Friday, Oct 15, 2021

My Take On The News

Another Terror Attack in the Binyamin Region

Meanwhile, another terror attack, which nearly ended in murder, took place in the Binyomin region. The attack took place on Route 465, near the entrance to the community of Neve Tzuf, where a group of Palestinians stoned a car driven by a woman named Rivka Teitel. Mrs. Teitel was gravely injured; two of her children were also in the car and were not harmed. A group of IDF soldiers launched a manhunt for the suspects, and the nearby village of Dir Nizam was sealed off. MDA paramedics managed to provide preliminary medical treatment to Mrs. Teitel, who was evacuated to the Sheba Tel Hashomer Medical Center suffering from injuries to her head. IDF medics also arrived at the scene and assisted in treating the victim before she was taken to the hospital.

This was the latest in a series of rock throwing attacks that have taken place in the area recently. The pictures and videos from the scene of the attack show that a stone hit the windshield of the car and then struck the driver herself. Of course, this incident added to the general feeling of helplessness plaguing Jewish residents of the area.

Rivka Teitel’s husband, Jack Teitel, was dubbed “the Jewish terrorist” by the Israeli media. In 2013, Teitel was sentenced to two life sentences for the murders of two Arabs (a taxi driver from East Yerushalayim and a shepherd), for an attempted bombing in the settlement of Eli in the year 2006, for wounding a Palestinian with an explosive in Beit Shemesh in 2007, and for planting bombs near police vehicles in Yerushalayim in the same year. As far as the courts were concerned, he was a one-man terror network. Teitel is in prison today, and although he has asked to be allowed to sit at his wife’s bedside in the hospital, it is highly unlikely that the prison authorities will agree to his request.

Tensions have been on the rise in Yehuda and the Shomron in recent weeks, following a series of violent clashes between Palestinians and Israelis. In light of the increased tension, the IDF has heightened its presence in the area. The recent incidents that have led to these tensions include the murder of Esther Horgan and the car chase that led to the death of Ahuvya Sandak. This period began with an incident in which a Palestinian terrorist threw a Molotov cocktail at an Israeli soldier and then escaped unharmed. The solder was suspended from his brigade for several months for his failure to open fire on the terrorist.

The Death of Ahuvya Sandak

Last week, I mentioned the death of 16-year-old Ahuvya Sandak. I didn’t devote a full section of this column to the incident, but I felt that it had to be mentioned, and I noted that his family and others on the political right are blaming the police for his death. Ahuvya was part of a group of boys who were throwing rocks at Palestinians who regularly harass the residents of Bat Ayin. Unbeknownst to them, they were being watched by Shabak agents in a civilian car, who suddenly began pursuing them. In the middle of the chase, the car containing the boys flipped over, and Ahuvya Sandak was trapped beneath the vehicle and killed. The other occupants of the car claimed that the Shabak agents rammed into their vehicle, causing it to overturn. The case was referred to the Machash (Police Internal Investigations Department) for further examination.

While I predicted that this story would not be quick to fade away, I did not anticipate the scope of the uproar it would create. The right-wing community has evidently lost its patience; they feel that the government has abandoned them. They claim that instead of protecting Jews from the Arabs who are constantly scheming against them and even trying to murder them, law enforcement agencies are concentrating their efforts on the hilltop youth, who occasionally harass Arabs. Right-wing activists assert that this is a policy that demonstrates warped priorities and that has proven to be a failure. Since the death of Ahuvya Sandak, hundreds or even thousands of people have been demonstrating in Yerushalayim, especially across from the offices of the Police Internal Investigations Department in the neighborhood of Har Chotzvim (near Rechov Golda Meir). These demonstrations surprised the entire country both with the large number of participants and the volume of every protest. And I predict that the protests will not end soon.

