With Resentment Jew Against Jew…The Upcoming Israel Vote and Similarities to Counties in NY and NJ

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CreditCreditSergey Ponomarev for The New York Times

How Jewish Should the Jewish State Be? The Question Shadows an Israeli Vote

JERUSALEM — For years, the resentment had been building.

In Israel, Jewish men and women are drafted into the military, but the ultra-Orthodox are largely exempt. Unlike other Israelis, many ultra-Orthodox receive state subsidies to study the Torah and raise large families.

And in a country that calls itself home to all Jews, ultra-Orthodox rabbis have a state-sanctioned monopoly on events like marriage, divorce and religious conversions.

A series of political twists has suddenly jolted these issues to the fore, and the country’s long-simmering secular-religious divide has become a central issue in the national election on Tuesday.

In a country buffeted by a festering conflict with the Palestinians, increasingly open warfare with Iran and a prime minister facing indictment on corruption charges, the election has been surprisingly preoccupied with the question of just how Jewish — and whose idea of Jewish — the Jewish state should be.

“I have nothing against the ultra-Orthodox, but they should get what they deserve according to their size,” said Lior Amiel, 49, a businessman who was out shopping in Ramat Hasharon. “Currently, I’m funding their lifestyle.”

This election was supposed to be a simple do-over, a quick retake to give Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu a second chance to form a government and his opponents another shot at running him out of office.

Instead it has become what Yohanan Plesner, president of the nonpartisan Israel Democracy Institute, calls “a critical campaign for the trajectory of the country.”

Blame Avigdor Lieberman, the right-wing secular politician who forced the new election by refusing to join Mr. Netanyahu’s coalition with the ultra-Orthodox. The hill Mr. Lieberman chose to fight on was a new law that would eliminate the wholesale exemptions for ultra-Orthodox men to serve in the military.

Ultra-Orthodox lawmakers wanted to water it down. Mr. Lieberman refused to compromise.

It may have been a ploy to grab attention, but it struck a nerve. Almost overnight, Mr. Lieberman’s support doubled, and he became an unlikely hero to liberals.

For years, says Jason Pearlman, a veteran right-wing political operative, the two main axes of Israeli politics, religion and the Palestinians, had been “zip-tied” together. Mr. Netanyahu’s longtime coalition was just such a merger — right-wing voters, who favored a hard line toward the Palestinians, and the ultra-Orthodox, who promised a bloc vote in exchange for concessions on religious issues.

“What Lieberman did was to snap those zip-ties, popping the axes back apart,” Mr. Pearlman said.

Secular and liberal leaders from the left and center responded by effectively joining forces with the right-wing Mr. Lieberman against the prime minister’s ultra-Orthodox and religious-nationalist allies.

These rebels say that the mushrooming ultra-Orthodox population, with its unemployed religious students and large families subsidized by the state, is imposing excessive fiscal and social burdens on other Israelis. They are demanding more pluralistic options for marriages and conversions.

They were appalled that the ultrareligious parties were willing to grant Mr. Netanyahu immunity from prosecution, arguing that Mr. Netanyahu was buying his way out of jail by allowing Israel to be turned into a theocracy.

And they are furious at the growing influence of a quasi-evangelistic group of religious-nationalist Jews who espouse anti-feminist, anti-gay views and a far-right, messianic ideology.

“It’s becoming more and more alarming,” said Nitzan Horowitz, leader of the left-wing Democratic Union party. “People are starting to feel threatened.”

The ultra-Orthodox parties insist that they are simply defending a status quo that dates to Israel’s founding and is meant to preserve study of the Torah by its most pious devotees. A compromise with Israel’s then-fledgling religious community gave Orthodox rabbis control over family and dietary laws, among other things, in exchange for their support for the new state.

The ultra-Orthodox now make up only 10 percent of eligible Jewish voters, Israeli pollsters say — compared with 44 percent who consider themselves secular — but they have kept and added to those concessions thanks to their ability to extract promises in exchange for their political support.

“We’re not becoming a smaller minority, we’re becoming a larger minority,” said Yitzhak Zeev Pindrus, a lawmaker from the ultra-Orthodox party United Torah Judaism. “But we’re trying to keep it the same way it is.”

The religious-nationalists dismiss the criticism of their intentions as anti-Semitic self-loathing.

“They’re on a hate campaign against anything that has a Jewish aroma to it,” said Eytan Fuld, a spokesman for the right-wing Yamina party.

 

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What Could Become of Israel if the Ultra-Orthodox Parties Win Additional Knesset Seats and a Dystopic View in TV

The cast of Autonomies.

