My Take on the News

Assad Becomes a Threat Again

The ruler of Syria has become a threat to the State of Israel once again, primarily to the cities of the north. At this time, Assad has succeeded in expelling the armies of ISIS from the border, and he now controls the entire area. From Israel’s standpoint, that makes for a new and difficult situation, since the Syrians operate as partners with Russia, Iran, and Hezbollah. Despite the respect and friendship that Vladimir Putin shows to Binyomin Netanyahu, his actions make it clear that he has aligned himself with Syria. It is difficult to gauge his motivations; perhaps it is his way of spiting President Trump, or perhaps he has some strategic reason for supporting the Syrian leader. In fact, this may be his way of asserting control over the entire region. But whatever the reason may be, there is no question that he has sided with Assad.

Now, you may be thinking that this should be a good thing for Israel. After all, instead of an army of suicide terrorists, there is now a normal country on the other side of our northern border. One might even think that it should be possible to maintain a dialogue with the president of Syria. In the past, after all, there was a sort of ceasefire agreement in place between Israel and Syria. It was not an actual peace agreement as is the case with Egypt (which is a cold relationship in any event), but an agreement not to engage in warfare. That was the situation that prevailed from 1974 until the civil war broke out in Syria in 2011.

Nevertheless, the Assad of today is not the same as the Assad of that time. The Syrian president today is a man who engages in mass murder and does not hesitate to use chemical weapons. Despite his heinous crimes, Assad somehow enjoys the admiration of part of the world; that simply shows that we are living in a topsy-turvy world. Our fear is that Assad will be joined by his partners, especially Nasrallah, who has not concealed his desire to turn the Golan into a battlefront against the State of Israel. Our apprehension has grown further after President Trump announced that he has no objection to meeting with Hassan Rouhani, the president of Iran. Are we about to become completely isolated and friendless in a hostile world? There is only one possible conclusion: We can rely on no one other than our Father in Heaven.

 

A Murder in the Settlement of Adam

We still have not recovered from the murder of Yotam Ovadiah Hy”d in the settlement of Adam. Yotam had left his home to shop in the nearby grocery store, when an Arab youth from a nearby village jumped over the security fence and murdered him in cold blood. Yotam was 31 years old and lived with his wife and two children near his parents’ home in the settlement. He was buried on Har Hamenuchos in Givat Shaul. His father, Avraham Ovadiah, recited Kaddish in a voice choked with grief.

The settlement of Adam, which is home to about 1,300 families, was named for Brigadier General Yekutiel Adam, the most senior officer in the IDF who was killed in Lebanon in 1982. Many of the families in the town are religious, and most of the men work in Yerushalayim during the day and return to Adam at night. The settlement was founded in July 1984/Tammuz 5744. In order to access it, a motorist must drive in the direction of Neve Yaakov and then make a right turn at the intersection before Pisgat Ze’ev. This road leads to Route 60, which bypasses Ramallah. The chareidi settlement of Tel Tzion is not far from Adam. The official name of the settlement is Geva Binyamin, but the name Adam seems to have become more commonly used.

Assaf Raviv, another resident of the community, succeeded in liquidating the terrorist, who managed to wound another two victims before he was killed. Raviv was preparing to leave his home when he heard screams from outside. As he approached the source of the commotion, thinking that it was some sort of bizarre altercation, he suddenly came face to face with an Arab youth brandishing a knife. Raviv promptly shot the terrorist dead.

There was another painful element to this incident as well. The commander of the police station in the Binyamin region, Deputy Commissioner Eli Ovadiah, was notified about the terror attack and raced to the scene. The Binyamin police station is responsible for the entire area surrounding Yerushalayim. Eli Ovadiah managed the scene of the attack, dispensing orders to the police officers to set up roadblocks and to arrange for the ambulances to be evacuated, while he was completely unaware of one crucial detail: The murder victim was his own first cousin, Yotam Ovadiah.

Meanwhile, lest you think that the epidemic of kite terror has come to an aid, it is still continuing to rage. However, our newer troubles tend to distract us from our previous woes. The security services are now working on developing advanced technologies that will put an end to this wave of terror.

And speaking of terror, a young Arab girl named Ahed Tamimi, who has become the personification of incitement against the soldiers of the IDF, has been released from prison. Tamimi first became famous after an episode in which she screamed at a pair of soldiers and even went so far as to slap one of them. This earned her international notoriety. After her release from prison, she was welcomed in Gaza as a national heroine, and she was even given a personal audience with Abu Mazen.

