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Showing posts with label finances. Show all posts
Showing posts with label finances. Show all posts

Jun 8, 2014

eventual law proposal: reveal state of finances

MK Shelly Yachimovitch (Labor) has announced that in light of the latest scandal, she is going to resubmit her law proposal that would obligate public officials to publicly reveal their finances, any properties owned by them, and any sources of funding and business connections.
source: Ynet

I think this is important. I have always wondered how people who have spent their entire adult life in public office are wealthy enough to own multiple apartments, along with having seemingly unlimited funds for travel and personal expenses.

A guy like Benjamin Netanyahu, for example, has worked in the private sector. I understand he might have earned his own wealth (though such a thing should be determined by revealing records to remove doubt and suspicion).. Somebody like Ehud Olmert, for example, has always held public office, even though he has a law degree. When he was first indicted, it became public knowledge that he was the owner of four very expensive apartments. How does a guy working his entire life in the public sector earn enough money to own four apartments? Maybe (I have no idea) his wife earned some money as an artist, maybe even some good money, but shouldn't the public know where he is making all this money?

Olmert is just an example. There are many politicians who have spent their entire lives in public office, and seem to live a lifestyle well above that of the salary of public officials. I think such a level of transparency is necessary for the future of politics in Israel. We cannot have every politician running for office always under suspicion, and we can't have people holding on to information and just waiting for the right day to use it - it is both blackmail along the way, and the politicians cannot function like that. They need to know they have the public's faith in them, and we need to know they deserve our faith and respect.

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May 29, 2014

everybody wants their discounts

everybody wants their discounts, and when they don't get it, they turn it into a major crisis.

It seems government religious services are expensive, and the prices are increasing. MK Gafni (UTJ) even tried to pass a law that would limit the price of some religious services, though his proposal was rejected.

Now more people are upset about the high cost of religious services. It seems there is a discount offered for students registering to marry. Instead of 700nis, they only have to pay 40% - 420nis. But there is a catch. The discount is cut off at age 30. Once you hit 30, to register costs the full 700, even if you are still a student. The difference to these older students brings in 12 million nis per year to the Rabbanut.

By the way, this discount applies to both college students and yeshiva students (among other groups like the handicapped, soldiers and new immigrants), and at 30 it gets cut off for both groups, though I could not find this detail anywhere on the Rabbanut website. Students discovered this when they went to register for marriage. It turns out that it is detailed in the law of religious services, though they have turned to Naftali Bennet, Minister of Religious Services, to get involved and change things.

The Rabbanut's response is that the discount is limited until age 30 because the purpose of the discount is to help those with less financial abilities. There is a proportionate connection between age and finances.. so younger students need the extra help, while older students should be able to afford it with less difficulty.
source: Walla

everybody wants their discounts. No matter what you say about Israel, it is clearly a Jewish State...

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May 15, 2014

Social Shmitta - wiping away debt

I like the initiative of what is being promoted as "shmitta chevratit" - social shmitta... the promoters want government offices and other public debt holders to honor the mitzva of shmitta in regards to financial concerns and wipe away any financial debt, at least for segments of the population that are economically weaker.

I like the idea in a general way. Any aspect of keeping shmitta more, and especially with intent on helping those who need it, is good.

Deputy Minister of Religious Affairs Rav Eli Ben Dahan has joined the group of those who want the shmitta chevratit. Ben Dahan said that government institutions are able to wipe away the debts. He called upon institutions to wipe away the debts of the elderly - such as Bituach Leumi, banks, and other public institutions...
source: Srugim

I would not mind if they wiped away my mortgage..

While I like the idea, I am not sure why institutions, especially banks which are really privately held, would wipe away the debt, which probably adds up to a lot of money. Just like people will keep their privately held debt, perhaps by writing a pruzbol, I imagine most institutions won't want to give up all that money either, and will want to employ the pruzbol or whatever else they might do. Just like some farmers will keep shmitta and not work the land at all, while most will employ the hetter mechira.

I guess if even just a small number of institutions wipe away the debt, it will be good - it will help some people, it will be a start of a good thing. Maybe next time maybe more will do similarly.

