Friday, May 20, 2022

My Take On The News


Will Politics Prompt a Military Operation?

Naftoli Bennett and Yair Lapid, the alternate prime minister, have a very clear agreement as to what will happen if the government falls apart. If the government falls due to a defection from the ranks of Yamina, Bennett’s pact with Lapid calls for him to step down immediately and to cede the position of prime minister to Lapid. Now, in case you are wondering why it should make a difference if Lapid becomes prime minister when the country is heading toward elections anyway, the truth is that this can make an enormous difference. It will be many months before an election is held, which will give Lapid plenty of time to try to show the country that he is capable of serving as prime minister. (Or, more likely, he will make it abundantly clear that he is not capable of it.) Moreover, the person who holds the title of prime minister has a distinct advantage during any election. His name will constantly be in the headlines, and the voters will subconsciously associate him with the position. Above all, if the election ends in a deadlock, then Lapid will continue to hold that position for many more months. In short, Lapid will do everything in his power to make sure that if the government falls, which is very likely, it will be blamed on Yamina, thus enabling him to seize the reins of power.

On the other hand, Bennett may be a charlatan, but he is not a fool. He understands the implications of his own party being at fault for the government’s collapse, and he will therefore do everything he can to make sure that the blame falls on Raam—in which case he will be able to remain in his position as prime minister. Now, how can Naftoli Bennett make sure that Raam brings down the government? Well, one thing he can do is issue a sharply worded statement asserting Israel’s sovereignty over Har Habayis (which he has already done, as I mentioned above). If that doesn’t work, then he can launch a military operation (and some say that he is already planning one for the very near future) that may include the killing of Yahya Sinwar, the head of Hamas. As you can see, if Bennett takes that step, it will be driven by a political agenda: It will enable him to continue serving as prime minister and to amass votes from the right-wing sector in the upcoming election.

This week, I was informed by a reliable source that Bennett and Lapid are sharply at odds over the former’s intention to launch a military operation. Bennett believes that the government is going to fall within days, and he hopes to use the military campaign to push Raam out of the coalition so that he will remain prime minister during the election period. The defense establishment, for the most part, is vehemently opposed to such a rash move, which they see for what it is—a ploy to preserve his power in advance of the next election. But the fact that a prime minister might be about to declare war for personal reasons makes this a frightening situation indeed.

The Provisions of the “Meron Law”

I could write at much greater length about the political situation, but let me move on to another topic: Lag Ba’omer in Meron. The Minister of Religious Affairs, who is viewed as a bitter enemy of the religious public, is also responsible for overseeing the hillula in Meron this year, and he has prepared a bill for the Knesset to pass for his decisions to be implemented. In many cases, it is necessary for a bill to be passed by the Knesset in order for various measures to be taken. For instance, during the period of the coronavirus, the police were authorized to issue fines for violations of the pandemic regulations only after the Ministerial Committee for Legislation had approved the decision.

I won’t quote the entire text of the draft of Minister Kahana’s bill, but I will share one particular excerpt with you: the section that deals with punitive fines. The bill states that in order to enforce its provisions, police officers will be granted the authority to take any of the following steps: “1. To prevent a person or car from entering the area of Meron if his presence in the area will be contrary to the regulations. 2. To remove a person, car, or object from Meron whose presence is in violation of the provisions cited above. 3. To order the termination of a bonfire in Meron that was organized in violation of the provisions cited above. 4. To order the termination of any other event in Meron that is organized in violation of the regulations. 5. If a person refuses to comply with an order or demand of a police officer, the officer will be authorized to prevent his entry to Meron or to remove him from the area in spite of his refusal, and even to use reasonable force for that purpose. 6. If a person refuses to comply with the orders of a police officer to terminate a bonfire or any other event, the officer will be permitted to use all necessary means to end the event, even employing reasonable force when necessary under the circumstances.” The bill then specifies that the penalty for a violation of any of its provisions will be a monetary fine.

