As Lapid and his deputy, Shai Piron, who presided over the Knesset Shivyon Banatel Committee, gloated over their victory and mocked the Torah world for rejecting the chance to integrate with Israeli society, yeshivos responded to Rav Aharon Leib Shteinman’s appeal to increase Torah and tefillah to cancel the gezeirah.
POLITICIANS DENOUNCE THE BILL
The committee vote approving the proposal was carried 4 to1 with one abstention. Housing Minister Uri Ariel voted against the bill and Environmental Minister Amir Peretz abstained. While the final draft approved criminal sanctions against yeshiva students who refuse to enlist, it delayed the period until the new law would be instituted. The law will not go into full effect until 2017.
In addition, the bill discreetly doubled the number of Hesderyeshiva students exempted as illuyim from 150 to 300 each year.
“They tried to hide this clause in the noise around recruiting the chareidim,” an anonymous official said. “The Hesder yeshivos get light to incomprehensibly lenient treatment. The committee decided to lengthen the army service of Hesder students by only one month and is allowing hundreds of their students to be granted exemptions.”
Chareidi headlines denounced the decision to jail bochurim: “The Jewish World is Disgusted and Sickened by the Terrible Decision of the Perry Committee and the Wild Incitement against Those who Learn Torah;” “Wicked Government to Throw Torah Students into Prison;” “Torah Students to the Arrogant Ones: You Will Not Educate Us.”
Before the vote, Ya’alon protested against using force against yeshiva students.
“The committee has to do everything in its power to avoid sending an aggressive message that would impinge on the existing [chareidi] enlistment process, which began to take shape in recent years,” he said. “We have to be careful not to fan the flames.”
In support of his contention, the IDF indeed noted a sharp reduction of chareidi enlistment over the past few weeks. His words were ignored and the bill passed.
Nonetheless, Ya’alon scored two victories. First, he was able to remove a section of the law stating that he would have no say in the practical implementation of the law. According to the revised version, all terms of the law will be subject to his authority and he will have ultimate power to annul them as he sees fit. This considerably blunts the bill.
When someone asked Ya’alon, “How long will he [Lapid] continue to control us? How long will we continue to bend to his will?” he replied, “I don’t bend, as you may have noticed. Anyone who thinks they can run people’s lives, or a country, on Facebook, should know that it doesn’t work.”
In sharp contrast to Lapid’s insistence that chareidim are essential for national security, Ya’alon said that due to an $817 million cut this year, the army needs to cut down military exercises, jobs, and even army units. Some 5,000 career servicemen are slated to lose their jobs.
“It’s not that easy to sit in yeshiva and learn from morning until night,” he said at a party meeting in Ra’anana. “They believe in it, and it is wrong to assault them for their beliefs… I don’t want to live in a Jewish state where I take talmidei yeshivos from their Torah study to prison.”
He said he prefers the gentle approach not only because it’s more humane, but because he believes it will be more successful in the long run.
Uri Ariel of Habayit Hayehudi, the only committee member who voted against the bill, said that Yesh Atid’s demand for criminal sanctions “breached the coalition agreement” and that the party “trampled all over the understanding reached with Habayit Hayehudi” on the matter. Other members of the panel argued that financial penalties were simply not enough to force people to enlist.
The bill still has to be reviewed by the Ministerial Committee on Legislation and the Knesset’s Constitution, Law and Justice Committee. Then it will be presented to the Knesset for a vote. Its approval is not a foregone conclusion, as many politicians vow they will fight the bill.
Naftoli Bennett, whose representative voted against the bill, said that his party will oppose coercing bochurim to enlist.
“The person heading the shivyon banetel committee will be Ayelet Shaked [of Habayit Hayehudi],” he said. “Her guiding principle will be to change the relationship with the chareidim to one of communication and cooperation. We understand that this won’t work by force. That is the wrong way to go about it.”
MK Danny Danon of Likud said that many members of his party will insist on changes in the proposal.
“I think that we’ll see changes during the legislative process, from the government and from the Knesset. The prime minister has made that clear,” he said. “The Likud will not be a party to incitement against the chareidi-religious public… Whoever thinks that Yair Lapid and Yaakov Perry will write the law without oversight is wrong. It’s obvious that Lapid was trying to distract attention from his problems as finance minister. I will not support the law as it is currently worded, and this is not my opinion alone, but is shared by many in the Likud.”