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Jan 19, 2014

Quote of the Day

Maybe it would be better if the tycoons consulted with economists, not rabbis

  -- Minister of Finance Yair Lapid, commenting on the collapse of tycoons Nochi Dankner, Moti Zisser and Ilan Ben Dov who all famously consulted rabbis about their business affairs.. the irony is that Lapid is Finance Minister, dealing with the State's finances, yet he does not have even a high school degree let alone any previous experience in managing finances or economies ...

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Dec 11, 2013

Lapid approves decision to reduce cost of entry to Mt. Hermon

For a couple of years now people have been complaining about the high cost of living in Israel,  especially on basic goods - bread,  cottage cheese, chocolate,  etc...  We still might be paying too much for our basics, but at least now it will be cheaper to go skiing on the Hermon...
To paraphrase Marie Antoinette,  let them ski!

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Dec 10, 2013

Tit for Tat in government budgets

Tit for Tat. That's how government and politics work.

MK Nissim Slomianski (Habayit Hayehudi), head of the Knesset Finance Committee, has decided to hold on to 211,000,000 NIS that was designated for the Prime Ministers Office for certain projects that encourage aliyah, such as Birthright and Masa.


Slomianski is holding on to it until the government agrees to reinstate the 48,000,000 NIS budget that was designated for yeshivot to fund the study of foreign students.

Being that we are at the end of the year, if they don't resolve this quickly and transfer the money, at the end of the year it will go back into the government coffers and will not go to its designated projects...
(source: Kikar and Ladaat)

Tit for Tat.

What's strange is that just over a month ago Yesh Atid agreed to revive that budget for foreign students, though it would be made dependent on the yeshivot teaching courses in Zionism .. Either the budget cut was not actually canceled, or Slomianski is saying he wants ti revived immediately and left unconnected to the implementation of a Zionist curriculum.

I just don't understand if it was or was not canceled, or if that was all just a distraction.

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Oct 30, 2013

Religious services need to be funded too

Why is it that whenever some religious services get funded, it is treated as if they are stealing from the rest of the country?

Unfortunately there is no separation of shul and state (or mosque/church and state, either) in Israel, to even the slightest degree. That means that just like the State of Israel funds and provides the services and needs of every community, it does so for religious services as well. It funds the theater, the arts, the sciences, sports, academic and everything else, and it also funds religious services - and it is no less legitimate just because it is for religion.

According to the census from two years ago, about 33% of Israelis are religious, and an additional 25% consider themselves "traditional". That means 58% of the citizens of Israel regularly make use of religious services, to some degree or another. And among the remaining 42% of citizens who define themselves as secular or not-religious, they too make use of religious services, albeit at a less frequent rate and sometimes even just because they have no other reasonable choice. Basically, religious services are being provided to a significant majority of the citizens of Israel.

Yet, whenever money is sent the way of religious services there is an outcry asking why they get money yet x, y or z is told there is not enough money for that...Somebody came up with a new idea and is trying to pass a law to make it part of the system. Give new fathers a few days off of work - a few days of paternity leave. I think it is a great idea, but the State, if it wants to do this, has to find funding for it - it was not part of the original budget, as it is only being proposed now, after the budget has already been passed. So, the funding is not currently available, and if it becomes law, the State will have to find a source of funding for it. As great an idea as it is, as important as it might be, it does not give us enough reason to delegitimize the funding of religious services. This service might be necessary, but those services are as well, and those already have a source of funding.

Minister Yair Lapid recently said that the new paternity leave idea that has been proposed is great, but nobody has shown from where the money will come to fund it, and he therefore opposed the bill. Globes is complaining that he opposed that bill due to lack of funding, and then two days later Lapid found money for religious services. Lapid sent 52 million NIS to fund religious services:  14 million for the "Jewish Identity Administration" (whatever that is), and an additional 37.8 million NIS to the Ministry of Religious Affairs for various needs. The crime! How dare he provide for the already-budgeted needs of a majority of the country!

With the budgets for religious services already stripped to the minimum, perhaps those proposing great ideas should look elsewhere for the money, and let the religious citizens of Israel get some of their religious needs funded. Maybe they should propose cutting the sports budget or the arts. There are a lot of important needs provided by the State, and until Israel will move for a separation of shul and state, it cannot be expected to cut religious services every time something else needs money.

Donate to the Schneider Hospital so I can run the Schneider benefit marathon..

