Tuesday, December 4, 2007

Religion and State in Israel Weekly - December 3, 2007

Religion and State in Israel
December 3, 2007
Editor: Joel Katz


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Rabbinic judges grab case from secular courts

By Matthew Wagner, JPost.com

Another salvo was fired in the ongoing power struggle between religious and secular courts Thursday after the High Rabbinic Court ruled that religious courts had primary jurisdiction in monetary issues connected with divorces while civil courts had only secondary or residual jurisdiction.

The rabbis expressed their opinion on the proper standing of rabbinic courts vis-à-vis the secular courts in an apparently blatant act of defiance underlying the tension between the rabbinic and civil courts.

Two recent Supreme Court decisions have been seen by the rabbinic establishment as blows to religious court autonomy.

However, Rabbinic Courts legal adviser Shimon Ya'acobi, said that according to a recent study conducted by the rabbinic court administration, of 65 petitions to the Supreme Court against rabbinic court decisions since the beginning of 2007 only two were even considered.


Temple Institute Announces: High Priest's Crown is Ready!

CLICK HERE for video on High Priest's headplate (Dowload needed)

By Hillel Fendel, IsraelNationalNews.com

The Temple Institute in Jerusalem announces the completion of the Tzitz, the High Priest's headplate - now ready for use in the Holy Temple. The tzitz is made of pure gold, was fashioned over the course of a more than a year by the craftsmen of the Temple Institute, and is ready to be worn by the High Priest in the rebuilt Holy Temple in Jerusalem.


What could be blocking these Jews' aliyah?

By Simon Rocker, JC.com

A black Jewish family from South London have been forced to delay their aliyah because of unexplained stonewalling by the Israeli authorities.

After 18 months studying Judaism, with their children enrolled in cheder, the Levys were formally converted by the Reform Beth Din in 2004.

Rabbi Uri Regev, the Israel-based president of the World Union for Progressive Judaism, said:

"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.

We do not know of any objective reason why they should be treated differently, other than the colour of their skin."


Religious party proposes outlawing abortions after 22nd week

By Amnon Meranda, YNetnews.com

Abortions are Israel must be approved by a special committee but are often automatically authorized if the pregnant woman is younger than 17 years of age or older than 40, if the conception was a result of rape, incest or extramarital relations, if the pregnancy is likely to endanger the mother's physical or mental wellbeing or if the fetus has been diagnosed with a possible birth defect.

MK Zeev's bill (Shas) proposes that the aforementioned criteria should not apply to termination requests after the 22nd week of pregnancy.

A woman seeking an abortion at any point past that point would only be granted one if the pregnancy puts her life at risk and must be approved by two physicians.


Are there limits to our exercise of power?

By Jonathan Rosenblum, Mishpacha

Do Torah Jews have an obligation to use any power, political or economic, that they can muster to force the not-yet religious to live in greater conformity with the Torah's commands?

In determining whether to employ the power at our disposal, is it permissible to take into account such factors as the norms of a democratic society, the chances of stirring up a backlash against religious Jews, or the possibility that coerced conformity to halachic norms could be at the cost of a genuine religious commitment at some later date?

If chareidi Jews establish the principle that they recognize no "rights" for non-observant neighbors when they become the majority of a neighborhood, we can hardly be surprised if secular Jews react with hostility as soon as the first chareidi moves into a neighborhood.


On dreams and nightmares

By Amnon Rubenstein, JPost.com

If Israel as a Jewish state does not have to be Jewish in the religious-halachic sense, what then does it mean to be Jewish?

That meaning has not changed since Herzl's time: The Jews, at least since the Emancipation, are a people, a single people that has a very important religious element to it, and which, like other peoples, is strongly connected to its religious past. That past is the launch-pad from which its modern national identity takes-off.


For those who have forgotten what a nation-state is

By David Navon, Haaretz

The writer teaches psychology at the University of Haifa

It was on this same basis that the League of Nations assigned the Land of Israel to the Jewish people, and in its partition resolution, the United Nations assigned part of it to the Jewish state even though a great number of Arabs lived there.

The establishment of a Palestinian state is supposed to constitute the completion of the partition process. In view of the fact that there is a partition, this means that there will be two nation-states in this land.

