Sunday, July 31, 2011

The Truth About the Housing Protests

Yes the cost of housing in Israel is high. The question is "why"? Well you do not have to be Stanley Fischer to know the answer: it is called supply and demand. There is a lot of demand for housing, while supply is lacking, hence high prices.

The expulsion of thousands of people from their homes in the Gaza Strip and Northern Samaria six years ago did not help the housing shortage. Certainly the various building freezes that were imposed on Israel by the Obama administration did not provide the homeless with with a place to put their heads. The hundreds of thousands of illegal migrants living in Israel also play a part in the housing crisis. However, even without these factors, it seems to be that that the crisis would still be here, although to a lesser degree. Let's hope that the government takes steps that will help in the long term without harming Israel's surprisingly strong economy.

With regards to the tent protests, the Israeli public knows very well what is going on. They know who is funding it, and they know what their true objectives are. We are talking about the nefarious New Israel Fund. As Emily Amrousi wrote:
Furthermore, it is clear that the demonstrations were professionally organized and publicized. They're about as authentic as a bottle blonde. The same could be said for the media's blatant mobilization to the cause.
I also saw the following from Dror Eydar:
The demonstrations over housing and the cry of the middle class require fundamental treatment, and one gets the impression that the proposed plan is aimed in that direction. The government -- with its leaders, ministers and advisers -- has to continue repeating the principles of the economic plan, and start working in the field. That's the way the hypocrisy of the professional inciters will be revealed, and they will be left on their own with their anger.
In summary, we are talking about a genuine problem and a largely bogus protest movement.

Torat HaMelech 8: The Difference Between Uninformed Opinion and Informed Opinion

One may agree or disagree with the book Torat HaMelech. But before deciding which side you are on, it is a good idea to read the book!

In Mishpacha, journalist Yonoson "Jonathan" Rosenblum weighs in on the Torat HaMelech controversy. Mr. Rosenblum admits that he did not read Torat HaMelech, is aware that the excerpts he saw may have been "deliberately crafted to provide ammunition for anti-Semites", and in spite of this offers us his opinion about the book:

When Both Sides Are Wrong

Yonoson Rosenblum | Wednesday, July 20, 2011

The controversy over Deputy State Prosecutor Shai Nitzan’s decision to confiscate copies of Torat HaMelech, a work by two rabbis from the West Bank settlement of Yitzhar, and to summon for police questioning two prominent national religious rabbis who wrote haskamos for the book, inspires one to shout “Shame on you” at all sides.

I have seen only excerpts of Torat HaMelech, but those excerpts might as well have been deliberately crafted to provide ammunition for anti-Semites who claim that Jews believe that only their blood has value. That is why Rav Elyashiv reportedly condemned the work as endangering Jews around the world. And Rav Zalman Nechemiah Goldberg, who initially also wrote a haskamah, subsequently withdrew it due to halachic errors that were pointed out to him, and other conclusions that “defy logic.”

The authors show a casual regard for life — Jewish as well as gentile. They classify those who lower national or IDF morale as rodfim. Ironically, that definition could include those who called upon soldiers to refuse orders to evacuate Gush Katif.

About twenty years ago, I debated a rabbi from the same circles. In the course of the evening, I found myself progressively horrified by his casual attitude towards bloodletting of “enemies”; by his willingness to rely on quotations pulled from aggadata to reach legal conclusions that, if implemented, would have immense implications for Jews around the world; and by his confidence that we live in an era in which Jews can say and do whatever they want in the Land of Israel without concern for the reaction of the rest of the world. Torat HaMelech reflects the same cast of mind.

Though I am convinced that Torat HaMelech is wrong both in tone and in its specific halachic conclusions, once Shai Nitzan’s prosecutorial group set its sights on the book and summoned rabbis for questioning, the Torah world could not remain indifferent.
As I read Mr. Rosenblum's article, I was "progressively horrified" by the low standard of journalism displayed. I can only say, "Shame on you" Mr. Rosenblum for commenting on the book without reading it first. One should not put the peh (mouth) before the ayin (eye). His article is barely a league above the shrill reporting of the Israeli MSM. I am quite disappointed. I must also add that the expulsion of Jews from the Gaza Strip was indeed carried out by soldiers. However, this immoral action of a people's army against its own citizens was not carried out in the framework of war and has nothing to do with the book "Torat HaMelech".

