«Jewish Observer»
February 2002
5762 Shvat

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I met with the member of Knesset Itshak Gagula in order to discuss the flaring scandal round the educational system "Matal". These religious educational establishments for the repatriates from the CIS countries had been existing for about 6 years. Then they were closed down together with the whole Ministry for Religions. Notwithstanding this fact, the rehabilitated Ministry for Religions ordered that these schools should be opened again. Then the schools were closed down again in two months and the Ministry paid neither the teachers, nor the students. Today, the Ministry for Religions, headed by SHAS, manifests a complete disregard to the new repatriates' needs. At the request of our newspaper deputy Itshak Gagula, a repatriate from Georgia, addressed the Ministry with an official inquiry. He didn't receive a response! Can you imagine anything like that? No response to the official, not to "a man from the street" (though all of us are tax-payers, the government actually exists at our expense).

- Mr. Gagula, what's your opinion of the scandalous injustice to new repatriates from the CIS, wishing to study the Torah?

- I resorted to a number of efforts, but they don't even want to talk to me at the Ministry. Nevertheless, I will not stop trying to change the situation.

- We would like to know your opinion of the current political situation. What was your reaction when the ship with guns for the "autonomy" was arrested?

- I'd like to hope that similar ships with arms have not entered the "autonomy" yet. The question is: Was it the first ship with arms or not? I don't stop stating that Arafat is our enemy. I wish they would have checked his aircraft up during his flights abroad. I'm sure that Arafat was smuggling arms for the terrorists in his personal plane, taking the opportunity of not being checked. I can state the same about the Arabian deputies from Knesset. They are still not checked at the entrance hall, notwithstanding my urgent request. Though any of them can bring guns into the Knesset building.

- What can you say about the policy pursued by Shimon Peres? Doesn't it seem to you that he's leading an absolutely independent game, which is quite different from the national policy?

- Peres is still trying to preserve the importance of the Oslo agreements, though it had become evident long ago that the process, which was started in Oslo, has finished. The greatness of a serious politician is the admission of his/her mistake in time. So, Peres refuses to admit his fault and keeps this vicious way, on which we were directed by the Oslo agreements. By the way, in the lobby of Knesset I often have a chance to communicate with Peres' people and during the private talks they openly admit that the process, which was started in Oslo, has compromised itself and its further continuation is senseless. Nevertheless, the old policy of Arafat's pacification continues in public.

- What alternative do you suggest?

- Not to negotiate with Arafat any more. His time is up. And if we are supposed to have some contacts with the Arab side, they should be shifted down to a much lower level - to negotiate with every mayor, with every village headman. Negotiators should be strictly responsible for observing agreements reached.

- The economic situation in the country is getting worse. Aren't you afraid that the situation may develop as in Argentine?

- No. The difference between the situation in our country and Argentina is that we don't have huge external debt. Most of the funds, which we receive from abroad, are charitable. As to the national debt, the warrant of the debt is the USA, so the default is impossible. Nevertheless, the situation in our economy is very complicated. However, it is sooner called forth by military actions than by the general recession in the world production.

- As combat actions may increase to a full swing, what do you think of drafting iyeshiv students to the army?

- Of course, as a religious person I consider that studying the Torah gives strength to the people of Israel. But it is not a secret that there are students in iyeshivs, whose purpose is not studying the Torah but evading the military service. Of course, getting rid of such students will do no harm but good. That's why I consider that the government is eligible for drafting a limited number of iyeshiv students.

- It is very hard to disagree with Itshak Gagula as to this particular case. It's high time to start checking mobilization resources in the complicated present-day situation, but the government stays inactive. However, an experienced player, entering a casino hall is sure to check how much money there's in his pocket.

"Time" Israel

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