Monday, September 15, 2008

Religion and State in Israel - September 15, 2008 (Section 1)

Religion and State in Israel

September 15, 2008 (Section 1) (continues in Section 2 & Section 3)

Editor – Joel Katz

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

Reform Movement calls Tal Law deal 'outrageous'

By Matthew Wagner, September 15, 2008

Volunteer work with Chabad Lubavitch will be recognized as a legitimate alternative to IDF service under the Tal Law, which allows young haredi men to contribute to the state without doing army duty.

Encouraging fellow Jews to wear tefillin or to light Shabbat candles will not be recognized as national service, but aiding the sick and poor and helping young boys prepare for their bar mitzvas will be.

Rabbi Gilad Kariv of the Israel Religious Action Center (IRAC), the Reform Movement's legal arm, called the deal with Chabad "outrageous."

"It is scandalous that an organization which preaches religious adherence is receiving recognition and funding from the state to be an alternative to IDF service," said Kariv.

"I have nothing against Chabad per se. But the state has no right to substitute blatantly religious activity for mandatory military service. There must be clear criteria for national service that is devoid of religious content.

"The haredim have been given enough shortcuts with the Tal Law. This is going too far. We will fight it in court."

Minister Ayalon: Increase number of haredim in National Service

By Roni Sofer, September 11, 2008

Minister Ami Ayalon is expected to ask cabinet to sanction a new four-year program aimed at increasing the number of ultra-Orthodox who volunteer for National Service.

Minister Ayalon, who holds the National Service Portfolio, said his proposal in meant to advance the implementation of the previous government decisions to that effect, such as the Tal Act.

Ayalon wants to have 2,000 haredim enlist in the service every year by 2012, as opposed to the 200 who volunteer today.

Ashkenazim, Sephardim fight over Chief Rabbinate appointments

By Matthew Wagner, September 15, 2008

A dispute between Sephardi and Ashkenazi rabbis over the appointment of Shas mentor Rabbi Ovadia Yosef's son has prevented the two camps from joining forces to take control of the Chief Rabbinate's governing council.

Next Tuesday, a voting body of 150 rabbis and public servants will convene to vote for the Chief Rabbinate's governing council (Moetzet Harabanut Harashit), the final authority on issues such as criteria for kosher supervision, deciding who is a Jew for the purpose of marriage and the appointment of new rabbis and marriage registrars.

Candidates Line Up for Chief Rabbinate Council Elections

By Hillel Fendel, September 11, 2008

Elections for the Chief Rabbinate Council will be held in less than two weeks, and candidates are lining up.

The Chief Rabbinate Council is the supreme public religious body in Israel, entrusted with determining policy on many religious issues.

It comprises 16 rabbis: Six permanent members - the two Chief Rabbis of Israel, and the Chief Rabbis of Jerusalem, Tel Aviv, Haifa and Be'er Sheva - and ten other rabbis.

It is these last ten seats that will be filled in the coming elections.

Shas Supports Merkaz Rosh Yeshiva for Nation’s Torah Council

By Yechiel Spira, September 11, 2008

In a meeting this week… the [Shas] forum decided that among the names of rabbis it will support for the Chief Rabb

inate National Council of Rabbonim is HaGaon Rabbi Yaakov Shapira Shlita, the rosh yeshiva of Merkaz HaRav Yeshiva in Yerushalayim to fill one of the five slots for Ashkenazi rabbonim.

Egged Mehadrin Bus Lines

By Jonathan Cook, September 8, 2008

The Israel Religious Action Center is currently petitioning the Supreme Court to force the national bus company, Egged, and the transport ministry to end their official co-operation with the practice on 30 routes. 

Many additional routes are informally segregated, enforced by ultra-Orthodox passengers.

“We do not, in principle, dispute the right of the Haredim to demand segregated buses inside their own communities,” [Einat Hurvitz] said. 

“But our petition is designed to stop Egged and the transport ministry from using public funds to enforce segregation on services open to the general public.”

Ministry officials have washed their hands of the issue, saying the mehadrin lines are the outcome of agreements between Egged and the Haredim. 

However, the court has ordered a response to the petition from both Egged and the transport ministry by the end of this month.

Ms Hurvitz said a growing number of bus routes between major towns have become segregated in the past few years following demands from ultra-Orthodox passengers, although none is marked as segregated.

“Egged has caved in because it knows that the Haredim feel strongly enough that they will stop using the services and set up their own unlicensed bus lines. 

It also knows that in most cases the non-Haredi public has no choice but to carry on using the lines, even when they are segregated.”

UK rabbi helps woman refused divorce

By Neta Sela, September 11, 2008

Ynet recently received a document describing the ordeal of a woman whose husband refused to grant her a divorce for five years.

The husband declared he would never give his wife a divorce, the judges in Israel's religious courts were indifferent, and then the man fled to Britain with the help of his family, leaving her to take care of their disabled daughter.

