Thursday, January 12, 2012

MK Tzipi Hotovely on Dignity and Honor for the Women of Israel

Tzipi Hotovely is a Member of the Knesset, Israel's parliament, from the Likud Party. She is a Torah-observant Jewish woman, an attorney, and, when elected at the age of 30, she became the youngest person ever to serve in the Knesset. I have never met her, but I am privileged to be on her e-mail distribution list. Some of our readers may have heard about recent incidents in which thugs from a fringe Orthodox Jewish sect have bullied and harrassed young girls at a Modern Orthodox elementary school, Orot, in Beit Shemesh and have tried to intimidate female bus riders on public buses passing through Haredi neighborhoods in Jerusalem into sitting at the rear of the bus. Here is MK Hotovely's position on these recent incidents:

The Knesset
MK Tzipi Hotovely
Jerusalem, 16th of Tevet, 5772January 12th, 2012

Dear Ralph:

You may be interested to know that in recent weeks a battle has ensued to protect the honor and dignity of women in Israel. I grew up as part of the National Religious community. In school I learned of Devorah the Prophetess. At Home every Shabbat we sang Eshet Chayil, "a Woman of Valor", and in synagogue once a year we celebrated the heroic acts of Queen Esther. I grew up proud to be a Jewish woman.

In the last month multiple incidents have occurred affecting the role of women in Israeli society, while widening the schism between Israel's Ultra-Orthodox population and the rest of its citizens. An eight year old girl in Bet Shemesh was spit upon on her way to school, because she was "immodestly dressed". Women and female soldiers were defamed and harassed because they refused to move to the back of a public bus. Mass protests for, and against, the actions of the Ultra-Orthodox ensued. In this time, I attempted to understand all perspectives on the issues at hand. I visited with families involved in these incidents, as well as municipal officials and community leaders. Along with my colleagues from the Committee for the Advancement of Women, I boarded a "Mehadrin" (Ultra Orthodox) bus and sat down up front, where I was berated with unpleasant verbal assaults. I also spent a Shabbat in Beitar Illit, a community with a significant Ultra-Orthodox population, to better understand their perspectives on the issues.

From my experiences, I have seen that this is not a conflict between the religious and secular. There are two battles here. The first is being waged by a small extremist group, from within the Ultra-Orthodox, who have attempted to hijack Judaism. In their distorted view, they have turned a religion which teaches of love and respect towards thy neighbor, into a religion of internecine persecution, animus, and division amongst the Jewish people. This cannot be tolerated in the one State we have and the police must enforce the law against any who seek to violate it. The second battle is over the role of women in society, an issue of culture which all sectors of Israeli society are responsible for. As the famous US Supreme Court ruling of Brown vs. the Board of Education proved, "separate but equal, is not equal". Two weeks ago, five women were inducted as pilots in the Israeli Air Force. If they can sit in the cockpit watching over our country, then as the Chair of the Woman's Committee, I will ensure that these modern day Devorahs, and all other women, will sit wherever they want on a public bus.

I am proud to share with you that, this week, the cabinet approved a law granting free education to children of three and four years of age. Next year this will provide over a quarter of a million Israeli children with education, and allow thousands of young mothers to return to the work force. As daycare costs have skyrocketed this has been one of the main battles of my committee. Now that this law has been approved, we can begin to educate children at a younger age with strong Jewish values, while strengthening the careers of countless women as respected, equal and integrated members of the work force. It is through education and opportunity that we shall promote a culture of dignity and honor for the Women of Israel.

As always, if you have any questions, comments, or suggestions please feel free to contact me. To better update you on the latest developments please be sure to stop by my Facebook page,, with up to the minute news to keep you informed. It is my sincere hope that together we will work to forge a brighter future for the men and women of Israel.

Shabbat Shalom,
Tzipi Hotovely
Member of the 18th Knesset Chairperson,
Committee on the Status of Women

Wednesday, January 11, 2012

Why President Obama Adopted the National Security Policies of President George W. Bush

Candidate Barack Obama promised to close the Guantanamo Bay prison. It is still open. Candidate Barack Obama criticized the troop surge in Iraq. President Obama implemented his own troop surge in Afghanistan. Candidate Barack Obama vowed to end what he criticized as Bush Administration offenses against human rights and civil liberties, including extraordinary rendition and targeted assassinations. President Obama has continued both, and even expanded targeted assassinations to include an American citizen, killed by a drone attack without any attempt at arrest or trial. One can only imagine the outcry if such an action had been ordered by President George W. Bush.

