Monday, December 24, 2007

Religion and State in Israel – December 24, 2007

Religion and State in Israel
December 24, 2007
Editor: Joel Katz

Religion and State in Israel is not affiliated with any organization or movement.

Please send your comments or suggestions to

Reform head: U.S. Jews must not oppose compromise on Jerusalem

By Shlomo Shamir, Haaretz

Rabbi Eric Yoffie, the leader of the U.S. Jewish Reform movement, lashed out at the Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations for reaffirming its support for a united Jerusalem, saying the U.S. Jewish community must not oppose Israeli compromise on the capital.

"The Jewish community in the U.S. cannot at this moment make things difficult for Israel and it mustn't tell the Israeli government not to compromise on the issue of Jerusalem."

"If there will be a concession at the end of the day, Israel will receive a tremendous benefit in return."

Meretz - what is it good for?
By Shahar Ilan, Haaretz

The secular public seriously lacks proper representation in parliament.
It was no accident that the Tal Law was extended for five years with scarcely a murmur.

Nor is it any accident that civil marriage has been swept off the Knesset agenda.

The religious and right-wing parties even dominate debates on the constitution - some constitutional debates are held by a panel of six or seven religious Knesset members and not a single secular one.

Politics abhors a vacuum. If Meretz will not stand up for secular voters, then a more radical and aggressive secular party will surely emerge to fill the void.

Chief Rabbinate: Abortions are grave sin

By Neta Sela,

Israel's Chief Rabbinate decided over the weekend that it would establish a special committee that would work to reduce the amount of abortions carried out in Israel.

The council made the decision after Dr. Eli Schussheim, director of the anti-abortion organization Efrat, presented the rabbis with facts and figures on the amount of abortions carried out in Israel yearly.

Books, Brown and the Beit Din

By Anshel Pfeffer, Haaretz

British Chief Rabbi Jonathan Sacks:

"The connection between religion and politics has always been historically disastrous, without exception."

"You can't run a society by legislation," and adds that he hopes Israel drafts a constitution based on the Torah, dealing with "society, the welfare system, primacy of education, social justice and legal justice."

He is convinced a constitution of this type already can be "sensed in the national character. The challenge is how to advance that without religious coercion."

He hopes "sometime in the future, a rabbi or a group of rabbis will say we have to work with families. Religious leaders in Israel should focus on family, community, the education system. I'm glad that the Tzohar rabbis are doing that."

Tensions mount as top yeshivas quit MASA programsBy Daphna Berman, Haaretz

So far, three prominent yeshivas - Kerem B'Yavne, Yeshivat Har Etzion and Yeshivat Sha'alvim - have decided to formally sever ties with the program and other religious institutions for men and women said they may follow suit.

An estimated 35 percent of MASA's 9,000 participants are Orthodox.

Sources say one reason for the change in the way the money was allocated was due to the fact that religious institutions were getting a disproportionate chunk of the money. In the more Orthodox and ultra-Orthodox programs, the majority of students qualified for financial aid because they came from large families.

"MASA didn't like it because MASA isn't built for the religious, and so they changed the criteria,"
the source said.

International Fellowship of Christians and Jews will give the Jewish Agency for Israel $15 million per year for the next three years

The Jewish Agency is calling the new arrangement with the charitable fund, which is headed by Rabbi Yechiel Eckstein, a “strategic partnership.”

This year, the fellowship contributed more than $8 million to the Jewish Agency.

According to a memorandum of understanding, the fellowship will give the money to the Jewish Agency through Keren Hayesod.

The fellowship will be able to appoint a member to the Jewish Agency's Budget and Finance Committee, and the fellowship's president will become a member of the Jewish Agency’s Executive.

Jewish Agency to get Christian rep

By Anshel Pfeffer, Haaretz

According to the agreement between the Jewish Agency and the IFCJ, Eckstein will raise NIS 180 million among Christian communities in the next three years for immigration and absorption, and a Christian member of the IFCJ will be placed on the agency's board.

Allowing same-sex couples to adopt will strengthen Jewish families

By Rabbi Gilad Kariv,
The writer is Associate Director, Israel Religious Action Center

Removing the obstacles faced by same-sex couples who wish to adopt an Israeli child constitutes a clear and unequivocal expression of the State’s recognition that the child’s good would not be undermined because he or she have same-sex parents, and that this good hinges on, first and foremost, the quality of family life and the relationships within it.

This recognition by the State is another layer en route to pushing back bias, which is the only thing that could affect the good of a child of same-sex parents.

Gay adoption not for Jews

By Minister Yitzhak Cohen (Shas),
Minister Yitzhak Cohen is in charge of religious services

The Welfare Ministry seeks to create a public breach that would undermine the nature of the Jewish people: Indirectly, the Ministry seeks to redefine the meaning of a Jewish family.

What would be next? Would the Justice Ministry seek to redefine who’s a Jew?

Funds raise money for Orthodox soldiers

By Kobi Nahshoni,

Now orthodox soldiers can boast another quiet achievement, as the Libi Fund for Strengthening Israel's Defense holds a special fundraiser for orthodox soldiers.

The fundraiser is set to be held later on this week, and its chief goal is to raise funds for a new synagogue on IDF Training Base One (Bahad Echad), as well as to purchase 13 new Torah scrolls for various IDF units.

IDF: Rabbi who placed mezuzah on Casbah wall 'did not understand ramifications'
By Efrat Weiss,

Military officials told Ynet that the investigation's initial findings "indicate that the rabbi had unintentionally affixed the mezuzah and that immediately after the incident began to make waves, the offending mezuzah was removed."

See also article IDF rabbi affixes mezuzah at entrance to Hebron's Casbah

Hebron mezuzah incident investigated

An Israeli army rabbi is under investigation for putting a mezuzah up in an off-limits area of Hebron.

The rabbi of the military's Judea Brigade was photographed this week putting up a mezuzah in the casbah, or old city of Hebron, accompanied by Chabad supporters.

Where's the reform?
By Nehemia Shtrasler, Haaretz

We must end the separate state, state-religious and ultra-Orthodox systems.

We belong to one nation; we must attend the same school system and learn from the same books. That will reduce alienation, and Israel's fragmented society will be a real melting pot.

When ultra-Orthodox Jewish children begin learning mathematics, English, science, history and civics - like their counterparts in Brooklyn and Antwerp - the achievement level in Israel's schools will rise.

Religious studies will be taught in the afternoon, as an addition for interested students.

The shmita fiasco
By Rabbi Ed Rettig,
The writer is Associate Director of the Israel/Middle East Office of American Jewish Committee.

The sad state of Judaism in the Jewish State will not know improvement, unless religion can be disestablished and freed from the Israeli State's politics.

Perhaps it is time for Israeli society, and for those who care deeply about the future of Judaism in the Jewish state, to take steps to rethink and restructure according to the alternative model of separation of church and state.

The shmita fiasco shines a harsh light on the current failed system.

Over time, this may be its major impact.

Concerted Efforts to Prevent Planting along Trans-Israel Highway
By Yechiel Sever, Dei’ah veDibur

Concerted efforts are now underway to prevent the planting of ground cover along the new section of the Trans-Israel Highway leading to Kiryat Gat, because such planting is prohibited during the Shmittah year.

Trans-Israel Co. President Mr. Yehuda Cohen said the planting is not primarily decorative but to strengthen the highway infrastructure by spreading out on the ground.

But since even under such circumstances this type of landscape work is forbidden, broad efforts are now being made to prevent the planting.

Lod's religious council suspends burial services
By Tani Goldstein,

Religious Council workers have so far refused to bury three of the city's dead.

Dina Cohen, head of the Religious Council workers' union, told Ynet that Lod Mayor Ilan Harari has assured her the workers will be paid by after the delayed burials were conducted, but has not kept his word.

