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May 31, 2010

Dealing with the enemy

Rav Shmuel Eliyahu has been in the press a lot recently, for a lot of provocative statements, and today he doesn't let us down.

In response to what happened with the Gaza flotilla, Rav Shmuel Eliyahu said, "We should raise our heads up against the accusations and criticisms pointed at Israel and say that this is what we had to do... There is no need to apologize, and it is a shame that the Israeli soldiers did not kill more...That is what any other country in the world would have done... Just because there are anti-semites in the world, does not mean we have to forgo our own rights."

And in response to accusations made by Arab MKs and to the incitement by Hamas, Rav Eliyahu said, "Hamas and their partners are the last who can teach anyone ethics and morals. Those who throw people from rooftops and drag them behind jeeps until their bodies are ripped apart and execute people without any judgment, should not try to teach us ethics. People live in a lie and deceive their own people with lies and hatred...
It is a shame that the billions they have received from countries around the world have been stolen to line their pockets and they have not built a single normal hospital, they have not paved a single normal road.. All they want is war and murder... Thank God [the IDF] did what they did to them, and it is a shame they did not kill more of them" (source: Srugim)

I am fairly liberal, and am ok with, or I should say resigned to, the idea of peace and land for peace, if a peace is possible and if they are willing to be peaceful with us.

On the other hand, I am far right wing when I believe that the other side is not peaceful and does not have peaceful intentions. Right now we are at war with them. If they want peace, our hand is extended. As long as they want war, and want to deceive the world into thinking we are bad, I am all for treating them like hostile enemy in every way possible.

As Rav Eliyahu says, they should have killed more. The boat should have "hit an iceberg" (in the Mediterranean) and been sunk early on during the voyage. The IDF should not have let this ordeal shlep out for so long.


The IDF soldiers act like Nazis

--- MK Taleb A-Sana

It is a shame that MK Taleb a-Sana did not merit to experience on his own body what the Nazi regime really is...

--- MK Aryeh Eldad

Time to slaughter the Turkey

With Turkey calling in the Israeli Ambassador for a scolding, I think Israel should pull its ambassador out of Turkey. And we should call in the Turkish Ambassador for a scolding over how they sent a boat to Gaza in a provocative fashion.

Israel has suffered enough humiliation at the hands of our friends the Turks. They get insulted and make a big deal over every little thing Israel says, but they feel free to provoke Israel without worrying about any response.

Enough is enough.

Time to respond in kind.

Call their ambassador in for a scolding and then pull our ambassador out of Turkey for "consultations" until the situation there calms down (it is very dangerous right now).

Bibi - Stay in the US

As a result of the Gaza flotilla, Netanyahu is considering cutting short his US trip and missing his meeting with President Obama.

I think that is a bad idea. This is not such a great crisis that demands his on-site management. Just as his relationship with Obama is finally beginning to warm up, it would be wrong to miss the meeting now, even if Obama would understand the urgency of a cancellation. More can be achieved by remaining in the US right now than by returning to deal with what is essentially a PR mess.

Defensible Borders for Israel (video)

I hope they find weapons

I sure as heck hope they find some weapons on the Gaza flotilla, because this was already a PR disaster, and will be much worse unless weapons are found. The details of what happened don't really matter, unless weapons are found. And unless weapons are found, it doesn't matter how right Israel was in our actions, as far as PR goes.

Then again, we are never good at PR, and opinion always goes against us, whether we are acting properly or not, so maybe it doesn't matter. Things will be much better, however, if they find weapons...

May 30, 2010

Secular schools and the lack of religion

Strange - Two issues about the same topic on the same day are always strange, and makes you wonder if it is a coincidence (is anything?) or somehow connected (more than "in the great scheme of things").

The first issue is Rav Ovadya Yosef's latest shiur that is sure to upset a lot of people. Rav Ovadya spoke about sending children to secular schools and said that someone wh does not educate his children in the ways of Torah and mistzvos will receive his punishment in both this and the next world.

Rav Ovadya said that in the secular education they don't teach about anything [Jewish] - not Pesach, not Sukkos, not holidays, not Shabbos, nothing. Their teachers are rebellious who are also mechalelei shabbos and eat non-kosher food, so what should the student do? he will be like that as well.

Rav Ovadya is stating what is wrong with the secular school system that does not teach jewish values and therefore ends up in the state it is in with horrible levels of violence and, according to the yearly results, decreasing levels of general education with fewer and fewer students succeeding in the matriculation exams along with lower and lower placement in education levels on international standards.

Perhaps if he were not so sharp and insulting about it some would actually listen to him and his ideas rather than reject him outright. Nobody wants to listen to someone who calls them names and derogatory comments.

The second issue is the Education Ministry has issued a directive that when students are learning Torah, and copying verses, they should don yarmulkas out of respect.

Whether that is smart or not, and necessary or not, respect that is forced and demanded is rarely achieved.

The teachers are opposing the directive saying that in the secular state system, the Bible has cultural value and not necessarily religious value. The reading of the Bible in secular schools should not be seen as a religious issue, but as a cultural one.

I am not sure what is unique about the Torah in Jewish culture, when not including the religion of Judaism at the same time. Is Jewish culture simply matzo balls and kreplach, with some money lending and smart people thrown in? To me, Jewish culture includes religion, and I see nothing wrong with being respectful to the religious aspect (though whether that respect should be forced or manifested in that way is a different discussion).

I am happy that they are studying the Torah regardless of whether or not they wear a kipa. Sure, there were always people who studied Torah and it didn't have an effect on them. In general, knowing our Torah and Jewish history is a good thing, even if initially it is not learned for that purpose. From studying it "She'lo l'shma", it leads to studying it "l'shma".

I don't even hope that the Torah study they do makes them religious. I am happy they are studying it and will be aware of our history and culture and be exposed to it to some extent, as they would not be exposed to it at all otherwise. And maybe some of the Jewish values imparted in the Torah will affect the students as well, and when we have all these problems with lack of respect and lack of values that also harms the general education, perhaps some of that will be improved by the imparting of Jewish values in the classroom.


I don't want to change anybody, just as I do not want anyone to change me. I accept the basic concept that you don't argue with with someone's faith. Haredi Judaism has existed for 2000 years and there is no chance, nor do I want, that it will now disappear. Even if the campaign against ti is the most successful of campaigns.

--- MK Shaul Mofaz (Kadima) writing an opinion piece in Maariv against the recent anti-Haredi campaign in the media and among politicians, and against Kadima (specifically Livni) taking anti-haredi positions.

Being called up to the Torah on a Sunday

NRG (Maariv's online edition) says that Rahm Emannuel's son Zach celebrated his bar mitzvah this morning by being called up to the Torah at Park Davidson, very near to the Kotel.

This despite the best efforts of far-right extremists Itamar Ben-Gvir and Baruch Marzel to stop the affair from taking place. They had partial success in getting the actual party moved over as it is against the law to have food and music where it was planned, but the aliyah near the Kotel still happened.

Not only did the Emannuel family succeed to circumvent the extremists and have the aliyah, they also circumvented the fact that there is no Torah reading on a Sunday morning...

Hey, maybe that is how they fooled the extremists. Marzel and Ben Gvir never expected the Emannuels would have the aliyah l'Torah on a day when there is no Torah reading, so he fooled them and picked Sunday specifically!

Not really such a big "fashla" by such a leading Israeli paper, but still a journalistic "oops".

Mosque at Ground Zero

While freedom of religion is a basic tenet of the American system, and not every Muslim in the world need be held responsible for what one group of Muslims did, you still must see the irony in a mosque being built right next to Ground Zero.

It took a lot of gall for the leadership of the Mosque and Islamic Community Center to make the request and work to get their plans approved to build their 13 story center right near Ground Zero, and in the process they have upset a lot of people. And it takes a lot of gall for the politicians to approve it.

And there is a strong sense of irony in the whole situation.

Yet how can anyone not approve it? These people did nothing wrong. Just because some other people of the same religion did a horrible crime against humanity doesn't mean every Muslim should be punished.

And how far outside Ground Zero would you have a mosque be banned? 2 blocks? 10 blocks? 2 miles? At what point is it ok to build a mosque and how close is it considered insulting to the victims?

Yet there is still a strong sense of sick irony in the whole story. Almost as if they wanted it there specifically just to "rub it in".

Yet how can you not allow them to locate the Mosque there? On what grounds?

President Barak Obama marks Jewish American Heritage Month (video)

May 27, 2010

The beach in Jerusalem

That's right. The beach in Jerusalem. I had to rub my eyes twice when I saw the article.

The City of Jerusalem is making a beach. That's right, a beach.

There is a 2 day volleyball tournament in mid-June, and to create the feel, they are creating a beach. They are trucking in 140 cubic meters of sand from the real beach and dumping it in Gan HaPaamon. It does not say anything about bringing in water, and considering our water shortage I cannot imagine such a thing would be acceptable.

Mayor Nir Barkat is quoted as saying, "Jerusalem is becoming the capital of culture and sport in Israel...We will not allow such trivial matters, like not having a beach [get in the way]...

They will not just be setting it up for the volleyball competition, but will be turning it into a full service beach (sans water I assume) with hundreds of beach chairs, umbrellas, and everything else found on a beach, along with the classic beach foods such as igloos, artiks, ice cream, beer, etc.

Sounds like fun. Can't wait for the hafganot to start...

The Convert's Customs

In today's "Daily Halacha" from Rav Ovadya Yosef, the topic discussed is a convert, someone who converts in Eretz Yisrael specifically, with a background from ashkenazic countries, if he/she should take upon themselves the customs and liturgy from the ashkenazic communities from which they hail, or if they should/could choose the nusach and customs of the sephardim and bnei eidot hamizrach.

Rav Ovadya's psak is because we consider a convert to be like a newborn baby, he is not connected to the minhagim of the countries and region from which he hails.

Since, in our question, as a convert he is not connected to the minhagim of ashkenaz, so because he is converting in Eretz Yisrael he must accept upon himself the psak and minhagim of the rav of Eretz Yisrael, the Mechaber, the author of the Shulchan Aruch.

There is not even room for him to choose to be machmir according to the opinions of the Reman, in those situations where the Rema argues on the Mechaber, as he is not connected at all to minhagei ashkenaz, and just like technically, as a convert, he can even marry his sister and there is no factor in simply being machmir (we don't allow it for appearances sake, so people shouldn't think that in Judaism incest is ok, after knowing it is not ok as a non-Jew) - this convert in Eretz Yisrael must follow the Mechaber alone.

This is in line with Rav Ovadya's general opinion, stated frequently, that in Eretz Yisrael the minhag of the Sephardim was always the prevalent minhag ones, and the ashkenazim who came later must be submissive to the minhagim according to the Mechaber.

