“Every evening I travel from my workplace in Beit Shemesh home to Beitar,” he said. “I boarded the bus and sat down in a seat at the right side. The Palestinian got on at a later stop and sat down at the left. I was speaking to a friend sitting behind me and at some stage my friend moved next to me.
“When the Palestinian saw him move next to me, he got out of his place and sat behind me while listening to earphones. I am used to Arabs traveling on busses. It’s nothing unusual and I wasn’t concerned. After a while, I dozed off. Suddenly, I felt someone touching me. Turning my head backwards I saw the Arab with a knife in his hand. He’d cut off my left peyah. It’s a miracle he didn’t hurt me.
“The Arab got up and began yelling at the driver, ‘Aftach al bab, Open the door.’ The passengers all fled towards the door, terrified he might hurt them with the knife. The front door of the bus was jammed with passengers and the back door was jammed with terrified women. All the while, the Arab was holding the knife and waving it threateningly up and down. When he saw that he had no easy way of getting out the front door, he went to the back door, which the driver had opened. After a few women got out and cleared the way, he got out and fled towards a forest. Police and soldiers arrived and started searching for him immediately. But as far as I know the Arab was not caught.”
The victim said that Palestinians travel on the line almost every day and are generally peaceful. “I had already known some of them by face, but there were never any problems with them,” he said. “When we get to an army checkpoint they are checked and we move on.”
“It seems that the Palestinian didn’t want to do more to me than he did to avoid doing something more severe,” he added. “If he’d delayed a little longer he would have been caught. What he didn’t seem to know was that the busses have security cameras; the whole incident was recorded.”
As for birkas hagoimel, he said that he got a p’sak from his rov that since the knife wasn’t in contact with his body he was not required to recite the brochah.
“But obviously, I don’t stop thanking Hashem for the miracle I experienced” he added.
The attack is one of dozens that the Jews of Yehuda and Shomron suffer from every month. Of 133 terror attacks reported in Israel during September, over two thirds were in this area of the country. The statistics don’t include rock-throwing even though they have killed and maimed dozens in past years.
EICHLER: INCITEMENT LED TO RABIN’S MURDER
MK Yisroel Eichler of UTJ utilized a Knesset meeting honoring the memory of Prime Minister Yitzchok Rabin to blast the government and secular press for its anti-chareidi incitement.
“Never for a moment did Minister of Defense Yitzchok Rabin ever consider harming Torah students in yeshivos,” he said. “This was not because of coalition considerations — Agudas Yisroel was in the opposition for twenty years from the days of Ben Gurion until Begin’s government. No one questioned the contribution of Torah students to the survival of the Jewish state. Rabin saw them as an integral part of national security, no less than any of the civil defense units of the IDF.”
“I am terrified of the idea that words can kill,” he continued. “Were this is really true, if incitement really leads to murder, there’d already be a bloodbath in Israel’s streets due to the ongoing incitement against the chareidi public in most of the Israeli media. For many years we were at the forefront of those who defended those who wear knitted kipot when they were falsely accused of involvement in the Rabin murder. We regarded blaming the religious Zionist public for Rabin’s murder as a crime against the innocent and upright… But our religious Zionist brothers are not repaying us the same way.” Eichler criticized the religious Zionist leadership for betraying the chareidi Torah world.
“We understand that whoever hates people who cover their heads doesn’t differentiate between knitted or black kipot,” he said. “So Habayit Ha’yehudi must understand that chareidim’s enemies also regard you as religious fanatics who are endangering the country’s peace. Right now, they are using you to fight the Torah world and the yeshivos; tomorrow they will drive you from your homes. It already happened with the disengagement from Gush Katif. Someone who helps the enemies of Judaism harms himself and the future of his children.”
“The incitement against the chareidi public will benefit no Israeli citizens,” he concluded. “Our hands are not raised against any Jew. Nonetheless, if we cannot live in this land due to government persecution, we will take up the traveler’s staff and the Torah centers will move from Eretz Yisroel to overseas.”
GENDER-SEPARATE IDF CAMP FOR CHAREIDIM
For the first time ever, the IDF will soon set up a special gender-separate training camp for soldiers of the Shachar (Shiluv Chareidim, chareidi integration) IDF program. The camp will be situated in the vast Tzetifin camp near Bnei Brak. In the past few years since the founding of the Shachar programs and the enlistment of bnei yeshivos, many soldiers have complained of tzeni’us problems during basic training. This includes female trainees on their bases sharing mess halls during meals.
