Showing posts from October, 2011

Is the Law an Ass?

I was once asked by a respected rabbi to perform a task which I pointed out to him is criminal under Israeli law.
His response has troubled me ever since.
The rabbi did not respond by quoting from a classic Jewish halachik authority to justify his illegal instruction, such as from the Shulchan Aruch, from the Tor or from Rav Elyashiv….
The rabbi wrote to me that “if the law supposes that, then the law is an ass”.
He was quoting from Charles Dickens. Actually from Dickens’ fictitious buffoon, Mr Bumble, in Oliver Twist.
I could have written this off as one-time buffoonery by the Rabbi – we all make slips and errors of judgment.
However, the same Rabbi then went on to give the same advice, to similarly break the Law, to his whole community. (Without even bringing Mr Bumble as a source – just “take-it-from-me”).
In too many of my dealings with members of ultra-orthodox communities, they have taken such a frivolous, dismissive, nay, derisive approach to the Law – "zilzul".

A Crow Stole My Cell Phone!

We've all heard of the classic line to the teacher: "The dog ate my homework".
Here's a variation on the theme.
My newly married 20 year old daughter Avital returned from a day trip by the Kinneret, and told me that her cell phone had been picked up and stolen away by a crow/raven! No more cellphone.
My son in law, Yair, reminded me that crows have a reputation for stealing bright shiny things – so the cell phone would have been a natural target for the bird.
Meantime, some desk-top research shows that a relative of the crow, the magpie indeed has a reputation for stealing shiny objects.
According to Wikipedia, the crow family (includes Crows, Ravens and Magpies) are exceptionally intelligent, "topping the bird IQ charts". Their brain cavity, pro rata, is the size of a human's.
"As a group, crows show remarkable examples of intelligence. Crows and ravens often score very highly on intelligence tests. Certain species top the avian IQ scale. Wild ho…

Festering at Orot

The stand-off between the national religious school, "Orot Banot", in Givat Sharret, Beit Shemesh, and the extremist ultra-orthodox "Kanoim", residing five minutes walk away in Ramat Bet Shemesh, has dropped from the headlines in Israel – but is still festering on.
According to parents from the school, they arrived at the start of the post-chagim vacation, to find a smashed window and a stink bomb (smelling of feces) in a third grade classroom.
Some dozen Kanoim have re-established their demonstration outside the school.
The police are also on the spot, using stun-guns and other crowd control methods to create a distance between the kanoim and the school kids.
See this recent video that Dov Krulwich, a parent from the school, posted to YouTube:

The Orot Banot dispute has attracted considerable interest around the world. My folks in England almost fell off their sofa, when the BBC News aired a report about Orot Banot in Bet Shemesh.…

The Assassin's Brother

I met this weekend with someone close to the case of Yigal Amir's brother, Chagai.
Yigal Amir is infamous for the assassination of Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin on 4th November 1995. Yigal's story and occasional antics occupy many column inches, particularly as the November memorial season comes around.
His brother, Chagai, however, has been almost totally forgotten.
In parallel to Yigal's conviction and life sentence for Rabin's murder, Chagai was sentenced to 16 years for conspiring to murder and various arms related charges.
According to my source, Chagai has been kept in total solitary confinement in the Ayalon Prison for the past 16 years. He has no TV, radio, rare visitors and even the guards are not allowed to talk with him. His cell is 4 x 4 metres. He once over the past 16 years met with his brother Amir, to study together, for half an hour. These terms of imprisonment are considerably harsher, for example, than for the Arab terrorists, a few cells down, who…

Welcome Home Gilad!!


Need to Smash The Idols - Gilad Shalit

Our country waits with baited breath for Gilad Shalit's release from Hamas captivity after five years of unimaginable horror. The immense joy of his freedom, the end of his and his family's dire tribulations, will be felt by every Israeli and every Jew.
The ransom payment for Gilad Shalit's release, however, can only be described as nauseating.
Of course, Israel has a long history of agreeing to exchange vastly more prisoners, than Israel receives in return.
Over the last 30 years, Israel has released about 7,000 Palestinian prisoners to secure freedom for 19 Israelis and to retrieve the bodies of eight others.
The decisive precedent was sent in 1985, Israel released 1,150 prisoners in exchange for three Israeli soldiers captured in Lebanon. Then-Defense Minister Yitzhak Rabin defended the deal. "When no military option exists," he said, "there is no choice but to enter negotiations and pay a price."
Other gigantic 'exchanges' (read "rans…

Is the Bet Shemesh Municipality Against Tzedaka?

