Or, ideally, levy only per-capita tax. People enjoy government services approximately equally: the rich do not enjoy more defense than the poor. The Israeli budget amounts to $500 per person per month if no other taxes or customs duties are levied. Though a radical measure, per capita tax would attract corporate business—which will be tax-free—and greatly increase economic output. Purchasing power will skyrocket as tax-free prices fall. A per capita tax will force haredim to work and will make the country too expensive for most Arabs.
Taxation and municipal payments are universally enforced among citizens regardless of their religion. Arab villages and haredi communities must not be immune from tax auditors.
Children are responsible for their parents. The state taxes one-tenth of childrens’ income (or the sales tax equivalent) as a pension for their parents. Their parents’ income is taxed for their grandparents’ pension. Parents will thus have a vested interest in bringing up more children, giving them better educations, and inducing them to stay in Israel. Instead of keeping money on their pension accounts, which are susceptible to inflation and stock-market gambling, parents will invest in their children as a sure way to provide for their own pension.
State welfare is only due to those who are physically or mentally incapable of doing any job rather than their choice job. After providing welfare funds, state can obtain redress from the beneficiary’s assets, including his apartment, and from his children and grandchildren’s income. State welfare is limited to emergency healthcare, basic foodstuffs, and hostel-type accommodation.
Parents are responsible for their children. Any state subsidies to the children, including medical insurance, are deducted from their parents’ income. If their income is below a certain minimum, the state’s claim remains in force indefinitely; interest accrues.
All schools are private. The state sets the minimal education standards, which are sensitive to religious beliefs. The state provides interest-free long-term loans for school and university education. The loans are provided automatically, and are not dependent on income qualifications. It is especially important to do away with nearly-free university education, which prompts students to take economically irrational studies in liberal courses. Everyone must be able to get an education, but he must also act responsibly in choosing an education that will eventually pay for itself. Private schools and universities may cut down on the excessive number of irrelevant courses.
The minimum wage is abrogated. Currently, minimum wage is the largest tax paid by consumers—a tax of which they are not even aware. If the state wants to subsidize low-wage earners, it must do so transparently, through subsidies. Incidentally, the minimum wage disproportionally benefits Israeli Arab citizens.
Labor immigration is structured to the benefit of citizens. Foreign laborers are not entitled to a minimum wage; they are free to leave the country if they do not like the wages offered them. Since their low wages set their low standard of living, they must not live in our cities, but in dodge towns. Otherwise, the foreigners will use leisure infrastructure (parks, etc) built with citizens’ taxes. An immigrant visa allows them to work profitably in our country, and implies no further obligations on the part of the state. The foreigners are not subject to social security taxes, though they must purchase health insurance. Insurance companies need not offer foreigners the same terms as citizens; generally, health insurance for foreigners covers only emergency treatment. Foreign laborers are only allowed to come here for up to five years, with no possibility of reentry; there must be no possibility of emotional attachment. Bearing children constitutes a breach of the immigration contract and leads to immediate deportation. In deportation matters, foreigners do not enjoy the due process intended for citizens, but only an administrative hearing. The foreigners deposit 20% of their wages in local banks to serve as a security for their legal obedience; failure to leave by the date of the visa’s expiration allows the state to forfeit that surety. Hiring illegal aliens is a punishable crime.
Freedom of hire. No one can tell an employer whether he should hire minorities or invalids. Arab employers must be free to refuse employment or service to Jews, and vice versa.
All licensing and permits are abrogated. Companies who wish to certify the quality or safety of their products are free to use private certification services and advertise accordingly. Professionals who want to establish their reputations can join self-regulating associations. In the areas of public safety, such as construction or medicine, government can mandate that companies carry liability insurance. In turn, insurance companies will ensure compliance with safety standards.
Offshore jurisdiction: companies registered in Israel but doing business exclusively offshore are still liable to full Israeli taxation, but they cannot be audited as long as they do no business in Israel. In this way, Israel won’t be ostracized internationally as an offshore jurisdiction, and her companies won’t be penalized internationally as tax-haven enterprises, but will be free to report any amount of income they want.
Money laundering: Israel will continue to subscribe to FATF regulation, but will establish a due process for money laundering trials with such stringent standards of proof as to make it almost impossible for anyone to be convicted of money laundering, ensuring that no accounts can be seized. The accounts cannot be frozen during investigation and trial, so that their owners can always transfer their money out of the suspect accounts. Israel won’t suffer penalties as a money-laundering jurisdiction, yet will enjoy significant foreign investments and commissions from operations with dirty money.
Municipal subsidies are abrogated. Towns and villages will spend only as much as they can extract in taxes. Productive towns will become more attractive and more expensive, while the haredi districts and Arab towns will become as rundown as their residents’ tax returns justify.
