ELKAN’S VIEW FROM NETANYA WEEK ENDING 24TH SEPTEMBER 201
It’s been a good summer including the unforgettable 50th anniversary of the Belmont Synagogue where I was the first Minister.
To the great relief of Israeli parents the Chofesh Hagadol, the long vacation, has come to an end and the children have gone back to school. One parent wrote a long prayer of thanks, based on the Shehecheyanu blessing, that the holidays had finally come to an end! Israel is now getting ready for the Tishri festivals. The blazing heat of the summer is beginning to pass and the climate is altogether more pleasant.
There are concerns. The level of rainfall this year has been very low and an island has appeared in the middle of Kinneret because the water level has dropped fifteen feet below the maximum. Unfortunately the outlook is for a dry winter, so please pray fervently on Shemini Atzeret when Jews all over the world recite Tefillat Geshem, the prayer for Rain!
The American elections are a topic of extreme interest. Almost every discussion among Israelis will sooner or later turn to the Trump or Clinton question. Last week I went to a whole programme about this, and came away no wiser.
Religion is again becoming an issue in Israeli politics. The stranglehold that the ultraorthodox parties have within the coalition has begun to be challenged on two fronts. The first major issue is the question of the egalitarian prayer Plaza at the Kotel which is open to nonorthodox Jews. A clear agreement was signed in January 2016 but has not been implemented and the Supreme Court has asked for the whole matter to be brought before it. One of the justices even asked whether the government needed the court to pull its chestnuts out of the fire.
The other issue concerns work on the high-speed line between Tel Aviv and Jerusalem, and the Tel Aviv Underground. It had been agreed that work on these projects will take place on Shabbat. Under pressure from his coalition partners Netanyahu stopped the Shabbat work. In this case the High Court told him that he had no power to do so and for the moment it goes on.