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Apr 29, 2010

Bittul Torah

Bittul Torah was in the Haredi news twice yesterday:
  1. One of the reasons given for not making a vort.
  2. The reason given for allowing anyone to go up to Meron on Lag B'Omer
Rav Shteinman said the first, and Rav Kanievsky said the second.

Rav Shteinman is a supporter of finding ways to cut down the expenses the parents take on when marrying off children. Way too much money, money that the parents usually do not have, is being spent.Rav Shteinman wrote against the vort, or engagement party, saying that no party should be held, rather just have a small vort, usually in the kallah's house. (source: Bechadrei)

Rav Shteinman gave three reasons:
  1. The expense is too great and there is no need
  2. ayin ha'ra - anything that is "public" does not bring good fortune and success.
  3. bittul torah is caused by these parties, as the friends of the chosson all have to stop learning and participate in these parties.
Regarding Lag B'Omer, Rav Chaim Kanievsky was approached by a group of hassidim who asked him a number of questions about going to Meron. Rav Kanievsky said kohanim could go to meron and can daven from wherever they can see the tziyun, there is no need to actually get into the room and be by the grave itself, but anywhere in the complex is called being by the grave.

When asked if there is any reason to go to meron, Rav Kanievsky said "if you are not learnign anyway, so go to Meron.".
This prompted a further question that it is brought down that the Arizal himself went on Lag B'Omer.
Rav Kanievsky responded with a rhetorical question - "Are you the Arizal?" and that it says the Arizal himself went to the grave. It does not say he told other people to go. (source: Haredim wap site)

Interesting Posts #155

1. LoZ on Hebrew Charter Schools

2. Somehow Frum has hit his goal and his objective. Great job.

3. The Muqata tells Eli Yishai to decline his invitation to the White House.

Bet Shemesh in the news

And in other, more positive, Bet Shemesh news, Bet Shemesh as won a prize, for the first time ever, for proper management.

The Interior Ministry, or Misrad HaPnim, has awarded the prize for good management, aka minhal takin, for 2009 to Bet Shemesh.

The prize is awarded for proper management of the local financial systems.
Mayor Moshe Abutbol said that he would donate the money from the prize to be designated for building a house for "Yad L'Banim", in memory of the sons and daughters of Bet Shemmesh who have been killed in Israel's wars. (source: Mynet)

Kol Hakavod!
And in more Bet Shemesh news, Bet Shemesh has been having, as it does every year, an awareness week regarding the dangers of playing with fire. This awareness week is held every year just before Lag B'Omer. Many school kids, including two of mine yesterday, have been visiting the local fire station and seeing presentatations about the dangers of fire and precautions one must take around fire.
To stress the importance of fire safety, Mayor Moshe Abutbol himself participated in the presentation yesterday, playing the part of someone stranded in a building on fire and needing to be rescued. He was connected to a zip line and slid down to safety, to the cheers of all the school kids.. (source: Bechadrei)


@Judahe on Twitter uploaded the following "picture of the Shomronim celebrating Pesach Sheni. Sure beats the way we celebrate it, by eating a piece of matza....

better racist humor

While on the recent topic of possibly racist humor, and Jim Jones' joke was attacked as anti-semitic but was really just a poor delivery of an old joke, this joke told yesterday, really just a cynical crack, was pretty funny.

In a discussion regarding the refusal to accept sefardic girls in haredi schools (the ashkenazy schools), Yitzchak Pindros, deputy mayor of Jerusalem, supposedly responded to the Meretz rep who was badgering him and said, "at Haredi education we do not accept Sephardim, monkeys, Russians and Ethiopians"

Oops. He didn't expect the firestorm, and is now denying he actually said it, though it appears in the minutes of the meeting as well.

Ambassador Michael Oren on Iran and Israel (video)

Roberts repeatedly tries to bait Oren into saying Israel will attack, but Oren is smart enough to not fall into the trap...

Tibi tossed, Marzel praises (video)

MK Ahmed Tibi reached the time limit during his speech in Knesset yesterday. After he was not allowed to continue, as per the rules, Tibi stood his ground like an obstinate ox and refused to leave the podium. To the point where MK Shama had to call the ushers to physically remove Tibi from the podium.

Baruch Marzel later publicized the following message that he had sent to MK Shama. He wrote:

Kol Hakavod for throwing out the dangerous and arrogant enemy Ahmed Tibi from the podium of the Knesset, and for erasing his smile.. this was the beginning. This terrorist needs to be exiled to Khaddafi in Libya. We are here to give you continued assistance.
Baruch Marzel

What a crazy Knesset we have...

Apr 28, 2010

Interesting Posts #154

1. Frum N Flippin is trying something new and has posted a shidduch experiment...

2. Holy Exposures has posted the Top Ten Reasons RBS A is a great place to live... very important after reading about fights and controversy...

3. Yaak continues blogging about the volcano and geula..


Doing the Right Thing

And speaking of mikvas... here is a nice story of someone who sinned and repented in the mikvah.

One day, the safe in the mikvah was stolen, with about 1100 NIS in it. The investigation turned up nothing.

Five years later a repentant avreich turns up to the management and says he wants to pay in full for what he stole, including the cost of the safe. At the time he had been going through a bad period and had "turned off the path", but has since returned and the incident and what he had done is weighing heavily on his conscience.

The mikvah issue from the Haredi point of view

Catriel Lev, a resident of RBS and one who is active in the many aspects of the community, met with Rabbi Malinowitz to hear "his side of the story" regarding the mikvah issue.

Here is his report, and it accurately relates Rav Malinowitz's POV, and has been verified as recorded accurately by Rav Malinowitz.

I met with Rabbi Chaim Malinowitz on Monday, the 26th of April, 2010, to hear his opinions on the Mikvaot controversy.

