Beyond the Cusp

June 12, 2019

Roller Coaster Pre-Election Ride Begins

Filed under: Israel — qwertster @ 1:54 AM
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Where to start, why not with the good, the bad and the beautiful. The good is easy but also will prove difficult to mediate. The good comes from the United Right’s current number two, Bezalel Smotrich, who has spoken the truth which the vast majority of the religious right pray for at services every day, that Israel live and keep the Torah and its commandments throughout the land. This does not mean what the media paints it to mean, as it does not demand anything from anyone who is not Jewish. They are only requested to follow the Noahic Code with seven laws. The Jews, on the other hand, have a mere six-hundred-thirteen laws in Torah. Somewhere over one-third of these refer to the service of the Cohanim and the Levites and their duties and expectations serving in the Temple. We do not currently have a Temple nor has any government Minister really pursued such a venture in the Knesset, thus it is not on the drawing boards, not in the planning stage and likely nowhere on the horizon. This means that these laws will have to await the people of Israel demanding the Temple be built, something prayed for every morning, afternoon and evening but not expected any time too soon. The rest of the laws are largely basic decency, common sense and the dietary laws of Kashrut. The majority of grocery stores sell only kosher food and are certified to have taken out the appropriate tithes and everything meets the high standards of the law. Restaurants are a separate issue but there are sufficient kosher restaurants even including some fast food establishments. What may amaze many people is that it may be likely, unless your favorite lunch location is not kosher, that the vast majority of people, Jews and non-Jews alike, probably lead lives that, outside of prayers they may ignore saying, are close to or within the demands of Torah. So, when Bezalel Smotrich spoke of his desire for Israel to become a nation whose laws and people kept to the Torah, he was speaking of a desire held by many and not transgressed by more than most might believe. He could just as easily spoken of the desire for the coming of the Mashiach, and we bet that would have drawn just as much scorn from any in the left-wing media, unfortunately that is the majority of the media. Their scare mongering will dredge up more hatred and mistrust between the people which is their intent. But speaking of such desire for Israel to become a Torah observant society is a very nice though and natural desire for the religious Zionist as well as other observant groups such as the Haredi. Nobody would even think twice had a Haredi leader made the same statement as that is acceptable from them as their voters mostly do not include the secular community. The entire flap over this was due to the attempt by the media to frighten the secular community, specifically the secular Zionists, into fearing the religious right parties over an event which was far more innocent than portrayed. Hopefully, the media feeding frenzy will be seen for what it was, an attempt at voter manipulation. It is really sad that the media here in Israel resorts to such tactics, but they will do whatever it takes to try and push the voting public into electing a left-leaning government.

 

BTC Israeli Election Banner

 

The bad is an internal desire which was expressed largely within the Blue White Party but which did receive some mention by the media. This was a request, perhaps a demand, for Yair Lapid to lay low and quiet over his otherwise normal denunciation of the Haredi community. Are some of the views expressed by Yair Lapid accurate and in need of a solution? The answer is of course some of these complaints necessary, but his solutions would actually be detrimental to the desires he expresses. The Haredi community are people, believe it or not, people just like all other people. As a normal community, they will adapt to changing needs and other factors at their own speed. On the other hand, if such a community believes they are being pressured, pushed and manipulated to change, they will resist such change just because people resent being pushed into change. What Yair Lapid is ignoring is simply because his vision is clouded by his personal apparent dislike for the Haredi community and their favored treatment due them legally under laws and appropriations made by the Knesset. Part of their favored treatment comes due to their guaranteed number of Ministerial positions they receive in every election from a devoted and unified community. The thing is some Haredi are already voting outside their dedicated voting bloc. This makes them what are called king makers as their bloc is necessary to reach the sixty-one mandates to form a coalition whether that coalition is left-wing or right-wing. Due to their crucial voting bloc, the Haredi will receive an identical set of concessions from either side, over the tantrum which would likely be thrown (in private) by Yair Lapid. The demand that his Blue White Party run with part of their platform for the forcing of the Haredi to allow more of their youth to be drafted for IDF service and their being coerced into joining the workforce in larger numbers would be a guarantee to never have the Haredi join them in a coalition. Their insistence that Yair Lapid tone down his Haredi rants is a purely political measure as they know that if they would ever be chosen to form a coalition, they would absolutely be required to include the Haredi parties.

