Thursday, December 30, 2010

Katzav Convicted of Rape and Molestation

The verdict is in. He may be guilty and he may not be. I do not have faith in the Israeli Judicial System:
A three-judge panel of the Tel Aviv District Court unanimously convicted this morning former President Moshe Katzav of all charges against him, except for that of harassing a witness. He was convicted on two counts of rape, one count of an indecent act, sexual harassment of three women, and an attempt to obstruct justice. It is not known when the sentence will be handed down.

The tensions had been high in anticipation of the reading of the ruling, but as soon as Court President George Kara began without declaring Katzav innocent, it was clear that he had been found guilty of at least one of the charges against him.

The judges declared that Katzav, a former Transportation Minister, should not have accused the media of "trying him publicly," because he himself "used the media to his advantage whenever he could."

The State Prosecution is now facing strong criticism for having offered a relatively moderate plea bargain offer to Katzav, while the women's groups have been empowered.

Public officials praised Israel's justice system. Justice Minister Yaakov Ne'eman said that the "commandment not to sway justice had been fulfilled," while Chief Justice Dorit Beinisch said that the ruling proves that all are equal before the law. The prosecutor in the case, Ronit Amiel, said that it shows the strength of Israel's democracy. A woman, known only by her first initial Aleph, accused Katzav over four years ago of attacking her more than once when she worked for him in the Transportation Ministry. Three other women also accused him of similar, though less serious, crimes. The charges by one accuser - another woman known as Aleph, who worked for Katzav in the President's office - were dropped over three years ago.

Katzav strongly denied the charges against him throughout the last four years. At one point, he even held an angry press conference, charging the media - and especially Channel Two - with waging a witch hunt against him.

The judges said that Katzav's testimony had been "replete with lies," and that he should have accepted the plea bargain that was offered him. He turned it down at the time, saying he would fight for his complete innocence.

Katzav's wife Gila was not in court. His son broke down in sobs when the ruling was read aloud, while Katzav himself remained stone-faced.
Let's assume for the sake of argument that Moshe Katzav is innocent. Katzav could have avoided this mess if he had kept the laws of yichud and negiah. With regards to negiah, apparently Moshe Katzav admits that he sometimes hugged female members of his staff. If he had acted in accordance to Jewish law with regards to these matters any attempt to slander him would have been immediately written off.

I know a God fearing doctor who will not perform bodily examinations on any of his patients unless a member of his staff is in the room with him. This is in order to avoid any claims of improper conduct on his part. Where I work, even the so-called secular Jews know that you don't hug or even shake hands with a religious member of the opposite sex.

I hope the case will lead to a strengthening of modesty in the workplace and in general.

Tuesday, December 28, 2010

Terrible Translation at

This is just too funny:

Who are these "female rabbis"? Are they graduates of the Reform movement's Hebrew Union College, the Conservative movement's Jewish Theological Seminary, or both? Here is what they wrote:
The letter states, "There are quite a few Arab workers who give themselves Hebrew names. Yusef turns into Yosef, Samir turns into Sami, and Awabad turns into Ami. They ask to be close to you, try to find favor with you, and give you all the attention in world, they are actually here knowing to act with courtesy, acting as if they really care for you, say a good word, but their behavior is only temporary. The moment you are in their hands, in their village, under their control, everything changes."

"Your life will never go back to the way it was, and the attention you so desired will turn into curses, beatings, and humiliations," the letter warns.
Say what? My gut feeling was that there is something is very wrong here. A quick check on the Arutz 7 web site determined that the letter was not composed by "female rabbis", but by the wives of regular Orthodox rabbis. Someone at jpost translated "rabbaniot" (in Yiddish "rebbetzins") as "female rabbis"! Among the signatories: Rebbetzin Esther Lior of Kiryat Arba (Rabbi Dov Lior's wife) and Rebbetzin Shlamit Melamed of Beit El(Rabbi Zalmen Melamed's wife).

This reminded me of an old Yiddish saying:"It's a lot easier to become a rebbetzin than to become a rabbi." However, at jpost it's the same thing!