I request that those people interested in the situation read all of his opinions (which are listed below) carefully, and not be deterred by whatever they do not agree with; since, though I am quite certain that some of his outlook is mistaken, it seems to me that most of the disagreements are about what happened in the past, but that there are many points where his opinions as to what should be in the future are identical with what the Dati-Leumi community feels should be in the future.

So, since Rabbi Malinowitz is certain that what he has stated is absolutely the way the Mikvaot should be run, there should be a way to work with him to ensure that this is what occurs in practice, even if it has not been occurring until now, though Rabbi Malinowitz disagrees about the past and is certain that everything has been done properly even in the past.

Here are Rabbi Malinowitz's opinions as he has told them to me and what, to his knowledge, is true:

Since RBS-Alef is at least one half Chareidi, and based upon the last election probably at least 60% Chareidi, that segment of the population deserves to have the nihul of at least one half of the Mikvaot in RBS-Alef done by its Rabbis, as indeed is anyway the case in much of the country (that the mikvaot are under the nihul of Chareidi Rabbonim).

All that the Chareidi Rabbis of RBS-Alef are demanding now is to have the nihul of one half of the Mikvaot in the neighborhood as per the signed agreement; no Chareidi Rabbi, to his knowledge , is pressuring the Mayor to give total control of the Mikvaot to Chareidi Rabbis. He does not know if Chareidi politicians are doing something like that or not, but to the best of his knowledge the Chareidi Rabbis of RBS-Alef are not applying such pressure.

What is happening is that certain non-Chareidim are demanding annulment of the existing signed agreement. What needs to be investigated is: who is the source of the statements that Chareidi Rabbis want total control of all Mikvaot, and the other lies. These lies are being orchestrated, in his opinion, in order to annul the existing signed agreement.

He agrees ,and all the Chareidi rabbonim agree, that one must be very careful not to cause women to stop keeping the Mitzvah of being tovel in a Mikveh. All Mikveh ladies (balaniot) in the Chareidi-run Mikvaot of RBS-Alef are instructed to accept whatever a woman says is a Psak from her Rabbi (whether he is Chareidi or not), not to coerce her into things which are against that Psak, not to touch a woman's body without her permission, and not, chas veshalom, to refuse her the use of the Mikveh because of these things.

Rabbi Malinowitz expressed that he wants to know about any case where a Mikveh lady did not follow these directives, so that he, and the other Rabbis, can ensure that it will be corrected and not happen in the future. If a woman does not feel comfortable discussing these situations with him, he requested that she have her Rabbi contact him with the details, so that he, and the other Rabbis, can ensure that whatever objectionable behavior occurred will not be repeated.

When women contacted him regarding the Mikveh situation he never asked them for details of incidents which they claimed occurred to them, he only told them that Email is not an appropriate way to discuss such matters and that they should meet.

The Chareidi Rabbis of RBS-Alef are making great efforts to have the Mikveh built which is planned for Nachal Luz; but the recent financial problems in the world have made this very difficult, and the ground has yet to been broken for the building of that Mikveh. It is planned to be a Mikveh with American-style amenities that will attract women to be tovel in the Mikveh, and will be under the auspices of Rabbi Davidowitz whose directives, as mentioned above, are to accept whatever a woman says is a Psak from her Rabbi (whether he is Chareidi or not).

According to the present signed agreement, after the Mikveh on Nachal Lachish is renovated , it will be under the sole auspices of Rabbi Spector, and the Mikveh on Nachal Dolev will be under the sole auspices of Rabbi Davidowitz until the Mikveh on Nachal Luz is completed. After the Mikveh on Nachal Luz is completed, the Mikveh on Nachal Dolev will be under the sole auspices of Rabbi Spector, and the Mikveh on Nachal Lachish, in addition to the one on Nachal Luz, will be under the sole auspices of Rabbi Davidowitz.

Down the Drain

I dont know what time that burst pipe started spewing its water, but I called 106 when I saw it. Impressively they answered the phone right away and as soon as I started to talk they told me they already know about it and are dealing with it.

An hour and a half later the pipe was still shpritzing out its water like a geyser.

Apr 27, 2010

Jones tells a bad joke (video)

General James Jones tells a joke at a dinner, and gets howls from the crowd.

Jones has since apologized. He says he is not an anti-Semite and it was not meant to be taken that way.

I don't really care. I like a good joke, even if it is about the Jews. I think everything can be made into humor, and it should be taken as just that humor. As long as it is presented as humor and not as hatred or spitefulness.

That being said, I take offense at the joke above because it is not funny. It is an old joke and he did not even present it well. As someone who enjoys good humor I take offense at Jones' joke because of the way he told it and destroyed the joke, taking all humor out of it. I think humor enthusiasts all over should register their insult.

Local Iryah inefficiency or scam?

It looks like our efficient Iryah has figured out an efficient way of scamming the residents out of their money. I say "scamming" because that is what it looks like. I was willing to call it a glitch and a mistake, but people affected told me that that is not the case and this was changed "lechatchila".

It seems the City of Bet Shemesh decided, I have no idea why, to wipe their records clean. Of course they didn't wipe the records of who owes how much money to them clean. Rather, to wipe clean the details of how many people live in each household.

This is a detail that affects the price each household will pay for their water.

In the middle of the winter last year, the government decided to impose a water tax on every household due to the severe water shortage. The price to be paid was determined to be a sliding scale, depending on how many people live in each house. The more people, obviously, the greater the allotment of water at the cheaper rates.

To get the higher allotments, all you had to do was update your details at the Iryah, show them your teudat zehut that says how many members of your family... and presto, you have more water at cheaper prices.

Granted, at the time it was a big hassle. You could fax a form in, but more often than not they didn't update the records in a timely fashion and residents still had to pay higher prices on at least one bill. That is if they even updated the records at all based on the form. The only way to be 100% sure the records were updated was to actually go down to the office physically, take care of it and ask them for confirmation.

