Thursday, Apr 18, 2024

My Take On The News


100 Days Left and Counting

At the beginning of this week, there were 100 days remaining until the Knesset election. Of course, that inspired the media to devote extensive coverage to all the details of the election campaign that has been thrust upon us in this country. One of the main stories, of course, dealt with all the possible mergers between various parties, which may or may not happen in the near future.

On the right side of the political map, the biggest questions are whether Ben-Gvir and Smotrich will run together or separately, and what Ayelet Shaked will do with the shattered remnants of the Yamina party. But that isn’t all: Even within United Torah Judaism, there has been talk of the party splitting into its two component factions. Actually, Degel HaTorah has been threatening to break away from Agudas Yisroel, and they have all the reason in the world to do so. When the rabbonim decided that Degel HaTorah should run on a separate slate in the last local election in Yerushalayim, they discovered that Degel possessed double the clout of the Agudah; Degel HaTorah received six seats on the city council, while Agudas Yisroel walked away from the election with only three spots. This was in spite of the fact that the two parties have always shared their power evenly. Leaders of Degel HaTorah assert that if they dismantle the joint party in the Knesset election, the votes will be divided by the same ratio on a national level.

On the left, meanwhile, there are rumors that Labor and Meretz are considering a merger, since it is feared that the Meretz party may not cross the electoral threshold on its own steam. This comes on the heels of the union between New Hope (Gideon Saar’s party) and Blue and White (under Benny Gantz’s leadership). As the days tick past, we will probably be hearing more and more reports about negotiations between the various parties. The final picture, though, will probably become apparent only at the last possible minute, as always.

An Anti-Bibi Spin

Israel is drowning in an ocean of polls, most of which yield similar results. However, the polls are often manipulated to create a false picture of the political reality.

There is a common thread running through all the polls, which divide the political scene into two camps: the pro-Netanyahu and anti-Netanyahu blocs. The polls published on Sunday, for instance, revealed that the so-called “Netanyahu bloc” is expected to receive 60 mandates, whereas the bloc identified with the current coalition scored only 54 mandates. But the real imbalance is far greater than the media would like us to believe. In order for the polls to achieve these results, the five or six mandates held by Raam had to be counted along with those of the parties on the center-left, which received only 48 or 49 mandates. And this is not an accurate picture of the situation.

Neither of the Arab parties—Raam and the Joint List—should be considered part of either the right-wing or left-wing bloc. Even though Raam was part of the government in the current coalition, that doesn’t mean that it is automatically affiliated with the left. But since it would be very unflattering for the polls to show that the left is polling at 48 mandates while the right is expected to win 60, the media has inflated the left-wing bloc to 54 mandates by including the seats held by Raam. In this illusory reality, there is the Netanyahu bloc, consisting of the Likud, the chareidim, and the right, and then there is the center-left bloc with 54 mandates. The remaining mandates, which are not held by either side, belong to the Joint Arab List. An impartial poll, however, would group Raam and the Joint List together, excluding them from both blocs. Alternatively, the media could have expressly described the left-wing faction as a bloc consisting of the center, the left, and the Arabs, but they deliberately glossed over the Arabs’ inclusion in order to blur this distinction. The media will do anything in its ability to abet the efforts to keep Bibi Netanyahu out of power—including artificially distorting the results of the polls to downplay his political leverage.

Here is another example of the media’s penchant for spinning its narratives against Netanyahu. When President Biden visited Israel, the Israeli press reported over and over that the Americans had scheduled a meeting of “only” fifteen minutes between Biden and Netanyahu. By harping on the brevity of the meeting, they hoped to create the impression that the Americans did not accord much respect to Netanyahu. Let us put aside the fact that the meeting actually went on for much longer; that is not the point right now. What really deserves to be mentioned is the fact that Lapid was likewise given no more than a fifteen-minute slot for his meeting with Biden. The Americans did not actually draw a distinction between the former prime minister and the current premier of Israel, but the media, with its strong left-wing bias, sought to create the impression that they had.

The Handshake That Shook Lapid

The sounds of fanfare have faded away and the red carpet has been rolled up and placed in storage. After a visit to Saudi Arabia, President Biden is now back in his comfortable chair in the Oval Office, probably trying to remember his experiences during his visit to the Middle East. Unfortunately, there are some aspects of his visit that some Israelis would rather forget.