Monday, December 27, 2010

80 ultra-Orthodox Jews Enlist Into IDF Intelligence

The times they are a changing:
Eighty hareidi-religious men joined the ranks of IDF intelligence this week, becoming the largest group to do so in the history of the “Bina B'Yarok” (Intelligence in Green) program to bring hareidim into the corps.

The new inductees represent a 25% increase in hareidi-religious presence in the Intelligence Corp.

They will begin work in a variety of positions, working with communications, computers, GIS systems, and in research. Most will work with computers or in communications.

Young men from a variety of streams within the hareidi-religious community enlisted with Bina B'Yarok. Some are from the chassidic Gur and Sanz groups, others are Sephardi, and still others are “Litvaks,” members of communities based in European Jewish traditions.

The recruits came from cities across the country, including hareidi-religious strongholds like Beitar Illit and Modiin Illit (Kiryat Sefer) where IDF enlistment is often discouraged.
So How did the IDF succeed in enlisting them?:
Commanding officer Major Yoram Dan explained that the Bina B'Yarok program is designed with the haredi soldiers' unique needs in mind. The soldiers serve exclusively with men, are provided with food that meets demanding kosher specifications, and are given time to pray each afternoon, he said.

“Our goal is to make more options available for hareidi recruits,” he added.
This is a simple solution that could have been implemented a long time ago: Create different frameworks within the army that do not contradict the Hareidi way of life i.e. do not force them to serve with women etc. BTW, I know that not all of the recruits are "Hareidi" in the "black hat" sense of the word. Some of them are youth from from the National Religious community that found the “Bina B'Yarok” program appealing.

Behatzlachah to the new recruits!

Sunday, December 26, 2010

Translating Hebrew to Yeshivish

This poster, as well as various variations of it, were pasted up in Jerusalem's religious neighborhoods. On the right is the message in Hebrew and on the left is the translation into English Yeshivish(click on the pic for enlargement!):

I like the way they translated it:

Bat Yisrael = Bas Yisroel
Eshet Avrech = Kollel Youngerman "wife"
"al pi torah" and "Posek" are left in Hebrew letters as is
Peah = sheitel
Mitpachat = tichle

And so on.

BTW, I sympathize with the poster's message.

Jpix on the Banks of the Old Raritan

Go for it!

This Week's Edition of Haveil Havalim...

can be found here!

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Former Attorney General Mukasey: Pardon Pollard

More voices for freeing Pollard:
Former US attorney-general Michael Mukasey sent a letter to US President Barack Obama calling for Jonathan Pollard's sentence to be commuted to the time he has already served - 25 years.

"[Pollard] has not been alleged by anyone to have had any motive to harm the United States," Mukasey wrote Obama in the letter that was released Wednesday. "In these circumstances, a life sentence can only be considered utterly disproportionate to the crime."

"I had occasion myself to consider life sentences, and indeed to impose them," Mukasey wrote. "In more than 18 years on the bench, I imposed such sentences on four defendants," he went on. "Two of these had committed double murders and the two others were convicted of terrorist acts. The accusations against Pollard are not even close in their severity to those kids of crimes."

Mukasey noted that Pollard had passed information to a friendly country without intention to harm the US. "I think it would be proper for you to use your power as the President if the United States to release the man who has already paid a price far beyond what the severity of his deeds required."

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Netanyahu Decides to Ask Obama to Free Pollard

Let's hope this helps:
Israel will formally and publicly ask U.S. President Barack Obama to free Jonathan Pollard, Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu announced Tuesday.

The appeal will represent a major step to rescue Pollard from a life term in prison for passing to Israel classified documents when he worked for the Pentagon. The usual punishment for the offense is up to four years in jail.

Prime Minister Netanyahu acted after appeals by Pollard’s wife Esther and a string of events and reports the past few weeks that have weakened the American case for imposing a life sentence on Pollard. The Prime Minister’s office stated that the decision to appeal to President Obama “was made following a series of talks and contacts…in recent months with senior U.S. administration officials.”

One of those leading the free-Pollard movement is former U.S. Assistant Secretary of Defense Lawrence Korb, who revealed that he has spoken with President Obama and U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton at least six times. He recently has said that Pollard was not dealt with fairly.

