Jewishupdates's Blog

January 5, 2010

A7News: Hareidi Participation in Army On the Rise

Filed under: Uncategorized — jewishupdates @ 1:35 pm

logo.jpgTevet 19, 5770 / Tuesday, Jan. 05 ’10

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  1. Hareidi Participation in Army On the Rise
  2. Eastern Jerusalem Yeshiva to Become Neighborhood
  3. Jordanian Lawyers Seek Arrest of Two Knesset Legislators
  4. Tel Aviv Principal Preaches against ‘IDF as Occupation Army’
  5. Arab Fired for Spreading Anti-Israel Disinformation At Work
  6. MK Rotem: If Settlements are Cancer I Hope it Grows and PA Dies
  7. Police Foil Terrorist Attack in Jerusalem’s Old City
  8. Hareidi-Religious Housing Crisis Barometer for Secular Crisis

1. Hareidi Participation in Army On the Rise

by Hillel Fendel

The number of hareidi-religious men in the army is on the rise: Over 1,000 in the IDF, and nearly another 1,100 in National Service.

So reports the “Freedom of Religion and Conscience” organization in its latest report. The group’s Deputy Director, Haaretz reporter Shachar Ilan, submitted the report to MK Yochanan Plesner (Kadima); Plesner chairs the Knesset supervisory committee on the implementation of the Tal Law that outlines the framework for the enlistment of hareidi men.

Ilan says that the number of hareidi men in the army or National Service just two years ago was only 300 to 400, so that the upward trend is significant.

The numbers for 2009 show that of the 1,070 hareidim who did army service, 700 enlisted in non–combat units, another 300 signed up for the combat unit known as Nachal Hareidi, and 50 became teacher-soldiers.

Ilan emphasizes, however, that the 2,100 represents a fraction of the 55,000 young hareidi-religious men aged 18 to 41, who receive a military exemption because they are full time yeshiva students.He told Israel National News that in his opinion the 96% who do not serve are “organized draft evaders.”

“What about the large numbers of secular young men who lie to evade the draft?” Shachar was asked. He admitted that “the number of Israelis who receive exemptions for psychiatric problems is increasing tremendously – up from 2.5 percent of those who do not serve to five percent,” but said that the hareidi public represents an entire sector “that prefers to let other Israelis die for them.” He did not discuss entertainers and other groups that receive exemptions.

When reminded that most soldiers in the IDF are not combat soldiers, and that the proportion of combat-worthy hareidim would be similar, Ilan dismissed that as “pilpul [talmudic dialectics-ed.].”

Some 5,500 hareidi young men received draft exemptions this year, and this number is expected to grow to 13,000 within 10 years.

Ilan protested against categorizing his organization as leftist or anti-religious, although he made a point of noting that “80 percent of [the hareidim] who perform National Service do so in hareidi welfare organizations, turning their service into a form of government-paid support for these associations".

The Director of Freedom of Religion and Conscience, Reform Rabbi Uri Regev, said he was pleased with the increase in hareidi service: “This proves that yeshiva students can certainly do army service just like everyone else… The main lesson to be learned is that the allocations to yeshivot must be reduced, and should be replaced by professional training and job creation for hareidim.”

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2. Eastern Jerusalem Yeshiva to Become Neighborhood

by Hillel Fendel

The Jerusalem Planning and Construction Council has approved the construction of four apartment buildings in the Beit Orot yeshiva complex on Mt. of Olives. The decision to turn the yeshiva into a small neighborhood has been in the works for several years.

Ten families currently live in caravans – mobile homes without wheels – on the campus, forming a close-knit and vibrant community. The new buildings will house six families each. Beit Orot is located on the northern slopes of the Mt. of Olives, not far from the Mt. Scopus campus of Hebrew University.

Peace Now and other left-wing elements in Israeli politics were quick to attack the decision, falling in line with the expected United States government criticism. Peace Now attacked Jerusalem Mayor Nir Barkat for the decision, saying he is turning Jerusalem into a Hevron-like locality in terms of Jewish-Arab relations. City councilman Meir Margalit (Meretz) said the move is a “provocation that is designed to impede peace.”

The White House interrupted its Christmas vacation last week to release a strong statement against new Jewish construction in eastern Jerusalem. Spokesman Robert Gibbs said, “The U.S. opposes all new Israeli construction in eastern Jerusalem. The status of Jerusalem is an issue for permanent status talks which must be solved by the sides via negotiations and with the support of the international community.”

