A Budget That Harms Large Families and Chareidim
The Knesset has approved the state budget, and while we might have expected to hear sighs of relief emanating from the halls of government now that the pressure is off, no such reactions are in evidence. Even the ministers in the government don’t seem to be relieved at all. They understand that it is a bad budget that will not be helpful to any sector of society—not the soldiers, certainly not the residents of the periphery, and definitely not the poor. And, of course, it includes no good news for the chareidi community.
The new budget will lead to economic hardships, new taxes, and price hikes. The price of gasoline is expected to rise dramatically and, as Americans have been reminded, when gas goes up in price, it causes many other prices to rise in tandem with it. Public transportation, electricity, and even bread will become more expensive.
The most widely reported impact of the new budget is the sharp price increases affecting two categories of consumer goods: soft drinks and disposable dishes. The so-called justification for these new taxes is a brazen lie. The government claims to have instituted the taxes for the public benefit, to protect our health by preventing us from drinking massive quantities of sweetened beverages and to discourage us from causing ecological damage by continuing to use and discard plastic dishes. (Ecological sensitivity seems to be in vogue throughout the world.) The truth, however, is that the Treasury doesn’t actually want anyone to stop using these items; they want people to continue buying them and to pay the inflated taxes, which will generate millions of shekels in revenues for the government. And in all likelihood, the Treasury will get its wish. So while the government pretends to be looking out for the citizens of Israel, it is actually looking out for its own purse.
Moreover, no one denies that these two taxes will cause harm mainly to the lower classes, especially to the chareidi public. The biggest consumers of disposable dishes and sweetened drinks are families with many children, along with yeshivos. Someone calculated that the yeshivos will incur millions of shekels in additional expenses every year due to these taxes, and that the average chareidi family will be shelling out at least an additional 150 shekels per month.
It was reported this week that officials in the Treasury were opposed to the tax on disposable dishes, and that Finance Minister Lieberman insisted on pushing it through, as part of his vendetta against the chareidi community. It should therefore come as no surprise that the chareidim feel they have been targeted for persecution.
What makes this doubly sad, not to mention infuriating, is the fact that the revenues from these taxes will be used for the massive injections of funding that the government promised to the Arab community, all in order to ensure its own political survival.
Seminary Principals Turn to the Knesset for Help
Now that the budget has passed, it is time to assess the damage. A chareidi economist recently tallied up the losses to the community’s various institutions and came up with a set of staggering numbers. Girls’ high schools and seminaries will lose a whopping 49.5 million shekels, while the Bnei Yosef network will suffer a similar loss of 50 million shekels. Chinuch Atzmai will lose 40 million shekels, the yeshivos will lose 50 million shekels, and “recognized but unofficial” schools will see their funding slashed by 80 million shekels, while the preschools with that designation will lose an additional 25 million.
I am not an expert on finances, but even if these figures were exaggerated, the basic idea is still true: The chareidi community and the Torah world are facing a devastating series of budget cuts. And now that the government’s plans have become reality, the impact is beginning to be felt.
Last Monday, a large group of distinguished-looking men arrived in the Knesset. It didn’t take me more than a few seconds to realize who they were: This was a delegation of the deans of girls’ schools throughout the country. They had come to meet with the members of the chareidi parties, Shas and United Torah Judaism, to warn them that their schools are collapsing under the financial burden. One of the menahalim asserted that if the budget cuts take effect, the schools will no longer be able to function at all. Another reminded his listeners that the problem isn’t just economic; the budget cut poses a spiritual threat to the girls as well. If the schools are forced to give up some of their operations, then Bais Yaakov girls will turn to other types of schools to pursue certain studies.
After making their case to the members of UTJ, the delegation moved on to the Shas party’s offices, where they repeated their story. Aryeh Deri, the chairman of the party, responded to them, “The middas hadin is in force; this is a time of hester ponim. Our hands are tied. All that is left for us to do is to daven. I advise you to have the students in your seminaries and Talmudei Torah begin the day by reciting Tehillim. And I am saying this in complete seriousness.”
I looked at the visiting men, and they all nodded in agreement. One of them murmured, “We are already doing that.”
Thousands of Shiurim in Danger of Cancellation
The fears plaguing the Torah world were evident in several recent kinusim. Last week, there was a gathering in Bnei Brak of the heads of major kollelim, who are cumulatively responsible for thousands of yungeleit and are very concerned about their futures. The Israeli Yated Neeman quoted the speeches delivered by the roshei kollelim, who painted a bleak picture of the situation.
