When I wrote this post earlier today, it had only three items in it. But a lot has happened since, besides the insane temperature outside of 39 Celsius (102 Fahrenheit). Sadly, all three additional items have to do with death:
The explosion in Syria- This is international news, but it is especially relevant in Israel. An explosion claimed the lives of Syria’s Defense Minister and of Assad’s brother in law, Asef Shawkat. Shawkat, as one of the men closest to Assad, was in charge of Syria’s secret police and was one of the most powerful men in Syria. I believe that with the removal of Assad’s two closest henchmen, Assad’s regime has begun its final descent. Incidentally, rumors claim that that is exactly what Assad failed to do when he took off in his private plane from Almaze airport in Damascus, headed for Latakiya. According to the rumor, Assad’s plane never landed in Latakiya, and he has fled the country.
The explosion in Bulgaria- An explosion claimed the lives of seven Israeli youngsters who were on a tourist bus in Burgas, Bulgaria. At least 30 were injured. Details are still sketchy, but Iran is believed to be behind this terrorist attack, aimed at an Israeli tourist bus, packed with youngsters on their summer vacation.
The passing of Rabbi Elyashiv- Rabbi Yosef Shalom Elyashiv, who was considered the leader of Lithuanian Ultra-Orthodox Jewry passed away today at the age of 102. His great-grandson recently had a grandson (the Ultra-Orthodox community practices marriage at an early age). Over a quarter of a million people attended his funeral tonight.
Israel‘s largest coalition in history is history: Kadima has left the government.
The head of Kadima, Shaul Mofaz, announced yesterday that his party is leaving the government, only 70 days after having joined it. 25 of Kadima’s 28 MKs voted in favor of leaving the government, after not reaching agreements regarding the drafting of Ultra-Orthodox men into the IDF. Netanyahu’s coalition has now returned to its previous size of 66 Knesset Members.
What does this mean?
The coalition must have at least 61 members. The Ultra-Orthodox parties make up 16 of the 66 members of the current coalition.
Netanyahu now has 2 possible courses of action: he can either ignore popular demand and accept most of the demands of the Ultra-Orthodox parties; this would require drafting a new law, that would be hard pressed to gain the support of both the Knesset and the Supreme court, who struck down the previous law; or he can draft a new law, obligating Ultra-Orthodox youths to enlist in the IDF or in National service programs, while losing his coalition and going to an early election. If he does nothing, the Tal law, which has exempted Ultra-Orthodox men from service for the past 10 years, will no longer be in force by the end of July, and Ultra-Orthodox men will ultimately be obligated to enlist anyway, which would also lead to an early election.
An Ultra-Orthodox organization, made up of Ultra-Orthodox men who did serve in the IDF, put up a tent outside the Knesset, under the slogan “No, sir!”. I popped in the other day and had a chat with the man there. He had a number of basic claims:
- The rate of enlistment in the Ultra-Orthodox community has been rising steadily over the past five years. In 2012, over 2300 Ultra-Orthodox men joined either the IDF or National Service programs. This increase has come about without the use of force. However, if the Ultra-Orthodox community in its entirety is forced to enlist by law, the government will achieve only the opposite: those who considered enlisting will no longer want to be seen as defying their rabbis, and will ‘toe the line’ by refusing to enlist, as their community expects.
- Ultra Orthodox men who spend years studying Torah in a Yeshiva are doing their part, because, according to their belief, the study of Torah protects the country just as much, if not more, than the IDF. Therefore, those who are truly studying should be exempt from service in the IDF, while the rest, who are not studying, should enlist.
- Ultra-Orthodox men who enlist should be accommodated, so that they can keep their strict religious laws. The IDF has formed special units and programs, fitted for the Ultra-Orthodox way of life. More of these units should be formed so that larger numbers of Ultra-Orthodox men can enlist.
- In a democracy, the minorities must be respected. The Ultra-Orthodox community is a minority today, however in a few short years the tables will be turned, due to the high birthrate in this community. Even now, Ultra Orthodox children make up almost 50% of the first grade in Israeli schools. If the state does not respect the Ultra-Orthodox community’s wishes as a minority today, tomorrow, when they are the majority, they may decide not to respect the secular minority’s rights.
His last claim is what really scares Israelis. There is no way of overcoming the birthrate of the Ultra-Orthodox community. They WILL be the majority in a couple of decades. The big question is what will happen then? Will the Ultra-Orthodox community impose its will on the rest of the population? Will secular Jews be forced to study Torah by law instead of mathematics in schools? Will women be forced to cover themselves up in public?
If the Ultra-Orthodox community is allowed to continue to live as a completely closed community as it is now, the answer to those questions will be yes. The Ultra-Orthodox community will expand and it will assimilate the rest of the country. The Ultra-Orthodox community has lived for the past decades as a completely separate community. The attempt to enlist Ultra-Orthodox men is an attempt to bring the community into Israeli society and to avert the head-on collision that is sure to come.
Israel‘s social protest is losing its humanity
The Israeli version of the “Occupy” movement holds demonstrations every Saturday night. But this past Saturday, something unexpected happened. One of the protesters, by the name of Moshe Silman, set himself on fire. Silman, who is in now in hospital in critical condition, may or may not be ‘right’ in the head, depending on who you ask, but Silman’s suicide letter and his string of misfortunes have been used as an indictment against the government and the authorities by the social movement. Some have gone as far as to insinuate that the leaders of the protest knew of Silman’s intentions in advance, and yet did nothing to stop him.
Whether you agree with the protests or not, using Silman and his misfortunes as a mascot for the movement is disgusting in my eyes.
Israel‘s newest university- in Ariel
The Minister of Education, Gideon Sa’ar, approved a change of status for the Ariel College, which will now become a full fledged university. Ariel will be Israel’s 8th university.
However, not everyone is happy about this decision. Israel’s existing universities opposed the decision, fearing that their budgets will now be split eight ways instead of seven. Promises were given that this would not happen.
The louder opposition is that of the extreme left “Peace Now” movement. Ariel is situated past the “Green Line”, in territories demanded by the Palestinians. “Peace Now” opposes any Jewish presence whatsoever on the eastern side of the Green Line, regardless of who benefits from it. Ariel College, which has now become Ariel University, accepts students regardless of their nationality.
The people living in Judea and Samaria need to live their lives, whether there is an agreement with the Palestinians or not. The status of these territories should be irrelevant to the status of the college/university.
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