Click here to see a demographic map of Jerusalem.

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3. Jordanian Lawyers Seek Arrest of Two Knesset Legislators

by Tzvi Ben Gedalyahu

Lawyers in Jordan have petitioned its courts for an arrest warrant for Knesset Speaker Reuven Rivlin and National Union Knesset Member Aryeh Eldad for their labeling Jordan a “Palestinian state.” They told government attorneys that the legislators’ statements constitute a threat to Jordanian security.

Jordan signed a peace accord with Israel 15 years ago, but relations have chilled in the recent years as demands of the Palestinian Authority have grown. The two MKs, Rivlin, a veteran Likud legislator, and Eldad, a long-time National Union lawmaker, said Jordan’s existence as a country for Palestinians precludes the need for the PA’s existence in Israel. Jordan announced last week it is cutting imports of Jewish products from Judea and Samaria as part of a growing boycott against Israel.

Jordan also has failed to implement agreements with Israel for interfaith dialogue. Jewish visitors have been stopped at the Jordanian border several times for carrying religious items, such as tefillin (phylacteries).

High Court Justice Elyakim Rubenstein recently commented, “The peace agreement with Jordan is not as warm as we would have liked.”

The Jordanian lawyers’ appeal comes at the same time that Israel has rejected a British invitation to senior officers because the British government said it was not able to promise that the officers would not face arrest.

Photo: Ayalon Deputy Foreign Minister Danny Ayalon commented Tuesday morning, “This not only damages us but also damages Britain,” who he said is at the “mercy of terrorists.” Ayalon noted that the recent wave of threats in European countries to arrest Israeli military and political leaders is a result of terrorists exploiting the law that originally was aimed at Nazis.

He said he will explain to visiting British Attorney-General Baroness Scotland of Ashtal that the law needs to be changed and that she should have the power to affirm or deny appeals to arrest officials.

Last month, a British judge authorized an arrest warrant for former Foreign Minister and acting Prime Minister Tzipi Livni because of alleged IDF crimes in the Operation Cast Lead counterterrorist campaign last year. She cancelled her trip although claimed she did so because of a busy travel schedule and without any connection with the arrest warrant.

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4. Tel Aviv Principal Preaches against ‘IDF as Occupation Army’

by Tzvi Ben Gedalyahu

A Tel Aviv principal told his students the IDF is a part of the ‘Occupation” and that Hamas terrorists actually are “Palestinian freedom fighters.” His comments in a lecture prompted Knesset Member Alex Miller of Yisrael Beiteinu to demand that he be fired.

The principal, Ram Cohen, also called on students to “curse the Occupation” and that Israel should return to the borders that existed from 1949-1967.

“I do not even want to imagine what would have happened if a principal with nationalist views had preached his own political agenda to students. There would have been immediate calls to fire him. In this case, we discover excessive tolerance when talking about incitement from the left."

MK Miller also asked Knesset Education Committee Chairman Zevulun Orlev (Jewish Home) to hold a special session on the issue.

The incident occured several weeks after Defense Minister Ehud Barak cut ties with the Har Brachah Hesder yeshiva because its head rabbi, Eliezer Melamed, teaches students that army order to expel Jews from the homes in Judea and Samaria is against the law of the Torah.

Barak, generally backed by Israeli public media, charged that the rabbi has been inciting his students against the IDF. The Defense Minister argued that the IDF should not use taxpayers’ money to finance the Torah student-army service program at the yeshiva.

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5. Arab Fired for Spreading Anti-Israel Disinformation At Work

by Malkah Fleisher

A recent interview of three Arab employees of Israeli institutions revealed that the men use their positions to slam Israel, against their employers’ knowledge. One has already been fired.

The interviews were broadcast recently on Palestinian TV, and exposed by Arab media watchdog Palestinian Media Watch (PMW)

According to the interviewees, they use their workplaces as soapboxes for pro-Arab, anti-Israel propaganda, rejecting their employers’ historical curriculum and educational materials and teaching their own versions of the material.

Mustafa Othman, a teacher from the Beit Safafa neighborhood in Jerusalem told Fatah party’s Al-Filistinia TV that he tells his Israeli Arab students that Israeli curriculum should be memorized for purposes of passing state exams, but is not really "information." Othman teaches his students that "[Israel] conquered our land by armed force, robbed it, destroyed the houses, expelled its people from the cities and from the villages," according to a translation provided by PMW.

