Wednesday, Sep 21, 2022

My Take On The News

Goodbye, 5782; Welcome to 5783

Time certainly flies. The year 5782 is about to leave us, while the year 5783 has appeared on the horizon. This has been a difficult year, with the middas hadin visibly in force, but it has also been a year of great chessed from Hashem. The time has almost come for us to don our kittels and make our way to shul for the Yomim Noraim.

This year, Rosh Hashanah will be preceded by the pruzbul. For me, the pruzbul procedure will take on a sorrowful note this year, since I have always done it in the past during my learning seder with Rav Uri Zohar. He used to sign the pruzbul for the rest of us, while we signed it for him.

In any event, this is my last column for the year 5782, and I ask for mechilah in the event that I have offended any of my readers. I hope that I haven’t caused pain or distress to anyone. I can say that my intentions have always been good.

Shabbos Defends Its Honor

Have you ever seen a sinkhole? Imagine what would happen if a massive hole in the ground suddenly opened in the middle of the largest highway in New York. If this did not lead to a massive loss of life, that alone would be a miracle, in light of the constant flow of tragic on such a road. Here in Israel, that is precisely what happened on the Ayalon Highway, the busiest road in Tel Aviv: A sinkhole suddenly opened in the middle of the highway, which traverses the entire city, yet there were no deaths or even injuries. That was certainly miraculous!

At the same time, the guiding Hand of Hashem was clearly in evidence, since the sinkhole appeared on Shabbos. On account of this hole in the ground, the highway was closed for several hours, and the trains in the vicinity were forced to stop running. Let me remind you that Merav Michaeli, the Minister of Transportation, has been constantly talking about her goal of providing train service on Shabbos. (This has earned her some ridicule, with some people pointing out that she should first make sure that the trains run properly during the week….) And now, she was forced to come to Tel Aviv and begin frantically dealing with the aftermath of the sinkhole’s appearance.

Here is a more detailed version of the story, as it was reported in a media outlet: On Shabbos afternoon, a sinkhole opened in the middle of the Ayalon Highway, near the Shalom Junction. In spite of the dangerous nature of this phenomenon, no motorists sustained injuries in the event. The Netivei Ayalon corporation quickly notified the public that the exit from Hashalom Interchange toward the south would be closed to traffic. In addition, the southbound side of Highway 20 (another name for the Ayalon Highway) was partially closed, with only two lanes left open for vehicles. The media reported that the closure was likely to result in heavy traffic until the end of Shabbos. On motzoei Shabbos, sources close to Netivei Ayalon commented that the highway was likely to be fully closed in order to allow an inspection to rule out the possibility of structural issues elsewhere on the road, and to allow the proper equipment to be brought to repair the sinkhole.

The initial investigation has suggested that the sinkhole opened as a result of construction work in the area, which led to the concern that the road might collapse in other places in the vicinity as well. The transportation minister arrived at the site and was interviewed by the media, but her input wasn’t particularly relevant. Unfortunately, she knows as much about sinkholes as she does about transportation….

Meanwhile, the police reported that in the aftermath of the incident, train service in the area was to be suspended and trains in the vicinity would be rerouted, with scheduling changes taking place as a result. In my mind, there is a clear explanation for this: Shabbos is standing up for its honor.

A Terror Attack on Har Chevron

As I mentioned recently in this column, the security establishment has been warning that there are signs of mounting Palestinian efforts to carry out terror attacks. There are several reasons for this, including power struggles within the Palestinian leadership and the fact that the Yomim Tovim are approaching.

On Thursday night, the danger was made clear to us again. Imagine being at home or in shul when you suddenly hear loudspeakers blaring in the street, warning you to remain in your home and to lock your windows and doors due to the presence of armed terrorists in the street. That is exactly what happened last Thursday night in the community of Carmel in southern Har Chevron. It began when a terrorist opened fire on a yeshiva known as Reiusa, moderately wounding a talmid. And by “moderately,” I mean that the floor surrounding the victim was filled with blood.

It was very clear that there were multiple terrorists, but in any event, they escaped from the scene. A manhunt began, and residents were ordered to remain behind closed doors. It was soon discovered that the same terror cell had shot at an Israeli car first, and then one of the terrorists had stood at the fence surrounding the settlement and opened fire. The victim was evacuated to Soroka Hospital in Beer Sheva, and the search for the terrorists was intensified.

