“Darkness covers the land and the enemies of Hashem raise their heads with edicts,” they announced. “They are persecuting chareidi Jews and the Torah world, trying to breach the walls of religion and kedushah, [enacting] a draft law, and seek to seize control of the pure chinuch of the cheder children upon whose breath the world stands and the talmidim of the holy yeshivos. I hereby come to strengthen the bnei Torah. We all tremble for their fate as they, our youth, are the ones who will continue our heritage in the next generation.
“Every person must strive to learn more Torah. People must establish set times for Torah study. Bnei yeshivos must place more emphasis on using their time for Torah study. This is the only way to be saved from the terrible edicts. May heaven have mercy upon us and cancel all edicts against us, and may we soon raise the Torah’s glory.
“We hereby call upon all the holy kehillos in Eretz Yisroel to gather for a worldwide day of tefillah in shuls, yeshivos, kollelim and schools on Wednesday, erev Rosh Chodesh Shevat, to cry out and be roused to teshuvah with the tefillah of Yom Kippur Koton. On this day, the bnei yeshivos will study with a ta’anis dibbur. We hope that this will arouse Hashem’s help and annul the counsel of those who plot to remove Torah from Yisroel.
“Writing in distress at the terrible edicts of those who want to stop people from studying Torah. May the merit of all those who study Torah annul and eradicate their plots.
“[Signed] A.L. Shteinman.”
To this message Rav Wosner added:
“I share the truthful words stated above. Knesses Yisroel has no power except in its mouth. The Torah is eternal. The attempt to annul the honor of heaven and the Torah cries out to the heavens. These traitors are committing personal and national suicide. May Hashem have mercy upon His people and may He who said ‘enough’ to His world [during the creation], say ‘enough’ to our sorrows and have mercy upon His nation and the Torah.
“Waiting for heavenly mercy and the redemption of our holy people,
“[Signed] Shmuel Wosner.”
A special tefillah was also scheduled at the kever of Rav Ovadiah Yosef.
Due to bad weather and the inability of the Belzer Rebbe to participate due to personal reasons, the rally planned by the rebbes of Eretz Yisroel for next week has been indefinitely postponed.
RELIGIOUS-ZIONIST RABBONIM SUPPORT YESHIVA CAUSE
Many religious Zionist rabbonim continue to support the yeshiva world’s fight against the draft law. Rabbonim at a national Zionist meeting in Yerushalayim condemned the government’s budget cuts against yeshivos and praised MK Ayelet Shaked of Bayit Yehudi, head of the Shivyon Banetelcommittee, for her fight against Yesh Atid’s efforts to slap criminal sanctions on yeshiva students who evade the draft. At the same time, they said she should also remove the law’s financial sanctions her party is rooting for.
Attendees at the meeting included the rov of Kiryat Arba, Rav Dov Lior; rov of Petach Tikvah, Rav Micha Halevi; rosh yeshivas Merkaz Harav, Rav Yaakov Shapiro; rosh yeshivas Har Hamor, Rav Mordechai Sternberg; rosh yeshivas Beit El, Rav Zalman Melamed; rosh yeshivas Ramat Gan, Rav Yehoshua Shapiro; and Rav Dovid Chai Hacohen, among others.
In addition, a delegation of important religious Zionist rabbonim visited the Sadigura Rebbe and told him they fully supported the chareidi battle against the yeshiva draft. The delegation included Rav Dovid Dudkevitch, the rov of Yitzhar, rosh yeshivas Shavei Shomron, Rav Yehoshua Shmidt, Rav Tzvi Goldfisher, rosh kollel in Beit El, and Rav Giyora Brener, rosh kollel in Givat Asaf.
The Rebbe told them that unity among rabbonim of all sectors is a very important factor in the war to save the yeshiva world. Delegation members said that even if they cannot shake the opinions of the political leaders, it is important to publicly voice their opinion.
“We cannot allow a division to exist between us that leads to the strengthening of our enemies in the world,” Gershon Mesika, head of the Shomron Regional Council said. “That will help neither the Torah world nor our hold on Eretz Yisroel.”