The prohibitions are fairly prosaic—being present in Meron without the authorization specified by the bill or holding a bonfire or some other event in violation of the rules. And the fine for a violation will be 500 shekels. This may not be a very steep fine, but it is certainly aggravating. In any event, if the Knesset does not approve this bill, then it will be impossible to implement any of these decisions.

Senseless Rules

One of the main decisions made by the authorities this year is that only one bonfire will be permitted in Meron. There seems to be very little sense in this decision. On the contrary, a single bonfire will only cause the onlookers to concentrate in one area, leading to even more crowding and potentially making the situation much more dangerous. Why shouldn’t there be several bonfires taking place, so that the crowd will spread out over a reasonable area? True, this was an interim recommendation of the official commission of inquiry, which seems to lend some weight to the idea, but we must keep in mind that the commission is led by a judge who is completely unacquainted with the concept of a hillula. Anyone capable of a bit of logical reasoning, meanwhile, will certainly understand that it would be better to divide the crowd across different areas.

The authorities have also decided to prohibit the distribution of food and drink in Meron this year, which is another measure that I can only say is ill-considered. Once again, this is because the commission of inquiry determined that last year’s tragedy began when people slipped on spilled drinks and torn plastic wrappers that littered the ground. But what is the logic in banning these things from the entire area? Why should it be prohibited to give out food and drink even at the beginning of the climb to the mountaintop, far from the areas of crowding where the disaster occurred?

The decision to limit ticket holders to spending four hours in Meron is equally illogical. It will be extremely difficult to enforce this rule. It is also outrageous that tickets are available only on the internet, and that purchasers must have e-mail accounts in order to buy them. Many chareidim do not have internet access, and many do not have e-mail accounts. Moreover, the web site is constantly crashing. And then, to take the madness even further, the government decided that no one will be allowed to enter the tziyun. Where is the sense in any of this? It seems as if they are one step away from simply telling the public to hold the hillula over Zoom!

This week, I spoke with someone who has a longstanding connection with Meron. When I merely mentioned the Bnei Akiva building (where the chassidus of Karlin was permitted to organize its tish) he began seething with anger at the government. “What connection does Bnei Akiva have to Meron?” he demanded. “Why were they given 35 dunams of land there? Why couldn’t they receive an allotment of land anywhere else and leave the tziyun to us?” He claimed that the site of the Bnei Akiva compound, which is in the closest location to the tziyun, used to belong to chareidi groups. In general, he is incensed by the behavior of the police and the organizers of the hillula, and I found his arguments quite persuasive. “The only good thing they did was take away all the illegal structures,” he said. “Other than that, they have caused nothing but harm. They have destroyed Meron—both the site itself and the hillula.”

This man spent the week in Meron and was irked by the fact that private cars were blocked from entering the area this week, on the grounds that there was nowhere for them to park. “What does that mean?” he demanded. “This is nothing but abuse of the elderly and infirm.” He completely disagreed with the judgment of government officials. “There is no sense in what they are doing,” he insisted. “Instead of making orderly entrances and exits, they merely caused havoc. And they don’t even understand what the hillula is all about. If they could decide that there should be no music, no bleachers, and only one hadlokah, that is a clear sign that they do not understand what Lag Ba’Omer means. Instead of broadening the passageways, they simply closed everything; that is an act of pure foolishness and shortsighted thinking. Why should they care if people celebrate or give out food and drink elsewhere? They think that Lag Ba’omer in Meron is a time for davening; they don’t understand that it is a celebration. They simply have no comprehension of these things!”

Destruction and Conceit

During the Netanyahu trial, Shlomo Filber, who was recruited as a witness for the prosecution but has been boosting the defense’s case with his testimony, related that when he was hired to serve as the director-general of the Ministry of Communications, he found the ministry in a state of paralysis and fear. I believe that the day will come when we will discover that the decision makers who prepared for the hillula in Meron this year were operating in much the same way. No actual decisions have been made; they have simply implemented a sweeping policy of imposing restrictions. They are behaving very much like an overcautious doctor who sends every patient to the emergency room. Such a doctor has no business practicing medicine, and by the same token, these people have no business overseeing a major religious event of this nature.