Israeli TV show puts wall between secular and ultra-Orthodox Jews

‘This is the reality that currently exists in Israel,’ says the creator of Autonomies

War rages in the heart of the Middle East. Jerusalem is captured. Concrete walls go up, and a deep distrust spreads across the holy land.

The well-worn tale is used as the backdrop to multiple Israeli television dramas. Yet for one show, it is not Arabs and Jews who are doing the fighting, but Jews and Jews.

Currently touring film festivals across the world, the six-part series Autonomies envisions a clash between secular Jews and the deeply religious ultra-Orthodox, or Haredi, Jews.

In this vision, set in the near future, civil war has cut the land into two countries. The coastal State of Israel is nonreligious, with the cosmopolitan city of Tel Aviv as its capital. Jerusalem is a walled, autonomous city-state, run by Haredi rabbis.

At first glance dystopian, the show is in fact an artistic extrapolation of real-life rifts in Israeli society. Many Israelis increasingly see secular-Haredi disaccord about the future of the state as a greater concern than the Palestinian issue, and fear it could tear the country apart from the inside.

Earlier this year, disagreements between secular and religious politicians shattered attempts to form a coalition government and dragged the country into a second round of elections. On 17 September, Israelis will go back to the polls following a campaign in which political parties have sought to exploit internal animosity.

Yehonatan Indursky, an Israeli filmmaker who wrote Autonomies with the writer Ori Elon, says the show takes divisions in Israel “to extremes, and tries to show what can happen if we do not wake up and try to find the way to live together and respect one another’s way of life”.

The drama’s protagonist, Broide (played by Assi Cohen), is a Haredi man who moves contraband, smuggling pornography and books banned by the religious authorities into Jerusalem. He is one of a few who crosses between the two sides and is soon caught up in a controversy that could reignite the war.

Yehonatan Indursky.

 The Israeli filmmaker Yehonatan Indursky, pictured, wrote the show with the writer Ori Elon. Photograph: Dpa Picture Alliance/Alamy Stock Photo

 

 

 

The series comes off the back of the writers’ hit Netflix show Shtisel, which received acclaim for sensitively and lovingly portraying Haredi family life, and has been renewed for a third season. Autonomies instead paints a much bleaker scene.

“Autonomies gives a kick in the stomach. And sometimes it is painful and hard to watch,” Indursky said.

What is fascinating for many viewers is how similar the setting of Autonomies appears. Israelis today lament a nation already divided, with the Haredim often living in their own neighbourhoods, women covering their hair with wigs and men wearing black coats and hats.

To secular outcries, ultra-Orthodox politicians have sought to ban public transport and other activities on the Jewish holy day of rest, and outlaw non-kosher food in supermarket chains. They feel their way of life is under threat.

Meanwhile, resentment against them focuses on hefty government stipends given to the community, as many men do not work but study religious texts. Almost half live in poverty.

Indursky grew up in an ultra-Orthodox family in Jerusalem but has not been part of the community for years, although he keeps close links with family and friends. He said he had received two main responses from Israelis to the series, both of which saddened him.

“One possible answer is that this is really not a dystopia but rather a utopia,” he said, adding some viewers backed the idea of separate countries to end seemingly irreconcilable differences.

“The second possible answer is that this is not a dystopia – this is the reality that currently exists in Israel. And in a way, that’s part of what we wanted to show through the series.”

The fissure between secular and ultra-Orthodox communities has already spiralled to the point that it ignited a political crisis this year.

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Our Economy is Unsustainable if Religious Groups Go Their Separate Ways – the Israel Example -Think NY, NJ, etc…

Start-Up Nation Central staff visiting teachers and students from a Bais Yaakov Seminary in Jerusalem in June.  Photo courtesy of Start-Up Nation Central

Start-Up Nation Central staff visiting teachers and students from a Bais Yaakov Seminary in Jerusalem in June. Photo courtesy of Start-Up Nation Central

Stakes High In Moving Charedi Women Into Tech

Tel Aviv — Zehava Feinberg is a 19-year-old from charedi girls’ seminary in Jerusalem who wanted to study computer science after high school in the hope of landing a job at an Israeli high-tech firm.

“I like problem solving and math,” she said. “I’m looking for a job that I won’t be bored at. I want it to be a good salary. I also want to raise a family.”