It was rather shameful to watch as Israel’s political leaders clustered around the visiting president, vying for his attention. Lapid had been eager to be the one to greet the president at Ben Gurion Airport, but Biden’s arrival did not provide the boost to his image that he had hope to receive.

There were many important issues on the table for the president’s visit—including the military option against Iran, the question of whether Israel would have to notify the Americans in advance before launching a military operation, and the inclusion of Saudi Arabia in the peace process—but none of them were resolved. Even the Jerusalem Declaration yielded nothing new. A photo-op for Lapid with the president of the United States was hardly worth the price paid for this visit.

Then there was the inanity of Yair Lapid’s interactions with the visiting president. After the initial flurry of handshakes, while the president and the prime minister made their way together to the hangar set up for Biden’s visit, we were all given another sorry insight into Lapid’s juvenile thought processes. As the two men had an opportunity to share a brief personal exchange, this is what the senior statesman Yair Lapid saw fit to say to the president of the world’s greatest superpower: “Do you remember when I was in your office five years ago? You were the vice president of the United States at the time, and you told me that if you had my hair, you would have been the president. And I told you that if I were as tall as you were, I would have become the prime minister.” What foolish nonsense! What sort of way is that to take advantage of a rare opportunity for a one-on-one conversation with the president of the United States?

Then there was Netanyahu’s handshake. Lapid and his underlings did everything in their power to keep the current prime minister in center stage while sidelining Bibi. The Americans, on the other hand, insisted on arranging a meeting between Biden and Netanyahu, which ultimately became a much longer meeting than intended. But that indignity paled in comparison to the insult that Lapid suffered on the day before, when the politicians gathered together for a group photo. Biden bowed slightly in greeting to several of the people in the front row, even though some of them, such as Tamar Zandberg and Mickey Levi, were strangers to him. He shook hands or bumped fists with a few others, and then he spotted Netanyahu in the second row. At that point, the president walked away from his two companions—Lapid and Herzog—and swooped down on Netanyahu, greeting him effusively and nearly embracing him. “You know, I love you!” he exclaimed. Lapid was crestfallen, and the reporters in the anti-Bibi camp were either forced to acknowledge the incident or to let it pass in silence.

The following opinion piece, written by Yossi Verter in Haaretz on Friday, is a textbook example of disingenuous media coverage. “No one has any doubt as to whom Biden would vote for if he had the right to vote in this country,” Verter began. “Or better yet, no one doubts whom he would not vote for. He might debate briefly between Benny Gantz and Yair Lapid, but as an experienced diplomat with another two and a half years in office ahead of him, he took care not to reveal his true sentiments, and he put on a show for Netanyahu that will be worth more than its weight in gold for his campaign—greeting him with a warm handshake and a line that will become an unforgettable mantra (‘You know that I love you’), a gesture that stood in sharp contrast to the contempt that he showed for him after he took office, when he let him wait 27 days before returning his phone call.” Verter may have great faith in his own insight into Biden’s psyche, but his argument ought to be turned on its head. What he considers to be Netanyahu’s failing should be seen, from Israel’s perspective, as one of his greatest strengths. If Verter is right, and Biden would prefer to see someone other than Netanyahu serving as the prime minister of Israel, then that means that Netanyahu does the best job of representing Israel’s interests in its dealings with America!

Verter continues, “On Wednesday evening, after Biden had gone to sleep in his hotel suite, a member of the president’s administration met with a senior Israeli official. ‘Your media had the wrong interpretation of the president’s interaction with Bibi,’ the American said. ‘It wasn’t a display of warmth, and certainly not of love. It was more of an apology. Biden has been a politician throughout his adult life. He understands the value of a presidential visit for Lapid, during the middle of an election campaign that will focus primarily on the question of whether he has proven himself as a prime minister during a test period of 100 days.’ According to the government official from America, when the president told Netanyahu that he loves him, there was an unspoken continuation to this statement: ‘But you know that I don’t want to see you coming back!’”