In November, two Arab employees of the Tower of David Museum of the History of Jerusalem – a history instructor and an Arabic-language tour guide – told an interviewer that they do not teach the "false" information provided for tourists by their employers, but rather invent stories to give credence to Arab versions of history.

History instructor Abir Zayyad told PA TV Host Houloud Al-Afifi that he does not believe David’s Citadel should be used to discuss the importance of Kings David or Solomon (who he says never lived in Jerusalem) or the First Temple (of which he says there is no evidence). Rather, he uses the topic to discuss the invasion of "Palestine" by the 12 tribes of Israel.

Zayyad said Israeli history is a "creation of a historical right and a historical dimension, claiming they were here 3,000 years ago, and that they had buildings here…. as though they created the city of Jerusalem and created all of Palestine."

The Tower of David museum contains a courtyard with archeological findings dating back 2,700 years. The museum’s website says they are dedicated to informing visitors about the history of Jerusalem.

Rubin Abu Shamsiya, Arabic-language tour guide at the museum, said he does not believe the information provided by museum curators, and uses his own sources to comprise his tours. "I do not rely exclusively on that which is written on the museum’s walls and texts," Abu Shamsiya said. "It is more important to me to convey the Arab point of view."

Upon learning of the practice of lying to tourists, the Tower of David museum fired Zayyad, and stated that the museum is looking into ways to ensure this does not happen again.

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6. MK Rotem: If Settlements are Cancer I Hope it Grows and PA Dies

by Gil Ronen

The Knesset received additional doses of radical anti-Zionist rhetoric from Arab representatives Monday. This time it was MK Taleb As-Sana of Raam-Taal who used a debate in the Constitution, Law and Justice Committee on the construction freeze to infuriate his Jewish-nationalist colleagues. As-Sana said the Jewish residents of Judea and Samaria are “a cancerous growth in the Territories. They have no reason to be there.”

In a quick response, committee chairman MK David Rotem said: “If the settlers are a cancerous growth in the body of the Palestinian state, I prefer that they grow until the Palestinian state dies.”

The session was called in order to discuss the legal aspects of the construction freeze in Judea and Samaria and the degree to which it impinges on human rights.

The committee members had hoped that Defense Minister Ehud Barak would show up for the debate but he did not, sending his deputy, Matan Vilnai, instead, along with a cohort of IDF officers. When Vilnai said that Barak’s schedule was very busy, the nationalist MKs answered: “he is busy tearing down outposts.”

To protest Barak’s non-attendance, MK Uri Orbach (Jewish Home) prepared a sign with the words “Defense Minister Ehud Barak” and placed it in front of one of the empty chairs next to the table. “Ehud ran away again, this time from the Knesset,” Orbach said. “He has become the Invisible Man, who sees and cannot be seen, who enforces but is not enforced. Barak thinks the Knesset committees exist for decorative purposes only, and are not a place where he must report and answer difficult questions.”

The phrase “Ehud ran away” (“Ehud barach” in Hebrew, a pun on Barak’s name) has been used for years by Barak’s political rivals. It alludes to a training accident which occurred in his presence when he was IDF Chief of Staff. Other officers and soldiers who were present accused Barak of leaving the scene of the tragedy rather than staying on and helping the wounded.

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7. Police Foil Terrorist Attack in Jerusalem’s Old City

by Tzvi Ben Gedalyahu

Police foiled a potentially gruesome terrorist attack in the heart of Jerusalem’s Old City Monday night when they arrested three Hevron Arabs with knives that were to be used to stab to death an Israeli policeman or soldier.

They were caught near Jaffa Gate, the most popular and crowded thoroughfare for tourists and visitors to the Old City. Police were suspicious of their vehicle and discovered their plans while questioning the terrorists.

The foiled stabbing is one of an increasing number of attacks and planned attacks by Palestinian Authority Arabs on Jews. A large number of the incidents involve individuals acting independently of large terrorist organizations, indicating a different wave of violence that has been dubbed a “quiet” Intifada.