(Yet they still insist on going to study in the Ashkenazy schools... :-) )

DL women in the workforce

Rav Dov Lior, while publicizing words of support for Rav Levanon's position against women taking public roles of leadership (at least on a frum yishuv such as Alon Shvut), has expanded the relevance of the discussion and has added his thoughts on women in the workplace in general.

Rav Lior added that women should be ideally staying home and taking care of the house and raising the children. That alone is a 24 hour a day job, and having that as one's focus is nothing to be ashamed of. If it is necessary, for parnassah purposes, there are hetterim for the woman to go out and work, but it is not preferred. As a matter of fact, Rav Lior says, the increasing levels of violence among the youth is because of the mothers lack of focus in the direction of the house and family and more to the outside, the workforce.

Rav Lior stresses this has nothing to do with berating a womans abilities. The woman is fully capable of any job, at least I understand that he believes this from what he says, but her focus is meant to be inwards, to the family, rather than outwards towards the external forces.

The only surprise, to me at least, in this recent discussion, is that these leaders, these rabbonim, are leaders of a community that prides itself on the women being so much more progressive and involved in leadership in every way, and now suddenly they, the rabbonim leading this community (not all of them perhaps but these are among the top level rabbonim of the Dati Leumi community, are speaking out about how this is not the way it is meant to be.

If You Build It They Will Come

The JNF used to be the place to go when you wanted to plant a tree in Israel. Now, you can also go to them to arrange a baseball game in Israel.

The JNF has started a new fund you can donate to that promotes building baseball fields around Israel.

From the JNF Project Baseball website:

In 2005, the IAB held its third annual Tel Aviv Peace Clinic. Eighty Israeli Arab and Jewish students escaped the daily pressures of life in Israel to spend a day playing baseball. The children spent the morning learning the game’s fundamentals and then played a real game in the afternoon. The setting of a baseball field, playing a game new to most of the children, gave them a rare opportunity to interact and work together.

It is estimated that the number of regular baseball players in Israel exceeds 2,000 and continues to grow…or has the potential to grow. But therein lies the problem.

The growth of baseball in Israel has been stymied by several factors, but without a doubt the key one is a severe shortage of baseball fields. Examples:

In Jerusalem, where hundreds of adults and children participate in league play, there is only one true baseball field. And that field does not have a single blade of grass, but has a dangerous combination of dust, rocks, and thorns.

In Bet Shemesh, where children play baseball all the time, the one field is built on a slope, such that players must run uphill to first base.

In Tel Aviv, players rush to and from their positions between innings because there are no lights at the lone baseball field, so all play must cease at dusk.

Haifa, Be’er Sheva, and Tiberias have players, but no baseball fields at all. Players from these cities must travel elsewhere if they want to play.

Why baseball, you ask?
After all, baseball is only a game.

To the uninitiated, that is a true statement. But for those who have come to play it, study it and fantasize about it, it is far more.

Baseball embodies values that are far too diminished in today's society, ideals such as patience, and sportsmanship in the face of failure. Immense value is placed on the individual, whether alone on the pitcher’s mound or with all eyes centered on the lonely hitter in the batter’s box. But baseball also personifies teamwork and interdependence.

The famous columnist George Will once wrote: “Baseball, it is said, is only a game. True. And the Grand Canyon is only a hole in Arizona. Not all holes, or games, are created equal.”

May 26, 2010

A hesped for Devon Ave. Chicago, Illinois

While the shift to the suburbs is definitely happening in Chicago, I am surprised that the bulk of the community, still remaining in the city proper, in the northern neighborhoods of West Rogers Park, Peterson Park and all the immediately surrounding areas, can't support the local bookstores any longer.

This is the way of the world, but it is a symbol of an era gone and a new era beginning, as Rosenblum's Book Store, or as it is known nowadays as Rosenblum's World of Judaica, moves to the suburbs to follow the shift of the community.

From The Chicago Tribune:
For decades, Devon Avenue was a bustling rendezvous for Chicago's Jewish community, a street whose butchers and bakers had a regular mantra. "Who's next? Who's next?" they'd shout, trying to keep order amid a forest of waving arms.

Shoppers would exchange bits of gossip with older folks stationed on street-corner benches; frantic buyers would beg a last-minute challah or brisket from shopkeepers closing up for Sabbath. But the scene on the 2900 block of West Devon Avenue was much different on a recent weekday afternoon: Where once drivers waited to pounce on a just-empty parking spot, hardly a car was visible.

The stretch of Devon from California Avenue to the Chicago River (at Kedzie Avenue) is palpably changing. Rosenblum's, which has been a fixture for 37 years, soon will exit the area, joining a host of other Jewish businesses to leave. Chicago Hebrew Bookstore, Rosenblum's competition, is gone. Yeshiva Brisk, a famed Talmudic academy transplanted from Eastern Europe, is now the Berkshire West Condominiums. The kosher Chinese restaurant is gone, although a nearby Thai restaurant does maintain halal, Islam's dietary code.

"It used to be more lively," said Esther Sabo, proprietor of Tel-Aviv Kosher Bakery for 30 years.

When Rosenblum's bookstore departs for the North Shore, it will take with it not only a formidable inventory of Bibles and prayer shawls, Israeli knick-knacks and bar- and bat-mitzvah cards, but also a bit of the distinctive flavor of Jewish street life along Devon Avenue.

"A Jewish bookstore is part of the fabric of Jewish life," said Avrom Fox, proprietor of Rosenblum's World of Judaica, its full name a mouthful for most customers.

Over the years, Rosenblum's has been the lynchpin for a series of Jewish shopping streets in Chicago, much as a major retailer anchors a suburban mall. Leaving the city probably was inevitable. Still, a bookstore — often a communal meeting ground — is not easily replaced. Rosenblum's customers include the ultra-Orthodox, bearded men in long black coats and women in ankle-length dresses. Many live on nearby blocks, but suburban-dwelling Reform Jews also make the trip to Rosenblum's, even though their faith doesn't require the kosher food products offered by neighboring shops.

And, said Fox, even "Gentiles come in, with questions about Judaism."

On a recent afternoon, a Catholic woman stopped by to ask about making a contribution to a synagogue. Enmeshed in a legal battle, she wanted to double-down her entreaties with the Almighty.

"I don't judge people; I'm a businessman," Fox said. "I sell Jewish culture."

But that's been increasingly tough on Devon, where the customer base was not just the neighborhood but Jews who had moved to suburbia but were drawn back by nostalgia.

Adding to the toll on Devon's businesses is the city's higher parking rates. A couple of quarters used to buy a leisurely stroll along the street, but when the city outsourced its parking enforcement, the hike in rates that followed discouraged potential customers.

"The parking machines," Fox said, gesturing toward his shop windows. "That was the final blow."

The proprietor of the nearby Robert's Fish Market says even the most loyal customers resent paying a parking-machine surtax on purchases of white fish.

"They call ahead, we wrap up orders and bring them out to their cars," said Arturo Venegas, who bought the shop 11 years ago.

Having worked for the shop's former owner for 18 years, the Mexican-born Venegas knew fish and the rules of Judaism's dietary code. The clientele stayed with him, as did the rabbinical certification that the store is kosher. But Venegas said he also has plans to leave Devon for Highland Park.

Yet, a fish store is, after all, a fish store. Even one with a saga like Robert's.

But Rosenblum's has been a part of Jewish life in the city since William Rosenblum, an immigrant from Eastern Europe, founded it in 1942 on Roosevelt Road on the West Side. In the 1950s, it relocated to Lawrence Avenue in Albany Park. In 1973, it moved to Devon, home to numerous Jewish businesses from Western Avenue to the river.

In subsequent decades, the Jewish presence east of California Avenue disappeared. Ebner's kosher meat market and Gittel's bakery closed. That stretch of Devon is now a sensuous melange of sari shops, spice merchants, Indian and Pakistani groceries, Middle Eastern restaurants and Islamic bookstores.

For Fox, seeking Rosenblum's survival in a suburban location is not just a financial necessity. "This bookstore was my father's bashert," said Fox, using a Yiddish word for "soul mate."

His father, Rabbi Marvin Fox, was a noted Jewish scholar who served on the faculties of Ohio State University and Brandeis University in Massachusetts. Born in Chicago, the elder Fox would spend hours in the bookstore on trips back to the city. He'd chat with Rosenblum, the original owner, about medieval Jewish philosophy. He never left without a stack of books, said his son, who bought the bookstore from William Rosenblum 20 years ago.

Rabbi Fox left his collection of 15,000 volumes to the University of Chicago, his son noted.

"So, they've come home to Chicago," Fox said. "They sit on the university's library shelves, many with a sticker showing they're from Rosenblum's."

When Rosenblum's leaves Devon Avenue, later this year, a new generation of scholars-to-be will have to seek intellectual stimulation elsewhere. Which is not to say the street won't still be a pilgrimage destination.

On a recent afternoon, two young Palestinian women wearing long robes and head scarves got out of a van, followed by a troop of children. They went first into Kol Tov, a kosher supermarket run by Chayim Knobloch, a bearded ever-optimistic Devon booster. Whatever others may do, he's there to stay.

"You see, I got old customers, I got new customers," he said nodding toward the women and children, as they stood in a check-out lane.

The women moved on to Tel Aviv bakery, where the children clamored for cookies. Later, when they had loaded their purchases into the van, one of the women said they could have shopped at Arab stores in the southwest suburb where they live.

"But a couple times a year, we just get the urge to come down here," said the woman, who asked to be identified by her nickname, "Sam." "There's just something about it."
Devon Avenue - you will be remembered fondly by many...

Neil Sedaka to perform in Israel

Word is out - Neil Sedaka is coming to Israel for one concert on October 16 in Tel Aviv!

I didn't even know he was still alive and singing!

Important Announcement: National Emergency

A Message from Lemaan Achai

Dear Friends,

We are all aware of the IDF Home Front excercise during this week, throughout the country.

We also know, unfortunately, that our country is not preparing for some fantasy scenario, but for the possibility of imminent war.

It has been publicised that the combined forces of Lebanon/Hezbollah; Gaza/Hamas; and Syria, have now amassed tens of thousands of long range missiles.

Although Bet Shemesh was out of range in the 2nd Lebanon War and also (by 5 kms!) in the Operation Molten Lead in Gaza - ALL predictions have Bet Shemesh within missile range during the next conflict, Lo aleinu.

There are now detailed plans for how the civilian population, which is likely to be the main target for our enemies (again), will be protected, and aid delivered.

The voluntary sector, which in previous conflicts has hit-the-ground-running, in some cases faster and more effectively than the IDF Home Front, has now been 'recruited' as an integral part of the national and municipal Emergency Response plan.

The IDF has selected Lema'an Achai, Ezrat Achim and Sha'alei Torah as their partners in Bet Shemesh.

We have each been assigned specific tasks and responsibilities in the case of a National Emergency.
Today, we participated in a simulation of BS/RBS being struck by a missile attack.

