Wednesday, March 12, 2014

Good News For The Jews!

The results of the Beit Shemesh elections are in, and the incumbent charedi mayor, Moshe Abutbul, has won again. I can't say that he won fair and square, because amongst other things, the police are investigating what appears to have been a concerted effort by charedi activists to block the main entry road into Beit Shemesh and to block parking spaces near the voting stations. But in any case, I think that Abutbul's victory is probably Good News For The Jews - and I'm not being sarcastic.

Don't get me wrong. I still think that Abutbul is a disaster for the residents of Beit Shemesh, including the charedi residents. His management of the city is very poor and unprofessional - packing in as many new (mostly charedi) residents as possible, with infrastructure that is hopelessly inadequate. Abutbul gives the city a bad name, and prevents Beit Shemesh from receiving national and international investment. He is effectively driving out non-charedi residents. He never stands up to zealots and he has insulted non-charedim. I still think that Eli Cohen would have been a vastly better mayor for almost all the residents of Bet Shemesh.

But there are bigger issues to take into consideration.

The State of Israel is facing a crisis. 60% of charedim are unemployed. 30% of Israeli first-graders are charedim. As one commentator to a previous post asked, at what point does the system fail? When 30% of the population refuses to serve in the army or be productively employed? 50%? 80%?

And this is a problem that is extremely difficult to solve. The charedim have become accustomed to not serving in the army, and to discouraging professional (or even non-professional) employment. Furthermore, this is very difficult to change at a political level, because of the nature of the electoral system. The large parties usually need the small parties in order to form a government, which means paying them off; thus, Sharon was able to execute the Disengagement from Gaza by paying off the charedim. It takes immense national and political resolve to form a government that is determined to encourage charedim to join the workforce and army; usually, it's simpler to just give them the handouts that they demand and benefit from their votes.

This is the first time in many years that there is a government that is doing something about it. Sure, they might be making some mistakes. But there are some achievements also. The vast network of Shas schools is starting to implement a core curriculum of secular studies. The mandatory draft will be suspended for the next few years, enabling many charedim to join the workforce.

The charedim are kicking and screaming about the new government, which will cause many people to leave kollel and change the way in which they educate their children. But the irony is that the particular person most hated for all this, the person who is behind the make-up of the government and its policies, is Yair Lapid. And do you know which single person is most responsible for Yair Lapid's extraordinary rise to power?

Moshe Abutbul.

That's right. Moshe Abutbul, the charedi mayor of Beit Shemesh, the person who portrays Lapid as the devil himself, is himself the one person by far the most responsible for Lapid.

It was Mayor Moshe Abutbul's appalling mishandling of Beit Shemesh in general, and the Orot Banot girls' school situation in particular, that drew Beit Shemesh into the headlines, caused the rest of Israel to react with horror, and led to the 19 seats that Yair Lapid won in the Knesset. It was because Abutbul immediately caved in to the extremists, refused to condemn their terrorizing of children, refused to express any support or sympathy for the girls who were being traumatized, and sought to prevent the Orot Banot school from opening, that Bet Shemesh became the focal point from which Lapid drew support.

You can be sure that with the re-election of Abutbul, there will be further explosive events in Beit Shemesh, since Abutbul never takes a stand against extremists. Abutbul will continue to give the city a bad name - indeed, just a week after his last re-election, he got in trouble for making disparaging comments about homosexuals. And the rest of Israel will respond by continuing to give political power to Lapid and Bennet.

Furthermore, both Abutbul and Cohen have stated that Beit Shemesh is a microcosm of Israel. And there are few things that the rest of Israel fear more than a hostile takeover by charedim. Seeing such a takeover happening in Beit Shemesh, as per Rav Aharon Feldman's hope that Beit Shemesh will turn into Bnei Brak, will galvanize the rest of Israel into uniting to prevent the charedi lifestyle from taking over Israel.

The result will be that in the next national elections, the charedim will again be unable to enter the government. The government will continue to be able to bring charedim into the workforce and IDF and stem the crisis discussed earlier.