 

Ayelet Shaked

Ayelet Shaked

 

The beautiful is easy as former Justice Minister Ayelet Shaked (pictured above) has made a semi-official announcement that she will be running for a position in the Knesset in the coming September elections. This semi-announcement about her return left out one important item; she forgot to mention exactly which party she intended to make her run with and what position she wished to take in their list. There have been those claiming she will be part of the Likud Party and others have called for her to replace Rafi Peretz at the top of the United Right Party list. Which one is the most likely? Well, I have doubts that she will replace Rafi Peretz at the top of the list with the United Right and Bibi Netanyahu has stated that he is not considering inviting Ayelet Shaked into the fold with Likud. So, where does this leave Ms. Shaked now as the leader of one list is not expecting to be replaced and the head of the other party simply is not interested in having her join the party. Perhaps we can find a small hint from her statements at the small ceremony given when she left the Justice Ministry. One of her comments was that she expects to return to the Justice Ministry. The interesting thing about her desire to return to the Justice Ministry does not require that she head any party’s list. She was not the leader of Jewish Home when she received the Justice Minister posting. She was number two behind Naftali Bennett. She was the number two behind Naftali Bennett on the list for the New Right Party which she and Naftali Bennett founded right before the last elections where that party did not quite pass threshold to make it into the Knesset. When Bibi Netanyahu was unable to reach an amicable agreement with Avigdor Lieberman who was making the same demands which he had pressed leading to the call for new elections in the first place, that situation is most likely not going to change with Avigdor Lieberman which means that should Bibi Netanyahu be tapped again, he will be relying on the right-wing, religious and, of course, religious Zionist parties. The good news for these elections is that such is very probably what will happen as long as the Haredi Parties also join the government coalition, something which is largely expected. So, the situation with Ayelet Shaked will depend on which party’s list she lands within. We can probably safely bet that she will not be placed atop of either Likud or United Right. There is still the possibility that she will remain with Naftali Bennett if the New Right is reformed for another attempt to pass the threshold this time around.

 

We can provide some free advice for Naftali Bennett, if he reforms the New Right, he should place Ayelet Shaked in the number one slot and take the second slot himself which would be more probable to put them over the threshold. There is one item which is the biggest guarantor of failure in politics such as in other professions, that is an overly inflated ego believing that they are the answer that the people are craving and if only you present yourself then they will flock to your banner. When you are Bibi Netanyahu and have been Prime Minister for the past decade and lead the strongest party, or at worst the second leading party, and may become the longest serving Prime Minister by the time of the coming elections, then you can have such an ego. No, we are not claiming that Bibi has an over-inflated ego. This is about all the actual excitement we have seen over the coming elections in Israel. More over the weeks to come and perhaps things will heat up. We can tell that the Blue White Party is confident that they should receive the nod from President Reuven Rivlin to form the next coalition. They are confident that with the Haredi Parties they will be able to form a coalition. There may be some questions as to this confidence. The Labor Party is in a tailspin and hoping primary elections for what they hope, and as Avi Gabay has decided that he will resign from leading the party and dropped from the primary list, will be a new leader as the latest polls showed that the Labor Party, the party which led Israeli politics for decades until 1979 when they lost the coalition making position, was not polling sufficient to pass threshold. Labor has also sought to join another party as a joint list, either Blue White, Meretz or another left-wing party but they have not had any takers as of yet. As the elections grow closer, they will have a better chance for this alternative. But with the left polling lower and lower, there may be doubts about the optimism of the Blue White Party. We will try and find more fun things concerning the September 17th elections in future articles.

