Monday, September 22, 2008

Religion and State in Israel - September 22, 2008 (Section 2)

Religion and State in Israel

September 22, 2008 (Section 2) (continued from Section 1)

Editor – Joel Katz

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

Conservative leader decries ban on non-Orthodox immersion

By Matthew Wagner, September 22, 2008

The Orthodox establishment's ban on non-Orthodox converts and brides using state-funded  mikvaot (ritual baths) is a desecration of God's name, Rabbi Barry Schlesinger, the newly reelected president of the Masorti (Conservative) Movement's Rabbinical Assembly in Israel, said on Sunday.

"We have to put an end to the discrimination against Conservative converts and brides, "Schlesinger said.

"Tax-paying Israelis, interested in adhering to Halacha, are being prevented from using indoor mikvaot that are run and funded by the state just because they are not Orthodox Jews.

"Instead they are forced to perform their tvila [ritual immersion] in the sea or in a natural spring, where they are exposed to the elements and to less than ideal hygiene," he said.

The Reform and Conservative Movements have petitioned the District Administrative Court to order the religious councils in Beersheba and Jerusalem to allow converts free access to the mikvaot.

Jewish 'ultras' defend morals with menace

By Toni O'Loughlin, September 21, 2008

With the demographics skewed in their favour, government authorities are acquiescing to the growing demands of the ultra-Orthodox.

The transport ministry, which regulates and funds bus transport through private companies, has allowed operators to provide 'kosher' or 'pure' routes, where women are required to sit at the back and cannot board unless appropriately dressed.

More than a dozen women have filed complaints after being verbally or physically attacked on the buses.

'Sometimes it's an official group but often it's one or two men who start to complain and the other men follow,' said the Israel Religious Action Centre's legal director, Einat Hurvitz.

'The drivers allow them to intimidate the women.' Haredi women also participated in the bullying.

'I was wearing jeans and a long sleeved T-shirt and as I was getting on the bus someone told me I couldn't get on the bus like that,' said Iris Yoffe who was travelling from Jerusalem to her parents' home in the northern city of Haifa. 'I ignored him and paid the driver.'

But then, said Yoffe, two women blocked her way and told her to get off. 'When I refused they started yelling at me.'

A Dispute over Property Taxes: IRAC Defends HUC-JIR's Status in Israel September 8, 2008

In Israel, an institution can apply for a reduced property tax rate if it qualifies under one or more of a variety of categories.

Being a religious institution with a seminary, an educational institution with a seminary, and a general institution which serves the benefit of the public are a few of these categories.

The Israel Religious Action Center came to Hebrew Union College-JIR's defense and explained to the municipality that HUC-JIR met the criteria as both an educational and religious institution with a seminary and therefore should qualify for the tax discount, regardless of the new criteria. 

…On August 6, 2008, the court, in response to IRAC's petition, ruled in the favor of HUC-JIR: HUC-JIR is officially recognized as a religious and educational institution with a seminary in Israel. 

While this decision will certainly benefit HUC-JIR specifically by removing the unjust tax burden, it is also a victory in the larger sense for Reform Judaism in Israel.

In a country where Reform Jews struggle to have equal rights, HUC-JIR, with the help of IRAC, is officially recognized as being a religious institution with a seminary in Israel. 

US Department of State - International Religious Freedom Report 2008 September 2008

The report covers the period from July 1, 2007 through June 30, 2008

In May 2008 the first-ever state-funded Reform and Conservative synagogues were opened in Modi’in.

This followed the High Court’s ruling in 2003 that it was permissible to use state funds for the construction of non-Orthodox synagogues.

An agreement between the Government and the municipality of Modi’in resulted in the decision to provide state (but not municipal) funds for the construction and operation of non-Orthodox synagogues.

Earlier in 2003, IRAC had petitioned the High Court on behalf of a Reform congregation in Modi'in to require that Modi'in municipality fund construction of a Reform synagogue. 

How well does Livni know the Diaspora?

By Anshel Pfeffer, September 19, 2008

As on so many other things, no one has any idea what Livni's position on the future of the Jewish people is, if she has one at all.

There does not seem to be any reason why she should object to the objectives set out by Olmert.

She will naturally want to appoint her own cabinet secretary, but that does not mean that Ovad Yehezkel, who has shown a true passion for this unfashionable issue, has to stop his work.

