Monday, March 31, 2008

Religion and State in Israel - March 31, 2008 (Section 1)

Religion and State in Israel

March 31, 2008 (Section 1) (continues in Section 2)

Editor – Joel Katz

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

Lawmakers advance bill to establish new Orthodox-secular school system

By Shahar Ilan and Or Kashti, Haaretz March 27, 2008

A bill calling for the creation of a third public school system combining Orthodox and secular education passed a preliminary reading in the Knesset yesterday.

Such legislation would mark the first time since the state's founding that a public educational system has been established.

MK Melchior hopes the bill will pass its second and third readings during the Knesset's summer session, with the program implemented in the coming school year.

…According to Melchior, "the separation of Orthodox and secular education has created deep polarity in Israel. We must lessen the alienation in Israeli society. The secular and the Orthodox can grow up together." He called the establishment of the new stream "my dream" and "a revolution."

Ten combined Orthodox-secular schools are already operating, some within the Orthodox stream, some within the secular stream, and some private schools.

The Meytarim network for Jewish democratic education, which also combines Orthodox and secular students, has seven schools - in Jerusalem, Modi'in, Zichron Yaakov, Lod, Beit Shemesh and Ra'anana. The Tali system, which provides increased Jewish content, has 68 schools.

photo: Yozma school Modi'in - Kabalat Shabbat

Secular-religious bill: Answer to split or disaster?

By Neta Sela, March 28, 2008

"Every community has its principles," Knesset Member Avraham Ravitz (United Torah Judaism) said Thursday.

"Religious youths have an unshakable regard for the Torah and the word of God, and one should not combine these principles with those of the secular community.

The proposal to establish a secular-religious school system bodes disaster."

Makor Rishon-Hatzofeh opposes secular-religious education stream March 30, 2008

Makor Rishon-Hatzofeh say that it is "difficult to come to terms with," the bill, sponsored by Knesset Education Committee Chairman Michael Melchior and MK Esterina Tartman, which was approved on its preliminary reading, and which calls for the introduction of a secular-religious educational stream.

The editors contend that the bill is liable to be detrimental to educational basics and that religious education must safeguard its integrity.

Knesset approves organ donation law

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Shas swing vote pushes through organ donor law

By Shahar Ilan, Haaretz March 25, 2008

The Knesset approved a law yesterday intended to regulate organ donations in compliance with Jewish law.

The bill was passed with the support of the ultra-Orthodox Shas party.

The new law on brain and respiratory death was introduced by MK Otniel Schneller (Kadima), and it was accompanied by an exceptional process of discussion between rabbis and doctors.

The bill enjoyed the support of senior rabbis from the Sephardic ultra-Orthodox community as well as from the National Religious camp, including the Shas spiritual leader Rabbi Ovadia Yosef and Sephardi Chief Rabbi Shlomo Amar. Ashkenazi interpreters of halakah, however, were in disagreement on the bill.

The Orthodox and ultra-Orthodox publics have almost completely refrained from donating organs until now. In the case of the ultra-Orthodox, their rabbis had not recognized the status of brain death, and therefore viewed the extraction of such organs as equivalent to murder.

Within the national religious community, there was a serious crisis of faith vis-a-vis the medical establishment, which led to a lack of agreement on determining the moment of death.

'Jewish values' led tot's family to donate organs

By Yuval Azoulay, Haaretz March 25, 2008

"It wasn't just for moral reasons, but primarily for reasons of Jewish and halakhic values. I, my wife and other family members have all signed Adi [organ donor] cards, conditioned on rabbinical supervision."

…"One reason for the reluctance to donate organs is linked to religious belief, and there is a halakhic issue that influences some people: Not everyone agrees that brain death can be defined as death [according to religious law]."

"There is also the question of the resurrection of the dead, but I never understood why that should have an influence," he added. "Resurrection of the dead is a miracle in which the body restores itself and does not remain in the grave. One organ more or less will not affect the world to come."

What will the rabbis do?

By Shahar Ilan, Haaretz March 25, 2008

But the question is whether the rabbis will also issue letters calling on people to donate organs, how insistent these letters will be and whether the rabbis themselves will take part in events to increase participation, as described above.

From the point of Jewish law, organ transplant can be either murder, or a lifesaving act. There is no middle ground. If brain death is not death according to halakha, then the organs are harvested while the donor is still alive, and this constitutes murder according to religious law.

Joining the circle of organ donors

By Israel Harel, Haaretz March 27, 2008

The new law provides an opportunity, at least in the area of saving lives, to put the Haredim in their place.

Rabbi Yosef and the national-religious rabbis, as well as the publics they represent, must, and can, be assertive this time and bring pressure to bear on the Haredim.

For if they are allowed to carry on as they have, other sectors will also continue evading organ donation - superstition and primeval fears exist in nearly every sector of the population.

