Shefa's Rabbi Blog List
Thursday, April 25, 2013
Monday, April 22, 2013
Finance minister, haredi MKs exchange verbal blows in Knesset's venomous first summer session; Lapid blames haredim for deficit, says: Those who make children should be those who provide for them
by Moran Azulay
The 19th Knesset's first summer session on Monday turned into a barbed verbal bout between Finance Minister Yair Lapid andharedi Knesset members.
Answering haredi criticism of the impending budget cuts, Lapid cynically said: "I understand you're going through tough times. Weren't you sitting in the government which created the deficit? Where you on Mars? You were in every government, and you were costly partners."
Following the stormy debate, the Knesset rejected six no-confidence motions, with 43 voting in favor and 63 against.
To MK Meir Porush (United Torah Judaism), who mentioned the drop in enlistment rates in his speech before Lapid's turn at the podium, the finance minister responded: "You were impudent enough to come here and say the main issue in Israel is the security issue and that you're worried over the drop in the enlistment rate.
As his speech progressed, Lapid was constantly heckled by the apoplectic haredi MKs, to which he responded in kind.
To a heckling Moshe Gafni, A United Torah Judaism MK, Lapid responded: "We're tired of taking your orders. Israel doesn't belong to you."
The pointed exchange continued when Lapid reminded the haredi MKs of parental responsibilities.
"Our duty is to make sure no child goes hungry," Lapid said. "But I want to remind you of one thing: The body that's responsible for providing for children is called 'their parents.' When you bring a child to this world, MK Porush, you're the first person responsible for him."
Lapid was interrupted by MK Yisrael Eichler, who shouted: "We'll not let you take the money from the children."
Lapid answered: "MK Eichler, I heard you called for a tax rebellion. What will you threaten next, that haredim will not enlist? What are you talking about?"
Lapid's Facebook habits also came under fire, when a haredi MK criticized him for posting online on the Sabbath. Lapid replied: "I post on Shabbat because I don't keep the Sabbath. I'm not telling you what to do on the Sabbath and you won't tell me."
To Meretz Chairwoman Zahava Gal-On, who condemned the lack of progress in the peace process, Lapid replied: "The Israeli-Palestinian conflict has been going on for 150 years. I'm sorry we didn't solve it on our first week in office."
The plan includes an NIS 18 billion (about $5 billion) cut in government spending, with the main brunt carried by the defense establishment, the children stipends, state employees' salaries and a freeze on infrastructure projects. In addition, the plan contains a 1% raise of the VAT and another 1% raise for incomes above NIS 8,881 ($2,449).
Earlier, Lapid said during his party's meeting that "We'll not hide behind the deficit but quite the opposite; we'll view it as an opportunity to change priorities for the State of Israel." Lapid added: "Our heart goes out to anyone who can't make ends meet, but empathy can't replace policy. In two years every Israeli will feel the change, feel that he lives in a fair state which treats his money with respect."
Conversely, Opposition Leader Shelly Yachimovich commented on Yair Lapid's budget cuts: "Lapid returned with Benjamin Netanyahu's plan, including a five billion shekel ($1.3B) tax raise. It's going to be an impossible burden to carry, certainly for miserable Riki from Hadera, and definitely for the poor."
MK Porush, of United Torah Judaism, slammed the government's policy and Lapid in his Knesset speech: "I heard he's going to hit Israel with unbearable economic measures. "This is a government which is built on hate alone. The highest of this government's achievements is exclusion of the haredim."
Porush jibed: "Ask Yair Lapid what's the height of his achievements, and for him it's a good post on Facebook."
Sunday, April 21, 2013
Thursday, April 18, 2013
Sunday, April 14, 2013
Wednesday, April 10, 2013
HuffPost/AP: "Shmuel Rabinovich, Western Wall Rabbi, Supports Mixed Gender Prayer Section"
Tuesday, April 9, 2013
Plan will likely face Orthodox opposition and depends on enlarging the area of the Wall dedicated to prayer.
Charged by Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to come up with a Solomonic solution to the growing controversy over women's prayer at Judaism's holiest site, Natan Sharansky, the chair of the Jewish Agency for Israel, is prepared to recommend a bold plan to allow any and all Jews to pray at Jerusalem's Western Wall.
After extensive private consultations and meetings here this week with high-level communal and religious leaders from the major streams, Sharansky told The Jewish Week in an exclusive interview that the talks "gave me great encouragement to go forward."
