Wednesday, January 25, 2023

Israel's Political System and Judicial Reform-- What's Going On?

I almost titled this post "Israeli Judicial Reform for Dummies," but didn't want to antagonize people. Also the topic is no joke. This is serious stuff, and it's complicated

Oy. Where should I start?

Let's start with the Israeli political system, which may be unique; though others may be similar in some ways. Let the adjectives used here be different or unique. I don't want any judgmental ones like better and worse. It doesn't pay to go there, since there is no country like the State of Israel in size, history, sociology, security needs etc. Being a democracy, Israel has developed into the country we know today, and in most ways it actually works well. 

Israel is a Parliamentary Democracy. Our parliament, called the Knesset, has one hundred and twenty 120 members. There are many political parties represented in the Knesset, and certainly even more that didn't get enough votes to be included. Now a party needs 4.5% of the votes, called the Electoral Threshold, to get any of their list in.

Each political party submits a list to election board by a certain date, and it's according to the order on the list that people become Members of Knesset. After the votes are counted, the failed parties subtracted and the numbers of MKs per party calculated, the President of the State of Israel then calls the leader #1 of the largest party and offers him/her to chance to form a coalition.

OK, I know that some of you are jumping in your seats trying to get my attention and ask why we have so many political parties. I'll start with a joke:

"two Jews five opinions"

OK, some say only three opinions, but Israeli society is too complex --remember that Israeli Arabs also vote and have a few political parties-- for two political parties to suffice. The political/social spectrum isn't a simple right/left. It also includes religious observance and many other factors. 

The Knesset reflects Israeli diversity, and that diversity isn't reflected at all in the High Court. The democratically elected MKs do not have a say in who sits as a justice on that court. The justices vote in their replacements, and they choose very carefully to find people who follow their ideology, which is far to the Left of the Israeli population. In recent years they have been making legal decisions that go against laws voted in by the elected MKs. That's not democracy. 

The justices don't base their decision on laws. They base their decisions on their political ideology, which is what they treasure and want to preserve. They call it "judicial independence." It's davka that "independence" which endangers Israeli democracy. 

Justice Minister Yariv Levin's plan will reduce the power of the High Court in a number of ways. I'm not getting into the details of the laws he proposes. You can click Judicial Reform for the details. I just wanted to show that reform is needed. 

Nobody has the right to play god, not even High Court justices. 

Saturday, January 21, 2023

Rosh Chodesh Shevat ראש חודש שבט תפילת נשים Women's Prayers

Rosh Chodesh Shevat is rapidly approaching. So here's the reminder that we'll have Women's Prayer at Shiloh Hakeduma-- Tel Shiloh
Monday January 23, 2023
1st of Shevat 5783

תפילת נשים בראש חודש שבט
בשילה הקדומה 
יום ב' 23\01\2023
א' שבט תשפ"ג

Shiloh Hakeduma is just off of the Shiloh Junction and can be reached by car or bus. For more information about all of the activities there for people of all ages, contact 025789111, or the facebook page.

Monday, January 2, 2023

The Likud's Time Bomb


It's very deja vu hearing all of the complaints frustrations from veteran, loyal Likud MKs once they recognize that yet again there are hardly any senior positions remaining for them. Those who've worked hard and shown their loyalty to Binyamin Bibi Netanyahu and the Likud, some for decades, have had to accept low-ranking or made-up positions, or none at all, as the good stuff has not only gone to coalition partners but also new and relatively inexperienced Likud MKs. At the same time they're not getting any younger. OK, they're not as old as the newly crowned King Charles of England who's barely a year older than Bibi himself.

Charles always knew that as long as he outlived his mother he'd get the crown, but it's not so simple in politics.

Please look at that chart above, which I copied from Wikipedia. Party leadership usually lasts about a decade. OK, yes, I know that Menachem Begin had been a party leader much longer, first Cherut, then GaHa"L and then finally a decade in the Likud. But the Likud party was cobbled together for the 1973/4 elections, and four years later was Begin's first victory and term as Prime Minister. He resigned/retired in 1983 and was replaced by Yitzchak Shamir who was party head for ten years, and then Netanyahu took over. 