At the same time, Ayelet Shaked denied reports that the Shivyon Banetelever reached a compromise between the demands of Bayit Yehudi and Yesh Atid to initially impose financial sanctions such as government rent subsidies and apartment loans, and instead only impose criminal sanctions later if the money threats don’t work. She insisted that hercommittee has reached no conclusions regarding what sanctions will be enforced.
Meanwhile, MK Moshe Gafni of UTJ had a private one-and-a-half hour meeting with Prime Minister Binyomin Netanyahu, reportedly telling him that if the draft law includes criminal sanctions, UTJ will consider itself divorced from the government and refuse to join even if the present coalition collapses.
CHABAD SHELICHUS TO COUNT AS NATIONAL SERVICE
The Shaked Committee made a concession, resolving that serving as a Chabad shaluchim overseaswill be considered a form of national service. The suggestion was proposed by MK Elazar Stern of Hatnua, who argued that volunteering to work with Jewish communities overseas should be considered the equivalent of regular national service (helping in hospitals, schools, etc.), He added that this should include Chabad youth who often spend time overseas on shelichus. National service is an alternative to serving in the IDF.
“There is an organization that is active around the world, on a purely voluntary basis, that does not get recognition from the state of Israel,” Stern said. “The Chabad movement sends people to every corner of the earth, between 250 to 300 at any given moment. Many elements of the Chabad emissaries’ activity have clear parallels to civilian national service. They do important work in Jewish communities around the world and we need to recognize their important work. I want the Chabad emissaries out there to know they are emissaries of the state.”
Despite the successful vote, MK Ofer Shelach of Yesh Atid demanded a repeat vote.
FREE BREAD FOR MIR FAMILIES
The government cut of yeshiva funding has inspired an outpouring of help from tzedokkah organizations and private philanthropists. A giant notice in Mir Yeshiva announced that due to the dire financial circumstances of its avreichim, free bread would be distributed between 12:55 to 1:20 at the main dining hall next to the Derech Tzaddikim shiur room “for avreichim with five or more children.”
“There is no need to register,” the sign said. “Come and take.”
COURT DEMANDS NEW ELECTCTIONS IN BEIT SHEMESH
The Jerusalem District Court ruled that the mayoral and municipal elections of Beit Shemesh are null and void. Losing mayoral candidate Eli Cohen and the Attorney General, Yehuda Weinstein, complained of irregularities in the elections which were held two months ago. Elected chareidi mayor Moshe Abutbul of Shas said he would appeal the ruling in the Supreme Court. After all, Abutbul’s court representative, Dr. Yaakov Weinroth, argued that Weinstein’s allegations were speculative, the investigation was not yet complete, and no one was prosecuted.
“I have faith in our justice system, but I believe the court erred by making this decision,” Abutbul said. “My margin of victory was huge: one thousand votes. The several dozen votes that were contested did not decide the elections; they do not merit new elections for an entire city. The demonstrations and the propaganda had an impact and they had their effect on the judges.”
MK Moshe Gafni mirrored Abutbul’s complaints.
“I am [sorry] that the esteemed court chose to follow a media campaign and annul the democratic decision of Beit Shemesh’s residents,” he said. “I am convinced that Shas’s candidate Moshe Abutbul will win again by an even larger margin.”
Legal experts give an appeal little chance of success.
Beit Shemesh’s secular Jews and religious Zionists celebrated the court verdict in front of the city hall to the words of an impromptu song, “We aren’t leaving the city!” With shouts of joy, they greeted losing candidate Eli Cohen with cries of “our next mayor!”
Yesh Atid’s “chareidi” MK Dov Lipman, who lives in Beit Shemesh, was also happy with the judges’ verdict.
“I congratulate the judges for their decision to have repeat elections in Beit Shemesh,” he said. “For a few years already, we have fought over the identity of Beit Shemesh, which is a microcosm of the whole Israeli society.”
In similar vein, Lipman just told a large group of uncommitted Jews at a Jewish study program in England that public Shabbos transport in Israel did not bother him on a personal level and justified the Women of the Wall’s right to pray at the Kosel.
Although irregularities in municipal elections are rife, it is widely admitted even in secular media that these elections are different, as they are critical for Beit Shemesh’s future. The approximately 75,000 residents of this town southeast of Yerushalayim are almost evenly split between chareidim and other groups. Therefore, a chareidi victory meant that the town would in all probability lose its pluralist nature and turn into a Torah stronghold such as Beitar Illit and Elad, especially as 6,000 planned buildings would probably be populated by chareidim if Abutbul were to remain at the wheel.