Justice Minister Tzipi Livni slammed the bill as hypocritical.
“It speaks of the equal sharing of burden, but there is no equality to speak of,” Livni said. She doubted that it would stand up to scrutiny by the High Court of Justice.
Bnei Torah are determined not to submit to the law’s terms.
“For me and myriads of others it makes no difference,” said Yisroel Tukatzinsky, a grandson of Rav Shmuel Salant. “It may be harder, but we’ll make do with what we have. We will not leave learning even if we pay the price of poverty. We would rather live on bread and water than join the army.”
Rav Yoel Schwartz, founder and head of the Nachal Chareidiarmy units, advised that bnei Torah will never submit to force.
“Everyone will keep away. No one will enlist,” he said. “There will be no Shachar Kachol or Netzach Yehuda(names of chareidi army units). There’ll be nothing… The politicians are destroying the country, simply destroying the country… If parents asked me, I would tell them to wait until it becomes clear whether the country wants to be a true partner with its citizens or rule over them by force. If they want to rule by force, we won’t be there.”
However, Minister Yaakov Perry, chairman of the committee, is convinced that the bill will pass.
“In August, we will begin three things simultaneously,” he said. “We will provide incentives to yeshivos that keep up with the quota and decrease funds to those that don’t. Anyone who does not respond to their initial draft notice at the age of 17, chareidi or secular, will be subject to the Law of the Security Services [which subscribes imprisonment for the offense]. There will be a dramatic increase in enforcing this law. At the same time, we are preparing a large infrastructure to provide chareidim with professional training.”
LAPID CREATES OSHER AND CHAIM
Lapid celebrated the committee vote with a press conference, confidently announcing that 70% of eligible chareidim would enlist within four years. Opposition members said that the press conference was a deliberate attempt to divert public attention from the economic move he set in place later that day, increasing sales tax by 1% to a whopping 18%.
In line with his earlier creation of the fictitious “Ricky Cohen,” representative of the middle class, he now created “Osher,” father of five children from Yerushalayim, and “Chaim,” a 16-year-old from Bnei Brak.
“I’m speaking to Osher from Yerushalayim and Chaim from Bnei Brak,” he said. “I’m talking to you, my chareidi brothers, not to chareidi politicians and askonim. Don’t let anyone stop you from reaching your potential. What’s happening here is not an attack on the world of the Torah. No one is seeking to undermine your world and we have no intention of imposing secularism on you, but the current situation cannot go on.
“No one wants to force our secular Israeli lifestyle upon you, chalilah. The state was founded so that people can live as Jews without being afraid. But this can’t continue. I want to tell Osher and Chaim and every other chareidi youth in the country, if Syria is falling apart and thousands of al-Qaeda terrorists are lurking at the border, your northern border, this is happening to you as well and we need you there too, with weapons in your hands…
“Your duty is to stop relating to us as non-Jews. This law will give you a chance to remove the barrier of hate. It will give you a chance to improve your economic status, make a proper living, and not have to squeeze every cent.
“Chaim, who is good at math, will be much happier as an accountant or financial advisor, and his rebbi will be happier when he helps support his older brother who is a superior learner. My chareidi brothers, this law will not harm the world of Torah students. On the contrary, it will preserve it. In the land of the Jews, people need not learn Torah like thieves at night.”
MK Yaakov Litzman of UTJ responded that hearing Lapid saying “my brothers the chareidim”was like hearing the radical Palestinian Ahmad Tibi saying “my brothers the settlers.”
Litzman prophesied that Yesh Atid will disappear from the political map.
“The party of your leader’s father [Tommy Lapid] is already wiped out,” he said. “This will be your end as well. Your grandfather, Mickey Levi, and Lapid’s grandfather were moser nefesh for Torah learning… There is no future for anyone who destroys religion. Have no doubt, no one will enlist the way you are going. You’re wasting your time. All you’re achieving is to make trouble and provoke rebellion. No yeshiva will close because of your budget.”
In contrast to his party boss, Education Minister Shay Piron of Yesh Atid made no attempt to sooth the chareidim. He roused a firestorm by calling them parasites and describing their yeshivos as prisons.
“Parasites will not get a hechsher, glatt or otherwise,” he said. “If you want to be a citizen of Israel, you have to shoulder some of the burden. The days of populist statements that turn the Torah into an entire sector’s prison just to prevent their children from meeting mine are over.”
