New Local Blog

I've recently joined forces with ModiInfo, a local quarterly English-language publication, to create a new English news blog for Modiin. You can view it here.
I hope that as it gains steam, we'll be able to do some interesting things with it.


Lieberman’s Civil Agenda

There’s been a lot of discussion lately about Avigdor Lieberman’s terms for joining a coalition, as strong component of which is a civil agenda with three main elements:

a. An oath of loyalty as a prerequisite for citizenship (upon reaching 18 years of age).

b. Easing of the conversion process.

c. Creating of a civil union/ marriage mechanism.

With regard to (a), I’m neither here not there. I have not been convinced that it is such a big that it warrants vehement promotion or opposition. It’s like pledging allegiance.

With regard to (b) and (c), I see significant overlap between the issues. The main reason for easing the conversion process is to make it easier for people to get married in Israel. There may be some other objective, but the primary one is that personal status issues in Israel are largely halakhically defined. Relaxing conversion standards will make a whole lot of people very happy.

The thing is, recognition of civil unions would accomplish pretty much the same thing. It would allow people to gain a certain personal status without having to go through a halakhic framework.

Allow me to illustrate: let’s say Sergei and Svetlana (names chosen at random) wish to wed. Sergei’s father and Svetlana’s mother are Jewish, and from a secular social perspective, neither identifies as being more or less Jewish than the other. Unfortunately for them, they may not wed in the State of Israel, as those who are halakhically Jewish and those who are halakhically not Jewish may not wed legally in this country.

Both (b) and (c) can provide a way out for our lovebirds. (b) would allow Sergei to get a Vegas conversion (sans kabbalat mitzvot, for all but the most incorrigibly naïve) so that he and Svetlana can live happily ever after. (c) would allow them to obviate the whole issue by essentially importing Cyprus into Israel. Sergei can therefore remain his (halakhically) gentile self and marry his basherte without having to convert.

In general, I’m in favor of civil unions in Israel, though I understand that the issue is very complicated. When compared with (b), however, it is by far the lesser of two evils. The conversion agenda is being promoted by people with minimal respect for the halakha and even less interest in observing it. The “problem” with conversion is that it requires a commitment to a lifestyle change that many potential converts are simply not interested in adopting. So what happens? Yvette and Tzipi get together and agree to promote an interpretation of the halakha that allows for wholesale conversions.

Civil unions, at the very least, would not further politicize the halakhic process in Israel. At best, it may start to rehabilitate it, as halakha begins once again to operate free of massive political pressure. Sure, there will always be rabbis who would be megayer a horse if you pay him enough. Nevertheless, we should not go around eating onions just because our breath already stinks.

An interesting difference of opinion regarding (b) and (c) stems, as far as I can tell, from the Reform and Conservative movements. The Reform movement does not want to stop with civil unions because they are aiming for state recognition. They want the state to actively recognize Reform conversions and weddings, and not simply offer a secular alternative to a religious ceremony. The Conservative movement seems to tend more toward (c) – let there be a civil union, the Rabbanut ceases to be the sole authority for weddings, and people can arrange their wedding ceremonies however they desire after visiting the civil authorities. They seem much less interested in state recognition of their religious services. I’m not really sure what causes this distinction.


More Local Voting Breakdown

I’m having way too much fun playing on the Knesset Election website. Below, I compare the (updated) Buchman results with the national results and the results from Modiin as a whole. For fun, I also threw in results from Hashmonaim, Modiin Illit, and Matityahu. I also included the entire Ramle region, which includes all of the areas surveyed. Number of votes cast appears on the bottom line. Sorry about the poor quality.

There’s one somewhat mixed (RZ and Haredi) neighborhood in Hashmonaim that votes with Kiryat Sefer. That accounts for some of the non-UTJ vote. The one vote for Meretz in Modiin Illit – chalk it up to some relative of Zivya Greenfield. I’d like to meet the guy who voted Labor, though. Maybe he thought, for some reason, that “EMET” had to be a Haredi party. The fellow from Matityahu who voted Kadima – good luck with the shidduchim, buddy. I just found out that little Matityahu has the most uniform voting pattern in the entire country.

I think that the relatively poor showing for Bayit Yehudi and Yesrael Beitenu in Hashmonaim is interesting. Those who wanted to vote right went with, for the most part, Likud or NU. The regional results are much more religious and much more right wing than I expected. Only a small part of this region is on the post-1967 side of the Green Line. Go figure.