I also came across a notice from the director of El Hamaayan, an organization that maintains a large network of shiurim, which was addressed to the coordinators, maggidei shiurim, and participants alike. “This is an eis tzarah for Yaakov,” the letter began. “At this time, the cruel government of evil is planning to pass the state budget that will viciously slash funding for all the institutions of Torah and Yiddishkeit throughout the country. El Hamaayan alone will suffer a loss of 17 million shekels…. Therefore, we ask everyone to daven and dedicate the shiurim and tefillos as a zechus for this wicked decree to be annulled.”
I investigated the matter and discovered that the budget cuts might result in the cancellation of over 5000 shiurim that are run throughout the country by various organizations. Without government funding, it will be impossible for the organizers to arrange the shiurim, to pay rent for their locations and to provide even modest refreshments, as well as to pay the yungeleit who deliver the shiurim, to arrange transportation and to cover the cost of the necessary electricity. The affected organizations range from large entities such as El Hamaayan, Torah V’Yahadut La’am, Degel Yerushalayim, and Todaah, to smaller groups such as Maayanah Shel Torah and Naaseh V’Nishma. In addition to the loss of the shiurim themselves, the draconian cuts will also harm the thousands of yungeleit who valued the meager payments that they received for these hours of teaching work.
This government has declared war on all the things that are most precious to religious Jews. They first set their sights on the Kosel, Shabbos, kashrus, and giyur, and now they have expanded their offensive to target yeshivos, kollelim, seminaries, shiurim, and kiruv work as well. Not only that, but they have also decided to launch an attack on the pockets of bnei Torah. This government does not deserve to have the right to exist.
Yair Lapid – His Own Worst Enemy
It seems that there can be no help for Yair Lapid; he keeps shooting himself in the proverbial foot over and over. For instance, when Moshe Gafni recently described Naftoli Bennett as a traitor to his people, his voters, and Eretz Yisroel, Lapid fulminated, “I call on Moshe Gafni to retract his statement immediately. This type of talk leads Israel to destruction. We all live here together, and we share a single fate. We can disagree, but this kind of rhetoric leads to dangerous violence.”
Lapid was posing as the responsible adult in the room, pretending to be entitled to lecture Gafni about mature and responsible dialogue. Unfortunately for him, someone dug up a quote from Lapid a couple years ago, in which he accused Netanyahu of being a traitor to his community—in exactly the same words that he had condemned Gafni for using.
In a similar vein, during the vote on the budget, MK Eli Cohen (Likud) offered on behalf of the opposition and the Likud party to withdraw their reservations on the bill if the government agreed to raise the wags of soldiers in compulsory IDF service. (This was something that Lapid had promised to do, and that he failed to carry out.) Lapid responded haughtily, “You had fifteen years in the government to raise the soldiers’ wages, and you didn’t do it. Your offer is rejected.”
For one thing, this response makes no sense. Even if the Likud party betrayed its responsibility to the soldiers, is that a reason for Yesh Atid to follow suit by ignoring its own commitments? On the contrary, if the injustice was really so great, that would have been even more of a reason for it to be rectified by the Knesset. But a reporter named Michoel Shemesh pointed out another fallacy in Lapid’s words: In 2015, the Likud-led government indeed raised the soldiers’ wages by 50 percent.
Motzoei Shabbos brought us another gaffe on Lapid’s part. Together with Bennett and Lieberman, Lapid was presiding over a press conference in honor of the passage of the budget (as if it was some sort of historical accomplishment), and one of the reporters asked him if the United States plans to open a consulate in Yerushalayim. Lapid has been accused of hinting to the American Secretary of State that Israel will not oppose the opening of the consulate; that was one of the problematic moves for which he was faulted by Minister Shaked. At the press conference, Lapid replied, “Of course, we are against the opening of the consulate in Yerushalayim. But if a consulate is opened in Ramallah, it won’t bother us.”
Once again, Lapid’s doubletalk only served to make matters worse.