The leaders of the settlement movement announced that they held Lapid and Gantz personally responsible for the lack of security for residents of Yehuda and the Shomron. “We are on the brink of a new intifada,” they declared. “The reality in Yehuda and the Shomron has turned into a situation of daily shooting attacks. The Lapid-Gantz government is showing weakness in the face of mounting terror, and we may pay a price in the form of the blood of many Jews, chas v’chollilah. When the IDF has its hands tied, and when the terrorist Palestinian Authority is bolstered and the settlements are strangled, the result is that all deterrence disappears and the lives of Israeli citizens become cheap. The only way security will be restored and terror will be defeated is if a strong right-wing government replaces the regime of Gantz and Lapid.”

IDF Officer Shot While Soldiers Were Blocked from Firing

When the settlement leaders accused the government of tying the IDF’s hands, they were actually echoing a claim made by the soldiers themselves, who blamed the recent death of an IDF officer on the army’s excessive caution.

This took place about 24 hours before the aforementioned attack, on Tuesday night, when IDF soldiers exchanged fire with Palestinian terrorists near the Jalama crossing, north of Jenin. The soldiers spotted two suspects near the seam line and began moving in to arrest them, but the suspects, who were armed, opened fire on the soldiers, who responded with gunfire and liquidated the two terrorists. That is an important point: It was the terrorists, not the soldiers, who opened fire. At the time, the news did not report that the terrorists managed to fatally shoot an IDF officer at the scene.

Before the officer’s death was announced, the IDF spokesman described the incident as follows: “IDF lookouts noticed two suspects near the fence along the seam line, near the village of Jalama, which is north of Jenin. Soldiers who were rushed to the area began carrying out the procedure to take the suspects into custody, but the suspects opened fire on the soldiers, who responded by returning fire and neutralizing them. The IDF and the Shabak are investigating whether these suspects belong to the same unit that opened fire on an engineering vehicle at the Jalama crossing yesterday.”

To put it plainly, the IDF soldiers wanted to fire on the suspects, but their commander prevented them from doing so, claiming that the suspicious-looking men did not appear to be carrying weapons and were probably civilians. The soldiers suggested approaching the Palestinians in an armored jeep, but that request was likewise denied. Ultimately, the soldiers approached the two men without the benefit of an armored vehicle, and the terrorists proceeded to take out their own weapons and fire on them. The deceased victim of the attack was Major Bar Falach of the Nachal Brigade. His funeral was heartrending; his family members and friends described him as a man with a heart of gold. In any event, this tragic story is a sign that the government has indeed been tying the soldiers’ hands with its strict regulations about opening fire. The soldiers are simply afraid to use their guns—and the results, as we have seen, can be disastrous.

Lapid at the UN

If you noticed a change in the atmosphere in Manhattan, it is because Yair Lapid is there. He left Israel on Monday for Manhattan, to address the United Nations General Assembly. On Sunday, the Prime Minister’s Office released the following statement: “Prime Minister Lapid will be departing on Monday, September 19, 2022, for a diplomatic visit to New York, where he will participate in the annual convention of the United Nations General Assembly. On Thursday, Prime Minister Lapid will address the General Assembly on behalf of the State of Israel. During his visit, the prime minister is scheduled to meet with a series of heads of state, including Prime Minister Elizabeth Truss of Britain, President Recep Tayyip Erdogan of Turkey, and Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis of Greece. In addition, the prime minister will meet with Secretary-General Antonio Guterres of the United Nations.

“Moreover,” the statement continues, “the prime minister will meet with the leaders of the main organizations of the Jewish communities in North America. Prime Minister Lapid will also attend the annual convention of the FIDF, at an event to be attended by about 500 of the greatest supporters of the organization, which works to provide educational scholarships and other benefits for the soldiers of the IDF. The prime minister will be accompanied on his trip by Dr. Eyal Hulata, the director of the National Security Council; Alon Ushpiz, director-general of the Foreign Ministry; General Avi Gil, the military secretary to the prime minister; Naama Schultz, the director-general of the Prime Minister’s Office; and Shalom Shlomo, the cabinet secretary. The delegation will also be accompanied by Mike Herzog, Israeli ambassador to the United States; Gilad Erdan, Israeli ambassador to the United Nations, and Assaf Zamir, Israeli consul general in New York.

Tensions Flare Between Lapid and the Foreign Ministry

Lapid’s planned trip to the United States, which seems to be completely unnecessary, has drawn heavy criticism in Israel. First of all, the prime minister, who is doubling as the country’s foreign minister, is locked in a serious conflict with the workers of the Foreign Ministry, who are doing everything in their power to hinder his efforts rather than assisting him. For instance, all the diplomatic mail that was sent to New York in advance of his trip was sent through a roundabout route rather than directly through the Foreign Ministry. This has increased the cost of the project by hundreds of thousands of shekels. Yes, you read that number right. And while that staggering bill, whose cost will be passed along to the taxpayers, results from a petty squabble between the prime minister and the Foreign Ministry, it has received relatively little attention in the press. As long as it isn’t Bibi, anything goes….