In theory, there should be plenty of opportunity for Feinberg. Israel’s high-tech sector is thirsty for young programming talent and intense demand for employees has driven up salaries so high that many companies have set up programming operations outside of Israel to ease labor costs. At the same time, charedi communities are eager for women to find high-paying jobs to provide a higher quality of life for a population group in which men are encouraged to engage in religious studies and the poverty rate was a staggering 43 percent in 2018.

Despite that potential match, the prospects for young charedi women like Feinberg to find employment as programmers in Israel’s technology industry have been discouraging. In the last two years, nearly three out of every four graduates of vocational computer science programs at the Bais Yaakov schools, a network of Ashkenazi ultra-Orthodox girls seminaries with 8,000 students, did not find work with technology companies. The graduates who do get jobs in the field are usually employed in low-paid quality assurance jobs. At the same time, charedi women became convinced that the industry was biased against them, and often never even bothered to apply for entry level jobs.

But an educational pilot project is trying to improve the prospects for female graduates of charedi post-high school seminaries to find work in high tech. Dubbed “Adva” (small wave or ripple in Hebrew), the project aims to give high school graduates a post-secondary education on par with Israeli universities and colleges (institutions that are shunned by ultra-Orthodox as “foreign” and sacrilegious).

The two-year (three semesters) program also gives them programming boot-camp problem solving experience as well as interviewing and career skills necessary for the largely unfamiliar world of high tech.

Feinberg is part of the first Adva cohort — 86 students spread over three Jerusalem schools — and recently completed her first year of studies, which focused on catch-up math courses in statistics, calculus and linear algebra, as well beginning programming languages.

“Our math level was not such a high level,” said Feinberg. At the beginning of the year we had intensive math to bring it up just so we could learn.”

The curriculum has been developed with input and oversight from university computer science professors and executives from technology multinationals. The program is a joint initiative of Start-Up Nation Central, a non-governmental organization promoting Israel’s tech sector, the companies themselves and the Bais Yaakov network of schools. (Start-Up Nation Central did not provide exact figures on the cost of the pilot, saying only that the first year’s costs were “expensive” and that government agencies are expected to pick up some costs for the second year.) It also has the blessing of ultra-Orthodox rabbinic authorities.

The disconnect between Israel’s reclusive ultra-Orthodox community and larger society animates the country’s daily political debate and is shaping up as a major wedge issue in the Sept. 17 elections. Issues of military draft exemptions for ultra-Orthodox 18-year-olds and charedi-enforced restrictions on marriage, dietary laws and Sabbath observance have created a bitter divide.

But that chasm also threatens the country’s economy: with low levels of employment, the impoverished charedi (and Israeli Arab) populations will eventually become a drag on public finances. Economists have warned that Israel needs to take urgent steps to better integrate the ultra-Orthodox and Israeli Arabs into the larger economy.

We can’t sustain our economy if Arabs and charedim go their separate ways and don’t participate,” said Eugene Kandell, the chief executive of Start-Up Nation Central and a former economic adviser to Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.

The majority of relations between non-religious and charedi populations is driven on fear and non-familiarity. Each one thinks the other wants to change them and delegitimize their way of life.”

The Adva initiative began with Yisrael Tik, the head of external relations at Bais Yaakov and a former director of education for the ultra-Orthodox settlement of Beitar Ilit, who wanted to improve the job acceptance rate for seminary students studying computers. Tik discussed the challenge with colleagues on Israel’s Council for Higher Education (on which he also serves), who put him in contact with Start-Up Nation Central.

The first thing the stakeholders realized was that the vocational curriculum developed by Israel’s labor ministry for the seminaries was not up to par.

The computer programs at seminaries don’t provide what the industry requires,” Tik said. “They were built for people who don’t attend university.”

As recently as a decade ago, nearly two-thirds of charedi women became educators within their own community. That figure has dropped to just over one-third, as more of the women find work as nurses and caregivers. For years teaching was the most prized women’s profession within the charedi community, but now, women with engineering education are also sought after as potential matches. Poverty rates among the ultra-Orthodox are dropping, but the community still lags far behind the rest of Israel.

“People are more practical now,” said Gilad Malach, who heads the ultra-Orthodox program at the Israel Democracy Institute. “There is a need and wish for a lot of women to go into areas of high tech. Even within the community, there is an understanding that if a woman is working and earning a lot of money,” it frees a man “to [pursue] religious studies.”

Adva isn’t the first educational program to embrace the challenge of integrating ultra-Orthodox women into the tech workforce. Special courses at three Jerusalem academic colleges are tailored to ultra-Orthodox students, though only 130 charedi women are receiving degrees a year — far from the number necessary to help the industry or boost the standard of living of charedi families.

