Saturday, June 29, 2013

Nefesh B'Nefesh Should Pull a Reagan on the Foreign Ministry

Every time there's a strike in Israel, which is pretty often, Americans get to reminiscing about how Reagan dealt with with air traffic controller strike in 1981 - he ordered the striking controllers back to work, and fired those who didn't do so within 48 hours. It's a nice fantasy to imagine something like that working in Israel, but I think that the culture and bureaucracy are too different from those in America for such a move to work and not backfire politically.

The current strike in the Foreign Ministry is unique, in that it's not just Israelis who are being affected. Visits by foreign leaders are being disrupted, and Aliyah visas are not being issued. The latter is affecting those who are planning to immigrate this summer. Nefesh B'Nefesh, which aids and helps process olim from North American and England, estimates that hundreds of potential olim will be affected if the strike is not resolved.

However, there is a simple solution to the problem. A strike can only work if the striking workers have the power to stop some service. Reagan showed that the striking air traffic controllers did not have this power by firing them and finding replacements. Nefesh B'Nefesh, as a representative of potential olim, can make a similar end-run around the Foreign Ministry.

There are two ways to make aliyah. One is to get an Aliyah visa from the Israeli Foreign Ministry while still in your country of origin, and obtain citizenship as you enter Israel. The other way works for those already in the country. You can go to the Interior Ministry in Israel (which, as far as I know, is not on strike), and they will process your Aliyah.

Instead of dealing with the Foreign Ministry, Nefesh B'Nefesh should go straight to the Interior Ministry here, and work with them to process the hundreds of people they will be bringing. These olim-to-be can fly to Israel on the planned charter or regular flights, enter the country as tourists (like any North American Brit does when they visit), and be immediately processed by Interior Ministry officials. So instead of entering the country as olim, they will enter as tourists, and then become olim a short while later.

There are some issues with this plan which would need to be addressed. The flights to Israel are payed for by the Jewish Agency. They have always (by always, I even mean pre-NBN) paid for the flight to Israel for anyone with an Aliyah visa (at least from the US; I don't know it this is true for olim from other countries). The Jewish Agency would have to be convinced to pay for the flights for planeloads of people who will enter as tourists and make Aliyah soon after their arrival. However, the Jewish Agency's head of Aliyah, Yehuda Sharf, told the Jerusalem Post that the agency "intends to do everything in its power to alleviate their problems". They may have reservations about the plan, but since they were going to pay for the flights anyway, overcoming them shouldn't be much of a hurdle.

I don't know what other issues may arise, including legal ones, but there's at least one member of Knesset who made Aliyah with Nefesh B'Nefesh's help. I imagine he's be more than willing to assist in any way he can.

Thursday, June 27, 2013

McDonalds Israel - I'm Not Lovin' It

Rami Levi is opening a new Mall in Ariel, a largish Israeli town of 18,000+ people, which happens to be over the Green Line (i.e., it's in the West Bank). McDonalds Israel has refused to open a branch there, as its policy, set by owner Omri Padan, is not to do business beyond the Green Line. As founder of Peace Now, Omri Padan has solid left-wing credentials. He also seems to be pretty open about the connection between his personal philosophy and his business decisions.

This is not the first time that McDonalds Israel has been in the news recently for extra-culinary reasons. In November 2012, at the end of Operation Pillar of Defense, a terrorist placed a bomb on a bus in Tel Aviv, injuring over 20 Israelis. He then returned to his job at McDonalds in the Modiin Mall. Omri Padan seemed to be pretty quiet about distancing his company from its employee's action.

If you support peace, you have to rejects efforts from both sides which you feel hinder it. If not, you may be using your ideology to mask a deeper bigotry.

Sunday, June 23, 2013

The Difference Between Terrorists and Chareidim at Hebrew University

Hebrew University is planning to accommodate Chareidi students who would prefer to study in a gender-segregated environment by offering separate classrooms for men and women. The plan would not convert the entire campus to gender-segregated, nor, does it seem, would any part of the existing campus would be so converted. Rather, it would sponsor an existing Chareidi college, thereby turning it into a "Chareidi-friendly" part of Hebrew U.