 

Feminism Gone Mad

We are still suffering from our usual litany of woes, chief among them the Supreme Court. Last week, the Supreme Court of Israel ordered the Agudas Yisroel party – which is one of the two member parties of United Torah Judaism – to respond within 30 days regarding whether it would agree to cancel the clause in its bylaws that prohibits women from being members of the party and thus exclude them from serving in the Knesset.

In the State of Israel, there are certain laws concerning the political parties. There must be a mechanism in place for the members of the Knesset – that is, each party’s list for the Knesset – to be chosen in a democratic fashion. In the chareidi parties, the members of the list are chosen by the gedolei Yisroel.

I would actually be interested to know how Yair Lapid would address this legal requirement. In his party, Yesh Atid, the list is chosen exclusively by Lapid himself. I believe the same is true in Moshe Kachlon’s party, Kulanu. But the issue here is different: It is the question of whether women will serve in the Knesset. For the chareidi parties, that is out of the question. And for the sake of causing grief to the chareidim, their enemies have chosen to petition the court against their policies.

The Supreme Court’s order was issued in a hearing on an appeal that was filed with the court about three years ago, with the claim that Agudas Yisroel’s bylaws are in violation of the basic right of equality and the basic right for women to be elected. The petition was filed by a group of “women’s organizations.” Five judges, led by Chief Justice Esther Chayyut, participated in the discussion last week. Agudas Yisroel was represented by attorney Eyal Nun, who said that the party is entitled to organize itself as it sees fit and that it is unacceptable to coerce a chareidi party to accept standards that are foreign to its cultural norms. The attorney attempted to persuade the judges that according to the chareidi worldview, women should not be involved in politics.

His attempts at persuasion may have fallen on deaf ears. Indeed, Chief Justice Chayut demanded, “Why does the cultural worldview that you have described make it impossible for women to participate in politics? Why should the door be closed before chareidi women who wish to be members of the Knesset on behalf of Agudas Yisroel?”

Apparently, the Supreme Court may yet force the chareidi parties to include women in their respective lists for the Knesset. That is yet another aspect of the madness of today’s “women’s rights” campaigns. They are not content to “fix” the issues in their own backyards. Instead, they must impose their will on others as well.

 

An Undignified Summer Session Comes to an End

As I mentioned last week, the Knesset is on recess until after Sukkos. This summer’s session was a difficult and distressing one, when the Knesset reached record lows. Many of the MKs were revealed in their full shallowness, while the Ethics Committee struggled to contend with the stream of complaints with which it was bombarded. In general, the Knesset seemed to be plagued by short fuses. Last week, one of the MKs was accused of being violent and threatening. Even the dialogue in the Knesset had a violent edge. During the last week of the Knesset, laws were passed in a venomous atmosphere, especially the Nationality Law. Some of the speakers crossed every possible red line and used the worst conceivable language. After the vote, the Arab MKs ripped up their copies of the law and tossed the torn papers at the officials sitting at the government table. The Palestinian contingent in the Knesset is constantly becoming more audacious.

There was plenty of vitriol in the discussions of the draft law as well. Perhaps it was because of the emotions running high over the subject, or perhaps it was simply a loss of restraint. For instance, MK Yoel Hasson of the Zionist Camp party stood at the podium and delivered an impassioned speech, during which he claimed that the government could have been toppled over the draft law if not for the fact that Yesh Atid supported it. As he returned to his seat, MK Chaim Yellin of Yesh Atid said to him, “I don’t believe that the people are foolish enough to believe what you said.” Hasson, who seemed not to have heard Yellin correctly, thought that he was being called a fool, and that was enough to infuriate him. “You are calling me foolish?” he demanded. “You are impudent! You are a liar! You will—”

Yellin tried to stop the outpouring of wrath. “I think you didn’t hear me,” he said, but Hasson was too enraged to listen.

“Who do you think you are, anyway?” he raged, unleashing a couple of additional choice epithets before he calmed down.

It is very saddening to see a person lose control of himself so completely. It is no less saddening when such a thing happens in the Knesset or in one of its committees. Whenever a new Knesset is formed, there are always people who claim that it is inferior to previous incarnations of the legislature. In the case of the current Knesset, at least in its most recent summer session, that seems to be more correct than ever.

