Thursday, February 26, 2009

Shaul Mofaz's legacy as transport minister

Disaster for the Israeli airlines. The EU is threatening to downgrade Israel and may ban Israeli airlines from landing or flying over Europe. If that happens, it is the end of El Al.

Meanwhile where is the Transport Minister? What is he doing to solve the problem? What has he done the past 3 years? Over the past 3 years I heard Mofaz interviewed many many times. Not once, was the focus of the conversation on the Transport Ministry, the conversation was always about Iran, Hamas, Hezbullah, politics, etc.

It is amazing how someone who was a complete and utter failure as Transport Minister (someone please come up with one positive thing that he did) can be considered one of the leaders of Israel and a serious candidate for Defense Minister and even Prime Minister.

Tuesday, February 24, 2009

Can Olmert continue as Prime Minister?

This is an interesting constitutional question. In Israel, the Prime Minister must be a sitting MK. As of today Olmert is no longer a sitting MK (as he did not run and the new Knesset was sworn in) and therefore should be disqualified to be Prime Minister. That would mean that Tzippi Livni would become acting Prime Minister until Netanyahu forms a government. I am surprised that no one has appealed to the Supreme Court yet.


There seem to be contradictory sections in the Basic Law.
Section 5 (b) The Prime Minister shall be a member of the Knesset. A Minister need not be a member of the Knesset.

This would seem to disqualify Olmert. However, if we look at sections 21(a) and 30(c) we get a different picture.

21. (a) Should the Prime Minister cease to function as a member of the Knesset, he will be deemed to have resigned; the Government shall be deemed to have resigned the same day.

Section 30(c) A Prime Minister who has resigned shall continue to carry out his functions pending the constitution of the new Government. If the Prime Minister has died, or is permanently incapacitated, from carrying out his duties, or if his tenure was ended because of an offense, the Government shall designate another of the Ministers who is a member of the Knesset and of the Prime Minister's faction to be Interim Prime Minister pending the constitution of the new Government.

What this seems to say is that the Prime Minister can continue carrying out his functions until a new government is formed even if he is not an MK.

Monday, February 23, 2009

Give it up!!! What is this this obsession with Kadima and a unity government?

An open letter to Bibi Netanyahu:

According to you, Kadima's ideas failed over the past 3 years and have led to disaster (Hamastan, war in Lebanon, Gilad Shalit,etc.) If so why do you want them? Why do you want Tzippi Livni as Foreign Minister? As you said in the campaign 10 years and no accomplishments. Her biggest "accomplishement" UN resolution 1701 is a total failure. Her negotiations with the Palestinians have made concessions and gotten nothing. The Kadima government of the past 3 years has been an absolute disaster, who needs them? Why this obsession with a unity government?

What are you afraid of? As you said right after the elections the right wing bloc won. If so, the right wing bloc should rule. For once, let's see a real right wing government in Israel.

Thursday, February 19, 2009

It's over - Lieberman recommends Netanyahu

Livni now has 2 choices, opposition or unity government. As I wrote on Tuesday, Kadima made a big mistake running after Lieberman as there was no way he was going to recommend Livni. Not only did they make fools of themselves by embracing Lieberman, he still endorsed Netanyahu.

I believe that Lieberman overplayed his hand and both Kadima and the Likud are very annoyed at him. In fact, my prediction is that Netanyahu will make a government with Kadima and Shas and leave Lieberman out. Shas is a better partner then Lieberman for many reasons:
1. They have fewer seats and will get fewer ministries (leaving more for the 2 big parties)
2. Shas is not going to demand any of the really important ministries (Finance, Foreign, or Defense)
3. Shas doesn't have any unreasonable demands
4. Shas is not perceived to be so right wing (e.g fascist) and therefore it will be easier for Kadima to sit with them.