His insulting comments provoked a vehement response.
“This unfortunate statement expresses Yesh Atid’s fundamental hatred of the chareidim,” said Litzman. “It is very regrettable that the man serving as the education minister does not shy away from inciting a large sector, whose only crime is being chareidi.”
Yehuda Glickman, a chareidi from Bnei Brak, sent an angry letter to MK Itzik Cohen of Shas, chairman of the Knesset Ethics Committee, saying that aside from Piron’s insult, MK Mickey Levi of Yesh Atid had called chareidim “parasites,” and Lapid had wrongfully accused Aryeh Deri of being a “liar.”
“In the name of thousands of chareidim, Ashkenazim, Sefardim, Teimanim and chassidim, I ask you, MK Cohen, to have a serious discussion in your committee about this discriminatory behavior. It is liable to lead to acts of physical violence, chalilah.”
Piron later apologized for the attack, but confessed that his real goal is to eradicate the Torah world.
“The State of Israel cannot allow itself to be broken into communities and groups,” he said. “…We must create a cultural ethic common to us all… This is a national issue of paramount importance.”
CHIZUK ON FRIDAY AND SHABBOS
Last week, Rav Shhteinman declared that the way to fight the draft edict was through increased Torah learning and tefillah, particularly on Friday and Shabbos.
Roshei yeshiva everywhere responded to his appeal, urging their talmidim to devote these days to learning. Rav Eliezer Yehuda Finkel, rosh yeshiva of Yeshivas Mir-Yerushalayim, announced that the Friday seder would be like that of a regular day, with shiurim and chaburos. His example was followed by many other yeshivos. Rav Dov Yoffe, mashgiach of Yeshiva Knesses Chizkiyahu in Kfar Chassidim, cited the Chazon Ish,who said that there are chiddushim and sevaros one can only think of on Shabbos, and Rav Yechezkel Levenstein who said that many bochurim fail to succeed because they interrupt the continuity of their learning on Friday and Shabbos.
In one yeshiva, bochurim instituted a shomrei mishmeres hakodesh, keeping a roster with no less than 50 bochurim in the bais medrash around the clock. At the Slabodka Yeshiva of Bnei Brak, bochurim observed a taanis dibbur during the weekend sedorim.
Even MK Boruch Marzel of Likud pledged to double the time he learns in sympathy with the Torah world.
“Because of the government’s war against Torah students, I have decided to bli neder double my weekly learning schedule,” he said. “…They’re not interested in drafting chareidim. They want to uproot the Torah.”
One weekend kollel considered establishing a special seder shortly before candle lighting on Erev Shabbos. To their surprise, Rav Shteinman opposed the suggestion, saying that this was “the busiest time of the week, and it would be cruel to leave one’s wife alone.”
“If someone wants to learn [at that time] and his wife wants him to learn, that’s fine. But to make a seder at that time, absolutely not. If someone really wants to learn [at that time], he can think in learning.”
Rav Shteinman and Rav Chaim Kanievsky called for a special tefillah on Erev Rosh Chodesh in response to the attempts to impose a core curriculum in chadorim and yeshivos ketanos and the danger of bochurim enlistment:
“We call upon all kehillos kodesh in Eretz Yisroeland overseas to gather for a worldwide tefillah in shuls, yeshivos, kollelim, and schools early on Thursday, Erev Rosh Chodesh Tammuz, to cry out and repent through the recital of Tefillas Yom Kippur Koton, Avinu Malkeinu, and pirkei Tehillim. Chapters 13, 83, 130, and 142 should be recited publicly. Women should say them privately. Hashem will not reject public prayer; may all harsh decrees be annulled.”
In his weekly Motzoei Shabbos drashah, Rav Ovadiah Yosef attacked the instigators of the enlistment plan, saying that they want to destroy the yeshiva world.
“Our enemies are rising against us. We must recite Selichos,” he said. “On Thursday, Erev Rosh Chodesh Tammuz, we will recite selichos here. We must pray to Hashem to destroy the plots and counsels of our enemies and punish them for their evil. Take counsel and it will be annulled, speak a word and it will not stand, for Hashem is with us.”