 

Vitriol in a Parliamentary Query

I recently discovered that even a parliamentary query can be used as a tool for verbal violence. The following is an excerpt of a parliamentary query submitted by Elazar Stern, a member of the Knesset who is known for his fierce distaste for chareidim:

“At the conclusion of Simchas Torah, hakafos shniyos were held in Bnei Brak. This event was attended by senior rabbonim who are identified with the Shas party, and the Ministry for the Development of the Periphery, the Negev, and the Galil funded a significant part of the cost of the event. I would like to ask: Why would a ministry whose function is to develop the Negev and the Galil invest in an event in Bnei Brak? Is the ministry’s connection to the event the fact that it took place on Rechov Hagalil in Bnei Brak? In the past year, the Ministry of the Negev and Galil has funded eight Torah-related events in Chadera. Why? Is there a connection to the fact that the deputy mayor of Chadera is a member of the Shas party? What is the reason that the residents of chareidi cities receive much greater funding than those who live in secular cities? For the sake of illustration, in Modiin Illit, the government funding per capita stands at 41 NIS. In Beitar Illit it is 44 NIS, and in Rechasim it is 81 NIS. In contrast, in Kiryat Shemonah, the per capita funding is 11.3 NIS, in Beit Shean it is 13.5 NIS, in Sderot it is 11.6 NIS, in Ashkelon it is 6.8 NIS, and in Metulla it is only 5 NIS. The ministry ended the year 2016 with a surplus of 240 million shekels in its budget – funds that were unused during the year. Why, then, is it unable to find the money to allocate for a center for urgent medical care in Etzba HaGalil? And if the aforementioned statistic is incorrect and the ministry is indeed facing a deficit, how can it be that an event for hakafos shnyios was given priority over the establishment of an urgent medical care center?”

This is a parliamentary query that is not only based on faulty assumptions, but is actually vindictive. The Minister of the Negev and Galil is none other than Aryeh Deri, who also holds the position of Minister of the Interior. Indeed, Deri takes advantage of every opportunity that is permitted by law to benefit the chareidi citizens of the State of Israel. Despite the criticism voiced by Stern and others like him, it is important to note that there are many MKs who perform their jobs faithfully and receive little recognition for their efforts. The wilder and more outspoken members of the Knesset tend to receive the most public exposure and thereby lower the standing of this country’s legislature in the eyes of the public. There are plenty of people in the Knesset who have a habit of acting in this fashion, and it can be difficult to restrain them. Edelstein makes an effort to do so, but his power is limited. The Knesset Committee also imposes penalties and warnings, but that, too, does not solve the problem. In recent months, some unprecedented penalties have been imposed on members of the Knesset, who have reached unprecedented lows in their conduct. The parliament of Israel tries to be a reflection of the people. It is a shame that it insists on reflecting the lowest elements of Israeli society. Let us hope that things will be better when the Knesset returns from its long vacation.

 

New Laws

Before the Knesset began its recess, the members of the legislature hurried to place new laws on the Knesset table. No law may be discussed in the Knesset until 45 days have passed from the time it was first introduced. However, the Knesset’s long recess is included in that calculation. Therefore, the MKs made every effort to submit their bills before the recess began in order to be able to bring them up for discussion as soon as the Knesset reopens.

Once again, I glanced at some of the bills that were submitted for discussion, and I would like to share some of the details with you.

One of the bills, which was submitted by MK Yisroel Eichler, is an excellent idea. When a registered letter containing a demand for payment is sent to an ordinary citizen, the obligation to pay is considered to have taken effect as soon as a notice concerning the letter is placed on the recipient’s door. Eichler’s bill would require the sender to document the receipt of the notice. Otherwise, the recipient will be able to claim that he was never made aware of it.

MK Yoel Hasson introduced a bill that would prevent the prime minister – any prime minister – from holding an additional ministerial position as well. Binyomin Netanyahu, for instance, is not only the prime minister of Israel, but also the country’s foreign minister and Minister of Communications. Hasson’s bill would put an end to that situation.

MK Yinon Azulai has proposed that the right to visitation for inmates in Israeli prisons should be calculated based on the number of family members they have. The larger an inmate’s family, the more visitors he should be allowed. This is an eminently fair and logical law, which is drawn from a proposal submitted during both the Seventeenth Knesset and the Eighteenth Knesset by Dovid Azulai, who has been known as a champion of prisoners’ rights.

MK Sharren Haskel proposed a law that would prohibit putting healthy dogs to death. Meanwhile, in the context of Israel’s anti-smoking campaign, MK Yael German claims that 800 nonsmokers die in Israel every year as a result of exposure to secondary smoke. As a result, she proposes establishing a system that would put an end to smoking in public places. Another bill, submitted by MK Nurit Koren, would prohibit advertising harmful foods (such as those containing sodium, sugar, and the like) and would place limits on their sale.

 

Packed Performances in Chiloni Cities

The Ministry of the Negev and Galil was partially responsible for funding an appearance of Avraham Fried in Acco, which is part of the Galil. I wanted to attend the performance, but by the time I tried to reserve a ticket, it had been sold out. I called the hall in Acco where it was held, but there was nothing they could do to help me; every single ticket was gone. I tried contacting the chareidi representatives on the Acco city council, but they, too, were powerless to help me. After the fact, I was glad that I hadn’t gone to Acco and that I had been too late to purchase a ticket. I heard on the radio that at a certain point, the police closed the venue even to those who had purchased tickets. As a chronic latecomer, I certainly would have been stuck outside.

