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Jun 23, 2013

Does Shas out of government mean opportunity for casino in Eilat?

When Shas and UTJ were left out of the government, many looked (and still look) at it as an opportunity to accomplish things that were not possible in previous governments in which they were partners. That has so far manifested itself in the public discourse in the form of where money will be directed, and where it won't be, issues with advancing the equality of the IDF draft, connecting core curriculum in education systems with size of budget grants, and perhaps even issues such as civil marriage and the operation of public transportation on Shabbos in secular areas.

One opportunity has arisen that I think was overlooked previously, until it was just raised by a deputy mayor.

The deputy mayor of Eilat, Yehuda Mordy, has sent a letter to Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu saying that with Shas not included in the government coalition, the time is ripe for the construction of a casino in Eilat. Mordy wrote that they now have a window of opportunity, as in the past every time a similar initiative was raised Shas was responsible for rejecting it.

Mordy says that building a casino will bring financial prosperity to the city. It will create jobs, the city will be able to lower property taxes for the residents, it will prevent crime (NOTE: I never before heard this "benefit" ascribed to casinos) as the increased revenues will allow them to add police to the police force, the best doctors and teachers will be attracted to move to Eilat. Mordy does qualify it by saying that such a casino should only be open for tourists but locals should be prohibited from entering.

Mordy also says this would allow the government to cancel the intended voiding of the VAT exemption currently held by Eilat. According to Mordy, the casino would bring in 5 times the revenue than the new VAT would bring in, and the government could cancel its plan with this alternate revenue.
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The Shas representative in Eilat, Moshe Alemkais, though I am a bit surprised to hear that the haredi Shas party has a community down there, says that the opposition to a casino was never limited to just Shas but was cross-party opposition. The hotels might prosper from a casino, but the city itself will suffer from increased crime and prostitution. When the gambling boats were in operation off the coast of Eilat, many families suffered due to the gambling. To be fair, Alemkais does not discount it out of hand, but says a casino should not be in Eilat proper, but perhaps it would be ok in a closed complex in a place like Ovda (a spot in the desert about 60km north of Eilat), as long as it is not easily accessible.
(source: Erev Erev)

It seems people like to associate things with the haredim. Even the haredim do this, and regarding the casino issue Mordy is doing this. Did Shas oppose it? clearly they did. Were they the only ones opposed to a casino opening in Eilat? Probably not. Cities around the world deal with the debate of opening a casino, and there are very real concerns that affect everybody and have nothing to do with whether a person is haredi or not, or if there is a haredi community present in any given city or not. Plenty of non-haredi people oppose the opening of casinos, yet Mordy in Eilat makes it appear as if it is solely a haredi issue.

Another example of this, from the other end, is the law proposal floated by Minister of Health Yael German last week to make the default status of organ donation to be one where everyone is by default a donor and one who does not want to be must state so explicitly. In the Mishpacha newspaper this past week, when reporting on this issue, called it an anti-haredi proposal. As if the only reason to oppose it is for being haredi, and the only reason German suggested it is in order to get the haredi organs. Reading the general media one could have easily seen that plenty of non-haredim are also opposed to German's proposal. Many consider it immoral, many don't want to donate, and the issue has nothing to do with haredim, even if haredim are among those opposed to the idea. Just the fact that haredim are also opposed to it and would also be negatively affected by it does not make the proposal specifically anti-haredi.

Not everything is always about the haredim. There are good reasons for non-haredim to oppose things that sometimes might even coincide with the haredi position on matters. Haredim would do well to note that and not always see themselves as the target and the victim. As well, those trying to get things done should not always blame the haredim for being the opponents - even when haredim are opposed to something sometimes the opposition is supported and justified in non-haredi terms as well. Both would be more successful if they were not so narrow-minded.

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