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Terrorism Pays

The arrest of an allegedly abusive mother. That is the excuse for the continued Haredi summer riots in Jerusalem, following the ones over a parking lot.

The mother, a member of the anti-Israel Neturei Karta faction, was released from custody today, and placed under house arrest. This decision was made by the Jerusalem Magistrate Court, despite the prosecution’s request for remand.

These riots show a complete disregard for Jewish commandments that are not ritual in nature, but they are fairly successful. This is not the first group to have learned that it is not very difficult to bend the will of the Israeli government.

There is a world of difference between these rioters and wholesale murderers of Jews. Nevertheless, at the end of the day, capitulation is capitulation, and the message is clear: Terrorism is a rewarding venture in Israel.

Clarification: I am well aware that the rioters represent a minority within the diverse Haredi community. Nevertheless, the silence coming from the Haredi leadership is deafeaning.

Pro-Shabbat or Anti-State?

It is summer in Israel, so someone must be either protesting or on strike. This time protests were started by only a small, extremely anti-Zionist sect within the Haredi community, the Eda HaHaredit, over Jerusalem Mayor Nir Barkat’s decision to open a parking lot for use on Shabbat. The parking lot would be operated by a non-Jew, and would help alleviate the city’s parking shortage. That was a few weeks ago. In the mean time, much of the larger Haredi community has taken on this “cause” as their own.

These protests are not peaceful demonstrations, but violent riots, and often take place on Shabbat, in violation Jewish law. Not only do the rioters ignore the concept of ואהבת לרעך כמוך (love your friend as yourself) by attacking people, throwing rocks is a violation of Shabbat. These rioters, and those who incite them are merely masquerading as observant Jews.

A few weeks ago, (former) Ha’aretz reporter Shachar Ilan wrote in his The Marker blog about the situation:

To embarrass! That is the name of the game in the new Shabbat struggle in Jerusalem. The Eda HaHaredit (a small fanatical faction) opposes the participation of the Haredi parties in the municipal coalition and so they protest. In the intra-Haredi political game the Eda HaHaredit is the opposition and the Haredi parties are the government. The opposition’s job is to criticize. The fact that the Safra Parking Lot is surrounded by restaurants, pubs and clubs that have been operating on Shabbat for years is irrelevant. As is the fact that the parking lot will not charge for parking, or that parking at Safra will prevent parking on Shivtei Yisrael Road near Mea Shearim, and will prevent serious safety hazards. The issue is the opening of the parking lot on Shabbat, and the Eda HaHaredit will not miss a golden opportunity to embarrass the Haredi parties.

The economic angle. There is a difficult crisis in donations to religious institutions due to the global economic crisis. The Eda HaHaredit subsists primarily on donations. It is a well-known secret that religious struggles and confrontations with the Zionist police encourage donations. Could it be that the new Shabbat struggle in Jerusalem is part of the fallout from the global economic crisis and that the reporting of the Shabbat protests should be done in the business section? Can’t be. No way. How could one suspect the Torah sages of such motives?

Ilan’s analysis is interesting, but the comments section is fascinating. A former Haredi,  Shlomo, shares his insight into the world of the young protesters. This perspective is rare to see, as airing dirty laundry is taboo. Teenagers were assigned to various locations for the protests, and participants were exempt from homework. In his words, they were but “mere cannon fodder.” When they threw stones, they thought about the punishment Shabbat violators will receive in hell. When they burned Israeli flags on Yom Ha’atzmaut, they thought about how the state is impeding the arrival of the Messiah. Vandalism or respect for property – “these were not terms that were in our lexicon.” These crimes are encouraged, and those who commit them are idolized:

Each of us that was arrested, turned into the darling of the class, or the Yeshiva, surrounded by love in shul, got calls of “yishar koach” from passersby, even though we only spent a few hours in the Russian Compound (police headquarters).