I also enjoyed this news, for a specific reason: It demonstrates the degree of chareidi strength in every city, including a city such as Acco. As we head into the municipal elections – and, before long, the elections for the Knesset as well – that is sufficient reason for us to feel encouraged. Who would ever have dreamed that religious singers would perform before packed houses in cities such as Be’er Sheva, Cholon, and Acco?

 

Setting the Record Straight

Last week, I praised the Eshkolot community center (Matnas) in the Shmuel Hanovi neighborhood, and I added that it was unfortunate that the Matnas’s counterpart in my own neighborhood of Givat Shaul isn’t equally active. On second thought, I feel that I should have sufficed with singing the praises of the community center in Shmuel Hanovi and I should not have criticized my local Matnas. First of all, it is not appropriate for me to shame anyone else, including the management of my local community center. Furthermore, it should not be necessary to put someone else down in order to praise anyone. But in addition to that, I also learned that my own local Matnas has plenty of summer activities as well. Their failure lies not in their lack of programming, but in the fact that it isn’t advertised. That is why I was unaware of the plethora of activities organized by the director of the community center, Rabbi Ariel Golan, who surprised me by revealing that he was aware of what I had written in Yated Ne’eman in America.

Rabbi Golan was too refined to respond brashly to what I had written. He certainly would have been justified in telling me that I, who criticized the Israel Democracy Institute for presenting a skewed picture of the Shas party’s activities, was guilty of the same offense in improperly portraying his own community center.

I learned a bit more about my local Matnas this week, and I discovered that they think on a broad scale and strive to benefit the average citizen. Someone pointed out to me that if the Matnas had produced a pamphlet informing the public of all of its summer programming, it would have made just as favorable an impression as the list of activities released by Eshkolot. In Givat Shaul, the community center is offering a wide variety of clubs, trips, workshops, and lectures, some of which are run through an organization of bnei yeshivos while others are managed through the local tzedakah committee, and still others are offered by the Matnas directly to the communities. Their only problem is that they are not particularly good at advertising, and they do not always make sure that their logo appears in conjunction with all the activities that they coordinate.

 

Focusing on Kulanu

Finance Minister Moshe Kachlon has set the propaganda machine in motion in advance of the upcoming elections by publishing huge notices in many newspapers boasting of his accomplishments in the government. The advertisement concludes with the slogan “Kachlon – Your Security!” The list of achievements is very long, and I have no doubt that he will soon be challenged regarding the veracity of some of his claims. For instance, he purports to have lowered the cost of housing, but I am not quite convinced that the prices have actually gone down. He also claims to have “created thousands of work places in industry,” but I have no idea what he is referring to.

Even now, several ministers in the government have complained that Kachlon is taking credit that is rightfully due to them. Yaakov Litzman claims that two or three of the achievements for which Kachlon credits himself were actually his own. Naftali Bennett likewise claims that Kachlon has claimed responsibility for three or four of his own accomplishments. I believe both of them, and I also know that Aryeh Deri would be correct if he claimed that five or six of the items on Kachlon’s list were also his own accomplishments. One of the first entries on the list is the reduction of the cost of water. If I am not mistaken, that was one of the Shas party’s stipulations in the coalition agreement.

Kachlon may argue in his defense that all of these things were carried out by the Ministry of Finance, and that makes him responsible for the developments. That would be similar to Moshe Gafni claiming that every allocation of funds that was approved by the Knesset Finance Committee was his own achievement. Factually, Kachlon may be correct; after all, every shekel that is spent by the government requires the approval of his ministry. But it would be a very tenuous argument indeed.

In addition, Kachlon’s advertisement contains an asterisk that refers the reader to a footnote that reads “carried out by Minister of Finance Moshe Kachlon.” That may mean precisely what I have said: As the finance minister, Kachlon is technically responsible for all of these achievements, but that does not mean that the ideas or the initiative were his. Nevertheless, this advertisement seems like a gross manipulation of the facts.

There is one thing that Kachlon certainly gained from it, though: The entire country is now discussing the Kulanu party and his advertisement. Everyone is debating whether he can genuinely take credit for all the achievements he lists. I would not be surprised if a political strategist gave him this piece of advice: to publish the advertisement and allow people to debate it and to be angered by it. Even if he ultimately has to apologize for it, he will still have been the focus of discussion, and some of his claims are bound to stick…