On the other had Rabbi Shlomo Riskin apparently did read the book and he has something to say about it:
What was the alleged “transgression” for which Rabbi Lior was being remanded? He had joined three other recognized Torah personalities in endorsing a halachic treatise called Torat Hamelech (Prescriptive Directives of the King), written by Rabbis Yitzhak Shapira and Yosef Elitzur. The suspicion was that the book, purportedly expressing a lenient attitude toward murdering gentiles, was inciting against minorities in Israel. Since a significant verse in Masei deals with an important subject of the book, I am dedicating this Torah commentary to the issue.

Let me state at the outset that at no time do the authors of Torat Hamelech permit the killing of innocent gentiles, except in the heat of battle and in order to save innocent Jews. This is no different than the American aerial bombings of Afghanistan; although in the Israeli army our soldiers go house to house in pursuit of terrorists and arms caches, despite the inevitable loss of our own young men as a consequence.
He goes on to state what he does not like about the book. In conclusion he tells us:
Despite my critique, there is nothing in Torat Hamelech which can be considered a message of incitement to harm Arab neighbors who are not in a war against us, and there was no justification for calling Rabbi Lior to a police station for questioning.

Wednesday, July 27, 2011

Amy Winehouse's Legacy to the Jewish People and the World

It's been in the news for a few days: Amy Winehouse passed away at the age of 27.

They say she was a really talented singer. I've never heard her sing. I guess that I will take their word for it.

And she was a Jew.

Among the things I saw on the web concerned her burial. One writer mentioned the fact that she chose to be cremated, something which is clearly against Jewish law. True, however, I think that there is a more important lesson to be learned from the singer/songwriter's tragic life and death.

Our Torah teaches us to guard our souls (see what the Rambam writes in Hilchot Rotze'ach U'Shmirat HaNefesh ch. 13 and in Hilchot De'ot ch. 4). The whole idea of someone abusing his body with drugs is totally anti-Torah. Rabbi Kook mentions in the first chapter of Orot HaTeshuvah that the sins that one commits against his own body by living an unhealthy lifestyle must also be repented for.

I find it mind boggling that people waste their time and money on drugs. Why do something so destructive? Why not embrace life? There is so much to do, so much to learn. So much good can be done with money when used properly.

If young people will learn from Amy Winehouse's early demise this one precious lesson, that will be her greatest accomplishment.

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

The ultra-Orthodox Plumber and Dan Margalit

A few days ago this guy left his magnetic calling card on my front door[click on the pic to enlarge]:

A quick translation:
With God's Help
Gamliel the ultra-Orthodox Plumber
Implementation of all water and sewage work
Quick and reliable service
Work is guaranteed

His magnetic calling card also mentions that his gives discounts to "Bnei Torah".

One of the greatest libels against the ultra-Orthodox community is that they do not work. Here is what Dan Margalit wrote in today's issue of Yisrael Hayom:
One-third of the Israeli public, mostly from the middle class, carries the weight of the Arabs on the one hand and the ultra-Orthodox on the other. Neither of these groups contributes to our national enterprise, yet both live off the funds of those who do work.
It is true that many men learn Torah full time, but many others work in almost all walks of life. Among those that learn full time, very often the wife works to support the family. I bet that Gamliel the ultra-Orthodox plumber could probably teach Dan Margalit something about what work really is.

HH #322

This week's edition comes in two parts:

Haveil Havalim - The Makeup Edition

Haveil Havalim #322b - The Make Up Edition Supplement

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

Chabad is Zionist!

Rabbi Menachem Brod of Kfar Chabad:
If the definition of 'Zionism' is defined as detachment from Jewish roots and becoming a nation like any other, we oppose that – and so did all the great Torah leaders. But if Zionism is about loving the land, about national security, settling the land, then Chabad definitely supports those important activities

Torat HaMelech 7

Rabbi Gil Student actually read "Torat HaMelech" and provides his analysis. The post and the talkbacks are interesting. Unfortunately Rabbi Student falls into the trap of trying to be "politically correct" by misusing the term "racist" and applying it to the book. I previously wrote about another misuse of this term here.