 

Beyond the Cusp

 

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July 25, 2018

Modernizing the Israeli Haredi Community

 

The modernization of the Israeli Haredi community is not simply an objective but an absolute necessity. The problem comes down to simple mathematics. As the Haredi community has grown, they have become a larger and larger percentage of the Israeli population. If there is one thing we have learned, it is that there is a critical point beyond which the rest of the population becomes unable to produce sufficient wealth that they can take care of another portion of the community. Those numbers differ depending on numerous variables, but once the dependent populations clears 40%, let alone reach 50%, they become an overt and unbearable burden on the remainder of the population and other government services such as defense begin to suffer catastrophically. For this reason, the Haredi community needs to be pulled, voluntarily or kicking and screaming, into the mainstream working population. For a model of such one need look no further than the United States where the Haredi communities not only work, pulling their own weight, as well as studying Torah and are amongst some of the wealthiest and most productive Jewish communities. The same model can be duplicated in Israel and still permit for the top and most promising Torah scholars to study Torah as their work financed by the charity of others or the government, something which can be hammered out once the Haredi show their promise to have the majority join the normative society.

 

The initial step in this direction comes by including the Haredi in military service. This would begin by passing a draft law which would make Haredi men eligible to be drafted with a small but relatively sizable percentage allowed being exempted as Torah scholars. This percentage should not exceed 10% though initially it could be set as high as 25% and brought down from there. For those Haredi not exempted but adamantly opposed to service in the IDF, they can be given the standard option of National Service. This will require the IDF remain hospitable to religious soldiers and reverse the somewhat recent trend to impose secular standards upon religious soldiers. This has apparently come about as the high command appeared to be attempting to break the will of the more religious soldiers, something which should never happen within the Jewish Army. There could be combined religious-Haredi brigades or even a complete division. The catch is currently the religious Zionists when enlisting often request longer service periods in order to serve in the most prestigious special brigades such as the Nahal Brigade, the Paratroopers Brigade and the Sayeret Matkal as well as the other Special Forces units. It is unlikely that the entirety of the Haredi would desire to enter such units and their percentages in each area of service are more likely to mirror the rest of Israeli draftees.

 

Five beautiful, glorious and holy Torah Scrolls which carry near infinite wisdom and are the foundation of all Judaism and their culture and civilization is built around the Torah and the teaching of Torah

Five beautiful, glorious and holy Torah Scrolls which carry near infinite wisdom and are the foundation of all Judaism and their culture and the Jewish civilization is built around the Torah and the teaching of Torah

 

The difficulty in bringing this concept to fruition has been the simple political fact; the Haredi Parties within the coalition have the numbers to bring elections and thus can resist any draft law which requires Haredi service. This is one of the difficulties with parliamentary coalition governments; they are only as strong as their most disruptive link. The coalition system has presumed advantages though when scrutinized, the disadvantages appear to crop up far more prominently than any advantages. The Haredi parties demand as their entry into any coalition that their population remain deferred from service in the IDF or National Service because they must be free to study Torah twenty-four-seven otherwise peace will never come to the world. We really hate to break this to them, peace does not appear any closer with them pursuing only Torah study, perhaps some of them might be going about their studies with less than the required serious concentration necessary to bring world peace. This has been the problem as some of the Ministers of the Knesset have pointed out, they can drive through the Haredi neighborhoods, largely in Tel Aviv, and they see tens to hundreds of young Haredi men standing around on street corners smoking cigarettes and not apparently pouring over Torah manuscripts and the related commentaries deep in study and thought. The claim is these numbers are too large and persistent and are found almost any hour of the day to be laid on the excuse that these young men were taking a break. This may weaken the Haredi parties’ arguments, but it does not dilute their ability to force elections.

 

There is another means of slowly forcing the incorporation of the Israeli Haredi to join into the workforce, which is the actual reason for including them into the IDF and having required STEM and other basic courses be taught at the Yeshivas. As stated above, such is the norm for the Haredi in the United States and they support their own Torah greats in their studies from within their community and do not demand that the United States government support their Torah studies as the Haredi have done historically here in Israel. The other persuasive means is to not increase, or actually decrease, the amount of government support provided to the Haredi communities thus eventually forcing them to realize that their game is up. Again, this will run afoul of the Haredi parties who can threaten to force new elections. Eventually there will be a government coalition not requiring the Haredi parties to reach the required sixty-one Ministers, a majority of the one-hundred-twenty in the Knesset. For the Haredi’s sake, they had better pray during their Torah studies that such a coalition not be made up of the secular-left as they will have no pity and feel absolutely no guilt in cutting the Haredi communities off their support leaving them to beg and scratch to survive. At least if such a coalition is from the right-Zionist-religious-nationalist parties, then the Haredi will be cared for more gently but the writing is on the wall and they are going to by necessity be joining the normative society. Of this need there can be no rational argument as their numbers and percentage of the Israeli population continue to increase.