The best thing would be to appoint him to a new post as the prime minister’s envoy to the Jewish world. With sufficient backing, he could see the process through. 

Some things can't be privatized

By Haviv Rettig, September 16, 2008

While community partnerships and social projects would exist even without a Jewish Agency, it is the last function - the network of emissaries in small communities who are instrumental in rescuing Jews in times of crisis - that even the agency's most energetic detractors acknowledge would be difficult to replicate elsewhere.

It is about training the Jewish world to think of the organization primarily as an aid to Jewish communities in need, one of the few functions that cannot be privatized.

Adelson Shrinks Giving to Birthright

By Anthony Weiss, September 18, 2008

The man commonly known as the world’s richest Jew is scaling back his contributions to one of the most prominent Jewish charities.

On September 9, billionaire casino mogul Sheldon Adelson announced that he was reducing his donations to Birthright Israel in 2009 and 2010, respectively, to $20 million and $10 million, after giving $70 million over the previous two years.

Unless Birthright is able to make up the difference in gifts from other sources, the reduction could mean that thousands fewer young Jews will be able to make the free trips to Israel that Birthright provides.

Eckstein denies report that group gave money to missionize Jews

By Jacob Berkman, September 15, 2008

Rabbi Yechiel Eckstein, who has raised tens of millions of dollars for Israel from American evangelicals, is denying a report suggesting that some of the money was used by Christians to missionize Jews.

The Israeli daily Ma'ariv reported Monday that Eckstein’s organization, the Chicago-based International Fellowship of Christians and Jews, gave $10,000 in 2007 to an evangelical group in Jerusalem, King of Kings, that proselytizes Israeli Jews.

It also reported that the fellowship sent money to Community of Christ, a Protestant group in Orleans, Mass., that Ma’ariv called “a controversial Christian cult.”

Who says Jerusalem has no night life?

By Yair Ettinger, September 17, 2008

For two weeks now, since the month of Elul began, this is how the Western Wall has looked, and how it can be heard from midnight until morning. Tens of thousands of people pass by every night, divided by ethnic group and approaches.

On this coming Saturday night, they will be joined by Ashkenazi Jews, and the Western Wall rabbi, Rabbi Shmuel Rabinowitz, estimates that the number of nightly worshippers will skyrocket to some 150,000 people, including the tourists who come to observe them.

Who said there is no night life in Jerusalem?

Settler rabbi: The state stole Israel from the Jews

By Nadav Shragai September 16, 2008

Rabbi David Dudkevitch, the rabbi of the West Bank settlement of Yitzhar:

"The State of Israel is not the be-all and end-all. If it decides it does not want to be in the hereditary lands of our forefathers, then other Jews have the right to organize themselves in order to live there, even without a link to the state.

Is it practical? I doubt it. That's why I'm not signing up for it. But when there's talk about another expulsion, then on the ideological level, the 'State of Judea' is no worse than expulsion."

This blog keeps the Sabbath

By Ofri Ilani, September 19, 2008

While ultra-Orthodox rabbis condemn surfing the Internet, it is highly popular in the national-religious sector, a large number of whose leading rabbis acknowledge the medium's power.

"The Internet is here to stay," says Rabbi Yuval Cherlow, head of the hesder yeshiva (combining religious studies and army service) in Petah Tikva. 

"The Web sites of the religious community deal on an almost daily basis with issues that until recently had not been addressed.

Zionist Council: Where has religious youth disappeared to?

By Kobi Nahshoni, September 21, 2008

The Israel Zionist Council reported recently of a drastic drop of more than 60% in the number of its religious teenage members, from a representation of 40% to only 15%.

"Our youth coordinators find it very difficult to enter religious schools," said Moshe Ben Atar.

"We are very concerned about this process of seclusion which does not contribute to the creation of the harmony required for the joint dialogue of the next generation in the Israeli society, and may deteriorate social relations in Israel."

Shomer Shmitah Farmers to Gather to Mark the End of Shmitah Year

By Yechiel Spira, September 16, 2008

Kavod Shomrei Shvi’is is the banner for Tuesday’s event expected to attract thousands of shomer shmitah farmers, who are about to mark the end of their observance of the mitzvah.

Today’s event is intended to honor the farmers from the southern and central regions, those who made their fields ‘hefker’ and agreed to comply with the stringencies and fiscal realities of keeping the mitzvah as detailed by Gedolei HaDor Shlita.