The chareidi community was strongly in favor of certain changes—removing dangerous structures from the area, placing limits on the bonfires, decentralizing the crowd, and setting up an appropriate security apparatus. However, no one expected the decision makers to become paralyzed with indecision. Someone took advantage of the fact that the religious community was not speaking up for itself, and the preparations for Lag Ba’omer in Meron were taken to an unreasonable extreme. In other words, the proverbial baby has been thrown out with the bathwater.

I believe that the blame rests with Minister Matan Kahana. I saw him in action when the Knesset Committee met to discuss labeling Amichai Chikli a defector, and I have also observed him in the Ministry of Religious Affairs throughout the past year. Kahana exudes a mixture of conceit and contempt. These are attitudes that are clear even in his responses to parliamentary queries. For instance, MK Moshe Abutbul recently submitted a query concerning a professional opinion submitted by an engineer who performed an inspection in Meron on March 3. The engineer had identified several safety flaws at the site, and there was some concern that the problems would not be fixed in time for the seventh of Adar, another day when certain hillulas are observed there. Arbel asked for the reason that the safety inspection had been delayed until that time, which was a perfectly reasonable and legitimate question. Nevertheless, Kahana’s response was brutally scornful.

“I would like to thank you for bringing up this subject,” he said, “which makes it possible for me to shed some light on the safety flaws that have existed for years at the kever of Rabbi Shimon bar Yochai, since long before I entered my position. Those flaws have actually existed since the period of your service in the Ministry of Religious Affairs.” This, of course, is no way for a government minister to address a member of the Knesset, blatantly seeking to shift blame with a reference to “your service in the Ministry of Religious Affairs.” Seemingly unable to answer the question he was asked, Kahana continued lashing out like a petulant child: “The inspection that was conducted revealed certain improvised electrical connections that were illegal, as well as other problems that indicated an unsafe situation that has existed for years! As a result, we accepted the recommendation to close the compound until the serious problems that were discovered could be repaired, in order to maintain the safety of those who come to daven at the site…. In contrast to others, who merely seek to place blame on the procrastination and negligence in performing inspections at the compound of the kever of Rabbi Shimon bar Yochai for many years, the Ministry of Religious Affairs, which is under my authority today, is working with determination to repair the safety flaws that exist there.”

This is Kahana’s vicious style—a combination of ridicule, contempt, and language unfit for any government figure. But that is the nature of the man. Rabbi Shimon bar Yochai deserves a much better caretaker….

A Light for the Nations or Darkness for the Jews?

Once again, Israel has celebrated Yom Haatzmaut, the anniversary of the state’s founding. And once again, we have heard all the usual boastful proclamations of the country’s might, as politicians pompously declared in their Yom Haatzmaut addresses that “our long arm will reach everywhere in the world,” or “the IDF is the best army in the world,” or even that “our strength lies in our power.”

Once again, though, the State of Israel took a good look in the mirror and was horrified by what it saw. What began with powerful hope has reached a dead end. Seventy-five years ago, someone said, “We tried to make a state, but it didn’t work.” That same sentiment could be echoed today. The key to a nation’s survival is maintaining its values; without those values, it may be destined for destruction. But here in Israel, instead of honoring our religious institutions, the government is busy plotting against them. How foolish! This is the country that hoped to become a light unto the nations, yet has now turned into a place of darkness for the Jews themselves.

Farewell to Yosef Zalman Kleinman

Last year, I paid a visit to Rabbi Yosef Zalman Kleinman, the last surviving witness from the Eichmann trial, at the internal medicine ward in Shaare Zedek Medical Center. Rabbi Kleinman, who was 91 years old, had been deported to Auschwitz at the age of 13. Not having met him yet, I had written an article about him in this newspaper just a week earlier, and then I discovered that he lived in my neighborhood. This kindled a desire within me to meet this outstanding man, and I knocked on the door of his apartment on the day when the State of Israel celebrated Yom Haatzmaut. His wife, Chaya, informed me that I had just missed him. “He was admitted to Shaare Zedek yesterday,” she said, in a tone that implied that he was not expected to leave the hospital alive.

