Thursday, January 29, 2009

Shas is trying to attract Ashkenazi Charedi votes

Many Ashkenazi Charedim are upset at the Ashkenazi Charedi leadership for what happened in the Jerusalem mayoral election. Porush's supporters cannot bring themselves to vote for UTJ where Litzman is no 1 on the list. Shas is trying to capitalize on this and get these disaffected Ashkenazim to vote for them.

I have a hard time believing that this will work, as there is a lot of bias in the Ashkenazi Charedi world against Sefardim and therefore it is hard for me to see many Ashkenzim voting for Shas.

Does it pay to work?

This letter was printed in Yated Neeman.

Dear Editor,

I was called to my son’s cheder to talk about tuition. I was directed to the administrator, who informed me that he would be raising my tuition since, in his words, “You are working in Manhattan and making a nice salary.” (I’m already paying more than most people, as they won’t give me breaks because I’m not learning.)

I tried to explain to him that I am indeed making $61,000 as a computer consultant, but after deducting my work-related expenses, I don’t come out with much more than others. He disagreed with me, and claimed that my salary is a lot higher than what many others earn. And so he decided that I should pay more.

We started discussing the matter and he told me that his salary is $25,000, and that the yeshiva works out his payments so that he is still eligible for government funding. I then explained to him that he makes a lot more than I do. I pay $6,000 in transportation costs a year to get to and from Manhattan, plus another approximately $5,300 for social security, federal and state taxes. (This was a low estimate. I think it’s going to be higher.) I pay another $8,500 for medical insurance. After deducting all these expenses, I am left with $41,200.

He receives approximately $14,500 in HUD, $5,800 in Earned Income Credit, ($4,800 federal + $1,000 state), plus $1,700 in WIC, and $2,100 in HEAP (for utilities). Additionally, his insurance is free (Jersey Care). This leaves him with over $49,000. (This amount is reached even without including other programs, such as free school lunch programs, etc.) This is a lot more than the $41,200 that I make. This calculation also doesn’t include food stamps, because he didn’t volunteer whether or not he receives them. If he does get food stamps, his total income would add up to $56,000. This particular individual is an administrator, but in the event that he was learning full-time and only receiving a kollel check ($4,160) and a night kollel check ($3,000), he would still be making more than $38,000, which is not much less than my $41,200. (This calculation does not include another few thousand dollars possibly earned from morning kollelim, shemiras hasedarim, etc.) To top this all o! ff, I end up paying much more in tuition because I don’t get any breaks.

Add to this the fact that the hours that my wife can work are limited, as she has to carpool the kids and be home with them after playgroup and school hours, since I’m not home until 7 at night. In contrast, this administrator told me that his wife works until later in the afternoon, because he is home between 2 and 4 and takes care of all the carpools and babysitting until his wife returns home from her job.

At the conclusion of this discussion, the administrator told me that he still feels I should pay a higher amount towards tuition since I work.

I am not writing this letter to complain about people being able to manage with the help of government programs. I just want people to understand that just because I work doesn’t mean that I am walking away with more money. In fact, I have the same problems paying tuition as any kollel yungerman may have.

A Yungerman Who Now Works

The situation is very similar in Israel.

Wednesday, January 28, 2009

Does this sound familiar?

U.N. Staff and Hospital Come Under Shelling as ... Fights Cornered Rebels

...the United Nations confirmed that staff members and their families had come under heavy shelling in what the government told them was a no-fire zone, and a government health official, also behind the front line, described artillery attacks on a hospital compound.
A shell landed near the compound on Saturday evening, and then another early Sunday morning, killing 9 civilians and wounding more than 20, according to a memo sent by United Nations officials in ... to their headquarters in New York.

“Our team on the ground was certain the shell came from the ... military, but apparently in response to an L.T.T.E. shell,” the memo read. “All around them was the carnage from casualties from people who may have thought they would be safer being near the U.N. Sadly they were wrong that night.”

A United Nations official, speaking Tuesday on condition of anonymity, said the team on the ground had suspected that the rebels were firing at government forces from close to where civilians were taking shelter. “Both sides are egregiously flouting humanitarian norms and principles, and as a result civilians are dying,” the official said.