“We ate at separate tables but female soldiers sat at the side,” a soldier said. “This contradicted guarantees that there would be no problem of shemiras einayim. When we left the mess room to wherever we were ordered to go, we saw female soldiers nearby. There was no one to complain to. Any complaint was ignored because that the IDF had no alternative solutions.”
A Shachar source admitted that the army simply didn’t understand the seriousness of tzeni’us and shemiras einayim.
“We do everything to prevent the proximity of female soldiers from the moment they come to the reception station and including the basic training camp, but we’re not a hundred percent successful,” the source said. “We don’t waive detail, but you need to understand that until now, the army didn’t know how to digest all the chareidi prohibitions. Now they understand and are doing all they can to avoid complications.”
FUNDING FOR FOREIGN YESHIVA STUDENTS – SOLOMIANSKI VERSUS LAPID
As part of his ongoing campaign against the yeshiva world, Yair Lapid is unhappy that Chairman of the Knesset Monetary Counsel, MK Nissan Slomiansky of Habayit Hayehudi is determined to completely annul the edict canceling government support for foreign yeshiva students. Lapid suggests providing funds to students of religious Zionist institutions and leaving the chareidi cuts in place. Slomiansky declined his idea, saying that the funding of all foreign students must be viewed from the same Zionist perspective.
“Yeshivos where foreign students learn bring about more aliyah to Israel than all others involved with bringing olim to Israel, and at the lowest cost,” he said.
Lapid said he needed more time to analyze the issue in depth.
ANCIENT CORPSE MAY RESOLVE BUIDLING-SITE CONFLICT
The construction of the new Ramat Avraham neighborhood was halted for several months after the discovery of ancient pits at the building site. Although the Ra’avad of the Eida Hachareidis, Rav Moshe Sternbuch, and other poskim were adamant that the pits were never Jewish graves, others disagreed and said that costly arches needed to be built over them before construction could proceed. Now, the impasse may have been solved with the discovery of ancient earthenware pots and a skeleton with its head placed between its knees in one of the pits.
After examining the new findings, Rav Sternbuch and Rav Zalman Korn an expert in ancient grave determinations said they were unmistakable evidence that the pits were part of a non-Jewish cemetery.
“From the beginning of the excavations I argued that the findings dated from the Middle Bronze Age, which dates back to hundreds of years before Avrohom was born,” said another expert Rav Sholom Fried. “The discovery of the skeleton in fetal position confirmed that we are dealing with a non-Jewish grave. The pots were left in the center of the grave to provide the deceased with something to eat and burn as incense after his death in accordance with their beliefs.”
“The position of the corpse indicates that it lay in peace over here for 4,500 years until we disturbed it this week,” he added. “It is clear that we are not dealing at all… with graves from the iron age, that is, during the era of the Shoftim or the era of the first Beis Hamikdash. During the era of the first Beis Hamikdash burial graves were already wider than the ones found here.”
Of 50 suspected graves opened at the building site, 47 were found to be empty, two contained animal bones, while the one just discovered indicates that even if the place was a cemetery, it was used by non-Jews. This discovery means that it will probably not be necessary to build arches between the graves and the buildings. Such construction may have cost the building project millions of shekels and added 150,000 shekels to the price of each of its apartments. It is hoped that building can now proceed without any further delays and at no extra expense.
BAYIT HAYEHUDI CONSIDERS FORMATION OF MOETZES GEDOLEI TORAH
Several Bayit Hayehudi MKs are urging the party to form a Moetzes Gedolei Torah to provide its politicians with guidance in religious matters, the Jerusalem Post reported.
“It would be a diverse group of rabbis chosen by consensus in the party,” said MK Motti Yogev of Habayit Hayehudi. “Ideally, they would be led by Rabbi Chaim Druckman, whose authority is accepted by most religious Zionists. Quite a few matters of halachah are expected to come up in the Knesset, and it would be the right thing to have some rabbonim give advice to the faction.”
The idea was first proposed by the head of Tekuma, the Hardal (chareidi-Zionist) leaning party which joined Bayit Hayehudi’s list during the last elections.