Israeli governments have said they have made quiet efforts to free Pollard, and Prime Minister Netanyahu warned them that his appeal to President Obama may not succeed, if not backfire. Esther Pollard, citing her husband’s deteriorating health, said that “this might be my last chance to beg you to change your tactics. There is a greater risk in doing nothing.”

American sentiment never has been strongly behind Pollard, who is widely regarded as a spy although he was not convicted of passing on classified information and not for spying on the United States. In contrast, in Israel and in many Zionist communities in the Diaspora, Pollard’s name is cited as a captive and his name is mentioned in prayers for the return of missing Israel soldiers.

During Prime Minister Netanyahu’s previous term in office, he recognized Pollard as an Israeli agent and granted him Israeli citizenship.

"I intend to continue acting with determination for Pollard's release, both because of the State of Israel's moral obligation to him and also so that he might live with his family and be restoredf to health after his prolonged incarceration,” Prime Minister Netanyahu said Tuesday.

Voices Against Assimilation

This is great to see:
Hundreds of people demonstrated in Bat Yam's Yoseftal Street on Monday evening. The demonstration, entitled "We Want a Jewish Bat Yam", was initiated by the city's residents and the Lehava organization. They were backed by activists from all over Israel who came out to protest what was termed "the Arab takeover of mixed cities."
Posters that accompanied the protest called to "keep Bat Yam Jewish," proclaimed "Jewish girls are for the Jewish people" and stated "Jews - let's win!". According to the posters, Arabs have been buying and renting apartments from Jews in Bat Yam, and taking Jewish girlfriends.

In recent years, thousands of Jewish girls have married Arab men who take them to their villages where they are then usually abused, activists claimed.

One demonstrator said that when Jews organized and acted, they recently succeeded in stopping a similar trend in the Jerusalem neighborhood of Givat Ze'ev.
Read the rest and see the video...

With regards to this, I would like to emphasize something which I mentioned in my previous post:
In fact, a Jewish women that has sexual relations with a gentile is considered a zonah, and has disqualified herself from being able to marry a Cohen (Maimonides, Laws of Forbidden Relations, Ch. 18).

In addition, please read Rabbi Eliezer Melamed's article "A Courageous Rabbinate":
Question: Can we, the Jewish people, who lived in the Diaspora for generations and suffered from harsh discrimination, possibly agree with a position that discriminates the Arabs? How can rabbis have written not to rent apartments to Arabs? Is that how we would have wanted to be treated while living in the Diaspora? Aren't we commanded in the Torah: "When a proselyte comes to live in your land, do not hurt his feelings. The foreigner who becomes a proselyte must be exactly like one who is native born among you. You shall love him as [you love] yourself, for you were foreigners in Egypt. I am G-d your Lord" (Leviticus 19:33-34)?

Answer: There is no similarity between the situation of the Jews in the Diaspora and that of the Arabs living in Israel. First of all, for most of the time spent in the Diaspora, Jews insisted on living in the framework of independent, Jewish communities which were isolated from the non-Jews amongst whom they lived. Secondly, the Jews living in the Diaspora never threatened the nation amongst whom they lived. They never made territorial or political claims or supported the enemies of the country they lived in. On the contrary, they greatly appreciated their host country, prayed for its welfare and scrupulously obeyed its laws, according to the halacha of 'dina d'malchuta dina' (the law of the land is the binding law). Thirdly, the Jews never demanded that their host countries grant them funds for living, education, and health. If the Jews weren't doubly taxed, they praised and applauded their government for its great kindness, for indeed, many times the Jews had to pay twice as much in taxes. Fourthly, in every land in which they lived, the Jews made a tremendous contribution to the prosperity of their host country. They invested their energies and talents in the development of the economy, agriculture, science, and culture. They did all this because of an ethical approach to life which encourages one to work for the betterment of the world.
Read the rest!

Sunday, December 19, 2010

Einat Wilf: The Plague of Intermarriage Hits the Knesset

Those of you that follow this blog know that the subject of intermarriage has been on my mind lately. Last Friday, during the fast of the Tenth of Tevet, I came across an article in BeSheva that made a sad day even sadder. It mentioned that MK Einat Wilf from the Labor party gave birth to her first son at the age of 40. I know what you are thinking: What's so sad about that? It is sad because the father is a gentile, German journalist Richard Gutjahr! A Jewish MK is "married" to a gentile! I put "married" in quotes because Jewish Law does not recognize such a marriage. In fact, a Jewish women that has sexual relations with a gentile is considered a zonah, and has disqualified herself from being able to marry a Cohen (Maimonides, Laws of Forbidden Relations, Ch. 18). This is sad indeed.