It's bad news for Beit Shemesh that Abutbul was re-elected. But it may well be good news for the State of Israel and the Jewish People.

44 comments:

  1. I'm happy you're upbeat. I was afraid you'd go into a terrible mood of depression and dspair.

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  2. Rav Slifkin-
    I agree with Yehudah, I am glad you are looking at the big picture. It is important to keep in mind that due to the close nature of the vote and the fact that the Haredi community is growing in Beit Shemesh that even if Cohen had won this time, the Haredim would get control of the city the next time.

    I am more and more convinced that the Haredi community is facing a gigantic crisis and it can not keep going the way it has been. It is a mistake to extrapolate from the growth of the Haredi community in the last 30 years and to assume the same trends will continue for the next 30 years. Rav Natan Cardozo speaks to a lot of young people and he maintains that the level of emunah among young Haredim is very low. The inevitable economic crunch that has already hit them and which will only increase in coming years as long as the community remains economically weak due to low work-force participation, there will be generated a spiritual crisis among many young people and they will leave the Haredi fold. It is important to remember the the Israeli extreme anti-religous MAPAM party, especially the leadership which formed 100 years ago were made up of a lot of young people who grew up in Haredi families. There is no reason that the things that drove them out of the religious community will not repeat themselves, which included upheavals in traditional values, economic pressure and out and out despair over the perception propataged by Haredi ideology that life is stagnant and one must passively accept the often difficult conditions that someone finds himself in.
    The moderate, open-minded religious community, including people like yourself, need to be here to provide a religious and ideological framework to prevent these disillusioned youth from leaving the religious fold, or even the Jewish people entirely.

    The times are indeed a'changing!

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  3. One set his phone alarm to pop in here and see the news. Good news? Hmm. A secession by the sane parts of the city from the municipality and a formation of a new one would be even better news. A perfect teaching moment for the whole nation about life without the flow of funds on tap from the productive.

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  4. I see your point. I'm still upset that he won though.

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  5. What a bunch of sore losers. The only thing you should all(those who were negative) be writing is your sincere apology to the haredi community and to Abutbol. You all accused Abutbol and the whole hareidi community of systemic fraud in the last elections. These new results prove beyond a shadow of a doubt that last election there was 36 fraudulent votes done by a few individuals and not systemic fraud as you all accused us of. Its time to be true heroes and admit you were wrong. We are waiting......

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  6. What a bunch of sore losers.

    LOL. And the charedim reacted really well when they didn't make it into the Government, right?

    You all accused Abutbol and the whole hareidi community of systemic fraud

    False accusation. We accused that there was systematic fraud. And this was true.

    These new results prove beyond a shadow of a doubt

    They do not prove any such thing. A lot of factors were different in this election.

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  7. Don't confuse all Charedim.
    85% of Shas schools have been teaching core curriculum for the past 5 years.
    Shas isn't anti army. Their reps state clearly that if you aren't learning go to the army.
    Shas didn't join Sharon's gvt. And if I remember correctly some Mafdal reps held onto their seats till very late in the game.

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  8. kollel nick, what ordinary Shas members do and what Shas stands for are two very different things. (Most Shas voters aren't even dati.) Deri is sitting happily with Tibi right now; that's all you have to know.

    R' Slifkin: I think you mean "non-professional," not "unprofessional." A baker or carpenter or policeman, honorable professionals all (more so than some "professions") aren't "professionals," but they aren't "unprofessional."

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  9. I am wondering what you think the mayor could have done to solve the problem with Orot Banot?
    In addition, why don't you complain that the police, who certainly are more equipped to deal with these kind of problems, didn't do anything about it? It seems like you are trying to blame everything that is wrong in Bet Shemesh on Abutbul.

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  10. "Abutbul will continue to give the city a bad name - indeed, just a week after his last re-election, he got in trouble for making disparaging comments about homosexuals."

    Yeah, Moshe Rabbeinu made some of those too. But maybe it was one of those he didn't mean to be taken seriously, like wearing tekhelet.

    In all seriousness, it's comments like these that cause a lot of fence-sitters, myself included at one time, to side with Haredim, because time and time again MO/dati leumi figures seem to go almost out of their way to demonstrate they don't take the Torah seriously.