But the response of Bennett’s office to the proposal was — “Let’s leave the Moetzes of Torah Sages to Shas.”
Yogev explained that unlike the moetzes of Shas, Degel Hatorah, or Agudas Yisroel, the decisions of the Habayit Hayehudi moetzes would not be binding.
“This isn’t like Shas, which asks the Council of Torah Sages about every single thing, or like one rabbi who decides for Agudas Yisraol and Degel Hatorah, he explained. “Some can accept the rabbis’ positions and others might not and if someone wants to consult with them on other issues, he is free to.”
“This isn’t the first time it’s been discussed, but it’s the first time they made an issue about it,” a party source said. “If it’s going to be like Shas, most of the faction won’t be in favor of that.”
THE CHECK GOES NOWHERE
In addition to the problems caused by the slashing of government funding, heads of yeshivos and kollelim have lately had difficulty cashing millions of dollars of donations in the form of American checks. Money changers in Israel don’t want them. The trouble began two days before Yom Kippur when a South Florida bank, whose subsidiaries had been handling most checks cashed abroad, ceased its services without warning. Suddenly, hundreds of people in Israel had nowhere to go with their American checks.
“We get American checks from people, bring them to Israel, and cash them at regular money changers,” said one rosh kollel. “This was the only way we could cash our checks… The arrangement worked fine for years. On erev Sukkos, we received a message from our regular money changer saying that he could not continue redeeming checks. Since then, I and other roshei kollel are stuck with funds that should be used to pay salaries and debts. We don’t know how to cash them. Banks charge high fees and the money takes a few weeks to clear…”
Until now, a number of American processors took the checks under the aegis of the North Dade Community Development Federal Credit Union, a tiny credit union in Florida. It seems that after the Florida bank became involved with stolen and forged checks, America’s National Credit Union Administration (NCUA) which regulates credit unions, warned the bank that offering services outside its geographic area was illegal. This was in addition to other irregularities. Since all the big money changers working with yeshivos and kollelim were relying on that one bank, they were stuck with checks they had no way to cash. A small number of money changers use a different method of dealing with large checks but charge a 4 percent fee instead of the regular 1.5 percent.
Meanwhile, money changers are scrambling to find new channels to cash their USA checks in the USA, and due to the risks and regulations American banks have to contend with, there may be no quick solution.
DERI AND LIEBERMAN DENY PLAN TO TOPPLE COALITION
Aryeh Deri and Avigdor Lieberman deny reports of that they plan to topple Netanyahu’s coalition. Last week, Deri allegedly said in an interview that in return for Deri supporting Moshe Lion as the mayoral candidate for Yerushalayim, Lieberman would try to destroy Netanayahu’s coalition, leaving the field clear for chareidim to enter a new government. In response to the allegation, angry Likud members told Netanyahu that all Likud members should withdraw all support from Lion “not only for the sake of Yerushalayim, but for the sake of the future of Likud and of the state.”
Subsequently, Lieberman and Deri both denied that such a plan ever existed.
“I listened to the interview with Deri again and he says nothing like that,” Lieberman said. “…There is no connection between the elections in Yerushalayim and the political situation in Israel. There is no connection to what is happening in the coalition now or in the future. The only thing that can influence the future of the coalition is Tzipi Livni’s negotiations with the Palestinians.”
Deri claims likewise, that his words were taken out of context and that no such agreement ever existed.
CURB THE POWERS OF THE SUPREME COURT
Keeping in mind that the yeshiva draft crisis was precipitated by a Supreme Court ruling that the yeshiva student exemption was unconstitutional, it is heartening to read that political leaders are finally exasperated at the Supreme Court’s constant interference in Knesset affairs and are trying to advance a series of bills to cut down the court’s excessive power. The proposals aim to increase government control of the Supreme Court’s affairs by cancelling the appointment of new Supreme Court presidents on the basis of seniority and a appointing a higher proportion of politicians to sit in the committee that elects votes.
Other proposals aim at limiting the court’s power by weakening the supreme court’s ability to overturn legislation and giving priority to Israel’s Jewish identity over its democratic identity.
