Dei'ah veDibur - Information & Insight

A Window into the Chareidi World

21 Shevat 5761 - Febuary 14, 2001 | Mordecai Plaut, director Published Weekly







How Much do Chareidim Really Get?

By A. Porat, with Yoni Rottenberg

* Children in kibbutzim receive from the Education Ministry's budget a sum equivalent to that received by all the children in the chareidi sector put together, though there are more than three times as many chareidi children!

* Ma'ariv's theater critic wrote about the play, "I immediately understood, [the play's message] that if I want to protect myself, I would be well advised to burn down a DOS neighborhood as fast as possible."

* El Al may therefore lose by renewing Saturday flights even according to its own figures.

This article is the third in a series that will appear from time to time discussing the allocation of public financial resources of the State of Israel.

The previous articles dealt with two issues: the claim that chareidim get a big monthly financial package from the government, and the claim that chareidim pay very little tax. They showed that the first claim often made is based on calculations that are misleading to say the least, including support and subsidies that are received by everyone and calculating tax savings in a ridiculous manner, and that if the same calculations are made elsewhere they show that a typical secular family gets even more per month.

The second claim also breaks down under analysis. Most chareidim do work and pay taxes, for one thing, and also almost half the government's income is from indirect taxes on consumption like VAT, which certainly are paid by chareidi consumers as much as anyone else.

This part focuses on the money that is funneled to the various parties who have their fingers in the pie. It explains the important difference in the way chareidi institutions are funded, compared to the way that other comparable institutions are funded, namely, that regular institutions (such as boarding schools) are funded from the general budget, whereas all chareidi institutions are funded from support monies.

As we quoted Rabbi Yaakov Gutterman, who until recently worked for the chareidi MKs (now he is mayor of Kiryat Sefer): "The key to understanding this topic lies in the terms `budget' (taktziv) and `support' (temicha). The chareidi public is hardly ever included within one of the sections of the standard budget, but only within the framework of support. That is why we are discriminated against in all government offices. Criteria for the budget are formulated to accommodate the needs of the secular society and in most cases are totally irrelevant to the chareidi public, so that we are forced to make do with the small amounts allocated to us within the support framework. Most of the sums to which each government ministry is entitled are swallowed up by the ministry's budget, and the budget is allocated automatically, whereas money from the support fund has to be fought for anew each year."

The most telling indication of this, as Rabbi Gutterman noted, is the fact that only in the Ministry of Religion is the budget made up largely of support funds, in contrast to every other ministry where support funds form a very small part of the overall budget.

Double Support

Although the Attorney-General held -- in an anti-chareidi decision -- that "double support" is forbidden, secular institutions in practice openly receive double funding from different bodies. The reason for this is -- once again -- the important difference between the standard budget and the support funds. Anyone interested in support funds is required to have his application approved on a yearly basis, has to pass stringent controls and finds it more difficult to come up with different descriptions and definitions for the same activity, since everything shows up in the published material under the single general category of "support for organization X."

Someone entitled to funds from the general budget, on the other hand, receives the money automatically, including linkage to the cost-of-living index and supplements for natural increase in population served. Moreover, every activity undertaken by an organization can be defined as coming within a different category of the budget.

Support or Budget, the Universities are Well- Funded

The universities, for example, receive NIS 5.2 billion ($1.25 billion) from the higher education section of the Education Ministry's budget. This does not prevent them from receiving further funds from the same Ministry within the framework of support for public bodies, as well as additional funds from the Absorption Ministry under the section called "advancement of new immigrants" and from the Science Ministry for purposes such as the "publications for the study of horticulture," and from local authorities, as well as other sources.

Suffice it to say that the head of the Arts department of Tel Aviv university earns NIS 62,160 (about $15,000) a month and the Legal Adviser of that university NIS 61,565 a month. These figures give us some indication of the kind of sums being turned over to Israeli universities.

The truth is, it is difficult to keep track of all the budgetary activities of NPOs (amutot), but it may reasonably be assumed that various sports or nature- related NPOs actually belong to the same institution, which has just given different names to different activities. Barak, during the 1999 elections, did not invent the "amutot system": the people running his election campaign must have been familiar with it from other cases.