After the chareidi victory two months ago, secular Jews spoke of splitting the town into two to save their stake in the pie.
As Maariv news commentator Shalom Yerushalmi put it, “In Israel, there are places where forged votes and identity frauds are a regular occurrence. But the disguises and fake IDs found in a small apartment in Beit Shemesh turned, due to circumstances, into an earthquake. It was obvious to everyone what an effect this would have on the legal system, which continued to inflate what happened in Beit Shemesh and decided on new elections.”
Bayit Yehudi leader Naftali Bennett said the same when he congratulated Cohen after his court victory.
“This is the last chance… to have Beit Shemesh residents reclaim their city, the last chance to achieve peaceful coexistence, to put the city back on track toward success,” Bennet said. “We will do everything we can to have Beit Shemesh emerge victorious; we start doing this now.”
From a secular point of view, this was a good time for Israel’s court to start becoming fussy about election fraud.
As Mayor Abutbul claimed, the appeal was more a reflection of unwillingness to accept defeat than a concern for justice.
With the court case over, battle lines are being drawn. Chareidi politicians have vowed to raise chareidi participation in the election from 80% in the last annulled election to 100% in the next, except for chareidim who don’t vote on principle. For the secular opposition, full mobilization of voters will provide an even bigger opportunity to win, as their last turnout was a measly 68%.
This time they’ll try harder.
As one of them put it, “This time, people have to understand that we aren’t fighting over who will remove the trash. We’re fighting over our children’s home.”
For a while, it seemed that a new town might be added to Israel’s chareidi-majority enclaves when 1,500 chareidim bought about 60% of the new apartments in Charish, a small town near Caesarea. Until members of the Green Charish movement who aim to turn the place into an ecological paradise filed a petition claiming that since the town already has thousands of non-chareidi people who expect to be joined by many more, there is no need for its future buildings and neighborhoods to be designed exclusively for chareidim.
The National Buildings Appeal accepted their appeal and agreed that to make the town friendly for all, buildings should be built up to eight stories tall and not only five stories for the sake of chareidim who don’t use Shabbos elevators, more parking should be provided as non-chareidim have more cars, and more venues for shopping and entertainment should be planned.
COURT SHUTS DOWN TOWN’S CHAREIDI SCHOOL
Dozens of chareidi parents protested outside the council building of Kadima after a court ruled that their eight-year-old school must shut down until it gets proper permits.
“The students have nowhere to learn,” they cried out. “What should we do? Where should we send them?”
In a court appeal, the Kadima Chofshit organization set up by locals among the town’s 1,700 residents said that the school, whose 130 students include a majority of children from nearby Netanya, should shut down until it received the necessary authorization from the Education Ministry to continue functioning in a residential building.
They added that their organization’s principle goal was to preserve the character of the town as Zionist and nationalist, to preserve the friendly relations between its secular and religious residents, and to improve the town’s quality of life and educational standards. To preserve all this, the appellants said they sought to minimize chareidi presence and to prevent chareidim from “seizing control.”
HUGE STUDENT RESIDENCE A STONE’S THROW FROM EIDA HACHAREIDIS
The Eida Hachareidis community and Jews living near the famous beis din are furious at a plan to turn the old Hadassa building on Strauss Street into a residence for hundreds of students and have asked chareidi town councilors to intervene.
“There are two main problems with this building,” Yoelish Kraus of the Eida Hachareidis said. “First, we are concerned that this will lead to the opening of the street on Shabbos. These students will want to reach their apartments on Shabbos and Strauss Street will become a center of chillul Shabbos. In addition, we have a basic problem with having a student area in a neighborhood of very chareidi character. It’s ridiculous to set up a secular student’s residence and all that it entails right next to the Eida Hachareidis.”
In a memorandum of law, Deputy Minister for Religious Affairs Eli Ben-Dahan proposed granting powers to rabbinate kashrus inspectors that which chareidi kashrus groups have always taken for granted.
At present, Haaretz reports, inspectors of the rabbinate’s Kashrus Fraud Prevention Unit are unarmed soldiers. They cannot enter restaurants, factories, or halls without their owners’ prior consent, they cannot take food samples to test them for treif or milk/meat ingredients, they cannot demand people’s identification, nor can they order suspects to come in and answer questions.