I did a bit of Googling and the story gets "better". This lady who married out "'worked as a Senior Fellow with the Jewish People Policy Planning Institute". What kind of policy were they planning over there? The "Final Solution"?

But wait, it gets "even better". She fancies herself as an expert on education. She even wrote a book, "Back to Basics: The Road to Saving Israel's Education (at no extra cost)." If she is really an expert she certainly knows that an educator, first and foremost, must set a good example. Marrying a gentile is not a good example, Ms. Wilf! And that is an understatement!

An additional note: Haddasah Magazine interviewed this lady. Could it be that they were not aware of her problematic personal life?. In any case here's a quote from the interview that tells us a lot about the Jewish lady who sleeps with a German:
Q. What is modern Zionism’s greatest challenge?

A. The cutting-edge issue is that Zionism has not realized the full extent of its revolutionary ideals. Zionism was about remaking Judaism for the modern age. It was not about subcontracting family law to a version of medieval Judaism. The fact that we took on the duties of a state while keeping in place the rabbinical structures that were developed for a communal life without a state was not the right path. I believe the Knesset is the new Sanhedrin of the Jewish people in Israel. As such, it has the right to remake Jewish law.
It is amazing that somebody with a doctorate can say such incredibly stupid things!

Haveil Havalim #296

Wow, we're closing in on 300! Here.

Thursday, December 16, 2010

Ezra the Scribe: Valiant Warrior Against Intermarriage

On the Tenth of Tevet we fast, among other things, because of the death of one of our greatest leaders: Ezra the Scribe. Rabbi Berl Wein tells us about this great man:
The ninth day of Tevet is held to be the day of the death of Ezra the Scribe. This great Jew is comparable even to Moses in the eyes of the Talmud. "If the Torah had not been granted through Moses, it could have been granted to Israel through Ezra." Ezra led the return of the Jews to Jerusalem from their Babylonian exile. It was under his direction and inspiration, together with the help of the court Jew, Nechemiah, that the Second Temple was built, albeit originally in a much more modest scale and style than the grandeur of Solomon's Temple.

Ezra also renewed the covenant of Moses between Israel and God, staunched the flow of intermarriage that afflicted the Jews returning to Jerusalem, strengthened public and private Sabbath observance, and created the necessary schools and intellectual tools for the furtherance of the knowledge and development of the Oral Law of Sinai within the Jewish people.

A man of incorruptible character, great compassion, deep vision and erudition and inspirational charisma, Ezra the Scribe is responsible for the survival of Judaism and the Jews till this very day. It is no wonder therefore that Jews marked the day of his death as a sad day on the Jewish calendar. Since fasting on the eighth, ninth and 10th days of Tevet consecutively would be unreasonable, the events of the eighth and ninth were subsumed into the fast day of the Tenth of Tevet.

Indeed, Ezra's successful war against intermarriage is described in the Bible:
1 Now while Ezra prayed, and made confession, weeping and casting himself down before the house of God, there was gathered together unto him out of Israel a very great congregation of men and women and children; for the people wept very sore. {S} 2 And Shecaniah the son of Jehiel, one of the sons of Elam, answered and said unto Ezra: 'We have broken faith with our God, and have married foreign women of the peoples of the land; yet now there is hope for Israel concerning this thing. 3 Now therefore let us make a covenant with our God to put away all the wives, and such as are born of them, according to the counsel of the LORD, and of those that tremble at the commandment of our God; and let it be done according to the law. 4 Arise; for the matter belongeth unto thee, and we are with thee; be of good courage, and do it.' {P}