 

The truth is there are some very successful Haredi run companies within Israel. What makes these companies all the more outstanding is that they have nary a man in the building. These are companies started by and populated with Haredi women. To read about a select group of these companies we would like to provide links to the following this article, this article, this article, this article, this article, this article and this article. These are proof that the Haredi believe in working and if the men desired, they could very probably follow their women’s example while adding a difference where each department within the company was given special time in which to devote themselves solely to Torah. This would serve two purposes. The first is that it would permit every Haredi with time to study Torah and second, we would not be deprived of a miraculous contribution to the commentaries on Torah coming from the most unlikely of former students. People always bring up the fact that Albert Einstein did not do well in his early studies, especially where speed was required in answering any question. Thus, the claims that even the most brilliant diamond is but a lump of rock when pulled from the earth is an analogous comparison. The countering argument is equally valid in that not every Haredi is a real and treasured brilliant Torah scholar and thus every Haredi is not necessary for the advancement of Torah and the Law going forward, a percentage including the most promising students should be permitted deferment from IDF and even joining the workforce and possibly receiving a stipend from the government. But the teachers at their Yeshivas and their participants in immersive Torah studies should ideally be supported by the Haredi community just as they are in other countries. Most of the synagogues and especially those attending regular services provide sufficient charity to the Haredi to pay for much of this work being performed in a most serious manner. Finally, working and supporting oneself was ideally meant to provide additional insight into the human condition and thus deepen one’s ability to understand Torah and the Commandments and allow for a deeper interpretation of Torah relevant to the lives of the people.

 

This is all well and good but it does not get us past the Haredi parties blocking, or attempting to block changes in the current system by threatening to force new elections. The Haredi parties do not fear elections because their voting block supports their candidates because their rabbis tell them to do so and thus their representation remains rather constant between nine and thirteen seats. This often makes them the kingmakers as their numbers can make for a stable coalition capable of having four or even seven Ministers not vote with the coalition and still have their legislation be passed and prevent new election crisis. Often they are required to form a coalition and in these instances their power is greatly increased, making changing the rules very difficult. This requires that the Haredi be persuaded to accept these changes which lead to painfully slow progress in these areas. One can only hope that the Haredi leadership, preferably their leading most rabbis, will simply state what is true; Torah scholars are meant to also work as a means of remaining humble and appreciative of how those who depend on them to interpret Torah such that it is made meaningful for them are served. Even the prophets of old were required to work for a living with only the most brilliant and righteous having as their position to advise the Kings. Otherwise, the prophets in antiquity would have starved to death and along the way become too weak to think straight. We understand that some of them did not particularly think straight all the time even with food and good employment. The fact they were required to perform something of monetary worth in addition to their relating the desires of Hashem is the important point. Surely, the Haredi do not place their Torah study above the revelations which came from the prophets, or do they?

 