The Machash is investigating the police officers who were involved in the chase, but the boys who were in the car have been arrested, and the police are trying to press charges of manslaughter against them for Ahuvya’s death. Of course, that has only infuriated the right-wing community—along with many others—even more. The attorneys of Honenu, the organization that represents any members of the right who find themselves in conflict with the police, have voiced serious accusations both against the police force and against the Machash. On Friday, a petition appeared in right-wing newspapers calling on Minister of Internal Security Amir Ochana to appoint an external investigative committee to examine the actions of the police in Yehuda and the Shomron. The petition was signed by a long list of rabbonim, local government officials, and members of the Knesset, including five representatives of the chareidi parties: Moshe Arbel, Michoel Malchieli, and Moshe Abutbol of Shas, and Yitzchok Pindrus and Eliyohu Bruchi of Degel HaTorah. This, too, is unprecedented.

Threats from Rani

The Ahuvya Sandak affair has clearly demonstrated the hostile attitude of the police toward the political right, especially in Yehuda and the Shomron. Shlomo Neeman, head of the Gush Etzion Regional Council (whom I interviewed in the past for this newspaper) recently arranged for one of Ahuvya’s family members to pick up his personal belongings, including his tefillin, at the police station. When she arrived, she was told that the police wanted to question her, and she was interrogated for three hours. This was certainly a show of contempt and hostility toward the family.

Meanwhile, one of Ahuvya’s friends received a text message from a Shabak agent while he was paying a shiva call to the family. (Incidentally, Prime Minister Netanyahu called Ahuvya’s parents to offer his condolences.) The message read, “Be careful. I am watching you. You have a lot to lose in life.” This young man, along with other friends of Ahuvya Sandak, have received threats from the Shabak after participating in demonstrations against the police.

The same Shabak agent first tried to call the young man while he was at the shiva, but he rejected the call. That was why the agent resorted to a written message. In a later message, he wrote, “It’s me again! I am watching you 24/7. My eyes are wide open. Any wrong step you make, any defiance or act of violence in which you take part, will lead to major steps from me (and you know that I am not all talk). So don’t even try! You have a lot to lose in your life today. For your own good and the good of your family, be careful!” The Shabak agent signed the message with his code name, “Rani.”

The day before receiving this message, that young man had demonstrated in front of the home of one of the detectives involved in the accident. Moshe Polsky, a lawyer from Honenu, spoke out scathingly against the Shabak for its actions. “This is yet another example of the persecution of the hilltop youth,” he declared. “It is unacceptable for the General Security Service to be harassing the activists of the protest movement. A person who attends a demonstration in the evening should not find himself threatened by a member of the Shabak the next day. This is a violation of law and reason in a democratic state. The Shabak must understand that it exists to provide security in a democratic country and that activists of the right also possess the freedom to protest, the freedom to think as they choose, and the right to criticize the government.”

It is true that the hilltop youth sometimes go to unacceptable extremes. But when the Shabak or the police adopt such measures, it is a much more serious offense.

The Media Has Its Say

On a related note, I would like to point out that even a simple newspaper headline can be unquestionably biased.

As I mentioned, the right-wing community is holding mass protests, which are eminently justified. The entire country was shocked and horrified by the death of Ahuvya Sandak. The pictures of Ahuvya’s smiling face, the face of an intelligent young man with enormous potential, are devastating to behold in light of his tragic death. And now the police are engaging in vicious, indiscriminate, merciless violence against the protestors. Even Yishai Yerushalmi, a chareidi news photographer who arrived at the scene of a protest in order to do his job, was treated to a taste of their wrath; he was beaten and shoved into a fence until blood poured from his fingers. Yet the headline chosen by Maariv to report on that demonstration was “Eleven Policemen Injured During Demonstration Over Sandak’s Death.” One can have no doubt as to where the newspaper’s sympathies lie. Yediot Acharonot, on the other hand, drew its headline from a quote from Noam Binyomin, a young man from Otniel: “The Police Shattered Me with Their Blows.” Of course, this headline immediately causes the reader to identify with the youths who were beaten by the police. Such is the power of a newspaper’s choice of words.