Religious Zionist leader: We'll be far stronger if we stop making idle threats
By Kobi Nahshoni,

Rabbi Shlomo Aviner, senior rabbi of the Religious Zionist Movement (and chief Rabbi of the settlement of Beit El):

“We need to take the advice of a prominent professor, an expert on social processes, who admonishes our movement to stand united and stop laying blame on one another.”

“We also need to stop speaking in a vague and threatening manner that alienates others.”

Solving the 'aguna' problem
By Rabbi Reuven Hammer,
The writer is an author and lecturer who serves as the head of the Rabbinical Court of the Masorti Movement

The establishment of a Jewish state has presented Jewish law with many challenges (shmita is only one of them).

Perhaps divorce is the most pressing because of the suffering and the injustice it causes.

We must strive for the time when injustice and Jewish law will be an oxymoron because we will have found the way within halachic bounds to completely eliminate the problem of agunot.

Beyond aliya Editorial

Support for aliya, however, should be considered part of a broader Israeli approach to the Diaspora.

There can be no aliya strategy, in other words, that does not work to ensure that the number of Diaspora Jews, their Jewish identity, and their connection to Israel are all increasing.

Birthright israel's collateral damage

"Students who have shown their interest by participating in an Israel educational experience while in high school should not be penalized by being excluded from a college Birthright experience."

Chief Rabbi Metzger: Only centralized lineage records can prevent forbidden marriages
By Kobi Nahshoni,

"There is a need for a computerized center to gather information on all Jews who marry according to Jewish law,"

Chief Rabbi Yona Metzger said on Monday at the 'World Conference on Jewish Civil Law' in Jerusalem.

In his speech, the rabbi stressed the importance of marriage witnesses' testimony to prevent legal errors.

The great awakening
By Anshel Pfeffer, Haaretz

Israel is in the throes of a major religious awakening, reaching deep into all parts of society, but no one has been told about it yet.

This renaissance of Jewish learning is going unreported and largely unremarked upon because it has not resulted in a perceptible shift toward one religious stream or denomination.

There is no new mass movement, and none of the charismatic rabbis or teachers has turned into a guru with a following of thousands.

On the surface, the old fault lines between Haredi (ultra-Orthodox), dati (modern Orthodox), traditional and secular Israelis are still in place, but just beneath, these boundaries are becoming increasingly blurred.

World Conference on Jewish Civil Law held in Jerusalem
By Kobi Nahshoni,

In his opening remarks, organizer Rabbi Arusi called on the ministers and MK's in attendance to approve of legislation aiming to transfer more powers to rabbinical courts and to bestow the courts with legal authority rather than simply view them as arbiters.

Lupolianski backs plan to provide 'kosher' electricity

Jerusalem's Ramat Shlomo (Shuafat) was chosen as the first pilot neighborhood to be hooked up to "kosher" electricity.

Local Council member Uri Maklev (Degel Hatorah) has met with neighborhood's chief rabbi and in the coming week the residents will be surveyed to find out if they are willing to pay the additional costs.

In addition to Jerusalem, Israel Electric Co. has begun negotiations to put generators in the predominantly haredi cities Betar Illit, Kiryat Sefer and El-Ad. The local residents have not yet agreed to pay for the costs.

Israel Electric Co. intends to fund the costs by charging a fixed monthly fee to all residents who use the generator-produced electricity, but all residents will have to agree to foot the bill.

Who controls the Temple Mount?

Click for VIDEO - The Society for Establishment of the Temple - video footage documenting ascents to Temple Mount

Barring the door to Falashmura raises difficult questions
By Anshel Pfeffer, Haaretz

Fundamental issues of Israel's national identity are at stake here.

What are the limits of Jewish identity and eligibility for citizenship?

Does Israel have a special obligation to assist the poor and downtrodden of the world, no matter how tenuous their connection to the Jewish people, or even if they have no connection whatsoever?

With the Falashmura we are talking tens, potentially hundreds, of thousands of people.

There simply doesn't seem to be a morally acceptable solution either way, save for falling back on the Law of Return, with all its faults, as our guideline.

Israel's Reform lobby for food gifts

Israel's Reform movement successfully lobbied for a new law promoting food donations.
The Israel Religious Action Center, the public advocacy and legal arm of the Reform movement in Israel, was among those pushing strongly for the passage of the so-called Israeli Good Samaritan Law.

The measure allows restaurants, hotels and catering halls to donate to organizations that distribute food to the needy without the fear of being subjected to lawsuits with regard to the quality and freshness of the products.

Some 25 percent of food prepared by these institutions is being thrown out, while a growing number of Israelis are struggling financially and must find ways to feed their families.

The center, which has been a leader in lobbying on the issue of food shortages in Israel, recently brought a group of Knesset members to the United States to see successful models of food projects.

New bill set to rein in Knesset lobbyists

Long-time lobbyist Lauren Poris said she welcomed Sa'ar's bill, since it would distinguish between various lobbying bodies.

"It will clarify that some of us are here representing human rights issues, while others are representing the [airport] duty-free shop,"

said Poris, who first began lobbying 20 years ago and currently works for the Israel Religious Action Center, the public and legal advocacy arm of the Reform Movement in Israel.

Knesset Education Committee Discusses Funding for Yeshivos Ketanos
By Eliezer Rauchberger, Dei’ah veDibur

The Knesset Education Committee held a meeting to discuss the budget for yeshivos ketanos whose students do not participate in the Core Curriculum Program and do not study secular subjects.

A Reform representative who participated in the meeting said that she objected to the legislation, but MK Rabbi Avrohom Ravitz replied irately, "Who do you represent at this meeting? Who invited you here? You're a tiny minority and your stance is of no interest to anyone and does not represent anyone. What are you doing here in the first place?"

MK Rabbi Gafni also protested her involvement, calling out, "Why are you interfering in this issue? I'm against hypocrisy and evil."

Both Rabbi Ravitz and Rabbi Gafni left the committee hall until she had finished speaking.

Ra'anana parents fume over failure to open TALI school
By Cnaan Liphshiz, Haaretz

AllisonKaplan Sommer says it was former mayor Ze'ev Bielski who made the original promise to open a TALI school, before he resigned his post to head the Jewish Agency.

Bielski, who was seen as immensely popular, supported Hofri's candidacy.
"Now both Bielski and the TALI school are nowhere to be seen," says Kaplan Sommer.

Feminist Orthodox organization receives humanitarian award
By Kobi Nahshoni,

"Women’s public contributions are, unfortunately, oftentimes spurned in the Orthodox world, unintentionally debasing Orthodox women and relegating them to a subordinate status,”

said Rachel Keren, chairwoman of the feminist Orthodox organization ‘Koelch’ Sunday, at an awards ceremony recognizing the group for its human rights achievements.

At the heart of Jewish thought there is equality between the sexes, explained Keren, but various halachic rulings “intentionally silence women and make mute their voice,” she said.

Dim light
By Ariel Hirschfeld, Haaretz

The Chabad hanukkiot, like all the Chabad initiatives, are a combination of good intentions and great fanfare.

In the display of hanukkiot, Chabad reveals the heavy-handedness inside the good intentions, in a most blatant form.

Because here they have touched a tangible symbol and done something to it: they take the delicate Jewish symbol, whose entire raison d'etre is light and beauty, and place it "everywhere" as a pile of electrical wires and iron pipes.

Abomination, oy vey!
By Yedidyah Meir, Haaretz

*YES promotes HDTV(High Definition TV)

I was offended that they took this charming *commercial off the air because they thought I was offended.

That's the most insulting thing. That and the speed with which the commercial disappeared, without any discussion or argument whatsoever, because it had to be taken off right away; it was a matter of life and death, these religious folks would never be able to withstand the offense to their feelings.