5 Then arose Ezra, and made the chiefs of the priests, the Levites, and all Israel, to swear that they would do according to this word. So they swore. 6 Then Ezra rose up from before the house of God, and went into the chamber of Jehohanan the son of Eliashib; and when he came thither, he did eat no bread, nor drink water; for he mourned because of the faithlessness of them of the captivity. {S} 7 And they made proclamation throughout Judah and Jerusalem unto all the children of the captivity, that they should gather themselves together unto Jerusalem; 8 and that whosoever came not within three days, according to the counsel of the princes and the elders, all his substance should be forfeited, and himself separated from the congregation of the captivity. {S} 9 Then all the men of Judah and Benjamin gathered themselves together unto Jerusalem within the three days; it was the ninth month, on the twentieth day of the month; and all the people sat in the broad place before the house of God, trembling because of this matter, and for the great rain. {P}

10 And Ezra the priest stood up, and said unto them: 'Ye have broken faith, and have married foreign women, to increase the guilt of Israel. 11 Now therefore make confession unto the LORD, the God of your fathers, and do His pleasure; and separate yourselves from the peoples of the land, and from the foreign women.' 12 Then all the congregation answered and said with a loud voice: 'As thou hast said, so it is for us to do. 13 But the people are many, and it is a time of much rain, and we are not able to stand without, neither is this a work of one day or two; for we have greatly transgressed in this matter. 14 Let now our princes of all the congregation stand, and let all them that are in our cities that have married foreign women come at appointed times, and with them the elders of every city, and the judges thereof, until the fierce wrath of our God be turned from us, as touching this matter.' {P}

As we fast tomorrow, let's remember Ezra and his great deeds. In particular we should remember his uncompromising stand against intermarriage.

Rabbi Shlomo Aviner Explains Why Not To Sell Israeli Real Estate to Arabs

Rabbi Aviner writes:
Why did I add my humble signature to the Rabbinic petition against selling houses and apartments, lands and fields, to the Arabs?
The answer is so simple. The vision of the Jewish state. We have returned here after 2000 years of exile, in order to establish a Jewish state.
True, it is permissible for non-Jews to live there, and one has to treat the non-Jew who lives in the land with integrity and respect. Yet strengthening the foothold of the Arabs in the Land demonstrates a lack of national responsibility, for they are presently 25% of the entire population, and a large scale Jewish majority has to be preserved.
It is no secret that the Arabs want to annex our country for themselves and banish us from our Land, and they are doing this in every possible way: 1. By way of bloody wars which result in our country being full of widows and orphans and bereaved parents. 2. Unrelenting terror which likewise exacts from us a price in blood. 3. Recently, since the Carmel tragedy, a call has gone forth from the Arabs to commit a lot of arson in Israel, and indeed, there have been 15 attempts at arson since then. 4. Unrelenting land purchases by the Arabs throughout our country on a gigantic scale, in Yafo, Haifa, Acco, the Galil, and recently, an attempt to buy the Nof Tzion neighborhood in Jerusalem. In our world there are enormously wealthy Arabs who are ready to budget millions towards this end, and indeed, the Jews, lacking national responsibility, who are tempted by the money.
Read the rest!

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Kalmen Libskind's Latest Blog Post

Kalmen Libskind writes about the Israeli MSM's coverage of the Carmel fire, and enlightens us:

1) Last week, dozens of acts of arson were committed in forests all over Israel, apparently by Israeli Arabs. These acts of arson were not reported by the Israeli MSM.

[Update: Arutz 7 also saw the blog:
Israel's police, fire brigades and press intentionally hushed up an Arab arson offensive that took place while fires raged on the Carmel last week, a reporter for Ma'ariv Hebrew daily claimes.

According to Kalman Libeskind, sources in the Police and within the Fire Commission said - in briefings that were not for attribution - that they decided not to spread the information about the arson "so as not to wake into action more potential terrorists." The press became "willing accompices" in this hush-up effort.

Libeskind lists the locations of about 25 arson attacks that the fire brigades fought in the course of last week]

2) Libskind is astounded (as I was) by the press' unfair treatment of Interior Minister Eli Yishai. He gives examples and attributes this to Yishai's uncompromising stance on the need to deport illegal immigrants.

3) Kalmen Libskind also mentioned that the Israeli MSM is also responsible for the disaster in the Carmel. (Do you think he reads this blog?)

4) Finally he makes a great point. There were those that glibly claimed that the money used to support Torah learning should have been used to buy fire engines. Kalmen mentions that the same thing can be said about the 70 million shekels budgeting to the various theaters in Israel.