Municipalities are reorganized so as to cover areas with similar tax income. There must be no municipalities with mixed economic neighborhoods, such as north and south Tel Aviv, or Jewish and Arab Lod. Such mixed municipalities practically tax more affluent citizens for redistribution to pauper neighborhoods.
Conscription is reduced to six months, and only for men—but for all men. The army does not need a significant number of women. GDP losses from conscripting youth at its most productive age are staggering. Military professions which require education will become paid jobs. The public will know just how much the army costs. The government pays for military casualties at life insurance rates—$5 million per person. Humane wars and urban combat without fire support must become prohibitively expensive to wage.
Judges are appointed through direct elections at all levels. Population must vote not only for local judges, but for the Supreme Court, as well. That’s the way to curb judicial activism.]]>
The impurity, however, might not be perpetual. Formulations such as “he will be unclean until evening” and “for seven days” suggest that the state of impurity is finite.
Numbers 19:17 prescribes taking ashes for each purification. It is not possible, therefore, that the Temple priests diluted the ashes of a single ultra-rare cow to homeopathic proportions and distributed the resulting water. No, ashes had to be readily available in every village if we’re to take seriously the v.20 curse: everyone who is not purified should be banished.
Originally, Numbers 19 dealt only with the impurity of touching a corpse. Later, under-the-roof impurities were added in v.v.14–18. The expansion could only have been possible with a ready supply of red heifer ashes in many locations. That is probable, as v.2 merely demands that the cow be without blemish (“total”), which hardly substantiates the rabbinical demand that every hair on it be red, with the exception of two hairs at most. At the very least, the owner of a prospective red heifer would carefully pluck the non-red hairs before offering it for sale to the Temple.
Any red cow will do.]]>
For Christians, the answer is simple. Their religion is narrowed down to ethics, beautiful because of its fuzziness, like postimpressionism. Among its founder’s pronouncements, one may only disagree with the apocalyptic visions of righteous people herding their family members into eternal damnation. The possibility is rather remote. Rabbinical Judaism went much the same way, excising the harsh commandments from practical halacha.
Christians have yet another reason to submit to divine whims: salvation. That shameful doctrine has entered the sectarian Judaism of Essenes and Pharisees to the vehement opposition of the Temple priests, the Sadducees. The Torah does not know resurrection, only eternal sleep in Sheol. Prophets—disregarded completely by the priests as folk tales—hint at resurrection. But the doctrine of eternal punishment and paradise blossomed in the later literature for the very same reason it has entered Christianity: to attract the flock.
Bliss in the future world is a great reason to bear inconveniences, danger, and immoral religious demands in this world. Nothing could be further from Judaism. In a famous midrash, when Jews accepted the commandments in Sinai, God hanged a mountain above us and demanded that we accept them again—out of fear. Fear of God and love of God are the two driving forces in Judaism, repeatedly emphasized in the Torah as the reasons for observance. It is neither fear nor love if we observe the commandments with the expectation of rewards in this world or the next one. Cost-reward calculation is the way of businessmen and slaves, not religious people.
We must submit to divine will simply because that is the right thing to do. Thus a hammer submits to a carpenter, or soldiers to their commanders. The hammer may be broken in the process, the soldiers may risk death for no good reason, but they submit nevertheless. The idea is to become a team: a military company or a nation apart, in God’s service. The team’s goals thus take precedence over our own lives. Neither the commander nor God can reward us adequately. A medal, perhaps, or the status of “his people.” Our actions are not geared toward reward.
Does God exploit us unjustly by refusing adequate reward for troublesome and risky service? Definitely, yes. But think of it: you can ask your child to go buy milk without rewarding him, but you have to pay a stranger to do so. We are like children to God, his nation. Our relationship is too close to spoil it with barter.
There is no hope in true Judaism. We will not be better off by obeying God. Likely, we will be worse off. The Commandments are not problematic: even Christians accept that the commandments were operative for 1,500 years. But think: why do we observe them? A man who falls in love observes some very odd rituals to show the woman his feelings. In the best-case scenario, he will be rewarded with a nagging wife; realistically, there is no reward to expect. Love of God is the reason for observing the commandments, even though the observance ultimately leads to even more inconveniences.]]>
Nevertheless, Joshua 11:19-20 states that no town sought peace with the Jews because God hardened their hearts. The case of the Gibeonites supports the general principle that Jews must not leave any aborigines in the land they conquer. Presumably, the aborigines belonged to the six or seven tribes specifically proscribed, but in any case none of the previous inhabitants could remain in the land. The peace, therefore, could only be one of exile: the natives could leave our land peacefully or be killed. God, however, did not want the peaceful option. He hardened their hearts so that the Jews would exterminate them.
