Who Should Sing “Hatikva”? — Israel commentators have been exchanging barbs since Justice Salim Jubran stood silently instead of singing Israel’s national anthem during the ceremony earlier this month appointing him as Supreme Court justice. The right questions the legitimacy of a public official who cannot identify with the Zionist ethos, while the left wonders why an Israeli Arab should identify with a hymn about Jewish national aspirations. Last week, the Hasidic daily Hamodia suggested a double standard. “An Arab cannot sing of the ‘pining Jewish soul,’ but how much more so a religious Jew cannot sing about being a ‘a free [non-observant] nation’…. Imagine what would happen to a Haredi minister who would suggest deleting those words from the anthem. He would not remain in his post even one day.” I don’t know if there is a double standard, but Israel certainly contains significant minorities with a ambivalent feelings about Zionism.
More Israeli Haredi Men Working — A Bank of Israel report to be released in the coming weeks indicates that the number of working Haredi men has risen from 39% in 2009 to 45% in 2011, including a significant rise among formerly full-time yeshiva students. Israeli website, Behadrei Haredim, explains that for an increasing percentage of the population, “financial troubles overcome the social convention” of not entering the workforce. Working Haredim work fewer hours than Jewish non-Haredim, which means that they earn less. Still, an increase in work-force participation can help ameliorate the significant Haredi poverty. The increase makes it more likely that the government will reach its goal of 63% male Haredi work-force participation by 2020.
Benizri’s “J’accuse” — After serving a prison term for bribery and obstructing justice, former Shas minister Shlomo Benizri was released on March 1. Shas’s newspaper, Yom Leyom, announced in huge letters “Blessed is God who releases prisoners” and quotes Benizri as saying that “the State of Israel is the most anti-Semitic country in the world.” Benizri attacked the Israel’s Supreme Court, Justice Edmond Levi, as well as the witnesses who testified against him, and he blasted the secular press for misunderstanding his statement that his imprisonment involved more suffering than that of Gilad Shalit. In an interview to the independent Mishpacha newspaper, he addressed the loneliness of his prison term, explaining that he spent most of his time writing, teaching Torah to prisoners and guards, and arranging for mitzvah observance among inmates. The papers from the competing Yahadut Hatorah party, Yated Ne’eman and Hamodia, gave the release scant attention.
Stanley Kubrick and the Talmud — Brooklyn’s Artscroll-Mesorah publishing company has begun advertising for its new iPad app of the Schottenstein commentary on the Talmud. The PR people must have been chuckling to themselves when they made a totally over the top promotional video, with the Talmud standing in—believe it or not—for the monolith from Stanley Kubrick’s film 2001: A Space Odyssey.
READER CORRECTION: A reader notes that Salim Jubran actually remained silent during the swearing-in ceremony of Israeli Supreme Court’s new president, Judge Asher Grunis. Jubran has been a justice since 2004.