Quoting an anonymous source is the best way to make it impossible to refute a falsehood. The anonymous American official and his dismissive attitude might well exist only in Verter’s imagination. But even if we were to accept that this interaction actually happened, the American’s explanation sounds too fantastic to be true. Could Biden really have meant the exact opposite when he declared his affection for Netanyahu? Someone—either Verter or the anonymous American source—would have to have a very twisted mind in order to reach that conclusion.

And in any event, I will repeat my original point: If it is indeed true that Biden does not want Netanyahu to return to power, wouldn’t that be a point in Bibi’s favor for Israeli voters?

Bibi the Responsible Adult

The trial of Binyomin Netanyahu is quietly continuing; the court has moved on to hear the case against him regarding the gifts he received during his time in office. But why do I see that the trial is continuing quietly? Why the sudden lack of interest in public attention?

You may recall that the entire case against Netanyahu regarding his dealings with Bezeq and Shaul Elovich went up in smoke; even the meeting in which Netanyahu allegedly told Shlomo Filber to make accommodations for Elovich was demonstrated to have been a product of the prosecutors’ imaginations. Well, the same thing is happening with these accusations, as well. First of all, the numbers presented in the charge sheet have been shown to be completely disproportionate to the reality. But that is not the real issue. The most dramatic revelation is the following exchange, which took place when Arnon Milchan was questioned by the Lahav 433 anti-fraud unit. According to the official transcripts, the interrogator asked him if he had asked Netanyahu to take any steps to benefit his business interests in Israel. Milchan replied, “Not only didn’t I ask him to do such a thing, I was actually very angry with him when he became the Minister of Finance and passed a law promoting competition in the import industry. But he said to me, ‘I am the Minister of Finance, and this is what is good for the state.’ There is something messianic about Netanyahu; he sees himself as the savior of the Jewish people.”

This is a very important point. I have no doubt that the Israeli people would prefer an experienced, serious prime minister, who smokes cigars but knows what is good for the state and strives to achieve it, over a facetious, inexperienced prime minister who likewise smokes cigars but knows nothing about his job and is very likely to steer the country into an abyss if he remains in the driver’s seat.

Yes, there is much to fear with Yair Lapid in power.

Diplomatic Damage

We are still discovering more and more details of the damage caused by Prime Minister Yair Lapid, who is still managing to ruin everything he touches. Russia is still perturbed by Lapid’s reaction, as the foreign minister of Israel, to the war in Ukraine. As I have mentioned in the past, Lapid made every possible mistake in dealing with that situation. He first defended Russia’s actions and thus alienated Israel from America and the countries of Europe, which had banded together to defend Ukraine and President Zelensky. Lapid then made an about-face and declared his support for Ukraine, and thus managed to embroil Israel in an imbroglio with Russia.

Now, Putin has asked the Jewish Agency in Moscow to cease all of its activities in Russia. On Sunday, Prime Minister Lapid gathered a group of government officials to discuss the appropriate response to Russia’s demand for a cessation of Jewish Agency operations. The meeting was attended by Finance Minister Avigdor Lieberman, Minister of Immigrant Absorption Penina Tamano-Shata, Housing Minister Zeev Elkin, Tourism Minister Yoel Razvozov, and representatives of the National Security Council and the Jewish Agency.

On Monday, a large delegation of legal experts was scheduled to fly to Moscow in order to wage a legal battle against the Russian government’s decision to suspend the Jewish Agency’s operations, and to defend the agency against the accusations of illicit use of information. Penina Tamano-Shata said, “Aliyah is a basic right of every Jew in the world. The Jewish Agency operates in Europe and everywhere else in the world, including Russia, in full coordination with the local authorities. There is no justifiable reason to halt the agency’s activities. At this time, diplomatic efforts are underway to clarify the issue and to restore collaboration. Just as we have worked together with the Russian authorities for many decades, I have no doubt that we will find the appropriate solutions now.”

The Jewish Agency in Russia employs 200 workers who are responsible for dealing with the 600,000 people in the country who are entitled to automatic citizenship in Israel under the Law of Return. The agency estimates that it will handle 15,000 applications for aliyah every year. From a religious perspective, it seems that there is little reason for distress over the Russian government’s decision to shut the agency down; after all, most of the potential olim from Russia are probably not Jewish according to halacha. In any event, the Israel delegation did not travel to Russia after all, since they did not receive visas. This has further fueled the rising tensions between Yerushalayim and Moscow, and Lapid has been threatening the Russians with “consequences.” This country is being ruled by a child….