I made my way to Shaare Zedek to meet him, and I spent a long time at his bedside. Two of his grandsons were present throughout my visit, both of them standing ready to serve him. He shared his life story with me and spoke about the horrors he had experienced during the war, and I diligently transcribed his words. When night fell, I invited him to join me in the hospital shul for Maariv. “Last night was the eighteenth night of the Omer,” I said. When I took my leave of him, I offered to return on the following day, and I asked if I could bring him something to lift his spirits. “Don’t bother yourself and don’t bring anything,” he replied. “Just ask the rebbe to recite a mi shebeirach for me.” I was surprised to learn that he davened regularly at the shul of the Stropkover Rebbe, who lives in Givat Shaul.

I decided that the best gift for Kleinman would be a visit from the Rebbe himself. The Stropkover Rebbe agreed to join me at the hospital, and I drove him to Shaare Zedek on the following day, which was erev Shabbos. Of course, I took pictures during the deeply emotional visit. I also took notes on my conversation with the Rebbe during the drive, which was quite fascinating. I was captivated by his charm, and I perked up when he revealed that after he arrived in Israel with his parents, having escaped from the valley of death, he lived for a period of time in my own hometown of Beer Yaakov, and later in Ramle.

Yosef Zalman Kleinman passed away shortly after my visit, on the 22nd of Iyar 5781/2021. We are now marking his first yahrtzeit.

Terror in Elad Shocks the Country

My main topic this week, of course, is the shocking terror attack that took place in the chareidi city of Elad.

I am not sure if you are familiar with Elad’s location. Although part of the city borders on the area of Yehuda and the Shomron, it is also considered part of the center of the country. Elad is not far from the cities of Rosh Ha’ayin and Petach Tikvah. Last Thursday night, it became the site of a horrific terror attack perpetrated by two young Arabs. The Israeli public was shocked by the attack for three reasons. First, the terrorists’ weapon of choice this time was an axe! Second, it occurred while the country was celebrating Yom Haatzmaut. And finally, everyone had been hoping that the wave of terror had come to an end, but this terror attack made it clear that the Arabs have remained bloodthirsty even after the end of the month of Ramadan.

If anyone had even the slightest shadow of a doubt about that fact after the attack in Elad, then the next incident should have put an end to their uncertainties. On Sunday night, terror reared its head again, with a stabbing attack at Shaar Shechem in Yerushalayim. The stabber, incidentally, did not survive. And then, before we could all recover from that incident, a group of four terrorists attempted to perpetrate a massacre in the settlement of Tekoa. B’chasdei Shomayim, the terror attack was thwarted. The magnitude of this miracle cannot be overstated; this had the potential to become a massive slaughter.

Many of us in Israel were reeling in shock after the attack in Elad, since it created the impression that the terrorists have “discovered” the chareidi populace. First there was the attack in Bnei Brak, and now the murderous spree in Elad. They seem to have concluded that it is easier to murder chareidim, since most chareidim do not carry guns in their pockets. The three victims of the Elad massacre were survived by a total of 16 orphans, and all of us—the entire country of Israel—are still struggling to digest this incident.

The terror attack began shortly before 9:00 in the evening, when the two Arabs from the area of Jenin, As’sad al-Rifai and Emad Subhi Abu Shqeir, both of them about twenty years old, arrived at the corner of Rechov Ibn Gabirol and Rechov Yehuda Hanassi in Elad. Armed with axes, the terrorists first murdered the driver who had brought them to Elad in his van, and then waited in the vehicle until nightfall. When it became dark, they emerged from the car, descended a flight of stairs, and began attacking passersby. Two victims were murdered, and one man was critically wounded in front of his four children. This victim, as well as one of the men who was killed in the attack, tried to fight back against the terrorists. It is possible that their resistance ultimately caused the terrorists to flee. The terrorists tried to continue their murderous spree by entering an amusement park packed with parents and children, but the security guard managed to fight them off and even attempted to fire at them. After gravely wounding the guard, the terrorists fled from the scene.