The Society for the Protection of Nature in Israel (SPNI), as a public body, receives funds from the Education Ministry to the tune of NIS 25 million a year. In addition, the society receives funds from the Environment Ministry for every day seminar held for school children or soldiers.

Na'amat, a women's organization, is financed by the Absorption, Education and Social Welfare Ministries, in addition to half a million NIS paid out by Tel Aviv municipality. The Israeli Forum receives money from both the Education and the Absorption Ministries, the Shomer Hatzair (extreme left-wing movement) from both the Education and Science Ministries.

Azit, the Movement of Mediterranean Song received money from the Education Ministry, from Tel Aviv municipality and from the Ministry of Industry and Trade (which, incidentally, was only asked for 180,000 NIS but, amazingly, decided on its own accord, to dish out 250,000 NIS). The Council for a Beautiful Eretz Yisroel did beautiful fundraising and managed to receive funds from four different sources for 1999: the Education, Health and Defense Ministries and Tel Aviv municipality. (The Israeli chareidi organization Manof published a long list of bodies receiving double support or more together with all the sums).

The Absorption Ministry, within the framework of funds for public bodies, supports the organization for the Advancement of Sport in Israel, the Music center, Noah's Ark Theater, the Israeli Chess Society, the Israeli Sports organization for the Deaf, Shai Agnon House and, of course, the universities.

Amongst the list of beneficiaries appearing on the Transport Ministry's list of public bodies you will find dozens of community centers. These centers receive, in addition, colossal sums from municipalities and the Education Ministry. Tel Aviv municipality, for example, pays out some NIS 34.5 million ($8.3 million) to the 28 community centers in its jurisdiction every year!

The Transport Ministry also supports amutot for the elderly. Is there any connection between the elderly or community centers and transport, or between music, theater and sport for the deaf on the one hand and the Absorption Ministry on the other? It seems that the "criteria" are very liberally interpreted.

We would suggest that music, for example, or sport for the deaf have more in common with the Health or Transport Ministries and Mediterranean song with the Foreign Ministry. Why does the Absorption Ministry not finance Torah shiurim for new immigrants, or the Transport Ministry kollelim for the elderly?

Local Authorities -- "Mini-government"

Large sums of money are allocated via local authorities. In many cases this is another area where the chareidi public has to fight for its rights. Local authorities serve both as a mini-government and as the executive wing of the government and the Ministry of Finance. Wearing the hat of mini-government, municipalities support cultural causes close to their hearts, such as sport, football teams, municipal basketball, conservatories, local orchestras, dance groups, public libraries, and even youth group trips abroad. At the same time, local authorities serve as a conduit for Ministry of Finance funds for school equipment, air conditioning, welfare, transportation, leasing of buildings and wages for some of the workers in the educational system.

The budget of the Tel Aviv-Yaffo municipality for 1999 amounted to 2,61 billion NIS ($630 million), of which 350 million NIS came from central government and the remainder from the municipality's income. In Tel Aviv, the municipality's income from taxes is relatively high: they account for about a half of the budget. This is due to local taxes paid by businessmen, Tel Aviv having a high concentration of businesses.

The "nonstop city" gives very generous support to sport and culture. Five museums situated in the city receive some NIS 28.3 million ($6.8 million, of which 16.4 million (almost $4 million) go to the Art Museum), theaters receive NIS 18.9 million($4.55 million), libraries NIS 20 million ($4.8 million), music NIS 26 million ($6.27 million), youth and sport centers NIS 37 million ($8.9 million), community centers 34.5 million ($8.3 million)-- altogether NIS 165 million ($39.8 million). This, of course, is in addition to support from the central government of those bodies.

Even if the Finance Ministry approves funds for the chareidi sector, the money can get "stuck" somewhere on the way in a hostile municipality or even with a single anti- religious official, and then we have to start fighting all over again for funds to which we are legally entitled and promised.