Lapid and Nepotism
Last week, the press reported that Yair Lapid had appointed his sister-in-law to a position in the Keren Kayemet L’Yisrael. This is the same Yair Lapid who spoke out vehemently against the creation of jobs for personal favors, and against nepotism in the KKL in particular. Not long ago, as a member of the opposition in April 2019, Lapid wrote the following: “There is no need for a Minister of Yerushalayim Affairs. There is no need for a Minister of Diaspora Affairs; it could be merely another office within the Foreign Ministry. We also do not need a Minister of Intelligence, since the Defense Ministry is responsible for intelligence and the Prime Minister’s Office oversees the Mossad and the Shabak. These are ministries created for no reason other than to provide work for people with connections and to honor politicians who will sit in comfortable chairs in their offices and invent things for themselves to do that will cost money to the country.” Yet Lapid himself, in a blatant failure to take his own advice, has now given his own sister-in-law a position that is completely superfluous.
As this embarrassing revelation came to light, it was also revealed that Lapid engineered a job for yet another family member: He arranged for his wife’s cousin, Sarit Handknopf, to be installed as the director of the Israel and Diaspora Holocaust Department of the World Zionist Organization. This woman is a member of Yesh Atid who was placed in the fortieth position on the party’s slate in the recent elections. For the past nine years, she has served as Yesh Atid’s campaign director in the city of Modiin. The party itself denied Lapid’s involvement in her appointment. “Handknopf was appointed not by Lapid but by the deputy chairwoman of the World Zionist Organization,” the party insisted in a statement. “Sarit is an excellent and professional woman who was chosen for the job based on her professional abilities, and we wish her much success.”
A bit of research revealed that the deputy chairwoman of the World Zionist Organization is Tova Dorfman, one of the founders of the Yesh Atid party, who was herself an appointee of the party. It seems somewhat improbable, then, that Lapid himself wasn’t behind his cousin’s appointment.
In his speech in the Knesset last week, Binyomin Netanyahu drew his colleagues’ attention to the appointment of Lapid’s sister-in-law to the KKL. “Lapid has always said that the KKL is a conduit for transferring money to political parties, but now he has appointed his own sister-in-law to its board of directors,” Netanyahu pointed out, once again highlighting Lapid’s hypocrisy. Without a doubt, Yair Lapid is his own worst enemy.
Amir Peretz Blocked from Leading IAI
On what may be a related note, many people in Israel were infuriated last week by a different appointment that did not come to pass.
The ill-fated appointment was intended for Amir Peretz, the onetime mayor of Sderot and former chairman of the Labor party, who has even served as Minister of Defense. Peretz has been hailed as the father of the Iron Dome system, since he fought for the use of Iron Dome batteries while other government figures were opposed to the idea, including military officers who felt that the system would be inefficient and a waste of money. Peretz was adamant, and the Iron Dome batteries were installed. In the final analysis, it turned out that he was correct.
There is a committee in Israel that evaluates every proposed appointment to a position in public service. This committee disqualified Peretz from being appointed to the position of chairman of the Israel Aerospace Industries. The appointments committee claimed that the abilities he displayed were not sufficient to deal with the challenges facing the IAI. They added that his political connection to Defense Minister Benny Gantz was another strike against him. In truth, however, Peretz’s abilities seem to be indisputable, and any political connection that he has to Benny Gantz is tenuous at best. The two men don’t even belong to the same party. Presumably, if Lapid had nominated Peretz for the position, he would have received it.
A Fabricated Attack
Another story, which is at once amusing and saddening, recently emerged concerning our bizarre government.
Idit Silman, the chairwoman of the coalition, is a young member of the Knesset from Yamina, Naftoli Bennett’s party, which is in the process of evaporating. Mrs. Silman emerged from obscurity and quickly rose to a position of power in the government; her brutal conduct as a member of the coalition seems to have earned her significant media coverage.
Last week, Silman claimed in a media interview that she has been receiving threats and has been subjected to a campaign of harassment. She claimed to have been accosted by a strange man at a gas station two weeks ago, relating that the stranger pulled up his car beside her and that she managed to escape miraculously. However, this story seems to have been fabricated. It is unimaginable that any member of the Knesset could be accosted in public without a major commotion resulting immediately.
