Yitzchak Baruch Fishel

A Modest Proposal

You may or may not be familiar with the above screen shot, but I got it straight off the ToI site from an article entitled ‘Concerned citizen’ sparks flame war on Netanyahu’s Facebook, datelined July 26th, 9:31 p.m. where it has yet to enlist even one comment, though it has been Tweeted 6 times.

Being a professional translator, I am not particularly satisfied with the English translation offered by Ilan Ben Zion, so I’m going to have a bash at it myself.

Dear Sir, with your permission, I’d like to offer a suggestion.

Though I’m not much of an economist, I’ve notice recently that you’re under some pressure as the government is short for money.

I’ve also heard that there are a number of corporation who need to pay the gov’t NIS 30 billion. You ought to get that from them and not let them beg off with a NIS 29 billion discount as NIS 29b. will close your deficit very nicely.

Besides that, I suggest you take back the NIS 132 million that you transferred yesterday to Haredi education.

Similarly, this might not be the best time to switch all the gov’t ministers cars to BMWs. If so, I heard that Hyundai has smaller, more economical cars that can also be picked up cheaper.

Also rather than sawing off those buildings in a community that was built on other peoples’ property, just destroy them. That will save several tens of thousands of shekels for the Treasury.

And in addition, I think that instead of not collecting money to encourage settlements over the Green Line, that you should go ahead and collect it. That will put another NIS 850m. in the gov’t coffers.

So, dear Prime Minister, what do you think of me as a concerned citizen?

Prejudice, Not Economic Considerations

What Mr. Cotani has offered here has very little to do with economics. Cotani’s own remark — that he’s not much of an economist — doesn’t even bear up as an understatement.

In fact, if it’s still true as noted in the ToI article that Netanyahu hasn’t answered, it’s probably because Mr. Cotani (who cannot be reached even by Facebook mail and whose Big Eyes Agency Web site is still under construction) has left very little that can’t be written off as hate speech.

I can’t say that I blame him much. Everybody has their preferences, and I for one can’t understand why gov’t ministers have to have private transportation at all. If it weren’t for the security mentality, they could take public transportation just like the rest of us.

But what does have me hot under the collar is that Mr. Cotani’s opinions are probably not his at all — he’s been spoon fed them by the media. And those of Mr. Cotani’s suggestions that can be called original smack more of political and economic ignorance rather than any kind of wisdom.

The point to be made and underscored here is that the 13,000 Likes that Mr. Cotani’s modest proposal totaled up on Facebooks are more to the credit of the public brainwashing done by the variously politically correct, gov’t organs that pass for local news sources. They’ve done a good job.

No More Than Can be Expected

Having washed my hands of Shachar B. Cotani, I’d like to turn to Bibi Netanyahu.

Before the last elections, I asked my son-in-law who we were supposed to vote for. I had forgotten that we no longer have direct election of prime ministers and assumed that the gedolei Yisroel had already given a directive on that point. As I am usually too busy writing and learning to keep up with Israeli politics, let alone Haredi politics, I asked him to fill me in.

I’d bumped into him on the way back from Shacharis, and when he told me they had settled on Netanyahu, I very nearly stumbled in my tracks.

“How can that be?” I asked him. While Treasury minister in the Sharon pre-Kadima gov’t, Netanyahu had single-handedly destroyed Misrad Hadatot and support for the yeshivas. Not even Ehud Barak, who ran on the slogan “You, me, anyone but Bibi” and his Justice minister Tommy Lapid with his big anti-Haredi drum had done that kind of damage.

At present, you may be surprised to hear, I really have no complaints about Bibi. I’m given to understand that he is a very skilled economist who could easily make a very nice living giving lectures, and if Mr. Cotani is complaining about creating a tax-free zone for int’l corporations like Wales, I applaud Netanyahu’s initiative.

Just remember, Netanyahu is a politician. That means that for all intents and purposes he’s a big bluffer, but he’s also a conservative pragmatist. That means not only that Bibi will opt for whatever will get him the best press, but that he may be willing to run several solutions up the flagpole.

The Haredi press, notably Hamevaser, calls that zigzagging, but I’ve seen the like among Israeli judges in the middle of litigating a case.

A Proposal of My Own

So after all of this, ladies and gentlemen, I’m going to get to the point.

Granted, I also have my own prejudices and what probably got me miffed in the first place was Cotani’s remark about Haredi education. Someone aught to note somewhere that the Chinuch Meyuchad is one of the few places in Israel that is churning out workers with any kind of a work ethic. Ben Waxman will say that it’s only anecdotal evidence, but I do know of members of the secular business community who have turned out their male, non-religious officeworkers in favor of Beis Yaakov graduates who can be depended upon to get the job done.

But the fact is that a chunk of the Ministry of Education budget goes to support Israel’s universities, which of course are top-notch because I have a hard-earned European-type M.A. from one of them.

However, many of these excellent institutions of higher learning have faculties that are grooming students for whom there are absolutely no job possibilities.

Though I recently saw and article in the Wall Street Journal (sorry I don’t have the link on hand) stating that the Harvard Law Class of 2012 has something like a 5% chance of finding a job in it’s field, I imagine this is true even of the applied sciences. I know for a certainty that it has long been true of the humanities.

So why, in the name of reason, should there continue to be gov’t support for teaching trades that have no positions to be filled. People are living longer and Treasury Minister Yuval Steinitz recently stated that he is considering raising the retirement age, meaning that unless new job opportunities are created there will be less and less of a turnover.

Israel general unemployment figures are officially hovering about 6.8% and the figure for those with college and university educations is likely to be much higher.

So why not just close down those costly, fancy-dan faculties that aren’t doing anything at all for the commonweal? Let the professors go on lecture tours or provide them with research positions. But why, oh why go on cheating the public with something that does no man no good?

About the Author
Y.B. Fishel holds cum laude degrees from Princeton and the Hebrew University of Jerusalem, as well as written ordinations from members of Israel's highest, ultra-Orthodox authorities. His reason for being around ToI is to provide a chareidi insider's view of what's happening in Israel.