The State of Israel is the nation-state where the Jewish people fulfill their national aspirations, even though there are millions of Jews living outside of it, and even though one fifth of its citizens are not Jewish.


The shmita controversy isn't over

By Rabbi David Golinkin, JPost.com

The writer is the president of the Schechter Institute of Jewish Studies in Jerusalem

For the past few months, a controversy has been raging in Israel: How should shmita be observed? Most Israelis view this as an esoteric argument between the haredim and the national-religious.

They may also think that the problem was solved by the October 23 Supreme Court decision which instructed the Chief Rabbinate to follow its own heter mechira policy (symbolic sale of the Land of Israel to non-Jews).

They are wrong.


Shmita is our test of faith

By Jonathan Rosenblum, JPost.com

The Torah specifically links our dwelling securely in the Land to the observance of shmita (Leviticus 25:18).

Who knows if the brave farmers upholding shmita - as well as those who strive to develop new agronomic techniques fully consistent with shmita's restrictions - are not the best protection of our security.


Rabbi urges religious youths to refuse orders

By Kobi Nahshoni, YNetnews.com

Rabbi Aharon Trop, head of the Bnei Tzvi Yeshiva in Beit El, and a rising force among West Bank rabbis, has called for mass order refusal following the Annapolis conference.

"This is a moral crime raised on a black flag, it justified and even demands order refusal," Trop said.

"One can't claim there is a violation of Jewish law or a moral crime when our sons and students are taking part in it in some form.

There is no justification and moral validity for a struggle against the eviction, when our sons are cooperating with it. This is a paradox which no straight mind can come to terms with," Trop said.


Non-Jewish IDF soldiers must be buried in standard cemetery plots at all cost

By Kobi Nahshoni, YNetnews.com

Poll: Sixty-two percent of Israelis stated that the army must bury non-Jewish soldiers in ordinary cemetery plots.

Nine percent of respondents feel non-Jewish soldiers ought to be buried in secular cemetery plots, and seven percent stated that such solders ought to be buried on the outskirts of Jewish cemeteries.

It is important to note that the IDF buries non-Jewish casualties in special sub-plots within military cemeteries, without any special partitions.


Capital eateries sued for selling 'hametz'

By Etgar Lefkovitz, JPost.com

The controversial lawsuits, coming a year before city mayoral elections, raise anew the delicate question of how Israel should maintain its Jewish character while protecting personal freedoms and avoiding religious coercion.

Attorneys for the defendants repeatedly stressed in their opening arguments in the small, unusually crowded municipal courtroom Thursday that the law specifically bans the display of leavened products, and not the sale of leavened products.


A kosher drama

By JJ Levine, JPost.com

Lior, the manager, was furious about what he called the "corruption" and "money-grubbing" in the rabbinate, and threatened that if the matter were not resolved he would cancel kashrut supervision altogether and rake in additional profits from opening on Friday evening and Saturday.

Though Lior said that he personally kept Shabbat and put on tefillin, he demanded vociferously that the spotlight belonged not on "hardworking shopkeepers" but on the "extortion" they suffered at the hands of the rabbinate.


Why there was partition

By Alexander Yakobson, Haaretz

The Israeli Law of Return is attacked as a discriminatory and anti-democratic law.

On the other hand, the report of the UN committee in 1947 not only anticipates massive Jewish immigration to the Jewish state after its establishment (and even notes that in order to enable this immigration, the Jewish state was allotted an area relatively larger than the percentage of Jews in the population of the country), but states that the dispute between the two nations on the subject of immigration is the main reason for the need for partition and the establishment of a Jewish state in part of the country.


Can the Jewish world save the Holy City?

By Anshel Pfeffer, Haaretz

Ask any Israeli fund-raiser and you'll be told that donations from abroad for projects in Jerusalem have been plummeting in recent years.

There are so many infinitely sexier initiatives in other parts of the country and Jerusalem is so depressing, mired in never-ending heaps of garbage and interminable roadwork.

It means suffering the stranglehold the ultra-Orthodox politicians have over City Hall and a mayor who has little interest in foreign investment and can barely speak English and won't attend ribbon-cuttings with Jews from abroad who might be Reform or Conservative.