Ok, no big deal. It was a new system, there were sure to be glitches and inefficiencies. Not such a big deal.

Now, 6 months later, people are getting their new bills about now, and many people are opening their bills to see they are paying the higher rates on their water usage. Why? Upon further inspection they are noticing that the bill at the top states how many people live in the household and their number was reset back to the default of 2. That means a family of 5 kids is now paying the regular rates for 2 people, and the rest of the water usage for the other 5 kids is being paid at higher rates ( no longer in the form of a tax, as the drought tax was canceled, but the water rates themselves are also on a sliding scale per members of the household).

BH, I did not have this problem on this bill (who knows what will happen on the next bill..) and mine still has the correct number of family members on it.

A lot of people though are getting the bills with the number reset to 2.

The following is an email a friend sent to me about it:

A quick warning for anyone that changed the amount of persons living in your house for the purposes of the water calculation on your iriya bills...
The iriya apparently sent out a notice with the last bill that you needed to update the amount of people living in your house...seeing as i had done that only a few months earlier, i just assumed that they were talking about people that had not updated them (I admit that i do not recall reading the notice, i assumed it was not relevant). Evidently they wiped the slate clean on this billing cycle (perfectly logical that my kids all left home at that span...my one-year old is especially enjoying life out in the real world...) and so this month we were charged with water as a 2 person household again....
Make sure you check your bill and update the iriya as necessary (you need the "sefach" of your TZ as evidence of how many people live at home..)
this seems like a pretty backhanded way for the iriya to make some extra cash and i am not impressed....

I have no idea why they would wipe their records clean and make everyone come register again. I would really prefer to say the whole thing was a glitch, as glitches and mistakes do happen in any and every system. Unfortunately it just looks like another stupidity coming out of our local bureaucracy, and possibly might be a real scam to get more money out of unsuspecting residents who don't pay such close attention to the fine print.

Noah's Ark Discovered?

Has Noah's Ark finally been discovered?

Nobody knows where the Ark landed after the flood, though the strongest suspicion has always been in Turkey.

A group of explorers is saying they may have discovered the ark on Mount Ararat in Turkey..

A group of Chinese and Turkish evangelical explorers said Monday they believe they may have found Noah's Ark -- four thousand metres up a mountain in Turkey.

The team say they recovered wooden specimens from a structure on Mount Ararat in eastern Turkey that carbon dating proved was 4,800 years old, around the same time the ark is said to have been afloat.

"It's not 100 percent that it is Noah's Ark but we think it is 99.9 percent that this is it," Yeung Wing-cheung, a Hong Kong documentary filmmaker and member of the 15-strong team from Noah's Ark Ministries International told AFP.

The structure had several compartments, some with wooden beams, which were believed to house animals, he said.

The group of evangelical archaeologists ruled out an established human settlement on the grounds that one had never been found above 3,500 metres in the vicinity, Yeung said.

Local Turkish officials will ask the central government in Ankara to apply for UNESCO World Heritage status so the site can be protected while a major archaeological dig is conducted, Yeung added.

The biblical story says God decided to flood the earth after seeing how corrupt it had become, and told Noah to build an ark and fill it with two of every animal species.

After the flood waters receded, the Bible says, the ark came to rest on a mountain. Many believe that Mount Ararat, the highest point in the region, is where the ark and her inhabitants came aground.


Abbas: I don't want to declare unilateral statehood

-- Haaretz

Now that President Barak Obama has changed his tune, and has decided not to be so aggressive against Israel's position, it seems the Palestinian are getting back to their normal obtuseness and not going the extra mile they have during the past year with all sorts of new demands.

Splitting the mikva or splitting the community

The mikva fight in RBS that came to air over the past few days is one of those volatile tinder boxes that could destroy the seemingly peaceful atmosphere that generally prevails in the neighborhood.

For those not from RBS who don't know what is going on, an email was sent to the local neighborhood email list mentioning that the haredim are trying to take control of the Dolev Mikva, and also mentioned a number of problems already on the haredi half of the split mikva that will be exacerbated if they are allowed to take over and control the whole mikva. The writer asked that women call the mayor to complain, and by doing so help to thwart the takeover.

A response to that email was sent in the name of a rav who said the contents of the email were not true, for more information be in touch privately.

After that a number of other people wrote to the list each stating their perception of the problem with the mikva takeover bid.

Here is the background as I understand it. There was originally one mikva built in the neighborhood. That one mikva also had a fight at the time over who would control it, and control was split between the general community, headed by the "moetza ha'datit" - religious council responsible for mikvas and eruvs and other religious services, and the second half, dubbed the "mehudar mikva" for some reason (strange since they were built together, so the hiddur was really just in having haredi "balaniot") controlled by the local Haredi rabbonim.

And peace reigned. For the most part. Over the years there were problems and little fights. but overall, peace reigned.

Then the city built a second mikva - the Dolev Mikva. Again, control was split by the Moetza HaDatit controlling the "left side" and the local Haredi rabbonim controlling the right side.

And peace reigned supreme.

At that point, the original mikva, which was always considered problmeatic and poorly contructed and designed, was closed for repairs. It remained closed for a long time, and is still closed, rendering the Dolev Mikva to be the only mikva in the neighborhood.

And then the Mikva was politicized. It was used in a deal negotiated on behalf of coalition stability. It was used in horsetrading - the Dati Leumi representative agreed that the DL community (i.e. the Moetza Datit) would control the Lachish Mikva when it would reopen, and the Haredim would eventually take over the Dolev Mikva. This was in exchange for a guarantee that the Dati Leumi would retain control over the Moetza HaDatit and their guy, Ben-Margi, would be left in charge of the Council and not be replaced.

And peace reigned supreme.

And then RBS G came to a vote. The DL reps voted against, and the mayor tossed them out of the council coalition. And then, ripped up the agreement to keep Ben-Margi in his position, and instead replaced him with a Shas guy, Yehuda Medzizda.