Tuesday, February 17, 2009

Fantastic article by R' Horowitz: Charedi Classic

Charedi Classic

My yeshiva-educated generation, for all the right reasons, and with the best of intentions, introduced a ‘new and improved’ brand of chinuch – with longer hours and progressively elevated standards (read: pressure) in academics, dress codes, and social norms for our children, with increasingly more and more emphasis on gemarah b’iyun at the expense of other limudim, general studies, hobbies, and exercise.

It is humbling and difficult to come to terms with, let alone say this publicly, but I think that your generation had a far better recipe than ours, though both generations have their successes and failures. You prepared us for secular culture whereas we shelter our children from it. You played offense; we play defense. You celebrated the enrollment of each and every Jewish child to a Mesivta or Bais Yaakov; we send rejection letters. You raised children; we tried to raise gedolim.

Over the past few years, I’ve increasingly felt that the most effective way of reversing the exploding number of kids and adults abandoning Yiddishkeit is to revert to the old-fashioned “Charedi Classic” education my generation was fortunate to receive from yours; and pass on those core values to our children and grandchildren.

Hat tip Life In Israel

Livni made a big mistake embracing Lieberman

Kadima's announcement yesterday that they agreed with 90% of Yisrael Beitenu's platform was a big mistake.

On one hand, even after their agreement, there is very little chance that Lieberman will actually recommend Livni to the President to make the government. On the other hand, the Left (Labor and Meretz) are absolutely furious with Kadima and will definitely not recommend Kadima.

It looks like no one (other then Kadima) will recommend Livni to form the next government. Netanyahu on the hand will have (in addition to the Likud) Shas, UTJ, Bayhit Hayehudi, and the Ichud Haleumi, 50 seats. In that situation it is hard to see how Peres can not ask Netanyahu to form the next government.

Monday, February 16, 2009

Haredi drug smuggling exposed - Updated

חשד: רשת של חרדים עסקה בהברחת סמים

תחילת הפרשה לפני כמה ימים, כאשר שוטרי משטרת יפן עצרו בנמל התעופה בטוקיו שלושה חרדים, שניים תושבי בני ברק ואחד תושב שכונת מאה שערים בירושלים, כשבכליהם 90 אלף כדורי אקסטזי.
בשל חזותם כאנשי דת, סברו השלושה כי הם לא יעוררו חשד בקרב אנשי המשטרה ויצליחו להבריח את הכמות העצומה של הסמים - אלא שמידע מודיעיני שהגיע ליפנים סיכל את ההברחה.
רבים מחבריהם של החשודים, תלמידי ישיבות מירושלים, הגיעו לדיון כדי לחזק את חבריהם העצורים. במשטרה מעריכים כי מדובר ברשת פעילה, ובשעה זו נבדק אם הם היו מעורבים בהברחות נוספות של סמים ברחבי העולם.

I wonder how the Haredi press is going to report this? Are we going to now have appeals for "pidyon shvuyim" of these 3 from Japan?


The story from Maariv is very misleading. The 3 arrested in Tokyo were arrested a year ago and are the 3 that we know about it and are in the middle of their trial.

What happened yesterday is that the police arrested 2 more people in Israel who they claim are the ringleaders.

Here is another news report:
חשד: רשת מבריחי אקסטזי חרדית

לאחר שבשנה שעברה נעצרו שלושה חרדים ביפן לאחר שנתפסו עליהם 90 אלף כדורי אקסטזי, אמש נעצרו שני בחורי ישיבה נוספים, הפעם בישראל. אחד העצורים חשוד בעמידה בראש רשת חרדית שאירגנה הברחת סמים במסווה של העברת העתיקות
אולם בית המשפט התמלא באברכים רבים שישבו על ספסלי העץ וקראו פרקי תהילים למען חבריהם שישבו, לראשונה, מאחורי זכוכית המעצר.

A year after 3haredim were arrested in Japan after they were caught with 90,000 Ecstasy pills, yesterday 2 more yeshiva students were arrested, this time in Israel. One of the suspects is accused of being the head of a Haredi network taht arranged drug smuggling under the guise of moving antiques.
The courtroom was full of Avreichim who sat on the wooden benches saying tehillim for their friends who for the first time were behind bars.