The terror attack took the lives of Yonatan Chabakuk and Boaz Gol, two residents of Elad, and Oren Ben-Yiftach, the van driver from Lod who had brought them to the city without being aware of their nefarious intentions. Four other victims were wounded in the attack, three of whom are still in serious condition.

It is impossible to describe the fear and pain that descended upon Israel over Shabbos. The two terrorists managed to escape, leading to concerns that they might have remained in the vicinity of Elad and that they might return to the city at any moment to strike again. Besides, no matter where they were, it was clear that they knew that their time was limited, and that they might take advantage of any opportunity to murder more Jews. The apprehension that hovered over the entire country throughout Shabbos was only natural.

A Sixty-Hour Manhunt

The terrorists were finally captured on Sunday morning, when they were found only 500 meters from the city of Elad. This meant that the danger of an additional tragedy had been very real, and there had been good reason for the country to feel fear over Shabbos. Here is the story in greater detail, as it was reported by the media:

After a manhunt that continued for 60 hours, when the search had already entered its fourth day, the two terrorists were apprehended outside the city of Elad. The terrorists were located by a team consisting of agents of the Shabak, Maglan, and the Marul unit, a reserves unit that specializes in locating people by analyzing the terrain. At the beginning of the search, realizing that the terrorists were undoubtedly familiar with the area, the army solicited the assistance of officials from the Nature and Parks Authority, who were acquainted with the forest near Elad and were able to guide the soldiers until the terrorists were captured. In fact, the terrorists were also familiar with the city itself, having worked at a recent construction site in Elad.

The first police car arrived at the scene of the attack at 8:41 p.m. on Thursday night. The officers first arrived at the location of the van belonging to Oren Ben-Yiftach, the first fatality of the night, who was murdered in his car after driving the terrorists to Elad. Ben-Yiftach fought back against his assailants and managed to injure one of them before he was killed. In retrospect, this injury made it possible for the terrorists to be captured in the vicinity of Elad, since it made it difficult for them to put distance between themselves and the city. In addition, one of the terrorists accidentally dropped his phone during the struggle, and it was left near the vehicle. The detectives who arrived at the scene were able to break into the phone and thus determine the terrorists’ identities.

During the 48 hours following the attack, the Maglan and Marul officers examined the blood stains leading from the area of the murders in the direction of the Nachshonim forest and focused their search efforts on that area. One of their ideas was to look for areas with water sources, based on the presumption that the terrorists knew the area and would certainly try to hide in a place where they would have water to drink. The security forces consulted with officials from the Nature and Parks Authority, who were familiar with the area and were able to identify possible locations where the terrorists might have hidden. An abandoned Jordanian military post, with a bunker that could have served as a hiding place, was also searched. When the terrorists were not found in the immediate area, the search was expanded.

Toward the evening, the soldiers came across a group of bloodied objects. In the absence of any sign indicating that the terrorists had moved on, they included that they were still nearby, and the search was intensified in the vicinity of the objects. They also discovered a tree that appeared as if an axe had been used on it, which heightened their suspicions that the terrorists were somewhere nearby. On Sunday morning, a unit including a Shabak coordinator and a Maglan officer noticed suspicious movements beneath a tree. Within moments, they discovered the two terrorists sleeping on the ground, concealed by shrubbery, with an axe beside them. The soldiers drew their weapons and immediately carried out the arrest. It should be noted that Defense Minister Gantz told the officers conducting the search that it would be more logical to search for the terrorists in the undergrowth than to look for them in closed bunkers, since it would make more sense for them to hide in the open. The terrorists were found with no food or water, about a kilometer away from the site of the attack. One of the terrorists had sustained a fracture in his leg during the attack, which presumably explained their failure to escape to a greater distance. The injured terrorist was taken to the hospital after his arrest.