Despite the fact that that half of the agreement was deemed null and void because B'Yachad was no longer part of the coalition, the second half of the agreement, the part about the mikvas, is still on the slate for being implemented.

So now, as the Ashkenazy Haredi rabbonim are pressuring Abutbol to come through and implement the original agreement, the DL community is upset that they are getting short shifted. They lost the Moetza HaDatit, and they are losing the mikva.

On the one hand, by law the mayor has no say in this. And it is political interference for him to influence religious services with political bartering. And the Moetza HaDatit, by law, is the only body authorized to provide these services, and no private party can control a city religious service. Build a private mikva/ No problem. But not a city mikva.

On the other hand, the DL rep, ostensibly with the, perhaps tacit, authorization of the community they represent - isn't that the definition of appointing a leader to represent the community? that they have the right to speak on behalf of the community because they seemingly know what the community wants and what is in its best interests? - was willing to give up the Dolev Mikva and take only the Lachish Mikva, despite knowing that it is a lousy mikva.

So, if they were willing to take the Lachish Mikva then, and give up the Dolev Mikva, why complain about it now?

I understand complaining about the agreement being only partially implemented, to the detriment of the DL community. But complaining about the details of the Dolev Mikva and the way it is run and what might happen if it is taken over by the Haredim, that is something they were ok with until now, and only because they lost the Moetza HaDatit are they upset about this. It seems a bit disingenuous of them.

There are issues about the way the mikva is run, and I know some of the issues were resolved over the past few days as the rabbonim were approached and told what the facts on the ground are about how the balaniot deal with certain situations, but that is really just putting out fires and not really indicative of running the mikva with reason.

Of course, the issue of the law remains, and it remains a question how the mikva could be bartered when the law says it has to be in the hands of the Moetza HaDatit. Perhaps it is simply a matter of being willing to just look away on behalf of communal peace (assuming it was under agreement), but this is one avenue that can be pursued.

Another issue is that Mayor Moshe Abutbol has refused to meet with the DL representatives to discuss possible solutions. He is supposedly coming under heavy pressure by the Ashkenazy rabbonim and askanim to transfer control of the Dolev Mikva, and does not seem, as usual, to be able to stand up to them.

I don't understand why this is an issue right now, as the Lachish Mikva is still not open. Perhaps it is goign to open very soon. I don't know. But even if the original agreement is goign to be upheld, fairly or unfairly, it should not be done so before the Lachish Mikva is reopened.

Also, the agreement is not really logical, as Dolev is really the higher concentration of the Masorati and Dati community, while Lachish is more of a concentration of the Haredi community. So the control is being given in a backwards way. Except for the fact that Dolev is a better constructed mikva, so even though it doesnt make much sense based on location, that is the one everybody prefers.

The DL and Sefardi communities are trying to apply pressure back on Abutbol by enlisting Rav Ovadia Yosef. Abutbol is listening to the Ashkenazim, and perhaps getting Rav Ovadiah to state his opinion on the matter, about how sefardi women are being forced to dip in ways that do not conform with Sefardi halacha (lchatchila at least), that might apply opposing pressure on Abutbol to rethink the matter.

So, I think the DL argument, except on specific "how the women are treated and checked" issue, which I dont want to get into, is disingenuous, because they were willing to give up Dolev and are protesting it now because they are now losing everything. At the same time, if the first half of the agreement was nulled out and voided, the second half should be as well. Along with the law. Along with the question of whether the mikva, and other religious, services should be part of political barter at all.

One thing I don't understand is why the current arrangement cannot remain in place. Why not let the mikva remain split in half, if that has allowed peace to reign until now, and let the Haredim control the right half and the DL control the left half. Why is there a need to take over the whole mikva? This is something I don't understand.

One more thing, the numbers supposedly are clear that almost 2/3 of the women using the Dolev mikva (again, for the past year at least, the only mikva in the neighborhood) are using the DL side. They know this based on the payments collected on both sides. While the Haredi side might be more crowded in general, that is probably because the balaniot are taking upwards of 15-20 minutes to check each woman, thus causing a long line to form, while on the DL side they are moving women along at a brisker pace.

My recommendation, worthless as it is, is to allow us all to continue living peacefully together, and allow the current arrangements to continue with the mikva split in half, allowing women to continue using whichever side they want (even though this solution is not ideal).

The following letter (translation after the original Hebrew) is written by Rav Nir Vargon, Rav of the Ramat Shalom shul and community.

שערוריות הפוליטיזציה של שירותי הדת בבית שמש/ ניר ורגון

נפתח בחידה: מי צריך לפקח על מקווה של המועצה הדתית אשר בנייתו והוצאותיו השוטפות ממומנים מכספיה של המועצה הדתית, ואשר שני שליש מהטובלות בו מעוניינות בפיקוח של המועצה הדתית אבל מצד שני לחרדים האשכנזים יש כוח חזק במועצת העיר? אם עניתם שהמועצה הדתית צריכה לפקח, תשובתכם נכונה לכל מקום בעולם, חוץ מבית שמש.

ברמת בית שמש א' ברחוב נחל דולב, ישנו מקווה חדש יחסית, שנבנה מכספי המועצה הדתית והוצאותיו השוטפות מקופת המועצה הדתית.

לאחר הבחירות בהם התחזק הציבור החרדי האשכנזי באופן משמעותי, החליטו הרבנים החרדים האשכנזים שיש לתרגם את הכוח הפוליטי לשליטה על המקווה, והחתימו את ראש העיר החדש מר משה אבוטבול על הסכם קואליציוני (להלן "ההסכם הידוע לשמצה"), שלפיו המקווה בדולב יעבור לשליטה חרדית אשכנזית מלאה, ונשים שאינם מעוניינות בבדיקות הקפדניות והמתמשכות הנהוגות אצלם ולקבל את פסקיהם המחמירים, ייאלצו ללכת למקווה ישן יותר, קטן יותר, ומרוחק יותר בנחל לכיש.