To what may we attribute the apparent change of heart on the part of President Obama. In some cases, no doubt, such as civilian trials for terrorists and the closing of Guantanamo, the President would have gone further were it not for unyielding political opposition, including from his own Democratic Party in Congress. However, at least one seasoned Washington observer, veteran Senatorial staffer Dr. David Luchins, although he claims no specific knowledge of what transpired, attributes President Obama's tranformative thinking to "the talk," the national security briefing he received upon his election to the Presidency, even before he took the oath of office. Suddenly President Obama was burdened with the full and accurate picture of national security threats against the United States and its citizens. Suddently he was forced to come to terms with the most vivid evidence that there really is evil out there--very bad people who want to hurt us very badly.

I hope that Dr. Luchins is correct. I hope that the change in the President's thinking proves that a person may grow in the office of the United States Presidency, and grow very quickly. When President Obama was elected, I somewhat pompously declared myself to be a member of the loyal opposition, ready to criticize the Administration when it veered off course, but always ready to support the President when he did what was right by our country. In that spirit, I write now that while I have many objections to the President's foreign and domestic policies, on some of the most critical issues of national defense and security, I can heartily say, "Well done, Mr. President."

Car Bomb Kills Iranian Nuclear Scientist

Working in the Iranian nuclear weapons program has become a hazardous profession of late. The latest fatality was Mostafa Ahmadi-Roshan, deputy head of the Natanz nuclear enrichment facility, killed today by a car bomb in Tehran.

Speculation runs rampant that the string of assassinations of Iranian nuclear scientists is the work of the Mossad or CIA. In what I feel is a well-reasoned column, Shoshan Bryen at the Jewish Policy Center argues that such precisely targeted assassinations are morally preferable to both airstrikes and economic sanctions as a means of preventing Iran from obtaining nuclear weapons.

While I agree with Ms. Bryen's reasoning, I fear that such targeted assassinations alone will only slow down, but not prevent, Iranian nuclear weapons development. Therefore ultimately airstrikes by the United States and other Western nations may ultimately prove necessary. Indeed, former White House adviser Dennis Ross told Bloomberg in an interview Monday that no one should doubt President Obama's willingness to use military force to prevent Iran from obtaining nuclear weapons.

He's Back! What the Kosher Hedgehog did During the Holidays

Dear Frustrated Hedgehog Blog Readers:

I am sure that both of you were very concerned that I have not posted since Nov. 22, 2011. As for Lowell Brown, the Original Hedgehog (although he seems now to disdain his animal identity), he has not posted since Utah's football embarrassment against Cal on October 22. Not even the Utes's overtime victory over Georgia Tech in the Sun Bowl seems to have revived him. Lowell, let's see that Ute pride--Utah upheld the honor of the PAC 12 after bowl losses by Cal, ASU, and UCLA.

PAC 12 football also explains part of my long hiatus. I attended the Fiesta Bowl on January 2. I am a native Phoenician, and my trip allowed me to re-connect with old friends and re-visit the haunts of my youth. Phoenix is a beautiful and well-governed city. (Indeed, a boyhood friend and fellow ASU law alumnus, Phil Gordon, was completing his term as Mayor of Phoenix as I arrived.)

As for the Fiesta Bowl itself, it was a great game. The few from my seat is shown above. Unfortunately, as I repeatedly complained during the Fiesta Bowl to my best boyhood friend Brian, who attended the game with me, I hate great games. I want one-sided routs in favor of my team. Great games can be lost.

That complaint unfortunately proved prophetic, as Stanford Coach David Shaw snatched defeat from the jaws of victory by taking the ball out of the hands of two-time Heisman runner-up and presumptive NFL draft first round top pick Quarterback Andrew Luck, and entrusting the game to a redshirt freshman kicker who was coming back from an injury and had been inconsistent during the last games of the season and in the Fiesta Bowl itself. Luck was simply superb in his last game as Stanford's quarterback--it is too bad that his coach decided to play consertively when the game was on the line.

However I am not bitter. Congratulations to the Oklahoma State Cowboys. May your horse go lame on the waterless plains.

I also spent nearly a week on a visit to my daughter Elise and her husband Eliott in their recently purchased co-op in Riverdale, NY, where they apparently are neighbors to President Obama's newly appointed Chief of Staff, Jack Lew. Coincidentally, my daughter Sara and son Nathan live in the neighborhood of former Obama Chief of Staff and current Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel, who belongs to Sara's synagogue. Mr. Lew, when he is in residence, belongs to the Hebrew Institute of Riverdale, rather than to the synagogue that Elise and Eliott have been attending, the Riverdale Jewish Center.

I do not mean here to suggest any Kostant family influence over national policy. As readers of the blog know, I am a Romney man myself. And congratulations to Mitt on his big primary victory in New Hampshire.