The Widow Blames Bennett

I am not an expert on military affairs or capturing terrorists, but I have the sense that this was a failure on the part of the Israeli forces. The hunt for the terrorists involved a massive amount of manpower spanning all the branches of the Israeli security services, but after a three-day effort, the terrorists were located only 500 meters from the city. Why did it take the army and intelligence services so long to find them? It is highly unsettling to think about what might have happened while they were still on the loose.

But even while we point out the army’s failings, we must acknowledge that there are things that the public does not know or understand. For instance, after the two murderers were captured, one of them asked for a cigarette and was given one. The public was outraged when pictures emerged of the terrorist smoking after his capture. The media went on to carry some satirical headlines poking fun of the excessively humane treatment accorded to terrorists in Israel’s prisons; the reporters jokingly alleged that the terrorists have already chosen the courses they will take behind bars. In the end, it turned out that there was a very good reason for the supposedly humanitarian gesture of providing the detainee with a cigarette: In order to convict the terrorists in court, the prosecution will have to come up with DNA evidence linking them to the crimes, but there is no legal way to obtain DNA samples from a person without his consent. The used cigarette, however, can be used to obtain a sample of the terrorist’s DNA. In short, there are sometimes reasons to which we are not privy for the army’s actions.

In the wake of the deadly terror attack, Prime Minister Bennett has been subjected to scathing criticism. Yonatan Chabakuk’s widow addressed him via the media on Sunday, declaring, “Mr. Bennett, my husband’s blood is on your hands and the hands of the murderers with whom you sit in the government.” She also revealed that Bennett had asked for permission to visit her, but when she insisted that the meeting take place without cameras, the prime minister reneged. Bennett denies this, which only serves to make the matter worse. It has also been revealed that Bennett has not visited any of the families of the 19 people murdered by terrorists over the past two months!

This week, Bennett wrote in a message to the Israeli public, “I want to make it clear that there are not and will not be any political considerations that will influence the war on terror. All decisions about Har Habayis and Yerushalayim will be made by the Israeli government, which is the sovereign force in the city, without any attention being paid to other considerations. We certainly reject any foreign power’s efforts to influence the decisions of the Israeli government. The State of Israel will continue to maintain a respectful relationship with the adherents of all religions in Yerushalayim, as we have always done and will continue to do. The united Yerushalayim is the capital of only one country—the State of Israel.”

This was intended as a response to Bennett’s critics, who have argued that if he does not launch a military operation now and if he fails to eliminate the leader of Hamas in Gaza, Yahya Sinwar, it will be clear that the decision was made for political reasons alone. Bennett’s critics also claim that his decisions regarding Har Habayis were prompted solely by Mansour Abbas’s threats and have nothing to do with what is best for Israel. But while Bennett tried to deny this, it seems that the Israeli public no longer believes his claims.

The Klausenberger Rebbe’s Timely Comments

In the wake of any tragedy, there is one thing we must remember: As believing Jews, we do not question Hashem. Everything that happens in this world is decreed Above, and we must have faith in Hashem even if we do not understand His actions.

This week, in a very timely message, Rabbi Maor Ben-Avi sent me a publication that contains the following insight: Dovid Hamelech writes in Sefer Tehillim, “Lamah Hashem taamod b’rachok?” Based on a straightforward reading, this posuk would be translated, “Why, Hashem, do You stand at a distance?” However, it may also be read in a less literal fashion: When a Jew asks “Why, Hashem?” then it is a sign that he is distancing himself from the Master of the Universe.

This week, I also came across a passage in Shiur Chumash Rashi, the weekly publication featuring the teachings of the Klausenberger Rebbe and his son, the current Sanzer Rebbe, that illustrates the scope of proper emunah. On the week of Parshas Emor 5732/1972, exactly 50 years ago, the Rebbe declared, “The very first foundation of emunah in Hashem is that we must believe that the Creator of all worlds is the ultimate Cause of all things, and that nothing in the world takes place that He does not ordain. This is the meaning of the first of the thirteen principles of emunah: ‘I believe with complete faith that the Creator, blessed is His Name, fashions and guides all creations, and that He alone has made, makes, and will continue to make all that exists.’ My holy grandfather from Sanz used to recite the order of Ani Maamin three times every day with fiery passion, and he would translate and explain every word in Yiddish…. One day, someone mustered the courage to ask him why he devoted so much effort to repeating every ‘Ani Maamin’ over and over. After all, every Jew believes in Hashem! My grandfather replied, ‘You believe, but I know!’

