Showing posts from May, 2010

The Unholy Mix: Cults and Abuse

Cult leader Shai Abramov was founded hanged in his cell on Saturday morning. Abramov, 40, was suspected of being a cult leader and having encouraged a teacher to starve and beat her young son; Abramov reportedly committed suicide in his prison cell at the Hadarim Prison in the Sharon area on Friday night. He was found by wardens, apparently after hanging himself with a lace taken from a pair of pants. Paramedics tried to resuscitate him without success. Today, Abramov's family have declared that he did not commit suicide, but was the victim of foul play. The Abramov affair first came to light following the arrest two weeks ago of a teacher from Netanya accused of beating and starving her 10-year-old son. Under questioning, police discovered that the boy was beaten as part of an educational method the mother said she learned from Abramov, a Netanya resident. Abramov and his wife were arested late last Tuesday night after officers from the central district of the special pol

In a town with no theatre, cinema or bowling alley…PREsenting…!

…The Town Council Meeting Bet Shemesh is a pretty humdrum place and, aside from the odd headline-catching demo by extremists against this that or the other...there’s not much happening for kicks around here. A friend who sits on the city council invited me to pass an hour or two at the routine council meeting yesterday. Well, whoah there!! Did I get bangs for the buck (admittedly, it was free) in terms of high drama! I should have suspected something, when I had to pass by a donkey, tethered outside the Town Hall building, while I sidestepped the plentiful evidence of its healthy appetite, piled and fly-infested on the pavement. Once I entered the building, and headed to the Council Room, I was puzzled why there were two policemen at the door as I walked in? The modest board room of the 1950’s Bet Shemesh town hall, was packed. The small air conditioning unit wasn’t designed for the combination of loads of people, and the hot day. Around the board table were around a d

Important Announcement: Re National Emergency

     Dear Friends, We are all aware of the IDF Home Front excercise during this week, throughout the country. We also know, unfortunately, that our country is not preparing for some fantasy scenario, but for the possibility of imminent war. It has been publicised that the combined forces of Lebanon/Hezbollah; Gaza/Hamas; and Syria, have now amassed tens of thousands of long range missiles. Although Bet Shemesh was out of range in the 2nd Lebanon War and also (by 5 kms!) in the Operation Molten Lead in Gaza - ALL predictions have Bet Shemesh within missile range during the next conflict, Lo aleinu. There are now detailed plans for how the civilian population, which is likely to be the main target for our enemies (again), will be protected, and aid delivered. The voluntary sector, which in previous conflicts has hit-the-ground-running, in some cases faster and more effectively than the IDF Home Front, has now been 'recruited' as an integral part of the national and muni

Ba-le-grut – Chaos with the Math Matriculation Exam

The new computer download system for the Israeli national Maths matriculation (Bagrut) crashed today, minutes before the scheduled start of the examination. The Ministry of Education has switched to a new digital-era method for distributing the examination test papers; this was re-enforced by a leak of the examination paper to some students, who reputedly paid 1000 NIS cash to receive a copy, earlier this week. However, soon after 1:00pm today, less than an hour before the students were due to put pen to paper, over six hundred schools around the country failed to download the papers, resulting in chaos. Desperate phone calls and steam-powered fax machines were brought out of retirement to transmit the exam papers from the Ministry to the schools. I vote all the kids (particularly my son) get a 10 point bonus, as compensation for the stress-factor.  

Oy Vey - Trouble Ahoy!

Initiated and funded by the Turkish organization IHH, a convoy or flotilla of nine ships is heading towards Israel ’s coast, in a bid to break Israel ’s blockade on Gaza . The first and only successful attempt to break the naval blockade on Gaza was in August 2008 by the “Free Gaza Movement” when 44 people from 17 countries sailed from Cyprus on two small boats. Since then, several reported attempts have been made, none of which succeeded. The organizers claim that the flotilla consists of nine vessels carrying 800 passengers, including international activists and journalists, and 10,000 tonnes of aid. They are due to arrive off Israel's coast on Friday. This will be the largest and most extravagant attempt yet, and is personally backed by Turkey ’s increasingly hostile (to Israel ) Prime Minister, Recep Tayyip Erdogan. A counter-flotilla has been organized by Israeli activists, and on Saturday some 30 Israeli ships set sail "to counter the Turkish flotilla."

Dirty Dough in the Bread Market?