Where is Ban Ki Moon? How come he is not immediately flying out to visit the scene? How come there are no calls for an immediate cease fire? Where is the emergency session of the Security Council? How come we don't hear the US State Dept. condemning the attacks? Where is the European Union? Why is the BBC's top story "Israeli jets target Gaza tunnels" and not this? The hypocrisy of the world is there for all to see.

The answer is very simple, this is all happening in Sri Lanka and not in Gaza.

So much for the US stopping arms smuggling to Gaza

Remember how Tzipi Livni made a big deal about how she reached an agreement with the US about helping to stop arms smuggling? There it goes, another one of Tzipi's "big accomplishments" down the drain.

U.S. forced to release Iran ship believed to be carrying arms for Gaza

The U.S. navy was forced to release an Iranian boat detained in the Red Sea on suspicion of carrying arms to Hamas-ruled Gaza. Weapons of various kinds were found aboard the ship, which was flying the Cypriot flag when it was stopped January 19.

The ship was released Tuesday when it became apparent that there was no legal basis for holding it.

At a press conference in Washington, Admiral Mike Mullen, who heads the Joint Chiefs of Staff, said although American naval personnel boarded the ship and found the weapons, they had no legal authority to impound the arms. He suggested that more stringent resolutions by the UN Security Council would be required, stating clearly that Iran is violating standards against arms smuggling.

In other words the agreement with the US is not worth the paper it was printed on.

Evaluating the results of the Gaza war

If Israel's deterrent capability in the Gaza Strip has indeed been restored, why has a soldier died there such a short while after the IDF pulled out? Is this not further proof to the Likud's claim that the government needs to let the IDF "win" - in other words, to complete the job and crush Hamas?

Tuesday, January 27, 2009

It's starting already

A soldier was killed and 3 others wounded by a bomb next to the border fence with Gaza.

It is clear that Hamas is feeling out Israel's responses and is trying to figure out how far they can go. We will see how the current government responds or doesn't respond. If the response is weak Hamas will just step up the pressure.

I"m back

I was traveling on business last week so had little or no time to post. I hope to get back to a regular posting schedule.

Sunday, January 18, 2009

The withdrawal has already started

The question is what happens in a week after the army is fully withdrawn and Hamas starts firing a few rockets again? Will Israel re-invade? I seriously doubt it.

Meanwhile many of the soldiers are expressing feelings we missed our opportunity.

Shin Bet Chief: Hamas will resume arms smuggling to Gaza within a few months

Shin Bet Chief: Hamas will resume arms smuggling to Gaza within a few months

So what exactly did we accomplish in the 3 weeks of war?

Ceasefire deja vu

Here is what I think is going to happen. Hamas will cease fire long enough for Israel to withdraw from Gaza. As soon as Israel withdraws from Gaza and frees the reserves they will go right back to what they were doing before the war started. They will test Israel's resolve by firing 1 or 2 rockets. How will Israel respond? Many will say that we can't go to war because of 2 rockets. Hamas will fire just enough to keep the people down South edgy but not enough to justify another full scale attack. They will also start smuggling weapons again. There is absolutely no reason to think that Egypt will do any better at stopping the smuggling now.

Last but not least, they will continue holding Gilad Shalit and use him as a bargaining chip.

In short, it looks like we are back to where we were 6 months ago.

Tuesday, January 13, 2009

Monday, January 12, 2009

A look back at what the left said before the disengagement

It is amazing to watch this clip (English subtitles) and see what the left said about how the disengagement would bring peace and security to Israel. So far I haven't heard anyone of them come clean and say we made a mistake.

(Hat tip The Muqata)

Coming soon to El Al, Mehadrin flights

בקרוב באל על: "טיסת מהדרין" לחרדים

This means:
1. Separate seating (men in the front women in the back)
2. No stewardesses only male stewards
3. No movies

I am sure the wives are going to love this. They are now going to have take care of the kids for the whole 12 hour flight with little or no help from their husbands. After all, he can't go back to the women's section and she can't come to the men's section.

Friday, January 09, 2009

Tzippi, what happened to the UN?

Tzippi Livni was the chief architect of the Resolution 1701 which ended the Lebanon war. She listed that as one of her big achievements. It was great that the UN was involved. Yet, as time passed, it became patently clear that it was a disaster (see Security Council resolution 1701 has completely failed).

