves to be pitied. Mandelblit’s neighbors from his shul in Petach Tikvah, as well as his friends from his chassidus (the Ashlag chassidus of Bnei Brak) attest that he is a decent, professional, and honest man. Not long ago, Mandelblit was a guest speaker at a Torahdik event, where the audience was captivated by his charm.