This week, it was reported that criminal charges were escalated against the young men who were with Ahuvya in the car. This is a known tactic of the police: As the police officers themselves come under greater suspicion for being responsible for Ahuvya’s death, they will seek to deflect blame to their victims instead. In general, when a police officer strikes a civilian, one can expect that the victim himself will be accused of attacking the policeman. In fact, just this week, Judge David Rozen criticized the police after a civilian who was beaten by a policeman arrived at the police station to file a complaint and was immediately interrogated on the charge of assaulting an officer.

A political cartoon can also be worth a thousand words. The city of Lod is currently grappling with a wave of murderous violence. The police seem to have a disadvantage in their dealings with the Arab criminal gangs, along with limited mental capacity, although I would prefer not to elaborate too much on that point. This week, a political cartoon was published that showed two police officers questioning a keffiyeh-clad Arab against a backdrop of exploding buildings and raging shootouts. The Arab, who is clutching a bag filled with weapons, is asked by the police officers, “Why aren’t you wearing a mask?” You can certainly understand the point. Sometimes, our police officers remind me of the cardboard images of policemen that are placed along the sides of intercity highways in order to deter motorists from speeding. They do not accomplish much more than that.

Political Deadlock Still in Place

Of course, a week cannot go by without some political news. According to survey results published last weekend, the Blue and White party will not cross the electoral threshold. In other words, the same party that challenged Prime Minister Netanyahu in the previous election and almost presented an alternative government has dropped so low that it might not enter the Knesset at all next time around. The polls still show the Likud remaining the largest party in the Knesset, and the changes in the political map in Israel appear to have brought two new popular parties to the scene: one founded by Tel Aviv mayor Ron Huldai, who has been joined by Justice Minister Avi Nissenkorn, and another founded by Gideon Saar, who resigned from the Likud.

Many of the existing parties are expected to remain more or less stable. Yair Lapid is hovering around 13 mandates, while Yamina has dropped from its previous record heights to a showing of about 10 or 12 mandates, which probably represents its true power. The Arabs, who have 15 mandates in the Knesset today, are expected to lose one or two of their seats, and the chareidi parties are expected to remain in the same position, while Lieberman will lose some of his strength. The big surprises are the two new parties, as Gideon Saar is expected to win 17 mandates, while Huldai appears poised to receive eight.

It seems likely that it will be very hard for the Likud to establish a government, even with the support of the chareidim and Yamina. Netanyahu will need the support of another party in order to remain in power. No one believes that Lieberman will make an about-face and join him this time around, which leaves only Gideon Saar as a potential ally. Although Saar vowed when he formed his party that he would not join forces with Netanyahu, we have often seen that a politician’s promises evaporate after an election. If Benny Gantz was willing to enter a coalition with Netanyahu, then anything is possible.

On the other hand, if all the parties who are united by their animosity toward Bibi join forces, then they could be in a position to form a government. This government would consist of Saar, Lapid, Huldai, Lieberman, and possibly Bennett. This would probably be unjust to the voters, but it could very well happen. And if such a coalition is formed, the chareidim might join the government as well. Only time will tell.

Huldai Is Not a Threat

One might think that a coalition of this nature would be a betrayal of the Israeli voters. If Gideon Saar, Yair Lapid, Ron Huldai, Avigdor Lieberman, and the Yamina party accumulate 61 mandates in total, then they will probably be able to join forces in a center-right government and oust Netanyahu. However, it seems improper for anyone who received fewer votes than Netanyahu to hold the office of prime minister.

You might be thinking that the opposite can be true: This would actually be a fulfillment of the will of the people. After all, if these parties are able to put together a coalition, it would mean that the total number of votes they received is greater than the votes cast for Netanyahu. That is a reasonable argument, but it crumbles under closer scrutiny. It is true that anyone who votes for one of these parties will effectively be voting against Bibi, but that is not all. Someone who votes for Huldai will also be presumably voting against Lapid, and definitely against the right-wing Bennett. How could Naftoli Bennett, for instance, take his votes and support Gideon Saar or Yair Lapid as the next prime minister? That would surely violate the will of the voters who elected him.