Election Results for Buchman

[UPDATED: I missed one ballot box in Gan Arbel. Thanks, Richie. The new data does not significantly alter the trends already noted: Slim majority for right-wing parties, and relatively strong showing for Likud and Moderate-to-left religious parties. The only surprise was Labor's strong showing at Kadima's expense.

Also, UTJ got 9 votes in the neighborhood. I think I can figure out a few of them, but 9 is more than I expected. Also, Hadash got 2 votes. Given that Buchman is as bougeoise as you can get, I think that these commies are in the wrong hood.]

I’ve tabulated the election results for the four polling stations at the Shivtei Yisrael school in Buchman. The data are based on the Knesset’s election results website. I only included tallies for parties that carried over 2% of the local vote. For some reason, city-wide results have not been tabulated, and the results for Modiin are included within the results for the Ramle region(and given the presence of cities such as Lod, Ramle, and Modiin Illit within that region, the regional results do not in any way reflect what the overall Modiin results would look like).

Here they are:


Total Votes

% of Votes

National Avg (%)













Bayit Yehudi




National Union












Israel Our Home








Total ballots cast: 2629

Qualifying ballots: 2622


These results tell us a lot about the composition of the neighborhood. Labor and Kadima both outperformed their national averages, and Meretz stayed virtually the same (underperformed by 4 votes). The fourth left-wing party (Green-Meimad) outperformed its national average by nearly 400%; more on that later.

With regard to the right-wing parties, the Likud garnered 50% more than its national average, but the second-largest right wing party, Israel Our Home, was the worst underperformer amongst major/ non-sectarian (i.e., non-Arab, non-Haredi) parties.

The (non-Haredi) parties with religious agendas - Green-Meimad, National Union, and Bayit Yehudi – all did better than their national averages. However, whereas NU got maybe 15 or so more votes than the national average would project, both Bayit Yehudi and Green-Meimad beat their national averages by high-triple-digit orders of magnitude. This would indicate that the neighborhood has an above average number of religious residents (surprising given the lack of synagogues and mikva’ot in the neighborhood), and that its religious residents tend toward the more politically moderate than the yishuv-dwelling Religious Zionists.

However, assuming that only religious people voted for NU, Green-Meimad, Bayit Yehudi, and Shas – an assumption that is by no means assured – that means that barely 20% of the neighborhood (which is estimated to be 40-50% religious; the thing about synagogues was facetious and sarcastic) voted for religious parties. Where did the rest of them go?

It is hard to break this down, but the answer seems to be primarily to the Likud. It is quite possible that Buchman has more right-wing secularists than the national average, but Lieberman’s poor performance suggests otherwise. Assuming that all of the Likud’s “outperformance” votes were accounted for by religious voters, and then considering that religious voters made up a solid proportion of Likud’s voters in general, it seems likely that 50% or more of the Likud’s local support came from religious voters.

Consider it from a different perspective: About 44% of the neighborhood voted for secular-leaning parties (Labor, Kadima, Israel Our Home, Meretz), and about 23% voted for religious-leaning parties (Shas, NU, Bayit Yehudi, and Meimad-Green). Lets assume that religious voters for secular parties offset the secular voters for religious parties. If you split Likud right down the middle, you end up with a neighborhood that is 40% religious and 60% secular, with a politically moderate religious community (meaning center-right, not extreme right) and a politically left secular community. Sounds about right.

In general, almost 59% of neighborhood voters cast ballots for the two largest parties (as opposed to a national average of about 44%). This is generally attributable to the lack of special-interest groups (Haredim and Arabs) in the neighborhood, but it might also mean that people here tend to cast their votes pragmatically as opposed to ideologically. I view that as a healthy sign.