“Until now, inspectors have to deal with lack of authority,” Ben Dahan said. “As a result of this they are regarded as weaklings by kashrus criminals who get off with almost no punishment, and weaklings in the eyes of the public as they have no means of dealing with their complaints. The bill proposal is meant to give them the means of effectively fighting kashrus fraud and kashrus criminals.”
Ben Dahan’s memorandum explained that the law would provide uniformed and badged inspectors the power to “require any person to give his name and address and show an identification card or other official identifying document; to require any person involved in a case to provide any information or document that ensured he was abiding by the law… to take samples of products and materials and send them for examination… to enter a business or production facility, including places of storage and refrigeration on the premises or under the control of the one being inspected, including entering stationary vehicles, as long as he did not enter a place of residence except by court order.”
Inspectors would be empowered to “question any person connected with the aforesaid violation, or who might have knowledge of the violation,” and also to “seize any object connected with the violation.”
At a later stage, Ben Dahan also hopes to stop the ridiculous practice of having inspectors’ salaries paid by the very businesses they inspect.
FLIGHT WARNING FOR KOHANIM
The Vaad Hakohanim organization headed by Rav Yochanan Lombard warns that many Israeli flights can be problematic for kohanim.
In an email to the Yated, he writes that about half the El Al flights leaving from JFK Airport have coffins on board. El Al flights from Newark do not take coffins at all, while a certain percentage of El Al flights from other places may have coffins. Flights with stopovers don’t carry coffins unless they pick them up en route. This means that stopovers in any destination in Europe are not problematic except for those in France. While stopovers in England present no problem, it is better to avoid El Al flights from Heathrow Airport.
Since about a year ago, he adds, flights leaving and entering Israel at night fly over the Cholon cemetery and should be avoided by kohanim. Day flights are no problem. This means that landings and takeoffs taking place from 20 minutes before sunrise (or 5:50 am, whichever earlier) until 20 minutes before sunset are not problematic. Takeoffs between 01:00 am and 02:00 am are also alright. It is important to take into consideration that takeoffs take place close to half an hour after their officially scheduled times.
Regarding these matters, kohanim should seek a definitive p’sak from their rav or poseik.
Arutz Sheva reports that Muslim missionaries in Israel are preying on women from East European countries. It cites an Al-Jazeera report that the Dar Al-Islam (House of Islam) center in the Kafr Qara village in north-central Israel is slowly but systematically spreading Islam to Jewish victims. In one instance, a women from the Caucasus converted and took the Muslim name Aisha (Mohamed’s wife) after receiving a pamphlet of the organization titled “The Way to Happiness” and studying there for six months. To escape her “extremist” mother, Aisha then joined five other Jewish converts living at the center, one of them a women in her mid-twenties from Croatia.
The conversion center publishes books in several languages including Hebrew and sends out men and women missionaries to ensnare Jewish souls.
GROWING GOVERNMENT INTERFEERENCE IN RELIGIOUS LIFE
The Ministry of Religious Services, the Corporations Authority, and National Insurance are expected to soon demand financial statements from Israel’s chevra kaddisha. Any chevra kaddisha which fails to present financial statements will not receive burial licenses, which will result in Israel’s National Insurance not picking up the tabs for people’s burials.
“Proper management of all matters in house or otherwise of religious councils and chevrot kaddisha is paramount,” said Director Minister of Religious Services Elchonon Glatt. “We see an important need for close cooperation between the various authorities to increase enforcement of the chevrot.”
The government also aims to regulate the thousands of gemachim which lend money for everything from tomorrow’s breakfast to the wherewithal to buy your child an apartment. MKs Yaakov Litzman and Moshe Gafni of UTJ met with concerned gemach heads.
This comes after the Attorney General asked the Governor of the Bank of Israel and the Finance Minister to regulate the activities of gemachim. He explained that since gemachim act like banks by accepting deposits and giving interest free loans, they are contravening the Banking Act, which demands regulation of such affairs.
The bill would establish criteria for the activities of gemachim and demand transparency and auditing. Many gemach directors are afraid that if passed, the bill will mean the end of the gemach system.