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new chaburah at the Mir might soon be starting - Zionism and the State of Israel

Minister of Finance Yair Lapid and his Yesh Atid faction seem to have been persuaded to cancel the intended budget cut targeting foreign yeshiva students.

This became a big deal because it was seen to be hurting the yeshiva industry in something that is a relatively minor budget item that has a major effect - many of the yeshiva students end up staying in Israel long-term, eventually making aliyah, and even those who do not generate a lot of tourism money - they bring foreign currency, rent apartments, buy food, tour, have parents come to visit and spend money here, etc.

While it might not be so crucial for most yeshivot, as it is really a small amount of money per student, for some yeshivot, and the Mir Yeshiva is mentioned as a prime example, it is a lot of money just because of the number of students affected.

So Yesh Atid and Yair Lapid have agreed to cancel the budget cut! That is good news. Anyways it is a small amount of money, and it does a lot for bringing foreign currency into Israel and promotes aliyah.

But Yesh Atid says we are not there just yet. They are agreeing to cancel the budget cut, but that cancellation is dependent on some conditions. Yeshivot qualifying for these monies would be obligated to teach a detailed course in Zionism and civics, that would also include visits to army bases (I saw somewhere that Haredi yeshivot would visit the Nahal Haredi bases), heritage sites, and participate in conferences on various topics of Zionism.

So, we may soon be seeing Zionism 101 as part of the curriculum in yeshivas like the Mir, and their presence on army bases might become fairly common... or maybe they will prefer to forgo the money rather than be forced to teach Zionism..

Donate to the Schneider Hospital so I can run the Schneider benefit marathon..

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Oct 16, 2013

Price of tuna set to decrease

Yes! Thank you Yair Lapid. Everything was worth it just for this!

We have watched the price of tuna fish consistently rise... I remember the good old days when 4 packs of tuna (Starkist and other brands) sold for about 16 NIS. In the past few months, the price for the same four-pack has been sitting at 26 NIS. Sometimes you can get some on sale for less, but that's the regular price.

Finance Minister Yair Lapid signed an order lowering import tariffs on canned tuna fish. Lapid signed the order and constructed the decrease so that the final price will be lower for the consumer.

The decrease in price will be staggered between 2013 through 2016.

The tax rate currently paid is 12% + 3.51 NIS per kg.
From November it will drop to 12% + 3 NIS per kg until the end of the year. .
For the entire 2014 it will decrease to 12% + 2 NIS per kg.
For the entire 2015 it will decrease to 12% + 1 NIS per kg.
Starting 2016 it will be taxed at just 12%.

So, with each can being 160grams or so (I dont know if they include the water or oil in the weight for taxes, or just the 112 grams of filtered tuna), I think the four-pack of tuna will drop in price, at the end of the 3 year process, by 2.25 NIS - if I did the math right.

Thank you Yair Lapid. Those are some amazing savings!

Donate to the Schneider Hospital so I can run the Schneider benefit marathon..

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Aug 22, 2013

Synthetic Shtreimels, for different reasons

R' Shmuel Pappenheim has no problem bucking trends of the community he is part of. His latest is an announcement that people who wear shtreimels should stop using shtreimels made from hair from animals and instead should switch to synthetic materials.

It is not really a radical statement, and it has been suggested before by others, but within the hassidic community there has always been opposition to the idea - to the point that when the Knesset wanted to pass a law banning the use of furs, the haredi parties opposed it due to the problem that would cause for people who wear shtreimels.

Pappenheim said this at a meeting of interested parties regarding the topic of "animal rights in Judaism". He said that wearing the classic shtreimel causing a tremendous chillul hashem, and at a time when the entire world is making noise about mistreatment of animals, tzaar baalei chaim, we should stop this minhag which involves mistreating animals. According to Pappenheim it is both an aveira and a chillul hashem, and replacing it with synthetic materials is not canceling a mitzva in any way.

It happens to be that I agree with Pappenheim, but for different reasons.

I disagree with Pappenheim that this is a tzaar baalei chaim issue. When the process is done for no reason at all, no benefit to humans, then it is tzaar baalei chaim. When there is a benefit to the process, it does not have the status of tzaar baalei chaim.

That being said, it still looks bad in the eyes of animal rights activists and people who are concerned with those things. I think the process of how the furs are taken from the animals should be changed to be less cruel. It is not in our hands to do so, but we should work with the factories to improve the process, considering our community is a significant consumer of this product.