When the interviewer asked Silman to share more details of the incident, she demurred—of course, since there were no details to be had. She was asked why she hadn’t reported it to the police or the Knesset Sergeant-at-Arms, and she claimed that she had indeed done so. When the reporters contacted the police for more details, however, they responded that they had never received a complaint from Silman. The Knesset Sergeant-at-Arms likewise confirmed that he hadn’t been told about the incident. To make matters more complicated for her, Silman claimed that the incident took place at a gas station in Modiin. There are only five gas stations in the city, and only three of them are equipped with the system that makes it possible for the Knesset to be charged for the purchase of gas. A few people took the initiative of examining the footage from security cameras at all five gas stations—and discovered no evidence of any attack on the chairwoman. As a result, she seems to be sinking deeper and deeper into a morass of falsehood. As Rav Shimshon Pincus once said, a person may decide to tell a single lie, but he will be forced to weave an entire web of falsehoods in order to prevent it from being discovered.
In short, this is a bizarre incident that has not made the Knesset seem dignified, to put it mildly. Some have suggested that Silman will be forced to resign from the Knesset in disgrace. Others reason, though, that when it is contrasted with the lies told by Lapid and Bennett, this little prevarication is insignificant, and her political career will surely survive.
Protests Over the Death of Ahuvya Sandak
In recent nights, I have been witnessing major demonstrations at the entrance to Yerushalayim—near the Chords Bridge and Center One—over the death of Ahuvya Sandak. I pass through the area at least twice a day, and when I see the demonstrators, I feel a measure of solidarity with them. After all, they are absolutely right! I always honk my horn in order to show them I identify with their cause, and I have observed many other motorists doing the same.
Let me remind you of the details of the story: Ahuvya Sandak was a 16-year-old boy who was killed while riding in a car that overturned. Ahuvya and his friends, who identified with the hilltop youth, were suspected by police officers of throwing stones at Arabs. The police began to chase the boys’ car, and their own vehicle collided with the car in what seemed to be a deliberate move during the chase. Ahuvya was killed as a result, and many view it as an outright murder perpetrated by the police.
Ahuvya’s death led to an outpouring of outrage. In addition to the fact that the police caused the accident, they also prevented emergency responders from arriving at the scene. Even Betzalel Smotrich, who came to the scene of the accident, was prevented by the police from approaching the overturned car. Witnesses claim that Ahuvya bled to death during this time. In the wake of public pressure and fierce demonstrations, an investigation was opened. It has now been reported that the state prosecution is considering indicting one of the police officers involved in the chase.
That may be the reason that the protests resumed this week. Hundreds of demonstrators have been converging on the area every night; on motzoei Shabbos, they managed to bring traffic to a standstill in both directions on the highway. The police officers refused to show the slightest restraint and mercilessly pummeled the protestors, who responded in kind by attacking the police officers. Fourteen youths were arrested, including one American yeshiva bochur. (The bochur’s parents appealed to me to help secure their son’s release; they claim that he was innocently passing through the area and wasn’t involved in the protest.) I anticipate that these demonstrations will continue and will grow in volume and intensity.
A Poet Bemoans the Government’s Broken Promises
There is a blind Sephardic poet in Israel named Erez Bitton, who is widely admired by the public. This week, he has been bemoaning a failure of the government. Five years ago, Naftoli Bennett, who was serving as the Minister of Education, organized a committee to research how Sephardic identity could be strengthened in the educational system. The committee made its recommendations, but nothing came of them. Bitton, who was the chairman of the committee, is indignant. “The promises have faded away and the entire issue has been shoved aside,” he lamented. “The government has failed to make the allocations of funding that the committee called for. Nothing has been done for this cause at all.”
Bitton is especially irked by the imbalance in the current budget. “The government gave tens of billions of shekels [to the Arabs] for its survival and to make sure that the budget would pass, but they couldn’t come up with 200 million shekels for this project, which became a government decision,” he said bitterly. “It was an empty decision, just as it is an empty government. They talked about providing lessons about prominent Sephardic figures, about contributing to research in academic institutions, and about allocating 250 million shekels per year over the course of five years, but they haven’t done a thing about it.”
Cell Phone Reception to Come to Achisamoch
I am a strong believer in the effectiveness of parliamentary queries. Experience has shown that they can sometimes accomplish an enormous amount. For instance, when the police investigate a case of arson at a shul—which has unfortunately become a common occurrence—they often go about it in a lackadaisical and disinterested manner, but a parliamentary query can get them moving with much more diligence and alacrity. After all, the query passes through multiple pairs of hands before reaching the investigators themselves; it first reaches the Minister of Internal Security and is then relayed to the police chief, then to the district commander, and finally reaches the unit involved in the investigation. With a comment added to the message by every individual who has handled it along the way, the pressure builds up. The result is often that the police will suddenly take action in new ways, which sometimes lead to progress in their probes. And if a case has been closed, then the Knesset discovers that as well.