Take the case of Beit Shemesh where the mayor is very hostile to the chareidi public. The chareidi public ends up being the loser. It is only when the chareidi public is the beneficiary, that there is a situation where funds have reached a local authority, which claims that the municipality is in debt and has no money to pay.

Again, one of the sources of the problem is that most of the funds we receive stem from the support sections and not from the general budget. These sections leave more room for flexibility and the possibility of making trouble for parties that are out of favor. It should be pointed out that local authorities receive money from the Finance Ministry according to the number of residents, and this makes the matter even more serious. If a municipality distributes its budget in a non-egalitarian manner, that constitutes a virtual embezzlement of public funds.

The Work of UTJ MKs

We would like to use this opportunity to express our appreciation of the immense efforts undertaken by UTJ members of Knesset regarding every topic, and especially all the work involving the budget. At a time when secular MKs are to be found in the Knesset snack bar or in the gym, or being interviewed by one of the swarm of broadcasters milling around the Knesset's corridors, you will find UTJ representatives running around from committee to committee discussing topics of relevance to the chareidi public, and from there to the Knesset plenum to ward off an anti- religious attack or to vote against a law.

During the lunch break, they sit in their offices and deal with the various problems affecting the public: the arrangement of permits, sorting out the problem of budget funds which have not reached their destination in spite of all agreements, confronting an official to convince him that a certain institution meets the necessary criteria. We must realize that every budget allocation has been preceded by immense ground work, the extent of which would amaze most of us.

The Education Ministry -- Cost of a Pupil

The social (that is, nonmilitary) ministry most heavily financed in Israel is the Education Ministry. During the past year it was due to receive about NIS 27 billion (about $6.7 billion).

The money is divided up as follows: NIS 5.2 billion ($1.25 billion -- 19 percent) go to higher education (the chareidi public has almost no share in this category), about NIS 21 billion ($5 billion) go to the education system and about a billion NIS are reserved for the support of culture, sport and educational television (for the year 2000 budget, a large portion of these funds -- NIS 493 million, almost half -- was transferred to the Science and Education Ministry).

It would not have been unreasonable for us to have expected our public which is, kein yirbu, blessed with large families, to be a main beneficiary of funds set aside for education. However, amazingly enough, the sums received by the chareidi public even from this supposedly egalitarian budget are much smaller than its relative share of the population as a whole.

There are currently 695,000 pupils studying in elementary education (this figure includes state and national-religious schools). The budget for the elementary education department of the Education Ministry amounts to 6,235,484,000 NIS for the year, in other words, about NIS 9100 ($2,190) per pupil a year and about NIS 750 ($181) a month. The High School population in Israel consists of 510,000 pupils, and the budget set aside for them is NIS 6,224,626,000, which works out to about NIS 12,200 ($2940) per pupil a year, and about NIS 1000 ($241) a month (high school students for this purpose includes the junior high school 7th and 8th grades). These figures take into account the total actual numbers and include categories with various different names.

The Chinuch Atzmai system (known as "recognized education") had 54,384 pupils learning in its schools that year. Its total annual budget amounted to NIS 374,496,000. In other words, NIS 6,414 ($1,546) per pupil a year or NIS 534.5 ($129) a month. In other words, though the Chinuch Atzmai pupils are 7.8 percent of the total pupils, their budget is only 6 percent of the total budget.

In practice, we have to add to the above figures separate sums allocated to headmasters, pedagogic directors, administration and staff units. All these sums -- which, almost exclusively, serve the general educational system -- amount to about NIS 4 billion! If we divide this figure by the total number of pupils (elementary and high school), we end up with another NIS 300 ($72) a month per pupil. However, the Chinuch Atzmai figure already includes all these additions. Figuring this in, a chareidi student gets only 51 percent of what the others get, per month.

While we are on the subject of education, we should point out that there is a privileged department within the education system whose pupils are entitled to special funds: the Council of Education for Settlements. This department is responsible for only 63,732 pupils, and this year is meant to receive NIS 1,664,081,000, in other words about NIS 26,100 per pupil every year and about NIS 2,175 ($524) a month, about three times as much as other pupils in the standard Israeli education system and four times more than pupils in the Chinuch Atzmai education system.