How do we know that the aborigines must have sought peace before the start of hostilities? In Joshua 13:13, and elsewhere, it says that several native clans remained in the land. The Jews, the author laments, did not drive them out. He does not entertain the possibility of peace with them because by that time the option of peace has already closed, since the Jews had started their conquest. The option to expel rather than exterminate exists only for towns beyond the Land of Israel proper. We can expel natives in expansionist wars, but must exterminate them inside our own borders, says the Tanakh.]]>
Protection is the foremost enabler of inequality. The rich pay proportionally the same taxes as the poor, a bit more in countries with progressive taxation. Yet their property is disproportionally more attractive to robbers: a single rich target is preferable to a million paupers. States thus subsidize the rich by protecting them in excess of their taxes paid.
The rich are more prone to tax evasion than the middle class because they can afford better accountants. Rich people are often close to the government, and so they profit from its contracts. In a free society in which protection services are privatized, inequality would diminish.]]>
When people cannot evaluate the truth, they look for social proof instead of objective truth. The number of adherents to a particular idea and intensity of their beliefs is mistaken for proof. Israel’s population cannot evaluate the intricacies of the peace process, and so the population looks to the peace zealots for a social example. The mass political suicide of an Israeli society that follows the peaceniks is not unlike the Holocaust or Jonestown, where crowds walked to their deaths because imitation was their only behavioral benchmark.]]>
A major prophet, a highly respected authority on Judaism, doing what? Building altars! And he is not alone: Joshua, Manoach, David, Ezra, many other figures engaged in that absolutely prohibited activity. Rabbis have good explanations for each case, but if we look at the text’s plain meaning, neither the actors nor the authors had any qualms about unauthorized altar-building. It looks like the authors of the books of Joshua, Samuel, and Chronicles did not know about the Torah’s ban on out-of-the-Temple sacrifices.
After the Philistines released the Ark, it dwelt in several Jewish villages. Not even prophet Samuel thought of moving it to the official site of worship in Shiloh. The evidence suggests that religious service was not yet centralized.
History shows how problematic such centralization would have been. Left without God’s altars, Jews immediately lapsed into idolatry. The desire to have a nearby place of worship is deeply ingrained in humans. The legend that in the Second Temple period Jews refrained from idolatry is not exactly true. For one thing, transportation had greatly improved by that time, and the Jerusalem temple was not tremendously far away anymore. Nevertheless, archeologists have found many pagan worship items in Jewish settlements. Also, during that time synagogues began to appear, which allowed a venue for out-of-Temple worship.
The idea of a centralized cult was a great one: a truly abstract religion without daily contacts with divine proxies, be it altars or statues. The centralized religion was conceived to be unobtrusive, alowing people to go on with their lives without performing superstitious rites at every step. Unfortunately, that does not work, and so Jews are still kissing Torah scrolls and blowing kisses to mezuzas. The only expanding sect of Judaism for the past two centuries has been the Hassidim, a firebrand folk-style religion far removed from the cold and abstract Judaism of Leviticus.
We do not have the Temple. Never mind. It did not exist for most of our history in the Land of Israel. We do not have the Ark. Never mind. Prophet Samuel was not in hurry to get it from the villagers. The common law is clear: when there is no Temple, Jews are allowed to build altars and sacrifice on them. And this is our current obligation.]]>
Adam ate fruit: clearly, if he stopped eating, he would have died. The animals around him were mortal, killed later by Abel. It is therefore hardly plausible that man was the only immortal living being around.
Look at the text. In Genesis 3:3, God warns Adam against eating the fruit of knowledge lest he be destroyed. The word for destroyed is grammatically an emphatic passive verb, it does not denote a condition (like becoming mortal). There is no hint that otherwise Adam would have lived eternally. It is like the sign on an electric pole that reads, “Danger! Death!” True, Adam did not die immediately upon eating the apple, but perhaps the warning was not literal, or he was forgiven, or God just saw no point in killing the only human around. Not all of those who climb the electric pole die, either.
In Genesis 3:22, Adam’s potential immortality is related to the tree of life. He became like a god in knowing good from evil, and now he could become even closer to them by becoming immortal.
Theoretically, it is possible that God accepted an ignorant immortal man, but refused immortality to a person who knew morality. That’s not illogical: such a person can perform an infinite number of immoral actions during his lifetime. Infinite immorality sounds like too much. Curious as the interpretation is, it is not supported textually.]]>
If Judaism is about morality, what is its religious value? Any philosophy major can lay down a system of morals; we do not need God for that. Even animals develop a sense of morality: dogs die defending their owners.