Some 300 faculty members signed a petition against the move. (The article may be behind a paywall. I've copied it below.) The justification are as predictably as they are questionable, but I'm not going to get into that. It's old, and no one on either side of the debate is likely to change their mind any time soon. However, what the faculty chose to protest this week just highlights what they didn't protest last week.

Adel Himdi, a resident of East Jerusalem and a convicted terrorist, was given an PhD in Chemistry last week. Hebrew U students lodged a protest, while the faculty, apparently, was silent. Whether or not an academic institution should get involved with politics, or if it's even an issue of politics, is besides the point. The faculty not only didn't protest, but continued to teach him (although, wisely, they prohibited him from using their labs) and accepted his thesis.

Faculty members in Hebrew U seem to have no problem helping a terrorist learn chemistry (which, incidentally, is useful in bomb-making). You'd have to try to help Chareidim to get their attention.


Here's the Haaretz article:

Some 300 Hebrew University faculty members have signed a petition against gender segregation in the wake of the university’s plan to offer special B.A. programs to ultra-Orthodox students who want to study in gender segregated classrooms. 
The university senate convened last week for a stormy meeting to discuss the university’s sponsoring the Jerusalem Haredi College run by Adina Bar Shalom and turning it into the university’s Haredi campus. 
Due to the strong objection of its faculty, university rector Prof. Asher Cohen and President Prof. Menachem Ben Sasson decided not to raise the issue to a vote. 
“The lecturers find it difficult to agree to a gender segregation among students,” Cohen told Haaretz.”We decided to continue discussing the issue in depth,” he said. 
The petitioners say gender segregation violates the equality at the basis of academia’s spirit. Banning female lecturers from instructing male students is women’s exclusion de facto, they maintain. 
Surrendering to the ultra-Orthodox’s demand of gender segregation will not bring about their integration in society, which is the point of making higher education accessible to them, they add. “The proposal contradicts the university’s founding writ and will not stand the test of the High Court of Justice,” wrote some of the lecturers who signed the petition. 
“When I hear of gender segregation on a bus or in the street, I am outraged as a citizen. I don’t want this kind of thing to take place in my academic home,” says Prof. Rehav Rubin of Hebrew University. 
“It’s a shocking idea,” one lecturer wrote. “Neither gender segregation or sectorial instruction should be allowed within university walls.”
“Gender segregation at Hebrew University would lead to disaster,” a female lecturer wrote.
“The norms of gender segregation and female exclusion are expanding,” said deputy rector Prof. Orna Kupferman, who was in charge of integrating Haredim. “They are contrary to every principle the university stands for. We’re dealing with a separation that constitutes hierarchy and discrimination...Women are [seen as] inferior and that’s that.”
Kupferman said that while she wanted Haredim to acquire higher education, “the segregation is also contrary to the university constitution, which says ‘the university will be open to all, regardless of race, gender or religion,’” she said. 
“We’ve started a great move without segregation. Let’s continue it. There are more than 50 Haredi students in the university’s regular courses, 70 in preparatory courses and 85 percent of them want to continue studying for B.A. in our regular classes. An option with gender segregation will make it difficult for them to mingle,” she said. 
Several universities and colleges have been sponsoring academic courses for Haredi students, in gender segregated classrooms, on other campuses for the past decade. Now the Council for Higher Education ‏(CHE‏) intends to set up Haredi campuses close to or inside the sponsoring university or college. 
Most ultra-Orthodox students demand segregated classrooms, which means female lecturers cannot teach male students, but male lecturers may teach female students. 
The CHE has banned compulsory gender segregation in Haredi classrooms in universities and colleges and said in a statement it issued that institutions may only recommend such segregation, not impose it. The CHE said it would take disciplinary steps against any institution that imposes segregation. 
Today some 7,100 students are enrolled in Haredi colleges. Haifa, Tel Aviv and Bar-Ilan universities grant degrees to students in B’nei Brak’s Mivhar College and Jerusalem’s Haredi College. The students in these colleges attend separate classrooms for men and women.
The CHE has banned compulsory gender segregation in the Haredi classrooms to operate in universities and colleges. A university or college will take disciplinary steps against anyone pressuring to impose segregation on its grounds, the CHE said in a statement. 
However, Bar-Ilan University accepts and upholds gender segregation. It is in the process of setting up a separate compound for Haredi classrooms on the campus outskirts, with separate entrances and exits for men and women. Next year it will offer optometry courses for women and two preparatory courses, one for men and one for women. 
Bar-Ilan rector Professor Haim Teitelbaum says it’s important to bring ultra-Orthodox students to academic studies even at a price. “We’re not interested in changing them...If that’s the way they feel more comfortable studying, then that’s more important. There’s no point in insisting and demanding they study like the rest of the students. Our approach is live and let live. Both sides profit from it,” he says. 
The Technion has recently opened a preparatory course for men only and is about to open a similar course for women only. 
A Technion spokesman said the institution has undertaken to use male teachers in the all-male preparatory course, but in the degree studies the Haredi students may attend courses with female lecturers.
But unlike the Technion and Bar-Ilan University, at the Hebrew University in Jerusalem the prospect of a gender segregated campus is sparking angry reactions from faculty.
But a senior university official involved in Haredi education said: ”The Haredi public isn’t ripe to fit in the universities at this stage and needs separate frameworks.
“Something like the petition in Hebrew University could harm the drive for academic studies for Haredim, which is the most important part. It could deter Haredi students, who are hard to draw to academic studies as it is,” he said. Today the Hebrew University already has a Haredi, gender-segregated preparatory course together with the university-founded Magid Institute. The controversy was sparked by the possibility of offering gender-segregated B.A. studies.