The beneficiaries of these funds are, of course, those whose leaders have had the education portfolio the past few decades: left-wing kibbutzim and national-religious institutions. Primary and secondary education pupils in kibbutzim, instead of being included in the standard educational system, come within the purview of the Council of Education for Settlements. These same people unashamedly act as the ringleaders for the agitation against "chareidi extortion."

In practice, children in kibbutzim, of which there are a total of about 20,000, receive from the Education Ministry's budget a sum equivalent to that received by all the children in the chareidi sector put together, who make up a much larger population than the kibbutz children. It is difficult to make an exact comparison, but there are more than three times as many chareidi children as kibbutz children, and maybe four times as many. (For more on kibbutzim, see the separate entry below).

Teachers in the state educational system are entitled to many benefits denied to chareidi teachers. For example, the Education Ministry does not recognize years studied at a yeshiva as part of the teacher's education. In general, teacher's get a salary increment for each year of education that they have completed.

This results in the absurd situation where a teacher who has studied for many years in yeshiva and kollel and acquired an extensive Torah education, is not entitled to any bonuses, whereas his secular counterpart who has taken some short university courses, in Talmud for example, is eligible to teach Talmudic studies.

It may be stated in defense of secular teachers that there is some justification in their receiving higher wages, in light of the fact that a teacher in the secular education system is exposed on a daily basis to violence and physical danger and he or she has to cope with a hostile class, which is not the case with a chareidi teacher. Moreover, for the secular teacher his work is looked upon merely as a source of income, whereas a chareidi teacher considers the teaching of Jewish children to be a spiritual mission and a great privilege.

The Cheder Budget

Chadorim (talmudei Torah) are the worst off. They are defined as "exempt institutions" and are entitled to almost no benefits. Payments to chadorim are based on the number of pupils (and not based on the hours officially or actually studied).

Officially, a child in a cheder receives 65 percent of the sum received by another child in the education system, but in practice the sum is much smaller. Moreover, the budget for chadorim is calculated on the basis of a five-hour school day, whereas chadorim actually have an eight or nine-hour day! This means that principals of chadorim are forced to divide up the paltry funds allocated to them among a staff that is effectively double the size of other schools.

For the 30,600 boys learning in Chinuch Atzmai chadorim during the year 2000, the Education Ministry has authorized a payment of NIS 125,319,000, in other words NIS 4,095 ($987) per pupil every year or NIS 350 ($84) a month. The total budget for chadorim stands at NIS 147,966,000, including all costs.

Moreover, we must take into account the fact that the general education system is also financed by local authorities, in addition to Education Ministry funds. On average, local government finances about 30% of the total budget, most of the money being set aside for renovations of buildings, rents, maintenance of institutions, secretaries, transport, equipment, management and the like. In some of the institutions, teachers' salaries are paid directly by the municipality, central government only covering about 70% of teachers' costs.

The Chinuch Atzmai (which includes Bais Yaakov) is considered a separate "district" in terms of its budget, and is therefore not included in the national division of districts. As a consequence of this anomaly, Chinuch Atzmai schools in many municipal authorities are under funded when it comes to the maintenance and management of their buildings. They are discriminated against on a regular basis regarding many funds distributed by local authorities to pupils of state and national-religious schools, even though their status by law is officially one of total equality.

The situation of those chadorim defined as "exempt institutions," which are the talmudei Torah that most of the chareidi public sends the boys to, is even worse. The lack of fixed procedures provides local authorities the opportunity to evade their responsibilities. They use various different excuses to justify their refusal to finance even elementary matters (except the municipality of Yerushalayim which gives some funds because UTJ is the largest single political party, but there is still not full parity, even there), the financial burden falling totally on the shoulders of cheder principals and parents. These cheder children have to study under especially unfavorable conditions, being deprived of all benefits enjoyed by other educational institutions.