According to Galei Tzahal (Army Radio) this morning, the executives of Israel ’s leading bakeries are suspected of scamming the public. Tel Aviv Magistrate's Court extended the remand yesterday (Monday) of CEO Yaron Angel of Angel Bakeries and CEO Yehuda Shnidman of Berman Bakery until Wednesday.  They are suspected of having operated an illegal cartel between the four main bakeries in Israel : Berman, Angels, Davidovitz and Merhavim. The case has been brought against the bakeries by Israel ’s Anti-Trust Commission. In view of the fact that bread is a staple commodity for the poorest sector in Israel , there are Government price controls on standard loaves. (Israeli consumers watch out: there are not controls on non-standard loaves, where free markets rule). Allegedly, these bakeries nevertheless found ways to cheat the system, by deciding amongst themselves who should win which major customer accounts, fixing tenders at hospitals, Army, the prison services etc…and so scamming

A Grave and Burning Issue

As I headed off to synagogue this past Friday evening, there was a strong smell of woody fire in the air. My brother, who drove to Ramat Bet Shemesh shortly before Shabbat, told me he had seen flames in the forest on the way into town. Both Ynet and the Jerusalem Post  reported last week that firemen in Bet Shemesh had blamed three forest fires in the Ramat Bet Shemesh area, on ultra-orthodox demonstrators. Indeed according to these reports: “the haredim started the fires as an act of protest against the relocation of ancient graves in Ashkelon . The firefighters said they had to ward off haredim who were trying to disrupt the efforts to contain the blazes.” I haven’t yet seen reports that these fires continued, or were new fires, on Friday afternoon. I am appalled that anyone would deliberately start a forest fire. Such an act risks the lives of those who live nearby, or folks who could be caught in the fire, and of the firemen who are required to put out these fires. Further

Danger Radiation!

I guess some fifteen years ago, I used to receive Microwave & RF Engineering Magazine. Not that I’m an engineer, but at that time I had an interest in microwave communications. Most of it was way over my head, but I was amazed to read an article about the then-new cellular phones. The article addressed an engineering problem, that there is inevitably an object blocking the path between the handheld cell phone antenna and the station antenna – and therefore a need to boost the microwave signal to transmit unhindered to the station antenna. That obstructing object is better known as the human head. The article concluded with a side-note. That the medical effects of the boosted radiation through the human head, could only be evaluated in twenty years time. This week, a $24 million U.N. study spanning a decade and covering 13 nations was released. This report suggests frequent cell phone use may increase the chances of developing rare but deadly form of brain cancer. The report,

Rabbi Soloveichik Speaks Out Against “Pashkevil”

In his weekly Shabbat morning sermon (Parshat Bemidbar), Rav Hayim Soloveichik spoke out forcefully against a recent “pashkevil” which was distributed in specific locations last week in Bet Shemesh. Rav Soloveichik told his congregants that a “pashkevil” (a public written announcement, see previous article ) had been published and distributed last week, presumably by individual residents of Bet Shemesh, which was unacceptable in both its content and its anonymity. Rav Soloveichik noted that this week’s Torah portion starts with the counting of the Children of Israel – and this reflects the fact that every member of Israel is “chashuv” – important and valuable. What makes us “chashuv” is that we keep Hashem’s Torah (halacha) and we keep to Ruach Hatorah (hashkafa).  Rav Soloveichik said that the recent struggle to retain the local makvaot (ritual baths) under the control of the Municipal Rabbinical Council, is a correct and honorable cause, and the campaign was carefully planned b

The National Religious Pashkevil

A pashkevil is a flyer or poster which is distributed or pasted up in Chareidi communities, making announcements to the public. They are often used as a means of putting pressure on individuals or institutions regarding policy or behaviour. They are sometimes signed by the author, but are usually anonymous, or are signed by a fictitious committee, which usually consists of solely the author. Some claim to be written in the name of famous rabbis, but the authenticity of those rabbis support for the message of the pashkeville is dubious, at best. For example, I have seen two pashkevilim recently in Ramat Bet Shemesh. One was poster sized, glued onto almost every non-moving object in the neighborhood, denouncing in the strongest terms, a new yeshiva high school (accused of teaching some secular studies, rather than 100% torah studies); this pashkevil was apparently signed by a dozen or so leading Ashkenazi chareidi rabbis, who decreed eternal hell-fire (or local equivalent) for any f

