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Showing posts from May, 2015

Rabbi Riskin - Time to Retire?

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Rabbi Shlomo Riskin, Chief Rabbi of Efrat, has reached 75 years old. Mazeltov!

However, according to the current regulations, town rabbis, whose salaries are paid for by the Ministry of Religious Affairs, are required to retire when they reach 75; nevertheless, the Chief Rabbinate can decide to grant an extension for a further five years for a rabbi to continue their official positions.

At the age of 80, all City Rabbis are required to retire.

In the recent past, there was, in practice, no upper age limit and indeed, State funded city/town rabbis were considered life-long positions.

In Rabbi Riskin's case, the committee did not immediately grant him a five year extension, rather they have reportedly invited Rabbi Riskin in for a meeting.

This has cooked up a storm, with widespread media coverage. National religious rabbis & lay leaders have voiced strong criticism of the Rabbinate and support for Rabbi Riskin.

It has become a political issue - with this case highlighted as an…

"Uncle" Rabbi Moshe Levinger z"l

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Rabbi Moshe Levinger died  this past week and was buried in the old cemetery of Hebron.

I had the privileged of hosting Rabbi Levinger about ten years ago in my home. He was visiting Ramat Beit Shemesh for Shabbat and, due to my wife Julie being a relative (through my mother in law, Shula Kestenbaum z"l), we were selected to host the rabbi.

That shabbat we discussed with Rabbi Levinger the then-topical issue of putting fences around settlements, in order to reduce the risk of terrorists infiltrating and murdering residents (as happened, for example, in Yitzhar, which did not have a fence).

Rabbi Levinger said he is against such fences, as these actually endanger residents, by giving Arabs the intrinsic message that the Jews are afraid, and therefore weak and vulnerable to attack.

He pointed out that he walks around Hebron unprotected - and this is actually the safest way. The local (very hostile) Arabs don't mess with him.

That approach reminds me of Moshe Feiglin's tact…

IDF Soldiers Liberate the Old City of Jerusalem

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Today, Jerusalem Day, marks the 48th Anniversary of the liberation of Jerusalem from the Jordanians.

A relative pointed out to me on Shabbat that, in some ways, this is a more joyous celebration than Independence Day; when Ben Gurion declared independence, in 1948, the future looked grim for the fledgling State of Israel, with enemy troops gathered to destroy it and slaughter the inhabitants.

However, the Six Day War was a magnificent military victory, akin to the Hasmoneans defeating the Greeks, celebrated on Hanukka.

Absurd Government Bodes Another Election

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The March election delivered a clear (and surprising) lead to Benjamin Netanyahu, and a mandate from President Rubi Rivlin for Netanyahu to form the next Government.

Two months later, torturous negotiations with Likud's 'natural partners' only produced a shoddy coalition with a knife edge majority of 61-59 seats.

In Netanyahu's opening speech to the new Knesset, he highlighted a gaping flaw in Israel's democracy - the ability of small parties to wield disproportionate powers.

The average length of any Israeli Government is around two years, rather than the constitutional 4 year full term.

This is itself a misleading statistic, as it understates the chaos of Governments collapsing, calling elections, cobbling together rickety coalitions, and then trying to take responsible decisions and legislation. Until it collapses again.  

Raising the electoral threshold prior to this election was a small step in the direction of fixing the small party problem; however, this re…

When is food "Kosher"?

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The Attorney General, Yehudah Weinstein, has ruled that the word "kosher" can be used for describing food products, even when there is no kosher certification by the Chief Rabbinate.

Until now, the Rabbinate has been the gold-standard, whose approval is required by law for food in Israel to be described as "kosher".

Boutique kashrut supervision providers, such as the Bedatzim, are in addition to the Rabbinate certification required by law.

This is a victory for the petitioners, a group of Jerusalem restaurants, who claim to serve kosher food, but do not have Rabbinate certification. They can now advertise their restaurants as Kosher, without infringing the law and without having Rabbinate supervision.

Rabbi David Lau, Israel's Chief Rabbi, on the other hand, sharply criticised the ruling: “The attorney general’s decision is wrong and will lead to kashrus fraud for kosher consumers around the country”.

Rabbi Lau pointed out that because anyone can call themselv…

UK + Israel, Pollsters Got It Wrong

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Whereas the polls confidently predicted a neck-and-neck finish between the Conservative Prime Minister, David Cameron and Labour's Ed Miliband - and foresaw there would inevitably be a messy coalition squabble including Liberals, the far-right UKIP and Scottish Nationalists.... actually the results on the day were entirely different.

David Cameron swept the floor with Labour (Miliband resigned); the Liberals and UKIP vanished; and the Scottish Nationalists took almost every seat in Scotland.

For Israelis, the 'shock' results reflected our own recent elections, where Likud's Netanyahu was predicted to come in a close second to Labour's Herzog. The actual election results showed a dramatic rise in Likud support and fall for Labour.

I am not a statistician, and I appreciate that the science of polling opinions is just that. A science. It is based on rigorous statistical models, computerised simulations, and decades of experience.

Major polls around elections include …

The Story of "Yerushalayim shel zahav " - ירושלים של זהב

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My kids told me this shabbat that the the iconic Yerushalaim Shel Zahav (Jerusalem of Gold), now all over the airwaves due to the upcoming Jerusalem Day, was first performed as a space-filler at the Israel Song Festival.

It didn't win the contest, because it was not even a contender.

In May 1967, Mayor Teddy Kollek asked Naomi Shemer and four other song writers to write new songs for performance between the last entry to the contest, and the announcement by the judges of the results.

Kollek stipulated that the songs must be about Jerusalem, and address the split nature of the city. (At the time the Jordanians occupied East Jerusalem, including the Old City).

The four composers refused the mission outright. Naomi Shemer offered to write a song, but one that would not comply with Kollek's terms. She was given the green light in any case.

She changed her mind, and wrote the first and third stanzas - and performed it for Gil Aldema of the IBA. Aldema liked it and asked Shemer to …

Turning the Tables

We all know the frustrations of dealing with automated customer processing systems.

Here a customer turned the tables on HOT.

Enjoy!