SHAS SCHOOLS UNDER GOVERNMENT CONTROL?
Yosi Boso, director of the Shas’s Maayan Hachinuch school system, signed an agreement placing the school’s secular programs under the ministry in exchange for full government funding for its 35,000 students and 173 institutions. Maayan Hachinuch was 10 million shekels in the black at the end of 2012. But Shas insists that the government will have no control over the school’s Torah studies and daily schedule.
“As until now, every institution of the network that teaches its students 100% of the Liba program [English, math, Hebrew, etc.] suitable for the network receives a full budget in return,” a source said. “A place that doesn’t teach the complete Liba syllabus is budgeted 75%. There will be no interference with pedagogic matters and Torah programs.”
KNESSET REJECTS FREEDOM OF RELIGION BILL
The Knesset plenum rejected a preliminary reading of a bill for the Freedom of Religion and Conscience submitted by MK Zahava Gal-On of Meretz and other MKs. 21 MKs supported the proposal and 56 opposed it.
The rejected bill was meant to anchor freedom of religion and conscience in Israeli law. It would have prohibited discrimination on the grounds of religion. It would also have forbidden limitations of the rights of a person or group of people to conduct their lives according to their conscience; barred harming people’s religious feelings except for proper reason; and anchored the right to marry without limitation of race, nationality or religion as well as the right to determine one’s mode of burial.
The bill’s preamble explained that “today, the lack of clear boundaries between the public realm and the realm of freedom of conscience and religion threatens the viability of Israel both as a democratic state and as a Jewish character.”
In short words, the bill was an aborted attempt to establish a separation of religion and state.
As Minister Yitzchak Aharonovitz of Yisrael Beiteinu replied on behalf of the government, it would have conflicted with Israel’s status quo arrangement between the religious and secular, and contradicted Israel’s religious laws governing marriage and divorce.
“The government opposes the bill,” he said. “Freedom of religion and conscience is a fundamental right in Israel. Nevertheless, the government does not support the current version as the arrangements deviate from arrangements currently in effect.”
But Aharonovitz hinted that this was not the last word.
“We should continue dialogue,” he said, “and when it is possible to have a broad consensus among the people, we will need to reconsider.”
TANACHS IN 93% OF ISRAELI HOMES
A poll taken by Yerushalayim’s Biblical Lands Museum found that 93% of Israelis have Tanachs in their homes, although 28% admitted they couldn’t remember the last time they opened them. 96% of the poll’s 500 respondents supported the teaching of Tanach in schools, but 33% of secular respondents had no idea which day Adam Harishon was created. Museum director Amanda Weiss said this indicated a gap between the importance people give to the Tanach and its actual study.
“It is important to create a genuine interest and curiosity in the Tanach from a young age and deepen the understanding of our history, because we’re not talking about just another book on the shelf,” she said.
ISRAEL SECOND IN ONLINE DONATIONS
According to information collated by the online charity organization IsraelGives, Israel’s online donations to charity are the second largest in the world, second only to the United States. In 2012, Israeli households and businesses donated 7.6 billion shekels to nonprofit organizations online. This comprised 0.76% of Israel’s gross national product (GDP). In the USA, the proportion of GDP given to non-profits was 2.1% followed by Israel. This was followed by Australia (0.69% of GDP), the UK (0.65%), South Africa (0.64%), and Canada (0.48%).
THREE INJURED ON WAY TO KOSEL
Three Jews were injured when Arabs threw stones at two busses passing the Old City’s Sha’ar Shechem on the way to the Kosel. Magen Dovid Edom and Ichud Hatzalah personnel gave them first aid and one was taken to the Shaarei Zedek Medical Center.
REFORM INCITE YOUTH AGAINST RESPECT FOR THE KOSEL
In desperation to stem its dwindling membership, the Reform movement can think of no better way of getting youngsters involved than drawing them into the WOW controversy. Suddenly, the reform movement that cares nothing about Shabbos has shown concern for Rosh Chodesh, spawning 340 “Rosh Chodesh: It’s a Girl Thing!” groups across North America. The groups’ 3,500 members were asked to come up with good slogans for the fight for the Kosel in a “One Moon, One Wall, One People” contest.