The number of lives saved through transplants depends, to no small degree, on the norms that religious and civil leaders manage to instill. Since this is one of the few norms that enjoys a near-unanimous consensus, instilling it must not be delayed for even an hour.

Ultra-Orthodox rabbis slam organ donation bill

By Neta Sela, March 27, 2008

The rallying cry asked the haredi public to prepare for a battle that "will shake the very foundations of this country," against the newly approved law regarding brain and respiratory death.

The writers accused the new bill of "permitting murder in the case of brain death," which, they said, was "murder in every sense of the word."

See also HOD - Halachic Organ Donor Society

[Reform Movement] to urge Mazuz to charge Safed rabbi with incitement

By Dan Izenberg, March 28, 2008

The Israel Religious Action Center of the [Israel Movement for Progressive Judaism] (IRAC) told The Jerusalem Post on Thursday it intended to complain to the attorney-general over remarks made by Safed Chief Rabbi Shmuel Eliahu in the wake of the killing of eight Mercaz Harav yeshiva students three weeks ago.

IRAC has filed similar complaints against Eliahu in the past, for which he was indicted in 2006.

Safed's chief rabbi: State should have hanged 10 sons of terrorist

By Matthew Wagner, March 27, 2008

Rabbi Gilad Kariv, legal adviser for the Reform Movement in Israel, said, "Jewish history is full of zealots whose zealotry has brought tragedies upon the nation while bringing about the moral corruption of the Jewish people.

"Unlike deterrence, revenge should be shunned by Israel as a democratic country of law and order and as the state of the Jewish people. It is hoped that the Jewish people, enjoying a renaissance in its land, will have the sense to expel from its midst dangerous extremists like Rabbi Eliahu," he added.

"Rabbi Eliahu's recent comments prove once again that the attorney-general made a big mistake when he decided to rescind an indictment against him for incitement to racism in exchange for a dubious retraction," Kariv said.

Recent incidents suggest rise in violence between Haredi, messianic Jews

By Haaretz Staff and Channel 10 March 24, 2008

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Recent incidents point to heightened tensions inside Israel between the ultra-Orthodox community and messianic Jews, who believe in Jesus but consider themselves Jewish.

In the desert town of Arad, a religious argument recently ended in an attempt by a messianic Jewish man to run over a member of Yad L'Achim, a Haredi anti-missionary organization.

Edwin Beckford, a messianic Jew and resident of Arad, has been charged with assault and is now under house arrest. He says his action was a result of years of provocation and abuse.

Just last week, the conflict appeared to have spread to Ariel, when a bomb seriously injured a teenage boy. Police suspect the boy's family was targeted due to their messianic Judaism.

Sign of Jewish weakness

By Yaron London, March 26, 2008

These people fail to understand that their violence is a sign of Judaism's weakness, rather than its strength.

In a country where the life of gentiles is much tougher than the life of Jews and where a Jew cannot be forced to convert and cannot be tempted by promise that the gates of society will be opened to him if he does so, the market of ideas should be open to all competitors.

Jews who fear competition and resort to gangster-like tricks in order to deter their competition are apparently unsure of the quality of their merchandise.

We thought that the Jewish State will free us of this fear, yet again it turns out that a prisoner cannot free himself; the prison is within the soul.

Military to double enlistment of haredi soldiers

By Yossi Yehoshua, March 31, 2008

The IDF intends to double the number of haredi soldiers among its ranks within a year, from 500 to 1,000, Yedioth Ahronoth reported Sunday.

Traditionally, ultra-Orthodox soldiers are stationed in either the Haredi Nahal or the Air Force. Following consultations by senior IDF officers with various rabbis, the military is now preparing to both increase their numbers there, as well as integrate them into the Logistics Corps.

Compared to the 50,000 exemptions from service given to ultra-Orthodox youngsters every year, these are baby steps…

Sanhedrin demands expulsion of women from military

By Kobi Nahshoni, March 28, 2008

The self-appointed Supreme Judicial Court of the Jewish People, also known as the Sanhedrin, passed down on Thursday a halachic ruling which calls to exempt women from army service and expel those who have already been [drafted].

The law and the plasticine

MK Pines seeks to annul Tal Law because he wants to maintain seculars' superiority

By Uri Elitzur, March 30, 2008

Does Knesset Member Ophir Pines-Paz believe that annulling the law will lead to a mass enlistment of haredim to the IDF? Is the State capable of enforcing the draft on an entire population which is not interested in enlisting? Will the Military Police enter the yeshivot and forcibly drag 30,000 students? Is the army interested in this? Can it absorb them?

The Tal Law is some kind of a way out, a long way which allows us to start by changing the norms and shocking the required foundations inside the haredi population, so that in 20 or 30 years most of its men will be working people, educated people and professionals, who contribute to the economy, and partly, one way or another, also serve in the army, both in compulsory and reserve service.