Bread Prices Rise in Spite of Lapid’s Pledge

One of the many forms of damage being caused by this government, which is now a transitional government, is the rise in the prices of basic food items (along with gasoline and electricity). The recent hike in bread prices has thrust the humble staple into center stage as a symbol of the government’s complete ignorance of the living conditions for Israeli citizens. One of the ministers in the government haughtily asserted that the price increase should not be seen as a big deal. After all, he said, it is rare for a family to consume an entire loaf of bread in a single day; how much more could the additional cost be adding to a family’s budget?

This statement infuriated a large swathe of the Israeli public. This minister is simply unaware of the many large families who find themselves using even more than a full loaf of bread every day, since it is one of the most inexpensive ways of feeding their children. Of course, where would he ever have come in contact with such people? But once again, it is a sign of the government’s complete detachment from reality.

In spite of the efforts of the government and the prime minister to stave off a price increase, the price of bread will indeed be rising. The committee that supervises the cost of dark bread, white bread, and challah has actually advised the government to lift its price controls on these products altogether, and the result will be an astronomical hike in cost. But even if the economy minister and finance minister do not actually accept that recommendation, it is likely that the price of bread will increase by up to 28 percent!

For example, if the government maintains its price controls, then the price of 750 grams of dark bread will rise from 5.12 shekels to 6.54 shekels, an increase of 28 percent. A loaf of sliced dark bread will increase in price from 7.11 shekels to 7.45 shekels, and white bread will increase by 28 percent for an unsliced loaf (again, from 5.12 shekels to 6.54 shekels). A 500-gram package of white bread, meanwhile, will decrease in price by 6 percent, dropping from 6.10 shekels to 5.71 shekels, but this is a fairly negligible portion of the market. A 500-gram challah, meanwhile, is due to rise in price by 14 percent, from 5.17 shekels to 5.88 shekels. The three dominant bakeries in Israel—Angel’s, Berman’s, and Deganit-Ein Bar—claim that they have been losing money on supervised bread for years already. Two of the bakeries claim that they have also been failing to turn a profit on other products, while the third has reported profits of 6 percent.

Orna Barbivai, the Minister of the Economy and Industry, announced that she opposes the committee’s recommendation to remove the government supervision of the price of bread. “Supervised bread is a basic product that should be accessible to every family, especially those for whom bread is a vital component of the family’s diet and who cannot afford to buy unsupervised bread products,” she said. Prime Minister Lapid also promised to intervene to prevent the rise in prices. Nevertheless, for the time being, the price of bread is indeed going up, in what has come to be seen as a symbol of the government’s callous arrogance.

Desecrating Shabbos and Choking Elad

From the chareidi community’s perspective, there is an even greater form of harm caused by this government than its devastating impact on the economy: the ongoing erosion of religious standards. Anti-religious measures are moving forward with full force. For instance, the District Court decided last week to recognize civil marriages performed in Israel through virtual means. These marriages were not recognized by Aryeh Deri during his tenure as Minister of the Interior, but the court has now decided to reverse the decision he made at the time. The chareidi parties have called on the attorney general to appeal the court’s decision, but it is unlikely that she will do so.

Meanwhile, the current Minister of the Interior, Ayelet Shaked, has rejected the professional recommendation to expand the chareidi city of Elad. If the recommendation, which was made by a committee of professionals established by Deri, had been accepted, the city’s borders would have been expanded, making it possible for thousands of new residential units to be built in Elad. But she did not see fit to allow the city to continue growing past its current borders.

Then there is the violation of the status quo concerning Shabbos. The city of Hod Hasharon has been added to the list of municipalities guilty of chillul Shabbos, both with regard to the use of public transportation and with respect to the operation of businesses within the city. This is yet another step in the general decline of Shabbos observance in the public sphere, for which this government bears the blame. Sadly, the Minister of Transportation in the current government has been making every possible effort to increase the operation of public transportation on Shabbos.