One of the needs highlighted in the simulation was for us to be able to contact a core team of volunteers, who are likely to be available and capable of immediately helping us supply aid to the (local and evacuee) population which will be effected by the conflict.

We are therefore establishing an email (and phone) list of volunteers to be used in preparation for, and during, a national emergency.
(Interestingly, the experts predict internet is pretty robust as a communication, vs cell-phones, for example, which are likely to collapse).

We will be calling upon these volunteers, from time to time, to help with preparations and excercises - and in the case of an actual emergency.

If you would like to step forward to volunteer, please reply to this letter (by email to david@lemaanachai.org), including your street address, phone, cell numbers; and stating any relevant experience and/or qualifications you may have.

If you are *unlikely* to be available to help - such as you will likely be called up for the army, or if you are responsible for small children, or are elderly, etc..., then please do not reply to this email.

I would just add, that Bet Shemesh has achieved national recognition for the effectiveness of the response of our voluntary sector in previous national emergencies - and we are considered pioneers in Israel in this field.

We should only hear besorot tovot.
Tizku Lemitzvot,
David & Avrohom

P.S. Please send this on to others in Bet Shemesh/RBS who you think may be interested to help.


David Morris Rav Avrohom Leventhal
Chairman Executive Director

Tel: 02 9991553
Donations: 02 99999.33

40/7 Nahal Lachish,
Ramat Beit Shemesh
99093 ISRAEL.

Ignoring building codes

One of the more common problems in hemishe neighborhoods, especially when the mayor and a large part (at least) of City Council is frum, is illegal construction. People add on to their houses without bothering to request permits and get plans approved.

The purpose of having city standards and requiring permits is so that the city can ensure a certain level of quality of life. The city should look a certain way, sidewalks should not be encroached upon by illegal construction, safety issues, etc. When people build without requesting permits, while some people might do so responsibly and make sure everything is safe an aesthetically pleasing, other people are also encouraged to build without bothering to get permits and they might be less concerned about aesthetics or about doing everything in the safest way possible.

In Bnei Brak they have recently begun to crack down harshly to put an end to illegal construction. They are knocking down additions and levying heavy fines on offenders.

According to Kikar Shabbos, a group of avreichim who have been hurt by the new measures have decided to fight against the mayor. They went to Rav Shteinman to try to get his support, as they complained about the brutal methods being used against simple residents who are just trying to add a few meters to their apartments.

Unfortunately for them, Rav Shteinman did not give them the support they were expecting. Instead he gave his backing to the mayor and his methods as he told them that the law must be adhered to.

When they further pressed him, he repeated and stressed again that the law must be adhered to stressed in a pleasant manner and peaceful way.

Anybody who does anything illegal, whether it is jaywalking, robbing a bank, or adding a room to your house with permits, is taking the risk of getting caught. The person has obviously weighed the options and decided it is worth the risk - maybe the chances of getting caught were very low (in his mind), maybe cost of permits was too high, maybe other considerations.

It seems strange to me that a person took the risk knowing he is still taking a chance and could get caught, and then gets caught and punished, and he still feels he has a right to complain. You took the risk and got caught, what right do you have to complain, unless your complaint is a legal one (such as selective enforcement, or that your particular situation did not require a permit or something similar)? To complain that the mayor is doing his job and enforcing building codes? That seems backwards to me. Building codes are for the benefit of the residents.

Haredim rabbonim on Har HaBayit

The religious media is excited about a group of haredi rabbonim who went up to Har HaBayit yesterday. They see it as an increasing trend.
The leader of the group was Rav Brand, once again he of haredi hilltop settlement fame, and his goal is to increase awareness and haredi presence on Har Habayit to the point where we will be able to bring the korban pesach in the coming years.

Here is Rav Brand giving a shiur on his group going around Har Habayit:
For more pictures and video of the group on Har Habayit, see Kikar Shabbos.

In addition, one of the rabbonim in the group, openly did "hishtachavaye", or full prostration. It is unclear how he got away with doing it so openly. Perhaps the police are allowing more than they used to, or maybe they made a personal exception..

From the Arutz 7 article on the visit:

Temple Mount activist Yosef Rabin told Arutz Sheva that the event is a significant one. “There has been a long running effort to bring hareidim to the Mount and now it is starting to take root,” he said.

Rabin noted that ever since the liberation of the Mount in 1967, hareidi-religious Jews have usually preferred to avoid ascending it, and that the ones who went up to the holy site were Jews of the national-religious ilk. However, he said, “the image of the type of people that go to the Mount is starting to crack. It seems that everyone has followed the hareidi lead when it comes to Har HaBayit [Temple Mount], and now that hareidim are starting to go, we might start seeing a tremendous wave of all types.” Most of the renowned hareidi rabbis are against going up on the mountain, as was Rav Avraham Shapira zt"l of the zionist flagship Merkaz Harav Yeshiva, for fear of treading in places that are forbidden.

The group of Jews was led by Rabbi Yitzchak Brand of the city of Emanuel and Rabbi Yisrael Ariel of the Temple Institute in Jerusalem. The rabbis say they intend to bring ever-larger groups of Jews to the Mount with the purpose of eventually holding a Passover sacrifice there.

Kadima's Hypocricy and Irresponsibility

I have not written anything about Kadima in a very long time. Mostly because they have been a non-entity.

Yesterday they took the cake.

In two separate instances, they showed they are both hypocrites, and even worse irresponsible. Hypocrisy isn't really a big deal, as most politicians are hypocrites and only do whatever suits them at any given moment. Irresponsibility, however, is much worse.

The first incident, the less important one, is regarding a decision that the Prime Minister's Office took to put out a tender for a new plane for the PM and senior ministers usage in which a double bed would be installed. This is needed because of certain tight schedules and the current plane being used cannot hold the bed.

I have no opinion on whether the extra expense is worth it. It sounds excessive, but a prime minister traveling internationally to Europe and then Canada and then back to Israel needing to get back to a full days work right away needs to be able to get his sleep on the plane so he can be rested and ready to go when he lands.

The hypocrisy is because Kadima activists, and later Kadima MKS in a quasi-filibuster in Knesset, criticized Netanyahu, and tried to mount pressure to get him to cancel the tender, for his spending too much taxpayer money so he can sleep a little bit better.

It is a legitimate claim, whether you agree with it or not, and would be worthy of discussion and public debate. That is, if not for the fact that it was Kadima under Ehud Olmert who first started the process of buying the new airplane with the extra amenities. When Olmert was prime minister, he started the process and at the time Kadima supported it wholeheartedly. It is only now that Netanyahu is in the seat that they are opposing it. Hypocrisy at its best.

The second, and worse, incident, is the quasi-filibuster.

When 40 Opposition MKs sign that they want a filibuster debate, the PM and other senior ministers are obligated by law to participate and be present from beginning to end. Kadima got the 40 signatures, and Bibi and his gang couldn't get out of it. The filibuster had no specific purpose other than to pester the prime minister and debate his spending.

The problem with it is that this week is a 5 day massive, country-wide drill, in which the army and support services are testing their readiness in case of massive missile attack and war. Due to the senior ministers being tied up in the Knesset debating a pointless issue, they could not participate in at least a day and a half of this drill. They sent a deputy minister to represent the government who would report back to the PM by telephone and get instructions.

The PMO says they requested a number of times from Kadima to delay the filibuster by a few days, but they refused all the requests.

So the senior members of government could not participate in the most important and largest scale army and home front drill of the year just so Kadima could debate Bibi's spending on an airplane and some reforms. That is irresponsible.

Damage control?

Over the past week, Rav Elyakim Levanon has come under fire for some things he said about not giving leadership roles to women.

In what seems to be an attempt at damage control, Rav Levanon sent a letter to MK Tzipi Hotoveli explaining his intent in his statements.

Among other things, Rav Levanon wrote, " That is not so for .. my words were directed and appropriate for the public leadership of Elon Moreh, where the community is directed in the ways of "lechatchila".the general public.... As I expressed my opinion before you in the past, today as well I see you as a positive power, faithful to the spirit of Israel and the tradition of generations.You are the faithful representation of the values that are holy to Israel and the Torah, and it is important and necessary that this power stand at the podium of the Knesset in senior positions. I strengthen your hand to continue carrying the yoke you have placed on yourself, and to bring much blessing to the nation of Israel, to its land, and to its Torah."

Rav Levanon is basically saying that in a frum setting and environment it is inappropriate for women to be in leadership roles, whereas in a different setting, even if the stage is much larger and the level of leadership so much greater, it is important and even necessary for women to be involved in the leadership.

On the one hand it might simply be damage control, but on the other I find the differentiation Rav Levanon makes to be very interesting. There is a difference, he says, between public life and public life. Usually such differences are made between private and public, but here hs i doing the same between different levels of pubic life.

May 25, 2010

Rav Yaakov Yosef weighs in on the Chinuch Atzmai discrimination

I don't know why this has not made the general news, or the Haredi news websites, but it is a very interesting incident in the fight Yoav Lalum is waging against Chinuch Atzmai, on a number of fronts including Emannuel, Bet Shemesh and Netivot (and maybe more) regarding alleged discrimination in their acceptance policies in member schools.

The only place I saw the article (I might have missed it elsewhere, but I looked and didn't see it) was from a link someone sent to me for the article on the "secret" Haredim WAP website (they shut down their regular site, but kept their WAP site operating).

A meeting was arranged between Chinuch Atzmai representatives, including Rav Batzri (as a sefardi with grandkids in the CA system) and Rav Dovid Bloi (a rep of CA) who met with Rav Yaakov Yosef, the son of Rav Ovadiah who is also a backer of Lalum.

The objective of the meeting was to try to convince Rav Yosef to have Lalum pull his suit against Chinch Atzmai and in exchange they would reach a satisfactory agreement for what is happening in Emannuel.

The meeting exploded very quickly when Rav Yaakov Yosef immediately proved that discrimination is rampant in Chinuch Atzmai when he showed that even someone as great as Rav Batzri could not get his grandkids in to a Chinuch Atzmai school until he himself personally made some phone calls and applied protexia.

Rav Yosef then related a story that had happened 40 years prior with his father, Rav Ovadiah. He related that 40 years ago the heads of Chinuch Atzmai requested that Rav Ovadia help them with sme fundraising efforts. He agreed to do so on condition that they would accept the children of his students into Chincuh Atzmai schools.
After everything was agreed upon, Rav Ovadiah went and fulfilled his obligations, yet when the parents applied to the schools, the CA system ignored their promises and refused to accept them.

Rav Bloi, according to the article, realized he was not going to get anywhere by claiming there is no discrimination, chose to use a different approach. He tried to persuade Rav Yosef that there is what to discuss but there is no reason the war needs to be waged in the secular court system.

If what he said until now was not great enough, the next response was fantastic.