And more than a decade ago, programming companies like Matrix software opened offices in the ultra-Orthodox settlement of Modiin Ilit to employ charedi women in a gender segregated work environment that offered flexible hours so employees could balance home life and employment. But those positions were outsourced programming projects with relatively low pay.

Instructors in the Bais Yakov program are all charedi women with doctorates in their respective fields. To overcome suspicions about the tech work environments, community rabbinic authorities visited the offices of technology companies taking part in the program.

But there is still ample resistance to women pursuing degrees in high tech. In May, at a conference for the parents of women studying at the post-high-school seminaries, Modiin Ilit Chief Rabbi Meir Kessler complained about husbands who encourage women to earn better salaries. He warned that “immodest” workplaces promote “evil” inclinations, mixing with secular co-workers and leave wives too tired to handle their roles as homemakers.

After the publication of a report on the program in an ultra-Orthodox newspaper, a public leaflet warned the public that “the defense establishment” was behind a secret campaign to turn the charedi seminaries into academic colleges with help from “collaborators” from within the seminaries.

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The Sexual Assault of 45 Underage Girls, Uriah Assis of Emmanuel, Israel and a Fake Schizophrenia Claim

HAREDI SETTLEMENT RESIDENT INDICTED FOR SEXUAL ABUSE OF 45 UNDERAGE GIRLS

JERUSALEM  — A resident of a Haredi Orthodox West Bank settlement was arrested and indicted for sexual abuse of 45 underage girls.

Uriah Assis, 26, of Emmanuel was indicted Sunday in Tel Aviv District Court. He allegedly used pseudonyms – including a swimming coach, a wealthy businessman and a woman, and contacted the girls on the internet over the last four years, the Kan public broadcaster reported.

The charges against Assis include rape or sodomy of a minor, indecent assault, sexual harassment, making threats, obstruction of justice and the possession and production of child pornography.

He is alleged to have asked the girls to send him nude or semi-nude photos which he then threatened to post online if they went to the authorities. In some cases he asked them to sodomize themselves. He also met with several of the girls in person, forcing himself on them, Ynet reported.

Assis’ attorney claimed that he suffered from schizophrenia. A psychiatric examination found that he was faking the mental illness and is fit to stand trial, the Times of Israel reported.

The prosecutor’s office asked that Assis be held in jail until trial.

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ADDITIONAL SOURCES ONLINE:

 

Israeli indicted for sexual abuse of 45 underage girls

https://www.timesofisrael.com/israeli-indicted-for-sexual-abuse-of-45-underage-girls/

The charges against Assis include rape or sodomy of a minor, indecent assault, sexual harassment, making threats, obstruction of justice and the possession and production of child pornography.

West Bank man indicted in sexual abuse of 45 underage girls

He is alleged to have asked the girls to send him nude or semi-nude photos, which he then threatened to post online if they went to the authorities. In some cases he asked them to sodomize themselves. He also met several of the girls in person, forcing himself on them, Ynet reported.

Assis’ attorney claimed that he suffered from schizophrenia. A psychiatric examination found that he was faking the mental illness and is fit to stand trial, The Times of Israel reported.

The prosecutor’s office asked that Assis remain in jail until trial.

 

Israel and the Most Radical of Its Ultra-Orthodox – In Pictures, Those who will be in their Pursuits Israel’s Undoing

Pit an Ultra-Radical Jew Against an Ultra-Radical Muslim and the Muslim Wins… Why?

Because while Muslims are learning the Koran (the sacred book of Islam), which Muslims believe is the “actual word of G-d”, they are also learning to be soldiers, to speak other languages, the importance of education and how to function within their own society.

Fundamentalist Muslims, in contrast to radical Jews, understand the importance of education. To even the most religious, there is a power to knowing the languages of one’s neighbors and his laws.

To even the most educated of Koran scholars, there is a strength in learning to fight in an army, to learning to defend one’s land.  Moreover, unlike the most fundamentalist Jewish Israelis, who have the audacity to live in Israel, accept Israeli social services and social healthcare, but would be more than happy to hand over the land to Israel’s many enemies, the most fundamentalist Muslims in the surrounding countries are nationalistic as much as they are religious.

The governmental authorities in Islamic countries would not be tolerant of the behavior that the government of Israel permits. And there is a wisdom in that for Israel’s surrounding Arab neighbors.