Security officers Tuesday morning arrested a young PA terrorist armed with a 12-inch knife and a firebomb at the Kalandia checkpoint on the northern edge of Jerusalem. On Monday, police at the Cave of the Patriarchs in Hevron arrested two Arabs with knives in what has become a weekly event. Many previous arrests of would-be terrorists have involved young women.

Another sign of escalating violence by Arabs against Jews is the sharp increase in firebombings (using "Molotov cocktails") and rock throwing attacks. A PA Arab wounded a 19-year-old girl southwest of Hevron two weeks ago when he attacked an Egged bus with one such firebomb.

Rock throwing attacks have been reported daily in the past several weeks, primarily on Highway 60 between Jerusalem and the suburbs of Be’er Sheva, and on the road between Kfar Saba and Jewish communities in central Samaria. Regional council leaders have complained that the removal of checkpoints on the highways has encouraged the escalation in attacks. A public bus and at least one car sustained damage late Tuesday morning on Highway 60 in a rock attack north of Hevron. A simialr attack occurred on the same road Monday afternoon.

The murder of a rabbi and educator in Samaria last month was carried out several days after residents warned that the removal of a checkpoint would be followed by an attack. The IDF denied any connection between the removal of soldiers and the murder.

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8. Hareidi-Religious Housing Crisis Barometer for Secular Crisis

by Hana Levi Julian

The housing crisis facing Israel’s hareidi-religious world may be a barometer warning of the impending storm about to hit the general housing market.

Families in the various communities that comprise the insular society of the hareidi-religious world, to a large extent, have developed a self-sustaining economic system of their own. The system, which includes a network of food stores, gift shops, clothing outlets, dry goods, hardware and other types of stores that a family might patronize, is designed to create a self-sustaining economy within any particular neighborhood.

Within the system is a network of free-loan societies known as “gemachim” – charitable loan funds that offer various items at a low cost, or on loan, which are provided by generous donors. These can vary from apparel and equipment for life-cycle events such as engagements and weddings to baby furniture for young couples starting new families.

Another “gemach” available for new families is a special free-loan society that provides funding for down payments on new apartments, in a combined loan-grant described by business journalist Dror Marmor last week in the financial daily, Globes. Hareidi-religious families can join such group funds as members, paying a certain sum each time a child is born into the family. When the time comes to marry, the fund provides money towards the child’s wedding and apartment.

However, the world economic crisis has slowly increased the pressure on every sector of society in Israel, and so has the political situation – with damaging effects on the hareidi-religious world, as others.

Lack of money due to a drop in donors has combined with a lack of housing options to create a pressure cooker.

Housing options once available near parents in the crowded hareidi-religious neighborhoods of Jerusalem, Bnei Brak or elsewhere within the 1967 borders have long been priced out of reach of the average young couple.

The next best option, one taken by many, was to move to budding communities in nearby Judea and Samaria, or in eastern Jerusalem, past the 1967 borders. Housing was more plentiful, more spacious, and less expensive. It was also often more attractive and a better buy for the hard-earned shekel.

The building freeze
However, the economic crunch coupled with the politically-motivated 10-month construction freeze recently imposed by the Netanyahu government, and with the unofficial construction freeze that preceded it months earlier, have made these homes unavailable as well.

Young hareidi-religious couples, either newly married or married with growing families, are increasingly finding themselves with nowhere to live. When they consider moving into secular neighborhoods, preferably in groups so as to have neighbors with whom they can relate, the existing neighbors protest out of fear of a change in atmosphere. There has been increasing hostility in at least one Jerusalem neighborhood as a result of precisely such a situation, and similar friction is growing in another neighboring Jerusalem suburb.

It is likely that similar scenarios will mushroom if the current circumstances continue, noted Marmor, who warned that the housing crisis faced by hareidi-religious couples may be a prelude to that to be faced next by secular couples.

Ripples from the situation that triggered the housing crunch in Israel’s fastest-growing Jewish population are beginning to emerge in wider Israeli society circles, which are not as tightly-knit.

Housing starts in many places even inside the pre-1967 border have stopped, and the special financial incentives that enabled young Israeli couples to begin new lives in new housing have disappeared along with them.

Although interest rates for mortgages are still low, the percentage required for the average down payment is today out of reach for most young Israelis, even new immigrants with additional special rate cuts.

Cutbacks on salaries that were low to start with – for those lucky enough to have hung on to their jobs during the past 18 months – combined with the astronomical prices of the housing that is available, is a challenge that will face the general market next.

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