“We must pray to Hashem, ‘Pour Your wrath upon them and may Your anger reach them. Pursue them with anger and destroy them. And You, Hashem, bring them down to the pit of destruction, men of violence and deceit shall not reach half their days.’And may He do miracles and wonders to us as He did to our fathers.”
At the instigation of the Military Prosecutor’s Office, police confiscated anti-draft posters from a Yerushalayim printer. In cartoon style, the posters depict chareidi soldiers as dupes of the government and a threat to children. In the end, freedom of speech prevailed. A civil court ruled that the police action was unjustified and the posters were returned.
A bizarre poster pasted on Yerushalayim’s walls warned that for every day that a chareidi is imprisoned for not enlisting, an IDF soldier would get 18 whip lashes. The wording was reminiscent of Stern Gang tactics in the years leading up to the formation of the State of Israel, when British soldiers were whipped in revenge for the arrest of gang members. Chareidim say that the posters were likely put up by rowdy youngsters or by secular Jews trying to incite the public against chareidim.
A TAX ON THE POOR
In the teeth of violent opposition, the Knesset voted to hurt the poor by increasing the purchase tax (VAT) by 1% from 17% to 18%. Israel’s sales tax has fluctuated between these two values since 1991. Unlike other developed countries, Israel collects about half its taxes from sales taxes, which hit the poor much harder than the rich and increase societal inequality. Labor head MK Shelly Yachimovich, head of the ppposition, slammed the increase as a “coward’s tax.”
“I’m calling to members of Knesset from Yesh Atid, Hatnua, Likud, Bayit Yehudi and Yisrael Beiteinu,” she said. “All the members of the coalition and the government, use your conscience, your logic, your backbone, your obligation to your voters, and vote today against Lapid’s sales tax hike. Lapid’s sources [of tax money] are hitting the middle class and the poor, reducing their purchasing power still further, hurting small and medium-sized businesses, and bringing an economic slow-down.”
She publicized a list of alternative sources of funding. These include cancelling half the tax benefits of corporations, implementing a proposal to increase royalty fees on natural oil and gas fields, and instigating a special income tax for the top 1% of earners who earn $9,000 to $250,000 monthly.
As the sales tax was being debated, MK Moshe Gafni (UTJ) and MK Zahavah Galon (Meretz) presented an alternative economic plan at a press conference. They claimed that their plan could cut 43 billion shekels from the budget without hurting the poor.
Gafni warned that government cuts to research and development are also catastrophic and would hurt Israel’s vaunted position as a leader in modern science. Dr. Benny Leshem, director of the Center for Medical Research, said that this year, the amount invested into medical research was only three shekels per citizen, a danger to public health.
MKs slammed Lapid for his conspicuous absence from the vote.
“I do not know why the finance minister is not here,” Opposition Leader Shelly Yachimovich said to the coalition during the debate. “He took off and left you to do the dirty work for him. Do not do the dirty work for him. No one is happy with this vote. Many of you know that this is a serious mistake.”
Moshe Gafni also commented on Lapid’s absence. “Here they raise sales tax and Lapid travels abroad. He needs to stand here and explain why the sales tax is increasing.”
Lapid’s office explained that Lapid traveled to Paris for a conference of OECD finance ministers, which he had postponed during the coalition crisis over the draft law. After the conference, he and his wife planned a weekend in Paris.
The increased sales tax went into effect Motzoei Shabbos together with a hike in the price of fuel. Hundreds protested in the streets of Tel Aviv. The Social Security service says that 35,000 children will enter the cycle of poverty because of Lapid’s budgetary edicts, which include the raised sales tax, a 1% increase in income tax, and a reduction of governmental child support. These edicts hit the poorest 10% of the population, 45,000 poverty stricken families, five times more than the wealthiest 10%.
On a positive note, the Knesset Finance Committee unanimously voted on legislation to cut the size of huge business conglomerates. This bill, which still has to pass two Knesset plenums, requires all conglomerates to have no more than two tiers of subsidiaries, in contrast to the present situation where a small number of multi-tiered businesses control the economy.
“We are now tackling a reality in which ten families have control over the entire economy and we will make sure this is no longer the case,” said Committee Chairman Nissan Slomiansky.
Energy and Water Minister Silvan Shalom (Likud Beiteinu) said that his electricity reforms will result in 2,000 layoffs from the Electric Corporation’s staff and end the free electricity employees have enjoyed for decades. Private distributors will be encouraged to compete with the public corporation.