This argument is precisely the reason that Israel once adopted a two-ballot system. If every voter had the ability to cast one ballot for prime minister and another for the party of his choice, then it would be clear exactly whom the Israeli public has chosen to lead the country. The reason this system was discarded was that the Likud party felt that it was in its best interests to return to the one-ballot method, as I explained last week. Once again, we are discovering that human beings might seek to advance their interests in a certain way, only to be the cause of their own failure. By abolishing the two-ballot system, the Likud party sealed its own fate; it is still suffering from the consequences of that decision.

This is far from the only case in which a politician’s machinations backfired and a political ploy achieved the opposite of its intended effect. Avigdor Lieberman advocated for the electoral threshold to be raised in order to block the Arab parties from entering the Knesset, but the Arabs responded by merging into a single party that grew to monstrous proportions. At the same time, Yisroel Eichler tried to have the threshold lowered again for the coming election, but that might have reduced the power of UTJ and Agudas Yisroel.

On a similar note, it is widely believed that Ron Huldai poses a threat to the Likud and Netanyahu, but that might not be true at all. Huldai is not siphoning votes from the right or from the Likud; instead, he is likely to draw voters away from Lapid and Gantz, and he is certainly crushing the likes of Ofer Shelach and Yaron Zelika. Why should anyone on the right be concerned about whether a leftist will vote for Yesh Atid or for Huldai’s party, Yisraelim? In fact, the more the vote is split on the left, the better it is for the right. Fragments of parties have less legitimacy and therefore less of an impact than a broad-based, stable center-left party. Huldai’s arrival on the playing field might prove to be a blessing in disguise.

Netanyahu Seeks to Woo Arab Voters

I may have presented a bleak picture of the potential outcome of the election, but I am not trying to frighten you. With Hashem’s help, everything will work out for the best. After all is said and done, the contest is between the right-wing bloc and the left-wing bloc. The only party without a clear alignment is Lieberman’s party, Yisrael Beiteinu, which receives votes from the left as well because of his anti-Netanyahu stance. While Lieberman criticizes the chareidi parties for “controlling” their voters, the truth is that he himself draws many voters away from the parties they would naturally support with his misleading rhetoric.

There is still a great chance that the Likud and the chareidi parties, together with Bennett and his party, will cross the threshold of 61 mandates without requiring Lieberman’s support. There is no reason to believe that Bennett, with all his staunch right-wing allies, will mimic Lieberman’s actions and prevent the formation of a right-wing government in order to topple Netanyahu. If he did that, in fact, it would cause a left-wing government to be formed, which would certainly be anathema to him. And if Bennett joins forces with Netanyahu and the chareidim, then there is a major likelihood that Gideon Saar will also join the government, in spite of his promises at this time. After all, Saar did not launch his own political party for the purpose of sitting in the opposition. What he can accomplish is to demand senior ministerial positions for himself and his allies, Zeev Elkin and Yifat Shasha-Bitton, rather than insignificant posts such as the water, digital affairs, and Diaspora affairs portfolios.

In other words, Bibi isn’t sunk just yet.

Most of the polls indicate, in fact, that a large number of the left-wing parties will disappear from the political map, a fate that will likely be shared by Bayit Yehudi (which has only one representative today—Rafi Peretz). Otzma Yehudit, the party of Itamar Ben-Gvir and other followers of Rabbi Meir Kahane, is also not expected to cross the electoral threshold. Everyone is hoping that they will not repeat their mistake of making a doomed bid for election and causing many right-wing votes to be wasted. Ofer Shelach, former associate of Yair Lapid who resigned from Yesh Atid to lead his own party, is also not expected to cross the threshold; Huldai has effectively eliminated him. The Labor party is also expected to disappear. The surviving parties will be the Likud, New Hope (Gideon Saar’s party), Yamina, Huldai’s party Yisraelim, Yesh Atid, and, of course, the Arab and chareidi parties.