כמובן יש לציין שהסכם ידוע לשמצה זה, לא עבר את מליאת המועצה הדתית והוא נחתם על ידי ראש העיר בטרם נכנס לתפקידו באופן רשמי, כך שאין לו שום תוקף רשמי.

הסכם זה לא יושם מיד, כיוון שהמקווה בלכיש נכנס להליך של שיפוצים. בינתיים הוסכם שהמקווה בדולב יחולק לשנים. אגף רגיל בהשגחת המועצה הדתית, ואגף חרדי שלמרות היותו ממומן על ידי המועצה הדתית, הפיקוח בו הוא של הרב דודוביץ' ושות' חברי עמותת "מים טהורים" החרדית האשכנזית. באגף זה הבדיקות קפדניות ביותר באופן שאינו מחוייב על פי עיקר הדין, ובכל שאלה הלכתית פונים אך ורק לרב דוידוביץ' ושות', שאינם ידועים כמקילים דגולים. הסיבה לפיצול היא שבעיני הרב דודוביץ' ושות', הרב ביטון רב העיר והרב ספקטור האחראי על המקוואות אינם נחשבים רבנים. יש לציין שהסדר זה רחוק מלהיות כשר למהדרין מבחינה חוקית.

מנתוני התשלום למקווה בהסדר הזה עולה, שרק כשליש מהטובלות משתמשות בחצי החרדי האשכנזי, ואילו שני שליש מהטובלות משתמשות בחצי שבפיקוח של המועצה הדתית.

בעקבות הדחתו של ראש המועצה הדתית מהמפד"ל והחלפתו באיש ש"ס יהודה מדזדה, החליטו הרבנים החרדים האשכנזים שהגיע העת לקבל שליטה על כל המקוואות, גם בלכיש וגם בדולב בניגוד להסכם הידוע לשמצה. בעקבות פעילות נמרצת של רבני רמת בית שמש ונציגות הנשים יוזמה זו נבלמה. אך ראש העיר בליווי הרב דוידוביץ', נציג הרבנים החרדים האשכנזים, כפה על רב העיר הרב ביטון את יישום ההסכם הידוע לשמצה בפגישה שבה הושמץ הרב ספקטור ולא הורשה להשתתף.

כל מאמציהם של רבני הקהילות ברמת בית שמש א', ונציגות נשי רמת בית שמש א' להיפגש עם ראש העיר ולהניאו מההחלטה, עלו בתוהו. לראש העיר אין זמן להיפגש עם נציגי הציבור ברמת בית שמש א' אלא רק עם הרב דוידוביץ', נציג החרדים האשכנזים.

מדוע אני מכנה הסכם זה הסכם הידוע לשמצה?

מפני שמועצה דתית מקומית אמורה לספק שירותי דת בהתאם לצורכי הציבור ולא בהתאם לכוח פוליטי והסכם קואליציוני.

האם יעלה על הדעת שחרדים אשכנזים יקבלו מים נקיים וזולים יותר, גז מהיר וזול יותר רק מפני שהם זכו בבחירות?

האם יעלה על הדעת שעירייה תנהל מדיניות, על פי הסכמים שנחתמו בחדרי חדרים, בלי לעבור את מועצת העיר?

האם יעלה על הדעת שראש העיר יכתיב לרב העיר ולראש המועצה הדתית כיצד לנהל את המקוואות, ולמעשה יפקיע מסמכותם את ניהול המקוואות?

האם יעלה על הדעת שראש העיר פוגע בשני שליש מציבור הנשים ברמת בית שמש א', מבלי שהוא מוכן אפילו להיפגש איתם ועם רבניהם?

בכינוס חירום של "וועד הפעולה למען השוויון בשירותי הדת", שהתקיים במוצאי שבת ד' אייר הוחלט שלא יעלה על הדעת. אנחנו יוצאים למאבק לשימור המצב בו כל קבוצה תקבל מקווה לפי צרכיה. בוועד הפעולה שותפים רבני רמת בית שמש א' הרב יוסף אדרי – 'משכן אברהם ומאיר', הרב שי נפתלי – 'בית הכנסת הספרדי רמת שילה',הרב בועז מורי – ראש ישיבת 'לב התורה', הרב יצחק עמיאור –בית הכנסת הספרדי 'אור ברמה', הרב רפאל רונס – 'בן צבי', הרב ניר ורגון – 'רמת שלום', הרב דניאל דרייר – 'נחלי תפילה', הרב חיים סולובייצ'יק –'אור שלום', הרב דניאל מאיירס – 'מנורת המאור' הרב איתיאל אריאל –'המרכזי האשכנזי', הרב מנחם קופרמן –'אהבת ציון', הרב זאב רונס – 'רמת שילה', ונציגות הנשים , ועוד נציגי ציבור.

אל תטעו, לא מדובר כאן על מאבק על מקוואות ברמת בית שמש א', אלא על צביונה של בית שמש כולה, ואולי גם על צביונה של המדינה כולה. מדוע?

האוכלוסיה החרדית האשכנזית מתרבה בכל המדינה, לא רק בבית שמש, ועיני איננה צרה בכך. אנו שמחים על כל תינוק יהודי שנולד תמיד, על אחת כמה וכמה במצבנו הדמוגרפי היום. אבל המשמעות של תהליך זה היא, שבשנים הקרובות האוכלוסיה החרדית האשכנזית תטפוס יותר ויותר עמדות שליטה בשילטון המקומי והארצי. אם לא נאבק על זכויותינו מול הכוח הפוליטי החרדי האשכנזי, אם לא נרגיל את הפוליטיקאים החרדים האשכנזים שהם חייבים להתחשב ולדאוג לצרכיהם של מי שאינו כמותם, מדינת ישראל תהפוך להיות מקום שקשה מאוד לחיות בו.