In addition to the brainwashing of these kids to commit crimes, the hypocrisy of the rioters is clear. On the one hand, they are anti-Zionist, disavowing Jewish sovereignty until the coming of the Messiah. On the other hand, their behavior exhibits their sense of entitlement in the Zionist state.

An old story (source unknown) about Rabbi Shach emphasizes this point. Upon witnessing a Haredi man yelling at an Israel Police officer, Rabbi Shach quipped that the man must have become a Zionist. The man was surprised, “What are you talking about?” Rabbi Shach responded, “Would you have dared to yell at a police officer back in Poland?” In other words, is there rioting in the streets of Brooklyn and Antwerp?

Oren on Existential Threats – Jerusalem

This month’s Commentary Magazine features a number of articles devoted to analysis of Israel’s future, particularly in light of the new American administration. Michael Oren, the incoming Israeli ambassador to Washington wrote one of the pieces, along similar lines to a talk he gave a few weeks ago.

He outlines seven existential threats Israel faces today. Most of them – delegitimization, terrorism, demographics and Iran – have been discussed at length by many others, and I do not wish to belabor those issues.

The remaining three are not commonly mentioned as threats to Israel’s existence, and I will discuss them (as well as an additional, missing, threat) in the next few posts. All three are of the utmost importance, and what all have in common is that they have been caused, by and large by internal Israeli mistakes.

Oren starts off the list with Israel’s “Loss of Jerusalem.” Jerusalem is the heart of the Jewish homeland, and has been the object of Jewish prayers and desires ever since the last period Jewish sovereignty, 2,000 years ago. And as he mentions, it’s preservation as “as the political and spiritual capital of the Jewish state is vital to Israel’s existence.” The continued existence of the State of Israel is dependent on Jerusalem maintaining a population of people devoted to it – Zionists.

Jerusalem’s mayor, Nir Barkat, was elected amid high hopes this past November. Jerusalem has not been blessed with the best of mayors for the previous 15 years. Over the past few decades, Jerusalem has become its largest and poorest city. The namesake of the Zionist movement is now home to 800,000 people, including “272,000 Arabs and 200,000 Haredim,” meaning Zionists no longer make up a majority of residents in Israel’s capital. Not a whole lot has changed over the last 6 months, and Jaffa St., for example, is still torn up for a long promised light-rail system, that has yet to be seen (apart from the cars sitting in the sun in Pisgat Ze’ev, waiting). For now, the jury is out on Barkat’s mayorship.

A study from 6 years ago found that 50% of Israelis under the age of 18 have never visited Jerusalem. Sadly, things have probably not changed very much since then. All too many Israelis visit their nation’s capital for the very first time during the mandatory army trip most basic trainee undergo. Jerusalem, for many Israelis, might as well be on the other side of the world. It is not where most Israelis choose to spend a night out (Tel Aviv/Herzliya), where most choose to go on vacation (Galil/Dead Sea), where most Israeli culture is produced (well, elsewhere), or even where many government offices are located (again, Tel Aviv).

Jerusalem is a great tourism draw for visitors from abroad, but an Israeli walking around town during the summer months might as well feel like walking through a tourist attraction, not a living, breathing city. On a Saturday night, the city has a vibrant nightlife, but a very large part of it is, again, tourists and other foreigners. Places frequented by taxpayers keep being pushed eastward towards Shlomzion and onward.

National priorities must be changed, to make the capital city alive again, and not just in songs and prayers. Jerusalem is the soul of the Jewish people, part of the very  basis of Zionism and the return home, in order to establish sovereignty. And without a thriving soul, the body will atrophy and die.

Jerusalem Has a Future Again!

Until now, I have refrained from speaking about the Jerusalem mayoral elections because I don’t live and vote there. Now that the elections are over, it is clear that by electing Nir Barkat, Jerusalem has chosen a new direction, and with good reason.

