What, Oh What, To Riot About Today?!

As if the Flotilla, the Iranian threat and the Dubai assassination are not enough to occupy the political decision makers in the State of Israel

There are now also three hot-and-steamy battles, involving Israel’s Ultra-Orthodox sector, which together could just bring the government to its knees. And even distract the rest of us from the World Cup.

The bones in Jaffa; the Slonim School in Emmanuel; and the National Insurance Supplementary Benefits.

The previous struggle, by ultra-orthodox extremists, was over some ancient bones found at the building site for an emergency war-proof facility at the Barzilai Hospital in Ashkelon. That struggle was won about a month ago by the Government. The ancient (and probably non-Jewish) bones were deftly moved to a new site, and the building work on the hospital commenced.

In the language of the World Cup:
Government of Israel - 1;
Extremists – Nil.

Having failed to stop the Barzilai hospital expansion in Ashkelon, the same rioters and their organizational backers (Eida Chareidis), have now moved swiftly on to Jaffa, where archaeologists had found more bones on a site being prepared for construction…  

Meanwhile, there is a messy struggle over a school in Emmanuel (an ultra-orthodox town in the Shomron/Samaria), which is viewed by the State authorities as an issue over equal rights for Sephardim (Jews of North African origin), but is viewed by the Slonim Hasidim as their freedom to have their own ‘club’ school (financed by the Government). The court have gotten stroppy with the Slonim Hasidim and have ordered the parents to prison for contempt of court…

And finally, after ten years of due consideration, the Supreme Court issued a ruling this week, that 10,000 Kollel (orthodox higher education) students, are not entitled to Supplementary/Welfare Benefit (Avtachat Hachnasah) from the National Insurance Institute…

My 2 Cents on each issue…

The bones, frankly, leave me cold. There is a Ministry of Religion apparatus for identifying and, if necessary, removing Jewish bones, which has been dealing with these issues for many years; the extremists who are opposed to moving the bones in Jaffa seem to be doing so because they don’t trust the State (period). 

Furthermore, the subtlety of the important differences between the (flopped) Barzilai campaign (which placed pikuach nefesh/saving lives vs. kevod lemeisim/respect for the dead) and the campaign in Jaffa (kevod lemeisim/respect for the dead vs. parnassah/commercial building), has been totally lost in the noise of battle.   

The Slonim School case, was no more compelling – State funded schooling and buildings must not be used as private ‘clubs’ (in this case the Slonim Hasidim) and used to exclude specific ethnic groups (Sephardim). The USA went through this cleaning-up process against 'segregation' in the 1950’s and 1960’s, creating integrated black + white schools, buses, etc. In all societies remnants of segregation along racial/ethnic lines remain, including in the Israeli High Court system, which is disproportionately dominated by Ashkenazi Judges. And in all societies it must be unacceptable.

However, in this case, the Government/Courts have made a major miscalculation by imprisoning the Slonim parents.  By imprisoning the Hasidim, this looks vindictive and cruel, and the Courts have now unwittingly created a powerful cause célèbre for the demonstrators.

Wrong move.

Fine them, or close down the school  – I'd understand. But imprisoning them has just created martyrs (mesiras nefesh) for this non-cause.

The third issue, the Supreme Court’s decision that Kollel students are not entitled to National Insurance Supplementary Benefit….

I know full well that the overwhelming majority of these recipient families are not using this money (around 1000 NIS/month) to buy Mercedes cars. The Kollel students are generally very poor, and they need this money to feed their (often large) families, which is indeed the purpose of the Supplementary Benefit.

Knowing the way the political system works, I am confident that, since paying this population via National Insurance is not legal, either the law will be changed, or they will receive the same money through other government channels, which will be legal.

Creating the political will to find such a work-around solution, may well require applying pressure, such as through orderly & authorized public demonstrations. I would have no problem supporting such political demonstrations.

Actually, what is happening is that these three different issues are being bundled together as one, as if the State has suddenly turned all guns on the ultra-orthodox population.

Indeed UTJ MK Moshe Gafni has slammed Israel’s political leadership for remaining silent in face of the “month and a half of attacks on the haredim,” apparently refering to events prior to the court ruling against the Emmanuel parents. 

The extremists, having lost the Battle of Barzilei Hospital, are seemingly itching to get even – and are looking to win all three diverse issues, in one huge campaign.

By enlisting hundreds, nay 100,000 - impassioned demonstrators (peaceful) and rioters (violent), and with the ever-powerful claim that G-d Himself is on their side, the extremists are planning on this resounding turn-around shock World Cup Final result:

Government of Israel: 1
Extremists: 3



  1. You're getting ready for the three weeks by spreading sin'at chinam?

    in regards to emanuel see http://www.israelnationalnews.com/News/News.aspx/138162

  2. Is there any way that we can cover over your blog with Rabbi Habers pashkevil?

  3. Anonymous - thanks for the Arutz 7 link.

    I wasn't previously aware of the New Israel Fund connection to Noar Kehalacha.

    The reports of sephardi parents going to jail indeed undermines the widely accepted view (in the press, and I understand also in the court - tho I haven't seen the actual court papers etc) that this is solely about discrimination against Sephardim.

    On the other hand, I do not see that from the demonstrators' point of view this is solely about the rights of the Slonim Hasidim.

    Both parties have much wider agendas & conflicting world-views, and it seems everyone is bundling together diverse issues.

    There is nothing unusual about this.

    It just get complicated trying to unravel the bundle of issues, which was the aim of this article.

  4. Joel - "..cover over your blog with Rabbi Habers pashkevil?"

    That's a great one-liner!

    As you know, I'm a big fan of Rabbi Haber's pashkeville. (See my previous article about that).

    Indeed, when there was a National Religious Pashkeville, during the mikva dispute, I was the first one to decry it - even though the initial report of its content was very misleading (it was not nearly as distasteful as had been initially mis-reported by supporters of the "right" side of the mikva).

    However, not every great one-liner, Joel, is appropriate to complex, multi-facted issues addressed in my article.

    I describe three issues - the bones, the Emanuel dispute and the National Insurance decision.

    Which of these do you think I address in a way you find needs "covering over"?


Post a Comment

Popular posts from this blog

Minister for Welfare Visits Lema'an Achai Today

Will Motty Borger’s Suicide Make Any Difference?