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  11. I guess you are unaware of what Abutbul said and who he said it to.

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  12. Congratulations on the victory of your preferred candidate, Mike. After the victory laps, when you have a quieter moment, do look up Pyrrhic victory, if unfamiliar with the term. Or, wait to see the real life and real time effects of such on the city of Beth Shemesh and those who voted in Abutbol for themselves.

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  13. "There are no gays in my city, thank God,” Beit Shemesh Mayor Moshe Abutbul told Channel 10 News earlier this week, referring to gays as unholy and impure.



    Nonetheless, i agree with the commenter-- the way you wrote that sentence seemed to suggest that you feel making negative comments about a yehareig v'al yaavor is a terirble thing on the scale of election fraud or not stepping in at orot banot.

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  14. If Crimea can separate from Ukraine, then why not Beit Shemesh from Ramat Beit Shemesh?

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  15. Since you LOVe to do whats best for the jews even at your own expense I'm sure you voted for aboutbul!!!! or is this post only crying after the fact.

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  16. Gavriel M-
    All religious Jews, including the Haredi leadership are forced to make compromises that go against what we may call Torah values due to the nature of the modern world. Look at how the Haredim in New York suppoted the new mayor even though his lifestyle and values aren't exactly what we stand for. Just yesterday SHAS announced it was supporting the far Left (Labor, MERETZ, the Arab parties) from now on, again, people don't particularly live up to Torah values. In addition, it is unfortunatley the case that a few religious Jews with all sorts of colors of kippot end up in jail. Is it fair to tar all the others with the same color kippah with the same brush?
    It is absolutely wrong to say that Dati Leumi people "don't take the Torah seriously". They may or may not be willing to make more compromises in order to achieve what they view as important societal or religious goals than the Haredim, but no one is in a position to claim that another Jew "doesn't take Torah seriously".

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  17. "I am wondering what you think the mayor could have done to solve the problem with Orot Banot?"

    Let's start by remembering what he did do. At the time, Abutbol proposed that switching the boys' school with the girls' school would solve the problem. His suggestion was - and rightfully so - ignored by both sides of the conflict, since it was only a cosmetic solution that pleased no one. It wasn't even remotely responsive to the supposed bone of contention - little girls and their mothers would still have to walk past the same buildings on their way to school because the only difference would be that they would have to walk another 50 meters in the same direction.

    What should Abutbol have done? He should have publicly denounced the kanoim. He should have gone down to the school and take a little girl's hand and walk her past the bullies into the school. Had he done that, I probably would have voted for him. Instead, he went out of his way to avoid overtly insulting or contradicting anybody, showing the mayor to be a total non-factor during the single biggest crisis of his administration.

    What should he have done?

    Something. Anything.

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  18. While I have my strong disagreements with the Charedi community, to disparage another Jew like this publicly is way below the belt. If things are so bad in Beit Shemesh, why don't you do something about it? Perhaps you should start by reviewing the laws of shmirat halashon. Rav Dov Lipman has never said a bad word about even the worst of his critics.

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  19. "Shas isn't anti army. Their reps state clearly that if you aren't learning go to the army."

    A meaningless statement, as everyone knows. No one ever admits to "not learning." With few exceptiions, bachurim, avreichim, and their families, would rather waste their time doing nothing than admit to "not learning" and have to be drafted.

    A Schreiber

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  20. I am also glad to see that you are upbeat, but please do not underestimate the damage an incompetent mayor can cause, even as he brings his political ideology into disrepute. I happen to live in a major city whose mayor is a largely unrepentant substance abuser (subject of international ridicule) that also consorts with thugs and common criminals. The political movement for which he stands has no credibility here anymore, but in the meantime, he has brought the business of city governance nearly to a halt by obstructionism, and the relentless media focus on his antics makes for a huge "activation barrier" that must be overcome before serious discussions can take place.

    Having people immediately associate your city with corruption, incompetence or mismanagement is not a good thing. Reputations like that take a long time to shake off.