And another thing that offended me: Finally there's one completely kosher commercial - with no violence, no cursing, no models - and that's the one they take off the air? Gevald!

Three years from launch, 60% of Haredim using kosher cellphones
By Amitai Ziv, TheMarker

About 150,000 "kosher" cell phones have been sold in Israel since sales began, three years ago.

According to data from one cellular provider, the ultra-Orthodox (Haredi) Jewish community now uses about 250,000 cellular phones.

That means 60 percent of this religious community is using "kosher" devices, and conversely, that 40 percent of the community are using "non-kosher" ones.

Fierce competition for Haredi business over the past three years has reportedly resulted in a drop of about 30 percent in the average monthly bill of Haredi users, to about $25, while the general population has enjoyed a discount of just 6 percent.

How to be religious - and enjoy a Shabbat espresso
By Barr Hayoun, Haaretz

Use of these [“kosher”] cellphones in the ultra-Orthodox community has become the norm: these days 60% of cellularly enabled Haredim use them.

Moreover, the cellular companies are wooing the ultra-Orthodox community with special package deals tailored to the religious.

The companies can easily make sure that secular Israelis don't take advantage of the "Haredi packages" - by charging an arm and a leg for calls made on Shabbat.

Rabbis give Haredim dispensation for limited use of censored Internet
By Maayan Cohen, Haaretz

Rabbinical committee on communications published an announcement in the ultra-Orthodox newspapers Hamodia and Yeded Ne'eman yesterday, giving dispensation to "those who need the Internet to earn their livelihood" to use it under supervision.

According to the ordinance, a small number of specially censored sites will be permitted for use by the business sector only. The current ordinance applies to a pilot service provided by Bezeq International, but additional censored Internet site suppliers are likely to develop in the future.

See: notice issued by “Vaadas HaRabbonim LeInyonei Tikshoret”

Poll: Haredim read papers more than secular public

Some 28% said they read Hamodia, a daily controlled by the Gerrer Hassidim;

21% said they read Yated Ne'eman, a daily identified with the Lithuanian haredi community.

Mishpacha, an apolitical weekly, garnered 16% of the haredi readership.

PM’s Office: Mughrabi Gate construction never stopped
By Jonathan Lis, Haaretz

The Prime Minister's Office and the Israel Antiquities Authority claimed yesterday that the construction being carried out near the Mughrabi Gate, in an effort to prepare the ground for the construction of a pedestrian bridge, was never stopped - and therefore never resumed.

Jerusalem's Latin Patriarch rejects Israel's Jewish identity
By Agencies

Israel's identity as a Jewish state discriminates against non-Jews, the Holy Land's top Roman Catholic clergyman said yesterday in a pre-Christmas address.

"If there's a state of one religion, other religions are naturally discriminated against," Latin Patriarch Michel Sabbah told reporters, at the annual news conference held in Jerusalem before the Christian holiday.

In his address, which he read in Arabic and English, Sabbah said Israel should abandon its Jewish character in favor of a political, normal state for Christians, Muslims and Jews.

Sabbah slammed for challenging 'Jewish state'

Both the Union of Orthodox Jewish Congregations of America (UOJC) and the Anti-Defamation League (ADL) attacked Latin Patriarch Michel Sabbah for commenting last Wednesday during his annual pre-Christmas address that Israel should abandon its Jewish character in favor of a political, normal state for Christians Muslims and Jews.

Education Ministry seeks to shed ulpans
By Anshel Pfeffer, Haaretz

The Education Ministry wants to stop being responsible for teaching Hebrew to new immigrants because it is busy with school reform, ministry director general Shlomit Amichai said.

Gov't planning to close most ulpans, privatize immigrant Hebrew studies
By Anshel Pfeffer, Haaretz

Less than 60 percent of olim complete their ulpan studies, compared with 24 percent who never attend ulpan and 17 percent who drop out early on.

Another change the Immigrant Absorption Ministry is promoting is to establish study centers for children of olim, where they would learn Hebrew for several months before being integrated into local schools.

The most nurturing experience an oleh could have wanted
By Ariel Zilber, Haaretz

Where else could the Ghanaian son of a Russian Jewish mother meet a Colombian girl who would later become his bride?

Pioneer ethic lives on in ulpans amid charges they need a shake-up
By Anshel Pfeffer, Haaretz

Dr. Michael Yedovitsky, the director of the Jewish Agency's education division for the former Soviet Union:

"The writing has been on the wall for a long time."

"A very significant group of people, after a year in Israel, displays a poor ability, especially regarding Hebrew language skills, daily communication, expressing themselves in writing, and reading comprehension.

And there is extraordinary bitterness because this messes up a person's life in communication with his Israeli surroundings, his children and workplace."


Religion and State in Israel is not affiliated with any organization or movement.

Please send your comments or suggestions to

Religion and State in Israel - December 24, 2007

Religion and State in Israel special edition
December 24, 2007
Editor - Joel Katz

Religion and State in Israel is not affiliated with any organization or movement.

International Conference on Contemporary Reform Judaism: Sociology, Education and Theology
Van Leer Institute, Jerusalem
December 24-25, 2007

Tuesday, 25 December 2007

Halakhah and Ritual in Reform Judaism
Chair: Yotam Benziman
Michael A. Meyer, Transformations in the Religious Service and in the Character of Reform Synagogues in the United States
Dalia Marx, The Ma'amad: The Search for Liturgical Authenticity in the Israeli Reform Youth Movement
Shai Wozner, Examining Reform Halakhah: Reflections on Rabbi Zemer`s Sane Halakhah
Mark E. Washofsky, Reform Halakhic Decision-Making: Law and Rhetoric in the Life of a Liberal Jewish Community

Gender Perceptions: a Critical Examination
Chair: Rachel Elior
Paula E. Hyman, The Influence of Feminism on the Reform Movement (English)
Ariel Picard, Halakhahic Discourse in the Reform Movement: Homosexual Marriage as a Test Case
Yakir Englander, The Perception of Homosexual Sexuality in Reform Halakhah and its Influence on Rulings

The Influence of Reform Judaism on Other Groups and Movements
Chair: Yochi Fischer
Adam Ferziger, Between Enemy and Brother: Reform Judaism in Contemporary Orthodox Discourse
Jack Wertheimer, "Loyal Opposition?" – The Posture of Conservative Judaism vis-à-vis Reform (English)
Moti Zeira, The Fourth Movement – Its Connection with or avoidance of Reform Judaism

Respondent: Michael Marmur

Concluding Session – Israeli Society and Reform Jews
Chair: Avinoam Rosenak
Aviad Hacohen, Reform Judaism and the High Court of Justice: A Cultural, Legal and Social Analysis
Yehuda Maimaran, The Traditional Jew and Reform Judaism
Asher Cohen, Integration Problems of Reform Judaism in Israel: Socio-Cultural Analysis

Respondent: Anat Hoffman

Concluding Remarks
Rabbi Eric H. Yoffie

CLICK HERE for Live Coverage of International Conference on Contemporary Reform Judaism: Sociology, Education and Theology

Rabbi Eric H.Yoffie, president of the Union for Reform Judaism:

"The fact that important researchers and world-renowned scholars are attending a conference that is taking place in Jerusalem reflects the growing standing of the Reform movement in Israel."

Orthodox rabbi to oversee Reform conference in Jerusalem
By Shlomo Shamir, Haaretz

Prominent Reform movement supporters in New York maintained that the conference in Jerusalem will have practical implications for the movement's future standing in Israel.

The impression they gave was that this conference marks the beginning of a process of recognition for Reform Judaism in Israel - a process that bypasses the Orthodox rabbinic establishment in Israel, which utterly rejects the movement's presence in the country.