Esrogim Impounded at Ben-Gurion Airport

By Yechiel Spira September 22, 2008

Last Sunday, agriculture inspectors at Ben-Gurion International Airport confiscated a suitcase containing 70 Italian esrogim being brought into the country by a private individual, not a licensed importer.

According to officials, the person who was bringing in the esrogim illegally can expect a fine in the area of NIS 5,000.

Agriculture inspectors will be increasingly vigilant this year due to shmitah, realizing more individuals will attempt to bring esrogim from abroad to eliminate shmitah concerns.

Hasidim in New Year exodus to Ukraine

By Zohar Blumenkrantz, September 17, 2008

Some 14,000 Bratslav Hasidim are set to fly from Israel to Ukraine to make their annual Rosh Hashanah pilgrimage to the grave of their sect's founder, Rabbi Nachman of Bratslav. The first flights are scheduled for Friday. 

The "air train," as the flights are being called, will include nearly 100 flights to Kiev, getting the Hasidim to the gravesite in Uman ahead of the holiday, which begins at sundown September 29. 

The Israel Airports Authority is planning to reserve one section of its passenger terminal for use by Bratslav passengers, and Israeli security officials will be dispatched to Kiev to monitor return flights. 

15,000 Hasidim to fly to Uman ahead of Rosh Hashana September 21, 2008

The kosher food packages required by the Hasidim will be sent through the airport's cargo terminal and not as passenger's luggage.

Each traveler will be allowed to take a personal case of food for immediate need on the plane in coordination with the airline.

Serving in the Kfir Brigade, far from home

By Yaakov Katz, September 22, 2008

Dan came to Israel to get away from French anti-Semitism. 

Ronen left Sao Paulo to experience firsthand what the IDF was fighting against in the territories and not to just watch the conflict on Brazilian television. 

Shraga had just completed a year in a yeshiva here and felt the need to contribute more to Israel before returning to Australia.

All three left their families and homes behind, moved to Israel and today are serving in the IDF's Kfir Brigade, responsible for counter-terror operations throughout the West Bank.

All three are lone soldiers, meaning that unlike most of the IDF they do not have parents in Israel or family to go home to for the weekend.

Skirting history

By Lauren Gelfond Feldinger, September 21, 2008

Brig.-Gen. Yehudit Grisaro, the chief of General Staff's adviser on women's issues:

What are other areas of integration beyond combat?

…We are also working on the number of religious women, maybe to create a special unit with special conditions that will give them the opportunity to combine their religious lifestyle with the demands of military service - to pray, eat, be together with other religious women, to feel it's the right place for them and not feel different or alienated.

Waqf offends Muslim official visiting Israel

By Itamar Eichner, September 22, 2008

A Muslim minister from Ivory Coast, on an official visit to Israel as a guest of the Foreign Ministry, was required by the Supreme Muslim Council (Waqf) of Jerusalem to recite verses from the Koran before entering the al-Aqsa Mosque in order to prove that he is Muslim.

The insulted minister left the Mount immediately.

"I am a faithful Muslim. There is no reason for me to start reciting verses here. You have insulted me," he told the officials before leaving the place.

Nightmare before Ramadan

By Yoav Stern, September 18, 2008

"Instead of it being a month of abstinence, asceticism and breaking the fast with dates, it has turned into a month of cooking, fat paunches and frying.

The month of Ramadan is the month of sycophantism, hypocrisy and lies, the month of squandering and appetite, a month of slavery for women."

These words were written around a month ago by Ala Hlehl, the editor in chief of the Balad party newspaper Fasal al-Makal.

They forced him to resign and provoked a stormy debate about freedom of expression in Arab society. 

Baha'is buy military base to open up space at Acre compound

By Jack Khoury, September 18, 2008

The Baha'i World Center recently bought an old military base blocking the view of its sacred Baji compound in Acre. It plans to create an open vista, making the compound's landscaped gardens visible from the north.

The center paid the Defense Ministry some NIS 40 million for the 90-dunam base, with structures dating back to the pre-state British Mandate era. 

The army is supposed to evacuate the base by August 2009. The Baha'is intend to clear the area, removing the obstacles to the compound's gardens, although they have not yet decided whether to expand the gardens to cover the new space.

Religion and State in Israel

September 22, 2008 (Section 2) (continued from Section 1)

Editor – Joel Katz

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