Mazuz refuses to defend decision not to remove Metzger

By Tomer Zarchin, Haaretz March 27, 2008

Attorney General Menachem Mazuz will not represent the Religious Judges Appointment Committee in a Supreme Court petition challenging the committee's decision not to remove Chief Rabbi Yona Metzger from his post as a religious court judge, Mazuz informed Justice Minister Daniel Friedmann.

In so-doing Mazuz is showing his lack of confidence in the decision of the committee, which is chaired by Friedmann.

A police investigation against Metzger for accepting perks was closed two years ago, but Mazuz then said its findings should cause Metzger to stand down.

The petition against the committee's decision not to dismiss him was brought two weeks ago by Ometz, which seeks to promote good governance. It also wants Metzger banned from the committee's deliberations until a ruling on the petition.

'End Rabbinate's monopoly on Kashrut'

By Goel Beno, March 25, 2008

In recent months, the Chief Rabbinate has noticed a growing trend among businesses across the country that choose to use the kashrut services of one of the dozens new organizations that provide them.

According to law, the Chief Rabbinate is the only body authorized to issue kashrut certificates in Israel, but sources in the Rabbinate admit that it is almost impossible for them to enforce the regulation.

…Other private kashrut companies also call for an end to the Chief Rabbinate's monopoly on Kashrut supervision, claiming that competition in the field would improve the services rendered and lower the prices.

Strauss settles big class-action suit on kashruth labeling of dairy products

By Nurit Roth, Haaretz March 30, 2008

Strauss will start to clearly dairy products containing milk products made with milk not produced by Jews (halav nokhri). These include Danone yogurts and Ski soft cheeses.

While many consider these products to be kosher, as part of a compromise settlement of a class-action suit, Strauss will pay the plaintiffs and their lawyers NIS 50,000 and clearly identify its use of the milk products that some religious Jews consider as meeting a less than stringent level of kashruth.

The suit claimed that Strauss deceived consumers. The judge accepted the compromise, even though the attorney general wanted the agreement examined.

The judge noted that Strauss agreed to the plaintiffs' demands, and their goal was not monetary reward.

Shinui Reloaded or a Separation Movement?

Altneuland Advocating a secure & just Israel... March 31, 2008

This move for separation between religion and state should never be seen (or fought) as a struggle between the non- or anti-religious and the religious.

It should instead be seen as a struggle between the democratic and secular forces (secular in the sense simply of freedom from religious influence on law) and those seeking to bring on the long, dark night of theocracy in Israel (while plundering the treasury in the meantime).

This is not something I (or any right-thinking person) would want for Israel.

When the High Court decides not to decide

By Tomer Zarchin, Haaretz March 27, 2008

As part of the petition, the petitioners requested that the paragraph of the Budget Law that ensured the minimum income of yeshiva students who study in a kolel (yeshiva for married students) be revoked.

The petitioners claimed it was discriminatory since the law regarding guaranteed income ruled out the possibility of granting such insurance to persons who decided to study at a university.

Almost eight years have elapsed since the petitions were submitted; there were five hearings, the last in March 2007 with an expanded bench of judges headed by the president.

Yekutieli has meanwhile died and as for Beruchi, she is meanwhile working and completing her master's degree - the petition is superfluous now.

Rabbinical court send divorce recalcitrant to solitary confinement

By Yoram Yarkoni, March 26, 2008

The court further ruled that in order for the man to understand what he might be facing – and providing he failed to grant his wife a divorce by mid April – he will have to spend a week in isolation.

"A man refusing to grant his wife a divorce cannot be an observant Jew," stated the court.

March to the Knesset to Demand Justice for Women Refused a Divorce by the Rabbinical Courts

New Israel Fund March 25, 2008

Rabbi Shlomo Riskin, the Chief Rabbi of Efrat in the West Bank and one of Israel's best-known Orthodox rabbis, addressed the demonstrators.

“The problem is not halacha,” he insisted. “Halacha allows a woman to be released from an unhappy marriage. Marriage is not a prison.

The problem is the interpretation of halacha by the rabbinical courts. This interpretation shames the Jewish people.”

Legislative Solutions to Agunot issue

New Israel Fund March 25, 2008

An ICAR sponsored Division of Property Bill -- which responds to the issue that most husbands refuse a divorce because they seek to blackmail their wives into relinquishing all economic claims -- has passed its first reading in the Knesset.

The bill will allow property to be divided between spouses without waiting for the husband to grant the official divorce, eliminating the financial issues that often fuel the prolonged battle for a get.