What is עין הרע?

I have been going over the 7th Perek of Bava Metzia and the topic of עין הרע comes up. I believe that this is a very misunderstood concept and would therefore like to share some of the more common interpretations.

1. The Maharal writes that it is a power given to people that with their eyes they can actually cause damage. The Chazon Ish also goes with this approach. He writes that is מסודות הבריאה that people can cause damage by looking at things. However, he makes a very important point. He says that עין הרע only affects someone who was supposed to be damaged. There already was a דין in שמים for them to be damaged, the only question is how. One of those ways is עין הרע. He does point out that עין הרע can put a person in danger and when a person is in danger sometimes his דין is reevaluated. This is why עין הרע is something that people try to stay away from even though it has no independent power to harm them. The Gemara in ב"מ פ"ד quotes R' Yochanan as saying that עין הרע does not affect the descendants of יוסף. According to the Chazon Ish and the Maharal it is some kind of real protection from the actual damage that the eyes do. The descendants of Yosef would seem to be based on lineage, they have special protection based on the Beracha given to Yosef.

2. R' Dessler explains that עין הרע works as follows. When a person (Reuven) flaunts what he has, he causes pain to others by making them feel that they lack something. This pain is what causes Reuven to be punished. He is punished for causing others to envy him and feel bad. He then explains why עין הרע does not affect the descendants of יוסף. Someone who lives only for others and always gives and never takes does not arouse envy and therefore is protected from עין הרע. This is what Yosef represents. The Gemara has a different derasha which learns it out from fish. Fish are hidden from the eye under water and don't compete with people on land. Therefore they don't cause envy. According to R' Dessler when the Gemara says that עין הרע doesn't affect the descendants of Yosef, it is not referring to his actual descendants but rather to those who follow his path.

Tosafos (ב"מ ק"ז) clearly argues on this as the Gemara states in the name of Rav that most people buried in the cemetery died because of עין הרע. Tosafos asks how could that be, what happened to the בני יוסף who are protected from עין הרע? It is clear from Tosafos's question that they are referring to the literal descendants of Yosef.

These are 2 very different views of עין הרע. The Chazon Ish and the Maharal take a supernatural view and attribute power to the eye to actually cause damage. Similaryly the protection is supernatural and is based solely on lineage. R' Dessler on the other hand takes a rational, ethical view nothing to do with the supernatural. עיו הרע is all about a person and his desires. The protection is based on a person's own actions, any person can be protected from עין הרע if they act like Yosef.

Saturday, February 14, 2009

Only in Israel could Amir Peretz run again

MK Amir Peretz: I will run for Labor Party chairman

MK Amir Peretz announced Saturday he will be running for the position of Labor Party chairman in an interview on TV Channel Two.

In his first public response to the results of Israel's general elections earlier this week, Peretz stated Defense Minister Ehud Barak needs to resign from his position as Labor Chair, following the poor results the once leading left-wing party reached ? just 13 Knesset seats.

Amir Peretz was only an absolute disaster last time he was head of the Labor Party, why not bring him back?

Wednesday, February 11, 2009

It's not over yet

All of the votes have not been counted. The votes of soldiers diplomats, etc., 4-5 seats, are going to be counted by tomorrow (Thursday afternoon), the overwhelming majority of them soldiers. In the past the soldiers have tended to vote for the right and therefore it is very possible that the Likud will pick up 1 - 2 seats and Kadima may lose 1. If that happens then Livni's whole argument goes up in smoke.

How did my election predictions work out?

Before the elections I made predictions and except for Kadima I was spot on.

Party Prediction Result Comments
Likud 29-31 27 Pretty close. Lieberman clearly pulled some votes from the Likud
Kadima Low 20's 28 My mistake was not realizing that the Left would abandon everyone else and vote only Kadima
Labor 14 13 Pretty close
Yisrael Beitenu/Lieberman 15 15 Right on
Yahadut Hatorah (Degel and Aguda) 4-5 5 Right on

Post election analysis

While Livni won a personal victory the Left was absolutely trounced. The non-Arab left only won 44 seats while the right wing won 65 (60 if you subtract Yahadut Hatorah).