אבל אם נאבק ונצליח, אזי יש תקווה לחיים של אחווה שלום ורעות בין כל השבטים והעדות בישראל.

הכותב הוא רב בית הכנסת "רמת שלום" ברמת בית שמש א'

בשם וועד הפעולה למען השוויון בשירותי הדת

(my translation)

The Scandal of the Politicization of the Religious Services in Bet Shemesh, by Nir Vargon
We will start with a riddle: Who needs to supervise over the mikva of the Moetza HaDatit that was built and paid for by funding from the Moetza HaDatit, and where 2/3 of the women dipping in it are interested in the supervision by the MOetza HaDatit, yet from the other side, the Ashkenazy Haredim have a lot of power in the City Council?
If you answered that the Moetza HaDatit needs to be doign the supervision, your answer would be right everywhere in the world, except in Bet Shemesh.
In RBS A on Nahal Dolev there is a fairly new mikva, that was built with Moetza HaDatit funds, and is maintained from the Moetza HaDatit funds.
After the last elections, in which the Ashkenazy Haredi community was considerably strengthened, the Ashkenazi Haredi rabbonim decided to convert their political strength to cotrol over the mikva, and they signed an agreement with the new mayor, Moshe Abutbol, on a coalition agreement, in which it was agreed that the mikva of Nahal Dolev would be transferred to complete control by the Ashkenazy Haredim, and women not interested in the rigorous and lengthy inspections as is common by them, and not interested in using their stringent halachic decisions, can go to the older, smaller, mikva that is firther away on Nahal Lachish.
Of course, it should be stated, the agreement never passed the plenum of the Moetza HaDatit and was signed by the mayor before he officially took office, and therefore has no official validity.
The agreement was not implemented right away, as the mikva on Nahal Lachish was undergoing renovations. in the meantime, it was agreed that the Dolev Mikva would be split in two. The "regular" wing under the supervision of the Moetza HaDatit, and the "Haredi" wing despite being funded by the Moetza HaDatit. The supervision of Rav Davidovitz and partners as members of the
Haredi Ashkenazy amuta "Mayim Tehorim". In this wing the inspections are extremely strict in a way that is not obligatory according to the halacha, and any question that arises, the question is directed only to Rav Davidovitz and his amuta partners, who are not known as great "meikilim". The reason for the split is because in the eyes of Rav Davidovitz and partners, Rav Biton, the rav of Bet Shemesh, and Rav Spektor, the rav responsible for the city mikvas, are not considered rabbonim. It should be noted that this arrangement is far from being "kosher l'mehadrin" according to the law.
From analyzing the mikva payments under the current arrangements, it turns out that only 1/3 of the women dipping are using the "Haredi side", while 2/3 of the women dipping are using the side supervised by the Moetza HaDatit.
In the wake of the Head of the Moetza HaDatit from the Mafdal party being pushed out, and being replaced by Yehuda Medzida of Shas, the Ashkenazi Haredi rabbonim have decided that the time has come to take control over all the mikvas., on Lachish and on Dolev, against even the notorious agreement.
Due to furious activity by the rabbonim of RBS, and female representatives, this was thwarted. But the mayor, with Rav Davidovitz, the representative of the Ashkenazi Haredi rabbonim, forced upon the rav of the city Rav Biton the agreement and its implementation in a meeting in which Rav Spektor was vilified and was not allowed to participate in.
All efforts of the community rabbonim of RBS A, and the female representatives of RBS A, to meet with the mayor and to try to convince him to reverse his decision, have failed. The mayor doesn't have the time to meet with the community representatives of RBS A, but only with Rav Davidovitz, the rep of the Ashkenazi Haredim.
Why do I call the agreement "notorious"?
Because the local Moetza HaDatit is supposed to provide religious services in accordance with the needs of the community, and not based on political power and coalition agreements.
Is it conceivable that Ashkenazi Haredim should get cleaner and cheaper water, more efficient and cheaper gas, just because they won elections?
Is it conceivable that the City Council should direct a policy, according to agreements signed in back rooms, without passing them through the City Council?
Is it conceivable that the mayor should dictate to the rav of the city and the head of the Moetza HaDatit how to manage the mikvas, thereby taking away their authority in managing the mikvas?
Is it conceivable that the mayor would offend 2/3 of the women of RBS A, without even being willing to meet with them and with their rabbonim?
In an emergency meeting of the "Action Committee for Equality in Religious Services", that met on Motzei Shabbos, 4 Iyyar, it was decided that this is not conceivable. We are going to fight to maintain the status of every group having a mikva that meets its needs.
The Action Committee is made up of the following rabbonim of RBS A: Rav Yosef Edri, rav of Mishkan Avraham u'Meir; Rav Shai Naftali - Bet Knesset Sfardi Ramat Shilo; Rav Boaz Mori - Rosh Yeshivat Lev HaTorah; Rav Yitzchak Amior - Sfardi Bet Knesset Ohr B'Rama; Rav Raphael Ronnes - Ben Zvi; Rav Nir Vargon - Ramat Shalom; Rav Daniel Dryer - Nachalei Tefilla; Rav Chaim Soloveitchik - Ohr Shalom; Rav Daniel Myers - Menorat HaMaor; Rav Itiel Ariel - Central Ashkenazi; Rav Menachem Dopperman - Ahavat Tzion; Rav Zev Ronnes - Ramat Shilo, along with female representatives and other community leaders.
Don't be mistaken, We are not talking about a fight for the mikvas of RBS, rather over the character of RBS in general, and perhaps the character of the whole State.
The Ashkenazi Haredi community is growing all over the country, not just in Bet Shemesh, and I am not opposed to that. I am overjoyed for the birth of every jewish child, always, and especially in our current demographic situation. But the ramifications of this process is that in the coming years the Ashkenazi Haredi community will take more and more leadership positions, in local and national government. if we do not fight for our rights against the political power of the Ashkenazi Haredim, if we don't train the Ashkenazi Haredi politicians that they need to be considerate and concerned for the needs of others, the State will become a place in which it will be very difficult to live.
But we will fight and we will succeed, and there is hope for the ability to live in peace and harmony between all the tribes and ethnicities in the nation.
The author is the rav of Ramat Shalom in RBS A
In the name of the Action Committee for the Equality of Religious Services

I am actually very surprised by this, as I know Rav Davidovitz personally and he is not an extremist, and he is not a big machmir especially in inyanei taharas hamishpacha. For him to be running a "takeover" or a "land grab" just to be in control is not like him at all, so I don't understand the motives behind it.