Rosenblum Apologized - Deal With it and Focus and the Issues

[This was originally composed as a comment on a post on Natan Slifkin's "Rationalist Judasim" blog. As a response thereto, the Slifkin's post should be read first.]

It seems that Slifkin thinks that Rosenblum should have apologized for more than he did. His apology was directed toward his mis-characterization of Lipman's actions during the Orot incident, and that apology, as you noted, was "great".

The apology part of Rosenblum's article was not lacking in the way that Lipkin notes Shafran's or Tropper's were. His problem seems to be that Rosenblum didn't apologize even further. The “all-out attack” which follows was largely dedicated to defending his original statements, which Lipman attacked in his article. Slifkin may not like Rosenblum’s opinions, but he is entitled to them, and the fact that Rosenblum had something to apologize for does not mean that he has to keep quiet about everything else.

Slifkin's rule about giving two reasons sounds nice, but it can only be applied once the second reason given has been disproven. Why assume that the focus, both in Rosenblum’s original article and in Lipman’s response, on the Orot incident was not a distraction from real issues which divide the two, but is, in fact, the real issue? (Better question – why assume that it is the major issue?) Attempting to demonstrate that Rosenblum’s apology was incomplete, even if the assertion is correct, is immaterial when considering whether or not the Orot incident is a distraction in the larger context of Rosenblum’s fault-finding with Lipman.

Don’t get me wrong – I’m not taking Rosenblum’s side. But he apologized for a specific fault, and he should be given credit for that. It may have been poor form to apologize for one thing and attack for something else in the same article, but poor form does not a hollow apology make. It’s ironic that Rosenblum repeated his offense of not checking his facts at the end of his article. However, most of the information which he ignored is hardly stuff which is widely known. Poor journalism, yes, but a transgression? Perhaps a bit harsh.

(This may not be his only apology. As Harry Maryles pointed out even before the public apology, Rosenblum and Lipman may meet at the RCA convention, and a personal apology may be proffered there. Of course, a private apology may be given before that, which may remain between the two, not even being shared with personal confidants of either of the two.)

Rosenblum makes plenty of specious claims. Let’s not waste time on what we think of his apology, and focus instead on his charges.