The problem is that the current system of government is completely broken and it will be very hard for anyone to make a stable government.

I don't see any way for Livni to make a government. Let's do the math. Kadima has a grand total of 28. Labor has stated, and this time I think it is true that they are not joining any coalition. However, just for fun let's add them in as well.

28 (Kadima)
13 (Labor)

Livni needs another 20 seats. Lieberman is looking for 3 things:
1. Security issues
2. Civil Marriages
3. Changing the system of government to a Presidential system

In theory Livni can offer 2 and 3 to Lieberman. However, that only gives her 56. She still needs 5 more seats. The only 2 choices are Shas or Yahadut Hatorah. The problem is that if they are in she loses both Civil Marriage and changing the system of government. Neither Shas nor Yahadut Hatorah will agree to either.

Netanyahu will not have an easy time making a government either. Shas and Yahadut Hatorah will have high budgetary demands and he will need to satisfy Lieberman. However it is doable.

The truth is, for the Charedi world this is by far the best option. They will get money and be able to keep the status quo.

The other alternative is Kadima, Likud and either Labor or Lieberman or both. There is no question that Netanyahu would love to make such a coalition. The big problem with that is who will be Prime Minister? Netanyahu clearly has the upper hand as he can form a right wing government. Therefore the only way I see this happening is if Livni agrees to be number 2. For her own political good she should force Netanyahu to make a right wing government and let him fail. She will then be in a good position to win. However, for the good of the country she should join a government with Netanyahu for the sole purpose of changing the system. The current system is completely unworkable and leads to disaster.

Livni is the Al Gore of Israel

In 2000 Al Gore won the popular vote in the US but lost the Presidency, Livni got more seats but most probably lost the election as well. The fact that Kadima has 1 more seat then the Likud is irrelevant, the Right wing has 65 seats while the Left has 55, 45 without the Arabs.

The Kadima spinmeisters are trying to spin this that soince Kadima has more seats Kadima should form the government. However, this shouldn't fly as she cannot make a government.

Monday, February 09, 2009

My election predictions

The polls in Israel have been seriously wrong in the past few elections and I believe that they are wrong again this year. Therefore I am going to make my own election predictions based on what I see around me and hear on the radio etc.

Likud - 29-31 - I think that the support for Livni is overstated in the polls (remember the Kadima primary and the polls) and the support for the Likud understated
Kadima - low 20's - see above
Yisrael Beitenu/Lieberman - 15 - the polls have definitely inflated his numbers
Labor - 14 - every rocket that falls in the South takes away seats
Shas - 11 - They have lost a lot of votes to the other right wing parties
Yahadut Hatorah (Degel and Aguda) - 4-5 - base this on the fact that all everyone is talking about is the disappointment and anger in the Charedi street. I see a lot of posters similar to the one I posted about here

It will be interesting to see who is closer to the actual results, me or the professional pollsters.

Thursday, February 05, 2009

Anti ג flyer

This is amazing. It is going to be very interesting to see how many seats ג gets.

Wednesday, February 04, 2009

Kiryas Yoel is the poorest place in the US - Updated

It has the highest poverty rate in the US and the second lowest median income. The median household income in Kiryas Joel is $15,848; in Carbondale, Ill., it's $15,799.

Poverty rate

Kiryas Joel: 68 percent
Athens City, Ohio: 52 percent
State College, Pa.: 50 percent
Newburgh: 28 percent

More than two-thirds of Kiryas Joel residents live below the federal poverty line and more than 40 percent receive food stamps, according to the American Community Survey, a U.S. Census Bureau study of every place in the country with 20,000 residents or more.