When the day arrives that the Haredi see the light of day or are not required and a coalition is formed without their participation, then the Haredi will know what it feels like to be depending upon the kindness of others exclusively. On this day, the future of the Haredi community will be decided free of their input and this fact alone should place the fear of Hashem into the leaders of these Haredi parties. They would be far better served to be participants in a logical, acceptable and understandable transition towards reaching a final goal and in defining that final goal. Should the Haredi continue to endlessly demand that the system not be altered, they run the risk of when the system is altered that they will receive absolutely no special privilege from the government. Would it not serve them far better to receive support for 10% or at most 20% of their adult population being permitted to spend their time as Torah scholars producing the standards of Torah for the whole of the community? This is the overbearing question which they should be thinking and not plotting to force no change taking place because doing so will soon lead to their being resented by the population at large, and that would spell danger for the Haredi as a whole. There is a final bit which requires addressing, and it involves the fanatics within the Haredi community. They must be brought within control of the greater Haredi community. Their attacking other Haredi because they serve in the IDF is behavior which should be treated as being beyond the pale and unacceptable. The same goes for their riotous reaction when people not meeting their ideal dress code for modesty are seen within their neighborhoods. The Haredi need understand that other people with different standards exist and have equal rights to be respected and not become the victims of a self-professed modesty police. Such actions are part of societies which are ruled by a theocratic dictatorship. This is nowhere near the ideals of the State of Israel where we cherish equality and that there are differences between people. The principle problems concerning the Haredi community and its incorporation into mainstream Israeli society will come at some point in the not too distant future. The final reality strike will come when there will be no means of supporting the Haredi within Israel and also budgeting for the IDF and other necessary government services such as road repair, utilities and all the other necessities which people rely on the government to provide. This brings up the concept that perhaps everyone need be reminded that the government should be limited and not providing services to the people which the people can provide for themselves, and that goes for all people.

 

Beyond the Cusp

 

June 26, 2018

There are Correct and Incorrect Means to Haredi Enlistment

 

The IDF is in a bit of a jam and the political arena is not being helpful. The bit of a jam is over the IDF refusal to promote Brigadier General Ofer Vinter, a Kippah wearing, religious Zionist officer. Those in the religious Zionist community are left wondering if perhaps his religious observance and Zionist philosophy were behind this refusal. On the other side of the equation is that Brigadier General Ofer Vinter was not exactly a normal officer in some critical ways. He was not much of a supporter of the containment mentality of the official brass in the General Staff and was more of the kind of personality that when given an objective would clear a path by cutting a wide swath to his goal. Where this philosophy is to be lauded on the battlefield and much endeared him to his troops, it does not fit well with cool-headed planning of distant goals. There was also the pressure from the left in Israel who became enraged when it was revealed that when commanding the Givati Brigade during 2014 Protective Edge engagement against Hamas and Islamic Jihad in Gaza, Vinter wrote in his battle orders that his unit “was fighting an enemy which defiles our God,” words used by David against Goliath, and ended with the Jewish Shema prayer. None of his officers or enlisted troops was upset by this including the secular soldiers and all stated that this gave them greater strength of purpose and was quite uplifting. I was an infantryman and being given spiriting and uplifting words before an engagement is exactly what one desires from their commanding officers, but that was lost on those desiring making political hay. Still, Brigadier General Ofer Vinter was also seen as not having the best managerial style and was said to even have shortcomings and though he was a creative warrior, he left behind a disorganized staff headquarters. This was likely what weighed heavily in this decision but that is likely to be ignored by those who supported his promotion from the religious Zionist community. After all, it is not like there have not been Kippah-wearing officers in command positions before as the picture below from the taking of the Western Wall during the Six Day War depicts.

 

IDF Rabbi with Celebratory Cigar and Torah Scroll Entering Old City

IDF Rabbi with Celebratory Cigar and Torah Scroll Entering Old City

 

What does this have to do with Haredi enlistment will soon become evident. The Knesset is once again wrestling with writing a new draft law as the Supreme Court has set aside the last law claiming it was discriminatory. The Supreme Court has apparently been attempting to force the Knesset to draft Haredi youth in the same exact manner as they do everybody else. That is all well and good except that has not been the law in the past and Haredi has, for the longest time, been completely deferred from being drafted. We applaud the efforts to move the Haredi community to become more engaged with normative lives within the Israeli community if for no other reason than because they are an increasing percentage of the population and it has become necessary for them to lead more normative lives as it will soon be impossible to provide for them entirely as they rise in proportion to the rest of the society. The thought is if they are drafted, they will become more exposed to the remainder of Israeli society and more of them will find work and lead what is a normal life rather than spend all of their time studying Torah. Leaders in the Haredi community have largely opposed any attempt to take away what they believe is their special character as the new priesthood representative of the Kohanim in ancient Israel. They ignore that they already present a higher percentage of the total population than the Kohanim ever were in ancient Israel and as such are becoming too large a strain on the economy. The problem is changing the rules from the former extreme to the other extreme is not exactly the most efficient or productive means of making this change and there are other factors as well.