Rav Yosef responded that when a meshugganer throws stones at you, you don't wait to invite him to beis din, you immediately call the police. The discrimination, he said, is a craziness (shee'gaon), and a sickness, and that is how it must be dealt with.


[My office] is not preventing, and even funding, the construction planning in every place in Judea and Samaria.... Everything is so as to be ready with tenders for the day the construction freeze ends, on September 26... We will continue to plan so that there will be enough available stock to market apartments at the end of the freeze.

--- Minister of Housing Ariel Attias

Interesting Psak from Rav Cherlo: Running Marathons

No running marathons, but no excuse to be lazy...

Rav Yuval Cherlo was asked a two part question regarding the permissibility of running marathons. The question posed was really for a 10km race (which Israelis tend to call 10km marathons), bu it applies equally to marathons or any distance of a race.

The question asked was:
  1. Is there a problem of tzniyus, considering that runners running in such races are focused each on his or her own performance and running and is not focused on the lack of tzniyus around him?
  2. How to jibe the bodies internal desire to run, or to do other activities, with the lessons he had been taught in yeshiva about only learning Torah and not be involved in things and activities that take one away from that.
Rav Cherlo's response, also in two parts, was:
  1. One should not participate in mixed physical activities. Being that the question posed is regarding a race that by its very nature uses immodest dress and is not the common clothing worn by men and women in everyday life, it is prohibited to participate in the race. The premise of a runner being focused on his run and ambivalent to those around him, Rav Cherlo says, is not a factor.
  2. It is good to run, and perhaps even an obligation to run or partake in other physical activities, in order to stay healthy and to treat properly the vessel given to us by God. That has nothing to do with participating in any specific race, as it can be performed in many other venues. This position should be also the position of those who oppose the pursuits of any other hobbies, due to this issue related to health and vitality especially in light of the poor nutrition we have nowadays.

Catholic parents raising Orthodox Jewish child in Chicago (video)

If you remember the Joseph Reyes case in Chicago that is going on and has been in the news recently, there is now another case, also in Chicago, regarding a divorce, Catholic parents and a Jewish child. And this time, unlike in the Reyes case, the courts have ruled that the Catholic father must provide an Orthodox Jewish environment for the child.

From The Huffington Post:

Laura Derbigney tries to bring a little of her Hispanic upbringing into her family life.

"I like to shop at Hispanic-owned stores," she said. "I make tacos, I make enchiladas, I make flautas."

But not on the weekends, according to a court order.

She can't prepare pork or other traditional foods on weekends. She can't drive or use electricity on Saturdays. In fact, a judge has mandated that this Hispanic Catholic from Chicago follow Orthodox Jewish restrictions during the Sabbath.

The reason? Her new husband, recently divorced from a strictly observant Jewish woman. A divorce court has ruled that the seven-year-old son of that marriage must live an Orthodox lifestyle even while in the care of his father and step-mother, according to an NBC Chicago report.

And from the NBC Chicago report:

Her attorney, Joel Brodsky, says the court is out of line. Brodsky, who earlier this year won a similar religious case, said the First Amendment right to live according to your own religious beliefs is being thrown out the door with the temporary restriction.

"Just because you're divorced, the court can't say how to live your lives or what grocery store you can go to," Brodsky said. "The next step is going to be a Muslim father with custody. During the next visitation, is the mother going to have to wear a burka? That's where we're heading. Divorce courts have to stop getting in the way of religion."

View more news videos at: http://www.nbcchicago.com/video.

Y_Love against the Neturei Karta at Israel Day Parade (video)

May 24, 2010

Interesting Psak: Dealing with drug dealers

A woman asked Rav Shmuel Eliyahu, the Chief Rabbi of Tzfat, on a radio show, what she is allowed to do, as there is a drug dealer taking advantage of her son and selling him drugs son and the police don't do anything about it.

Rav Elyahu responded that as a mother she must do everything she possibly can, legal or illegal, to get the drug dealer away from her son. If a person sees that the authorities are not acting, it is allowed to take the law into one's own hands, when that person sees the attempts to cause someone to become addicted to drugs.

Rav Eliyahu described his efforts in Tzfat when dealing with drug addicts and how he saw the horrible affect drugs have on people and conclusively states that letting someone become addicted to drugs is like killing them.

First, in this situation, the mother should persist in trying to get the prime minister, defense minister, minister of internal security, the chief of police and any else possible involved to do what they are supposed to be doing.

After that, if it is still a problem, she should chase away these drug dealers with sticks and metal bars and do whatever she can do to hit them and persuade them to stay away from her son, whether using legal or illegal means.

(source: Srugim)


[in response to a question about what he would do if/when a Palestinian state would arise, MK Ahmed Tibi responded].. I do not support moving people around like chess pieces, but if it should become necessary, it is the Jews who would have to forgo their rights. as the ones who came last should be the ones who leave"

To which MK Yaakov "Ketzaleh" Katz responded, "We agree with MK Tibi that the las ones to arrive should be the ones to go. We are here since Hashem sent Abraham to Eretz Yisrael, so he who came last, he is the one who will need to leave.

--- MK Ahmed Tibi and MK Yaakov "Ketzaleh" Katz

what a goy understands....

This is a pashkevil pasted around Jerusalem. I love it. I think it is funny and humorous, even if it might not be meant to be. I love the presumption that we have to decide our halacha based on what some non-Jew thinks.

The pashkevil relates a story of a haredi family that traveled to to a Druze village in the Galilee to daven by the grave of Yisro. The Druze guard the place carefully and do not allow in anyone who they considered to be not dressed appropriately, including women with no head covering. So this haredi woman comes to the grave to daven and the guard refuses her entry because her hair is not covered. She unsuccessfully tries to convince him that she is wearing a wig, but he refuses, insisting her hair is uncovered. The guard said, "In my opinion it is as if the hair is not covered, and I will not allow a desecration of the holiness of the site."

As the sign starts off - "What a goy understands..." presumably should be so obvious to us as well that wigs are not considered hair coverings...

May 23, 2010

High profile bar mitzvah

I think the Issue of the Week for this week is going to be whether or not Rahm Emmanuel is actually coming for his son's bar mitzvah, and whether or not it will be held at the Kotel.

The whole event has become shrouded in secrecy, and to boot, extreme right-wingers Baruch Marzel and Itamar Ben-Gvir are threatening that if he shows up at the Kotel they will do everything they can to ruin his simcha.

This memorial break, I am taking my son, my nephew Noah with Ari my brother, so they can have their bar mitzva in Israel,” Emanuel boasted in the November 10 speech, winning cheers from the crowd. “Not to add humor to this moment, but that’s cheap applause. I’ll take an $18 check on behalf of him if you like. That’s obviously illegal as a public servant. That was a joke.”

But as the bar mitzva date approaches, the White House, the Prime Minister’s Office and the Foreign Ministry have declined to give any details whatsoever about the event. A White House representative said Emanuel’s visit to Israel was “a private trip” and diplomatic officials in Jerusalem said they also didn’t provide details when National Security Council official Dennis Ross came for his son’s wedding.

The lack of information has led to speculation in the Hebrew press, with Haaretz reporting incorrectly that Emanuel would arrive in Israel this week and Ma’ariv suggesting that he had moved the bar mitzva away from the Western Wall, either because of threats from right-wingers or because the Obama administration considered the wall in the territory of a future Palestinian capital.

Neither Western Wall Rabbi Shmuel Rabinovitz nor Rabbi Jay Karzen, who has conducted more than 2,000 bar mitzvas at the site, was contacted by Emanuel’s family or his office.

“We would have known about it if they inquired about it, so I don’t think they canceled a bar mitzva at the Wall or planned one,” Rabinovitz’s spokesman said.

But an official close to the Emanuel family insisted that the bar mitzva would indeed take place at the Western Wall, while another family friend hinted it was scheduled for Saturday, May 29.

He may have turned out to be a jerk of a court Jew in the White House, but if he is coming to the Kotel for a family simcha maybe there is room for him to get closer to Judaism and change his ways. On the one hand he wants us to give East Jerusalem, possibly including the Kotel and what is on the other side of it, to the Palestinians in an eventual peace agreement, on the other hand he wants to come pray there as if the Jews are the rightful owners. Maybe he will come and have his affair and change his opinion on how things should play out. Maybe people could be instrumental in changing his opinion rather than chasing him away and fortifying that opinion in his head.

I don't know what the right approach is - tell him to get lost because of what he has done, or try to let him be affected by an experience at the Kotel? What do you think?


After what I read in the newspapers about the "separation" in Emannuel, about the way sefardic boys and girls are treated in the schools of the ashkenazim, I ask you, what are you looking for in courtyards that are not yours? You estanblished "el HaMaayan" school system, you established a respectable movement called Shas, you have your own schools. You, the ministers of Shas, should make yourselves examples. Take your children and put them in sefardic schools. Leave the ashkenazim to themselves. What do you need them for? Turn your own schools into elite schools, so that they will want to learn by you and not the other way around...

--- MK Meier Shitreet (to Min. Ariel Attias)

The Hasids and the Hipsters...

Sounds like the name of a movie.. The Hasids and the Hipsters...

The NY Magazine ran an article, entitled "Clash of the Bearded Ones", on the fight in Williamsurg about the bike lane, and more so about the change that is going through Williamsburg with young hip people moving in to the largely Satmar hassidic enclave and how it is throwing the hassidim for a loop... and perhaps even more so about a trend they pick up on, whether it is as rampant as they indicate it is or not I dont know, of the young generation of hassidim having had enough with the older generations ways and them finding alternative culture to enjoy in quasi-secret.

The article is very long, way too long for me to just quote a paragraph or two and do it justice, so I will just say you should go read it for yourself. Personally, I found page 3 the most interesting and shocking of the whole piece.

Total rejection might have worked for keeping out the bad (or at least allowing you to think it has been kept out) in some previous generations, but today total rejection is no longer working. If energy would be expended in finding new methods, instead of clinging to the old methods even more vigorously, and ways of embracing the younger generation and drawing them in, perhaps they would not be so rejecting in return. This touches on what I found to be an important message in the parsha we read yesterday...

Can we learn from the Saudis?

According to this news report, a woman beat the crud out of a Saudi "tzniyus policeman" when he approached her and her male walking companion to ascertain if they were married or not.

When a Saudi religious policeman sauntered about an amusement park in the eastern Saudi Arabian city of Al-Mubarraz looking for unmarried couples illegally socializing, he probably wasn’t expecting much opposition.

But when he approached a young, 20-something couple meandering through the park together, he received an unprecedented whooping.

A member of the Commission for the Promotion of Virtue and Prevention of Vice, the Saudi religious police known locally as the Hai’a, asked the couple to confirm their identities and relationship to one another, as it is a crime in Saudi Arabia for unmarried men and women to mix.