Economy Minister Naftali Bennett joined forces with coalition chairman MK Yariv Levin of Likud to push through such bills. The initiative gained more momentum a month ago when the Supreme Court struck down a Knesset law that allowed the jailing of asylum seekers for three years. This was a partial solution for the inundation of some of Israel’s poorer neighborhoods with dangerous illegal immigrants. At the time, MK Ayelet Shaked of Likud vowed to fight for legislation enabling the Knesset to restore laws struck down by the court because they were in violation of the human rights outlined in the Basic Laws.
“The Knesset, as the sovereign power in a democracy, has the right to the final word regarding matters of value and principle,” she said. “Over the last 20 years there has been a constitutional revolution that has weakened the power of the executive and legislative branches, and has given preference to the judicial branch. We are intending to change that.”
Justice Minister Tzipi Livni of Hatnuah opposed weakening the power of the supreme court. She says that such proposals would weaken the balance of power in Israel and place religious belief higher than democracy.
“I will fight any effort to undermine the Supreme Court and the State of Israel as a Jewish and democratic state,” she said. “The politicization of the judiciary will not only weaken its status and function in maintaining our values â€‹â€‹as a democratic state, but will also lead to the loss of public confidence in the system.”
Levin responded that maintaining a clique of judges that have a stranglehold on Israel’s judiciary is a travesty of democracy.
“The responsibility of the justice minister is to protect the public interest and not blindly serve the handful of judges who control the justice system,” he said. “…The struggle that I led almost alone at the beginning has become a broad public struggle, and I am determined to ensure that the rights and wishes of the majority are reflected in comprehensive legislation that will restore the legal system to a more Jewish, Zionist and democratic path.”
The Knesset must decide if the power lies with the people or with a non-democratically elected judiciary that often runs counter to the wishes of the people.
MINISTERIAL COMMITTEE GREEN-LIGHTS LITZMAN’S YERUSHALAYIM LAW
Israel’s Ministerial Legislative Committee authorized a proposed bill by MK Yaakov Litzman, which demands the approval of 80 MKs (two thirds of the Knesset) before any negotiation of dividing Yerushalayim with the Palestinians takes place.
“Yerushalayim is a city that was reunited,” Litzman’s proposed bill explains. “It will not be divided and no part of it will be handed over to anyone. Yerushalayim’s sanctity was not given to outsiders. This bill prevents the possibility that at any stage in any political process there will be a discussion about the status of the city of Yerushalayim, the joy of the people in Israel. Due to past incidents in which there were talks about giving away parts of the city, it is necessary to create a law that will not even allow the possibility as the starting point of negotiations.”
Yesh Atid ministers opposed the proposal but it was supported by Habayit Hayehudi and Likud. Chairman of the ministerial committee, Justice Minister Tzipi Livni, also opposed the bill saying it “is an incorrect proposal for this time.” She said she will attempt to bring it for reconsideration in the ministerial committee and hopefully prevent it from reaching a Knesset vote. MK Zehava Gal-On of Meretz claimed the bill was “another nail, maybe the last one, in the coffin of the negotiations with the Palestinians,” Litzman said he was happy at the “privilege of guarding and protecting Yerushalayim. Netanyahu promised more than once that he will not negotiate Yerushalayim. This law anchors his promise and keeps the city united. The message of the law is clear: Yerushalayim, Israel’s capital, will not be subject to any future peace negotiations.”
LAPID’S PARTY SHRUNK TO HALF SIZE
Promising to fight chareidim and reduce taxes, Lapid’s Yesh Atid party was elected as Israel’s second largest party with 19 seats. A recent poll indicated that if elections were held today, Lapid’s party would lose to almost half of its Knesset seats and drop to number six with only ten seats. The poll found Labor and Likud remaining the same at 17 seats, UTJ at five, while Meretz doubled from 6 seats to 12. Only 4% of pollsters were satisfied with Lapid’s performance, the same popularity rate that former Defense Minister Amir Peretz received after the catastrophic second Lebanon War. 63% considered Netanyahu fit to serve as Prime Minister, versus 5% for Lapid who had boasted of ousting Netanyahu from leadership shortly after the elections.
Education Minister Shay Piron played down the findings and insisted Yesh Atid would soon overtake Likud.