Upon his return to Israel Sharansky will present his formal recommendation to Netanyahu; the proposal would then require approval and government funding. The plan likely will face opposition from some Orthodox groups who until now have had exclusive authority over prayer at the Wall, but Sharansky expressed hope it will prevail.
He has conducted dozens of private meetings here and in Israel since being appointed by Netanyahu last December to be, in effect, a one-man commission. His task: to resolve the thorny issue of prayer at the Wall, balancing human and religious rights in a political context.
The key to his plan, he explained, is "too see all of the Western Wall as one." The proposal calls for renovating the southwest portion of the Wall, which had been the site of archaeological excavations since soon after the 1967 Six-Day War, and elevate it to equal prominence to the existing area where prayers are now held. (Sharansky pointed out that while the area was set aside for excavation there has been no activity at the site of late.)
That area, known as Robinson's Arch, has been used for egalitarian prayer in recent years but is quite small. Its holiness as part of the Western Wall is not disputed, but currently access for prayer there is only available on a limited basis and subject to an entrance fee.
The renovation would, in effect, double the area of the Wall dedicated to prayer; one half, now the site of religious services, would remain as is, and continue to be used for traditional prayer. The other half, continuing south (or, facing the Wall, to the right), would be the same length and set aside for egalitarian prayer.
"One Western Wall for one Jewish people" with equal access to all, asserted Sharansky.
Leading up to his New York visit there had been concern that Reform leaders here, sensitive to the concerns of Anat Hoffman, director of Reform's Israel Religious Action Center and head of Women of the Wall, the group that has sought full equality for praying at the Wall each month on Rosh Chodesh, might balk at not gaining the right to pray in the traditional prayer area of the Kotel.
But Rabbi Rick Jacobs, president of the Union for Reform Judaism, told The Jewish Week after meeting with Sharansky that while the plans "are not all we had hoped for, they represent a dramatic step towards a State of Israel that respects and protects the rights of non-Orthodox Jews."
He noted that many details need to be worked out, "but in general I am hopeful that we are moving towards a solution that would affirm the unity of the Jewish people and the many authentic ways to practice Judaism."
The fact that Netanyahu himself acted on this issue and appointed Sharansky, a widely respected hero for his years as an imprisoned Soviet Jewish refusenik, as his point man, indicates the importance given to the views of American Jews, most of whom are religiously liberal. There has been concern in Israel that increasing numbers of American Jews are feeling distant from the Jewish state, not only in terms of its inability to resolve the Palestinian conflict, but seeing themselves as second-class Jews, beholden to Orthodox control of marriage, divorce, conversion and prayer at the Wall.
Sharansky emphasized that his plan "could seriously reduce tensions" and highlight "the Kotel's unique role of unity rather than disrupting and dividing" the Jewish people. He noted that the proposal calls for 24-hour-a-day access to the Wall, a common entrance between the two prayer areas and would mark "the first time, and in the most visible place, there would be a choice between traditional and egalitarian prayer."
While he expressed confidence that the proposal will be accepted and become policy, prompting an expensive and extensive renovation of the southwestern area of the Wall — estimated to take up to two years and cost a minimum of $25 million — he acknowledged that there may be stumbling blocks ahead.
They include the antiquities authority, which oversees the archaeological aspects of the area, and the chief rabbi of the Wall, Shmuel Rabinovitz, as well as a wide range of haredi religious and political leaders, who have insisted on the status quo and oppose giving legitimacy to non-Orthodox practices at the Wall. And there is the critical question of what happens in the interim, during construction.
Will the monthly Women of the Wall Rosh Chodesh services continue to be a source of contention, and will its members be arrested during the extended construction period at the site, which has been a flashpoint for religious-oriented protest for many years?
Sharansky is hopeful that once his recommendations are accepted, an interim agreement can be worked out among the various players based on good will and the understanding that a permanent solution is in the works. But the longer the process takes, the greater the chance for disruption.
It is difficult to assess the impact of the recent Israeli election on this issue. On the one hand, the absence of haredi parties in the Israeli government increases the chances for approval of the Sharansky plan. On the other hand, haredi leaders have freer reign to express their disapproval, and could stage large protests, perhaps hoping the new government will fall and they can come back to a share of power.
Dov Lipman, an American-born Orthodox rabbi and new member of Knesset from Yair Lapid's Yesh Atid party, was in New York this week. When told of the Sharansky proposal, he said he favored the concept of providing a place at the Kotel for everyone who wanted to pray there.
"I can pray where I want to pray and others can do the same," he said, but noted that "extremists" in the Israeli Orthodox community "will fight this."