Remember Ron Cobi, the disgraced former mayor of Teveria who engaged in rabid incitement against the chareidim? I know that the police in Teveria were shaken when they received parliamentary queries about their handling of the complaints filed against the mayor; this clearly galvanized them into action. And sometimes a parliamentary query can actually lead to a solution to a specific problem or can raise awareness about an issue. The importance of this tool cannot be overstated.
What made me bring this up now? This week, the parliamentary query proved its effectiveness once again, when a member of the Knesset received an answer to a query about the lack of reception for cellular phones in the chareidi community of Achisamoch. The Minister of Communications wrote in response to his question, “The ministry was not aware of the residents’ complaints. In response to the query, the staff of the ministry spoke with the various service providers and discovered that there is indeed a problem with service in the neighborhood. As a result, and in accordance with the agreement between the professional staff of the ministry and the director-general of the municipality, a tour and work meetings were arranged for the representatives of the city, employees of all the cell phone companies, and representatives of our ministry in order to provide for the needs of the neighborhood of Achisamoch. This ministry intends to see to it that the neighborhood of Achisamoch in Lod receives all the coverage it needs, like all the other settlements and communities in the country.”
I sometimes find myself astounded by the degree of Jewish ignorance displayed by people in Israel. For instance, a man who is respected in Israel as an academic, artist, and sculptor once denounced chareidim for their habits of “kissing mezuzos and prostrating themselves on graves.” He had read various accounts of religious people “prostrating themselves” over the graves of tzaddikim, and he had taken the description literally; it never occurred to him that it might refer to something as simple as reciting Tehillim beside a grave.
I was reminded of this phenomenon last week when MK Yulia Malinovsky (the same woman who heads the committee dealing with kashrus reform) attacked the chareidi members of the Knesset for acting “l’sheim Shomayim.” It seems that she was convinced that the term “l’sheim Shomayim” is somehow derogatory; she faulted them for approaching an issue “l’sheim Shomayim” rather than dealing with the matter at hand.
Oded Forer, the current Minister of Agriculture, who used to be considered a friend of the chareidim and has changed significantly, was another case in point. Forer used to travel to Rechovot every week to learn with a Rav Zvi Schvartz at the Lev L’Achim branch he heads there. Today, however, he speaks exactly like his boss, Yvette Lieberman.
In a speech in the Knesset about the kashrus reform plan, Forer said defiantly, “Perhaps Rabbi Maklev will provide me with the source in the Shulchan Aruch for the fact that kashrus requires a croissant to be in the shape of a triangle. Is there such a statement in the Shulchan Aruch?”
If Forer had actually been interested in the answer to his question, he would have found out that the explanation is quite simple: The badatzim instruct businesses under their supervision to differentiate pareve and milchig pastries by producing them in different shapes. The reason that some pastries are triangular while others are different shapes is that some of them are dairy. But this was an explanation that would never cross Forer’s mind.
The Knesset and Bnei Brak – Two Different Worlds
In conclusion, I would like to share a personal experience with you.
Last Monday, I left the budget debate in the Knesset to travel to Bnei Brak for a wedding between the Turetzky and Ben-Zev families. I felt as if I had crossed a bridge between two very different worlds; there is much more than an hour’s drive that separates the Knesset from the Keser HaRimon wedding hall. In the Knesset, one can see many shallow, conceited people whose greatest concern is ensuring that they are surrounded by a circle of sycophants. There is no room in their personal worlds for anyone else; they feel that the entire universe revolves around their egos. At the wedding in Bnei Brak, meanwhile, I encountered many truly great men whose thoughts were occupied by far loftier matters. Every one of those men could have been a living lesson in modesty in his own right. I saw Rav Yitzchok Dovid Grossman sitting among the other guests at the chuppah, graciously greeting everyone and giving time to anyone who wished to speak with him. Rav Zamir Cohen of Hidabroot arrived alone, somehow imposing in the simplicity of his appearance. Rav Shalom Ber Sorotzkin, who could easily have surrounded himself with people seeking his attention, also showed up without any fanfare. Indeed, the Knesset and the wedding hall were two very different worlds, one steeped in pettiness while the other was saturated with greatness and nobility.