For unknown reasons, the young man collapsed upon being questioned by the cop.

According to the Saudi daily Okaz, the woman then allegedly laid into the religious policeman, punching him repeatedly, and leaving him to be taken to the hospital with bruises across his body and face.
“The media and the Internet have given people a lot of power and the freedom to express their anger,” she said. “The Hai’a are like a militia, but now whenever they do something it’s all over the Internet. This gives them a horrible reputation and gives people power to react.”
"There is some sort of change taking place," Nadya Khalife, the Middle East women’s rights researcher for Human Rights Watch, told The Media Line. "There is clearly a shifting mentality regarding to the male guardianship law and similar issues. More women are speaking out, there are changes within the government, there is a mixed university, the king was photographed with women, they want to allow women to work in the courts and there are changes within the justice ministry. So you can witness some kind of change unfolding but it’s not quite clear what’s happening and it’s not something that’s going to happen overnight."

While I would not say the purpose of confronting self-appointed tzniyus police is in order to allow unmarried men and women to hang out together, I do believe in personal freedoms and if they choose to do so it is not the business of self-appointed (or any appointed) tzniyus police to stop them, let alone using the violent methods they have come to be famous for using.

And anyway it does not have to just be an issue with young unmarrieds. The tzniyus cops have been known to harass women whom they think are not dressed appropriately, married women sitting on "the wrong side of the bus", anybody who they suspect of doing something they consider wrong, as if they have a right to judge. Perhaps more women, and men, should have the courage to stand up to them the way the young woman in Saudi Arabia did and that might bring the end of the tzniyus police all that much closer...

Miss Israel, the bovine edition

Noa, a cow from a farm on Moshav Kfar Yehoshua (the source of the cows I have shechted), has been declared Moos (Miss?) Israel - the prettiest cow in Israel...

The decision was based on her appearance and proportions, the noble structure of her head, the way she strutted down the runway, and her level of fertility...

Way to go Noa. On to Moos World and then Moos Universe...

Israel-Lebanon conflict heats up - Falafel ball

As the Middle East conflict escalates along the Israel - Lebanon border, Israel has won the latest battle.

After Lebanon retook the world record for largest plate of hummus, Israel has now recorded the world's largest falafel ball, weighing in at 10.5 kilogram.

The ball is now in Lebanon's court...

What is next? Strongest harif? largest bowl of diced cucumber and tomato to be included in the falafel? largest container of tehina?

If they figure out how to preserve this stuff long enough, they will eventually complete the making of the worlds largest serving of falafel...

May 20, 2010

Are the bones of Jews or Pagans?

Shmuel Pappenheim expressed in the name of the Eida and those opposing the exhumation and removal of the bones in Ashkelon a "tainoh" that raises important questions in the reliability of the opinions expressed by the archeaologists. he asked how can it possibly be that every time bones are found, wherever they are - Jaffa, Mamilla, Ashkelon, Jerusalem, Tzippori and anywhere else - the archeaologists always claim that the bones are of non-Jews? Where are all the Jews that lived in Eretz Yisrael throughout history buried?

On the other hand, not dealing with the bones of other locations but sticking to Ashkelon, the Eida has yet to produce any shred of even circumstantial evidence that these bones are of Jews. Not only that, but news reports, including the haredi media, have been saying that the re-burial of the bones have been delayed because nobody can agree where to bury them - no chevra kadisha has been willing to bury them in a Jewish cemetery because they are very likely non-Jewish remains.

Add to this that according to Ladaat, a pagan temple was just uncovered during the excavations and removal of the bones, and the likelihood that the archaeologists are telling the truth in this situation, even if they do not in other incidents (I am not saying they don't, but even if you want to say they lie because they have an agenda and have no "neemanus"), seems to be definite.

Tarshish Sena tries out for Israeli "A Star is Born" (video)

This is a great story.. and he seemed to pick up on some real Israeli nuances...

Eretz Nehederet on CNN (video)

CNN ran this video report on the rising popularity of the Israeli satire show "Eretz Nehederet", calling it a cross between Saturday Night Live and The Daily Show.


I am pleased with Obama. I think he’s brilliant. The Republican Party should get out of his way and stop trying to hurt him....it would be good…if he could be a dictator for a few years because he could do a lot of good things quickly.

---- Woody Allen

(Source: FoxNews)


While the picture looks fairly provocative, it is really not and is just the picture of someone in Bnei Brak tearing an advertisement for shoes off the side of a bus because it is pritzus as it shows a womans foot (and ankle) in a heeled shoe.
(source: Bechadrei)

The HOT guy and the Haredi (video)

What do you think of this new ad for HOT? I find it kind of humorous, and they got the hassidic guy a bit more accurately portrayed than ll the American movies with people dressed up as hassidim...

While some are saying it is provocative as anti-haredi as it shows them throwing a haredi off the roof, it is really just someone hiding out dressed up as a haredi. They caught someone hiding out, dressed as a haredi and threw him off the roof. They didnt throw him off because he was haredi - they threw him off because his being dressed as a haredi is irrelevant. Those upset at HOT over this should really be upset that they chose to dress him as a haredi to hide him out, as of saying dress as a haredi and get away with anything, rather than being upset about the 'haredi' being tossed off the roof.

May 17, 2010

Haredi Autonomy Declared in jerusalem!

In light of the rioting which has forced the City of Jerusalem to cut off city services to the Mea Shearim area once again, the residents of Mea Shearim are now declaring autonomy, according to the newest pashkevil.

The Eida says it is now setting up the infrastructure to begin providing all the city services at cheaper prices.

One thing you can be sure about - if they go through with this, once they have to pay for their own garbage cans, benches, street cleaners, and all the other city services they will be providing, there is no way the Eida will allow them to burn garbage cans and destroy the neighborhood in future protests. When it will be coming directly from their pockets, it will all be over. Maybe this is a good thing.

Abutbol is really a unifying force in Bet Shemesh

Am I wrong about Moshe Abutbol? Could be..

According to Chief Rabbi Rav Metzger, Mayor Moshe Abutbol has impressed him with his ability to help all the different sectors of a diverse city, each one according to its specific needs...

Rav Metzger visited Bet Shemesh yesterday and in a ceremonial visit to the mayors office praised him to the heavans for his work and ability to satisfy everyone.

After that, when touring the city, after Mayor Abutbol described the work of the local rabbonim from the Chief Rabbi Rav Biton to neighborhood rabbis Ravs Spektor and Suissa and the Moetza HaDatit and described the work they do and the religious services provided, along with a review of what happened recently with the mikva and how they found a solution that satisfied everybody, Rav Metzger praised the Chief Rabbi of Bet Shemesh, Rav Biton, as one of his favorite rabbis in the rabbinate and having been involved for over 45 years in the rabbinate.

The visit concluded with a visit to a school - Bronco Weiss - where Rav Metzger was treated as royalty as the traditional/secular students greeted him in royal fashion rolling out, literally, a red carpet.

Can it just take a bit of stepping back, coming from out of the city, to see that the mayor is really a unifying force and maybe we are just too close to the situation?

Rav Eliyahu against the Asra Kadisha

Rav Shmuel Eliyahu came down heavy duty against R' Shmidel and the Asra Kadisha and their protests...

"In my opinion it is a mitzva to move these graves. So it is brought in the gemara, so in the Shulchan Aruch, so did Rav Shimon bar Yochai..the gemara says Rashbi moved bones that were a disturbance to the public. When an old man protested, Rashbi set his eyes upon him and turned him to a pile of bones."

"Shmidel is known as a troublemaker, he is not a rav, and many great rabbonim said it is a mitzva to remove the bones -so paskened the rav of the city, so paskened Rav Roza who is an expert on these matters, so paskened the Chief Rabbis, and so paskened the Religious Council of the Rabbinate. Who is this Shmidel? Why does anybody have to listen to him? Whoever follows him is a fool... For what do we need the chilul hashem caused between religious and non-religious? This is superfluous, it is not halacha but foolishness."

"Don't say the rabbonim signed. I know how it works, the person comes to the rabbonim and tells them all sorts of stories that never happened. So the signatures of rabbis doesnt impress me. If the great Rav ELyashiv would come and tell us this is the halacha after he saw what the reality is, we would bow our heads and submit to him, but I dont believe Rav Elyashiv said not to move the graves because it can't be - there is the halacha, and Rav Elyashiv is a man of halacha, not politics. Whatever they say in his name is a lie and deceitful."

Rav Cherlo on learning Torah from people of suspect morals

Rav Cherlo issued an interesting psak. He was asked if one could attend a shiur delivered by someone who is suspected of having committed crimes - while he has not yet been convicted and is currently only suspected of the crimes (in the situation described the rav has been indicted for financial crimes and breach of trust but has not yet gone to trial) - His Torah is very good, and he has not yet been found guilty of anything, or maybe for teaching Torah a person should be held to higher standards?

Rav Cherlo's answer is that participating in such a shiur is being a partner to chilul hashem, as if saying that a good shiur of Torah is more important than being moral and ethical. In this situation, where te rav has not been convicted and is only suspected of the crimes, one should not make a public protest against him, but as a personal decision one should decide on his own to not learn from this rav.


The Navy Seals division of the Eida Hareidis, as the land entry into Ashkelon was blocked by police, the "Seals" tried to sneak in via a boat...
They get an A for effort....

Offending Jews, no problem - Project I.S.R.A.E.L.

While Comedy Central caved to pressure to not depict a character as Mohammed (even though the character was not going to be doing anything specifically bad) on a recent episode of South Park, despite their claims that they offend everyone equally, yet when it comes to Jews they have no problem - not just depicting characters but depicting them in truly offensive ways.

Comedy Central's website is running a game called "I.S.R.A.E.L. Attack" in which a robot named "I.S.R.A.E.L." kills children and animals. Along with that, the game opens with an offensive statement made by a character stating "You lied to me, Jew Producer"..

Calls are out for registering protest to have Comedy Central remove the content. If you are so inclined, fill out the form regarding Programming Questions on the Comedy Central website, select "Other" and state that this game is offensive and should be removed.

Crazy over Lipa (video)

Wow - look at them pushing for their free cd (after paying $100 for a VIP ticket)..

May 16, 2010

Interesting Posts #161

1. Tzedek-Tzedek brings the words of Rav Chaim Soloveitchik condemning a recent pashkevil

2. Torat Yisrael says Hamas is now active on Twitter...

3. Lost in Kollel has some questions about what is the right thing to do when the business is failing, but he is still supporting kids in kollel...

4. From N Flipping is sending a sample to the graphologist... All for a shidduch...

Yes We Can! (Mikva RBS)

Rav Nir Vargon said the following on Shabbos in shul as a summary of lessons learned from the mikva struggle.

NOTE: He spoke in Hebrew and I, with his permission, have translated his words to English. Any mistakes and inaccuracies are mine alone and I apologize for them in advance.