Before the assembled bigwigs of the Jewish world take sides in the great Jerusalem debate about to happen, perhaps they should be asking themselves, first of all, exactly what kind of Jerusalem they are planning to save.


The pulsating heart of the nation

By Ilana Dayan, Haaretz

The writer is anchorperson for the weekly program Uvda on Israel's Channel Two. She is a former lecturer at the Tel Aviv University Faculty of Law and holds a Ph.D. in Law from Yale University.

Did the nondemocratic High Court really impose its worldview over the years on a grumbling collectivity, on whose heads the volumes of judgments fell with a powerful thud? Every Haredi child who has ever demonstrated on Bar-Ilan Street in Jerusalem knows the answer. He knows that the High Court of Justice, which he has been taught at home to curse vehemently, defended his right to demonstrate.

The Haredim in Jerusalem, the orange-clad crowd at Kfar Maimon [in the Gaza Strip], the Shasniks at Sha'agat Aryeh ["The Lion's Roar" - an improvised "yeshiva" created by Aryeh Deri's supporters], the Temple Mount & Eretz Yisrael Faithful Movement, and the faithful of Peace Now - they all received their right to roar from the High Court of Justice.

And the High Court received legitimization for its judgments from the society that allegedly has no confidence in it. When it did not receive legitimization, it found a way to turn tail (in some cases elegantly, in others not).


62% of Israelis want a religious funeral

By Kobi Nahshoni, YNetnews.com

62% of Israelis would like to be buried in a religious ceremony, and, moreover, 51% of Israelis believe that the traditional Jewish funeral should not be altered.

"How would you like your relatives or family members to be buried?"

62% of Israelis mentioned a traditional Jewish funeral; whereas 17% opted for a secular burial. Only four percent of respondent opted for the more controversial option of cremation, a notion that has recently enraged the hardei community. The remainder of the sample refused an answer.


Report: Israel-Diaspora relations sink to new low

By Cnaan Liphshiz, Haaretz

Professor Gabriel Sheffer from the Hebrew University's political science department:

"It's not uncommon to hear Jews saying they would simply not care if Israel suffered a major catastrophe." The first step to reversing that, Sheffer said, is to admit that Israel is not the definitive center of the Jewish People, as it has always presumed to be.

Shmuel Shenhar advocates forming a new state authority headed by six Israeli representatives and six representatives from the Diaspora. That body, which would be sponsored by the state, would completely replace the Jewish Agency and other organizations.

Funding for Shenhar's new group - which would have a council of about 200 people - would come from Israel and the Diaspora.

"If the Diaspora would feel that it is let in on crucial decisions and that its voice is heard here, then it will produce massive funding. I'm thinking about a budget of $4 billion," Shenhar told Anglo File.


Studying with Tel Aviv's 'unorthodox' yeshiva

By Benji Lovitt, Israel21c.org

"The way that secular Israelis see their connection to Judaism needs to change, to strengthen."

"The purpose is to make Judaism part of our daily lives from a moral and cultural perspective, not halachic (according to Jewish law)," headmaster Tal Shaked told ISRAEL21c. "Judaism belongs to everyone, not just the religious community."

Tal explained that, as opposed to what Diaspora Jews might think, Israeli children in public schools are lacking a fundamental knowledge of Jewish texts.

Click here for info on BINA.org.il


'You can serve your country and stay haredi'

By Rabbi David Fuchs, YNetnews.com

After the IDF and a group of rabbis launched the "Netzah Yehuda" Brigade in which the highest religious standards are maintained, every observant man who feels morally obligated to enlist, can do so without the slightest fear of social pressure or temptation.

The 2,000 haredi soldiers and their families are living proof.


Unholy water

By Amiram Cohen, Haaretz (Hebrew)

Mikvehs and public bath-houses of Haredi communities are exempt from the price increases - pending hearings.

All water prices (except for hospitals) will rise, and only mikvehs will receive unconditional exemptions.

The cost will be incurred by the public.


Beit Shemesh rabbis arrive at agreement with Police

By Yitzhak Nehamia Yongreiz, Ladaat.net (Hebrew)


Corner store owners vs. small chain stores: "Opening on Shabbat is against the law"

By Nurit Ruth, Haaretz (Hebrew)


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