Showing posts from May, 2013

Tag Machir is NOT Terrorism

The security cabinet in Israel is currently deciding whether to define "Tag Machir" (literally "Price Tag") as terrorism.
"Tag Machir" is a covert policy developed on the heels of the destruction of Gush Katif, and adopted by some young right wing activists (generally associated with Hilltop Youth) over roughly the past five years. Price Tag is the tactic of  responding to acts perceived as anti-settler by writing graffiti and vandalising either Jewish or Arab property.
"Anti-settler acts" can include demolitions of Jewish homes by the Government and acts of terror by Palestinians. It is not necessarily measure-for-measure, and Arab property can be vandalized in response to acts of the Israeli Government, and vice versa. A certain randomness increases the effectiveness, and seems to have made it more difficult for the authorities to find and convict culprits.
Time after time, kids have been arrested and released. Some have been charged. I am no…

When Nutty Doesn't Cut It

A family from Beit Shemesh was caught on the wrong side of the Jordanian/Israeli border.

This was no regular family, which perhaps took a wrong turn on a family hike and ended up over the often poorly marked international boarder line.

This family are members of the extreme Jewish cult "Lev Tahor". Lev Tahor is led by Rabbi Shlomo Helbrans (aka Elbarnes) and is based in a small village near Montreal in Canada.

The cult consists of around 45 families in Canada and several families in Beit Shemesh.

This family, along with many of the members of Lev Tahor are balei teshuva, which is to say newly orthodox.  They previously hit the headlines in 2011 in Israel when they attempted to send two of their daughters, then aged 13 and 15, to Canada, only to have them forcefully returned to Israel by the Canadian authorities.

Allegations abound about nefarious activities in the insular cult, such as semi-starvation of members, forced medication/drugging, forced marriage of very young girl…

On Your Marks...!

"Aba, are you running?", my 13 year old son Ariel asked me.

We were standing around the start line for the first Lev Hatorah Yeshiva + Lema'an Achai 6km run.

"Of course not!", I said. "I haven't run since I was your age, and I can't run 100m, never mind 6km".

Then I thought for a second more, "I wonder if I COULD run 100m..?"

So I asked my son to hold my stuff for a couple of minutes, and I ran around the block a few hundred metres..and when afterwards I checked my pulse, it was still beating.

"What the heck..." I reckoned, and put my name down for the 6km run.

The race was the brainchild of Shlomo Frischman, a student at Lev Hatorah Yeshiva in Ramat Beit Shemesh.

Brightly clad in designer yellow tee shirts, some 80 runners were at the starting line, ranging from around 13 to 50 years old. There was a festive air with huddles of spectators and volunteer helpers.

The run initially took us down Ein Gedi St, and then up the st…

Israel's Shame

Israel looks and feels like a highly developed country, with a thriving economy.

This month's sale of 20% of Iscar to Warren Buffett for $2 Billion; the vast wealth newly discovered in off-shore gas reserves; and the billion-dollar sale now in negotiation for Israel's "Waze" navigation app by Facebook - all point to Israel's successful 'start-up nation' status.

Furthermore, Israel ranked a respectable 17th out of 194 nations in the Human Development Index (HDI) of the United Nations. Somewhat further down the list, Israel ranked 47 out of 194 nations in the Annual Standard of Living Index published by the International Living Magazine

Against such a background, the announcement by the OECD that Israel has the worst poverty index out of their organization's 34 member states is shocking.

According to OECD over 20% of Israelis now (2010 - the newest survey) live under the poverty line, up from around 13% five years previously.
As Haaretz points out, it i…

Building A Nationwide Dental Aid Program

I was privileged to attend the opening of the fifth Free Dental Clinic in a network started at Lema'an Achai in Ramat Beit Shemesh, and built up by Dr Shmuel Katz.

This is a fine example of taking a good idea, building it once, proving it, and then running with it.

Some 13 years ago, I asked Dr Shmuel Katz (who gives a shiur I attend) whether he'd be interested to establish and run a free dental clinic at Lema'an Achai.

I explained that for impoverished families, who were often unable to even put food on the table for their families, dental care was an unaffordable luxury item. Families could literally go generations without receiving adequate dental care.

Dr Katz enthusiastically agreed to head up the new program. He assembed a group of dedictated volunteer dentists and the program initially ran out of existing private dental clinics in the neighbourhood.

Lema'an Achai applied for and received a generous grant to set up our own dental facility, in the Lema'an Acha…

Rabbi Lipman Vilified

Rabbi Dov Lipman's politics are not everyone's cup of tea.

Rabbi Lipman has stated:

The Israeli government should not fund institutions which don't teach basic math and English.  Yeshivos which don't do so will not be closed downbut they won't receive government funding. 

Apparently Rabbi Aharon Feldman, Rosh Yeshiva of Ner Yisrael, disagrees with Rabbi Lipman's policies about introducing secular studies to the Israeli Chareidi Yeshiva system.

This is Rabbi Feldman's right, of course, in an observer status from Baltimore in the USA.

Disagreeing with Rabbi Lipman's policy of encouraging secular studies within the Chareidi education system, could be a little inconsistent for the Rosh Hayeshiva of Ner Yisrael, as Ner Yisrael itself promotes secular learning in Universities and Colleges, in parallel to studying Torah in the yeshiva.

Rabbi Lipman, himself a graduate of Ner Yisrael, also studied Education at Johns Hopkins University.

And less anyone think thi…

Beating Up Arabic-Speaking Policemen

According to the news reports this week, several students from Yeshivat Yerushalaim Letzeirim ("Yashlatz"), the yeshiva high school of Mercaz Harav Yeshiva in Kireat Moshe, beat up two policemen.

These policemen were apparenty operating under-cover and were speaking Arabic with each other, outside the gates of the yeshiva.

The policemen were reportedly mobbed by five or six students, including one who pepper sprayed a policeman, while the other officer was hit.

There are two elements to the story which make it newsworthy - Jews beating up "Arabs"; and yeshiva boys beating up "policemen".

All in one swoop.

There are also two angles which muddy those waters.

1. Yashlatz and the neighboring Mercaz Harav Yeshiva were the victims of a terrorist outrage on 6th March 2008. Eight students were murdered in the massacre and five more seriously injured.

During the massacre, the security forces were allerted - but they remained outside the building. The terrorist wa…