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Showing posts from 2013

In Israel We Trade Terrorists At Wholesale

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The concept of trading convicted murderers for..well, for anything... is an Israeli innovation.

Israel routinely trades convicted terrorists for Peace; terrorists for Talks about Peace; and terrorists in return for Israeli hostages, alive and dead. Even for Ramadam - Israel routinely releases convicted terrorists.

In the current phase, Israel is trading three batches of convicted murderers for building permits in Judea and Samaria.

This is apparently some kind of good-will gesture to the Palestinians, to help negotiations along, either with or without the tacit approval of the USA.

The USA and Europe certainly go through the motions of strongly objecting (to the building, of course!).

Each time Israel releases terrorists, there are emotional & outraged appeals from the families of the victims of these murderers, demonstrations and protests from the Right Wing block, and redundant trips to the High Court - which has never, to my knowledge, over-ruled these clear violations of Just…

Beit Shemesh Victorious!

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In a revolutionary decision, The Jerusalem District Court overturned the October Municipal elections in Bet Shemesh. There will be new elections, both for the mayor and for the city council.

The court evaluated evidence of widespread and organized voter fraud - and concluded that the democratic process had been undermined, to the extent that the election results, with less than 1000 votes separating the winner, Moshe Abutbol, from contender Eli Cohen, are invalid.

This is the culmination of a two month legal process, which was sparked by the discovery by police of large quantities of ID cards in a private apartment in Beit Shemesh, and more ID's in a vehicle, on election day - and the arrest of eight residents.

The criminal investigation was handed over to the national organized crime unit - and a large, well organized voting scam was revealed. The scam included organized collecting of ID cards, particularly of residents who were not planning to vote, such as they would be travel…

Outcry Against Rabbi Chaim Druckman Employing Rabbi Motty Elon

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There is growing public outrage about Rabbi Chasim Druckman's decision to continue employing convicted child sex offender Rav Motti Elon as a teacher in Yeshivat Ohr Etzion.

The major media outlets in Israel are reporting the story, including articles in Maariv (pictured above) and Haaretz, as well as reports on Israel TV and radio.

A protest Facebook page has been established called "Supporters of Victims of  Rav Elon".

Rabbi Chaim Druckman is a winner of the Israel Prize, for his lifetime's achievements, is the spiritual head of The Bnei Akiva Youth Movement, and head of the Ohr Etzion Yeshiva. The rabbi is held in esteem in the National Religious world, as well as in the wider Israeli society.

Rabbi Motty Elon was the disgraced head of Yeshivat Hakotel, and in his hey-day was a renowned religious leader, with his own TV show and his weekly lectures were broadcast live on national radio. Amid intense media interest, Rav Elon was convicted in August 2013 on two cha…

Rav Motti Elon Sentenced - Should This Man Teach My Kids?

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Rav Motty Elon was sentenced today to six months community service and a 15 month prison sentence on probation for three years. He was also fined 10,000 NIS as compensation for the victim.

Rav Elon was convicted in August on two counts of sexual assault on a minor.

Rav Elon's response, outside the court, was to call the allegations/charges/conviction "lies" - and he said he welcomes the community service order - "I've been doing community service for 40 years, and I would love to do so until I'm 120."

This was the culmination of a public process which started on 15th February 2010, with an announcement censuring  Rav Elon on the Takana website; the 'private' process, within Forum Takana, began several years previously.

Takana took the dramatic step of publicizing the "substantial allegations" against Rav Elon, because Rav Elon had broken an agreed behavior protocol, by continuing to teach.

At that time, the allegations received by Tak…

My Family In A Storm

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Everyone has their story about the once-in-a-century storm which hit Israel this past week.

Me too.

On Wednesday, the eve of the storm, my family were dispersed in Kiryat Arba (Shira); Adai Ad (Avital) & Achiya (Raphael) - these are two villages near Shilo; Jerusalem (Yonatan); and Beit Shemesh (rest of family).

Avital decided to stick it out in Adai Ad - and indeed is still there, without electricity or flowing water. All roads are cut off. They have a wood burning fire, and plenty of stocked logs, and sound cheerful enough on the phone. Except their cellphone batteries are dying!

Shira and her husband came down from Kiryat Arba to Beit Shemesh so that they can be within reach of a hospital if needed - Shira's in her ninth month! They're well settled and we're enjoying their company.