And if we are not really that significant of a consumer, as the shtreimel market is relatively small and other communities are much greater consumers (e.g. fur coats or whatever else fur is used for), then we needn't be concerned as the shtreimels dont cause the problem, it is those larger markets that are more of the issue. True, we should be an ohr l'goyim, but I dont think that obligates us to this move in any way, especially if we are an insignificant part of the market that is easily ignored.

However, I do agree with Pappenheim that the haredi/hassidic community should switch to synthetic materials, but not because of tzaar baalei chaim. I think they should switch because of the high cost. A shtreimel can cost thousands of dollars, and even a simple shtreimel can cost a couple thousand shekels.

At a time when the community is tight on funds, people don't have money, the government is cutting the funding to haredim in all sorts of directions, I think it is prudent for people to spend far less money whenever possible. If they can pay a third of the price (according to Pappenheim) on a synthetic shtreimel, they should. Sure, some people have money and they can/will buy whatever they want, but I think most people should follow a standard of paying less for the shtreimel, and synthetic gives them that option.

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Aug 20, 2013

Are the child allotment cuts anti-haredi or not?

Today the new rules about the Kitzvat Yeladim - the child allotments - go into effect.

The new policy will directly hurt a lot of people. While I surely have benefitted from receiving child allotments, and don't complain when the government wants to give me free money, I never really understood why it had to be given (or why some people acted as if it has to be). but that is beside the point.

I find it ironic that when some people were defending the child allotments, in previous years and when rationalizing to the public that it has nothing to do with being haredi, the claim was always that it is not a Haredi benefit, or it is not an Arab benefit, even though they tend to benefit from it the most, but is a benefit available to anybody and is given to everybody who has kids, yet when the allotments are cut suddenly the attacks go out that it is anti-haredi...

All those years when it was given freely and the money was flowing, it had nothing to do with haredim. Now that it is being stopped it is being cut for anti-haredi motives..

It either is or it isnt...

On another note, I do think that if the cut had to happen, and it seems like it did, they should have at least waited until after the holidays rather than cutting it right before...

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Jun 17, 2013

IDF setting to cut kashrut inspectors

It seems strange that the Finance Ministry would be cutting the budget of the IDF Rabbinate by such a significant amount at the same time they are working towards drafting more religious and haredi soldiers who will need even more services by the Rabbinate rather than less.

The Finance Ministry is cutting the budget of the IDF Rabbinate by 25%. According to the IDF Rabbinate, because of the budget cut, they will be forced to stop having non-commissioned officers posted as kashrut inspectors. They say that they will no longer be able to guarantee that the food given to soldiers will be kosher.

From Ynetnews:
As the defense establishment is busy making large cuts to the defense budget to comply with the austerity measures imposed by Finance Minister Yair Lapid, it is one rather small cut that may prove the most politically incendiary: the 25% cut to budget of the IDF Rabbinate that may force the religious authority to withdraw many non-commissioned officers from their posts as kashrut inspectors, meaning it will no longer be able to guarantee the provisions handed out to the soldiers are kosher.
Sources at the Rabbinate told Yedioth Ahronoth this could mean religious soldiers would refuse to enter the army canteens; some went as far as suggesting hunger strikes are in the cards.

Others said the combat units, in isolation from the big bases, will be the worst hit, as their less-than-rigid kashrut standards will further deteriorate, brewing discontent.
In units positioned in the Gaza vicinity area, the West Bank and the northern border, the visits of the kashrut inspectors are irregular, and the army puts its trust in the integrity of the kitchen workers and the soldiers. The kitchens are used to store and prepare both dairy and meat products, which makes the procedures involved in keeping kashrut more complicated.
Additionally, it often happens that secular soldiers are tasked with kitchen duty, which leads to errors in protocol. "The starting point in those kitchens is not great as things stand," the source told Yedioth Ahronoth. "And removal of kashrut inspectors will lead to the effective banishment of the religious soldiers from the kitchens."
"Ben Gurion set two key conditions to the integration of religious soldiers within the military: observance of Shabat and kashrut. Should the measure be implemented, it will drive the religious soldiers away from the combat units."
Sources within the top ranks say IDF are wary of the political implications of the decision, yet acquiesce there is no alternative as even the most sensitive operational functionalities are being hit by the cuts. "Fewer inspectors will have to do more work," the source said.
The IDF's Spokesperson's Unit responded to the reports saying "The IDF is preparing to switch toward functioning within the limits of the current budget, and various proposals for streamlining are being weighed. The proposals are being examined and no decision has been made yet."
I guess how the IDF chooses to make their unit more efficient - what services to cut back on - is up to them.. but a 25% budget cut is so significant that no matter how they decide to best make the unit more efficient it is going to be damaging to the soldiers at just the point when more soldiers who need those services are going to be increasing. At least they will know which burekas are pareve and which are dairy, as they wont have enough kashrut inspectors to tell them!