In addition, Lapid has been making every effort to meet as many foreign heads of state as possible on his visit, even just for a momentary photo-op, and even if it is only in a corridor. He has only one goal: to show the country that he is at least an equal to Bibi Netanyahu. Of course, that has earned him significant derision here in Israel. Lapid made especially great efforts to arrange a meeting with Erdogan—although he himself slammed Netanyahu caustically when Israeli diplomats met with any Turkish officials, and especially with Erdogan himself. At the time, Lapid wrote scathingly, “For shame! We don’t meet with terrorists!” For some reason, now that he is the one hobnobbing with foreign dignitaries, he no longer sees anything wrong with it.

Incidentally, Lapid’s English is also atrocious. Here in Israel, everyone is waiting with bated breath to hear about the gaffes that he is bound to make during his trip abroad.

And I have one more comment to make: The consul general in New York, who was mentioned in the statement from Lapid’s office, is Assaf Zamir, a former member of the Knesset from Yesh Atid who was given his position as a gift from Foreign Minister Yair Lapid. Zamir did not earn his posting by virtue of any particular aptitude; it came to him simply because he was a member of Lapid’s party. And Lapid himself is the man who has consistently criticized other government figures for handing out jobs to their close associates. Zamir is reported to be a charming and pleasant individual, but that really makes no difference as far as this point is concerned. Lapid is guilty of the same behavior for which he slammed the Likud party, and to a much greater extent, to boot.

Forty Parties to Run in the Election

Last Wednesday and Thursday were the days when the various parties submitted their lists for the upcoming election. I watched the proceedings, and I could barely contain my laughter at the sight of all the bizarre contenders who came to submit their slates. As always, there were some comical groups included in the list of political parties. For instance, there is the Pirates party, which receives a handful of votes in every election. There are some people who submit lists solely for the sake of a few minutes of fame. The submission of the party lists receives live coverage in the media and attracts significant attention from the public, and every person who submits a list is entitled to say a few words. While there is a certain financial cost to the process, it seems to be worthwhile for those who are desperate for publicity. That is why the judge received lists of candidates from 40 parties, while only ten are expected to cross the electoral threshold.

Of course, I enjoyed watching the submission of the combined list of United Torah Judaism, which is known in Hebrew as Yahadut HaTorah V’HaShabbat. I also enjoyed observing the Shas party submit its own list. We all hope that both of these parties will enjoy tremendous success in the election.

There were also some dramatic moments, such as when the Joint Arab List submitted its own slate. This time, in a departure from the norm, the Joint List does not include Balad, the most extreme Arab party. Due to some internal conflicts, there will be three Arab parties running in the election: Raam (under Mansour Abbas), the Joint List (headed by Ayman Oudeh and Ahmed Tibi), and Balad (headed by Abu-Shahada). Until the very last moment, it was unclear whether the parties would separate or run together.

Division Among Arabs Is Good for the Jews

This may seem to be a rather prosaic development, but it is more interesting than it may appear to be. For one thing, the likelihood of Balad crossing the electoral threshold while running on its own is virtually nil. Even more importantly, the Joint List itself will struggle to make it across the threshold without Balad. In addition, Raam’s position is very shaky at this time, as it was before the previous election. If all three Arab parties are left out of the Knesset, then history will be made: For the first time, there will be a Knesset without any Arab representation. And in that case, the right-wing bloc will have a much greater likelihood of crossing the threshold of 61 mandates needed to form a government. In fact, even if one of the two larger Arab parties fails to make it into the Knesset, that will give a boost to the right-wing bloc—which means that the internal Arab conflict might be a boon to Netanyahu and to the chareidim.

The infighting among the Arabs can have one of two possible effects. It might conceivably lead to an increase in voter turnout in the Arab sector, as concern over the outcome of the election prompts more Arabs to come to the polls. In general, the Arabs have a fairly low rate of voting. On the other hand, it is also possible that their internal battles will lead many of them to simply stay home on Election Day.

Some political pundits have speculated that Yair Lapid may be responsible for encouraging Balad to run separately, since Balad’s absence will make it easier for him to reach a deal with the Joint List in order to form a coalition. Lapid obviously understands that he would need both Raam and the Joint List in order to amass 61 mandates in the Knesset; in fact, even with their support, it is unclear if he would reach that critical number. But since Balad has always been the most extreme anti-Israel element in the Joint List, he knows that it will be easier for him to sign a coalition agreement with the Joint List if Balad is not included.