Raphael and his wife decided to bolt from their rather flimsy caravan in Achiya to Beit Shemesh - and made it as far as Jerusalem, where they were trapped as the roads closed, from Thurs…

MK Dov Lipman Addresses The Knesset On Beit Shemesh Disputed Election

Beit Shemesh resident, MK Dov Lipman addressed the Knesset plenum about the disputed elections - asking for truth, tolerance and mutual respect.

Obama's Passionate, Momentous Tribute to Nelson Mandela

I found Barack Obama's speech yesterday, in tribute to the life of Nelson Mandela to be epic, moving, personal, inspiring.

I thoroughly recommend sitting down with a hot-chocolate (given the weather here!) to watch the full speech.

The Chief Rabbi of South Africa, Warren Goldstein was actually the first speaker at the Mandela memorial event in Johannesburg. He spoke excellently, drawing the analogy between Joseph and Mandela. Imprisoned and betrayed; freed from prison to be national leader; forgave the sins of his brothers, and built a joint and better future.

(Can anyone find a video of R.Goldstein's speech/devar torah?)

Israel Sort-of Honours Mandela

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Some funerals are diplomatic events.

Mrs Thatcher, Yitzhak Rabin, Ronald Reagan....

These are events which feature on the international diplomatic calendar, even though the dates are not known in advance (unless you believe the conspiracy theorists).

Literally dozens of world leaders attend, and there are opportunities for favorable international PR, as well as behind the scene deals and covert discussions.

Much like a G20 summit meeting, the World Economic Forum Meeting in Davos, or a UN General Session in New York.

Nelson Mandela's funeral today was such an occasion.

90 heads of state were in attendance from every country imaginable. All these people, by definition, have packed schedules of important commitments, and yet they were able to clear their diaries, arrange logistics, and turn up in Jo'berg for the funeral spectacular.

Not Israel.

President Peres reportedly had a bout of the flu - which at 90 is nothing to be sneezed at; and Prime Minister Netanyahu had run out of…

Rabbi Stulberger: When A Teacher Is Accused of Molestation

This video of Rabbi Stulberg is an important contribution to safe Jewish education, produced by Jewish Community Watch (JCW).

By The River Jordan - Chanuka

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The Beit Shemesh Spit That Wasn't?

(Video Credit: Bruce Dov Krulwich)

Beit Shemesh rose to international notoriety during Chanuka 2011, with a TV documentary hosted by then TV journalist Yair Lapid. During the documentary, we are introduced to a very scared 7 year old girl, Naama Margolise, who refused to go to Orot girls school in Beit Shemesh, due her being harassed by extremist ultra-orthodox protesters ("Kanoim").

In addition, we see a national religious woman being spat at by an extremist ultra-orthodox man.

The central issue in dispute during that period was the attempted land-grab at Orot School, a national religious designated girls school located on the seam between the national religious and ultra-orthodox communities, by a group of extremist Kanoim.

The image of Naama Margales became a symbol, overnight, of the struggle for peaceful neighborly relations in Beit Shemesh, respect for the law, and against the alleged 'free-hand' policy of the city towards hundreds of out-of-control Kanoim extr…

On Patrol with Rabbi Nuchem Rosenberg - Beitar Ilit

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Rabbi Nuchem Rosenberg is currently in Israel, and he invited me to join him on a patrol in Beitar Ilit.

Rabbi Nuchem Rosenberg is a child protection activist who operates mainly in the chasidic communities of New York. Rabbi Rosenberg reached national prominence in the USA during the trial of Nechemya Weberman - who enjoyed wall-to-wall support from his Satmar community in Williamsburg, and then was convicted of multiple counts of raping a young female 'counseling' client, and sentenced to a whopping 103 years imprisonment. Rabbi Rosenberg became the go-to-guy for the press, including CNN, wanting to hear the exposed truth about Weberman, from an insider of the Satmar community.  

Rabbi Rosenberg's target for the evening in Beitar was Moshe Zecharye (Chazarye) Yoel Rosenbaum. Rabbi Rosenberg has a thick file documenting the allegations against Rosenbaum, including court case reports - and claims he bolted from New York, and is now a respected rabbi/admor in Beitar. Some…

Birds Migrating Over the Lower Galilee

On a family trip to the lower Galilee, south of the Kinneret, we saw wave after wave of migrating birds. We don't know what type of birds. Any idea? Also, they were heading NORTH, which seems strange, as shouldn't birds be heading South for the Winter?