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Jun 6, 2013

Will "American" yeshivas in Israel shut down due to budget cuts?

Among the budget cuts that Finance Minister Yair Lapid put into place is making extinct the budget for foreign students. Yeshivas with a significant percentage of foreign students, and the Mir Yeshiva is being used commonly in the media as the prime example, will be hit hard by this budget cut. While many yeshivas also charge tuition, in addition to the funding they receive per student from the government, there are some places, like the Mir, that do not charge tuition or just charge a nominal fee.

MK Menachem Eliezer Mozes (UTJ) spoke out against this specific budget cut fro the Knesset podium yesterday.

As I have said before, I do not know if this budget cut is good or bad, if it is justified or not. I think the issue is debatable, if a government that is strapped for cash should be funding foreign students or not. I see both sides of the argument, but I do not have an opinion as to which side is more justified.

Ladaat has the text of what Mozes said, and at least the main point is something I agree with, ..and I want to comment on just one point..

Mozes said, in not so few words, that this budget cut will save the government a paltry 35 million NIS. In the terms of a government budget that is basically peanuts. While the government spends hundreds of millions of shekels investing in bringing tourists to Israel because it spurs the economy and brings in foreign currency, for these yeshiva boys it should be a no-brainer. They invest nothing in bringing them as the boys come on their own and they survive here on their own. They rent apartments, they buy in the stores, they tour the country, their parents come to visit, they rent cars, rent hotel rooms, some get married and stay even longer, some buy apartments, etc.

So far so good. I agree with his main issue - the budget is tiny, and the small "investment" brings in a lot of tourism money. It does not make much sense to cancel this little budget item.

Mozes continues and says that canceling this budget is cutting off the branch on which we are sitting and is completely illogical. Doing so, Mozes says, will mean these boys will stop coming to Israel. There are no savings in this budget item cancellation, no ideals like "core curriculum", no need for encouragement to leave yeshiva and join the workforce, etc. The only reason to stop this funding is to be against people who learn torah and do mitzvos, etc. and goes on to finish talking about Yair Lapid's decrees against the haredim in general.

On this last paragraph of opposition, I disagree, for the most part. Why would the yeshiva boys and girls stop coming just because Lapid cut that small budget? I would be willing to bet that most yeshiva students do not even know, at least not when they decide to come (maybe somewhere during the year they figure it out), that the government gives money to the yeshiva because of them. Most of the yeshivas charge tuition - Mir and a few others are the exception rather than the rule - and the boys do not even think about government funding, let alone make their decision to come or not based on it.

The only reason boys would stop coming as a result of this budget cut is if yeshivas will have to shut down or close their foreign student program because of the loss of government funding. I do not believe any yeshiva will shut down because of it - they will find alternative sources of funding, and might even need to start charging tuition (maybe even just a small amount to make up for this budget cut if not full tuition).

This budget item is definitely important for the yeshivas, and it seems that there is not much gain in canceling it, but to be honest I highly doubt yeshiva students will stop coming to Israel because of it.

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May 13, 2013

No money to draft the haredim

After all that, after the incendiary election campaign, after the invective thrown back and forth and the incessant fighting and bad blood generated in the process, the Finance Ministry is now saying they do not even have the money necessary to draft the haredim. Implementing such a process is very expensive, creating new units, incentivizing the target draftees, etc. With all the budget cuts, they just cannot come up with the money necessary for these programs.
(source: NRG)

Deputy Defense Minister Danny Danon, applying his wit and cynicism to the situation, says that despite current statements, he expects the Finance Ministry will be able to find and come up with the money necessary, as they turned this into a big issue. he said that this is an attempt to force them to cut money from elsewhere so that they will be able to use available funds for the draft of haredim.