Done my Duty

I've now voted in the Israeli general election. The only other time I voted nationally was during the Prime Ministerial election of 2000, when Ariel Sharon defeated Ehud Barak in a landslide. I have never before voted in a Knesset election.
I brought the kids along to show them how it works. I remember going with my mother to the polls when she voted for Reagan over Carter at Northwestern Senior High School in Baltimore, MD.
At our polling station (about a block from our house), a group of activists from the Meimad-Green party were outside, canvassing for votes. MK (though probably not for long) Rabbi Michael Melchior was there, and I introduced my kids to him. I like Rav Melchior. I think he's a really good guy, and probably the best role model for what a rabbi's role in government can and, perhaps, ought to be. He's also the closest thing that Israel has to a UK-style Chief Rabbi.
I didn't vote for him (ED from RBS - don't worry!), but I want my kids to see him as a true role model. Unfortunately, he asked my older son whether he's familiar with two Israeli kids' TV-show characters (can't remember the names, something like Izzik and Gizzik). We don't have a TV, and my kids was totally confused (I was, too, honestly). Whatever. A noble attempt to establish rapport with a 4-year-old, but sort of an anticlimactic.
The older 2 kids got to put the envelopes into the ballot box, which made them feel part of the process.
I've been hearing about a lot of people who had been considering voting for a satellite right-wing party, but who switched back to Likud in recent days out of concern that Likud would lose its lead. I would not be surprised if the Likud outperforms all expectations as a result, but that may just be wishful thinking.

UPDATE: Apparently, I was not the only one to notice Rav Melchior in Modiin (link).


Pre-Election Roundup

Just a few random thoughts about the upcoming election:

1) Why do media outlets refer to Moshe Ya’alon as “Bogey” and not “Boogie”. The former is a reference to a hostile aircraft or mucus. The latter to a 70s style dance culture. I'd much rather be a dance than a MiG or snot. It would be cool if he became Defense Minister and they started to play "Play that Funky Music, White Boy" as he makes his way to the podium.

2) Typical of our community: When discussing the Likud, the presence of 5 religious candidates amongst the top 22 always comes up. One candidate who’s gotten a bunch of good press is Tzipi Hotobeli. 30 years old, seemingly very serious about religion (long skirt and long sleeve variety; wouldn’t really dance in this video), child of Georgian (Stalin’s Georgia, not Carter’s) immigrant, lawyer, cable TV personality – always ends with the line “but she needs a shidduch”. Then the discussion becomes “who do we know for her”. It reminds me about the one where a Jewish mother is extremely proud of her daughter, the President of the United States, for marrying a doctor.

3) The election is not about policies, unfortunately. I did one of those on-line tests, and came out with a close match to Kadima, who I am not voting for because, frankly, I see them as a bunch of self-serving opportunists. Maybe all politicians are like that, but this is just way over the top. Similarly, the 3 things for which Rav Ovadia equated Yvette with Satan – legalizing serving pork in restaurants, drafting yeshiva students, and creating a system of civil marriages. I guess I’m with Satan, then, because I happen to support all three of those policies (in the same sense that Yvette does, namely, WRT pork for example, that there should be no law against selling pork at a restaurant). I sympathize with both elements, each in their own way (and still recall the “nash control” ads for the now-defunct Yisrael Ba’Aliyah party in the late 1990s which typified the antagonisms between the Mizrahim and Russians).

4) This is more social than political, but the integration of different Jewish cultures in Israel continues apace, except in Haredi circles. UTJ and Shas are the only pure Ashkenazi and pure non-Askenazi parties left (excluding Arab parties). I spoke with a Haredi cousin – and Ashkenazi married to a Sephardi – a few weeks ago, and she lamented the divisions between the two communities in Israel. I countered that my daughter’s class is fully integrated, and that I have several neighbors who are of mixed Jewish ethnicity. It was my Haredi sister who offered that the ethnic separation remains more in the Haredi world than anywhere else.

5) In this election, my overriding concern has become keeping Tzipi Livni and Ehud Barak out of the PMO. I will cast my vote accordingly.


Does Tzipi Livni have ADD?

In this article, Ari Shavit notes that, even worse than her short temper, "her more serious critics believe she has an attention deficit."
Aside from the fact that I think that ADD might even be helpful for executives, what's up with this? Look I'm not going to vote for Kadima JUST BECAUSE Tzipi has ADD. This bit of anti-ADD prejudice, however, is very disturbing. JFK, Winston Churchill, Woodrow Wilson, Abraham Lincoln, Eisenhower, and Anwar Sadat all had ADD. There are some solid statesmen in there.
So watch yourself, Shavit. You do not want to provoke the wrath of the ADD Nation. You can label us as problematic or diseased, and you can try to medicate us out of existence, but we will continue to see things that you will never be able to see and to bring our prodigious talents to the fore.

I do not suffer from ADD. I enjoy every minute of it.