This week, Netanyahu announced that he hopes to receive several mandates from the Arab sector, and that he has even begun to court Arab voters. He has begun visiting Arab villages and announcing that he is in favor of appointing a Muslim minister in the government. He has also declared that he is considering including an Arab on the Likud party list, in one of the four slots that can be filled at his discretion. This week, he also had himself photographed together with the millionth Israeli citizen to receive a coronavirus vaccination, who happened to be an Arab resident of an Arab town. Unfortunately for Netanyahu, the man turned out to be a convicted criminal who had been released from prison. While he wasn’t a terrorist murderer, he was still a convict. This did not boost Netanyahu’s public image quite as much as he had hoped….

Sickness and Tragedy

This brings us to the next major topic in the news: the coronavirus. Things are becoming progressively worse. Israel has set an international record for vaccinations, which is certainly good news. On the other hand, the list of confirmed coronavirus patients is rapidly growing, to the point that the Health Ministry has declared its intention to impose much more severe restrictions. We must daven for an improvement of the situation.

The coronavirus has been claiming many victims. It has infiltrated virtually every household in the country and has infected many gedolei Torah. Last week, we escorted Rav Sholom Povarsky to his final rest. At the shiva, Rav Povarsky’s children related that their father had written a will on the day before he was rushed to the hospital. When they expressed their surprise, he said, “Don’t you know that the coronavirus can be life-threatening at my age?”

The chareidi community has been deeply pained by the recent tragic passing of Esther Baila Pollack, who died at the age of 22 after being diagnosed with a brain tumor. Esther Baila, who was buried last Thursday night, passed away less than a year after her own mother’s petirah, which left her serving as a surrogate mother to her own siblings. The entire community was shaken by the tragedy, and the hesped delivered by her father, Rav Meir Tuvia Pollack, the mashgiach of Yeshivas Ateres Yisroel L’Tzeirim, moved everyone to tears. If not for space constraints, I would have quoted the hesped here in its entirety. Rav Pollack gave thanks to Hashem and added that everything that He does is good. Then he added, “I have only one request: She has no one to recite Kaddish for her. Please, You say the Kaddish for her, and we will answer Amen.” It was a heartrending and chilling hesped.

Esther Baila’s mother, Varda Tzipporah Pollack, was a teacher in the Bais Yaakov of Givat Shaul. Esther Baila herself was also a teacher in the same school, where my own eldest daughter is a member of the faculty. My granddaughters study in the school, and they were taught by both Pollacks. I can attest that the entire school, students and faculty alike, is struggling with shock and grief.

Praise from Rav Hutner

My son, who lives in Givat Shaul and was very close with Rav Sholom Povarsky, paid a visit to the Povarsky family during the shiva, where the family shared a series of fascinating stories with him. I was unable to visit the family personally, since there was a sign on the door asking anyone who hasn’t contracted the coronavirus to refrain from entering their home. The reason was that Rav Sholom’s rebbetzin was suffering from the virus at the time.

The Povarsky fami-ly told my son about a din Torah between Rav Sholom and my father, Rav Moshe Menachem Yaakovson, rov of Beer Yaakov. Rav Sholom and my father had opened a cheder together, which closed down after a few years. After the cheder closed, they were forced to contend with the question of how to divide its property. Both my father and Rav Sholom had invested their own personal funds in the cheder, and the school had owned a couple of apartments that were left empty when it closed. These apartments weren’t worth very much, but they had some value. My father insisted that the apartments rightfully belonged to Rav Sholom, whereas Rav Sholom contended that they should be given to my father.