On a related note, a person who operated a Shabbos siren in the city of Afula was recently summoned for questioning by the police, on the grounds that he was violating the law against operating a sound device above a certain volume. This is something that is completely unprecedented in the State of Israel, and it is undoubtedly due to the winds of hostility toward Shabbos and Yiddishkeit that are emanating from the current government.

Finally, the Ministry of Diaspora Affairs, under Nachman Shai’s aegis, announced on Monday that it would be transferring 60 million shekels to the Reform movement in keeping the spirit of the coalition agreements. While it is most likely that the money will not actually be transferred, due to the government’s failure to get anything done, the mere intent is infuriating on its own.

A Shooting at Netiv Ha’Asarah

There have also been some security incidents over the past week. First of all, there was a shooting from Gaza into Kibbutz Netiv Ha’Asarah, in the northern part of the Gaza envelope. A spokesman for the IDF informed the public that a bullet was discovered in an industrial building, and investigators concluded that it had been fired from the Gaza strip. In response, IDF aircraft attacked a Hamas military position in the northern section of the Gaza strip, and the Palestinian news agency reported that three missiles were fired toward a position near Beit Hanun.

At the end of this past week, four rockets were fired from Gaza into Israeli territory. In response, the IDF struck Hamas targets in the Gaza strip. A few hours later, an air raid siren was sounded in the moshav of Achuzam, where two launches had also been detected. Both missiles fell in open areas, and the IDF spokesman reported that interceptions were deemed unnecessary. In response to the missile launches, IDF fighter jets struck Hamas military targets, including an underground facility for the manufacture of rockets. The IDF spokesman noted that the area that had been attacked was “one of the largest and most important facilities in the Gaza strip for the production of explosives for use by terrorists.”

And that is not all. There were other incidents as well, perhaps most notably an exchange of fire between IDF soldiers and terrorists in the city of Shechem. This battle continued for three hours, and it was only by virtue of an overt miracle that no soldiers were wounded. In the end, the army managed to capture several suspects and to liquidate terrorists who were planning a murderous attack at Kever Yosef.

Terror in Ramot

On the same day (last Tuesday) a chareidi man was moderately injured in a stabbing attack on a bus near the Ramot mall on Golda Meir Boulevard in Yerushalayim. The terrorist was an Arab resident of Ramallah armed with a screwdriver who attempted to stab the Jew while both were traveling on the bus. The Arab was neutralized by a reporter who was in the area and noticed the terrorist disembarking from the bus and trying to continue his stabbing spree. The terrorist survived, and the Jewish victim was transported to Shaare Zedek Medical Center suffering from stab wounds.

MDA paramedics reported, “The victim was lying on the sidewalk near the bus, fully conscious and bleeding from stab wounds on his body. We were told that he had been stabbed while traveling on a bus. We provide lifesaving medical treatment, including bandaging the wounds and stopping the bleeding, and we quickly evacuated him in a mobile intensive care unit to the hospital in stable condition.”

A paramedic from United Hatzolah reported, “The victim was a 41-year-old man who was stabbed while traveling on a bus. I provided first aid, and he was then transported to Shaare Zedek Medical Center, with his condition listed as moderate.”

Moshe Ben-Ami, the reporter who fired on the terrorist at the scene, related, “I came out of my car, loaded my gun, and realized that I was at the scene of a terror attack. The terrorist approached me, and I fired a single bullet at him without hesitation. I heard him praying in Arabic. The security forces arrived a second and a half later. The wounded victim was crying out for help.”

Ben-Ami was invited to the prime minister’s office the next day to receive a medal of recognition.

The police praised the bus driver for stopping the bus and opening its doors as soon as he realized that there was a terror attack in progress. At that point, the passengers began rushing out of the bus, including the terrorist, who tried to stab other passengers.

Police Violence Continues

Last week, I wrote about the violence perpetrated by police officers at the kever of the Ohr Hachaim Hakadosh. It struck me as a highly unusual and extreme incident, but I still found it appropriate to tell you about it. Over the ensuing days, it became clear that this wasn’t an isolated or extreme incident after all; on the contrary, there have been many other cases of police officers and security guards wantonly beating chareidim. Over the course of a single week, there have been several such incidents, none of which should ever have been allowed to happen.