It turns out, if this is the way it is going to go down, that there was not even a need to ban the haredim from the coalition. The purpose of that was to be able to push forth the agenda of drafting the haredim, and of implementing a core curriculum in the haredi educational system, without having to deal with the opposition and haggling of haredi coalition partners. if that is not going to happen, there was no reason to ban the haredim from the coalition.

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May 8, 2013

Bet Shemesh distributing money to shuls to make up for over-collecting arnona

An old story in Bet Shemesh has made the news again due to finally arriving at the next stage of the story...

Beginning in 2004, for a period of nearly 2 years, the City of Bet Shemesh collected much more arnona from residents than they had coming to them. A class-action suit was eventually filed against the City of Bet Shemesh claiming an excess of 4.8 million shekels had been collected, translating to 163 NIS per household in the city.

In the suit the City claimed it should not have to pay any money back because it needed the money, and even if it should be decided that they must, it did not have the ability to return the money to the residents due to the poor financial situation of the city coffers. A settlement was eventually reached in which the city agreed to pay back 41% of the debt, to the tune of 2 million NIS, but not to the residents. Because per resident the amount would be too little to be worthwhile, the money would go to a public fund from which everyone would benefit.

92.5% of the money would be distributed among 54 various shuls in the city (34,000 NIS per shul), and the balance would go to some other projects, including some renovations of the cemetery (installation of shading from the sun) and a bit of money to the youth club for Ethiopians on Narkiss st.

The Iryah defends the decision to do so saying that it ha snothing to do with being haredi. The arrangement was administered by the legal counsel of the city, a person who is not religious, and it was approved by the courts. Announcements were published a couple of times in the local press. Most of the city is religious and traditional, so everyone is benefiting from the money in this way. Every shul that requested to receive some of the money, was included in the distribution.
(source: Calcalist)

It must be pointed out that the distribution of the money is being handled by this Iryah, but the case really happened under previous administrations.

Putting that aside, I see no reason that this demand of the City to not give the money back to residents should have been accepted. If they did not have enough money to give out, they could have credited the accounts of residents from future arnona payments.

Who are they to say that 63 NIS is so little it is not worth giving that amount out? If I would have shorted them in my arnona payments they would come after me and charge me interest and put liens on my property for the sum of 163 NIS. They would not forgo the money saying ti is not worth collecting such a paltry sum. If they knew how to collect it improperly, they should have given it back to anyone who overpaid. And there should not have been a settlement. They over-collected, they should return the money. if I owe money they do not knock off half my debt...

I would also like to see a break-down of which shuls are getting part of the settlement. Only 54 shuls are included. I dont know how many are in the city, but 54 does not sound like it even comes close to that number. There are probably 50 in RBS A alone. So, if only 54 are part of the distribution, it means many shuls did not ask - probably being they did not know about it. Is the distribution being handled fairly or not? I don't know, but 54 sounds like there is something fishy. Maybe only shuls that existed in those years of the over-collecting should have been included. Also, maybe shuls in neighborhoods where people pay less, and therefore probably were not over-collected from (or less was over-colected from them) should not be included.

This has nothing to do with being haredi or not haredi, but it has everything to do with improper administration of the city, from start to finish.


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Feb 17, 2013

Headline of the Day

Shlomo Maoz: Life expectancy is going up, and that is a problem. People here are refusing to die

  -- Globes

Shlomo Maoz, an economist who ran for a spot in the Likud primaries, said the above during a discussion about budget cuts, the budget deficit, and rising expenses and was talking about the increased expenses as a result of living longer, having to care for parents, children living at home longer, etc. Obviously and deservedly it caused quite a stir.

We should be proud that we have been able to increase life expectancy, by having better health care, by caring better for the environment in the form of less pollution, cleaner water sources and healthier foods with less waste that is not bio-degradable (or at least more of an awareness of the issues), more exercise, etc.

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Sep 6, 2012

interesting Psak: Economic Suicide

According to Ynet, a Palestinian mufti has issued a ruling saying that it is forbidden to commit suicide despite the lousy economy.

The question asked to the mufti was regarding the permissibility of lighting oneself on fire as a form of protest against the difficult economic situation.

The Jews burning themselves in protest should take heed as well.. and there are less painful methods of suicide, if one feels he must...