Thursday, July 14, 2011

The Law for Preventing the Harming the State of Israel By Means of Boycott – 2011

The Israeli left and MSM are having a fit, shrieking away at this law . Unfortunately, the media does not provide enough objective information about the law for one to form an informed opinion about it. Feeling the frustration of many, I have translated the law into English. Now you can decide if the law is good or bad:

The Law for Preventing the Harming the State of Israel By Means of Boycott – 2011

1. Definition

In this law, "a boycott on the State of Israel" - intentional abstention from having an economic, cultural, or academic relationship with a person or other responsible body, only because of its connection to the State of Israel, one of its institutions or an area that is under its control, that has the ability to harm it economically, culturally or academically.

2. Boycott – Civil Injustice

a.) one who knowingly advertises a public call to place a boycott on the State of Israel, and according to the contents of the call and the circumstances under which it was advertised there is a reasonable possibility that the call will bring about the placing of a boycott, and the advertiser is aware of the mentioned possibility, has committed a civil injustice and the laws of damages will apply to him.

b.) With regards to paragraph 62a of the laws of damages [new version] one who caused the breaking of an obligatory contract by means of calling for the placing of a boycott on the State of Israel will not be seen as one who acted with adequate justification.

c.) If the court finds that an injustice was committed intentionally according to this law, it may obligate the perpetrator of the injustice with the payment of compensation that is not dependent on the amount of damage (in this paragraph, exemplary damages); in its coming to determine the amount of exemplary damages, the court will take into consideration, among other things, the circumstances of the committing of the injustice, its graveness and scope.

3.) Instructions Concerning to Limiting Tenders

The Minister of Finance, with the agreement of the Minister of Justice and with the approval of the Constitution, Law, and Justice Committee, is allowed to set instructions with respects to limiting the participation in a tender of one who has knowingly advertised a public call for the placement of a boycott on the State of Israel or of one who obligated himself to take part of the mentioned boycott, including an obligation not to purchase goods or services that are produced or provided in the State of Israel, in one of its institutions, or in any area under its control; in this paragraph "tender" – a tender that must be conducted according to the law of the obligation of tenders, 1992.

4) Instructions Concerning Preventing Benefits

a) The Minister of Finance, with the counsel of the Minister of Justice, is permitted with respect to one who knowingly advertised a public call to place a boycott on the State of Israel, or with respect to one who obligated himself to take part of the mentioned boycott, that

1) It will not be seen as a public institution with regards to paragraph 46 of the income tax law.

2) It will not be eligible to receive funding from the Council of the Arrangement of Sport Gambling according to paragraph 9 of the Law to Arrange Gambling in Sports, 1967. The activation of the authority according to this subsection requires the agreement of the Minister of Culture and Sport.

3) It will not be considered a public institution according to paragraph 3a of the Law of the Foundations of the Budget, 1985 with respect to receiving support according to a paragraph of the budget; the activation of the authority according to this subsection requires the agreement of the Minister that the government has determined to be responsible for that paragraph of the budget, as is specified in subsection (2) of the definition of "responsible for paragraph of the budget" that is in the mentioned law.

4) He will not be eligible for guarantees according to the Law of Guarantees from the State, 1958.

5) He will not be eligible for benefits according to the Law of Encouraging Capital Investments, 1959 or the Law to Encourage Research and Development in Industry, 1984; the activation of the authority according to this subsection requires the agreement of the Minister of Industry, Trade and Employment.

b. in the activation of his authority according to subsection (a), the Finance Minister will work in accordance to the guidelines established for this matter with the agreement of the Justice Minister and the approval of the Knesset's Constitution, Law, and Justice Committee. However, if the mentioned guidelines were not established, that does not harm the authority according to subsection (a)

5. Implementation

The Minister of Justice is responsible for the implementation of this law.

6. Inception

The inception of paragraph 4 is 90 days from the day of this law's publication.
I think that the law is excellent and long overdue. How about you?

Monday, July 11, 2011

Social Stratification in the Orthodox Jewish Community: FFBs, BTs, and Geirim (PartIV)

You may want to read parts 1, 2, and 3 of this series.