Yes We can!

This is not a victory speech. And we cannot enter into euphoria. There are still extremist elements in Bet Shemesh, and I stress that I am not referring to the Haredi community and not to its Rabbonim, who do everything to take control here in RBS A with unlimited control. As of today, these powerful extremist elements are expecting to obtain a significant grip in RBS A by controlling the public mikva on Lachish, and who knows to where it will spread next. Therefore, the Action Committee has decided not to stop in the struggle.

On the other hand, I wanted to share with you the three main achievements of our struggle until now. First, at the beginning of the struggle, when the head of the Moetza HaDatit was replaced, the extremists wanted to take control over the two mikvas saying “the mizrochnikim will not fight for the mikvas”, and today it is clear to the mayor and to the extremists that they will not get more than the one mikva.

Second, even when the discussion was regarding one mikva until this past Tuesday, the mikva on Dolev which is closer to us would be transferred to Haredi control, and our wives would have to walk to the mikva further away that is older located on Lachish, and this week it was agreed that the mikva on Dolev that is closer to us will remain under the supervision of the Rabbanut.

Third, at the beginning of the struggle, we heard testimony by women who were treated in a shameful manner in the Haredi side of the public mikva, when they did not act in accordance with the stricter demands, and beginning this week the Haredi side is also officially under the supervision of Rav Biton with a letter hanging in the Dolev mikva by Rav Davidovitz in which he commits even in the Haredi side to allow every woman to immerse herself according to her minhag, as Rav Ovadya Yosef obligated him to do, and as is befitting to be in practice in any public mikva.

The conclusion I wish for us to learn from this is that next time we feel that they are trying to restrict our lives in RBS A:

Instead of saying “We have lost hope”,

Instead of sinking into despair due to politics and demographics,

Instead of thinking about a nice apartment in a comfortable place, about beautiful schools and large shuls with developed communities,

We will say to ourselves, “yes we can!” (pardon the lack of originality)

We can manage a struggle for our needs, our rights and our beliefs

We can manage a struggle even against a majority in City Council, and against threats by the mayor,

And most importantly: We can continue to live our lives here, to educate our children here, according to our religious and nationalist beliefs, for many more years.


Abutbol the anti-zionist

Last week a child died tragically, and it led to heavy duty rioting in order to prevent an autopsy. It turns out, the rioting happened despite there never being an intention to do an autopsy. They had an early agreement with the police, so says the families cousin who is the head of the local Hevra Kadisha, that the body would only be eyeballed and not taken for an autopsy unless they see something that would require it. The rioters broke into the families apartment and did tremendous damage. The family was very upset about what happened and publicized notices in anger against the rioters. The heads of the rioters have apologized and called upon participants to chip in to pay for some of the damge (the notice said each person who took part in it should chip in 20 NIS towards paying for repairs) done.

What is even more upsetting is that after the rioting was finished, after Abutbol intervened and negotiated the end of the rioting (according to Chadash Abutbol presented the demands of Rav Kupshitz to the police and forced them to accept his position and refused to back down from them), Abutbol held a press conference in which he explained the agreement achieved.

While he was talking, some residents (from among the rioters) were nearby makign noise trying to disturb. One of them called out "Masht"ap Tziyoni!" (Masht"ap is an acronym for Mishatef Peula - somebody who cooperates and collaborates, so they were accusing him of being a collaborator of the Zionists).

Abutbol later said, "I can forgive them for the [verbal] abuses hurled at me and for not letting me speak. One thing I cannot forgive - that they called me a Zionist!"

Yes, that is the worst thing that happened that day. The city was practically going up in flames. His residents were rioting, causing untold damage to someone else's property, injuring policemen and causing a chilul hashem. After he got them to calm down, they still spent the morning cursing him out. And the worst thing that happened, the least forgiveable part of the day, is the moment someone called him a Zionist. It is fine to not be a Zionist. But if that is the worst part of his day, that clearly makes him an anti-zionist. Then what is he doing being the mayor of a city in Israel?

Fixing the World, aka butting into everybody else's business

There was a very interesting article written the other day about an incident that had happened a couple days earlier.

The author, a woman named Noa Raz, writes that she is a member of the Conservative Movement. She davens every day, with tallis and tefillin in the privacy of her own home. She slept by her friend in beer Sheva and in the morning she davened with her tefilin. She later went out to the bus station and a haredi fellow, after staring at her, pointed at the lines on her arm and asked if they are from tefillin. After ignoring him for a bit, he finally got in her face and she no longer could and confirmed they were.

He then grabbed her arm, started kicking her, and screamed and cursed at her.

She successfully extricated herself after a few moments and ran to her bus (later she filed a report with the police).

This is the problem today with religion. We butt into everybody's business. In this case, assuming the general details are generally accurate (it is only one side of the story, and it is from a news report so I dont expect all the details to be accurate, but lets say it is generally accurate), she donned her tefillin in the privacy of her own home (her friends home actually).

The excuse given to oppose the Women of the wall does not fit the bill in this case. She was not being provocative, she wasn't just trying to show people she can get away with it, she was not trying to show up anybody.

All she was doing was davening according to her belief. That is besides the fact that even though she is not commended to don tefillin she was still doing a mitzva.

Sure, we might write it off and say this guy was just a nut job, a fruitcake, off his rocker. And maybe he was. But we are seeing more and more of this recently where religious people are butting into everybody else's business and telling them how to live their lives.

It has to stop.

Fix yourself, fix your family. Stop worrying so much about what the next guy is doing, let alone about what he is doing in private.

Yuri Foreman solving the Middle East Crisis (video)

May 14, 2010

Mikveh Situation Summary and Thoughts on Our Lives in General Here in Bet Shemesh

A Guest Post by Catriel Lev

Shalom to All,

I am a very caring and honest private citizen living in Ramat Bet Shemesh Alef, who is concerned for the welfare of our community, and who has been involved in several initiatives to prevent friction between communities in our city and to help the law-abiding citizens have their needs met. Of course, I realize that no one has to accept that statement just because I make it, but it is true nonetheless, and can be verified by many people in the neighborhood who know me. Of course, many others who are working for the welfare of our community have done more than I have, and I claim no special place above anyone else working sincerely for the welfare of the community.

It is as a very caring and honest private citizen concerned for the welfare of our community that I present this to you. I do not have any official position, and certainly no political office; I simply stand upon my integrity, and demand integrity from all of the leaders of communities in our city (as well as from all people everywhere).

Though I detest the "labeling" which often occurs in our community, and I simply define myself as a Torah-observant Jew, I feel it proper to make it clear that I am considered a member of the Dati-Leumi community. Though I don't feel comfortable with people assuming that I will always have the views that are assumed to be the views of that community, I certainly feel comfortable with the religious practices of that community, since I feel that they provide the most religious way to observe Judaism, since they include observance of ALL of the Mitzvot including those involved in thanking Hashem for his miracles performed for us in recent generations which lead to the religious observance of a Chag DeRabbanan (as they did in the case of Channukah etc.), which, according to all that I have learned from my Rabbeim, is Hashem's will. I can certainly understand people who do not feel comfortable with the idea that the Halachah requires us to observe such a Chag commemorating such great miracles, and how they reach their conclusions; but I expect them to understand that my acceptance, according to all that I have learned from my Rabbeim, that the Halachah requires such an observance, leads me to imbue great spirituality into my life, and makes me as "Frum" as I could possibly be.

It is interesting to note that according to the definitions of Chareidi, based upon the Pasuk (verse) in Yeshayahu (Isaiah) which mentions the word "HaChareidim", presented recently in an article by a Chareidi Rabbi of a local synagogue in a local Chareidi magazine's English section, I am Chareidi! In any case, as I mentioned, I prefer to define myself simply as a Torah-observant Jew.

The major topic of this "article" or "report" is the Mikveh situation and the recent Mikveh controversy in RBS-Alef. Now, at least, we have heard that a new agreement has been worked out, which sounds well suited to the needs of the public; and let us all hope that this can be the beginning of a long period of peace and tranquility with regard to Mikvaot in Bet Shemesh. I wish to relate to the Mikveh situation more in the vein of using this recent controversy as a means to help us understand how to reduce friction in our neighborhood in other situations, even if they do not involve Mikvaot.

The Mikveh topic is a very serious topic, and has the potential for great Chillul HaShem, just as it has the potential for great Kiddush HaShem; so I approach it with the awareness that we must deal with it a very responsible manner. I have invested great effort in working to realize the potential for Kiddush HaShem and avoid Chillul HaShem. It is with this as my "guiding light" that I approach the public with my "composition" which will attempt to bring out important points from the recent Mikveh controversy and relate them to how we can improve our lives in general here in Bet Shemesh (and I believe that the lessons learned also apply to life all over Israel).

I have also invested great efforts in clarifying this situation (along with many other situations in our fair city over the years), and in finding out the actual facts (Emet LaAmito), while being Dan et Kulam LeKaf Zechut (judging everyone favorably), though without altering the facts to do so. This means that I have truly exerted myself to "understand where everyone is coming from," though without excusing any reprehensible behavior that has become apparent through my efforts to find the truth.

I, therefore, request that everybody, no matter what their previous views, and no matter what their "religious affiliation", read ALL of what I am presenting with a clear head and an open mind. It also really needs to be read in its entirety for the complete picture which I am trying to portray to become clear. I believe that this "report" has much to contribute to the harmonious coexistence of the communities which compose a beautiful mosaic in our fair city of Bet Shemesh.

I have amassed quite a bit of information about the Mikveh issue, as well as other issues concerning the communities in our fair city, including much that I have gathered through my personal investigations, as well as much that has been passed on to me by absolutely reliable sources (whose identities I cannot divulge). These absolutely reliable sources have proven their integrity over and over again in the many years in which I have been involved in these matters, such that I can be absolutely certain that the information I have is correct. Since those of you reading this cannot be certain of who those absolutely reliable sources are, I can understand that some people may be somewhat skeptical of some things which I report; the reassurance that I can give publicly is that those of you who know me know that I would not believe any information to be true without very careful consideration of the matter in order to be absolutely certain that I have received the truth (and not just what someone may think to be the truth), and that I do not accept rumors and the like.

I have a deep concern for presenting Mitzvot to the people in a most pleasant way so as to encourage them to perform the Mitzvot, and this has also motivated me to publicize this "report"; and I am also working on acquainting the English-speaking public in Bet Shemesh with many issues for which much of the material is only available in Hebrew.

I must also emphasize that, though I have great respect for the many people working on Mikveh quality and other important topics in our city; this is MY report on these issues, and therefore, it should be clear to all that I take full responsibility for what I report here, and that no one other than myself is responsible for what I present here to the public.