Two minutes after the chuppah, the perpetually charismatic Rav Yisroel Meir Lau arrived. “Rav Lau told me that he would make sure to come after the chuppah,” I was told by the host, Rav Avrohom Abba Turetzky, “in order to spare me the need to call him up for a brocha. That is what it means for someone to run away from kavod. In his greatness, one Rav Lau is worth more than all 120 members of the Knesset,” he added.
I sat down next to Rav Lau and remarked, “It seems that old age has passed you without leaving its mark. You are still as youthful as ever.”
Rav Lau laughed. “Aging is a process,” he said. “It takes time to get old, and I don’t have time for it; I am always busy.” Rav Lau told us—myself and the others around me—about his schedule for the following day, and we all listened in awe. May he continue to blessed with many more years of good health, bli ayin hora.
Disappointment at Mearas Hamachpeilah
I wrote in the past that despite the government’s pledge to make the Meoras Hamachpeilah accessible to the disabled, I wouldn’t believe it until I actually saw it. All the obstacles to the plan seem to have been removed, but people with disabilities are still being carried up the steps by their companions when they visit the site. And I can’t say that I am surprised. I didn’t believe the government officials when they made their promises in the Knesset Foreign Affairs and Defense Committee; I didn’t expect the work to actually take place. That is the way things are in the State of Israel, especially at a site that is known to be volatile. The government is afraid of the imam; it fears Palestinian outrage or hostility.
Half a year ago, I received a letter from Shai Glick of B’Tsalmo, who has been working diligently for a long time to advocate for wheelchair access at the Meoras Hamachpeilah. “Pesach is over, Ramadan is over, and the ceasefire has passed,” he wrote, “but the Meoras Hamachpeilah is still inaccessible, and the Minister of Defense hasn’t signed a permit for the construction. The Supreme Court has already approved it and Gantz is obligated to sign it; it needs to be made accessible now. I would appreciate your help.”
“Now that Bennett is the prime minister, it will certainly be completed quickly,” I assured him.
He laughed. “I believe only in Hashem,” he said.
Well, the defense minister signed the document—and that was all. The order was given but was not carried out.
Last week, the deputy defense minister responded in the Knesset to a query from Itamar Ben-Gvir, which read: “This week, it was reported that the construction work to provide access for the disabled at the Meoras Hamachpeilah has been delayed once again. As you know, the Supreme Court approved the modifications and the work actually began, as we have seen, but for some reason, there has been a very serious delay. I know that according to the schedule, the work should have been completed already. My question is: When is this work going to be finished?”
When he presented his query in the Knesset, Ben-Gvir didn’t stick to the exact text, as is required by the Knesset regulations. Nevertheless, the Knesset sitting was chaired by Mansour Abbas, who didn’t object.
Deputy Defense Minister Alon Schuster responded, “Mr. Chairman and honored Knesset, the Minister of Defense approved the work to make Mearas Hamachpeilah accessible to the disabled as soon as he entered his position, which no defense minister before him has ever done. The Minister of Defense considers this matter very important. It has both moral and humanitarian importance, irrespective of religion, race, or gender, to Israelis and Palestinians alike. I am happy to report that the work began, as was said here, about two months ago. This is a great development that will rectify an injustice of many years and will made this sacred and historic site accessible. The work includes creating a path that will bypass the steps toward the west, as well as the construction of an elevator at the entrance to the mearah. Not surprisingly, considering the historic location of the site, archaeological findings were discovered during the work, and the construction was temporarily halted to allow the professionals to deal with those findings. The archaeological work is expected to take about three weeks, and then the construction will continue. The site is expected to be made fully accessible in about half a year. It must be stated that we, as a society and as a state, have a long road ahead of us to the creation of a just and equal society that will know how to accommodate people with wheelchairs or limited mobility at every site. I am happy that the defense minister understands the importance of this matter and has given instructions for this work to be carried out, after many long years when it was delayed by various parties.”
We will have to wait another six months—which is quite a long time—and see if Schuster was correct.
Meanwhile, the Arabs are attempting to block the construction work, even though it will be beneficial to Arabs with disabilities as well. The mayor of Chevron, a convicted murderer who has served time in Israeli prisons, appealed to the Supreme Court to halt the work. His overriding interest is in keeping Jews away from the Meoras Hamachpeilah, regardless of the impact on his own community. Last Thursday, however, the Supreme Court rejected his petition.