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Quote Of The Day

Tell me, how should all those idiots who paid their taxes on time feel? What are they supposed to think now? People kept the law, they paid their taxes to the Tax Authority, whether it was individuals or businesses - what are they supposed to think? That they were suckers? they were idiots? That one day the Finance Minister would come along and change the law to benefit those who did not pay and waited it out for the right time?

  -- MK Shelly Yachimovitch, regarding the Finance Ministers decision to wipe out some backtaxes owed by the huge conglomerates..

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Sep 5, 2012

We'll Hold Your Stolen Money Until Eliyahu Arrives

The Yated floated an amazing new concept that really cracked me up when I first heard of it (thanks, TS).

A group running a gmach from Jerusalem has created a new foundation, called "V'Heishiv". The purpose of the new foundation is to give an opportunity to the community of God-fearers, as it provides an opportunity to return debts, before the Day of Judgement - debts that are unknown in nature, and for children to give merit to dead parents who might have passed away leaving open debts.

What they do is, if someone thinks he might have a debt that he cannot repay, he is in a bind as he wants to repay his debt, he does not want to hold money that is not his, yet he has no way to do so. That person will now be able to give an estimated amount of money, enough that he would be comfortable thinking he has covered his possible debt, and deposit that sum with this new foundation, VHeishiv. VHeishiv will receive the money, with a kinyan, on behalf of the real owner, despite the owner being unknown. They can do this, seemingly, because anyway the owner, if such a debt ever existed in the first place, by now does not expect to get it repaid ever. This becomes a merit for them, as the money will be used for lending interest-free, and whatever else (presumably mitzvos) the gmach funds, and eventually, when Eliyahu arrives bearing the news of Mashiach's immediate arrival, Eliyahu will clarify who owes whom money and the money will be given to the rightful owners. They, by doing this, are saving you from possible theft.

The article in the Yated lists a bunch of rabbis who supported the idea of the foundation.

So, if you want to be machmir with your money, if you think you might owe somebody money but just cannot remember who it is or how much, just send the money to this group and they will hold it for you until Eliyahu arrives.

I love it!

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Aug 29, 2012

Members of Government Should Be Removed from Their Personal Finances

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu made some crazy mistake the other day. he requested permission to make changes to his investments portfolio.

Now, after the mess with Dan Hakutz on the eve of the Second Lebanon War, Netanyahu should have known that making such a request would cause a ruckus. What does he know about either the economy or about a possible attack on or by Iran that we do not know about? I don't know how he could have thought that this request would not get picked up by the media and turned into a big deal. Granted, it is not as bad as what Halutz did - Halutz was sellling his stocks as he decided to declare war. Netanyahu might have some foreknowledge of events, but he isnt declaring war while preoccupied with his stocks.

I was thinking about this for a bit, and then I saw the MK Shelly Yachimovitch wants to make all MKs and ministers declare their investments and holdings. This would add a level of transparency and remove some suspicion of conflicts of interest or taking advantage of secret information.

I think that that is not enough. I think all MKs and ministers should be obligated, upon being sworn in to the position, to liquidate all their investments and the money could be put into some low-risk fund controlled by a money manager employed by the Knesset or Finance Ministry. that might be going too far and might be considered unfair to those wanting to serve the public, so another option would be that the MK or minister would have to disassociate himself from his holdings and have a financial adviser deal with all aspects of his investments. To the point even that the MK should not even know in what companies he holds stocks or bonds. he should not know anything about it. it should all be completely controlled by his financial guy, who will have power of attorney to buy and sell on the MKs behalf and they will not be allowed to consult with each other.

I don't know which idea is better or worse, but both of them, I think, solve the issue of conflict of interest. The problem is not just with the PM or DM about to declare war but trading stocks instead. the problem is found in every vote that any MK is involved in. Is he voting this way because it will affect his protfolio like this or that? Is he supportive of this bill because of how it will affect his portfolio? Is he trading based on inside information he has becaus eof his work in the government? I mean, how many wealthy MKs and ministers have we seen who have been public servants their entire lives? Somehow enough  of them are getting wealthy by working in government, and that raises suspicion as to their sincerity and honesty.

Completely removing them from the picture of handling investments would remove the suspicion, and especially the conflict of interest.

What do you think?

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