Van Leer Institute to host first ever Reform Judaism conference
By Neta Sela,

Dr. Aviad Hacohen, Dean of the Shaarei Mishpat Academic College, objects to what he sees as the overwhelming number of petitions Reform leaders have filed with the High Court.

"Reform Judaism's use of legal channels through which it has filed several dozen petitions in the past 20 years has not brought them the results they had hoped for.
In a way, it has even damaged their position in the eyes of the legal community as well as the general public."

"The vast appeals to the High Court has worsened the image of the (Reform) movement in the eyes of the public in Israel."

He thinks the movement does not have a real following and sees their appeals to the High Court as a pathetic attempt to be admired by the Court, a goal which was also not attained in most cases."

The differing emphases of Judaism's 3 streams

The Reform and Conservative movements have had shaky foundations in Israeli society, due in part to the monopoly enjoyed by Orthodox Judaism on state funds and official recognition.
However, both non-Orthodox movements have experienced significant growth in recent years.

Both will devote special sessions to the reasons for their relative weakness in Israel compared to in the US.

Progressing slowly

Dr. Asher Cohen, of Bar-Ilan University's political science department, will speak about Reform Judaism's absorption difficulties in Israel from a socio-cultural point of view.

"From a pure socio-cultural analysis, we see that the number of congregations - some 26 around the country - hasn't changed in the past decade and I think this data speaks for itself."

Israel Religious Action Center head Anat Hoffman rejects most of Cohen's conclusions.

"We do not define ourselves according to numbers."

"This is a very narrow look at the sea of Judaism and this is not our way. We have taken it far beyond that, to the notions of justice and equality.

Reform shies away from homosexual rabbis, study reveals


In another research paper to be presented at Van Leer, Dr. Aviad Hacohen, rector of the Sha'arei Mishpat Law College, found that the Israeli Reform Movement failed in most of its legal battles in the Supreme Court.

Instead of putting more emphasis on building communities and less on legal battles, the Reform Movement in Israel has tried to improve its status vis-à-vis the Orthodox establishment by appealing to equality before the law.

Hacohen argued that only did the Reform Movement fail to make major headway, it also hurt its own image. About 90% of its Supreme Court petitions were rejected, thus reaffirming the Orthodox monopoly.

In addition, the lost battles in the Supreme Court presented the movement as rootless in Israeli society. The movement appeared pathetic in its failed attempts to win the Supreme Court's sympathies, Hacohen wrote.

Religion and State in Israel is not affiliated with any organization or movement.

Please send your comments or suggestions to

Tuesday, December 18, 2007

Religion and State in Israel - December 17, 2007

Religion and State in Israel
December 17, 2007
Editor: Joel Katz


If there's no Reform movement in Israel, there's no Reform movement
By Shmuel Rosner, Haaretz

Rabbi Eric Yoffie:

"If we fail to create a significant presence in Israel, this failure casts doubt on our authenticity as a religious movement. In other words, if we do not become a force in Israel in the next generation, we will have consigned ourselves to the margins of Jewish history."

In short, this is the message: If there's no Reform movement in Israel, there's no Reform movement.

Click here for sermon by Rabbi Eric H. Yoffie at San Diego Biennial (Section IV on Israel)


Avoiding a head-on collision
By Yedidia Stern and Avi Sagi, Haaretz

Two worldviews grapple in the center of the Israeli arena: religious and liberal.
Depicting either the religious system or the liberal one as truth systems leads to a head-on collision between them.

The tension between the religious and the secular and between religion and state is among the greatest challenges facing Israeli society.

It affects politics - about one-third of the members of the previous Knesset were elected on the basis of their position on this matter;

it affects culture - we are descending into a culture war between religious and secular; it affects law - disputes damage people's confidence in the courts and lead to the paralysis of the procedures necessary for adoption of a constitution;

and it affects the national ability to function - when individuals assume a stance of refusal in the name of the religious truth or the liberal truth.


Fraud charges could topple Ashkenazi chief rabbi at January 3 meeting
By Yuval Yoaz, Haaretz

The Rabbinical Court of Appeals will discuss removing Metzger in wake of a recommendation by Justice Minister Daniel Friedmann that the chief rabbi be impeached for alleged breach of trust and fraud.

Metzger's lawyers are expected to argue that the court is not authorized to discuss the removal of chief rabbis because it does not appoint them.

In addition, they will claim that Mazuz's decision not to open a criminal investigation into the affair proves that Metzger need not resign.


Knesset c'tee to probe delays in approving conversions
By Matthew Wagner,

The Knesset State Control Committee will discuss on Monday a bureaucratic bottleneck in the Conversion Authority that is holding up 300 potential conversions.

State Comptroller Micha Lindenstrauss may be called upon to investigate the delays, which have forced some potential converts to wait for years to join the Jewish people.

Most of the prospective converts are the spouses of Israelis who met non-Jews abroad, got married in civil ceremonies and returned to Israel, where the spouses showed interest in converting to Judaism.


IDF's Chief Rabbi Opposes Women in Combat Units
By Gil Ronen,

Brig.-Gen. Avichai Ronsky, the IDF's Chief Rabbi, said that women serving in the IDF should not be put in combat roles.

"The idea of girls going into tanks or into paratrooper battalions is an impracticable one in my opinion and could hurt the combat array,"
he told Voice of Israel government radio.

Ronsky said the subject of women's service in combat was currently under debate and that the Military Rabbinate's position on the subject was certainly negative.

He added that practically speaking,
"there will be very few girls who want to serve three years as fighters in the paratroops or tanks; it seems a little imaginary to me."


IDF Rabbinate to include female Religion Officer

By Gil Ronen,

Brig.-Gen. Avichai Ronsky, the IDF's Chief Rabbi revealed that for the first time ever, a female Religion Officer will join the ranks of the Military Rabbinate, and will deal with religious questions, problems and needs faced by female soldiers.

One out of three girls from the religious Zionist stream joins the army, he said: "This is quite a lot [of women] and we have never dealt with this matter in the Rabbinate."


Three top yeshivas cut ties with Jewish Agency program MASA
By Daphna Berman, Haaretz

Yeshiva representatives, speaking on condition of anonymity, cite MASA's failure to respect their religious sensitivities in mandatory events, as well as an abundance of paperwork that they said made the partnership no longer tenable.

The signatories on the letter included rabbis and administrators from Yeshivat Kerem B'Yavne, Yeshivat Har Etzion and Yeshivat Sha'alvim.


Van Leer Institute International Conference on "Contemporary Reform Judaism: Sociology, Education and Theology"

Van Leer Institute, December 24-25, 2007, Jerusalem

The aim of the conference is to share new research studies which will contribute to a fuller understanding of contemporary Reform Judaism and the internal processes which it is undergoing from the perspectives of sociologists, theologians, historians and educators.


Shas says will oppose plan to let gay couples adopt kids
By Yuval Yoaz, Haaretz

The Shas Party plans to prevent Welfare Minister Isaac Herzog from implementing a planned revolution that would allow same-sex couples to adopt children.

This is a crazy idea,"
Shas Chairman Eli Yishai told Haaretz.

"It is part of a series of ideas by deluded parties whose sole goal is to blur the Jewish core of the Jewish people. This initiative contradicts the coalition agreements, and therefore, it will not be realized."

See also "Adapting adoption"


Conservative Movement ordain 3 female rabbis in Jerusalem
By Neta Sela,

Four new conservative rabbis, Chaya Rowel-Baker, Judith Rubin, Roni Boaz-Klein and Gali Snir were ordained Sunday in Jerusalem by the Schechter Rabbinical Seminary.


Alternative shmita kashrut supervision dismantled
By Matthew Wagner,

Tzohar Rabbis and the Religious Kibbutz Movement announced Monday that they have dismantled their alternative kosher supervision apparatus that was set up for the shmita (Sabbatical) year.