She still refuses to admit it however, it is interesting to see her stance this time towards the UN. Now, she is adamantly opposed to any UN resolution regarding the Gaza conflict. If she were a different type of politician as she claims she would admit her mistake.

In any case, she failed again as the UN passed a completely one sided cease fire resolution against Israel.

The government fiddles while Rome burns

Last night the UN Security Council approved a resolution calling for an immediate cease fire. This is going to make it very difficult for Israel to embark on phase 3 of the ground operation.

The government has been acting as if Israel has all the time in the world. Everyone knew that the time window for an operation would be limited and that relatively quickly the world would intervene and impose a cease fire. yet, the government has dithered and dathered about making decisions. For example, on Wednesday the cabinet met to discuss phase 3 and didn't come to any decision. Well now it may be too late. If the operation had already started then it might have been possible to continue.

Wednesday, January 07, 2009

Torah scholars don't need protection - does this apply now during a war?

The Gemara in Bava Basra 7b discusses the need for building walls around a settlement. Since walls are for communal protection, all residents have to share in the cost of erecting them. However, the Gemara rules that Torah scholars are exempt from this expense, since they are protected by virtue of the Torah they learn.

Does this apply in a time of war?

R' Zevin in a famous essay says no.

When actual lives are at stake, may we rely on miracles? In 1929 at Hebron... didn't young students of the yeshiva, whose holiness shone like stars in the sky, fall before the malicious enemy? Please, did these martyrs need protection or not?... If you understand that the scholars don't need protection in relatively peaceful times and are exempt from building the protective walls, what consequence has this when compared to a life-and-death struggle, a war which is a mitzvah and in which all are obligated? The defense authorities ordered everyone to cover all windows as protection against shattering glass in case of an air raid. Would anyone think that some rabbis will not do so, claiming, "Rabbis do not need protection?" ...Why did rabbis leave areas under enemy fire along with the rest of the general population? Why did they not rely on this maxim?

R' Aharon Lichtenstein makes a similar statement:

It may be stated... that such a claim (that since rabbis "don't need protection" they should be exempt from military service) raises a very serious moral issue. Can anyone whose life is not otherwise patterned after this degree of trust and bitahon argues for exemption on this ground? Is it possible to worry about one's economic future - in evident disregard of Rabbi Eliezer's statement that "whoever has bread in his basket and says 'What shall I eat tomorrow?' is but of little faith" - and yet not enter the army because one is presumably safe without it?

Tuesday, January 06, 2009

Yeshivas are moving north out of danger, what about the protection of Torah learning? - Updated

Many of the yeshivas in the South (Ashdod and other places) have temporarily moved to Yerushalayim or Bnei Brak.

On one hand the move is understandable, with rockets landing in Ashdod they wanted to move to a safer place. However, on the other hand, this raises some serious questions. The Charedi world justifies the draft exemption for yeshiva students based on the following:

1. Torah learning protects everyone
2. The boys are engaged in מלחמתה של תורה
3. Talmidie Chachamim don't need protection

Based on these it would seem that the Yeshivas should stay where they are. If the boys who are learning are engaged in war just like the soldiers why should they abandon their posts? In addition if Torah learning protects, let them stay where they are and be protected by their Torah. Their move undermines the claim for draft exemptions and looks very bad. The soldiers are entering Gaza to fight while the yeshiva bachurim are fleeing to safer havens.

Update 1/6

The Yeshivos that I am talking about are Charedi Yeshivos. I took the information from last week's Mishpacha magazine. Here are some of the Yeshivas that left Ashdod:
Grodna, Petersburg,Belz,Ger.

Here is how the Roshei Yeshiva explained the move:
תורה מגנא ומצלא, אבל ככה קשה לבחורים להתרכז
Torah protects and saves, however, the boys found it hard to concentrate

A day of Tefila

Monday, January 05, 2009

The 3 State Option

John Bolton in the Washington Post rightfully buries the idea of a Palestinian state. The solution that he advocates is I believe similar to what Benny Elon has been saying for years. Basically he is proposing that Egypt take control of Gaza and Jordan in some way shape or form the West Bank (details about the West Bank need to be worked out). This is a much more realistic solution then the current failed 2 state model.

The biggest problem is that the Arabs will never agree for a lot of reasons.