The case was brought to Rav Shlomo Zalman Auerbach, and my father and Rav Sholom Povarsky presented their respective claims. My father argued that Rav Sholom, as a private individual who had invested his personal funds in the cheder, could not afford the loss and deserved to recoup his investment. Rav Sholom argued that my father, as the mora d’asra, funded many communal projects and that he was therefore struggling with enormous debts and should use the apartments for his own financial needs. In the end, Rav Sholom won the din Torah; Rav Shlomo Zalman ruled that the majority of the school’s remaining property should be awarded to my father.

Rebbetzin Chiyena Povarsky, Rav Sholom’s wife, worked as a teacher in the girls’ school founded by my father in Beer Yaakov. When Rav Sholom was offered his position in Yeshivas Kol Torah and the Povarsky family left Beer Yaakov, my father ruled that the rebbetzin should receive more severance pay than the law required. (Presumably, the severance payment required by law was diminished by the fact that she left the job on her own accord rather than being dismissed.) Around the same time, there was a similar case in another school, where the administration insisted on paying no more than was required by law. One of the gedolei Yisroel commented at the time that a school that operated as my father did was bound to be blessed from Shomayim, and a school that acted differently would not receive the same brachah. Sure enough, the second school eventually closed, whereas the girls’ school in Beer Yaakov is still in existence today (and recently took in a kiruv school run by Lev L’Achim as well).

The family also recalled that my father was once officiating at a wedding when a particular rov commented during the chuppah, “The mora d’asra of Beer Yaakov isn’t managing this chuppah precisely in accordance with halacha.” In all likelihood, my father didn’t hear this comment, although I am certain that he would not have responded even if he had heard it; he had mastered the art of disregarding insults. Nevertheless, Rav Sholom objected to the comment and loudly insisted, “This is the way it should be done.” Everyone around him looked at Rav Sholom in surprise; he had never been observed to raise his voice in the past, and he was also very young at the time. It seemed to be an act of audacity for him to speak out in that fashion.

One of the guests at the wedding was Rav Yitzchok Hutner. After a few moments had passed, Rav Hutner asked for the yungerman who had defended my father to be summoned to him. Rav Sholom approached him with great reverence, and Rav Hutner asked for his name. When Rav Sholom identified himself, Rav Hutner said, “Are you the Rav Sholom Povarsky who is renowned throughout the world?” Rav Sholom was completely flustered. Rav Hutner then declared, “You acted correctly!”

The Shots That Make the News

A few lines that appeared in a chiloni newspaper this week are a prime example of anti-chareidi incitement, along with staggering ignorance. In Yisroel HaYom, one of the headlines declared, “Long Lines Until Late at Night: Chareidi Response to Vaccination Campaign Is Enormous.” This makes it seem as if chareidim are alien beings of some kind; a chareidi person choosing to receive a vaccine is the sort of “man bites dog” story that makes the news.

The body of the article states, “Although not all the chareidim observed the government guidelines, there is tremendous demand for the vaccine, with the backing of leading rabbonim.” The implications of this statement are absurd, for more than one reason. First of all, even if some chareidim did not adhere to the guidelines, they were probably no less compliant than secular Israelis. In fact, the chilonim might well have been the greater offenders. Moreover, the same rabbonim who called upon the chareidi community to receive the vaccine also urged the people to take precautions to prevent infection, and it can be presumed that the chareidim listened to them in that case as well. Above all, why is it newsworthy when a chareidi receives the vaccine?

We must not underestimate the pernicious effects of the secular media’s disparagement of chareidim. Newspapers have tremendous power—the power to destroy. The only person who is suffering similar treatment is Binyamin Netanyahu. It is the media that brought his criminal trial upon him and that is now building up the “anyone but Bibi” gang, from Gantz and Huldai to Lieberman and Bennett.

Pollard Arrives Without Commotion

There is much more that I could write, but everything else seems trivial in contrast to our current troubles. At the same time, I feel compelled to mention Jonathan Pollard and his wife, who arrived in Israel early last Wednesday morning in surprising secrecy. Even in the modern era, it is apparently possible for some secrets to be kept.