For the fourth and final(?) installment in this series we'll examine the do's and don'ts of integrating into the Orthodox community for BTs and converts. This is what I thought of offhand:


1) Find a community that you feel comfortable in. Look around. There are so many different communities to choose from, especially here in Israel.

2) Attend classes - there is so much to know and one is never done learning. Learning halacha will give you the parameters of accepted Jewish behavior and will prevent you from being weird (see don'ts). Be sure to know the difference between the required law and added stringencies.

3) Find a rabbi that understands you and where you are coming from. Some rabbis are book-smart but not people-smart. Even the ones that are people-smart do not necessarily know how to deal with BTs and converts.

4) Find a spouse that is ready to grow together with you. The community is family oriented. "Be fruitful and multiply!"


1) Don't be critical of others. You may see FFBs being lax in their Mitzvah observance. First of all, are you sure? Perhaps he has a source for his behavior that you are not aware of? Although there is a mitzvah of reproof one must know how to do it so that it will be accepted. In general, people do not like to receive criticism, especially from newbies.

2) Don't be weird. For example, the synagogue is not a place to conduct "Primal Scream Therapy". Alternatively, if you cannot help but be weird you will have to find a weird spouse and a weird community to accommodate you.

3) Don't be unrealistic. "HaMakir Et Mekomo", knowing ones place, is one of the fourty eight things that the Torah is acquired with (Avot 6:6). You are probably not going to be the next Gaon of Vilna. Chances are that the Rosh Yeshiva will not pick you to marry his daughter.

That's what I came up with. Welcome to the community.

יִשְׁמַע חָכָם, וְיוֹסֶף לֶקַח

Tuesday, July 05, 2011

Social Stratification in the Orthodox Jewish Community: FFBs, BTs, and Geirim (Part III)

Before reading this check out parts 1 and 2.

For the third post in this series we'll play matchmaker.

Meet Oren. He grew up secular in Tel Aviv. After serving in the IDF, he spent a year in touring around the world. After checking out various different religions and cults he decided to look into Judaism. He returned to Israel and enrolled in a Yeshiva for BTs. He learned with great diligence for two years, advancing very well in his studies and religious observance. Now he is 24 years old and looking for a shidduch (a match).

Meet Feige. She grew up FFB in Jerusalem. She learned in a Beis Yaakov school and seminary. The only boys that she has ever talked to are her brothers. She is now 20 years old and also looking for a shidduch.

Would you set these two up for a date? I do not think that I would. If men are from Mars and women are from Venus, Oren and Feige are from two different galaxies! For the good of them both I would try finding for them mates with similar backgrounds.

Our next candidate is Betty. She is a very sincere convert that grew up in Amsterdam. She speaks Dutch, English and French fluently. She decided to convert to Judaism after visiting Israel. Presently she is learning in a BT seminary in Jerusalem, and is picking up Hebrew quite well.

Now meet Yankel, a FFB from B'nai Brak. He also knows three languages: Yiddish, Hebrew, and Aramaic. He has been learning Torah and only Torah all his life. He does not know which country Amsterdam is in. The only woman he has ever talked to is his mother. That is because all of his seven siblings are boys.

I think you get the idea. Oren, with his worldliness, could be a good match for Betty. Yankel and Feige sound like a match that was decreed in heaven forty days before the embryos were formed. I would not suggest putting Yankel and Betty together. It is possible that such a match could succeed, but I do not think that it is probable.

All of the above is clearly logical for anyone familiar with the orthodox community and with the institution of marriage therein. The problems start when fantasy trumps common sense. I once heard about an Israeli BT that was unwilling to date anyone who was not a FFB from a certain Hasidic sect. That is a silly and unrealistic position for him to take.

An unfortunate by-product of this social stratification is a feeling among certain Geirim and FFBs that the community does not desire them. Sometimes they ask themselves, "Why do they always set me up with BTs and Geirim? Do the FFBs think that they are too good for me?"

Well, every community does has its snobs. However, the real reason is according to what I wrote above. Remember, FFBs are different! That is something that every matchmaker should take into account.
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