This state of affairs is a scandal in its own right. Every municipality receives money from the Finance Ministry per capita, cheder boys being included in the calculation. Moreover, all parents are equally liable to pay arnona (local authority taxes). Why then, do they receive less when the funds are distributed? Why does a municipality pay NIS 300 a year "external student fee" to a pupil who has decided to study in a school within the jurisdiction of another municipality, whereas a cheder pupil learning in an institution inside the city of his residence receives no funds at all from his municipality? A municipality has the authority to finance chadorim and formulate suitable criteria.

As an aside, we would like to point out that one of the major sources of income of a municipality is from water bills. The municipalities charge the consumer NIS 2.69 per cubic meter (the "cheap" rate) and NIS 5.78 for the higher rate, paying NIS 0.59 per cubic meter to Mekorot (the water company). In other words, the municipalities charge residents 4.5 times as much as it costs them per cubic meter for the "cheap" rate and 10 times as much for the higher rate. If you ever try asking for a reduction or payment terms for your water bill at the municipality, you will be met with the response that water is a matter for Mekorot not for the municipality! Nonetheless, municipalities make a profit of several dozen million shekel from water bills!

The larger the family is, the greater is its water consumption, thus increasing the municipality's income. This means that families receiving a reduction from direct municipal taxes (arnona) still pay high indirect taxation to the municipality.

Let us summarize: a pupil of the general primary education system receives about NIS 750 a month, a secondary school pupil about NIS 1.000, a kibbutz pupil about NIS 2,175. To these figures we have to add some NIS 300 per pupil for various administration and other needs in addition to local authority funds. A Chinuch Atzmai pupil, by contrast, receives only about NIS 535 a month, and a cheder pupil (financed by the Chinuch Atzmai center) about NIS 350 a month. (Pupils of the El Hama'ayan (of Shas) network have a legal status parallel to students of the Chinuch Atzmai network.)

It must take a lot of impudence and arrogance to formulate the following sentence: "It has to be remembered that the chareidi educational system is financed for the most part by the Israeli taxpayer's money, and each pupil costs government ministries much more than a non-chareidi pupil" -- Ilan Shachar, "Ha'aretz", 2/23/00. Shachar, who has written dozens of defamatory articles about the chareidi public and specializes in the budgets of the chareidi sector, did not get his facts wrong, there is no other interpretation other than he simply lied intentionally (it is also entirely possible that he has become convinced by his own lies).

El Al Would Have Earned Only $23-34 Million from Saturday Flights in 1999

by Yated Ne'eman Staff

One of the sensitive areas where the financial interests of the secular state clashes with Torah values is in the operation of El Al, the national airline. The company would like to operate on Shabbos, and it claims that it loses tons of money because it is forced not to fly on Shabbos. The religious community does not want the national flagship company to desecrate Shabbos, which is the national flag of the Jewish people.

However, a report prepared for the Ministry of Transport determined that Saturday flights "will not significantly increase El Al's profitability."

The report -- whose conclusions were rejected by El Al -- determined that Saturday flights would have contributed only $23-34 million dollars before tax to El Al's balance sheet. This is significantly lower than El Al's earlier estimate of $60 million, and lower than the $40 million estimate of the Yitzhak Suari report.

The report details: "The market is highly competitive, with over 100 companies, and it is unreasonable to assume that there is a vacuum . . . No evidence has been found for an unmet demand on Shabbos, such as price differences on tickets. As for the net abandonment by observant passengers, we estimate that 1-3% of El Al passengers are liable to leave if El Al begins Saturday flights."

This estimate is based on figures derived from the of the distribution of the population, the distribution of the Jewish population at requested destinations, figures obtained by El Al and from various scenarios.

The report concludes: "On the face of it, a move to continuous operations would improve the efficiency of current operations and profitability. However, at the same time, it is necessary to comment on the uncertainties inherent in this basic assessment. The number of independent but influential variables affecting the analysis on the move to continuous operations, are many."

El Al is considering refraining from Saturday flights to certain destinations, even if it receives permission from the government to renew the flights. It should be noted that the company did not operate such flights to certain destinations, chiefly New York, even before its Saturday flights were halted in 1982.

"The company is aware of the possible desertion of religiously observant customers if it begins flying on Saturday," a senior El Al source said in an interview with Globes.