The only person who greeted them on the tarmac was Prime Minister Netanyahu, who was visibly emotional as he handed Pollard his Israeli identification card. Contrary to what one might have expected, the arriving couple wasn’t met by hundreds of journalists or dozens of VIPs. Pollard landed in Israel at 4:00 in the morning, and his arrival was deliberately given a low profile, perhaps to avoid antagonizing the United States or to prevent anyone from claiming that Netanyahu was capitalizing on the moment for electoral propaganda. This was certainly a wise choice, regardless of the reason. Before Pollard bumped elbows with the prime minister in lieu of a handshake, he handed the book he was holding to his wife and then lay down to kiss the ground of Eretz Yisroel.

Everyone in Israel was excited by Pollard’s arrival, but the fact that Netanyahu greeted him alone did serve to politicize the occasion to some degree, especially with an election looming. Some leftist politicians hurried to dampen the festivities, arguing that Pollard had acted for the sake of personal gain, that he had harmed Israel’s interests more than he had benefited the country, and that Netanyahu deserves no credit for his arrival in Israel. Unfortunately, this rancor is the result of the political atmosphere in Israel.

Meanwhile, a veritable world war has erupted between two newspapers: Yediot Acharonot and Yisroel Hayom. The Pollards arrived in Israel on a private plane owned by Sheldon Adelson, who is also the owner of Yisroel Hayom. Consequently, Yisroel Hayom carried some exclusive photographs taken on the plane and in the airport. No photographer was present, not even a member of the government’s press office. This meant that Yediot Acharonot, along with other publications, could take pictures only from a video released by someone in the government. The newspaper therefore tried to trivialize this historic event, which was mentioned briefly on the front page and was the subject of a small article somewhere inside the newspaper. Yisroel Hayom, on the other hand, dedicated its entire front page, along with several additional pages inside the paper, to Pollard’s arrival. It was a study in contrasts.

When Rav Ovadiah Addressed a Small Siyum

I recently came across the following notice, which appeared in a newspaper published 40 years ago: “The Yerushalayim branch of Torah V’Yahadut La’am invites the residents of Kiryat Menachem and Ir Ganim to a celebration of a siyum on Maseches Brachos, which will be held today at Ohel Malka Institutes on Rechov Iceland. Participants will include Rav Ovadiah Yosef, the Rishon Letzion and chief rabbi of Israel, as well as Rav Mordechai Ludmir, Rav Avrohom Yosef Leizerson, and the rabbonim of the neighborhood, Rav Yisroel Yaakov Weisfish and Rav Rachamim Amra. The hadran will be recited by Rav Michoel Amos, who delivers the shiurim.”

I hurried to photocopy the notice and to give it to Reb Shlomo Levi, the tzaddik who serves as the head of the Knesset printing department. Rabbi Levi is the right-hand man of Rav Michoel Amos, who is a member of the Bais Din Hagadol, the rov of the neighborhood of Kiryat Menachem, and the director of the Zechor L’Avraham institution for Torah and kiruv in the neighborhood. You may recall that I have written about him in the past. Shlomo Levi was enthralled by the notice, which brought him back to a much earlier era. “Not only do I remember that period, I was actually present at that siyum,” he told me.

“Really?” I asked.

“Yes, and I can add to the story,” he said. “We weren’t sure if we should invite Rav Ovadiah. Why should such a distinguished rov attend our siyum? But Rav Amos decided to make the attempt in spite of our hesitation. Rav Ovadiah asked, ‘How many people are in your shiur?’ Rav Amos was somewhat embarrassed to reply, but he admitted that there were only ten men. As soon as he had spoken, we were sure that the rov would decline the invitation. To our surprise, however, Rav Ovadiah exclaimed, ‘I would come even if there were only three of you!’”

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