“After a short time, when the financial reality improves, when revolutionary programs are put into place, you will see that Yesh Atid becomes the largest party in Israel,” he said. “You have to be more gentle, more permissive, more inclusive, calmer, trying a little bit less to decide what the situation is for any given leader so soon after they enter the game.”
CHIEF RABBIS UNITE WITH CONFERENCE OF EUROPEAN RABBIS
At a meeting in the Rishon Letzion’s office in Yerushalayim, Chief Rabbis Yitzchak Yosef and Dovid Lau agreed to stand firm with European rabbonim regarding issues facing European Jewry. Also present at the meeting was president of the Conference of European Rabbis, Rav Pinchas Goldschmidt of Moscow. Founded in 1956, the Conference of European Rabbis includes 700 orthodox religious leaders in Europe. Prevalent issues discussed by the conference include tightening supervision over kashrus and geirus, the problem of opposition to bris milah, and the goal of creating an international kashrus code.
“The eyes of Jews in the Diaspora are lifted to Yerushalayim,” Rav Goldschmidt said. “Your election was good tidings to the whole Jewish people; in the eyes of the European countries leadership you are the representatives of the Jewish people. I am certain you will be privileged to sanctify shem Shomayim through your efforts, and we, the rabbonim of Europe, will be happy to tighten our mutual efforts to strengthen Jewish issues and solve the prevalent problems we face.”
“The greatest and most significant achievement of the Conference of European Rabbis was that unlike the USA, 90% of the rabbonim of kehillos and shuls in Europe are orthodox,” Rav Goldschmidt said. “Most countries where the conference’s rabbonim are found have Torah educational institutions, talmudei Torah, schools, kindergartens, kollelim, public shiurim, tzedakah and chesed organizations, and a variety of other Torah activities.”
The chief rabbis said they would participate in a meeting of the conference’s standing committee next month.
YEHO’ASH TABLET BACK TO OWNER
Israel’s High Court ruled that Israel must return a unique stone purportedly inscribed by stone masons of King Yehoash in the era of the first Beis Hamikdosh to its owner. In 2003, Israel confiscated the sandstone tablet from antiquities collector Oded Golan, charging that he had forged it along with other alleged fakes. Yet, Haaretz reports, despite seven and a half years of testimony from 130 witnesses including prominent experts in geology, chemistry, microbiology, and ancient scripts, it was never proved that the stone and other antiquities were fakes and that consequently, the tablet should be restored to Golan.
Similar to the ancient inscription in the tunnel of the Shiloach Spring that records two teams of King Chizkiyahu’s workers hewing out the tunnel and meeting in the middle, the Yehoash stone purportedly records a Tanach episode: the account we read in the Haftorah of parshas Shekalim where King Yehoash commanded the people to collect funds in order to repair the Beis Hamikdosh.
The partly obliterated letters of the inscription read: “I am Yeho’ash son of Achazyohu king of Yehuda, and I performed the work on this house when men’s generosity was full… giving consecrated money as sacred donations abundantly to buy quarry stone and juniper wood and Edomite copper… Then I made the repair of the Beis Hamikdosh, and the encircling walls, and the storied structure, and the lattice works, and the spiral staircases, and the recesses, and the doors, etc.”
If genuine, this stone tablet bears one of the rarest and most unusual inscriptions ever discovered in Eretz Yisroel.
ISRAEL VOTES FOR MAYORS AND CITY COUNCILS
Tuesday was a good day for incumbent mayors running for reelection in Israel. In races of primary concern to our readers, at press time, Nir Barkat sailed to victory over Moshe Leon in Yerushalayim; Chanoch Zeibart, facing token opposition, was elected in Bnei Brak; in Beit Shemesh, Moshe Abutbul was reelected; and Yisroel Porush beat Shas candidate Tzuriel Krispel in the chareidi town of Elad.
At seven o’clock on Tuesday morning, voting booths opened in 191 towns and municipalities throughout Israel. 5,469,041 voters began choosing their towns’ future mayors and councilmen. Loudspeaker vans rolled through the streets urging people to get out and vote, cars honked, children freed from schools turned into voting stations shouted gleefully in the streets, flyers covered the sidewalks, and posters gathered on the walls. Israel’s five-year municipal election fever was at its height.