Besides the six years of Arik Sharon seriously marred by his notorious Disengagement Plan, for most of that time and until today Binyamin Bibi Netanyahu has been leader of the Likud and Prime Minister of Israel. He was young when he took over the party, all of fourty-four 44 in October of 1993, and now there are many, many talented and aging Likud MKs younger and waiting in the wings for their chance to head the party. It doesn't look like they'll ever get the opportunity. Instead of competing against each other for leadership, there's Bibi holding onto those reins. He first grabbed them when they were still in school.

Anger and frustration are bubbling close to the surface. And it's not healthy for the party to have one leader for thirty years. It reminds me of, if you'll excuse the expression, dictatorships.  OK, I said it. What do you think?

Sunday, December 18, 2022

Chanukah Rosh Chodesh Tevet-- Women's Prayers


Women's Rosh Chodesh Prayers Gd willing next Sunday. 

For other Chanuka events at Tel Shiloh, Shiloh Hakeduma call 02-5789122, write to

Monday, December 5, 2022

Will There Be Harmony in Bibi's New Coalition?

Political Chaos, my 52frames photo from Chaos album, week 44, 2022

Binyamin Bibi Netanyahu, longtime head of the Likud party, had gathered a number of ambitious political parties to campaign as one block calling themselves the "Right" wing. 

The chareidi parties are his veteran coalition partners, though "Right" isn't how any honest political expert would label them. Actually, the Likud, which does call itself "Right" is more Center-Left when in power. 

But the bloc that Bibi orchestrated of truly Right and uncompromisingly patriotic religious parties of Smutrich and  Ben-Gvir was the key to his electoral plan. Bibi had hoped to be able to control them, but they're turning out to be more of a Frankenstein. 

Smutrich and Ben-Gvir know very well that many in the Israeli public, even those who didn't vote for them, support or sympathize with their views. It's very much like an Israeli version of Ronnie Reagan's "silent majority." They also know that if Bibi dumps them and makes a desperate deal with Ganz or Lapid, he'd lose the trust/votes of veteran Likud voters. Don't take the media too seriously, as in the rest of the world-- it's Leftist. A majority of Israelis are Right and religiously traditional or religious. That's why Bibi crafted his campaign in that direction and succeeded, though I'm not sure why he sabotaged Ayelet Shaked after approving her

It seems like these recent elections were the easy part for Netanyahu; coalition negotiations are a very public nightmare. Likud MKs should be used to getting the scraps of what's left after Bibi gives the goodies to those he needs on his team. I wonder if Bibi was surprised at the toughness of Smutrich and Ben-Gvir while haggling over ministries. He may have thought of them as inexperienced, but they certainly aren't. And their followers expect kavod, honor.

At this point, Bibi may almost have all the pieces put together with the exception of the Chareidim and his own people. No doubt the success of Smutrich & Ben-Gvir may embolden the chareidim to make more demands. Nobody wants to be a "sucker." 

So far Smutrich and Ben-Gvir haven't gotten in the way of chareidi parties, but considering the amount of rabbis and yeshiva students in their camp it's only a matter of time. 

Think about it--  If this is the courtship, what type of marriage will they have? Ironically the Bennet-Lapid government was touted as a coalition of very different parties looking to work together for the sake of the country, and it lasted over a year. It would have lasted longer except for Bibi's dirty tricks

What's next?

Thursday, November 17, 2022

Women's Rosh Chodesh Kislev Prayers


Women's Rosh Chodesh Kislev Prayers

Rosh Chodesh Kislev 5783

Friday November 25, 2022 8:30am

Tel Shiloh, Shiloh Hakeduma

תפילת נשים

ראש חודש כסלו תשפ"ג 

בשילה הקדומה 

יום שישי 25\11\2022 ב8:30 

You can spend the day at Tel Shiloh, Shiloh Hakeduma. For more information 02-5789122 There's always a lot to see and do there.

Tuesday, November 1, 2022

Israeli Elections 2022: The Coalition Competition Will be Fierce


Spare Ballots if Needed

Here's the Choice of Political Parties

The previous elections were about a year and a half ago, which seems like ages, considering that the previous few were closer together. Most of those elections ended without coalitions. As I've written a number of times, Bibi Netanyahu and his merry band discovered an easy way to power--- being the interim Prime Minister/Government. 

Well, now Likud hasn't been in power for over a year. For them to return, no matter how many MKs they have, they need to supplement the number so it reaches over sixty to have a majority coalition. But now, the cat's out of the bag, and sitting Prime Minister Yair Lapid can play the same trick if he convinces enough Knesset Members not to join with Netanyahu.