“Reforming the Electric Corporation is a necessary step,” he said. “I started conversations with employees and with the company, and of course Finance Ministry Accountant-General [Michal Abadi-Boiangiu] and the electricity authorities. When we are finished, we will formulate a real reform that will offer essential solutions to the electric corporation’s present state of affairs.”
All this follows recent moves to remove union monopoly on Israel’s ports, and the adoption of the Open-Sky policy that forces El Al to compete with foreign airlines.
Unfortunately, some government attempts to help the disadvantaged discriminate against chareidim. The Attorney General approved giving precedence in housing tenders to those who served in the IDF or civilian service, ousting a 2006 ruling of the Haifa District Court that Haifa University discriminated against Arab students by giving preference to IDF veterans. Weinstein decided that giving preference to IDF veterans is valid and reasonable.
Although this decision will give IDF veterans extra points to compete for rent-controlled housing or houses built for the public at minimal cost, it is a disadvantage to the chareidi sector. It is feared that out of 5,000 apartments in one project, chareidim will only be eligible for 375 of them.
New housing policies are in stark contrast to the old criteria established by previous Housing Minister Ariel Attias. These gave preference to chareidim,who generally marry young, by allotting points proportional to how long a couple was married.
REFORM RABBIS TO GET GOVERNMENT PAY
With no chareidim in the coalition, new laws and bills against Torah observance are being introduced at an alarming rate. This week, there was a slew of such developments. One was a recommendation to give Conservative and Reform rabbis official government-paid appointments. Another was a plan to extend daylight saving time, which has a detrimental effect on various aspects of Torah observance. Also, Habayit Hayehudi has decided to support the candidacy of liberal Rabbi David Stav as next chief rabbi, and the IDF is considering rescinding its old custom of separating male and female soldiers during ceremonies at the Kosel.
In a brief submitted to the High Court, the Religious Services Ministry announced that state-employed neighborhood rabbis may be phased out and replaced by state-funded community rabbis of all denominations, including Conservative and Reform. The plan also calls for the government to refer to non-Orthodox religious leaders as “rabbis.”
“The general intention is to conduct a fundamental change so that neighborhood rabbis will be granted financial support and will be employed by the congregations in which they operate instead of employing neighborhood rabbis through the local religious councils,” the Ministry wrote. “The idea is to formulate criteria for [state] support…without reference to the question of which Jewish denomination the congregation in question belongs to.”
This follows a 2013 High Court petition filed by the Reform and Conservative movements in Israel arguing that the fact that all 157 state-employed neighborhood rabbis are Orthodox is illegal discrimination. The brief said that no new neighborhood rabbis have been hired over the past decade. The 157 existing neighborhood rabbis may be transferred to other posts in religious councils.
“We are reading this decision with great interest and are encouraged by the conclusion that the current system is broken,” said URJ (Union for Reform Judaism) president Rick Jacobs. “We believe that there should be choice in the system and we will continue to be engaged with this issue alongside our brothers and sisters in Israel until religious equality is codified in Israeli law.”
The trailblazer of the idea was Rabbi Miri Gold, who won a High Court battle last year when the state agreed to pay her salary. Although two non-Orthodox religious leaders have already benefitted from this ruling, Goldberg has not received a cent due to criteria that requires non-Orthodox congregational rabbis to be employed for 182 hours a month. She is only employed for 96 hours monthly.
Minister of Justice Livni told Deputy Minister for Religious Services Eli Ben-Dahan (Habayit Hayehudi) that she would veto Habayit Hayehudi’s dangerous proposal to enable couples to get marriage licenses at any rabbinate in the country. This was her response to Habayit Hayehudi’s veto of the Stern Bill, which seeks to add fifty new delegates to the chief rabbi electoral committee and increase the number of its female members. The Stern Bill is supported by Livni’s Hatnuah party and Yesh Atid.
Ironically, while conservative members of Habayit Hayehudi oppose the Stern Bill because it might help Rabbi Stav get elected, the Habayit Hayehudi party at large just voted for Rabbi Stav’s candidacy. The party is torn between its more secular and more religious parts.
STRUGGLE FOR CHIEF RABBINATE
The struggle against Rav Stav’s candidacy for chief rabbi continues. Rav Ovadiah Yosef warned MK Aryeh Deri that his election “would destroy the rabbinical world.”