The woman thought she would remain abandoned forever, until Rabbi Yisroel Yaakov Lichtenstein of London entered the picture.

So can the solution for abandoned women in Israel only come from rabbis abroad? Here is something for Israel's religious judges to think about.

Violence isn’t grounds for ‘get’ (Hebrew article)

By Batya Kahana-Dror, 

Issue Number 46 July-August 2008

From agunah to freedom

By Elana Maryles Sztokman, September 11, 2008

See also blog posts at

It doesn't happen all that often, but I recently received a phone call that filled me with hope and optimism.

My friend Sara, who had been an agunah for over six years, whose story is saturated with some of the most painful and trying aspects of human manipulation and abuse, called to tell me she has remarried and has a baby.

I must admit, there were times when I never thought she would reach this point.

"You see," she said, "miracles do happen."

Tzohar on Halachic and Civil Marriage

By Hillel Fendel, September 11, 2008

The Tzohar Rabbis Organization calls on the members of the [Chief Rabbinate Council] voting body to consider the following points when making their decision:

It must strive to increase Jews' desire to marry according to Jewish Law, and to address the matter of those who cannot establish a home in the framework of Jewish Law.

Rabbi Stav, contacted by IsraelNationalNews, explained that the reference is to the 300,000 non-Jews who are not registered as having any religion.

"If we don't give an answer to all these people who live here and allow them to marry each other, then the situation will explode and there will be civil marriages in the whole country."

He emphasized that he was not referring to Jews who are not permitted to marry specific types of women.

Mavoi Satum honors Prof Naomi Cohen

By Elana Maryles Sztokman, September 15, 2008

Leading Orthodox feminist scholar and activist Prof. Naomi Cohen of Haifa is this year's honoree at the annual Leah Globe (z"l) dinner of Mavoi Satum , the organization providing legal, rabbinic and social services to agunot.

What changes would you like to see in the future?

Religiously, I would like to see a change from the conceptualization of women as a “purchase” (kinyan) of the man. 

This is the starting point for dealing with the halakhic root of the problem of agunot, both in the classic and the modern sense.

Rabbinical Courts Most Wanted List

Gavison on Haredim and a Jewish State

By Abe Selig, September 14, 2008

 Hebrew University of Jerusalem law professor and former Winograd Committee member Ruth Gavison:

"The haredim are unwilling to introduce core citizenship studies and integrate into the economy and society," Gavison said on Sunday.

"And a significant number of them do not serve in the army and are not integrated into the workforce. This trend was recently backed by the political system for coalition considerations.

"I want the haredim to be educated in a way that they are integrated and they accept the principles of the state in which they are citizens. That does not include Jewish theocracy."

Girl admitted to Haredi School under court order

By Neta Sela, September 10, 2008

Following several days of uncertainty, a child that was initially denied entrance to an ultra-Orthodox school was finally allowed to attend, as the result of a court order.

On Tuesday, Tel Aviv's administrative court ordered the Beit Yaakov School in the central city of Elad to admit the child to the first grade.

The child's parents asked for the court's intervention after their child was denied entry, apparently due to the family's "oriental descent."

…Four other girls who were not accepted by the school have remained home without a scholastic framework.

The five girls appealed to the Education Ministry, and although the ministry ruled in their favor, the school itself has yet to supply an approval letter, admitting the girls to the school.

Ahavas Yisrael - Sadly, Not in Ramot!

By Yechiel Spira, September 12, 2008

With Rosh Hashanah only a number of weeks away, one can only lament the realities surrounding the situation in Ramot A regarding a Dati Leumi school being used to provide a [temporary] solution for the Beis Yaakov system.

The battle being waged over a Ramot A school building will without a doubt leave bad memories for all concerned as parents battle it out on the streets, City Hall, and in court, compelling the students to ‘take side’ against one another.

Acheinu Reports 1,200 Students Enrolled at Torah Institutions

By Yechiel Sever, September 11, 2008

Following a summary meeting, organization heads announced that 5768 brought an increase of over 20 percent in the number of placements at Torah-based schools and yeshivas. 

'Kiryat Yovel may soon become Bnei Brak'

By Lia Levin, September 9, 2008

The residents of Kiryat Yovel in Jerusalem are on a mission: To stop their neighborhood from becoming ultra-Orthodox.

"This neighborhood should be a pluralistic neighborhood with secular and national religious residents. 
In one month, the haredim have managed to cause so much tension in this city, something we haven't seen in years… 
If we lose Kiryat Yovel, we'll lose the entire city," says Michael Ben-Avi, director-general of the communal administration.

…There are 17,500 people living in Kiryat Yovel today, including 350 ultra-Orthodox families, 200 of whom only arrived in the neighborhood this year. 

This has caused a public debate on issues which have been penetrating the neighborhood below the surface for three years now.