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  21. Gasp! "Corner bvitypo," Rabbi (12:40 PM)?

    Is this to be Temujin's new designated moniker under Abutbol's regime?

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  22. > Furthermore, both Abutbul and Cohen have stated that Beit Shemesh is a microcosm of Israel.

    Yeah and here I am with your reality check. As long as the Chareidi political parties are either in the coalition or potential partners for it this situation will only worsen.
    Look at the new draft law. Only a fool thinks it will actually pull in more than a few dozen boys. The government (that is, Bibi) will never enforce it because he knows that even though he doesn't need the Chareidi parties now he might need them after the next election and then he can say "See, I never enforced that law, I'm your friend!" Supreme court decrees will be ignored. What, the police are going to arrest 100 000 rioting Chareidim?
    That is the government you have. Things will not get better. You want to solve the problem? Move.

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  23. "to side with Haredim, because time and time again MO/dati leumi figures seem to go almost out of their way to demonstrate they don't take the Torah seriously."

    Why do you have to "side" with anyone? Take it all seriously- even those many parts that charedim don't.

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  24. I agree with Gavriel M. If (or when) Abutbol said something against the homosexuals and THAT should be something wrong?
    By making this an example NS you are making it Hilonim vs. Torah and are actually giving power to Abutbol. It becomes a battle of Hiloni mentality and culture vs. the Torah. DL should focus and promote ONLY the Torah values and point of the mistakes of Haredim of these issues and not the issues that the Torah agrees with. Otherwise you expose yourselves to be hilonim with a kippa and not much else.

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  25. Oleh Vatik:
    And why didn't the police, who have so much more REAL power, do anything? Or does that not bother you since they don't have beards?

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  26. Moshe Dick writes:
    To Gavriel M: Apart from taking umbrage at your snide comment about "MO/DL not taking Torah seriously" that shows that you are no fence-sitter, the issue of homosexuality is a serious one even in orthodox circles. Or haven't you heard about all the chuld molesters in the yeshivos? Acts that are covered up, of course, by their leaders. I am pretty sure that ,sadly, there are plenty of homosexuals even in Ramat Beth Shemesh. Clearly, the homosexual act is forbidden by the Torah but it is indisputable that there are men (and women) who have homosexual tendencies. They merit our sympathy and attention, not our condemnation. And the MO/DL take their Torah very seriously, like defending their fellow Jew when in the army.

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  27. Not the best of examples, Joe Q. One has pitched his yurts in the same city and is not as bothered by its mayor as you are. Robbie was gallivanting about with his former drug suppliers and is a wild character indeed, but has cut costs, curbed the insatiable unions and led a fairly competent administration until the old guard of the privileged inner city espresso crowd tied his hands. The fair city's reputation has not really suffered...claims by enemies in the media and council hall not withstanding. Rough case? Sure, but not to be compared with a poltroon of a mayor who acts as a water boy for only half of his constituency, plans to move in many more mendicants to secure his next reelection and meekly takes instructions from unelected rabbis in backrooms. Bet Shemesh would veritably flower under our Robbie; a crack-smoking buffoonish mayor still provides for better optics than one who is indifferent when his supporters shout obscenities and spit at little girls, one dares say.

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  28. Here's an outstanding commentary and analysis by a charedi from Bet Shemesh -- written before the election but well worth reading:

    http://tinyurl.com/oxgazvp

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  29. "False accusation. We accused that there was systematic fraud. And this was true."

    Well, this Maariv article seems to systematically show that indeed the argument was false - grossly false.

    Read and see for yourself:

    ENGLISH VERSION:
    http://ideago.com/the-chareidim-are-right-there-was-no-reason-to-invalidate-the-beit-shemesh-elections/

    ORIGINAL HEBREW VERSION
    http://www.nrg.co.il/app/index.php?do=blog&encr_id=79974780b5e0d394fddbd1a00f4f21d3&id=4899

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  30. No, that article does not even attempt to argue that there was no systemic fraud.

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  31. Is there any chance the suggestion to split Beit Shemesh into two different municipalities will come up again after this election result? As far as I know, it was brought up a few times in past years.