In any case this is a good thing because the more people dispute the current 2 state orthodoxy the better.

Winning the war and losing the peace

The government is looking to end the war with a political agreement based on a new monitoring system for the prevention of smuggling along the Egypt-Gaza border. The system would rely on an existing security committee comprising representatives from Israel, Egypt, the Palestinian Authority and the United States.

Does anyone really believe that this will work? We see how well it worked in Lebanon with Unifil. Does anyone believe that Egypt has the political will to stop Hamas smuggling? The fact is that for the past 6 months they have done nothing to stop smuggling, why should things change?

When will the leadership here realize that Israel cannot rely on the UN or any other group for it's security?

Sunday, January 04, 2009

3 years ago today Sharon went into a coma

How ironic that exactly 3 years later we are back in Gaza.

Anyone with half a brain can see that the disengagement was a bad idea and has been disastrous for Israel.

What is amazing is that Dov Weisglass who was his chief of staff has the gall to say today that the disengagement was the right thing to do. Anyone with any integrity would get up today and say we made a mistake.

The final nail in the disengagement coffin?

Now that we are back in Gaza where we were 3.5 years ago, is there anyone who can possibly think that the disengagement was a good idea? I really want to hear the press ask people like Tzippi Livni, Chaim Ramon, Shaul Mofaz, etc. (all the big disengagement supporters) what their view is today.

What is amazing to me is that Kadima, the party founded on the idea of disengagement, still has 27 seats in the poll. How blind are the people? Don't they realize that the current war is a direct result of Kadima's failed policies for the last 3 years?

Thursday, January 01, 2009

Top Barak Aide: IDF not aiming to crush Hamas

Why not????? This is pathetic leadership. Barak (and Livni and Olmert) are just setting us up for the next round in the not so distant future. Crushing Hamas is exactly what needs to happen.

Top aide to Barak: IDF aiming to stop Gaza rocket fire, not crush Hamas

Deja Vu - Is this the Lebanon war redux?

Unfortunately I believe so. Again, the government has no clear cut goal and is clearly hesitant to commit ground forces. There is no political will to win the war.

Here are 2 articles that say it better then I can.

Analysis: Disturbing echoes of 2006

...And yet, as Day Five of Operation Cast Lead drew to a close, dismaying comparisons with 2006 were multiplying.

As happened then, there was a developing lack of clarity about the goal of the operation. Initially clearly defined as being aimed at restoring security to the South, it was being exaggerated by some Israeli officials as extending to the destruction of Hamas, and minimized by others as merely seeking a better version of the failed cease-fire.
The willingness to even begin to consider a time-out implicitly amounted to Israel starting a stopwatch toward a cease-fire - an approach that, at this stage, flies in the face of the relentless determination promised by the Israeli leadership at the outset.

As with 2006, the hesitancy has extended to the use of ground forces - or rather the non-use of ground forces

Like in Lebanon, in Gaza Israel blinked first

...The declared goal of Operation Cast Lead ("the creation of a new security reality") is minimalist and reveals Israel's unwillingness to fight for a long-term resolution that will create a comprehensive new reality, not only a new security reality.

What is worse, the way the battle is being waged after the impressive air strikes raises concerns that the operation's leaders do not intend to achieve even its modest aims, among other reasons because Israel once again blinked first. The blinking did not begin on Tuesday with Barak's announcement that Israel was considering a "humanitarian" 48-hour cease-fire. It began when the first air strikes were not immediately accompanied by a ground operation. Israel showed, as in Lebanon, that it does not want to reach a strategic resolution and does not have the will, determination or self-confidence to lead a military operation beyond reprisal and punitive action.

This is a major and painful operation, but despite its ambitious intentions it is not a military action that will end the eight-year nightmare of the people of the Negev.
If the concealed goal is not resolution but another cease-fire, then it is a pity to use ground forces because the enemy will revive once again and smuggle in rockets, which this time will be able to hit Dimona, and perhaps even Tel Aviv. And once again the air force will be sent in. And again, after every red line is crossed, there will be an amazing air strike. And what then? And until when?

The more days go by with the main component aerial bombardment, which, like in Lebanon, cannot stop the rockets, the public begins to feel (our leaders' arguments show this) that the operation is losing momentum.