Child Abuse Horrors in Israel's News

The mother who is alleged to have starved her own child; the man who repeatedly raped his 10 year old relative, for four years; the Rabbi who allegedly instructed & oversaw gross physical abuse of several children; and a five year old girl who complains the bus driver raped her…. In brief, one-by-one, through this litany of horrors. ---------- In a case which was a catalyst for days of violent riots in ultra-orthodox neighborhoods in Jerusalem , a mother who was alleged to have starved her own son, will plead guilty and be convicted of abuse and starvation charges. Her sentence will not be carried out in prison but under house arrest with her mother and the baby she gave birth to recently under full medical supervision and treatment. The mother will have visitation rights to see her other children once a week. They will be removed from her home to institutions or foster families to be determined by the social services. ------------- A court in Tel Aviv sentenced a 45 yo man t

Hebron Liberation Day

At this time of year, we recount the miracles and wonders of Israel ’s military victories, and liberation of our holy sites. My 10 year old son, Ariel, reminded me that today is “Yom Shichrur Le’Chevron” – Hebron Liberation Day. Ariel also mentioned the miracle of Rabbi Shlomo Goren in Hebron on 8 th June 1967. Ariel quoted Parshat BeChokotai: “Five of you shall give chase to a hundred, and a hundred of you shall give chase to ten thousand; your enemies shall fall before you by the sword.” Ariel pointed out that Rav Goren even exceeded the promise of this blessing – as one Jew had defeated a whole city of 80,000 Arabs. The miracle which Ariel referred to is recounted on the Hebron website   : Rabbi Goren was present with Israeli forces as the IDF conquered the Western Wall in Jerusalem . Holding the rank of general, Rabbi Goren knew that the army's next mission was Hebron . Wanting to be among the first Israeli's in the ancient City of the Patriarchs, he joined the arm

Is Temple Mount In Our Hands?

I had one of those rak-ba’aretz (only-in-Israel) moments this morning, Yom Yerushalaim (Jerusalem Day), as a friend wound down his car window (if such an expression still exists?) outside the local school, as we both dropped off our kids. He had a thought-for-the-day, which he shouted through the window to share with me, and which I share with you. The famous historical announcement in 1967, that “Temple Mount is in our hands!” – contains both the excitement and miraculous glory of the Israeli victory in the 6 Day War – and the jaundiced skepticism born of 20-20 foresight. Yes, Israeli troops successfully reunited Jerusalem under Jewish sovereignty, for the first time in two millennia – in a victory which had military historians gasping, and unsuccessfully seeking precedents. Six days; Jordan, Egypt and Syria’s armies were crushingly defeated. Only the Bible provided precedent. God was clearly fighting for Israel. But within hours of the Israeli victory, the Temple Mount it

Progress on the Struggle for the Dolev Mikva

Announcement from Rabbi Dov Lipman For weeks we have been working on many fronts to preserve the mikva on Dolev to be under the Rabbanut since this is the mikva in the area of most of the dati women in RBS.  We met with members of Knesset, sent letters to the ministers involved, got messages to Rav Ovadiah Yosef and the Chief Sephardic Rabbi, and were in constant contact with the Rav HaIr and the new head of the city religious council.  In addition, a large number of you showed up today with almost no notice to have a presence at the critical meeting between the Mayor and the Rabbanim involved.    I am happy to announce that Rav Spector signed on an agreement this morning which keeps the mikva on Dolev in the hands of the Rabbanut to service the dati and hareidi women who prefer their approach and there won't be any signs dividing the mikva and the community.  The Rabbonim who had wanted to control that mikva will be given the mikva on Lachish where more of the population they se

Should Rav Motti Elon Teach On-Line?

As the expression was, when I lived in England : "today’s news, is tomorrows fish-and-chip-wrapping". The scandal which followed the release of a public statement by Takana in February, regarding allegations of improper conduct against Rav Motti Elon, have submerged into the collective subconscious. Other news and scandals have come and gone, meanwhile. But all is not totally quiet on the Rav Elon front... The police made their own investigation, and are reported to have found that no illegal activities had taken place, as the alleged events were with students above 18, and therefore were not minors, and these students had not pressed charges.  A group of Rav Elon supporters, have now published a website which hosts lessons on line from Rav Elon, in preparation for Shavuot. Back in February, Takana had announced that Rav Elon should refrain from intimate, personal and private meetings with people seeking his advice or religious counsel. Roni Rimon, Elon’s media advis