Just how moral are the commandments to kill the Midian babies, exterminate the native nations of Canaan, or kill our fellow Jews over seemingly trivial violations of the sacrificial system? Just how moral is the sacrificial system itself, which commands the killing of guiltless animals to expiate human guilt? Just how moral is a system that denies an individual private liberties—to practice homosexuality, work on Saturday, or cook meat in milk?
It may be argued that even those actions are moral when we take them in a larger context. The babies of Midian were killed so that Jews could persist as an isolated people, become a light to the nation, and in so doing save many more lives. Ritual purity laws encourage people to dwell on the sanctity of life. Many such explanations can be made, but they are convoluted. The problem is that they are untestable. Communists likewise claimed that their horrendous crimes were a shining path to a blissful future.
If Judaism is about morality, then how it is different from Pauline Christianity, which did away with all commandments and instituted a handful of arbitrary ethical prohibitions? Both Judaism and Christianity emphasize compassion, to a member of a tribe and an adherent to a confession, respectively. Both take it so far as to forgive adversaries (though not political enemies). Both prefer an apolitical existence—communities in Christianity, judges or theocracy in Judaism—and both make exceptions to that principle for the purposes of defense. Christians do not observe the Mosaic law, but it was not given to them in the first place. Even the Christian emphasis on Jesus has its parallels in Jewish excessive reliance on examples from the lives of their rabbis.
The difference between Judaism and Christianity is as follows: The founder of the Christian religion was human. His injunctions have to be consistent with human morality; otherwise he would be immoral. In Judaism, commandments came from God, who is beyond good and evil. The commandments need not be nice, good, or moral. Christians observe because they agree. We observe because we accept the yoke.
Speaking about the commandment to avoid killing the bird when taking eggs from its nest, the rabbis said this: if someone cites this commandment to praise God’s kindness, we shut him up. The reason is, if you praise God’s kindness, what do you do when you encounter a brutally immoral commandment? Judaism is about divine service, not morality. Whatever God says, we do, whether or not it squares with our conscience. If we are told to exterminate the natives upon returning to the Land of Israel, that is our religious duty. As people with a semblance of free will, we can dodge that duty, but we have no right to call the white black. We cannot say that such a religious duty does not exist or that it should not be carried out because it is immoral. Immoral it may be, but it is a religious duty nonetheless.]]>
But internationalization is a bad interpretation of Rabin’s idea. Long before Begin signed a peace treaty with Sadat, Rabin made a highly controversial intermediate agreement with Egypt on disengagement in Sinai. Rabin’s idea was that peace is a step-by-step process of building trust between parties. Short of a more traditional alternative, devastation, Rabin could have been right. Indeed, most of the Israeli establishment at the time subscribed to the incremental improvement doctrine. Traces of this doctrine can still be seen today in Lieberman’s calls for a peace treaty with the Palestinians, or in the leasing of the Golan Heights from Syria for 99 years to ensure that relations are indeed normalized. Rabin insisted on diffusion and disengagement as preconditions for peace. He noted correctly that a peace treaty would be impossible amid daily clashes between Israeli and Egyptian troops in Sinai. Years later he changed his mind and agreed to negotiate with terrorists under fire, saying, “We will negotiate as if there is no terror, and fight terrorists as if there are no negotiations.”
Rabin’s initial logic was lost on Olmert, who offered the Palestinians international control over the Old City. This control is not really international: the council would have a built-in Muslim majority. Nor was the offer really Olmert’s. Even Begin mused that he wouldn’t be around by the time the issue of Jerusalem is discussed. Curiously, the only major politician who vehemently opposed a deal on Jerusalem was Shimon Peres—before he became a radical peace advocate in an effort to woo Labor’s leftist activists away from Rabin during his bank account crisis.
Imagine the practicalities. Jews apply to the UN’s Waqf to conduct renovations at the Western Wall; delays in granting the permit are trumpeted in Israeli press. Archeological digs are banned. Muslims embellish Al Aqsa with Saudi money and construct freely on the Temple Mount site. Russia demands to be included in the council, and immediately clashes with Armenia and the Vatican, which in turn clashes with the Evangelicals. Checkpoints are set up all around the Old City, with border police and customs officials at every gate. Since the Palestinians continue to engage in terrorism, long lines and racial profiling become a permanent feature at the checkpoints, as does barbed wire. Inefficient UN forces cannot prevent Arab attacks on Jewish residents of the Old City, at which point Israeli police have to cross into the international zone.
Internationalization of the Old City would create a perfectly explosive mixture in which enemies rub against each other while their respective societies, dissatisfied with the arrangement, hungrily wait for sparks. Far from a settlement to facilitate peace, internationalization is certain to perpetuate war.
As if a 3,000-year-long war is not perpetual.]]>