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  32. I think that Abutbul's meeting with the homosexual group raises questions regarding how serious he is about upholding true Torah values. What is more important-supporting the kollels and making sure one's s'machot have separate seating or opposing that which is called an abomination.

    This is not assuming that one who has such an inclination is necessarily abominable but it is reprehensible to grant legitimacy to those who are proud of acting on that inclination just at is wrong to grant legitimacy to child molesters.

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  33. Temujin -- We can agree to disagree. I think our Mayor's efforts at cost-cutting have been vastly overhyped by his own publicity machine, and where I work, his antics form a topic of conversation that one has to get through with any external clients before serious business can be gotten down to. I don't mean to make an analogy to Beit Shemesh -- maybe RF can go there? -- except to say that when city governance goes off the rails, it provides a reputation that is hard to shake off.

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  34. Indeed so, Joe Q, we do have bigger issues now...such as getting home through what must be ten centimetres of snow by now with nary a municipal snowplow in sight. A temporary exchange of mayors might cause confusion in the press and perhaps improve the reputations of both cities? Abutbol in a Borsolino hosting public barbecues and turning kosher wieners for the crowds at the annual Gay Parade and Robbie sharing mickeys of vodka with truant kollelniks in the parks of Ramat Bet Shemesh.

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  35. I am a Miztahi Jew and i am thrilled Abutbul won.
    Rav Silkins comments come over as quite anti Sephardi though not intentionally.
    There was a report a week or so ago, that showed that 53% of the Synagogues in Israel pray adot hamizrach, 35% Ashkenaz and the rest what ever the hazan decides.
    That's one big Sephardi majority for religious and traditional jews.
    The views in this column do not represent those on the ground.
    For myself may this vile anti religious government with Lapid and Bennett its leading serpents fall.
    There may well be a case for more Haredi particpation in all walks, but MK Yoni Chetboun today exposed its anti religious ways, its worth reading his comments.
    There is the right way to do things and the wrong way, which is why this government will fall, and thats being rational

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  36. S Judah, I have a question for you:

    If someone thinks that the charedi way of life (no army, not working) needs to be changed, do you automatically consider them to be anti-religious?

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  37. I wish that people would stop suggesting we split Beit Shemesh into two cities. That would make things so much worse for so many people in Ramah Aleph - including Rabbi Slifkin. here are many non-hareidi and peaceful hareidi people in the Ramah who would be devastated if that happened. Many of the hardest-working supporters of Eli Cohen live in the Ramah. Meanwhile, the voting turnout in regular Beit Shemesh wasn't as good as hoped, and some of us from the Ramah went to volunteer and knock on doors to urge them to vote. T

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  38. Dear Rabbi Slifkin,

    These are the words of MK Chetboun of Beit Antiyehudi on the draft and I share his views.

    “I will not be a part of the incitement and I will not be a part of the anti-Jewish move… The initiators of the law succeeded and the split from the chareidi tzibur is complete and therefore, I will not vote for it. As a major in the IDF reserves, and as an officer and a commander, I have decided today to stand firm on my principles and to oppose this anti-religious trend. I love the Torah and love our state, and I am a big believer in our wonderful people. ואהבת לרעך כמוך”, adding “this verse does not apply just in the IDF, but for each and every Jew, left or right, Ashkenazi or Sephardi, and even the chareidi tzibur” he stated.

    Chetboun continues, questioning when the day will come that the “Israeli secular elite” will recognize the value of limud Torah and the contribution of the chareidim. He mentions the numerous anti-religious bills that have been pushed through in this Knesset, the cuts for monthly child allowance payments, the cuts to hesder yeshivot and much more. “My friends, this is an Israeli cultural war”.

    I an no Haredi, I am a traditional Sephardi, and one needs to spend time in the Mahane Yehuda shuk to understand the Sephardi street. Or have been one of the multitude at Rav Ovadia's funeral.

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  39. No, that article does not even attempt to argue that there was no systemic fraud.

    the article argues that the judges used 36 illegal haredy votes to fraudulently invalidate an election so that their fellow seculars can win.