Zahava Fisher, NIF grantee Kolech – Religious Women’s Forum’s representative in ICAR, has formulated another new Knesset bill with Labor MK Orit Noked, which would make a get automatically binding one year after the rabbinical courts order a husband to grant a divorce. Currently, a husband who refuses to sign a get is not compelled to do so by the Rabbinate.

The numbers are on the wall

By Anshel Pfeffer, Haaretz March 28, 2008

In today's global Jewish society, the Jewish Agency has no direct way of significantly affecting aliyah to Israel.

Its only future is as an international vehicle of Jewish and Israeli education.

If the Agency's leaders carry on claiming that aliyah is still its central mission, the Israel Prize will indeed be only a recognition of past achievements.

With nothing pushing Jews to Israel, can it lure olim?

By Dina Kraft, JTA March 25, 2008

With the pool of potential push immigrants drying up, officials like Oded Salomon, the director-general of aliyah and absorption for the Jewish Agency, are thinking about how to pull Jews to Israel in new and different ways.

As the dollar falls against shekel, Jewish Agency considers change

By Jacob Berkman, JTA March 25, 2008

As mass immigration to Israel of Jews from the former Soviet Union and Ethiopia ends and aliyah from elsewhere in the Diaspora slows, agency officials say the organization must figure out new ways to bolster aliyah of choice.

Thus the agency may shift significantly more money to efforts to encourage Westerners -- immigrants of choice -- to make "flexible aliyah," officials said. In such a scenario, getting Jews from Western countries to split their time between Israel and their countries of origin would be considered a success.

Jewish Agency for Israel awarded Israel Prize

JTA March 25, 2008

Israel's Ministry of Education announced the recognition Tuesday. The Israel Prize is given each year in the humanities, science, arts and culture, and lifetime achievement on Israel's Independence Day. Founded in 1929 as a prestate, quasi-governmental organization, the agency won the award for its Zionist efforts.

"In granting the Israel Prize, the State of Israel expresses its recognition to the organization which brought to realization the vision of the return to Zion, and established a political sovereignty for the Jewish people in their homeland," the education ministry said in a statement.

"It continues today along with the Jewish people and along with the government of Israel to contribute on a daily basis in shaping the face of Israeli society, in settling the land, in absorbing immigrants, in education, in revitalizing neighborhoods and in creating the groundwork for the state."

Finance Ministry devising plan to lure billionaire Jews to Israel

By Haaretz Staff and Channel 10 March 25, 2008

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A new Finance Ministry plan will instate major tax benefits to lure to Israel the world's richest Jews and Israelis who have left the country.

But unlike campaigns to bring Jews of lesser means to Israel, this plan won't be playing on sentiment.

Israel Targets Millionaires in Bid to Up Aliyah

, March 27, 2008

While the Israeli government did not limit the new incentive plan to Diaspora Jews and former Israelis of significant wealth, the program is, by all appearances, tailored to the needs of multimillionaires. It offers tax exemption for 10 years on all income derived from sources outside Israel, provides newcomers with a year to choose to which country they want to pay taxes, and will not mandate that firms owned by new immigrants be registered as Israeli firms.

Government officials quoted in the Israeli press said that while they do not expect an influx in Jewish millionaire olim, they do believe that the new plan can prove attractive for former Israelis in the high-tech industry who might be looking for ways to return after establishing their business overseas.

U.S donors seek more wealthy Israeli patrons

By Anshel Pfeffer, Haaretz March 31, 2008

Hundreds of Jewish American donors who fund charitable causes will attend a conference opening in Jerusalem today, aimed at convincing wealthy Israelis to get more involved in philanthropy as well.

This year's Jewish Funders Network conference, which will be closed to the media at the request of the local participants, is the first to be held in Israel.

Some participants say the conference is being held in Israel this year because Jewish American philanthropists have long been frustrated that while they channel billions of dollars to various projects in Israel, local people of means - especially those with newfound wealth - are not sharing the burden equally.

Technion to switch to English in its main MBA program

By Cnaan Liphshiz, Haaretz March 28, 2008

"Young Jews from abroad - particularly from the East Coast - are among our primary target audiences," he said. According to Golani, the Technion is working with the United Jewish Communities and the Jewish Agency to draw potential candidates. "Maybe they'll stay here after their studies," Golani said.

Family tree Web site seeks to unite Jews worldwide

By Anshel Pfeffer, Haaretz March 30, 2008

The Jewish Agency might jump on the Famillion wagon soon, in a bid to use the Famillion platform to disseminate its educational programs for Jews in the Diaspora.

"We believe that this project will serve to augment the feeling of connectedness that people have," Rolls says.

"It will happen when the users see before their eyes how they are connected to other Jews across the world. It can connect ultra-Orthodox Jews to Reform Jews, the secular to religious people.

Religion and State in Israel

March 31, 2008 (Section 1) (continues in Section 2)

Editor – Joel Katz

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