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

A Book That Counters the Claims of "Torat HaMelech"

Srugim reports that Ariel Finkelstain (that's how his name is spelled in the book), a graduate of the hesder yeshiva in Netivot, has wrote a book that counters the claims of the book "Torat HaMelech". The name of Finkelstain's book is "Derech Ha'Melech (The Path of the King), Racism and Discrimination of Gentiles In Halachah, A Halachik and Meta-Halachik Alternative to the book Torat Ha'Melech'"

Finkelstain's book is graced with the approbation of Rabbi Yaakov Ariel, the Chief Rabbi of Ramat Gan.

In my review of Torat HaMelech I wrote:
It is no secret that the book caused an uproar among the ignorant and among the learned as well. Personally, I could not care less what the ignoramuses have to say. They lack the tools to understand such a work. What's more, their desire to promote their warped version of reality often compromises any intellectual integrity they might have had. On the other hand, I am very interested in what the Rabbis have to say about the book. The gauntlet has been thrown down! Any Torah Scholar that does not agree with the book will have to pick up the gauntlet and show where the authors are mistaken, using Torah sources. Blanket condemnations that are not backed up with appropriate references to Rabbinic literature will not be accepted!
Congratulations to Ariel Finkelstain for picking up the gauntlet. The book can be downloaded at the web site of The"Ahavat Yisrael" "Hesder" Yeshiva in Netivot.

I hope to read and review it in the near future.

Sunday, December 12, 2010

A Geulah Film

Yaak made this film. You have to appreciate the scholarship needed to create something like this!

HH #295 — And…It’s Tevet

That's he name of this week's edition of Haveil Havalim. Go for it!

In Defense of the Rabbis' Ruling

Hillel Fendel has wrote an interesting piece on the latest controversy. This excerpt is to get you started. Be sure to read the whole thing:
The Rabbis’ Letter forbidding Jews from selling homes in Israel to Arabs has become the latest controversy in Israel. It was placed on hold for a few days while the Carmel fire raged wildly around it, but is now comfortably back on the media’s “hot seat” – and the rabbis are indeed feeling the heat.

Some 300 rabbis have expressed support for the ruling, while several mainstream rabbis have come out prominently against it. What is a bystander to think?

Here’s one opinion: The question is not so much one of technical Jewish Law, but rather this: May Jews help Israel remain Jewish, or not?

It appears that the rabbis who signed on the ruling take very seriously accusations leveled at them in the past of “standing idly by,” “not being proactive,” and “ignoring dangers.” In fulfillment of the Mishnaic teaching, “Where there is no man, try to be a man,” they took bold and seemingly unpopular action to try to stem a tide that threatens to engulf all of us – reporters, modern rabbis, Jews in the Diaspora, and certainly the Jews of Tzfat, Lod, Ramle, the Galilee, Haifa, Arad, Tel Aviv, and all of Israel.

In a word, Israel faces a gerrymandering demographic threat, if you will. Instead of the slowly growing Arab minority to which we have essentially grown accustomed and which basically remains within specific areas, Arabs have now begun moving into specific Jewish areas, rendering many of the areas no longer Jewish.

Thursday, December 09, 2010

Dov Shilansky z"l

Baruch Dayan HaEmet:
MK Michael Ben-Ari (National Union) said, "Dov Shilansky's death marks the end of a generation of politicians with integrity who do not zig-zag ideologically according to narrow interests and passing popular whims. He was a believer in the Greater Land of Israel who until his dying day did not forgive the Germans and their supporters. May his memory be blessed."

Tuesday, December 07, 2010

Do Gafni and Yishai Read Cosmic X?

A couple of days ago, I took to task two of the journalists that were calling for Eli Yishai's resignation because of Israel's sub par firefighting ability. I mentioned that these journalists probably did not do anything to help solve the problem, even though it was well known for many years:
I imagine that journalists Verter and Fishman, who are supposed to knowledgeable about current events, know about the Ginosar Commission and its recommendations. How many articles did they write warning about the lack Israel's firefighting capabilities? Chances are that unlike Eli Yishai, they don't even have a "mound of paper" to hide behind!
It is interesting to note that MKs Moshe Gafin and Eli Yishai made the same point today:
Referring to the question he was asked during the fire disaster on why he worked on other issues like the children of foreign workers and yeshiva student stipends, he said: "I dealt with a variety of issues. A minister should never only engage in one issue that the media is interested in."