Tzohar rabbis, many of whom are employed by the Chief Rabbinate, began issuing alternative kashrut certificates two months ago.

Rabbi Moshe Rauchverger, a senior member of the chief rabbinate's governing body, said that as a result of the Supreme Court decision, three rabbis were given authorization to provide kashrut certificates in cities where the local rabbis refused to.

Kiryat Arba-Hebron Chief Rabbi Dov Lior is responsible for central and southern Israel, including Judea and Samaria. Haifa Chief Rabbi Shear Yishuv Cohen is responsible for the North. Yosef Harel, the rabbi responsible for the Judea region, provides kashrut certificates to businesses in Jerusalem.


Israel denies encouraging Jews to leave Germany

"The main purpose of Nativ is to bring to those communities a sense of the Jewish culture, the Israeli culture and to help with education. The agenda is not to become movers of the communities to Israel."

However, Been-Zeev said Israel was the natural home for Jews and anyone wanting to move to Israel was "more than welcome".


Gaydamak: "Secular Couch-Potatoes Have Nothing to Give Religious"
By Hillel Fendel,

Arcadi Gaydamak is emphatic that the religious have an important role in teaching others about Judaism and thus keeping the nation's traditions alive:

"We are a people, because we have this knowledge that we are Jews. We should transmit this knowledge to future generations.

We must maintain and provide support for those who are transmitting this knowledge, i.e., the religious people.

They do not have to come closer to the non-religious, because they [the non-religious] have nothing to offer the religious; what, they can teach them how to sit on the sofa and watch TV? Or how to make a barbecue?

But the non-religious people should try to be closer to the religious so that they can learn at least a little about our history and tradition, and then to transmit it to the next generation. If not, we will disappear. I try to help the religious by giving them support. "


HOT refuses to provide Haredi communities telephone service
By Amitai Ziv, Haaretz

The national cable company HOT is refusing to provide landline telephone infrastructure in ultra-Orthodox neighborhoods.

According to an exchange of correspondence between MK Moshe Gafni (United Torah Judaism) and the Ministry of Communications, the many complaints received are not necessarily from residents of outlying villages, but from centrally located towns like Bnei Brak, Petah Tikva and Beit Shemesh, where Hot infrastructure exists in secular neighborhoods.


If we're going by the numbers, it doesn't add up
By Anshel Pfeffer, Haaretz

Zionism is not dead. There are always those who will come for purely
ideological reasons, but for the rest of potential immigrants, it has become increasingly a matter of convenience and lifestyle.

The numbers game is obsolete, and those hoping the Jews of the world will arrive in droves and save Israel from demographic catastrophe are deluding themselves.


Bielski to Rabbinate: Ease restrictions on Ethiopians
By Ruth Eglash and Matthew Wagner,

Jewish Agency for Israel director general Ze'ev Bielski has called on Sephardi Chief Rabbi Shlomo Amar to consider easing the stipulation that children of Ethiopian immigrants must attend national religious schools during the period that their parents convert to Judaism.

"To my dismay, in most of these cases, the central issue is that the children of Ethiopian immigrants are made to learn in the religious school system," wrote Bielski, arguing that because of this requirement a disproportionately large concentration of Ethiopian pupils end up in a small number of schools."


Tiberias eateries turn kosher to draw tourists
By Eli Ashkenazi, Haaretz

Over the past 20 years, tourism in the lakeside city of Tiberias has been in a long and steady decline.

The city was dealt a serious blow in 2000 with the outbreak of the second intifada, when foreign tourism to Tiberias came to an almost immediate halt. Religious tourists, however, continued to visit and locals began to vie for their business.

Within a short period, cafes and restaurants began to display prominent kosher signs, and the city's religious council became more stringent in its demands for granting kashrut certificates.

Only two eateries, Avi's Restaurant and Little Tiberias stayed open on Shabbat.

Last month, Avi Betham of Avi's Restaurant gave up and took out a kosher certificate for his establishment.


Tiv Taam launching chain of Mizra brand delicatessens
By Sivan Klingbail, TheMarker

Tiv Taam is to open a new branch in central Tel Aviv operating under the Mizra brand name.

Tiv Taam in the City operates eight branches, six in Tel Aviv, and it has plans for four more there, and another in Givatayim. (Tiv Taam branches are not kosher, jk)


Interior Ministry closes down Ethiopian aliyah operation
By Anshel Pfeffer, Haaretz

The Interior Ministry will close down its operation in Ethiopia in another two weeks, after signing the last aliyah permit for Falash Mura who are eligible to immigrate to Israel.

According to the ministry, some 1,500 eligible Falash Mura are still in Ethiopia, and all are expected to arrive here by next June. But Ethiopian immigrant associations claim that there are at least 8,500 others who are eligible to immigrate under the government's criteria.
The North American Conference on Ethiopian Jewry (NACOEJ):

"We don't make decisions for the Israeli government," said Joseph Feit, one of its leaders, "but according to the halakhic rulings of Israel's chief rabbis, and according to opinions by the three religious streams here in the U.S.[Orthodox, Conservative and Reform], the Jewishness of the 8,500 Falash Mura remaining in Gondar should be recognized.

Nor would it surprise me if there are more Jews in the villages of Ethiopia."


As Ethiopian aliyah nears end, advocates push for 8,500 more
By Uriel Heilman, JTA

For now it seems nothing short of a court order will force the Interior Ministry to screen the additional Ethiopians for aliyah eligibility under the special terms granted to the Falash Mura -- Ethiopians who claim links to Jewish progenitors.


They're not Jewish
By Danny Adino Ababa,

The writer is an Ethiopian-born journalist

"...Members of the Falash Mura have become hostages thanks to some American Jews who want reconciliation with Afro-Americans over the injustices done to them.

The estimates that 20,000 Falash Mura members are waiting to move to Israel are false.

In fact, we are talking about an endless number, particularly if we consider their kinship to those who already made it to Israel. "


U.S. real estate tycoon, Bar-Ilan U., plan new medical school - and town - near Safed
By Tamara Traubmann, Haaretz

An estimated $500 million in donations is required to improve the hospitals and build the medical school, a medical research center and student dormitories.

The money will be supplied by donors recruited by Kaveh and Stark, the president and chief executive officer of the Ohio-based real-estate developer Stark Enterprises, and an observant Jew.

The 3,400-dunam university town is slated to include residential buildings for faculty, cultural institutions, two shopping centers and a hesder yeshiva, which combines military service with Torah study.


Haredi Rabbis approve internet use for business
By Neta Sela,

The Rabbinical Commission for Media Affairs, established by leading Haredi rabbis, published in the Monday's Haredi press an announcement permitting the use of the internet "solely for business purposes, through kosher means."

According to articles, many appealed to the community's Rabbis to find a solution for the problem of the internet as anyone required to use it to provide himself with a livelihood felt like he was "living on the edge."


Haredi lottery comes to town
By Neta Sela,

In this new project, known as "Goralot," participants whose numbers match are not the only ones who win; the profits from ticket sales will go for charity purposes to the "Tiferet Rechesim" fund, which provides aid for families in need and young haredi dropouts.


MK Melchior awarded Liebhaber Prize for Religious Tolerance
By Neta Sela,

The Marc and Henia Liebhaber Prize for Promotion of Religious Tolerance and Cultural Pluralism in Israel was first given 13 years ago following the murder of Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin.

The prize was awarded to Knesset Member Michael Melchior (Labor-Meimad) for his role in "nurturing religious and secular dialogue and the nurturing of the relationship between the leaders of the three monotheistic religions".


Jerusalem Earmarks NIS 100 Million for Construction of Religious and Educational Facilities
By Yechiel Sever, Dei'ah veDibur

As the Jerusalem City Council prepares for budget talks, the municipality submitted data on projects soon to be carried out.