When Israel’s fundamentalist Jews gain a majority in Israel, parliamentary control and a religious rule of law, which the numbers tell is an inevitability, Israel will be wholly unable to defend itself and its destruction will be imminent. On the one hand, Israel’s most radical want all Israelis to be radicalized. On the other, were that to happen, who would defend Israel against its neighbors? While Israel’s most radical are burning flags and soldiers in effigy, they are doing no more and no less than playing into the hands of Israel’s far wiser neighbors. When Israel’s government permits the most religious to occupy its land without participating in Israel’s army, Israel is making itself vulnerable, at the expense of the secular society that at some point will be powerless to defend against its neighbors.

The following is a photo-essay of Israel in pictures. In our view it is emblematic of  the greatest danger to Israel, the danger of the radical forces within Israel proper.

Out of respect for those photographed, we have not posted the article below in its entirety. We only took pieces. Some of the pictures are not with the captions in the original article. We therefore encourage you to click on the link and view the photo essay as it was intended. We believe it is extraordinary.

We have posted without permissions and our posting the below should not be viewed as an endorsement of this site by the authors of that article or their blog.  It should also not be presumed that they would have come to the same conclusions we have. They may feel quite differently.

We ask that you draw your own conclusions.

In pictures: The ultra-Orthodox Jews who back Palestine

The community in Jerusalem neighbourhood of Mea She’arim are rarely photographed

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A Right-Wing Israel, Not so Different Than Any Other Fundamentalist Regime

Ayelet Shaked talks to the press in Jerusalem, July 28, 2019.

Olivier Fitoussi

Analysis 

Netanyahu Followed His Wife’s Edicts. Now He Will Pay the Price

Sunday night was probably unsettling for the prime ministerial residence on Balfour Street, a night of taking stock, of frayed nerves. If Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu would not have yielded to the caprices and whims of his wife, he could have had a restrained, downsized and loyal Ayelet Shaked on the list of top ten Likud Knesset candidates, even without promising her a ministerial post (or in any case, without promising to keep his promise).

Instead of acting according to his and his party’s best political interests, as suggested to him privately and publicly by lawmakers in his party, Netanyahu was dragged by emotions and vengefulness. Last night he got his comeuppance: Shaked, who begged to be incorporated into Likud and was turned down, and who was fired by Netanyahu from her post as Justice Minister, along with Education Minister Naftali Bennett, is back, and in a big way.

The writing was on the wall as far as her placement at the head of the Union of Right-Wing Parties from the moment Bennett had swallowed his pride and renounced his leadership of the New Right party. According to multiple surveys conducted to test voters’ inclinations, the right, still traumatized by its loss of five to six Knesset seats in April’s election due to its fissures, saw the numbers and urged a union of forces.

Union of Right-Wing Parties Chairman Rafi Peretz (his rabbinical title should be dropped since it’s irrelevant to his political endeavors) has been a dead man walking for some time. Recent polls have given the coup de grace to his pretentious ambitions. With his party hovering over the electoral threshold while the New Right is becoming twice as strong since Shaked assumed leadership last Sunday, there was no doubt as to who should ultimately head the union.

Peretz began the negotiations over the leadership as Tarzan and ended them like Popeye. What he won’t learn by the end of his Knesset term, Shaked, a brilliant politician, has already forgotten. Quietly, discreetly, effectively, she wove the web that brought her to where she is now. Legitimize Kahanists? She won’t bat an eyelid. Her excuse will be that it’s only “a technical bloc,” because nothing describes Shaked better than a cool-headed technocrat.

On September 18, Netanyahu, who tried to eliminate her, will find himself facing the head of a party with 12-13 seats (according to the last polls). If a Likud-right-wing-ultra-Orthodox government is at all possible, he might offer Shaked the Foreign Ministry portfolio even before she asks for it, just so the Justice Ministry stays in Likud hands this time.

Meanwhile, he’s far from reaching that goal. His aim of garnering 61 seats without Avigdor Lieberman’s Yisrael Beiteinu party now looks virtually impossible to attain. Barring an extraordinary development in the next 50 days, the chances a unity government without the ultra-Orthodox, the religious-Zionists and the Kahanists seem quite realistic.

Some insights on the unifying right 

As soon as he recovered from the shock, Netanyahu rushed to contact Peretz, urging him to predicate the team-up on Shaked and Bennett’s committment to recommend that President Reuven Rivlin task only him with forming the government. This is a baseless demand. They’ll do what serves them best under the post-election circumstances. This only highlights his failure. If he’d agreed to her joining Likud, he would have been saved this worry, which in 60 days will turn into panic in the best Balfour style.

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