This week's "Chadash" (local chareidi free Bet Shemesh newspaper) ran several articles, reporting and condemning the removal of charity boxes from bus stops in the town.
Impassioned articles charged that the Municipality is attacking charity itself, are "sodomites" (in the sense extreme brutality to others) and the Chairman of one local charity even said that the Municipality is responsible for needy families going hungry this Yom Kippur.
The same writer chides the Municipality for failing to (at least) warn the organization of their intent to remove the boxes.
For those who are unfamiliar with the phenomenon of installing charity boxes on bus stops, and on other public property, I will describe this.
About a decade ago, whoever is the PR guy for the Chasdei Naomi charity came up with the most brilliant marketing campaign.
Chasdei Naomi positioned half-adult-sized metal boxes, with attractive red 'roofs', outside stores on the pavement. These are desig…

Yom Kippur: Lema'an Achai

Gmar Chatima Tova
Dear Friends,
As we approach Yom Kippur, the holiest day of the year, we extend our warmest blessings on behalf of the hundreds of families who, through your generosity, have been able to change their lives for the better. Please consider Lema'an Achai when you make your charitable contributions for Yom Kippur as well as for Kapparot and Yizkor pledges. Donations can be made through our secure web site: Thank you for your steadfast support of and dedication to the goal of Lema'an Achai to help more people on the highest level possible.
May you and yours be sealed in the Book of Life and receive all of the blessings that it bestows.
Warmest Wishes for a Gmar Chatima Tova and an Easy Fast, The Lema'an Achai Family

Rav Chanan Porat, zichrono lebracha

I had the merit of meeting R.Hanan Porat during his therapy for cancer at Hadassah Ein Kerem.

A man who literally made history - steeped in love for our People and our Land, R. Porat strengthened Eretz Yisrael in every way conceivable.

As Kenesset Speaker Rubi Rivlin eulogized today:

"You knew how to be the public's agent with a mouth full of song, to be a sharp parliamentarian with a dreaming soul," Rivlin said. "Within your soul there was a great love, a conquering love, for the national of Israel, for the ground of this good land, for Israel's Torah."

R.Hanan Porat died at the relatively young age of 67. Our people has been deprived of a great man and fine leader.

Lema’an Achai – On the Cutting Edge of Tzedaka and Chesed

This article is published on Tzedek-Tzedek by kind permission of Connections Magazine

How can a tzedaka and chesed organization be "on the cutting edge"?
Around the world, markets are erratic, whole countries are facing bankruptcy, and here in Israel demonstrators are protesting rising costs of basic necessities – housing, food, clothes are all becoming unaffordable, even for salary earners.
Lema'an Achai has felt the impact two-fold. More people have turned to us for help and fewer people have funds to contribute.
Such a financial climate underscores the "Smart Chesed" approach of Lema'an Achai. We have to be able to continue to give assistance on the highest level with less incoming donations.
Smart Chesed's objective goes beyond the temporary fix of hand-outs, by helping to solve problems, balance home budgets, achieve improved employment, and build or rebuild their futures.
For those who have been hit by the recession this holistic program provides t…

Magen - The New Bet Shemesh Child Protection Agency

Published at Tzedek-Tzedek by kind permission of Connections Magazine (Full Article Here

When I found out that Shlomi, my 9 year old son, had been abused, my whole world shattered and collapsed.
From the beginning of the year, Shlomi had been selected as one of the rebbe's favorites in the class. Shlomi was a part of an exclusive club, singled out for special attention, helped with homework after school, rides home in the rebbe's car, extra one-on-one help with schoolwork during recess. As parents, we received regular calls from the rebbe, not to complain about Shlomi (as other teachers had often done), but to patiently explain to us Shlomi's difficulties, and how these were being methodically and caringly addressed. We were thrilled for Shlomi. That's why we got upset when Shlomi was home so often with stomach aches, headaches, and other unverifiable ailments. Shlomi got behind with his studies, which the rebbe kindly offered to make up with him after school hours a…