The compiled data shows during the coming year the municipality will build mikvo'os, botei knesses and botei medrash throughout the city at an unprecedented level of NIS 100 million ($25 million).


Cabinet okays renewing controversial Temple Mount Mugrabi excavation
By Akiva Eldar, Haaretz

The Israel Antiquities Authority (IAA) has been instructed by the cabinet to continue its work at the Mugrabi walkway near the Western Wall in Jerusalem.

The cabinet recently instructed the IAA to complete the work "as soon as possible, with full transparency and with the cooperation of the relevant bodies."


Kolech wins Human Rights award
By Yair Ettinger, Haaretz

The Association for Civil Rights in Israel (ACRI) said the Kolech organization had won its 2007 award for upholding human rights.

Founded in 1998, Kolech promotes equal rights for women in Israel's Jewish Orthodox community.

The group, for example, helps women whose husbands deny them a divorce.

Kolech chairwoman Rachel Keren said the award showed that the organization had boosted women's rights in Israel in general, not just in the religious sector.


Support Sought for Temple Mount Synagogue
By Hillel Fendel,

The golden Menorah - suitable for use in the Holy Temple, and familiar to visitors to the Cardo section of the Old City of Jerusalem - was relocated to the landing of the wide staircase that leads down from the Jewish Quarter to the Western Wall.

Click here to see photos of the procession.

The $3-million, one-half ton Menorah is protected inside the same type of glass structure that has housed it until now.


Israel confirms appointment of Greek Orthodox Patriarch
By AP/

More than two years after he was sworn in as the Greek Orthodox Patriarch in the Holy Land, Theofilos III on Sunday finally won the approval of the Israeli government, putting an end to a lengthy international saga with religious, political and financial elements.

On Sunday, the government finally approved Theofilos by a vote of 10 to 3. The opponents all belonged to the ultra-Orthodox Jewish Shas Party, who raised reservations about Theofilos' reported commitment to blocking any future sale of lands to Jews.

Theofilos, 55, has said he will not recognize any land deals signed by Irineos. He has accused Israel of not recognizing him in an effort to extort his support for the lease of the property, which includes two hotels and several shops.


Teach Israeli Children Value of Democracy
By Dori Spivak and Melanie Takefman, The Forward

Though important advances have been made to expand the reach of human
rights education to all sectors of Israeli society, neither human rights nor education are on the top of the government's agenda.

The American Jewish community, and all of Diaspora Jewry, should keep this in mind in their support of Israel.

Without an educated and tolerant population, Israel will only weaken from within, regardless of any political settlement.


Sderot yeshiva fights despair with faith
By Matthew Wagner,

Over the past several years the Sderot Hesder Yeshiva has grown 15 percent annually, said administrative head Michael Siman-Tov. There about 550 students enrolled, 80 of whom currently serve in the army.

Around 50 young religious Zionist families have moved to town, with most of the men graduates of the Sderot Hesder Yeshiva.


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Tuesday, December 11, 2007

Religion and State in Israel - December 10, 2007

Religion and State in Israel
December 10, 2007
Editor: Joel Katz

Forging the Israel connection - Israel Reform Rabbi Meir Azari
By Anshel Pfeffer, Haaretz

Meir Azari, rabbi of the Beit Daniel synagogue in Tel Aviv, home to the largest Reform following in Israel, has a dream:

"I'd like to see large groups of Reform and Conservative Jews on El Al flights from the U.S. - not just the many ultra-Orthodox, blocking the aisle with minyanim."

"I don't think the Reform movement is giving enough guidance to its donors. Habad rabbis tell me they have many Reform donors, as do a number of extreme right-wing yeshivas.

The Reform movement has to launch a significant campaign to strengthen its contributions to Israel.

I just want our donors to be aware that they can achieve all this - improvement in the fields of education, social welfare and higher learning - through the Reform movement in Israel."


Reform Reflections: My Hanukka, Your Hanukka
By Rabbi Michael Marmur,

In an excellent article published this week in a major Israeli daily, my colleague Rabbi Gilad Kariv, a brilliant young Israeli Reform rabbi, offers a compelling and relevant reading.

Gilad, like others who espouse a liberal philosophy of Judaism, is not threatened by the notion that there is historical change within Judaism, or that our culture is constantly soaking in influences from outside.

On the contrary: far from being threatened by this fact, he is emboldened and inspired by it.
Rabbi Kariv points out that the development of the festival of Hanukka in December may well be connected to the existence in many cultures of a festival of lights at the very darkest time of the year.

He shows that our ancestors may well have been engaged in a polemic with surrounding cultures, opposing their pagan theology while adopting many of the forms and themes of the festival.


Seculars not going anywhere
By Kobi Nahshoni,

Yair Lapid says that a change that did take place in the State of Israel in recent decades is that many more seculars feel they lost Judaism to the religious and have decided they wish to take interest in Judaism and deal with it in their own way.

"In my view this is a positive thing," Lapid says, and adds: "Judaism is a great and noble thing, and to say 'we'll leave it to the Orthodox and religious without taking any interest' is irresponsible.

For years Judaism has been a sort of product put on the religious shelf, and on holidays we would take it off the shelf and let seculars play with it for a bit.
Now, Judaism is going back to being something that more closely touches everyone."


Court rules: Time of day is irrelevant in couple's race to file first divorce suit

By Ofra Edelman, Haaretz

Dr. Halperin-Kadari, head of the Rackman Center for the Advancement of the Status of Women at Bar-Ilan University, believes that if the husband had filed suit 15 minutes before his wife, the rabbinical court would have upheld the law, asserting that "fifteen minutes is fifteen minutes" and ruled it was authorized to hear the case. "This ruling is an obstacle in advancing Israeli women's inferior status in divorce conflicts," she says.

"When the rabbinical court hears property matters, it's very easy for the husband to set conditions for agreeing to divorce his wife."

She says this gives men the power to extort and blackmail their wives.


Widow threatened with deportation

By Shahar Ilan, Haaretz

In early 2006, the Israel Religious Action Center of Reform Judaism filed 10 petitions to the High Court of Justice on behalf of widows of Israeli citizens.

IRAC claims they are entitled to citizenship under Israeli law, and wants the court to compel the Interior Ministry to introduce a procedure for widows' naturalization.

Haaretz Editorial

Due to the desire to close Israel's gates to non-Jews, the officials at the Population Administration are ignoring the law, their own regulations and humanitarian considerations, and are creating countless human tragedies.


Bacon and Egged?
By Matthew Wagner,

The caricature appears on a pamphlet published recently by "The Council For Kosher Transportation - Har Nof, Givat Shaul" that blames Egged for being insensitive to haredi customers' religious strictures which require strict separation of men and women on buses.

The rabbis complain that the excessive crowding on the 11 and 15 buses forces passengers to transgress prohibitions against coming into contact with the opposite sex. The close proximity of men to women also causes men to fantasize, another prohibition.

Efforts to Persuade Bus Companies to Provide Mehadrin Service

By Yechiel Sever, Dei'ah veDibur

The rabbonim said they have been discussing various matters with Egged and Transportation Ministry representatives in order to make special arrangements that meet halachic requirements.

Vaadas HaRabbonim decided to look into a recommendation to bring before gedolei Yisroel the need to call upon the public to stop chartering Egged buses for special occasions and to assess preparedness to organize a large demonstration to be led by gedolei Yisroel, in Jerusalem or in another location.


Bureaucracy stymies converts' aliyah plans

By Cnaan Liphshiz, Haaretz

"It is unfortunate and regrettable that obstacles are being put in the way of the Levy family, who should be fully treated as fellow Jews by the state of Israel," Rabbi Uri Regev, the Israel-based president of the World Union for Progressive Judaism.


