The Challah Wars have three takeaways
There can’t be many less likely candidates for a boycott than Angel Bakeries. Purveyors of crusty challah since before the Eidah Hachareidis was born, the bakery is a Yerushalmi icon, wafting the fragrance of fresh bread over Givat Sha’ul under Ben-Gurion and Bibi alike.
Boycotting Angel’s is the Israeli equivalent of a trade war against Gerber’s baby food; a ludicrous attack on a harmless consumer brand.
Not anymore. Last week, this unassuming symbol of Israeli consensus gave new meaning to the term “kitchen table issue” by falling victim to Israel’s ongoing political bun fight.
It happened when the bakery’s new director, Omer Bar-Lev, who was the internal security minister in the Bennett-Lapid government, showed up at a protest outside Yeshivas Ponevezh and the house of Rav Gershon Edelstein, calling for a chareidi draft.
Within hours of the left-wing Bar-Lev posting his selfie at the protest, an online chareidi boycott campaign had spilled over into bakeries across the country. Angel challahs stayed on the shelves, and bulk orders from yeshivahs were canceled — a serious blow to the bakery’s bottom line.
Predictably, the boycott drew a secular counter-blast, with Avigdor Lieberman declaring his newfound appreciation for Angel’s exploding crust loaves. Ben Caspit, a leading secular journalist, called for a retaliatory boycott of Badatz goods, and Yoel Spiegel, the bakery founder’s grandson, posted a venomous attack on the “chutzpah of part of the ultra-Orthodox public” who “eat for free and evade army service.”
The Challah Wars have three takeaways.
First is the spontaneous way in which the story took off. There was a very real sense among chareidim that a line had been crossed both in targeting a venerable gadol, and the wider effort to make the chareidim collateral damage for the ongoing clash over legal reforms. Chareidim often feel marginalized, and that sense played out in the swift uptake of the boycott calls.
A second, related lesson involves the hot potato of the chareidi draft issue. The integrity of the Torah world is a core, culture-defining issue across the chareidi spectrum. Most secular politicians understand that the draft really is a red line for the demographic — a fact highlighted by the rally-round-the-flag moment that the Angel boycott became.
It’s safe to say that even if a new draft law doesn’t pass under the Bibi government (see Knesset Channel), Israel’s leadership will continue kicking that particular can down the road for many years to come.
Last, the saga is another example of the no-holds-barred campaign that a left wing out of power is prepared to wage against a homogeneous right-religious government.
Those who are prepared to ground air force squadrons and close hospital wards in pursuit of political aims have no qualms about a rally outside an elderly rabbi’s house.
The jury is out on whether the Bibi bloc can survive such scorched-earth tactics.
In a mirror image of the Bennett-Lapid experiment with a liberal-left-wing-Arab bloc, the current right-wing-settler-chareidi bloc is a hitherto unproven concept.
Until now, Bibi has always had a credible centrist partner such as Herzog’s Labor or Moshe Kachlon’s Kulanu to give the left-of-center the sense that they had a stake in power.
Shorn of that illusion, the current coalition has drawn staggering levels of delegitimization from the left.
With profits padded by the sale of their Givat Sha’ul location, Angel’s bakery has plenty of financial reserves to weather the storm. Whether Bibi’s government has similar pas b’salo, to borrow a Gemara phrase, is another story.
Fly and Buy
In a week of reverses, El Al — once a frequent target for religious boycotts over Shabbos flights — deserves a first-class upgrade for its decision to cancel Motzaei Shabbos flights from London, which required airline staff to work before the end of Shabbos to keep to takeoff times.
The airline’s decision is thanks to the ownership of Kenny Rozenberg, a frum Jew who bought the Israeli icon during the pandemic.
Rozenberg has kept a low media profile since taking over El Al, (shockingly) refusing interviews from a squadron of religious publications. But this is a chance to publicly acknowledge the kiddush Hashem of putting Shabbos before profits.
Besides the minyanim in the aisles, it’s another reason to travel El Al.
War is the great engine of technological progress, and so it has proven with the Ukraine conflict, with the diffusion of drone usage, and the deployment of hypersonic missiles. The latter are a fearsome emergent class of weapons that fly many times the speed of sound, and are designed to overwhelm air defenses by virtue of their speed and maneuverability.
So, the news that a much-trumpeted Russian hypersonic missile, the Khinzal, had been shot down by a US-supplied Patriot missile system, will have defense planners re-examining whether hypersonic weapons are really such fearsome foes.
A lot is still unknown about the interception, and what its broader lessons are. Khinzal, said to travel at Mach 10, was intercepted by the Patriot system likely operating under optimum conditions. Whether that will be replicable as hypersonic missiles improve is another question.
But Ukraine’s apparent success in downing the super-fast projectiles could end up being another lesson in modern warfare that Kyiv’s forces have taught the wider world.
All the News That Fits
Will the New York Times get a Pulitzer for its recent reporting on New York’s yeshivahs? The paper devoted extensive resources to a sustained attack on Orthodox education over the past year that went way beyond what would have been acceptable with any other minority.
But whereas until now critics focused on the bias inherent in the sustained nature of the campaign, a new report by the Daily Signal, published by the conservative Heritage Foundation, has alleged serious failures in the Times’ journalistic standards.
These include inappropriately anonymizing sources that it had previously named; failure to disclose sources’ conflicts of interest; and suspect statistics.
Will the allegations sink the Pulitzer hopes of the yeshivah reporting team? Not necessarily — the prize is also awarded for fiction.
(Originally featured in Mishpacha, Issue 960)
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