This should be fun to watch.

You may be wondering why I'm not cheering on a specific party or leader. Well, like many Israelis I'm not very enamored with the choices. It's like watching a football or basketball match when you just want to see their skills, and you don't care which team wins.

That may sound strange to you. We are discussing the government which has power over security, growth etc. I'm feeling rather jaded about it. I just keep remembering the excitement when certain people became Prime Minister, and then how they surprised us with policies totally opposed to their platform/ideology, totally opposed to mine, too. So, we'll see what happens and I'll decide issue by issue and pray very hard.

Thursday, October 27, 2022

We Survived the Holocaust: The Bluma and Felix Goldberg Story, Book Review


We Survived the Holocaust: The Bluma and Felix Goldberg Story is graphic memoir. Graphic here means cartoonish pictures. Bluma and Felix Goldberg's story is a true story. Things are obviously simplified, since it's short and written for children.

Times have certainly changed. Not long ago the Book Club I'm a member of chose Holocaust Literature as the genre for a meeting. Most members are of my generation, who grew up in the post World War Two 1950s. Besides The Diary of Anna Frank, there wasn't any Holocaust book for even an older child to read. Now libraries and book stores have shelves full of Holocaust Literature of all sorts for all ages, though it's hard to find books suitable for children. 

We Survived the Holocaust is illustrated in black and white which suits to subject matter and is a reminder that the Holocaust was a dark and dangerous time.  Here are a series of pages to give you an idea.

The general message is survival and heroism. Bluma and Felix Goldberg's story is totally amazing, and it's true, which makes it even better. It's almost incomprehensible to imagine ordinary people taking such risks and surviving such dangers. But we all know that somehow some people did survive and establish families and businesses after the war, after the Nazis had been defeated.

We Survived the Holocaust is an excellent tool for teaching children about Nazis and the Holocaust. As wonderful as the Goldbergs' story is, we mustn't forget that the majority of European Jewry was murdered during the Holocaust, whether gassed, gunned down or as the result of malnutrition/starvation or illness. The dead can't speak.

To help the reader, there are a timeline, a glossary, an index and recommended resources. We Survived the Holocaust: The Bluma and Felix Goldberg Story includes a postscript and information about the Goldberg children. I highly recommend it.

Product details

  • Publisher ‏ : ‎ Imagine and Wonder; First edition (September 1, 2022)
  • Language ‏ : ‎ English
  • Paperback ‏ : ‎ 156 pages
  • ISBN-10 ‏ : ‎ 1637610203
  • ISBN-13 ‏ : ‎ 978-1637610206
  • Reading age ‏ : ‎ 14 - 17 years
  • Item Weight ‏ : ‎ 11.2 ounces
  • Dimensions ‏ : ‎ 6.5 x 0.4 x 9.5 inches

Tuesday, October 18, 2022

Rosh Chodesh Marcheshvan Soon

Save the date! 

Women's Rosh Chodesh Prayers at Shiloh Hakeduma, Tel Shiloh, Gd willing in another week!

It's always surprising how soon Rosh Chodesh comes after Simchat Torah, so I hope you can make it on Tuesday October 25, 2022 at 8:30am.

ראש חודש מרחשון

תפילת נשים בשילה הקדומה

25\10\2022 ב8:30

כולן מוזמות

תמיד יש הרבה לעשות בשילה הקדומה

There's always a lot to do at Tel Shiloh

For more information 025789111, פרטים נוספים

Thursday, September 22, 2022

Likud & Cronies Care More About Power Than The Needs of Israeli Citizens

Outgoing Prime Minister Bibi Netanyahu refused to politely 
congratulate incoming Prime Minister Naftali Bennett

No doubt you can guess that these are photos of my television screen showing the historic day when Naftali Bennett became Israel's Prime Minister. The dominant figure we see in both pictures isn't Bennett, it is former Prime Minister Binyamin Bibi Netanyahu. You can feel his fury in his eyes and body language.