RBS Mikva Controversy Update

By Rabbi Dov Lippman This is an update for those following the story of the struggle over the running of the Mikva on Nachal Dolev, Ramat Beit Shemesh: - Mayor Abutbol received a letter from the Minister of Religion, Yaakov Margi (Shas), that he cannot appoint a private person to oversee a public mikva. - Despite this letter, the Mayor insists that Rabbi Davidovich will oversee the mikva on Dolev and the Rabbanut will oversee the renovated mikva on Lachish. It appears likely that the Mayor will try to do so by appointing Rabbi Davidovich as an official employee of the Rabbanut. - A stormy meeting took place between the dati Rabbonim of the city and the Mayor during which the Mayor berated the Rabbis for suddenly wanting to follow the psak and leadership of Rav Ovadiah Yosef [ DM: who has been notified that the Rishon Letzion's shittot were being possulled by those supervising the "right" side of the mikva - and Rav Yosef strongly objected to that ] . - Meetings we

Looking for Information about the Amudei Shaish Choir (Sammy/Shmuel Borger)

by Yerachmiel Lopin   I am preparing a story about the Amudei Shaish Choir and its director, Shmuel Borger. I am looking for details about its founding, operation, and closing. The kinds of information I am seeking include how singers were recruited and treated, the schedules and locations of concerts (especially outside of New York City), the marketing of the choir, and the story behind its closing. Recently Shmuel Borger has returned to promoting himself through full page ads in  The Jewish Press ,  Yated Neeman  and through  a long audio message  on the website of Yeshiva World News.  You can contact me by putting the words “contact me about amudei sheish”  or other words to that effect into a comment on any posting at my blog, . Choose any name you want and leave me your email address. The email address will not be visible to anyone but me. All information shared with me will be confidential. Thanking all of you in advance, Yerachmiel Lopin

Bet Shemesh & The Holyland Scandal

There has been another arrest in the Holyland affair. Israel Police today arrested former Jerusalem Local Planning and Building Commission chairman Matti Huta on suspicion of involvement in the affair. Huta is currently the Beit Shemesh Municipality director general. Investigations into the Holyland affair have embroiled many high-ranking Jerusalem officials, including former prime minister and Jerusalem mayor, Ehud Olmert and his successor as mayor, Uri Lupolianski. Police suspect that, between 1999 and 2008, the Holyland Development Company and associated land developers paid tens of millions of dollars in bribes to senior decision makers in the Jerusalem municipality, members of its planning and construction committee and officials in the Israel Lands Administration.

Announcement: "Integrity Committee"

The Action Committee for Integrity in Providing for Religious Services, which includes many of the most prominent Rabbis from Ramat Bet Shemesh, requested that I help the English-speaking public understand the issues encompassed in the struggle to ensure that Mikvehs provide any woman who wishes to utilize Mikveh services with amiable and Halachically-sound service which will promote Mikveh use. I may also write up some summaries in English of the material which has been publicized in Hebrew in the past several weeks; but, first of all, I wish to encourage anyone who wishes to hear the truth from someone who has studied this issue in depth, and whose purpose is simply to promote positive experiences relating to dipping in the Mikveh and other spiritual actions, to contact me by phone or Email for more details. Catriel Lev Mobile Phone: 050-205-7867 Home Phone: 02-991-4332 Email:

Dangerous to Wear a Kippa (sruga?)

I am often required to travel to Turkey for business – and with the downward spiral in Turkey/Israel relations, I have increasingly uncomfortable wearing my kippa in the streets of Istanbul and Ankara . Locals have advised me to remove my kippa, for my own safety. I have asked my rav (Rav Chaim Soloveichik) whether I can take my kippa off, if I feel this can put me at physical risk? He confirmed that I can (even should?) – or wear a hat if this will sufficiently disguise my identity (wearing a hat itself looks “odd” in Turkey ). Arutz 7 has published an article about a recent attack (what they call a lynch) upon a bunch of kids who were walking through Ramat Bet Shemesh (Bet) on their way back from celebrations, on Yom Ha’Atzmaut (Israel’s Independence Day). The article features graphic photos of bruised and bloodied kids, and tells a harrowing story of how they were attacked by a mob of local residents with rocks, metal-buckled belts, pots, shovels and other domestically-availa