Unfortunately, one of the problems in dealing with the Mikveh issue, as well as many other issues, is that it has clearly been demonstrated that several leaders have not displayed integrity on this and other issues confronting our community, and this grieves me greatly. I do NOT mention this lightly, and I am not venting anger at these people by saying this (since I actually only feel disappointment in the behavior of these people, and how much it interferes with dealing with these issues in a constructive manner, rather than anger); and, of course, I hope that those leaders will mend their ways and perform complete Teshuvah, but that is beyond my control. As has been mentioned from time to time, it is not proper to name the names of evildoers in discussions on blogs; so I will not mention such names. In any case, it is not for me to discredit them; their own lack of integrity will discredit them and, at least to a certain extent, has already done so.

There is quite a bit of necessary background material for the understanding of the recent Mikveh controversy, and I will attempt to provide it (or at least enough of it for people to see the "big picture") in the following paragraphs.

There are many communities both in RBS and in Bet Shemesh in general. Though they should be able to coexist peacefully with mutual respect, this does not always occurs; and it fails to occur frequently enough that Bet Shemesh has acquired a reputation as a "trouble spot" where "religious violence and intimidation" occur.

It is quite clear to me that the vast majority of us, no matter what our "religious affiliation" do not support religious violence and intimidation, and are very upset that our city has acquired such a reputation. This being so, it behooves us all to do the best we can to change this reputation; especially since I hope that we all know (I certainly do) that Bet Shemesh is a WONDERFUL place to live. It has so much to offer in so many ways that it is simply a place to settle down in and to enjoy!

However, as most of us realize, there is a group of extremists, whose statements show that they consider themselves the flagship of Chareidi society, and who are extreme far beyond normative Chareidi society, and who number, in RBS-Alef, something in the vicinity of 20 families. Apparently because of their non-normative outlook, their actions generally are such as indicate that this group is not concerned with making Mitzvot appealing to as many Jews as possible, but is almost exclusively focused upon how to keep all outside influences (including many very spiritual religious people, both Chareidi and non-Chareidi) away from their communities, to avoid what they appear to consider "pollution" of their "uniquely pure" community of "the only Jews still practicing pure Judaism as it should be practiced" in this area.

It behooves us all to be VERY CAREFUL to recognize that this group, though they may do things that we do not approve of, are also Hashem's creatures, and that we should do our best to allow them to exercise their lawful right to practice Judaism however they see fit, even though many of us see their non-normative outlook as an indication that they are a kind of "Reform Jew" (as stated, by, among others, a big Talmid Chacham whom I have met, and who wears a BLACK Kippah, though most of us would probably not consider him a Chareidi Jew), since they are portraying Halachah as something that it absolutely is not, no matter whether they claim to be from the Chareidi community or some other community.

I want to emphasize VERY STRONGLY both points in the above paragraph: We must all accept these people as having a right to practice as they wish for they are also Hashem's creatures; but, many of the most religious of us in Bet Shemesh consider them to be a kind of "Reform Jew". It shouldn't matter how they define themselves; each of us should be strong enough in his/her Judaism to know what is normative Judaism and what isn't. However, no matter how any of us feel about other Jews in Bet Shemesh, we all have a responsibility to respect each other and to recognize each other as Hashem's creatures.

No other community in our fair city actually wants to prevent the extremists from exercising their lawful right to practice Judaism however they see fit; and this is something that I have checked out carefully and found to be true. Though there may be some individuals who are bigots, and hate Dati-Leumi people just because they are Dati-Leumi, or hate Chareidi people just because they are Chareidi, or hate Chiloni people just because they are Chiloni; there is NO community whose position is that we should hate other Jews because of their "religious affiliation"; and there is no community whose position is that Chareidim of any kind should be influenced to change their religious practices. This clarity of message should be transmitted to leaders of extremist groups, like the people mentioned above who consider themselves the flagship of Chareidi society, because that fear, which they seem to exhibit in almost everything they do, is not founded in fact; and if this group can come to realize that, it should remove one major cause of friction in our city.

I hope that community leaders, especially in the Chareidi community, since there is more chance that the message will be accepted by the extremists from Chareidi leaders, will transmit this message very clearly to the extremists, and this could greatly help ease the friction in our community. I think that this is a very important point, and I reiterate that community leaders, especially in the Chareidi community, should continually reassure the extremists and their leaders that no other community in our fair city actually wants to prevent the extremists from exercising their lawful right to practice Judaism however they see fit.

Because of their focus, the extremist leaders often make statements and perform actions which indicate that they feel that they must control much (or all) of what takes place in the neighborhood to keep it from "polluting" their "uniquely pure" Jews. However, it turns out that even in their closed communities a number of community members do NOT want to observe all of the strictures that the extremist leaders desire that their communities observe. The extremist leaders must be brought to realize that this is solely their concern; and that if they feel that all members of their communities must observe all of the strictures that the extremist leaders desire that they observe, those leaders must show their own people how these strictures make their lives more spiritual, rather than trying to control what happens around them including things that relate to other people not from their communities.

As I have often done in the past, I make a plea here to all leaders to be decent, honest human beings, not using the "my side is right anyway" excuse to lie and cheat in order to "beat the other side". I also reiterate my plea to Chareidi leaders who do not want other people imposed upon by a smothering atmosphere produced by a few extremists to take a clear stand, and especially to convey to the extremists that they are the ones whose actions actually may be called "Chareidi-bashing" when they cause grief to non-Chareidim and claim to be speaking in the name of the entire Chareidi community. There are Chareidi leaders who speak out with courage on these issues. Rav Yakov Horowitz of Monsey, NY, comes to mind almost immediately, and his article "They Do Not Represent Us", which is found on the internet at: http://www.rabbihorowitz.com/PYes/ArticleDetails.cfm?Book_ID=904&ThisGroup_ID=262&Type=Article is a masterpiece in this regard.

I understand why some Chareidi leaders feel that they cannot speak out publicly on these issues, but I urge them to privately, at least, convey to the extremists and their leaders their disgust at the Chillul Hashem they are causing (however you wish to phrase it to get the attention of the extremists), and not to let them off the hook with the excuse that "they are just being very much more Machmir than everyone else, even if it is misguided".

As far as Mikvaot go, it has already been expressed a few times on blogs and Email lists that it is very perturbing that in almost the entire Jewish world, all women, no matter what their "religious affiliation", can use the same Mikveh, with respect for all customs, without the need for "separate Mikvehs for separate communities"; but that it does not appear to be possible to do this in the beautiful community of RBS-Alef! As far as respecting all customs, I mean that each woman should be able to use the Mikveh according to her custom with no interference from anyone else, and with the Balanit (Mikveh lady) being there only to render any assistance which the woman using the Mikveh requests (as well as offering any suggestions she wishes to suggest because she feels that they might improve the woman's Mikveh experience, while making it clear that the woman is absolutely not required to do what the Mikveh lady suggests), and with the woman using the Mikveh contacting her Rav, WHOEVER he is, if she feels the need for Rabbinical consultation, and always being allowed to dip in the Mikveh once she has completed the preparations which she knows she needs according to her custom. It should make no difference which community the Mikveh is part of, it should be respecting all customs.

Unfortunately, this has clearly not always occurred in Mikvaot in RBS-Alef! That there has been improper behavior in this respect is a clearly proven fact (including pictures), even if there are questions as to why that improper behavior was performed. Irrespective of the political issues and the political agreements which were supposedly obtained by the use of illegitimate coercion, the investigation of that improper behavior at a Mikveh, in order to ensure that it NEVER occurs again, should be the first priority of every observant Jew in our neighborhood, and especially of Rabbis who are supposed to run Mikvaot!

As a public service in this regard I must emphasize that anyone who knows women who experienced mistreatment at the Mikveh (even if they were only "threatened" that they will not be allowed in the Mikveh pool unless they perform an injurious process or behave in contradiction to the Psak that they have received), should please encourage them to file a formal complaint. It is understandable that women, who have gone through an experience as traumatic as some of these experiences have been, might not want to dredge up the unpleasant memories by going through the formal complaint process; but the many oral complaints received so far do not result in any action being taken to correct the situation, so it is for the public good that women are being requested to file formal complaints if they have endured mistreatment of any kind at the Mikveh (and this is true of any Mikveh anywhere in Israel). Only formal complaints can help correct the situation, and, judging by the number of oral complaints received ever since this scandalous behavior was made public (and even before it was made public), the number of formal complaints so far, is clearly only the tip of the iceberg. The more women who formally file their sincere complaints about unjustifiable behavior toward them, the more chance there is of ensuring that nothing like this will be allowed to occur in the future.

Complaints may be filed with Rav David Spector of the local Rabbinate. His phone numbers are: 052-385-9105, and 999-4987; and he meets with people at his home on Reuven Street in the Scheinfeld neighborhood at certain hours by appointment. He also has an office at the Rabbinate building downtown on Abba Naamat Street, and appointments with him at his office at the Rabbinate building can be made through the Rabbinate phone numbers: 991-1361, 991-2867. Rav Spector's Email address is: spektor@neto.net.il (This information is also available in the Shemeshphone on page 25e of the blue pages in English). There is also a way to file a complaint with the national office of the Religious Affairs Ministry, but I do not have the details, and I assume that filing a complaint with Rav Spector is easier for people in Bet Shemesh. I also assume that a complaint filed with Rav Spector gets handled more quickly since he is "on the spot" and knows the situation.

It should be clear to us all that if any person responsible for a Mikveh has allowed such misbehavior or mistreatment of women to occur "on his/her watch" at a Mikveh (even if he did not encourage it, but only allowed it and/or tried to cover up the fact of its occurrence), that person should be disbarred from having responsibility for any Mikveh, since that person has proven his total lack of fitness for such a position. Though Teshuvah is always possible, there is probably NO way that women could ever feel safe in using a Mikveh run by such a person.

In the case of Mikvaot, the outlook exhibited by the extremists very likely means that they will view every Mikveh in RBS-Alef which is not under their control as potentially luring their "uniquely pure" Jews into practicing something less than "pure Judaism". Quite a few Chareidi women, including some from the extremists' camp, have used the non-Chareidi side of the Mikveh on Dolev from time-to-time (some have quietly explained to non-Chareidi women that they use the non-Chareidi side only when they think that they can escape being noticed while doing so), and the extremist leaders have also exhibited behavior indicating that they want to control everything about Mikvaot (more on that below), which would give "their" women no options other than to use Mikveh services provided according to the most extreme Chumrahs. Once again, I remind leaders, especially Chareidi leaders, to try to relieve these fears which the extremist leaders have expressed time and again.

The extremists originally expressed a desire to build a private Mikveh on Nachal Luz and were allotted land for this by the previous Mayor. However, though that Mikveh was supposed to be completed by the summer of 2010, it has never even been started. The economic troubles in the world clearly prevented much funding for building that Mikveh, and thus contributed to that Mikveh not being built. However, now the extremists have requested that the land which was originally allocated for the Mikveh on Luz be used instead for a Chareidi school.