Side point: The fact that Rosenblum was given, both by Slifkin and Michael Lipkin, correct information about the Orot incident may or may not be relevant. It all depends on what other "information" he received at the time from other parties, which we don't (and may never) know. It wouldn't be a major shock to find out that someone sympathetic to the extremists' cause was feeding Rosenblum misinformation at the same time that Slifkin and Lipkin were giving correcting that information. True, he could have done better by getting a tour of the area, but perhaps, in his eyes, Slifkin and Lipkin are biased, so why should he have trusted their version of the facts?

Thursday, June 20, 2013

Is Avi Weiss Anti-Feminist?

Yeshivat Maharat graduated its first class of three ordained women, the first time, at least in modern history, that an organization which affiliates itself with an Orthodox stream of Judaism has done so. Rabbi Avi Weiss, the founder of Yeshivat Maharat, has penned a justification of this seeming break with tradition in the pages of the Times of Israel (please excuse my anachronistic writing style; I know that neither pens nor pages were involved).

In the blog post, Rabbi Weiss seemingly undercuts his own position, giving examples of women throughout history who have served as spiritual leaders:
Biblical personalities like Sarah, Miriam, Devorah and Esther served as supreme spiritual leaders. In our century, Sarah Schneirir was the founder of the Beis Yaakov school network in Poland. More recently, Chaya Mushka Schneerson, wife of the Lubavitcher rebbe, served as religious mentor to countless women in Lubavitch leadership.
Today, haredi women lead their schools; a woman heads the Talmud Department at Riverdale, New York’s SARAcademy; women serve as presidents of Modern Orthodox synagogues; and women are serving as full time members of the clergy in Orthodox synagogues in New York and Chicago.
Whatever one's feelings about the issue (and, let's face it, this cannot be resolved without the benefit of hindsight), it's indisputable that  the examples he gave are women who had no ordination, nor, apparently, any need for one. In addition, women continue to fill communal roles without any sort of ordination (graduates of Yeshivat Maharat notwithstanding).

So why is an official ordination all of a sudden necessary? Could it be that Rabbi Weiss feels that it's better for women to serve once a man has given them his seal of approval? Doesn't sound like he's trying to advance the feminist cause.

Sunday, June 16, 2013

Yesh Atid shouldn't get too excited about Rav Yosef

Unless you've been living in a cave, or just avoiding sensationalist news in general (always a good idea), if you're living in Israel or following things here, you've heard that Rav Ovadia Yosef has called Rav David Stav, who's a candidate for the position of Chief Ashkenazi Rabbi of Israel, "evil".

In general, I try to stay out of things involving statements of gedolim, no matter how much I find them (the statements) distasteful. Often they are taken out of context and/or distorted, and sometimes the statements are made based on misinformation fed to them by their handlers. More importantly, I'm dwarfed by their commitment to and knowledge of Torah, and if they truly believe that their opinion reflects one of the legitimate paths of Torah (find me a non-Chareidi who denies that there are many legitimate paths of Torah), who am I to argue? Rav Ovadia reportedly severely compromised his eyesight learning Torah in an Egyptian jail cell. I know few people, if any, who could measure up to that level of commitment.

Thus, I'm not going to lambaste Rav Ovadia for his statements regarding Rav Stav. I don't think that they were taken out of context or distorted, and I can't imagine what misinformation they could be based on. I'm uncomfortable with the statements, but they were so unmitigatedly harsh that very little can be said about them that isn't blatantly obvious.

However, Rav Ovadia did not invent the harsh personal attack. In a column about Hananel Dayan, none other than Yair Lapid called the outstanding soldier such things as "miserable", "imbecile", "horrible", "muddled", "irrelevant" (although apparently not so irrelevant as to be ignored), and a "spoiled brat". The statements were so harsh that Dayan sued Lapid (and won) for using insulting statements (HT).

Predictably, Rav Ovadia has taken a lot of heat for his statements. But let's not pretend that he has a monopoly over this type of speech. Even Yair Lapid, whose campaign slogan was "We've come to change" finds this kind of talk useful at times. As Shai Piron would say, "Does he think that to speak this about a person he has never met is moral? Halachic? Jewish?" I don't think so, and neither does Piron. But maybe Lapid does.