The first was the assault on Rabbi Chananel Tiran in Bnei Brak last weekend, which was captured on video. The incident began when Rabbi Tiran innocently walked past a cell phone store where a demonstration was taking place. At first, it seemed that a police officer tried to provoke him verbally. At some point, a group of police officers pounced on him and pushed him into the store, presumably so that they would not be filmed attacking him. It is a common strategy for the police to try to find places to assault their victims where their actions will not be caught on camera; when they are not being recorded, they feel free to let their animalistic instincts loose. However, there were security cameras in the store, as well. The police should have expected that to be the case, but perhaps a police officer cannot be expected to exercise rational thought…. In any event, the security footage shows the police officers beating their victim madly. One of the officers can be seen pummeling him with his fists even when he was lying on the floor.

Even if the victim had been a murderer, it would have been unacceptable for the police to beat him after he was already handcuffed and prone on the floor. In this case, Rabbi Tiran wasn’t a murderer at all, nor was he even involved in the demonstration; he was simply an innocent passerby.

This week, Rabbi Tiran related, “This Shabbos, I passed by the store and said, ‘Boruch she’asah li neis bamakom hazeh.’ After the beating that I received there, it is a miracle that I am still alive.” Of course, the police have repeated their usual claims that they were defending themselves against a man who attacked them. This would be a terrible explanation even if it could be taken at face value; why would they have needed to pummel him viciously when he was already handcuffed and lying on the floor? Eyal Aboulafia, Rabbi Tiran’s lawyer, responded, “That is pure slander, and we plan to sue them for libel as well. We have also filed a complaint against the officers and their commander with the Department of Internal Police Investigations, and we plan to file a civil suit as well, in order to bring the truth to light.”

And that was not all. There were also incidents of police violence at the demonstrations against the light rail in Yerushalayim as well. While the chareidi community does not approve of these protests, and most chareidim are actually in favor of the light rail’s construction, the law guarantees every citizen the right to demonstrate—including Yerushalmim. Yet the police respond to them with violence and brutality that defy description, and no one seems to object.

The Victims from Har Hazeisim Speak

I have also managed to collect a couple of firsthand accounts from the victims of the police violence at the kever of the Ohr Hachaim Hakadosh. In one case, two yeshiva bochurim were beaten by security guards who seemed to simply enjoy using other human beings as punching bags. “They beat my friend like common criminals,” one of the bochurim told me. “They did not behave like security guards at all. They saw that he had dropped his bus card and credit card on the other side of the fence and that he climbed over it to retrieve the cards, and they beat him anyway.”

Another victim of the violence was Shmuel Yosef Lasry, a resident of Har Nof and spokesman for MK Moshe Abutbul, who is a personal acquaintance of mine. “I arrived at the tziyun with my brothers at about one o’clock in the morning,” he related. “Even from a distance, I could hear the Arab ushers shouting at the mispallelim who were waiting in groups between the barriers set up along the access path. In order to avoid the crowding and commotion, we walked around to the other side of the kever to find a quiet corner where we could daven. We asked a Border Guard policeman where we could stand, and he pointed to a specific spot and told us that we could stay there. A few minutes later, three Border Guard policemen showed up and began violently shoving us, and a policewoman struck me brutally on the legs with her truncheon. I should note that there were dozens of people below us, closer to the tziyun itself, but they decided to attack us while we were standing in an isolated corner, even though we had received permission to be there.” Lasry, a refined gentleman from a distinguished family, was clearly struggling to confine himself to delicate terms.