Again, my recommendation, worthless as it is, is to allow us all to continue living peacefully together, and allow the current arrangements to continue with the mikva split in half, allowing women to continue using whichever side they want (even though this solution is not ideal).

Please follow two rules when commenting on this:
  1. if you are going to comment on any wording of the letter, please only comment on the Hebrew version. The English version is my translation and perhaps I used words that are not accurate and whose meaning was not intended by the original author.
  2. Please keep comments on topic and respectful. Preferably trying to find solutions to the problem.
Feel free to correct anything I wrote if you have better information, a better or more accurate understanding of the situation or if I made any mistakes or inaccuracies.

Apr 26, 2010

Clearing the Weeds

Kol Hakavod to Rabbi Dov Lipman.

After numerous accidents on Road 10, with the Iryah doing nothing to prevent further accidents, Rabbi Lipman went down to the danger zone to see why that intersection has so many horrible accidents. Rabbi Lipman saw that the drivers view at that intersection is completely blocked by weeds, thus causing a serious risk of crashing between drivers turning left and driver driving straight from the oncoming direction.

Rabbi Lipman saw the problem, and realized the Iryah had promised numerous times already to resolve it yet had never sent a team out to clear the weeds. If we would continue waiting for the Iryah, we would be told regularly of more and more accidents, some fatal, at that intersection.

Rabbi Lipman, arranged some volunteers to join him, got a local nursery to lend him some equipment, got a gardener to come help with a few of his employees, and went down there a couple of times and physically cleared the weeds.

At one point, the Iryah heard what he had done and promised to send a team out to finish the work. Sure enough, the Iryah never sent the team, so Dov Lipman again arranged a group of volunteers and went down there and cleared the rest of the weeds, with no help from the Iryah.

Kol HaKavod!

Delaying Lag B'Omer

I always did wonder why the religious parties always insist the State move any functions it promotes that would fall out on Saturday night to Sunday night instead so as to avoid creating a situation in which many people would desecrate the shabbos while making preparations for the event. Yet, the celebrations of Lag B'Omer that falls out on Saturday night is never delayed until Sunday night, despite similar concerns of chillul shabbos, whether it be by the bus drivers who have to prepare and get to their locations, be it people who prepare for various functions at the various parties. There is plenty of reason to be concerned that some people might be mechalel shabbos in the preparation of the parties.

We don't push off these celebrations, and for a long time I have wondered why.

Now, Rav Metzger has recommended that we do just that. He is promoting pushing off the celebrations of Lag B'Omer until Sunday afternoon, going into Sunday night and Monday.

Sure, less than a week to go is a bit late to make such a recommendation, and it has pretty much no chance to succeed (not just for that reason, but even that reason alone is enough to ensure the failure of the proposal), but it is still an interesting proposal.

MK Benny Begin on Israeli-Palestinian Diplomacy (video)

A Merlot Kiddush Hashem

The Hararei Kedem winery from Yitzhar just won 3 medals in the premier competition in Israel for wineries.

The categories in which Hararei Kedem won its medals were the Merlot, the Cabernet Sauvignon, and the Blended Cabernet.

I am an am haaretz when it comes to wines, but this sounds impressive.

Hararei Kedem is a unique winery in the sense that it is one of the few that both the vineyard and the winery are completely organic. As well, it is unique in the sense that it uses only Jewish labor.

Ariel Ben-Shitreet, upon receiving his awards as owner of the winery,said in his speech that his success is in the merit of the fact that the grapes used in the wine were grown in the portion of Yosef HaTzadik in Samaria, and because his vineyard "kept shmitta" completely.

In 2007, the 6th year of the shmitta cycle, Ben-Shitreet announced he would keep shmitta without looking for ways out. He was warned by experts that if he does not take care of his vines, the grapes would be ruined.

Instead, the result was the opposite. The amount of crop that grew that year was 3 times as much as usual, as Ben-Shitreet says, a clear manifestation of the words of the Torah that when shmitta is kept, crops in the 6th year will grow in abundance and be enough for 3 years - the 6th and subsequently the 7th and 8th, along with being a very high quality crop. (source: TOG)

A person who keeps a difficult mitzva like this with such simplicity and faith, and sees the words of the Torah manifest themselves before his eyes, is a true kiddush hashem.

Apr 25, 2010

Limiting Salaries

A law is being discussed in the government that would, if passed, limit the salary level the directors of public companies could earn. Is the USA "public companies" generally refers to companies trading on the stock market. In Israel "public companies" refers to companies under government regulation.

While the private sector can do whatever it wants and pay whatever types of salaries it wants, there is a lot of criticism when people find out that the CEO of a "public company", a company that is funded a lot by our taxes, is paying its directors and management teams ridiculous salaries, even to the tune of 1.5 million shekels a month!

The proposed law would limit the highest salary to 50 times what the lowest salary in the company is. Meaning, if the lowest salary in the company is 4000NIS per month, the highest salary could only be 200,000NIS per month.