What Did See in the River Jordan?

Yesterday, our family visited the Jordan River, near Gesher. We spotted what initially looked like a large stick floating quickly down the river. We reckoned it was an otter ("Lutra" in Hebrew). Otters are apparently very rare in Israel, with only a few dozen having survived the ravages of pollution and roads.

What do you think - is it an otter, or something else?

Justice & Democracy in Beit Shemesh

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In a dramatic development, two appeals were submitted to the Jerusalem District Court in Jerusalem today Wednesday) - to overturn the Beit Shemesh municipal election results of 22nd October.

Beit Shemesh incumbent mayor Moshe Abutbol responded to the appeals by stating "these people have no respect for democracy", pointing out the he had won the election - and this should be respected by all parties.

After months of contentious and heated political campaigning between incumbent mayor Moshe Abutbol and challenger Eli Cohen - the election count showed only 950 votes separated the two contenders.

Even more dramatic was the arrest of eight ultra-orthodox men, on election day itself, and the discovery of over 200 identity cards in two apartments, and in a vehicle, in the city.

Eli Cohen has since put together an investigation team which has worked closely with the authorities to discover the extent and nature of the election fraud - with the expressed aim of appealing the electi…

All Eyes Off Egypt

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While most of us have been watching the dramatic Iranian/Western rapprochement, the sands are shifting in again in Egypt.

Following the successful coup d'etat against Mohamed Morsi's Muslim Brotherhood Government in July this year, the secular military Government, under the leadership of Adly Mansour has dumped some past friends, and headed into a new romance.

For Western democracies, the Morsi election was always a conundrum.

On the one hand, they were alarmed that the Islamic brotherhood had finally obtained power in Egypt, reminiscent of the Iranian revolution in 1979.

On the other hand, there was no denying that democracy had had its say. However unpalatable.

The Obama administration responded to the dilemma by cutting $260m/a US military aid to the new Government in Egypt, even though $1.5 Billion/a aid was a central part of the Camp David Accords of 1978.

Last week, Egypt entered into high level talks, involving the Foreign and Defence Ministers of both countries, with…

Israel's Famous Singer Scandal

For the past week, the Israeli press and social media have been abuzz about a "famous singer" who is under police investigation for having sexual relations with under-aged girls.

Today, the gag order was released, and the singer's identity, already extensively circulated on the unofficial media, Eyal Golan, has been published.

Eyal Golan, 43, is probably Israel's foremost "mizrachi" style singer, and performs to packed crowds in Israel and in Jewish communities abroad.

The allegations reportedly include that Golan had relations with 15 year old girls, allegedly pimped by Golan's father. Furthermore, a second singer, whose name has not been released, is also apparently facing parallel allegations. Sex with a minor under 16 constitutes statutory rape in Israel.

One of the girls who reportedly entered into a relationship with Eyal Golan at the age of 15, was interviewed by Yediot Achronot this week. The girls is now 17. She said in the interview that she …

Between Zero and 48.5% - Child Abuse

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Two statements were issued this week in Israel about the frequency of child abuse.

On the one hand, Beit Shemesh mayor Moshe Abutbul, offered a 'correction' to his televised statement that "there are no gays in our holy and pure Beit Shemesh...if there were, they should be dealt with by the Ministry of Health and police".

In a subsequent interview on Army Radio, Abutbul corrected himself by saying that he hadn't understand the term "gays" (which is an English word, not his native Hebrew) and had believed it meant "pedophiles".

Abutbul therefore apparently meant to say "there are no pedophiles in our holy and pure Beit Shemesh...if there were, they should be dealt with by the Ministry of Health and police".

Aside from the issue that the Ministry of Welfare or the Justice Ministry, would probably have been what Abutbul meant, if he was really talking about pedophiles, not the Ministry of Health, there is also the mayor's paradisic…

Bet Shemesh Mayor Jumps Out Of The Pot

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Rapidly turning into a theatre of the absurd, Bet Shemesh' newly re-elected mayor has jumped right into more trouble.

In parallel to the series of damning reports about abusive election practices which may have enabled Moshe Abutbul to earn his second term in office as mayor, two new reports were published over the weekend.