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  40. Gavriel M.: Yeah, Moshe Rabbeinu made some of those too. But maybe it was one of those he didn't mean to be taken seriously, like wearing tekhelet.

    Hodo Hashem said...
    I agree with Gavriel M. If (or when) Abutbol said something against the homosexuals and THAT should be something wrong?


    Here's the thing: if the issue is so simple, why is it necessary for Abutbol to make factually false claims, such as the fact that there are no homosexuals in Beit Shemesh. We know, that there is a percentage of the population that is homosexual genetically or congenitally. When there is something in your religious worldview that requires you to have false beliefs, then you should examine your worldview; it is likely defective.

    His comments were both ignorant and offensive and R. Slifkin was right to condemn them.

    (However, I must admire Gavriel M's creativity in shoe-horning his hobby horse into the conversation).

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  41. Look at the new draft law. Only a fool thinks it will actually pull in more than a few dozen boys...Supreme court decrees will be ignored. What, the police are going to arrest 100 000 rioting Chareidim? (Mighty Garnel Ironheart)

    True, but full Haredi participation in the army or arrests of draft-dodgers may not be the actual aim of the government. More likely, a range of fiscal, social and civil penalties...such as ineligibility for some social services and tax breaks...which will bite even more in the long term. These will trim-down the out-of-control kollel economy and accomplish the goal of Hareidi participation in the labour force and eventually the army much more effectively. Meanwhile, the Hareidi are missing the picture as they are getting all worked-up over ludicrous mental images of pale and bespectacled yeshiva bochers being dragged away from their books or moms' Shabbat table into paddy wagons by burly Cossacks. Red herrings vs theatrics, Sir Ironheart.

    S Judah, repetition still doesn't support your argument that this is either incitement, an anti-Jewish move, a cultural war or an attack on Sephardim by the "secular." It all still looks like a privileged sector fighting tooth and nail, with all the desperate tactics and slander it can muster, to retain its unsustainable and unfair exemptions and privileges.

    However, I must admire Gavriel M's creativity in shoe-horning his hobby horse into the conversation. (David Ohsie)

    Second that thought, although when R'Slifkin refused to bite on the teheilet lure, Temujin abandoned all hope that he'd be able to shoehorn his own hobby horse of opposition to global warming alarmism.

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  42. "We know, that there is a percentage of the population that is homosexual genetically or congenitally."

    Actually, we know no such thing, though I have no doubt there plenty of active and non-active homosexuals in Beth Shemesh.

    To be honest, I still don't know what Abutbol's comments were, but, generally speaking, people should not be condemned for making "disparaging" comments about homosexuals. While graphic rhetoric is best avoided, all religious politians should make it clear that their behaviour is abominable and should be outlawed.

    People should, of course, always be condemned for making incorrect comments, but if we were remotely consistent about that, especially with regard to the human sciences, we would hardly have time to do anything else.

    ***
    I didn't say that remarks like that make *me* affiliate Haredi, I said that, in point of fact, things like that make some people affiliate Haredi and, at one time, I was one of those people. One doesn't have to agree with such a phenomenon to recognise that it exists.

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  43. To be honest, I still don't know what Abutbol's comments were, but, generally speaking, people should not be condemned for making "disparaging" comments about homosexuals. While graphic rhetoric is best avoided, all religious politicians should make it clear that their behaviour is abominable and should be outlawed.


    Gavriel M, Temujin is delighted that he gets to recycle part of a post which never made it on the thread because he missed the sarcasm in another's comment. Please say you're not being sarcastic as well. Waste not; want not, as they say, so here we go:

    Abutbol is entitled to his views and to express them...hopefully in an intelligent, fair and sensitive manner. But he is a salaried mayor of a city in a modern nation state with laws and conventions and cannot pretend that Gays do not exist in his town, refuse to meet with their reps or, if meeting with them, treat them disrespectfully and in a discriminatory fashion. They are his fellow citizens and his position comes with duties and responsibilities to properly and without prejudice represent all of his constituents and their legal assemblies.

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