Knesset Member Moshe Gafni also referred to the media attention issue and said that several discussions were held on the fire services issue during his stint as chairman of the Knesset's Internal Affairs Committee.

"Warnings of a national disaster were heard in these discussions," he said. "The media devoted about a line and a half to these discussions and warnings. Not one minute of air time was given to the matter on TV."

The Fire on the Carmel: The Rabbis Say...

When a tragedy of this scale occurs two different kinds of investigation take place: One to investigate the immediate cause (was the fire arson or the result of carelessness?) and the other to seek the deeper spiritual reasons for the blaze.

Rabbi Ovadia Yosef attributes the disaster to Sabbath desecration:
Hagaon Chacham Ovadia Yosef Shlita said on Motzei Shabbos that the devastating Carmel fire was a result of insufficient Shmiras Shabbos in the area.

“Fires only happen in a place where Shabbos is desecrated,” he quoted from the Gemara in his weekly Shiur. “Homes were ruined,” he continued, “entire neighborhoods wiped out, and it is not arbitrary. It is all divine providence.”

“We must repent, keep Shabbos appropriately. When the People of Israel repent, God safeguards them with a wall of fire,” but not of the incinerating type, the Chacham added.
Rabbi Dov Lior writes that the fire was Divine punishment for giving away parts of the land of Israel to terrorists.

Rabbi Shmuel Eliyahu calls for soul searching on the individual and national level.

Rabbi Uri Sherki says that the fire was "yissurim shel ahava", and that it was in place of a potentially greater disaster.

One may wonder: If Rabbi Yosef is correct, then Rabbi Lior is wrong. Likewise, if Rabbi Lior's reasoning is correct, then Rabbi Yosef is mistaken! The same with all the other rabbis mentioned. The answer is that, "eilu ve'eilu dirvrei elokim chayim". They are all correct!

A related item: Rabbi Dr. Eliyahu Zini takes to task the rabbis that claimed that the current drought does not justify declaring a public fast (See echoes of that in the comment section of this post).

Monday, December 06, 2010

A Jewish Child on Xmas

One of the crazy results of being dispersed among the nations:
Something was suddenly very plain, and I didn't want to see it. To be a Jewish child singing Christmas carols was to a fool. A misfit. I was making a fool of myself in my own eyes. All this longing to belong... to partake of someone else's joy. No matter how radiant, glorious, magical, and enchanting matter how deeply I was stirred by these baffling words on my own lips...something craven and pitiful was going on. Something had been hidden, or I was hiding from something. And the whole thing had spawned something like... contempt. For what?

Sunday, December 05, 2010

Is Eli Yishai Responsible For Israel's Weak Firefighting Ability?

Journalist Alex Fishman seems to think so:
Yet this failure has an address. This person disappeared from the public eye Thursday, and this was no coincidence. He is intimately familiar with the firefighting force's grim state. His name is Eli Yishai and he is the interior minister, who holds the ministerial responsibility for the failure. Had Yishai shown the same kind of care for Shas' schools and its yeshiva students, Rabbi Ovadia would have fired him a while ago.
Fellow journalist Yossi Verter apparently feels the same way (from his article "Interior Minister must take responsibility for Carmel fire"):
When it came to squeezing out NIS 110 million for yeshiva students, in defiance of High Court rulings, he invested many hours of feverish discussion in back rooms. On the other hand, when it comes to matters that do not make the blood rush through his veins, he is satisfied to issue warnings, write letters and save these documents for a rainy day.

When it came to the needs of Israel's fire and rescues service, he was hardly going to precipitate a government crisis - he issued no threats, nor did he race over to the home of Rabbi Ovadia Yosef to pressure him into issuing a ruling of religious law.