“I ask you to use all your talents and connections to prevent Rabbi Stav from being chosen as chief rabbi of Israel,” he told him. “This would destroy the rabbinical world. Not only do we have to oppose him, but we have to fight him so that he does not get elected.”
In addition, Rav Ovadia wants Rav Yonah Metzger to continue serving as Ashkenazi chief rabbi.
“Even if he has said in the past he will not contend, I call upon him and decree upon him to contend,” he said. “It is forbidden to remove a chief rabbi.”
Meanwhile, Habayit Hayehudi voted to back Rabbi Stav’s candidacy. Bennett lauded him as “a rabbi who will unite the Israeli people and lead to significant changes in fusing the Israeli public with Jewish tradition.”
“Today, we fulfilled our promise to our voters, religious and unreligious,” he said. “Habayit Hayehudi will continue to be a bridge between religious and secular people in Israel. Today’s decision reflects this in the clearest fashion. I call on all who have influence to stand united behind the voting of Rav Dovid Stav for the chief rabbinate. Rav Stav is one of the heads of the Tzohar Organization and is the correct candidate for a significant change in the chief rabbinate that will lead to closeness between religious, secular and chareidi Jews.
“In his candidacy, I see a direct continuum of the revolution in religious services we announced recently. His successful activities in Tzohar were a shock absorber for the secular Jews wanting to draw near to Judaism. We must remember that the religious public needs the rabbinate to a lesser extent. They have a rov from the yeshiva, a rov from shul... The rabbinate is designated foremost for the secular public.”
Rabbi Stav is also supported by all members of Yesh Atid and Hatnuah. Sources in Habayit Hayehudi claim that Sefardi Chief Rabbi Rav Shlomo Amar has promised to support any Zionist candidate whom Habayit Hayehudi endorses for chief Ashkenazi rabbi, implying that this includes Rabbi Stav. Confidants of Rav Amar deny this and say that he does not support Rabbi Stav in any way.
Although Rabbi Stav says he is “fully committed to halachah, and… will not compromise on this even a millimeter,” and that he “would not accept conversions done by Conservative or Reform rabbis,” he is committed to making rabbinical matters more amenable to secular Jews and utilizing many factors within the confines of halachah to make proving one’s Jewish identity and conversion more accessible.
A Ministerial Committee voted in favor of the “Amar Law” on Sunday. Rav Ovadiah Yosef supports this legislation, which is necessary to enable Rav Amar to serve a second term. Yesh Atid ministers are expected to veto the bill until Habayit Hayehudi removes its veto from the Stern Bill discussed earlier.
Degel Hatorah is said to be developing a deal with Habayit Hayehudi to vote for Rav Shmuel Eliyahu and Rav Dovid Lau, both sons of previous chief rabbis. Another possible candidate is Rav Yitzchok Grossman of Migdal Ha’emek, who has not yet announced his candidacy. Due to the lack of progress in selecting chief rabbis, the Prime Minister’s Office may lengthen the candidacy of the incumbent chief rabbis for another year.
Meanwhile, a law was passed that demands the inclusion of at least four women in the panel that selects the chief rabbinate’s dayonim. Also, the panel will be increased from 10 to 11 in order to include a female rabbinical lawyer selected by the government Authority for Advancement of Women’s Status.
In promotion of the law, it was argued that at least four members of the panel have to be men: “Even though women comprise about 50% of the public which needs the services of botei din, the dayonim are all men. Therefore, it is very important that the panel, at least, should provide them with proper representation.”
DAYLIGHT SAVING TIME
Minister of the Interior Gideon Sa’ar (Yisrael Beiteinu) accepted the idea of extending daylight saving time to 211 days as is done in the European Union despite the difficulties this engenders for observant Jews. Obviously, the absence of chareidi MKs in the Knesset will facilitate the law’s passing.
“I do not consider myself an enemy of the chareidi public,” he said. “But I need to make changes and reforms which, to the best of my understanding, are beneficial. This is good for traditional Jews, religious people, the non-observant, and for all the citizens of Israel.”
He said that extending summer time will be good for the economy, businesses, energy saving, health, and road safety. The committee estimates that it will save the economy about 300 million shekels a year.
Uri Maklev said that the decision was not surprising.
“It’s no surprise that such decisions are being made at this time,” he said. “The minimal requirement to enable people to say their prayers at the proper time is no longer legitimate in this country,” he said. “This is part of the national sport of seeing who can hit the chareidi public the hardest in the Jewish state.”