That makes the village poorer than crumbling big cities like Detroit and noted slums like East St. Louis, and by far the poorest place in the mid-Hudson.

The big question is how much longer can this last? How much longer can the combination of very large families and no secular education manage in tough economic times?

Source: KJ highest US poverty rate, census says

Here are some other very interesting numbers:

The 2000 census reports that only 6.2% of village residents spoke English at home, one of the lowest such percentages in the United States. Over 89% of residents spoke Yiddish at home, while 2.3% spoke Hebrew. Of the Yiddish-speaking population in 2000, 46% spoke English "not well" or "not at all." Overall, including those who primarily spoke Hebrew and European languages as well as primary Yiddish speakers, 46% of Kiryas Joel residents speak English "not well" or "not at all."

Almost 50% of the population doesn't speak English well.

The Israeli press aginst Livni?

Hard to believe but a number of papers published very scathing attacks on Livni. Haaretz published an article by Ari Shavit where he goes so far as to say that Tzipi Livni is not fit to be prime minister.

All these issues, however, are dwarfed by the question of all questions that Livni evokes: Who is she and what is her inner core? A few of the people I spoke to this week had a disturbing response to this question: Tzipi Livni is hollow. They argued that Livni lacks the cultural baggage, historic vision, emotional tools and personal abilities of a leader. She has never shown civil courage, has no achievements to her name and has never gone against the tide. She recites a series of correct statements about dividing the country but does not know how to translate them into policy. That is why her negotiations with Ahmed Qureia failed and why her faith in Annapolis was proved false.
One of the people I spoke to was especially agitated despite being a mature, restrained and conservative person. He told me he felt like a member of some cult with a terrible secret: Tzipi Livni is not fit to be prime minister. There is a black flag waving above her journey to the Prime Minister's Office.

The witness said it was inconceivable to him that the media are not revealing this secret; intolerable that the public does not know.

Walla also published an article against Livni.

יתרה מכך: בקמפיין הבחירות הקצרצר מנסה מנהיגת המפלגה להבליט את חלקה במבצע עופרת יצוקה. צריך מידה לא מבוטלת של עזות מצח כדי להתגאות בפעולה שנולדה אך ורק בשל מחדליה של אותה מפלגה ממש. כי קדימה, יש לזכור, הוקמה על טיקט אחד: ההתנתקות. היציאה מעזה הביאה למרד נגד אריאל שרון בליכוד, לפרישתו מהפלגה ולייסוד גוף פוליטי חדש. ההתנתקות הובילה לעליית החמאס, ומלחמת לבנון מוטטה באופן סופי את אידיאולוגיית ההתכנסות שבה נופף אולמרט.
ה התחיל בהפיכתו של אריאל שרון הקיצוני לסבא החביב והאחראי של כולנו והמשיך בהצגתה של לבני כמנהיגה נקיה, שמנותקת לחלוטין ממפלגתה האפורה, תוך תמרון וירטואוזי בין עמדת האופוזיציונרית בכל מקרה של כשלון (השחיתויות, התגובה הרפה למשבר הכלכלי ומלחמת לבנון) לבין הידחפות לכסא ההנהגה כל אימת שנרשם הישג, לכאורה (המבצע בעזה).

In truth, I simply cannot understand how any thinking person can vote for Livni and Kadima. The fact that she has 20-25 seats in the polls is simply mind boggling.

Tuesday, February 03, 2009

A guide to getting in to a Charedi Girls High School

יוכבד מתקבלת

This article explains the process for getting into a Charedi girls high school. Quite sad. The author exaggerates a bit to make her points but on the whole the article is pretty much true.

Sunday, February 01, 2009

I hate to say it, but I told you so

This is what I wrote when Israel declared a cease fire:

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.
Hamas will fire just enough to keep the people down South edgy but not enough to justify another full scale attack.

Hams just fired 4 rockets this morning, so far no response (all talk no action). The smuggling has started up again as has the firing on Israeli border patrols. In short, we are back to where we were before Operation Cast Lead.