The most popular, was a six minute piece by Shay Stern on Channel 10, which uses confrontational cynical humour to draw out interviewees, and focused on Bet Shemesh.

Stern interviews Eliran Cohen, an openly gay man who lives in Beit Shemesh. Liron states that there are (of course) many other gays in Beit Shemesh; furthermore, Eliran says he personally knows Moshe Abutbul who is well aware of Eliran's orientation for many years.

In Stern's interview with Moshe Abutbul, he claims "there are no gays in this pure and holy city" and that if there were, "they would be dealt with by the ministry of health and police".



For the press, it wa…

Best of British, Beit Shemesh

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With the news so full of negative revelations  & allegations about Beit Shemesh - it was a great pick-me-up to hear Lord Rabbi Jonathan Sacks, the retired Chief Rabbi of the UK & Commonwealth, speak last night at the Feigenson shul in Nofei Aviv, a community of English speaking immigrants in Beit Shemesh.

I knew that this was not going to be an Israeli-style spontaneous bustling first-come-first-served event, when we were required to book online, with email reminders and clear instructions about location, parking, timing et al. The organisers were clearly organised.

I had the privilege of attending a classy reception beforehand with Rabbi Sacks, and had my few seconds of face-time, introduced to Rabbi Sacks by host & fellow Brit, Jacob Jackson. MK Rabbi Dov Lipman was also there, his US origins notwithstanding, and engaged Rabbi Sacks in a private discussion in a side room.

The Feigenson shul was packed to the rafters, with an overflow crowd downstairs watching on live vi…

Why IS Ploni Taking Such An Interest In My Child?

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If you reminisce back to your school/student days, you can probably think of a specific adult who had a profound influence on you and helped you overcome your growing-up challenges.

There are some particularly gifted and wonderful people who are able to bridge an age gap, and thereby positively engage with someone who is even many years their junior.

Such people can apply this talent to working with kids and youth in a professional context, and can become the most positively influential forces upon the minds and souls of their young charges.

The world is undoubtedly a more amazing and caring place, for these special people who can bring the wisdom of age, to those youngsters who can most benefit by this.

HOWEVER...

There are also other individuals, who target children & young adults for the ultimate purpose of satisfying themselves.

Some sexual abusers will devote enormous efforts to preparing a child for abuse, in such a way that the child will least resist, and the perpetrator …

Beit Shemesh: Has The Fat Lady Sung?

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Frankly, Beit Shemesh cannot compete with the neck-and-neck US elections of 2000 - between Bush & Gore.

For an election by over 100,000,000 US voters to be decided by just 537 solitary votes in Florida, was astounding. A statistical and historical feat which cannot be repeated. It took from the election date of 7th November to the final Supreme Court decision on 12the December for the final result, the Bush victory, to be absolutely final.

However, that unprecedented 2000 US election aside, the Beit Shemesh municipal elections are probably the most contentious I have known.

The municipal elections were on 22nd October and two weeks later, no-one knows if the game in Beit Shemesh is over, with just 930 votes separating the election day victor Moshe Abutbol, from contender Eli Cohen.

Beit Shemesh' equivalent to the hanging, dimpled, or pregnant chad of the malfunctioning voting machines in Florida - is election fraud.

For example, there were over 800 invalidated voting slips - …

Did My Deceased Mother-In-Law Just Vote?

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It may qualify as the least funny mother-in-law joke.

We received a phone call at home from a unit investigating the recent election fraud scams in Bet Shemesh.

They were particularly interested in my mother-in-law's voting habits.

My mother-in-law? Voting?

My mother-in-law passed away over three years ago.

That apparently was just the point...

Even though my mother-in-law is in her grave, she is still registered as a voter in Beit Shemesh.

Apparently, part of the (alleged) election fraud was that the scammers called hundreds of local homes impersonating pollsters.  

When the person called by the 'pollster' said that the registered voter would be absent during the election (such as they were travelling abroad, or were in general absent from this world, because they'd died) this went down as a positive finding - and these people's identities were then faked to enable people to vote in their place.

Absent people make great fake voters.

I don't know if my mothe…

Bet Shemesh Demonstrates: Keeping On Message

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Movie: Sam Sokol

Last night's large (police estimates 5000) demonstration kept on message:

We want Clean Elections! We want Truth! We want Democracy! We want Justice!