In Yerushalayim, the religious candidate for mayor, Moshe Leon, figured he had a good chance to beat incumbent mayor Nir Barkat. He was hoping to win the full support of the chareidim who comprise 33% of the city’s 400,000 eligible voters. He hoped to repeat the 1993 upset when the chareidi public helped oust longstanding mayor Teddy Kollek in favor of Ehud Olmert by a majority of 25,000 votes. In the end, election turnout in Yerushalayim was 35.89%, but 70% among chareidim. Barkat beat Leon 52% to 44%.
Leon’s candidacy was promoted by Avigdor Lieberman of Likud-Beiteinu and strongly supported by Shas and Degel Hatorah. Degel issued a statement declaring that it was “an absolute obligation upon every person to vote and work only for the list of UTJ, whose letter is gimmel, and for the mayoral candidate closest to religion, Mr. Moshe Leon.” The declaration was signed by Rav Aharon Leib Shteinman, Rav Chaim Kanievsky, and members of the Degel Hatorah moetzes.
Despite the support of Shas and Degel, Leon’s chances shrunk when Agudas Yisroel ruled that every person should follow the ruling of his rov. Although Erloi and Breslov supported Leon, Belz instructed its followers to vote for mayor with a blank slip, while Ger publicly announced that it supported neither Barkat nor Leon.
The new Bnei Torah party headed by Rav Shmuel Auerbauch, rosh yeshiva of Yeshivas Maalos HaTorah, fielded its own candidate for mayor, Chaim Epstein. Press reports as we were going to print indicated that the party did well, receiving 7,377 votes in Yerushalayim gaining Epstein a seat on the city council. In Bnei Brak they won 4,780 seats, which grants them two seats on the council. In Modi’in Illit, where their party received over 2,000 votes and they will have two seats on the city council there as well.
On Motzoei Shabbos, thousands attended a large Degel Hatorah rally in Yerushalayim, where Rav Shteinman, Rav Kanievsky and numerous roshei yeshiva instructed the tzibbur to vote for gimmel and Moshe Leon.
“This is relevant to the whole tzibbur,” Rav Shteinman said. “A person who does this makes a kiddush Hashem and someone who doesn’t makes a chillul Hashem. This especially applies in these elections, which have an influence on many Torah issues. Therefore, I ask every person to take these matters to heart. A person is not merely voting, but establishing public affairs for generations. Each person must feel the responsibility and not say he doesn’t care.”
Rav Kanievsky’s message was delivered by Rav Eliyahu Mann. “We are not speaking of the teachings of Torah, but of the Torah itself,” Rav Mann said in Rav Chaim’s name. “Mi laShem eilai. Every man and woman is obligated to vote for gimmel (UTJ).”
Rav Yosef Efrati, close talmid of Rav Yosef Shalom Elyashiv zt”l, also spoke of the importance of heeding the words of Rav Shteinman and Rav Kanievsky, saying, “Rav Yosef Shalom Elyashiv always said of Rav Chaim that the Chazon Ish said he was the Rogatchover of the generation, and regarding every matter he sent to [ask] the rosh yeshiva, Rav Shteinman. We stand under one spiritual leadership.”
Moetzes member Rav Boruch Mordechai Ezrachi astounded the crowd by instructing everyone to stand up and look at Rav Shteinman, and then proceeded to recite the brachah of “Shenoson meichochmaso liyerei’av.” The crowd responded with a thunderous amein.
“This is my whole drashah, rabbosai. You don’t need any longer than this. It includes everything, but you cannot say any less,” he said.
On Sunday night, a large rally was held in the center of Bnei Brak, where Rav Shteinman and prominent rabbonim once again advoctated strongly for gimmel.
Religious Zionists also failed to give Leon their full support. Some leaders supported him. Rav Tzvi Tau, rosh yeshiva of Yeshivas Har Hamor, wrote, “It was a disgrace for Yerushalayim and a disgrace for Hashem’s nation if the person sitting at the head of the city council did not wear tefillin, which are the glory of Yisroel.” But other key rabbonim, such as Rav Chaim Druckman, who heads the Bnei Akiva yeshivas, and Rav Shlomo Aviner supported Barkat.
Barkat boasted, “The past five years have seen us create an unprecedented situation in the city, with 50,000 new jobs, curbing the negative migration balance and bringing young people back, promoting a cultural revolution, creating new parks and centers, and upgrading the infrastructure.”