Hopefully this is costing Kadima and Labor votes. It is beyond me how anyone (let alone enough support for 25 seats) could vote for Kadima.

Must we believe that there is השגחה פרטית on animals?

R' Nasan Enshin is a kannoi (he doesn't vote in the elections etc.) who writes a weekly column in the Mishpacha magazine in Hebrew. This week he made the following point. He said that in the past Rishonim held points of view that today are considered heretical. He gave the example that a few (his language) Rishonim held that there is no השגחה פרטית on animals. He then compares anyone who believes that today to someone who would eat chicken with milk. He says that someone who believes today that there is no השגחה פרטית on animals believes in דעות כוזבות (illegitimate, false views).

IMHO the comparison he makes is completely invalid and it is perfectly legitimate to believe that there is no השגחה פרטית on animals.

He states that a few Rishonim held this view. Actually, I believe that the majority of Rishonim held this view including some of the greatest, the Rambam and the Ramban. I don't know of any Rishonim who explicitly argue with the Rambam and the Ramban.

The Sefer HaChinuch, Mitzvah 169 writes the following:

There are sects among mankind who maintain that Divine providence controls all the matters of this world… that when a leaf falls from a tree, He decreed that it would fall…. This approach is far-removed from the intellect.

In other words according to R' Enshin anyone who doesn't believe what the Chinuch called far-removed from the intellect is an apikorsus. Anyone who doesn't believe that everything that happens (even the most insignificant thing like a leaf falling from a tree) is decreed from heaven is an apikorsus.

This kind of statement boggles the mind. Most of the Rishonim including both the Rambam and the Ramban hold like the Chinuch. They state explicitly that except for exceptional tzadikkim everyone is exposed to (chance) מקרה. The amount of hashgocha a person has is directly related to how close they are to Hashem. The average person is very much exposed to chance (the forces of nature etc.).

The opinion that R' Enshin is quoting is based on the Ari, the Baal Shem Tov and others. However, the fact is that many Acharonim after the Ari and the Besht agreed with the Rishonim.

The Meshech Chochma( Shemos 13:9)writes:

Divine Providence is manifest for each Jew according to his spiritual level as the Rambam explains in Moreh Nevuchim (3:18): Divine Providence is not equal for everyone but rather is proportional to their spiritual level. Consequently the Divine Providence for the prophets is extremely powerful each according to their level of prophecy. The Divine Providence for the pious and saintly is according to their level of perfection. In contrast the fools and the rebels lacking spirituality are in essence in the same category as animals... This concept that Divine Providence is proportional to spiritual level is one of foundations of Judaism...

The Meshech Chochma died less then a hundred years ago, yet he still held like the Rambam and the Chinuch.

There is one more very important point. There can be no psak here. This is a hashkafic issue and not a halachic one and therefore it is not נתפס in psak. The Rambam writes in 3 places in the Perush Hamishnayos (Sanhedrin 10,3, Sotah 3,3, Shavuos 4,1) and in the Sefer Hamitzvos lo taaseh 133 that there is no psak on hashkafa which is not relevant to halacha. The last point is a crucial one, namely the Rambam is talking where there is no practical difference in halacha. Here is a quote from one of the Rambam's (Sotah 3,3 the language is almost the same in all of them)

וכבר אמרתי פעמים רבות כשיש מח' בין החכמים בסברת אמונה אין תכליתו מעשה מן המעשים שאין אומרים שם הלכה כפלוני

As I already wrote many times when there is a dispute between the chachamim on a matter of faith that has no relevance to action we don't say the hakacha is like ploni

Whether there is hashgoch pratis on animals is a perfect example of what the Rambam is talking about. There is no נפקא מינא להלכה and therefore there can be no psak. To compare it to chicken and milk is absolutely wrong. Chicken and milk is a מחלוקת התנאים on a halachic issue where there was a clear psak in the Gemara. השגחה פרטית is a hashkafic issue where there never was a psak and there never will be a psak.