Will Shaked Quit the Race?

Now, I know that I told you that after the party lists are submitted, everything will be clearer. However, I have to admit that that isn’t entirely accurate. At this point, Ayelet Shaked has submitted a list for a party calling itself Bayit Yehudi. Her party is represented on the ballots by the letter beis, which was always the symbol of the Mafdal (the National Religious Party). There is great fear that Shaked will fail to cross the electoral threshold and will thereby squander thousands of right-wing votes—votes that could easily decide the entire outcome of the election. After all, it seems likely that the fate of the next government will come down to a single mandate or two after this election as well.

That is precisely the reason that Netanyahu pressured the Religious Zionism party to avoid a split; in fact, he is the only reason that Ben-Gvir and Smotrich are running on the same ticket. Netanyahu also worked to keep United Torah Judaism from splitting; in fact, he is the one who came up with the idea of promising to increase the budget for chareidi education in the next government in order to settle the internal conflict between Belz and Degel HaTorah. That leaves only Ayelet Shaked as a threat to the success of the right. Shaked insists that she will certainly make it across the threshold, and she has promised to help establish a right-wing government and has asked Netanyahu to refrain from attacking her. But it is hard to give much credence to her promises to return to the right-wing bloc, considering that she is serving at this very moment as a minister in a left-wing government—a government that she joined Naftoli Bennett in establishing.

Shaked is therefore coming under heavy pressure to drop out of the race. Her final decision will become clear sometime over the coming weeks. For now, she is insisting that she will remain in the race until the very end, and she has asked others to help her—for the benefit of the right-wing bloc.

Meanwhile, the left is also facing the possibility of losing votes to parties that fail to cross the threshold. At this point, neither Meretz nor Labor is guaranteed to amass the critical number of votes (although the greater likelihood is that both parties will make it into the next Knesset). For this reason, Lapid tried to convince them to unite in advance of the election; however, he was unsuccessful. But to be honest, it would be a very good thing if the left-wing votes were squandered.

Strategies for Elul

Rav Chanoch Karelenstein, the only son of Rav Dov Tzvi Karelenstein, passed away on the 22nd of Elul 5759/1999. Rav Chanoch had been poised to become one of the gedolei hador, lighting up the entire world with his Torah knowledge, until he passed away at a tragically young age. Every year in Elul, I dutifully follow his injunction to use the newspaper as a platform to raise awareness of Elul.

Last week, I attended the bar mitzvah of a grandson of Rav Chanoch Karelenstein. Young Zev is the son of Rav Chanoch’s late son-in-law, Rav Dov Paley, who passed away in 5780. At the simcha, I was introduced to a sefer titled Aliyos Dov, which is a compilation of Rav Dov Paley’s shiurim on Maseches Gittin delivered in Yeshivas Zohar HaTorah. At the end of the volume is a small collection of shiurim that he prepared during the final Elul of his life and that he was slated to deliver in Yeshivas Ohel Torah. Rav Paley was a brilliant talmid chochom who spent twelve years teaching Torah to hundreds of talmidim, all of whom were suffused with dedication to their rebbi. Rav Ezriel Auerbach, who attended the bar mitzvah and danced with Zev and with his grandfather, Rav Shmuel Leib Paley, described the late Rav Dov as “a man exalted above the rest of the nation … who never left the tent of Torah under any circumstances.” Indeed, Rav Dov Paley was an extraordinary talmid chochom who lived on a lofty level but somehow managed to have a keen understanding of other human beings who were nowhere near the spiritual heights that he had attained. The simcha was tinged with sadness, as the family mourned the absence of both Zev’s father and his grandfather.

While the Karelenstein and Paley families were saddened by the thought of what has been lost, they also celebrated the family’s accomplishments. The simcha was attended by many gedolei Torah and notable public figures. Rav Shaul Alter came to wish mazel tov to Rebbetzin Tzira Karelenstein (the granddaughter of Rav Aryeh Levin), who is a noted educator. I had never been aware of this before, but Rav Chanoch and Rav Shaul had been close friends and had even learned together in their younger years.

The kuntresim that Rav Chanoch wrote, on Shas and on the moadim, demonstrate his enormous knowledge. I have always enjoyed quoting from his sefer, Eitzos Lizkos Badin Bayomim Hanoraim (“Tips for a Favorable Judgment During the Yomim Noraim”). A new edition of this sefer has been published by his family, containing a treasure trove of information and insights. The chapters of the book deal with a wide range of ideas, such as forgiving others in order to receive atonement, having compassion for others, being needed by others, fearing the Divine judgment, judging others favorably, and many other concepts. May we all merit a favorable judgment on the Yom Hadin.

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