Haaretz reports that the winner came up with the brilliantly original motto: Eq-wall-ity. First prize for the three lucky winners was flying to Israel and joining Women of the Wall on Rosh Chodesh Shevat.
The goal of the contest was “to invite teen girls and teen boys to stand up with us, pushing forward this important struggle, as well as providing an opportunity for Jewish teens to claim their own commitment to Jewish life and to gender equity,” an organizer explained.
10 MILLION SHEKELS FOR NON-ORTHODOX KIRUV
In Israel, MK Rut Kalderon of Yesh Atid received a budget of ten million shekels for non-orthodox Torah education institutions from Education Minister Shai Piron of her party.
“This is happy news,” she said. “Until now, the default source for public financing of encouragement of Jewish identity was the Orthodox. Innovative Jewish bodies are presenting a more liberal approach, enabling everyone to learn of his Jewish heritage and connect with it however he chooses.”
Until the last elections, Kalderon headed the Alma beit medrash where secular Jews study gemara in mixed classes.
On the other hand, organizations involved with shiurim and genuine Torah activities have suffered a 70% budget cut. Until now, organizations such as Dirshu, Degel Yerushalayim, Todaah, Arachim, Ohr Chayah and Torah Veyahadus La’am received about 19 shekels per shiur. After the cut, each shiur gets about six shekels. The Education Ministry increased this to 12 on condition that the organizations consolidate many shiurim into one, but this is not always possible due to the variety of subject matter. Altogether, these organizations deliver about 300,000 annual shiurim annually in Yerushalayim alone.
2,000 YEAR OLD TECHEILES
Scientists claim that a 2,000 year old cloth remnant found near the Dead Sea was dyed with techeiles. According to a Haaretz report, Dr. Na’ama Sukenik, a curator at the Israel Antiquities Authority, tested a tiny scrap of fabric found in a cave at Wadi Murba’at where fighters hid during the Bar Kochva revolt and found that its color derived from the Murex trunchular, claimed by some to the be the techeiles snail. She claimed that the tassels on the fragment were spun in a way that was common in Eretz Yisroel Israel in ancient times, proving that its techeiles was locally produced.
The only other two techeiles remnants discovered were not necessarily produced in Eretz Yisroel. One was discovered in Russia and the other, while found at Masada, may have been produced somewhere else.
POLICE COMPLAINT REGISTERED AGAINST WRECKER OF EIRUV WIRES
Yaakov Lebi of Kiryat Yovel registered a police complaint against Noam Pinchasi who has publicly boasted of damaging eiruv wires and putting up immodest posters as part of his vendetta against the chareidi “takeover” of this Yerushalayim neighborhood.
Walking into a police station, Lebi told the surprised police that he considered Pinchasi a public menace.
“The suspect himself said in a media program that the law doesn’t interest him,” Pinchasi said. “Defaming and threatening the chareidi public together with breaking the law to hurt people’s feelings and lifestyle is a slippery and dangerous slope. Publicizing immodest pictures with the aim of hurting the deepest feelings of religious Jews is worse than physical attack. Tearing eiruv wires to damage the Shabbos sanctity of the neighborhood is anti-religious coercion and opposed to democratic and human values.”
“If the complaint is not dealt with properly, contravention of law will increase due to continual incitement and very soon we’ll be dealing with worse complaints resulting from physical attacks,” Lebi warned. “In any case, the law is law and must be obeyed.”
What happens on Shabbos when religious and secular Jews live in the same building? Originally, Israeli lawmakers legislated that to install a Shabbos elevator in a building required unanimous consent of all its residents. A 2011 law stated that majority vote sufficed. In practice however, the law didn’t always help. When Shabbos came round, many secular residents refuse to switch the buildings elevators over to Shabbos mode, which renders the elevator law useless.
To emend this, chareidi and religious MKs have proposed a law making the use of Shabbos elevators for such buildings mandatory for three hours after Shabbos begins and for three hours after 7:00 a.m. on Shabbos morning.
The secular Yisrael Chofshit organization railed against the idea, saying it would facilitate the chareidi “takeover” of secular neighborhoods. From now on, chareidim could buy on higher floors of neighborhood apartments reducing the value of the apartments.
However, Yisrael Chofshit is mistaken because generally, when chareidim move in buildings the price of their apartments generally shoots up, often drastically.