Bibi showed himself to be a "sore loser." Not only did he lose the office, the political position he cherished and thought would be his for many more years, but he lost the respect of many. Unlike Shimon Peres, whose politics were at the opposite end of the political spectrum from Netanyahu, and in fact unlike all of his predecessors, Netanyahu showed no dignity, no respect for legal process. As we say in Jewish slang:
Bibi's no mensch.
The standard custom in Israel is for the outgoing Prime Minister to publicly congratulate his successor, no matter how far apart they are politically. Afterwards he/she conducts a proper civilized traditional "handover" process in which procedural matters top secret information are passed on so that the government continues to function in an efficient manner.

Netanyahu orchestrated the most disgusting antidemocratic display in the history of the State of Israel. He and his fellow Likud MKs along with the rest of his mafia just screamed, cursed and insulted the incoming government. It was horrifying to see close to half of our Knesset Members acting like drugged/drunk juvenile delinquents. 

Now here we are over a year later, and we have not heard a single apology. In a few days, we will be celebrating the second Rosh Hashanah since that unforgettably horrible scene. According to Jewish Law, a public sin demands a public apology. How anyone can vote for any of them, their parties, ever again is beyond my comprehension! 

If that wasn't proof enough of their moral depravity, the opposition went on a two-pronged attack, macro and micro. The micro* comprised the targeting of various coalition MKs to harass them, taunt them and tempt them, or simply to buy them out with promises of safe spots in the Likud list in the next elections. As proof, former Yemina MKs took their seats from the coalition are now Likud candidates with guarantees to be Likud MKs.

The macro attack required the opposition to vote against all laws proposed by the government, even those which they actually favored. Anything, any political weapon to use against the Bennett government became legitimate in their eyes, no matter what the cost to ordinary Israeli citizens. With a very weakened coalition, see micro*, the so-called Right wing opposition voted against the Settlement Law endangering the security, health and more of Israeli citizens in Judea, Samaria and the Jordan Valley. 
If Netanyahu had really led a Right wing government during the decade plus he had been in power, he would have declared Israeli sovereignty on these areas, and then there would have been no need for periodic renewal of the Settlement Law.
 Naftali Bennett was not willing to risk harming Jews whose security, health and more required the renewal of the Settlement Law, so he stepped down from his position as Prime Minister, which necessitated new elections. According to the coalition agreement he had with Yair Lapid, if the government falls because of the actions of the sitting Prime Minister's MKs, then the other one becomes the sitting Prime Minister. Bennett who is an honorable man honored that commitment. 

Even with the mask on, you can see that Bibi Netanyahu
isn't happy when he discovered that Naftali Bennett 
had become Prime Minister just over a year ago.


Thursday, September 1, 2022

Why Not To Vote Likud and Its Puppet Parties

My antipathy to the Likud is very old, almost as old as the party itself, which is strange considering my Betar background and has nothing to do with today's politics, or does it? 

Our aliyah, fifty-two 52 years ago this week was very connected to Menachem Begin's Herut Party and Betar, especially considering that we spent the greater part of our first year living in Maon Betar, the Betar Youth/Student Hostel, now known as the Plugat Hakotel building in Jerusalem's Old City. Like our friends from Betar, we joined, and are still members of, Kupat Cholim Leumit, and we became dues paying members of Herut, the Revisionist/Betar party. Herut joined with the Liberal Party making Gush Cherut Liberalim, aka GaHaL, which evolved into Likud.

In 1970, after over twenty years of independence, there was only one dominant party, Mapai/Labor, Leftist, secular and socialist. The National Religious Party, which besides having a few rabbis and a lot of kippot had similar policies and joined them religiously in their coalition governments and the Rabbinate. Only during the time of emergency just before the 1967 Six Days War had Menachem Begin and Gahal been invited to join the government.

Cracks in the close political partnership between Mapai/Labor and the NRP began to surface after the great miraculous 1967 Six Days War victory. The government and its agricultural monopoly chose which land to settle only according to financial export advantages probably chosen by Agrexco which was the export monopoly, the Golan for growing fruit and the warmer Jordan Valley and northern Sinai where melons and summer vegetables could be grown for export in the winter. The National Religious Party and its Bnai Akiva youth movement began pushing to return to its former kibbutzim in Gush Etzion, which had been destroyed by the Arabs in the War for Independence. In addition, there were attempts to settle Hebron and various locations in the Shomron because of their Jewish/Biblical importance. The government opposed such settlements and gave in on just a symbolic few.