“This is a great and lofty achievement—the knowledge and belief that nothing happens in the world that is not directed by hashgoch pratis from Shomayim,” the Rebbe continued. “This is the essence of emunah. It is not enough for a person to believe that the world has a Creator Who supervises it in general; that belief is still far removed from complete emunah. True emunah is the belief that every action in the world, even the smallest, is the result of hashgocha pratis…. This teaches us that every movement and every action, even the most trivial, and even a tiny amount of friction that a person feels on one of his limbs, stems from hashgocha pratis.

“It is said that the Rebbe Rav Elimelech of Lizhensk was teaching his talmidim about this concept, and he commented that even when an animal walks in the street and relieves itself, hashgocha pratis dictates exactly where the it will fall. One of his talmidim, who wasn’t very wise, he found it very bizarre that hashgocha protis should be involved in such a matter. The next morning, that talmid went to immerse himself before Shacharis. While he was walking down a slope on his way to the tevilah, he slipped on the snow and fell, and he began rolling down the hill, unable to stop himself. He was a hairsbreadth away from rolling to his death when his body suddenly struck some sort of protrusion on the ground, which broke his fall and allowed him to come to a halt, thus saving him from death. When he examined the object that had brought him to a halt, he saw that it was a clump of animal manure that had fallen there. Later that morning, when he entered the bais medrash, the Rebbe Rav Elimelech said to him, ‘You have now seen that everything that occurs is guided by hashgocha from Above….’”

Abbas Unnerves Bennett and Lapid

This brings us to the latest political news. As I reported previously, the government has lost its majority in the Knesset. Nevertheless, the opposition is in the same boat: It, too, lacks a majority.

When the government first came to power, it had a majority of two, with 62 seats in the Knesset against the opposition’s 58. However, MK Amichai Chikli of Yamina announced from the outset that he refused to join the coalition, leaving Bennett and his colleagues to maintain their power by a margin of a single vote. The coalition went on to be defeated time and again in various votes in the Knesset, and now that Idit Silman, also of Yamina, has bolted, the government is left with only 60 supporters. There is no way that it can survive in this form; in all likelihood, the summer assembly, which begins this week, will mark the end of this government’s term.

Meanwhile, Mansour Abbas and his party, Raam, are continuing to flex their political muscles. Following the violence on Har Habayis, Abbas announced that the Shura Council—the religious forum that guides his party—decided that Raam should remove itself from the coalition. Since the Knesset was in recess when he made that announcement, it made little difference at the time, and the country waited to see what Raam would do when the summer assembly began. If the party insisted on remaining outside the coalition, then the government would surely collapse. Sure enough, Raam announced that its membership in the government would remain frozen during the first week of the summer session, which was enough to throw the government into a tizzy.

The efforts to topple the government are already underway. One of the bills due to be discussed this Wednesday (the day before this newspaper goes to print) calls for the dissolution of the Knesset. The Joint Arab List, which competes with Raam for the votes of the Arab populace, announced its intention to support the bill even if it means that Netanyahu will return to power. That means that there will already be 60 votes in favor of the bill. If Raam remains resolute in its stance and does not participate in the vote, then the bill will pass. Nevertheless, it will take three votes (after the first reading and then after the second and third, which are conducted at the same time) for the bill to actually take effect. In addition, the Knesset will require an absolute majority of at least 61 votes for that purpose, rather than the support of 60 MKs for the bill. But in any event, even if this particular bill does not pass, the government’s situation is still fairly dismal. Meanwhile, the Likud’s attempt to pass a no-confidence motion on Monday failed.

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This week, we celebrate Lag Ba’omer and the legacy of Rabi Shimon bar Yochai. We celebrate the conclusion of the plague that affected the 24,000

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