Findings published by the Jerusalem Institute for Israel Studies indeed showed a significant slowdown in the rate of secular and Religious-Zionist Jews leaving the city under his rule. He portrayed Leon as a carpetbagger from out of town and appealed to enough religious voters to win. His candidacy failed to catch on and Barakat emerged victorious.
A letter signed by the rabbonim of mixed chareidi-secular neighborhoods of Yerushalayim urged chareidim to vote for Leon, saying that Barkat was a disaster.
“In the past five years, we have suffered tremendously,” they wrote. “We are more discriminated against than people living in chareidi suburbs. Our children learn in terrible conditions, there is a serious lack of kindergartens, schools, and talmudei Torah. Many children learn in substandard kindergartens, in commandeered apartments, and there are children who even learned in the street or public parks… The few buildings available are bursting far beyond capacity, the classrooms are substandard, most classrooms drip during the winter and roast during the summer with no air conditioning. On the other hand, empty [secular] schools are filled with children brought from other neighborhoods.”
UTJ’s slogan, “Help Us Make A Minyan,” aimed at increasing its presence in Yerushalayim’s 31-seat city council from eight to ten in order to be able to form a coalition that may stop or reverse Barkat’s recent anti-religious measures, such as opening a tourist center at the old railway station which has restaurants and events open on Shabbos.
The Tov party founded for working chareidim, which only ran in Beit Shemesh in the past, ran in Yerushalayim and other towns this year.
Rav Shteinman attended a rally in Beit Shemesh, whose rapidly growing chareidi population is fighting to retain the chareidi mayor, Moshe Abutbul of Shas. He was challenged by non-observant independent candidate Eli Cohen, who was supported by secular parties as well as Habayit Hayehudi. Rav Shteinman declared, “If a secular mayor is elected in Beit Shemesh, it will be a desecration of Hashem’s name.” Bennett claimed that Eli Cohen is Beit Shemesh’s last chance to remain a Zionist town in the face of chareidi extremists.
“The Jewish people has spiritual leaders to guide the people. We listen to them, go in their pathways and do as they instruct,” Rav Aryeh Finkel, rosh yeshiva of Yeshivas Mir Brachfeld, said at the rally. “Moshe Abutbul listens to the rabbis and is observant of the Torah. We are commanded to have emunas chachomim and vote for Chen [the branch of Degel in Beit Shemesh] and Moshe Abutbul.”
“There is not the slightest doubt that the Beit Shemesh mayoralty and the city council are seen as a battle in the larger kulturkampf,” a local rov warned. “And make no mistake – the perception creates the reality. The forces that want to force avreichim into the army and workforce (besides cutting all subsidies to the bare bone) will be much strengthened by a vote turning out the incumbents. The eyes of Israel can be said to be looking at what happens in Beit Shemesh. As such, every lover of Torah, every defender of the values we hold dear and have fought so hard to have and maintain, has a responsibility…to vote the mayor (and other incumbents) back into office. Don’t be the ‘useful idiots’ of the Lapid-Bennett alliance.”
Shas distributed two million yahrtzeit candles with an image of Rav Ovadiah Yosef, the Shas logo, the phrase, “In memory of Maran Hagaon Harav Ovadiah Yosef,” and the exhortation, “In his light we will stride.” The anti-religious organization Chiddush tried to stop their distribution, claiming that it violated election law.
Another controversy erupted when the mainly non-religious but traditional supporters of the Beitar-Yerushalayim football team decided to open a key game with a minute’s silence in honor of Rav Ovadiah Yosef. At first, Barkat’s party opposed the idea, arguing that it might lend support to the Shas-supported Leon. Two months ago, Eli Babiv, the owner of the Beitar-Yerushalayim football team, decided that his team would cease playing on Shabbos.
In Tzefas, two rightists of the United Tzefas party were arrested due to police ignorance of Kaddish. The party had been posting signs and distributing flyers warning of the growing threat of Arabs moving into the town and exhorting residents to vote for a mayor whose goal would be “Yisgadal veyiskadash Shemei rabbah.” Due to the connection between Kaddish and death, the police threw the two “offenders” into jail, where they languished until the town’s chief rabbi, Rav Shmuel Eliyahu, rescued them with the help of an attorney.