 

One would think that the IDF would be working to make selected units more accommodating for Haredi to serve while not forcing a lifestyle situation which is unacceptable to their teachings and way of life. Unfortunately, the IDF has been doing exactly the opposite. They have made some combat units which had been exclusively male into coed units, which is something which the Haredi will fight against being forced into serving. There have been a number of public events where women were presented and would sing, something that the very religious men are forbidden from attending, where the religious men were told they could not briefly leave the presentation until the women’s singing presentation was completed. These cases were brought to the attention of the General Staff who decided that these commanders were within their right to force these men to remain for the women’s presentation as to allow them to leave would be upsetting to the women. You can see where this is headed. There has been a growing suspicion that the General Staff are against making any allowances for the very religious at the same time as the political front is trying to force some of the most stringently religious into serving in the IDF. If you want to bring the Haredi into the IDF, might not it make sense to create an atmosphere where they would not be offended right out of the gate?

 

Where they could make a soufflé, the General Staff is making scrambled eggs and claiming it does not make a difference, they are still eggs. That will not go well and if the IDF cannot make room for the Haredi to remain within their comfort level, then their rabbis will advise refusal to serve, which some already have done. Should the Haredi refuse draft notice en-masse, the political class had better also make a budget for a very large prison in which to hold these draft resisters. Writing a draft bill which demands that all Haredi of draft age be enlisted into service will serve neither the IDF nor the Haredi community. There must be a deferment allowance for a number of Torah scholars whose study of Torah would provide benefit beyond esoteric benefits as described in prayers that they bring peace to the world. Even the idea that their study of Torah will bring peace to the world, thus far it does not appear to be working which means either they are not doing it correctly or something else is definitely wrong. One complaint we have heard is that should one drive through the Haredi community during the day, they would see numerous young Haredi males simply out and about and in coffee bistros and engaged in many activities which do not appear to be Torah study. We have not tested this theory, but have seen pictures which give it credibility. Perhaps there can be found a middle ground where those Haredi who graduate from their Yeshiva with exemplary grades and have shown a propensity for original thought and interpretation of Torah to be granted deferments. The percentage and grade expectation for this along with a requirement for letters recommending their deferment from at least three of their teachers could be arranged with the Haredi Rabbinate. But forcing the entirety of the Haredi to suddenly be drafted is completely untenable.

 

IDF Crest Insignia

 

There is another side to this as well, and it too has to do with the budget. The IDF takes a large slice of the budget which makes complete sense when we look at the rioting currently occurring on the Gaza border and the potential for threats from Syria and Lebanon. It is a well-established fact that Israel need be on a war footing at all times with a ready reserve to provide support and bolster the numbers of in uniform soldiers often at a moment’s notice. But the IDF is currently fully manned according to reports we have read and in some fields has more recruits than are necessary even during times of active conflict. Even the infantry ranks are well manned, especially in the most elite corps. Simply put, currently there is no crying need for additional forces, especially in the numbers drafting all Haredi would provide. Thus this does not need to be done as if there were some emergency requiring such an increase in manpower for the IDF. Would the effect of providing more reserves prove advantageous? Well, of course, but not to the effect that such a move would provide and one must also weigh the cost societally. Angering an entire sector of society which would also produce ripples through other areas is not exactly prudent. Yes, the Haredi need to be brought into the mainstream. This can be performed intelligently starting with having certain changes in their education system introducing additional STEM course requirements to at least introduce them to some of the more useful tools for joining the mainstream preparing them for having a decent chance for finding employment. To bring about radical change, there are two ways of doing so. There is the gentler and less likely to cause adverse opposition way or the way my uncle taught me to swim by throwing me into the deep end of the pool. Do the members of the Knesset really desire to take the sink or swim route or the coax and offer incentives route. The problem is some are using this political football to try and bring down the coalition and force elections. That is another side which has nothing to do with Haredi, Torah study or anything but the religion of the left to destroy anything which they do not control. But that is for another time with an issue which is not so socially charged.

 

Beyond the Cusp

 

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