Wednesday, January 25, 2006

Political System in Israel

Bluke posts about reforming the Parliamentary system in Israel. It's nearly word-for-word what I've been talking about for a few years now.

Basically Israel needs to create a district based system that allows the populace to vote for a specific MK that represents them. Tel Aviv would be broken down into about 10 districts, Jerusalem about 8, and so on. Based on a percentage of the population, forcing a regular census to be taken.

This is a mandatory change in my view, in the current system no one has the ability to voice complaints to a specific person on the national level. This is why there are so many protests in front of the Kenesset.

Bluke has one idea that I can't come to terms with, but then suggest what I like as an alternative.
Create 90 districts (3/4 of the Knesset) and have 1 MK represent a district (and impose a residency requirement). The other 30 seats would be allocated based on the current system but with a much higher threshold like 10%. This would allow the large parties to have their leaders protected and be able to devote themselves to the larger picture while still enabling every one to have a representative. Alternatively, adopt the British system where every seat is district based.

The district system may also be used to give Arabs in Judea and Samaria voting rights (if they'll take them). Since they would be voting for a local representative, while preserving the Jewishness of the State.

On a political science level, it's taking the best parts of the British Parliamentary and American Republican system of Democracy and fusing them together. It can work.
Sharon could have pulled it off (and wanted to change the system), I don't know if anyone else has the power or even the will.
Sharon wasn't the best Prime Minister ever, but he had the political clout to do things nobody else could have.

Tuesday, January 24, 2006

Heschel and the Sabbath

As I go about my weekly business I sometimes wonder how non-Jews and the non-religious go without Shabbos.I was not always religious, but I can’t imagine living life without Shabbos. I feel like I’m writing a Gila Manolson type book, but it’s really how I feel.

This brings up Heschel. Heschel maybe the most under used theologian in Orthodox circles. Does the Conservative movement have a patent on his works? No, they hardly use him either (outside of JTS that is).
To the biblical mind, however, labor is the means toward an end, and the Sabbath as a day of rest, as a day of abstaining from toil, is not for the purpose of recovering one’s lost strength and becoming fit for the forthcoming labor. The Sabbath is a day for the sake of life. Man is not a beast of burden, and the Sabbath is not for the purpose of enhancing the efficiency of his work. “Last in creation, first in intention,” the Sabbath is “the end of the creation of heaven and earth.”
According to Heschel Shabbos is a necessary element of life in general, that life is not complete without it. If not to be a day of rest, then what is the purpose of Shabbos? Heschel continues...
The Sabbath is not for the sake of the weekdays; the weekdays are for the sake of the Sabbath. It is not an interlude but the climax of living.
The "climax of living" that's a pretty powerful statement. Life is good, and should be used to the fullest potential, but nothing is as good as Shabbos. Now, if this were so painfully obvious to everyone else, there would be more Shomrei Shabbat than their are now.

Heschel ends this section with another impressive idea
Labor is a craft, but perfect rest is an art. It is the result of an accord of body, mind and imagination. To attain a degree of excellence in art, one must accept its discipline, one must adjure slothfulness. The seventh day is a palace in time which we shall build. It is made of soul, of joy and reticence.
Heschel's view on Shabbat should be required reading, maybe this isn't a Chiddush but I like this idea nonetheless. Read The Sabbath and figure it out for yourself.

Tuesday, January 10, 2006

On Sharon, Prime Ministers, and Presidents

I love Dry Bones always have, always will. This one really gets at what I've had in the back of my mind for a while.
What are we supposed to do now? Ariel Sharon has been able to unify the country like nobody else (well...okay it's been a while) and those that don't like him at least respect him. The founders are gone (Peres doesn't count, nobody really liked him anyway), Israel needs to rely on the 2nd generation for its leaders from now on.

I see very few people who can step up and take the lead.
Bibi? He had his chance.
Peretz? Maybe, but I doubt it. Labor isn't the force it once was.
Omert? I think this is the most likely option, but not a great one either.

I see a lot of parallels between Israeli Prime Ministers and the American Presidency. The first seven Presidents (Washington, Adams, Jefferson, Madison, Monroe, JQ Adams, Jackson) founded and fought the physical and political wars necessary to start a nation. Israel had that too. After Jackson American did not have a good President until Lincoln, a drought of 24 years.

Sadly, I think Israel is going into a drought. The last of the founders has left public office (I pray for a
refua shelma) Israel needs someone to step up whose willing to make decisions and not let mediocrity become the status quo.

Sunday, January 08, 2006

Jerusalem Compass and the Rambam

A little while ago a new product was introduced to the world The Incredible Jerusalem Compass. This amazing product seems to "defy nature" and always point to Jerusalem so you can find your way home. How cute.

This device, however, is a farce. You can't defy the laws of nature. I have this mental image of Rambam rolling over in his grave, going to the local Seforim Store, buying a copy of
Sefer Mada and smacking some one on the backside of their head. It is products like this and people who believe that this could work that allows Karl Marx to assert that "religion is the opiate of the masses".

Let it not be said that one does not need to face Jerusalem to daven. I once asked a student why we face Jerusalem, she replied "because our prayers need to go there before they can be heard by HaShem". This same student believed that we use Hebrew because G-d only understood Hebrew; needless to say these errors were rectified immediately.

Chazal's Wisdom

In this post: Could Shlomo Hamelech have invented cars? there's a discussion about Chazal's wisdom over choosing not to invent certain products. There is, apparently, an idea that Chaza"l had the ability to invent modern technology but chose not to due to their knowledge about the less-than-desirable consequences. ADDeRabbi commenting on this and Bluke (the blogger) both correctly point out that it is absurd.
the ethical implications of a Melech Yisrael' who knew of but didn't make use of antibiotics are astounding
What needs to be stressed is that if this idea is taken to its logical conclusion, this Rebbe is saying by implication that Chaza"l is intelligent but no more able to prevent the side effects than anyone else. It is an affirmation of Chazal's intelligence, but it, by implication, denies Chazal the ability to teach the world how to make moral and ethical choices. We love Chaza"l for their wisdom; we follow their decisions because they were the wisest of the sages. If these ever so wise sages are able to know about nuclear science but unable to teach the world how to deal with this knowledge; is this not a disgraceful statement towards Chaza"l?