Former MK Shlomo Benizri explained the problems this decision will cause. Sefardim, who say Selichos for 40 days, will no longer be able to say them at night, as midnight will be at about 1:40 a.m. Yom Kippur will end an hour later and the Pesach Seder will start an hour later. At the height of summer, it will be difficult for tens of thousands of workers to daven before work.
THREAT LETTERS DEMAND SUBMISSION TO WOMEN OF THE WALL
Chief rabbis Rav Shlomo Amar and Rav Yonah Metzger and the rov of the Kosel, Rav Shmuel Rabinovich,received threat letters demanding that the Woman of the Wall be allowed to pray at the Kosel as they please.
“This is a last warning,” the letters warned. “If the Women of the Wall are not allowed to daven according to their custom and style, we will back them with every means available. You will return home with a hundred chareidi corpses. Your end is near.”
The letter ended with a string of insulting epithets and included the illustration of a gun.
The chief rabbis said that this “crossed a red line.”
“This is the first time the chief rabbis of Israel received threats against their lives, and in the State of Israel we have already learned that words can kill,” they announced. “This is not only a threat against the rabbonim,but a violent verbal attack against a whole public sector. We hope that the police bring the inciters to justice.”
The Woman of the Wall denied any connection with the letters.
“We are sad to hear about the threats and violence addressed to the chief rabbis today,” they wrote. “Any sensible person will agree that Women of the Wall have nothing to do with this. The style of the letters opposes the spirit of ahavas Yisroel that the group represents. We encourage the police in their investigation of the incident and in removing all violence in any form.”
Rav Shmuel Rabinovich received a similar letter a week ago at his home and is presently under the protection of security guards.
Meanwhile, the chief rabbinate issued a decision regarding the expected prayer of Women of the Wall on Rosh Chodesh Tammuz, writing, “So long as the chief rabbinate has not issued a decision about this, no changes should be made from what has prevailed until now. Behavior at the Kosel should accord with its status of a shul.”
Regarding Natan Sharansky’s plan to build a new plaza for Women of the Wall, the rabbinate said it was waiting until the Deputy Minister of Religions and the rov of the Kosel finish discussing the matter with relevant authorities.
The chief rabbinate took the opportunity to reiterate its ruling that it is forbidden to go on to the Har Habayis and that doing so bears the penalty of kareis.
The Kosel is threatened by yet another desecration of its honor. Until now, the IDF segregated men and women at combat units’ swearing-in ceremonies at the Kosel. Even though the Kosel’s rules do not require segregation in the upper plaza where the ceremony is held, the army did this out of reverence for the holy site. Following an inquiry about this custom on Israel Radio, the IDF stated that swearing-in regulations will be reviewed and possibly altered.
MIXED CURRICULUM SCHOOL AND KOLLEL
A letter penned by Rav Nissim Karelitz and signed by Rav Aharon Leib Shteinman, Rav Chaim Kanievsky and Rav Gershon Edelstein slammed a plan to develop kollel programs with secular studies on the side.
“The gedolei hador of recent times said that kollelim must be established. These are yeshivos devoted to married men with familial responsibilities, who study Torah exclusively and devote themselves to nothing other than the study of Torah.”
In a similar vein, Betzalel Cohen, head of the Agudah Achas association, which helps working chareidim, plans to open the first chareidi high school in Yerushalayim that teaches core curriculum subjects in three months. Aside from Torah subjects, his students will learn history, English, math, music and art. Surprisingly, the Ministry of Education has authorized his scheme of squeezing all the secular instruction into one day, Friday. Although this is not the first such school in Israel – the Nehora, Maarava, and Hayishuv Hachadash yeshivos have similar schedules – it is the first such place to open in Yerushalayim, conflicting with the city’s long standing abhorrence to mixing kodesh with chol.
Meanwhile, Education Minister Shai Piron decided that religious-Zionist high schools should provide Gemara studies to their female students if at least 50% of the parents agree.
“Learning Gemara or not depends very much on the community where students, boys or girls, come from,” said Piron. “Therefore, it is incorrect to force girls to learn Gemara. The decision should be made according to a community’s needs.”
In recent years, vastly increasing numbers of national-Zionist girls have begun studying Gemara in seminars.