Since a Chareidi Mayor was elected in Bet Shemesh a year and a half ago, the extremists pushed to coerce the leaders in charge of Mikvaot in our city to consent to an agreement which would transfer control of half of the public Mikvaot in RBS-Alef to the extremists (though those Mikvaot would still be officially under the auspices of the existing Mikveh leadership structure, including Rav Spector, only the extremist Rabbis would have any say in what goes on within them). There are indications that the way the consent for such an agreement was obtained provides a strong claim against the validity of such an agreement.

It must be noted that Rav Spector has always been willing to work even with extremist elements to ensure that all sides feel comfortable with Mikvaot, as is the case with a public Mikveh in RBS-Bet; but in RBS-Alef the extremists want to exclude Rav Spector altogether, which would prevent most non-extremist women from feeling comfortable in the Mikveh in most cases.

The aforementioned agreement was never ratified by the local Religious Council (called "Moatzah Datit" in Hebrew), and the previous head of the Religious Council says that he did not bring the agreement to ratification because he could see that the situation which would be created by such an agreement would be unfeasible. This most likely means that he saw that the extremists were doing, and have continued to do, things that prevent the majority of women from feeling comfortable in a Mikveh, such as not allowing women to follow the Psak of their own Rabbis, including preventing Sefardi women from dipping in the Mikveh on Friday Ben HaShemashot as is their custom, and even having a sign posted at the Mikveh stating that no woman, regardless of ethnic community [Eidah], could dip Ben HaShemashot. Now we have heard that a new agreement has been worked out, which sounds better suited to the needs of the public; and let us all hope that this can be the beginning of a long period of peace and tranquility with regard to Mikvaot in Bet Shemesh.

As far as the Mikvaot in RBS-Alef go, recently the Mikveh on Nachal Lachish was scheduled to undergo renovations, so that the only public Mikveh in use in RBS-Alef has been the one on Nachal Dolev; therefore, that one was "split up" creating a "Chareidi side" controlled by the extremists and a "non-Chareidi side" which remained under Rav Spector's control, and quite a few women were mistreated by Balaniot (Mikveh ladies) on the "Chareidi side" of the Mikveh as has been mentioned above.

The extremist Rabbis began by claiming that none of the mistreatment and improper behavior occurred, and have given the impression of being adamant in that disbelief despite the many clear-cut cases of mistreatment that have been passed on to the women gathering information about this (some of which were reported to Chareidi Rabbis as well), and despite the sign not allowing the practice of the Sefardi custom (which is certainly improper behavior) which was indeed in place at the Mikveh until it was taken down a while ago. I know that one Chareidi Rabbi, despite being given very clear information that a Rav in the neighborhood had received a report of specific mistreatment, without investigating that report simply stated that he did not believe that any mistreatment had occurred, indicating an attitude of "Don't confuse me with the facts, I have already set my opinion". The repeated accusations of "Charedi-bashing" used against people who simply wanted to stop the mistreatment, also do not indicate a sincere desire to correct misconduct; they seem to indicate that certain leaders feel that avoiding the report of any misconduct by any part of the Chareidi community is more important than honesty and integrity in dealing with abuses of power and mistreatment. I believe that it is clear to all decent people that we must hope that the mistreatment of women at the Mikveh will never recur, and that the extremists' lack of respect for Psak Halachah (other than their own) will cease.

As far as Mikveh use, the vast majority (at least two-thirds) of women using the Mikveh use the "non-Chareidi side", and, as mentioned above, some of the women who use the "Chareidi side" state that they would use the "non-Chareidi side" if they thought that they would not be seen doing so. This makes it clear that the argument that "since at least half of the neighborhood is Chareidi" [which may also not be true numerically] then "at least half of the neighborhood Mikvaot should be run by Chareidi rabbis" does not hold water (to use an appropriate metaphor). First of all, even if half of the neighborhood truly is Chareidi, not all Chareidi women want all of the extreme Chumrahs demanded by the group of Rabbis demanding control of Mikvaot. Additionally, the group of Rabbis demanding control of Mikvaot are not normative Chareidi Rabbis, but extremists whose views generally fall far outside of the norms for Chareidi society.

The extremists have also performed some actions which indicate that they want control of all Mikvaot in the neighborhood, such as entering and inspecting a Mikveh over which they were not supposed to have any control. Their request that the land which was originally allocated for the Mikveh on Luz be used instead for a Chareidi school seems to indicate this too.

For the entire period that this situation was developing, the Rabbis of the Action Committee for Integrity in Providing for Religious Services were refused admittance to the Mayor to discuss the situation with him, though he did meet with extremist Rabbis, claiming that he wants to meet only with a single representative of each side. After many weeks, he finally agreed to meet with the Rabbis of the Action Committee for Integrity in Providing for Religious Services, and met with them on Tuesday, 4/5/10, though he was disrespectful to them and not sympathetic to their concerns.

At present, members of the Action Committee for Integrity in Providing for Religious Services continue to work to ensure that all women can feel comfortable in the Mikvaot in RBS-Alef and that no woman is coerced into things which are against her custom or Psak, or is coerced into having something done to her body which she does not approve of, or is refused the use of the Mikveh because of these things.

It certainly appears to me that we should be working to ensure that the atmosphere in our Mikvaot does not drive away women who come to dip in them, since, aside from the evil in the mistreatment of women, some of the women may be women who are not formally religious and may simply cease Mikveh use based upon bad experiences at a Mikveh. My Rosh Kollel from years ago, Rav Moshe Ben-Abu used to emphasize to us that he always tried to ensure that women who help others with the preparation for their dipping in the Mikveh (whether formally Balaniot or not) would not in any way force Chumrahs upon those who came to dip, and would always allow women to dip according to the most lenient views; since anyone who wishes to perform Chumrahs can always do so (and can even ask the Mikveh staff to help them in this), but someone who has come to the Mikveh but is not very committed to that Mitzvah may be driven away from practicing the Mitzvah by being required to perform actions that are beyond the minimal requirements. So you get the "best of both worlds" by never coercing a woman to go beyond the very minimal requirements (according to the most lenient views).

In my opinion, some of the major lessons to be learned from the Mikveh controversy and the general atmosphere in RBS are:

1. Let us put our true concerns out in the open. If the different sides to an argument will state explicitly what bothers them and what they want, we should be able to work out a respectful compromise in accordance with the legal requirements of the issue being discussed. It is only by stating the true concerns explicitly that the true issues are discussed. There have been many situations in our city where I have seen clear indications that the true issues were not being discussed because one of the sides had thrown up a "smokescreen" of "religious" claims which served to divert the discussion into a path that served someone's purposes but that was not in the public interest.

If the extremists are indeed very concerned about the purity of their camp, as many of their statements and actions indicate, they should be much more active in educating people in their camp to stay away from things which the rest of us (Chareidi as well as non-Chareidi) do not find to be temptations. They certainly should not be trying to impose upon the entire neighborhood practices which many of us find to be Reform Judaism type practices; no one should be directed to practices that are Reform in nature (unless they wish to be Reform Jews, who, of course, were also made in the Tselem Elokim and must be respected as human beings, but about whom I will not diverge to comment here, since the topic here is vastly different), and everyone should be able to achieve full spiritual fulfillment.

The true concern of many non-Chareidi and Chareidi people in our neighborhood has been expressed several times: that the extremists are creating an atmosphere which stifles spiritual growth, and certainly invalidates anyone else's approach to Halachah other then their own. Some of the statements used by extremist leaders during the Mikveh controversy clearly indicate an attitude of invalidating everyone else's approach to Halachah, even though their approach is looked upon as being Reform in the eyes of many other Kosher Jews. So if this is the case, can those other Jews now claim that they have to control how the extremists practice Judaism in order not to have any Judaism around which is not "up to the highest standards" and which may pollute the environment for those other Jews?

Let us all relate to our neighborhood (and our city) as a place where we TRULY want everyone to be comfortable. If we all put our concerns out "on the table" without subterfuge, I see no reason why we cannot achieve an atmosphere in our neighborhood that is pleasant for each of us. This will require each of us to be honest with himself about what is truly necessary for a pleasant atmosphere, and also to be honest about respecting everyone else's legal right to fulfill Halachah as he sees fit (even if I see his practices as Reform or Avodah Zarah or any of the other expressions which I have seen and heard here in Bet Shemesh over the years); but I believe that, with true good will this is possible, and I hope that I am not naïve in my hopes of achieving true good will from all sides.

2. Let us truly respect one another. If the different sides will be willing to understand that, though each of them may consider his Derech in Halachah to be the very best way (and perhaps the absolutely required way), each other side also has the right to practice as it sees fit, then they should be able to muster the minimal mutual respect necessary to work out the respectful compromises necessary in this neighborhood.

3. Let us make public integrity and basic honesty the norm and demand it from all of our leaders. No one really benefits if one side "wins" an argument or a political battle by perverting the truth. The "cheated" side just smolders in anger waiting for a chance to "get even", and in any case the lies come out in the end, and simply discredit the duplicitous leader even more. Moreover, the true problems then "come back to haunt us" later because they were covered up by lies! No leader is expected to be perfect, but lying to cover up one's failings should not be accepted from any leader, or any person at all for that matter. We should remember that one of David HaMelech's great virtues was that he apologized and performed Teshuvah for his sins and did not hide them.

4. Let us not produce excuses for violating the law or practicing violence or intimidation of any kind. If one side uses such excuses to excuse their "hotheads", the other side will also do so; and a vicious cycle of spiraling violence and threats could result. Every community should behave in a truly responsible manner, clearly condemning the "hotheads" from their community who act in a reprehensible manner (as does Rav Yakov Horowitz in the article I mentioned above), and doing its best to prevent the "hotheads" from actually acting based upon any destructive plans they come up with. "Pashkevilim" of all types should be written without the poisonous language that has infested most "Pashkevilim" for decades. Even though I never saw the "Pashkevilim" which were publicized against some Chareidim, I was told by a Dati-Leumi Rav that the language quoted in the name of those "Pashkevilim" was disgraceful; so I certainly condemn the use of "Pashkevilim" in this manner, even thought they seem clearly to have been used by "my side".

5. Let us truly believe that, even if we don't even like each other too much (though I hope that that will NOT be the case), we can live side by side without causing each other grief. We have a wonderful neighborhood, and a great city; let's not ruin it through spiteful fights against "Apikorsim" and the like.

As such, I close with a Pasuk (verse) which exemplifies the important balance in Middot, such that truth is not sacrificed for "peace", nor peace sacrificed for "truth": "VeHaEmet VeHaShalom Ehavu" (Zechariah 8:19), which translates as, "And the truth and the peace shall you love;".


Catriel Lev

Mobile Phone: 050-205-7867

Email: clev@actcom.com

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