According to the source, "We may attempt to separate the El Al brand name from the Saturday flights, conducting these flights under a new name. We may not fly our airplanes at all in some of the markets."

The exact number of El Al's observant passengers is unknown; the only indication is the number of orders for glatt kosher meals. These are requested by 5 percent of the company's 3.5 million total yearly passengers. El Al estimates that a boycott by the religiously observant public will cost it only a few percent of its revenues, which totaled $1.25 billion in 1999.

El Al estimates that renewal of Saturday flights will yield $50 million yearly in additional revenues, while a corresponding loss of the ultra-Orthodox public alone would cause a yearly loss of over $60 million in revenues. El Al may therefore lose by renewing Saturday flights even according to its own figures.

The Chamber (Cameri) Theater and its Rotten Fruit

The Chamber (Cameri) Theater in Tel Aviv was founded in 1944 and has about 80 actors working for it. This modest institution received NIS 11.7 million ($2.8 million) from the Education and Culture Ministry in 1999. Tel Aviv municipality also contributes generously, its grant to the Theater for 1999 amounted to NIS 11.9 million ($2.87 million). This is a total of $70,000 per actor. (Incidentally, Roni Milo the former mayor of Tel Aviv is the Chairman of the Theater's Board of Trustees). Grants are also forthcoming from other sources, such as the Culture Authority and the Section for Culture and Art. Not that many people go to see the plays. On the whole, the government pays the Cameri Theater a subsidy of NIS 127.61 ($30.75) per ticket they sell. This means that each of the generally affluent patrons of the theater are getting a gift each time they go.

To understand why the Chamber Theater needs such massive funds and what "cultural" messages are conveyed to its audiences, let us take a look at one of the plays produced by the Theater.

The play Fleisher, created by the sick mind of Yigal Even-Or describes a couple of Holocaust survivors reconstructing their lives in Eretz Yisroel. They open a butcher's shop in a secular neighborhood. A much- loved son becomes mentally disturbed as a result of an accident and is put into an institution. The neighborhood's character changes over time, when chareidim move into the area, and the original residents, who "founded" the neighborhood, are forced to flee because of pressure from the chareidim. The Fleishers do their best to survive "in the midst of the stormy chareidi sea surrounding them, which threatens to drown them."

The Fleishers try to attract chareidi customers, with no success. Their situation deteriorates from day to day, and eventually they are forced to take the son out of the institution. The depressing end to the story takes place when their son burns down the shop.

The "educational" message is conveyed most professionally. First, the viewer is made to identify with the pitiful image of Holocaust survivors trying to build up their lives again. They have a longed-for child, causing the viewer to feel no end of joy for the Fleishers. The happiness is shattered by the son's tragic fate and their difficult financial situation only makes matters worse. This combination of circumstances is the most powerful means for maximum possible identification with the characters in the play. Woe to whoever dares to harm them!

Only at this stage where there is total empathy with the Fleishers, do the cruel chareidim first come into the picture, headed by the neighborhood rabbonim who use ugly tactics to drive out the helpless couple and later put them into cheirem, totally destroying their business. The image of the chareidi is a traditional antisemitic one, making full use of the money motif. The tragic culmination of the plot is the surest recipe for internalizing the message of the play in the long term.

If, after watching this play, any members of the audience remain unconvinced of the necessity to go out and kill a chareidi, or at least burn down his store, then they must have fallen asleep during the performance, unless they are just lazy or apathetic. Ma'ariv's theater critic wrote about the play, "I immediately understood, [the play's message] that if I want to protect myself, I would be well advised to burn down a DOS [secular pejorative appellation of chareidim] neighborhood as fast as possible."

In case anybody failed to get the message, or wants to broaden his knowledge of anti- chareidism, the Theater provides you with a booklet explaining to the less intelligent in the audience who the people's real enemy is. It includes interesting quotations, such as the inanities of the playwright, who claims that whereas the Jewish-Arab dispute is just a quarrel over territory and is therefore solvable, the religious-secular conflict is about the soul of the nation.