Interview with OC Chaplaincy Brig.-Gen. Ronzki
By Matthew Wagner,

OC Chaplaincy Brig.-Gen. Avichai Ronzki admits that for him, Halacha takes precedence over the IDF code of ethics.

"It is clear that a man of faith is obligated first and foremost to adhere to God's commandments," he says.

"I want the Torah and Judaism to be part of every soldier in the IDF," he says.

"Increasing Jewish consciousness is where the IDF rabbinate is devoting most of its energies. We organize lectures, classes, events, all sorts of things to increase soldiers' awareness of their Jewish heritage.

That is the reason I came to the IDF rabbinate. I am not here to serve the religious soldiers. I am here to reach the entire IDF - all the soldiers, secular especially."

Nahal Haredi Video

Click here for VIDEO


Israeli Holocaust survivor's last relative may be forced to leave

By Shahar Ilan, Haaretz

Last month Anna Jagnos-Paliashkon, 80, petitioned the High Court of Justice to protect what is left of her family. Jagnos, a Holocaust survivor, immigrated to Israel five years ago with her family from the Ukrainian city of Simferopol.

The petition by Jagnos and Dzhedan, both Be'er Sheva residents, was filed by attorney Sarah Lewis of the Israel Religious Action Center (IRAC), the Reform Movement's legal arm.


MKs debate what equality means

By Shahar Ilan, Haaretz

MK Moshe Gafni (United Torah Judaism) said he was in favor of a constitution, on principle, but only on condition that equality is carefully defined. "I am among those who want a constitution," MK Gafni said: "[But] we must decide what the word 'equality' entails.

[Does it relate to] marriage and divorce? Yeshiva students? Laws of kashrut?"

He said that if equality means the cancellation of those things, then it would "cancel the idea of Israel as a Jewish state."


Renaissance women

By Cnaan Liphshiz, Haaretz

Immigration from North America has been central to giving modern-Orthodox women in Israel more control over their lives, Dr. Zehavit Gross from Bar-Ilan University told Anglo File last week, after speaking at the World Emunah conference in Jerusalem.


"Military exemptions for Yeshiva Students - a cancer we must annihilate"

By Tani Goldstein,

RAD Group founder Zohar Zisapel at the Israeli Business Conference in Tel Aviv:

"We can allow a few dozens of students a year (to continue in yeshiva), as in the original agreement, and as the religious world requires to fill its reserves with the rabbis of the future.
We need to demand that every school implement the core curriculum- including mathematics and English, not just Gemara and Aramaic."

As the panel continued, Zisapel expressed his opinion that the government must transfer funds currently marked for yeshivas to support IDF soldiers.


Hanukkah: 83% say they will light menorah daily

By Koby Nahshoni,

According to a joint poll conducted by Ynet and the Gesher Institute, 83% of the Jewish public in Israel will gather daily around variously styled menorahs and light the holiday candles accompanied by traditional prayers.

15% said they would make an effort to do so at least once over the course of the holiday.

Only 2% said they would not celebrate Hanukkah at all.

A breakdown of the figures reveals that 68% of respondents who identified as secular planned to light the candles daily compared with 91% of religious respondents.


Where the ultra-Orthodox are the moderates

By Yair Ettinger, Haaretz

A tour of Beit Shemesh shows that the fanatic element here also has complex and tense relations with the ultra-Orthodox community, which is identified mostly with Agudat Yisrael, Shas and Degel Hatorah.

These extremists comprise an estimated 2 percent, no more than 15,000 of the Israeli ultra-Orthodox community. They are a minority in Beit Shemesh as well, but wield considerable power and influence.

The fanatics are mostly followers of Rabbi Shaya Rosenberger, a right-wing Satmar Hasid. Another group, a separatist group of Breslav Hasidim led by Rabbi Avraham Yitzhak Marmelstein, is even more extreme.


State to disclose secrets of citizenship process

By Shahar Ilan, Haaretz

Attorney Oded Feller filed the petition on behalf of five human rights groups: The Association for Civil Rights in Israel; Israel Religious Action Center of Reform Judaism; Hotline for Migrant Workers; Kav La'Oved; and the Center for the Defense of the Individual.

"It is not for no reason that all the organizations dealing with human rights united to file the petition," the judge wrote. "It's enough to look at the longstanding 'history' of refraining from publishing rules and regulations by the respondent to grasp the seriousness of the situation."


Restoring truth's good name

By Avi Sagi and Yedidia Stern, Haaretz

Who will pick up the gauntlet of infusing the combination of "Jewish" and "democratic" with theoretical and practical content?

When will someone formulate an approach that is equally committed to religion and pluralism?
Can one be "security-oriented," but also mindful of human rights? Can the cultural dichotomy of Western tradition and Jewish tradition coexist?

How does one maintain a deep emotional bond to the Jewish homeland while resolving the conflict with the Palestinians? What is the role of a nation-state in today's global reality?


If I Forget Thee,

By Gary Rosenblatt, The Jewish Week

Now is a good time for diaspora Jews to start thinking about the differences between the ideal Israel and the real Israel.


The donkey's burden

By Nehemia Shtrasler, Haaretz

"Secular teachers are not teachers, they are donkeys," declared Shas' spiritual leader, Rabbi Ovadia Yosef, in his weekly sermon Saturday night.

They are donkeys because they do not teach the Torah, he explained to his audience.
But it seems not only the teachers are donkeys.

Israel's entire secular population takes pains to ensure its children study mathematics, English, science, history and Torah, so they can become productive citizens living by their labor and paying high taxes - which are then divided among Yosef's followers.

They also enlist in the army, are wounded and killed - in part, to protect Yosef's home.


Muslim clerics light Hanukkah candles

By Koby Nahshoni,

Delegation of Muslim clerics arrives in Israel as part of initiative launched by Simon Wiesenthal Center.

Clerics will visit Sderot, Western Wall and light holiday candles with yeshiva students.


Kfar Saba struck by religious storm
By Miriam Bulwar David-Hay,

A religious storm has broken out in Kfar Saba after the head of the city's religious council announced that he was taking over the issuing of kashrut certificates from the municipal kashrut department, complaining of "irregularities" in how the department has operated, reports

The 15 kashrut supervisors employed by the department have all resigned in protest against the take-over, and Mayor Yehuda Ben-Hamo has asked the Religious Affairs Ministry to intervene, saying the council has overstepped its authority.


Knesset rejects bill regulating common-law partnerships
By Amnon Meranda,

Following the vote, MK Beilin said that the coalition's success was a Pyrrhic victory:
"I told the religious MKs that they were blind if they don't realize that more Israelis get married in Cyprus than Cypriotes. They think they can enforce their values on the secular majority."


Israel Reform Synagogue breaks ground

"Kehillat YOZMA is on the brink of realizing our dream of praying in a dedicated sanctuary on our own plot of land! Last week, the tractors arrived!

Within the coming weeks, the city of Modiin is scheduled to complete the foundation to install the prefabricated structure that will accommodate our praying community until we raise the necessary funds to build YOZMA's permanent Sanctuary and Community Center on that very site."


Peres plans international prayer session for Israel's 60th

By Haaretz Service

President Shimon Peres is initiating a sabbath prayer session for all the world's Jews marking Israel's 60th anniversary, the spokeswoman for the President's Residence said Thursday.

Peres proposes to call on all the world's Jews to come to the synagogue and say a special prayer on a Sabbath around Israel's 60th Independence Day.

Peres wants to expand the prayer beyond the Jewish world's limits to churches and mosques, so that Muslims and Christians would say it too.


Working on Shabbat

By Haim Bior, Haaretz

The Tel Aviv Labor Tribunal has thrown out charges that Home Center, which is owned by business baron Eliezer Fishman, employed workers on Shabbat in violation of the law.