We're against Fraud & Criminality!

We demand a Re-Vote!

We demand an Investigation!

Speaker after speaker kept on message.

The focus of the demonstration was not about Eli Cohen (the 'defeated' candidate), and not about Moshe Abutbol (the incumbent mayor) - it was about 'purity of elections'.

Along with the national and local politicians who spoke, three (eloquent) youngsters from Beit Shemesh spoke up for Bet Shemesh. A 20-something student, introduced as "Yisrael", took out a cartoon bomb, a la Bibi at the UN, and drew a red line, standing for fraud and criminalism corrupting free and fair elections in Beit Shemesh. "Ad Kan", to this point, we are willing to be defeated fairly in an election.

But not beyond that red line.

MK Dov Lipman (along with virtually every speaker)…

Beit Shemesh: The Purple Zone

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If you take a look at the voting map of Beit Shemesh during this past fiery election, you'll note that the city is divided into unambiguous blue (Moshe Abutbol voters) and red (Eli Cohen voters) sectors.

Flare-ups have typically taken place at the seams - such as the Orot school and subsequent disruptions.

There is one area which is 'mixed' - which shows as purple on the map. It's an area within Ramat Beit Shemesh (Aleph) around Nahal Dolev, Refaim, Maor, etc..

In an up-beat article, Daniel Treisman has declared the Purple Zone as an area characterised by tolerance, friendship and co-existence which can become a model for the rest of Bet Shemesh.

We have enough voices and people from all sides of the spectrum who want to make a change that we can make serious headway on all the serious issues that have come to light over the past few months.

But we have to do it together as a family.

I invite anyone living in the blue or red zone to help spread the purple zone.

Enthusi…

Beit Shemesh: The Third Option

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The use of criminal, illegal and immoral tactics by the 'winning' Moshe Abutbol campaign in Bet Shemesh, has led to various practical options to resolve the situation.

Option One is to re-run the disputed election. 

I understand there are precedents for this in Israel, and the logistics do not need to be complicated. There is already a system for 2nd round elections in the case that no candidate for mayor obtains more than 40% of the vote. These 2nd round municipal elections will all be taking place around the country on 5th November.

So, in principle, adding Beit Shemesh to that list of second-round municipal elections on 5th November is feasible.

A problem is finding a mechanism which would force this election to be re-run.

I cannot see Moshe Abutbol voluntarily agreeing to a new election.

The Supreme Court would need to rule - and that would require legal proof of the nature and scale of the fraud. The Supreme Court cannot judge immorality - which may stink, but is not a fa…

Bet Shemesh - We Were Robbed

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I was at a wedding on Monday night, and sat with some fine, educated and well informed people from Efrat.

I started to discuss the next day's municipal election in Bet Shemesh.

"Are the elections tomorrow?" he asked me. It transpired that neither he nor his wife were even aware of Municipal Domesday, which was happening the following day...

In many small town elections, a main contention might be whether to have a swimming pool, or a tennis court. Should certain streets be turned into pedestrian-only zones...and other such day-to-day important mundanities.

Here in Bet Shemesh the contentious issues seemed to mainly resolve around G-d and godliness.

That's rather a Biggy, and therefore, rather than being a gentlemanly contest between parties for seats on the town council, it resembled jihad.

Try as the non-Chareidi candidate, Eli Cohen, might, to address regular municipal issues, such as parks, cleanliness, safety, education, cultural events and transport....the ever…

Primitive Voting

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As I voted at a ballot box in Beit Shemesh for Israel's municipal elections yesterday, I recalled the voting jetons (pictured above) I saw recently in an archaeological museum in Athens. 
In 500 BCE, Athenian citizens used these jetons to cast their ballots for political candidates.
It is astounding how little has changed since then.
In Israel, we have a wide array of voting slips displayed at the voting booth (example above), and one needs to match up the name of the party with the large letter symbols on the slips, and place one of them in the envelope. You then put the envelope in the ballot box. For local elections you get two votes, and so do this procedure again for mayoral candidates. 
It can get somewhat confusing - for example in the Beit Shemesh elections, Eli Cohen, (unsuccessfully - more about that when the pain subsides..) running for mayor,  also headed a list of candidates for the city council. The code letters for that party were טב. 
Meanwhile, a moderate chareid…