Moshe Abutbul expressed himself much more harshly when he called on Public Security Minister Omer Bar-Lev and the chief of the police force to take action against the perpetrators. “We have received eyewitness accounts and videos concerning the violent behavior of police officers last night at the hillula of the Ohr Hachaim Hakadosh, when they acted brutally toward mispallelim and even struck my parliamentary aide,” Abutbul wrote. “People who went there to daven were hit with truncheons and shoved by police officers. One can see the officers walking around with clubs in their hands and looking for people to strike. A policewoman used her truncheon to hit my parliamentary advisor, while he was standing and davening, for no reason at all! In their chutzpah, the police officers, some of whom weren’t even wearing their identifying badges, even had the audacity to tell people that they weren’t afraid to harm them, since there was nothing they could do against them. ‘We will hit and do as we please, and no one can say anything to us,’ they said. Apparently, this was their commander’s attitude…. Their claims that the people were rioting are false; these people had come to daven in the middle of the night, not to get into fights. A massive number of policemen were brought there ‘to keep order,’ but because of their boredom, they looked for excuses to cause havoc. When the public sees people being beaten for no reason, at some point the situation explodes and chaos begins. Nevertheless, we can clearly see that the police caused this fiasco and stirred up the violence for their own pleasure.

“It is intolerable for Jews in a democratic Jewish state to be beaten like animals upon coming to daven at the kever of a tzaddik,” Abutbul continued. “The chareidi community has been given the impression, especially after the events in Meron, that violence perpetrated by the police against chareidim has become legitimate and accepted. The commanding echelons at the scene gave the policemen the freedom to beat whomever they saw fit.” Abutbul also condemned the police for their attitude of contempt toward the sanctity of the site. “It is also important to point out the contempt and the offense to the sensibilities of the mispallelim when the police ran on top of tombstones and beat people while spitting and stepping on graves. If these were Arab worshipers or graves belonging to Christians or Arabs, all the bleeding hearts would be shouting in outrage.” Abutbul did not ignore the fact that the police were most likely to ignore the entire incident. “Some have told us that this letter will not accomplish anything, as usual. But as a public representative, I have a duty to protest against this corrupt behavior and to promise you that we will not sit in silence and wait idly by. We will use all the means at our disposal, especially after the election and the establishment of a right-wing government, to ensure that the guilty parties will face justice.”

Nevertheless, it is almost certain that Abutbul’s letter will accomplish nothing, just as MK Yaakov Tessler’s letter of protest on the same subject (the violence of the police at Har Hazeisim), which was likewise addressed to the public security minister and the chief of police, had no impact. The only way that I can imagine these police officers might be brought to justice is if the incident is discussed in the Public Security Committee in the next Knesset and the video evidence is shown there. This is a tactic that was successfully employed in the past by MKs Malchieli, Maklev, and Arbel after the

eating of Chaim Mizrachi.

Rav Elyashiv’s Promise

In honor of Rav Elyashiv’s tenth yahrtzeit, I would like to share the story of one of my own personal experiences with him. This story begins 24 years ago, after the birth of my son, when I called Rav Elyashiv’s family and asked if he would serve as sandak at the bris. They asked where the bris would be held (I told them) and at what time (a decision that I left to the rov), and they called me back half a day later to inform me that my request would be granted. The next morning, though, I received a phone call from Chaim Cohen. “The rebbe was awake at night and a doctor came to examine him,” he told me. “He is sleeping now, and we will not wake him. If he wakes up on his own, then he will come. If not, he will not come.”

Rav Yosef Efrati likewise called me to assure me that there was nothing personal about it, and he advised me to recruit a substitute sandak.

“What gadol would agree to be a backup sandak in the event that Rav Elyashiv doesn’t come?” I asked.

Rav Elyashiv’s family members, who seemed to have experience with the matter, replied, “Call Rav Chaim Pinchos Scheinberg. He doesn’t even know the meaning of the term kavod.”

And so it was. The rosh yeshiva of Torah Ore ultimately served as the sandak, and Rav Efrati, who attended the bris in lieu of Rav Elyashiv, assured me, “The rebbe said that he will attend the next bris, b’ezras Hashem.”

When time arrived for the “next bris,” I called Rav Elyashiv’s home once again and asked for him to serve as sandak. By this time, however, it had become extremely rare for him to attend a bris. “Where will the bris be held?” the family asked.

“At the mother-baby home in Telz Stone,” I replied.

“Then there is no question that he won’t come,” the voice on the other end of the line replied. “He does not leave Yerushalayim at all.”

I remarked that Rav Elyashiv had promised me at the time of the previous simcha that he would attend this bris, and there was a sudden change. The man on the other end of the line promised to call me back, and sure enough, I soon received confirmation that the rov would be coming to Telz Stone after all.

A word is a word….



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