Over the years, Jerusalem has become a poor, unattractive, near-unlivable city, that has served as more of a tourist attraction than the capital of the Jewish state. Traffic is horrendous, cultural events are rare, rents have risen sky-high, taxpayers are leaving the city in droves, and a non-contributing sector of Israeli society has been slowly, but surely, taking over.

Jerusalem needs to draw business, arts, students. Jerusalem needs a real nightlife, and a real restaurant scene. Jerusalem needs vibrant neighborhoods all over, not just two or three small popular areas. Jerusalem needs to be livable for its residents, for Israeli citizens.

It does not need to draw more and more tourists. It does not need to have apartments bought up by rich foreigners, only to be left vacant for most of the year. On that issue, Jerusalem should institute a much higher property tax on apartments owned by non-citizens, and on apartments that are vacant for the majority of the time.

A sectoral candidate cannot mend this city. I hope Nir Barkat will succeed in improving Jerusalem, in making Jerusalem a real city again, and returning Jerusalem to its proper status as the living capital of Israel.

על חומותייך, עיר דוד, הפקדתי שומרים – עשו את עבודתכם נאמנה

Someone Stop the Times Already

The New York Times really is an old gray lady – a busybody, with an editorial board made up of idiots who keep sticking their noses in places they do not belong.

In an editorial today, titled “Olmert’s Belated Truths”, the Times has decided to announce that Olmert “voiced some startling truths this week”. First of all, Olmert’s familiarity with the truth is extremely minimal. Second, anyone who is a true defender of the truth ought to be offended by this group of people, who has decided that one is telling the truth only when one foolishly shares their opinion. The only thing belated about Olmert is his departure from the prime minister’s office.

With regards to what Olmert said – nothing about it is startling. It may bother me, but I am not startled when someone says that Israel must give up the West Bank and east Jerusalem. Also, it is not true. Currently, there simply is no formula that can be followed which will lead to peace with our neighbors, on the basis of a two state solution. By and large, the Palestinians hate Israel. They hate the idea of a Jewish state, keep murdering Jews, and they hate the idea of a world that is not ruled by Muslims. If they ever achieve independence I would not wish upon anyone to be a Christian in that entity.

In his interview for Yediot Acharonot, Olmert said “What I am saying to you now has not been said by any Israeli leader before me”. If it weren’t so sad, it would be funny that this person claims to be an Israeli leader. He is not a leader of anything, except for maybe corrupt Israeli politicians. This person, who has accepted bribes, embezzled, and sent Israeli youth to their death, without any real plan or any real goal in mind, has the audacity to say he knows what is good for Israel?! He knows what is good for his pockets and what is good for his career, but the only time he ever really thinks about anyone else is only when he wants them to like him.

It is not frustrating that Olmert has “waited so long to say these things”. It is frustrating that he is saying these things at all. It is frustrating that the New York Times portends to know what is good for Israel, or how to bring about peace in the Middle East.

He, who headed Israel’s government through a period of groveling before its enemies, is now saying that it is megalomaniacal to act on its own against Iran’s nuclear weapons program? The only time Israel has ever been successful in self-defense has been when it has acted on its own. If Begin would have waited for UN sanctions and American diplomacy to work in the early 1980s, we would today we dealing with a nuclear, Saddam-led Iraq, or we would be reading about WWIII in history books.  That, and dealing with the myriad of problems nuclear fallout causes.

There is no issue of “finding a way for both states to claim Jerusalem as their capital”, as the Times seems to think. First of all, there is only one state. Second of all, Jerusalem is a Jewish city. The Jewish city. and has been since before it was founded. Giving it up, apart from being unjust, would be a victory for bigoted, racist terrorism.

The Times concludes its show of stupidity by urging Livni to take steps that would be harmful to Israel’s existence, and to make far reaching changes to Israel’s foreign policy. This, after a small group of corrupt individuals voted her into office.

The New York Times should stick to issues it knows about – like intellectually dishonest reporting. And Kadima, along with the corrupt politicians who lead it, have got to go NOW. Israel needs new elections now – before too much damage is done.