Post Six Days War the IDF and government/military leaders were cocky and overconfident. The "conceptziah" was that the Arabs would never dare attack us again after our great victory, so we weren't at all prepared for the surprise attack on Yom Kippur 1973. After a few very difficult weeks and many dead, wounded and captured Israelis, Gd gave us another miraculous victory. 

The Israeli electorate was shell-shocked, mourning and talked of not celebrating the upcoming Independence Day, but they voted for their usual parties, returning the veteran/traditional coalition to power in the elections soon after the war. Israelis have trouble changing political choices. 

Polls had been showing more of the same for the 1977 elections, but when the votes were counted the pundits were totally shocked to discover that Menachem Begin's Likud had gotten the most votes. His longtime supporters were overjoyed expecting government support of new Jewish communities all over Judea and Samaria, besides the exiting ones in the Golan, Jordan Valley and Sinai. Instead of annexing all the land liberated in 1967 and promoting building Jewish communities all over, Begin crossed Mapai's redlines and offered Anwar Sadaat a Judenrein Sinai as a peace deal cheered on by US President Jimmy Carter. The homeless Jews from the Sinai were offered new communities in Gush Katif, and then a few decades later, another Likud Prime Minister, Ariel Sharon, destroyed Gush Katif making a new generation of Jewish pioneers homeless. As a Likud election campaign slogan stated: "Only the Likud can..."

Here we are almost a half a century later... The religious public has changed; the National Religious Party is no more, though the backroom boys keep trying to repackage and resurrect it. We began to see more and more religious MKs, who were members of other political parties, since religious Israelis had begun to see themselves as Israelis first, free to choose a political party by ideology. I see this as a maturation of Israeli society. And on the Left, today the Labor Party is an anorexic shadow of its former self barely getting the minimum votes for Knesset representation. 

During the decade plus that Binyamin Bibi Netanyahu has ruled the Likud and served as Prime Minister, the chareidi political parties give Bibi their full support in exchange for the Rabbinate. Non-chareidi Torah observant Jews are blocked. This concerns, Kashrut, conversion, marriage and many other crucial issues that affect us all. 

The bottom line here is that most Likud voters actually don't like this chareidi monopoly on the Rabbinate, though they support and strengthen it with their Likud vote. The Bennett-Lapid coalition gave Matan Kahane the Ministry for Religion which controls the Rabbinate. I have no doubt that most Likud voters, if they bother checking what he has been doing, really would support him much more than the chareidi control.

Very important is to consider whether or not Binyamin Netanyahu's Likud actually promotes Right wing policies. The truth is that it doesn't, and I for one am not surprised, because I heard Bibi announce that he wouldn't. At the International Jewish Bloggers Conference in 2008, Netanyahu was the guest speaker and told us of his plans for when he would be reelected Prime Minister. I was standing barely a meter from him and heard him very clearly state that:

 "as Prime Minister I will be Centrist."

Netanyahu's stated reason was that he thinks that a "national leader" should have a policy in the middle. Whatever hope and loyalty to Likud that had somehow survived Begin and Sharon's destructive policies was totally wiped out by that, as far as I'm concerned. We've seen since then how when Bibi's campaigning for votes he loves the Right label, but if you look at his policies, riddled with building freezes, Jewish community and housing destruction. 

Most recently we all witnessed the despicable act of ordering his MKs to vote against the Settlement Law, because Bibi and his cronies, Likud and Chareidi MKs, have only one aim-- returning to power. They don't care whom they harm or bribe (with promises of "safe" places on the Likud list) as they do it. Their only principle is preserving their power, and they want to be back in the drivers seat.

Davka, I consider the criminal investigation of Bibi to be a political witch hunt, and I think the street demonstrations telling him to resign to be antidemocratic. There's a legal political process in a democracy, and top office should never be chosen by the police or the street. We vote.

I do see a distortion/loophole that Netanyahu has exploited to preserve power, which goes against the spirit of the law, though it's technically legal. Until Naftali Bennett and Yair Lapid put together their coalition, Bibi had established a pattern of serial/perpetual power. It looked like he'd be the "interim" or  caretaker Prime Minister forever alternating with elections that didn't result in MKs who could agree on a coalition. Look carefully at what had been happening before the Bennett-Lapid agreement.

Sorry this is so long; it's the longest blog post I've written in years. I suggest clicking the links to give you more information. I welcome your questions and comments.