Gavison: Zionist education is critical to state's survival

By Abe Selig, September 14, 2008

Students in Israel's education system are unaware of the importance of a Jewish state and do not know why the fight for its very existence is still going on, according to Hebrew University of Jerusalem law professor and former Winograd Committee member Ruth Gavison.

"In a state like Israel, educational policy should reflect the national, religious and cultural plurality, but also the joint objectives of the entire state," Gavison said in her speech.

"In practice, Israel gives predominance to a multitude of minority groups, and fails to sufficiently stress the joint civil core, and the education for a rich identity of the Jewish-Zionist enterprise's key group - the Zionist group which does not observe mitzvot.

Israeli women fear writing on the wall

By Jonathan Cook, September 8, 2008

Einat Hurvitz, of the Israel Religious Action Center, associated with the more liberal Reform Judaism movement, said modesty patrols have probably been a feature of Haredi life for decades.

But she said there was a growing trend of religious extremism among the ultra-Orthodox, as well as more generally in Israeli society. 

“Older ultra-Orthodox women report that their daughters cannot wear clothes that they themselves wore when they were their age,” she said.

She said that in most Haredi communities men and women remain strictly separate in public places, with examples of segregated shops and even pavements. 

Even among the ultra-Orthodox

By Shahar Ilan, Opinion September 12, 2008

Clearly, every family has the right to bring as many children as it likes into the world. But it does not have a right to require the taxpayer to pay for them.

In the past, the taxpayer paid for most of the cost of raising Haredi children. Today, thanks to the cut in the subsidies, he pays for a smaller and fairer share. 

…Thus for all the hardship it caused, reducing the allowances was evidently the correct way to extricate the Haredi sector from the trap of poverty, and integrate it into the Israeli economy.

We must therefore reject the Shas party's demand that we turn back the clock on the allowances.

Rabbis black-list non-kosher music

By Wyre Davies September 12, 2008

"They are leading the public astray and are causing a great negative influence on the young generation," says Rabbi Efraim Luft, head of an ultra-orthodox organisation in Israel called the Committee for Jewish Music.

Supported by leading Haredi rabbis, Rabbi Luft has drawn up a black-list of musicians and bands - music that he says that is not kosher and cannot be played at ultra-orthodox weddings or public events because of its decadent nature.

Because of the loyal relationship between [ultra] orthodox Jews and their rabbis, the influence of bodies like the Committee for Jewish Music and the Guardians of Sanctity and Education is considerable.

A mission from Gad

By David Brinn, September 11, 2008

"This is going to be a very, very special night," Shlomo told his rapt audience, "because tonight, for the first time in Caesarea, we have separate seating.

"Over here," he said, pointing to the left section "is only for men. The middle section will be mixed, and over on the right is the women's section.

…What he's attempting is no less than the reconciliation of religious and non-religious Jews around the world.

Gad Elbaz is on a mission from God, and he wants Jews to come together - over him.

"The fact there's religious and non-religious musicians and crew, and the fact that he pulled singers that are not religious but have religious souls together for one show I think is a major accomplishment by itself," he says, motioning toward the mix of people onstage.

"Tonight we have over 150 people working together to put on this religious show. Shlomo Gronich came to me and said, 'You've already done what you wanted to do.'"

Krias Kodesh for All to Follow Modesty Guidelines Established by Beis Din Mishmar HaTorah

By Yechiel Sever September 11, 2008

"In our generation, unlike previous generations, many dams have burst, especially in matters of modest attire.

In the past the legacy was passed from mother to daughter and there was no need to explicate and clarify this matter, which was clearly understood, but in our times this situation has changed and now many outside influences have penetrated, even into the best homes, unfortunately…”

Yeshiva students demand religious newspapers on IDF bases

By Kobi Nahshoni, September 11, 2008

Two yeshiva students who were discharged from service in the hesder program (combining advanced Talmudic studies with military service in the IDF), turned to the army, religious Knesset members and brochure editorial boards, with a request to allow them to disperse brochures to various military synagogues.

“As you know, the Ma’ariv, Yedioth Ahronoth and Haaretz newspapers are distributed free of charge to soldiers on various IDF bases,” they wrote in their plea.

“As people who served and are serving in the IDF, who read the distributed newspapers for lack of any other choice, we personally feel the great need to introduce diverse media into the IDF.”

Israel's Female Soldiers Face Military Inspection

By Brenda Gazzar, September 12, 2008

Israel's military has convened its first international conference to highlight women's integration in the last 60 years.

But most Israeli combat roles are off limits and activists say there is still room for progress in tackling "inbuilt chauvinism."

Proponents of expansion face opposition, particularly from religious leaders and parliamentarians who oppose male and female soldiers mixing too closely.

…Naomi Chazan, a former parliamentarian who was instrumental in amending the 2000 service law, says women are still not being integrated into all combat roles they want due to "inbuilt chauvinism" in the army and pressure from national religious groups.

Religion and State in Israel

September 15, 2008 (Section 1) (continues in Section 2 & Section 3)

Editor – Joel Katz

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