This "masterpiece," first shown at the Chamber Theater on May 20, '93, represented Israel at the New York Theater Festival in 1995. So much for "light unto the nations." When some festivals were held in Germany in 1998, the Theater chose some other pieces from its repertoire. This was probably due to the fact that Germany has had enough of plays of this nature, and also because Germans are afraid of being accused of antisemitism. Fleisher can become a model for the fanning of sophisticated and cunning anti- Jewish hatred among the masses. In any event, missionaries are sure to feel at home here.

Christians, as we know, are not very familiar with the differences between Jews. As far as they are concerned, anyone with a Jewish grandmother is a Zhid, and they are likely to apply Fleisher's message to all of world Jewry.

Incidentally, in order to save the theater money, its directors were forced to borrow a wheelchair that was needed for the play, from a chareidi voluntary organization which lends out medical equipment. Much to the chagrin of the anti- religious, no equivalent secular organization could be located.

This writer had thought that the Fleisher play was the ultimate in anti- religious agitation, but he was to be proved wrong. Last December, a play produced by the Chamber Theater was shown in the German town of Heilbron. It is about the assassination of Rabin, and the word "agitation" would be too mild to describe this chilling play.

Chareidim in the play are represented as having been the ones behind the assassination, encouraging it, and opposing the whole peace process, since a state of war means jobs for them. A chareidi character in the play says the following: "Casualties [of wars] will require people to do taharoh, to sell burial shrouds, to say Kaddish, three people to wash the body, two people to bless it, four to carry the coffin -- all these will be our men. If 20,000 soldiers will fall in the next war (may it come speedily), we will have 100,000 jobs. Now they can provide us with a living even after they're dead."

The "rabbonim" in the play wear a tallis, presumably to remind the Germans of a Jewish image well-known to them from the past, and to prove that Jews really are dangerous to society and to humanity. If anyone of the younger generation in Germany still suffers from pangs of conscience over the Nazis' deeds, this play -- produced by the Chamber Theater of Israel, which is financed by the "cultural" section of the budget of the State supported by all its citizens -- provides them with the opportunity of relieving those pangs.

The play received a standing ovation from the German audience lasting five minutes. "A light unto the nations"? Incidentally, a famous Israeli personality was sitting in the audience during the premiere performance of this "important" play. Her visit to Germany was probably paid for by her "Peace Office," which is funded by the Israeli taxpayer, or perhaps she financed it by selling some presents received by her late husband. At the end of the performance she said, "It is a bit embarrassing that the world premiere of this play did not take place in Israel, but I have no doubt that it will eventually be shown in Israel too."

It seems that the need to show antisemitic plays such as Fleisher, the one about Rabin and The Merchant of Venice, which exemplify freedom of speech and the cream of Israeli culture, provides us with an answer to our opening question as to the necessity of such massive funds being pumped into this theater.

These plays teach us something about the nature of our opponents, and the terribly low levels to which they have descended in such a short period. We must not forget that the grandfathers of these miserable characters sat on one bench with our grandfather in cheder somewhere in Europe or in Morocco. The Chazon Ish zy"o, in his famous meeting with Ben Gurion, contrasted the full wagon with the empty one, but in our times there is only one wagon left, the other one having burst into pieces some time ago.

The moral decadence of secular society makes the prospect of any dialogue with them impossible. Such is the intellectual level of a society which detached itself from its roots and our holy Torah. Their culture ("tarbut") is indeed one of "anoshim chatoim." We must rejoice in our portion and say, "Blessed is He, who has created us for His glory, and given us the Torah of truth, and planted within us eternal life."

We should point out that the Chamber Theater is due to receive funds from Mifal Hapayis (National Lottery) for the construction of a new building to house the Theater, costing NIS 81 million ($19.5 million). Researchers from Manof have compiled a selection of "pearls" from plays which have been performed lately at the Chamber Theater, and they intend to turn to relevant government sources and alert them to the serious nature of the Chamber Theater's cultural creations. If any of our readers are in a position to act in this regard, perhaps what we have said here will encourage them to do something about this matter.


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