Over the weekend, Yishai's spokesman drowned the media in impressive warning letters formulated by Yishai over the past year. The Prime Minister's Office replied with letters of its own. File clerks in government offices were kept very busy during the 18 months of the second Bibi government. But other than the drafting and filing of letters, very little got done. Yishai can run, but he can't hide between a mound of paper. On the contrary, the letters will merely complicate his situation when he faces a state commission of inquiry, which is sure to be established. For his part, Netanyahu is not guilty, but he is responsible.
However, this is quite unfair, considering the following from jpost:
In 1998, the Ginosar Commission recommended that the government establish a national firefighting authority. It took 10 years for the government to vote to establish such an authority – which it did in 2008; but over the next two years, labor disputes between firefighters’ representatives in the Histadrut Labor Federation and the Treasury deadlocked the process.
If Yossi Verter did not have an anti-Shas axe to grind, he would have found this article from The Marker (a publication that is affiliated with his newspaper, Ha'aretz) that was published only a couple of weeks ago:
Besides the state comptroller, there have been at least three public committees - in 1976, 1995 and 1998 - that addressed the state of the country's firefighting personnel, and all came to similar conclusions. The government hasn't been quick to respond, but in 2008 it decided to adopt the reform recommendations of the Ginosar Committee from 1998. Don't hold your breath, because that reform hasn't budged even an inch since them, and no one is expecting it to go anywhere, either, due to the objections of the firefighters' organization and the Histadrut labor federation over its terms.

That is to say, past governments, as well as the Treasury, the firefighters' organization and the Histadrut Labor Federation bear much of the blame.

Here is a list of Interior Ministers, their political affiliation, and the dates that they served in that function since the Ginosar Commission:
Eli Suissa, Shas, 18/6/1996 - 6/7/1999
Natan Sharansky, Yisrael BaAliyah, 6/7/1999 - 11/7/2000
Haim Ramon, One Israel, 11/7/2000 - 7/3/2001
Eli Yishai, Shas, 7/3/2001 - 23/5/2002
Ariel Sharon, Likud, 23/5/2002 - 3/6/2002
Eli Yishai, Shas, 3/6/2002 - 28/2/2003
Avraham Poraz, Shinui, 28/2/2003 - 4/12/2004
Ophir Pines-Paz, Labor Party, 10/1/2005 - 23/11/2005
Ariel Sharon, Kadima, 23/11/2005 - 4/5/06
Roni Bar-On, Kadima, 4/5/06 - 4/7/07
Meir Sheetrit, Kadima, 4/7/07 - 31/3/09
Eli Yishai Shas 32 31/3/09 - present
Is it fair to say that only Eli Yishai is to blame?

I imagine that journalists Verter and Fishman, who are supposed to knowledgeable about current events, know about the Ginosar Commission and its recommendations. How many articles did they write warning about the lack Israel's firefighting capabilities? Chances are that unlike Eli Yishai, they don't even have a "mound of paper" to hide behind!

Lots of Links and Lots of Latkes


Thursday, December 02, 2010

Yesterday's Cellcom Tsunami: Some Geeky Details

I don't think that there was anyone in Israel who wasn't affected by this in one way or another:
It's a black Chanukah for Cellcom: an estimated three million clients of Israel's largest cellular phone company have been unable to send or receive calls and text messages since early Wednesday afternoon. The company said the problem was caused by a fault in the company's core program.

Cellcom Director Amos Shapira said in a press conference that the company is not ruling out the possibility that its software was intentionally sabotaged.

Speaking on Army Radio in the afternoon, Shapira said: “I will not go back [home] to light [Chanukah] candles until the problem is taken care of. I estimate it will happen in a matter of hours.”

"These are very complex systems, so fixing them takes many hours,” he explained. “This is the most serious malfunction the company has known since it was founded.”

He said dozens of engineers and programmers were hard at work fixing the malfunction but could not say for sure that the system would not be down for days.

Clients affected by the failure who attempt to dial out receive a message saying that their phone has no reception. People calling the affected clients receive messages saying the network is busy.
All the geeks in Israel were wondering what exactly happened. What computer system fell and how? Was it sabotage or espionage? I found an article (in Hebrew) that explains a little bit about Cellcom's tsunami. Read it geeks!

Wednesday, December 01, 2010

Happy Hanukkah or Chanukah or However You Spell It

Sorry, but I didn't write anything new in honor of the holiday. Click here for some old stuff!
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