I heard this morning on the radio an argument between Roni Rahav (a PR guy) and Minister Katz (one of the promoters of the proposed law) about this law. Roni Rahav made some good points, especially when he was presented with the question "why the director (some director in the misrad ha'otzar I think) needs so much money and what he can possibly do with 1.5million per month", he responded that it is nobodies business - he earns his salary legally, he pays taxes on it to the tune of 50% and he can do with his hard earned money whatever he wants and it is nobodies business.

Minister Katz on the other than did not really present any strong arguments. The main argument on his side is that it is a public company, not the private sector, and paying a director 1.5 million instead of 500,000, for example, has not been shown to increase the fortune of the company and is wasting government and taxpayer money.

I do like the concept of limiting the high salary to a multiple of the low salary - the directors will be more inclined to give the low end earners salary increases because by doing so they will be allowed to increase their own salaries as well... A win-win situation...

At the end of the day, Israel is a capitalist economical system and people will be paid what they are deemed to be worth.

stopping for pee-pee

I was listening to the radio a short while ago while driving and the radio host had a guest talkign about the upcoming traffic expected to Meron for Lag B'Omer.

The guest, some expert on road safety, was talking about how to be safe, rest before driving home, drive carefully, no alcohol, etc. with some very specific suggestions. It was a very interesting discussion, and what he stressed most of all was that there are going to be buses from all over all night long and there really is no reason to drive - it is just trouble and dangerous. Take the bus if at all possible.

I went up a few years ago ion Lag B'Omer night and I support what he said - take the bus if at all possible. You will be tired, it will be a hassle, it will be dangerous,, and you will save yourself a lot of hassle and trouble and danger by taking the bus.

But what I really want to point out was a funny aspect of the discussion. he repeated a few times, when discussing how to drive up safely for people who insist on driving their own cars - he kept mentioning not stopping on the side of the road for "pee pee", and not waiting until the last minute for kids who need "pee-pee" and then stopping in dangerous spots. Plan in advance where you will have a rest and "pee-pee" stop and stop there.

I thought that was funny. It felt like an "Only in Israel" would they discuss how to properly stop on the side of the road for "pee-pee". It is kind of gross, but is so common that it is just one of those things...

Strange argument about Meron

There is a strange argument going on regarding Lag B'Omer and Meron. The rebbe brothers, the Admorim of Toldos Aharon and Toldos Avraham Yitzchak, are kohanim. Their poskim are arguing whether or not kohanim are allowed to go to Meron, specifically on Lag B'Omer.

The issue is not the building containing the grave of Rabbi Shimon bar Yochai itself. Rather, the path up.

According to Rav Moshe Bransdorfer, a posek in the Toldos Avraham Yitzchak community, paskened that kohanim are not allowed to go to Meron. Any who do, should make their own bonfire at the bottom of the hill and not go all the way up. According to Rabbi Bransdorfer, the path, the whole mountainside actually, has graves underneath, all over the place. There is no way any kohein can go up. Even in spots where it is not definite, it has to be treated as problematic, as it is a safek d'oraisa, and there are graves all over so it has to be assumed even in "clean areas" as well.

Everyone else, especially in Toldos Aharon, is rejecting that opinion.

Very strange. Where have these graves been all along until now - why have they not been a problem?

Rav Stern, the Rav of the village of Meron, claims that there are no graves and there is no such problem. He suggests that there are "other motives" behind this.

Rav Stern's proof was that the gemara says when the Rashbi came out of the cave in Pekiin, he went to Tiberias and said because a miracle happened to him, he will perform a "tikkun". There in Tiberias, the road that kohanim need to circumvent because of questions of possible tumah, the Rashbi went and performed a tikkun to allow the kohanim to walk there.

Very strange.

Neturei Karta apologizes

I can't believe I am doing this, but I was sort of impressed, and definitely surprised, by this clarification, insulting as it is, sent out on the Neturei Karta email list that I felt like sharing it...

The original in Hebrew:
לגבי גיליון "משמרת היהדות" (וכיו"ב), כל מקום שנכתב שם "ציונים" הכוונה היא על משטר הרשע הציוני המוביל את עם בנ"י כולו להרג ואבדון גשמי ורוחני רח"ל, ואין כמובן כוונה על סתם המוני תמימים ופשוטי העם וכו' אשר אינם יודעים מאומה בעוה"ר מימינם ומשמאלם.
וכן מטרת הפגנת הצפירה וכו', היא למרוד בשלטון הרשע הציוני הרוצה לבלוע חי את העם היהודי כולו, להפר את חוקיו ו"קדושתו" האווילית, ולהצהיר הן כלפי יהודים והן כלפי גויים, שיהודים הנאמנים לתורת ישראל אינם נשמעים ואינם יכולים להשמע, לחוקי הסדום שנוסדו ע"י בני בליעל מעמנו, העוברים ומחללים בשאט נפש את כל התורה כולה.
אך אין כל כוונה או מטרה בפני עצמה בעת ההליכה בצפירה, לצער חלילה אנשים שקרוביהם נהרגו על מזבח הציונות והמרידה האסורה באומות, לא מצינו בכל התורה כולה שיש "מצווה" כזאת.
בכל הכבוד, המפיצים

My translation to English:
Regarding the issue of Mishmeret Hayahdut (note: their weekly newsletter), wherever it says "tzionim" it refers to the evil tziyoni government that is leading bnei yisroel to destruction both physical and spiritual and we have no intention to refer to the masses of simple people that don't know a thing or their right from their left...
As well, our protest of the siren is intended to rebel against the evil tziyoni government that want to swallow up the Jewish people.. blah blah blah... but we have no intention or objective by walking during the siren to cause any pain, God forbid, to people who's relatives were killed on the altar of Zionism and of rebelling against the nations. In all of the Torah there is no such mitzva to do that.

I am surprised they had the sensitivity to differentiate between the government and the people and basically apologized for insulting anyone unintentionally... Crazy way to say it, but they said it...

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