Simply, the statute of limitations on the offense expired, even though Home Center itself had sought the day in court.


Mega Sport - Jews working on Shabbat
By Fadi Eyadat, Haaretz

The Mega Sport athletic goods store and two of its managers are being sued in the Haifa regional labor court for hiring Jews to work on Shabbat, in violation of the law.

According to the indictment, Arab Shabbat inspectors who work for the Industry, Trade and Labor Ministry discovered the violations while on their rounds.


A temple-state clash in Israel

By Ashraf Khalil, Los Angeles Times

The ultra-Orthodox, who make up about 12% of the country's population but 30% of Jerusalem's, have never accepted the heter mechira concept.

During Shmita years, they buy only imported goods or produce grown on Arab-owned land in Israel.

"They always presented [heter mechira] as an example of the theological and religious weakness of the modern Orthodox community," said Rabbi Gilad Kariv of the Israel Religious Action Center.


The Rabbinate begins to respect the 'heiter mechira'
By Amiad Taub, (Hebrew)

Tzohar rabbis will restrict their kashrut supervision to only problematic areas.


Religious Observance Survey
By Eliyahu Sapir,

Aapproximately one fifth of the adult Jewish population defines itself as secular, one third as religious, and one half as traditional.


The impossible forfeit
By Rabbi Dr. Donniel Hartman, Haaretz

The writer is the co-director of the Shalom Hartman Institute

We Israeli Jews have to understand that Israel, as a Jewish and democratic state with both Jewish and non-Jewish citizens, must have multiple narratives that inform its national identity.

There must be a Jewish narrative and a broader Israeli narrative that creates a collective space with bonds of loyalty toward citizens of the State of Israel who are either non-Jews or for whom the state's Jewishness is not the central feature of their national self-understanding.


Russia wants its emigrants back

By Anshel Pfeffer, Haaretz

The Russian Embassy in Tel Aviv is operating a branch of a government body whose goal is to persuade Russian emigrants to return, under the guise of a cultural center, Israeli intelligence bodies said.

According to Immigration Ministry statistics, more than 100,000 Jews who came to Israel from the CIS have returned to Russia and Ukraine, and an estimated 70,000 Israelis are currently living in Moscow.


Israel Zionist Council blasts cabinet over program to bring back ex-pats
By Haviv Rettig,

"Financial incentives are not a factor for Israeli ex-pats who are considering returning home," said Israel Zionist Council head Moshe Ben-Atar on Sunday in response to government approval for an NIS 150m. incentive program to bring Israeli yordim back to Israel.

Instead, argued Ben-Atar, whose organization is the Israeli branch of the World Zionist Organization, the effort and money "must go in a different direction, in fostering Jewish identity and a connection to Israel among the children of yordim," many of whom grew up or were born outside Israel.


Plan launched to bring Israelis home

By Ruth Eglash,

Noy said although there have been previous attempts to persuade Israelis to return to Israel, nothing has ever been done on this level.

According to a recent study conducted by the ministry, roughly 700,000 Israelis live outside of the country, with 60 percent in North America, 25% in Europe and 15% spread across the rest of the world.

Some 70% of those living abroad are aged between 20-44, with 40 as the average age.


How to bring them home Editorial

It is time for the Jewish state to think seriously about investing in Jewish education both in Israel and in the expat communities overseas. It would help solve a whole host of difficulties.


Jewish ignorance in Israel Editorial

Israeli education must unabashedly strive to impart to half of the world's Jewish children placed in its care an understanding of the world Jewish community in its entirety.

A competitive modern education is the right of every child. But identity, too, is a birthright. In failing to prepare our schoolchildren to be citizens not only of Israel, but of the Jewish people, the state is contributing to the growing cultural gap that is pulling the Jewish people apart.


AJC head Harris: Israel needs to learn about US Jewry
By Haviv Rettig,

Keeping the Israeli and American Jewish communities connected "requires rethinking education [in Israel] on American Jewry," according to American Jewish Committee head David Harris.


Labor MK: Put Ethiopian children in secular schools

By Ruth Sinai, Haaretz

"No ethnic group or immigrant group is required to study in one system.

We need to stop discriminating against the Ethiopian sector and to endlessly find faults with their Jewishness," Labor MK Ophir Pines-Paz said in initiating a bill to facilitate secular education for Ethiopian children.


'We'll cut off schools segregating Ethiopian students'

By Raanan Ben-Zur,

Petah Tikva Mayor Itzhak Ohayon also spoke out against the City Rabbinate's directive that Ethiopian immigrants undergo a more stringent conversion and be placed in government-sponsored religious schools.

"We have four government-sponsored religious schools in the city as well as 13 public schools, said Ohayon, "but because of the Rabbinate's directive Ethiopian immigrants cannot be placed in public schools and this causes a strain on the religious school sytem."


Absorbing Ethiopians is a mitzvah, too

By Israel Harel, Haaretz

One of the rabbinate's conditions for converting members of the Ethiopian community (especially those in the Falashmura who converted to Christianity) is for the children to study in religious schools.

But when they apply to study in these frameworks (not the state religious schools but the separate networks), most are rejected as "unsuitable."


Due to Haredim demands: El-Al to supply non-Jewish produce
By Idan Yosef, (Hebrew)

Fruits and vegetables served to El-Al passengers in reception area will not include Jewish agriculture under 'heiter mechira'.


U.S. 'Marranos' seek a home in Israel, but the welcome isn't warm

By Anshel Pfeffer, Haaretz

"Israel is taking in non-Jewish immigrants from the former Soviet Union along with Ethiopian Falashmura and Indian people claiming to be Jewish," he says.

"How come it won't accept us - the descendants of proper Jews who have gone through the persecutions of the Spanish Inquisition?"


Rabbi plans for autonomous Jewish state

By Tovah Lazaroff,

The time has come to prepare to secede from the State of Israel and to present initial steps for the creation of an autonomous state in Judea and Samaria, should the government move forward with plans to withdraw from those areas, said Rabbi Shalom Dov Wolpe.


Jews don't evacuate Jews

By Tovah Lazaroff,

Rabbi Shalom Dov Wolpe and the head of the Rabbinical Council of Jewish Communities of Judea, Samaria and the Gaza Strip, Rabbi Dov Lior, embarked this week on a effort to encourage newly drafted soldiers to place a letter in their files upon entering the army in which they state that they would not participate in activities relating to the evacuation of Jews from their homes.


From plowshares to prayer

By Oren Majar, Haaretz

Last year, Danny Fuchs, a native of Kfar Neter who has become observant, offered to bring a few friends in to ensure a full minyan for Rosh Hashanah.

"Fuchs said he had friends who could complete a minyan," recalls Moshe Romem, chairman of the Kfar Neter residents committee at the time.

"But he didn't tell us that they were members of Chabad [the Lubavitch Hasidim], including Naftali Mintzberg, the rabbi who teaches him kabbala.

[Fuchs] asked that they be given three months to operate the synagogue on Shabbat so that a minyan would be formed among the residents of the village who were interested.

Their assumption was that if the synagogue was open, residents would come, and later there would be no need for the Chabadniks. So they were given a three-month trial period."


Muscular Judaism

By Oren Majar, Haaretz

In recent years ultra-Orthodox groups have been making an effort to demonstrate a presence in secular moshavim and neighborhoods, including in the synagogues.

The aging of the veteran population and the dwindling of the congregation of worshipers create a vacuum into which it is easy to inject new content.


Who's marketing the Temple Mount as a tourist attraction?
By Meron Rappaport, Haaretz (Hebrew)

During Chanukah, a series of radio ads have been broadcast inviting Jewish listeners to ascend to the Temple Mount.

Who's behind the ads? Rabbi Yosef Elboim of the Temple Institute.


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