Monday, January 28, 2008

Religion and State in Israel - January 28, 2008

Religion and State in Israel

January 28, 2008

Editor – Joel Katz

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

MK Cohen: Reform Jews caused the Holocaust (Assimilation)

By Arik Bender, (Hebrew) January 23, 2008

As part of a Knesset event, MK Yaakov Cohen (United Torah Judaism) visited the Alon School in Yavne where he spoke to approximately 200 students, teachers and staff.

MK Cohen did not deny saying that Reform Jews caused the Holocaust – but claims that he was referring to assimilation – a Holocaust for the Jewish People.

High Court suggests compromise on buses segregating men, women

By Yuval Yoaz, Haaretz and Reuters January 22, 2008

The High Court of Justice told the Transportation Ministry to look into problems on bus routes in Orthodox areas that separate men and women, following the petition of the religious author Naomi Ragen and the Israel Religious Action Center.

Anat Hoffman, head of the Israel Religious Action Center, the advocacy arm of the Reform Judaism movement which helped bring the lawsuit, said she was glad the high court saw the need to address problems created by the policy.

"We welcome the idea to create a forum that will seriously examine the issue and examine real ways to address the needs of a diverse public without hurting the right of privacy," Hoffman said.

Israel told to end abuse on Orthodox bus routes

Reuters January 23, 2008

The ruling stopped short of ordering bus companies to stop the "mehadrin" lines but asks the transport ministry to form a committee within 30 days to study the problems and recommend changes.

"We think the transportation minister should create such a forum as soon as possible to allow him to hear from the Haredi (ultra-Orthodox) public and from the petitioners and their supporters," the court said.

Court urges panel to examine 'mehadrin' buses

Attorney Einat Hurvitz [Israel Religious Action Center], who represents the petitioners, said

"We expect the state to reply to the proposal in the affirmative and to refrain, for the time being, from introducing any more lines until the matter is dealt with properly."

Campaign to Improve Bus Service on Chareidi Lines

By Yechiel Sever, Dei’ah veDibur January 24, 2008

Following an in-depth investigative report in Yated Ne'eman on the conduct of bus companies that run lines for the chareidi public, many public transportation users joined the campaign for decent transportation for chareidi passengers, who are shown a lack of basic respect by the bus companies.

Since the publication of the report last week complaints have been pouring into the Yated Ne'eman hotline.

Damned if She Does, Damned if She Doesn't

The writer is a contributing writer for the New York Times Magazine.

Why an Orthodox institute's decision to ordain female rabbis isn't as revolutionary as it sounds.

Women who believe so passionately in the divinity of the Torah and its laws that they want to remain in the Orthodox community have to do a difficult dance.

If they get rabbinic ordination through Hartman or other institutions, they are likely to move themselves outside of the norms of their communities and not really be able to influence them as a rabbi would—and if they don't, well, they're still not rabbis.

Ramat Gan School Prayer Issue May End Up in Court

By Nissan Ratzlav-Katz, January 22, 2008

The Israel Policy Center lawyer letters, addressed to Mayor Tzvi Bar and Ohel Shem Principal Adam Koenigsberg, emphasized that freedom of religion is a basic right in Israel."

Attorney Bam wrote, "There is no legislation that limits the freedom of religion of students in non-religious public schools.

It is precisely on the grounds of a public school, which is an arm of the state and the Education Ministry, that the religious freedom of students seeking to pray during recess must not be limited beyond what is necessary for the sake of discipline."

The Malefactors

By Dr. Yitzhak Klein, Israel Policy Center January 17, 2008

Ordinary high schools in Israel are termed “state” schools. Nowhere are they defined as secular per se.

Religion is not formally practiced or taught, but nowhere does the law say that liberty of religious conscience can be constrained within their precincts.

Israel has not copied the United States’ silly legal doctrine that church and state are so separate that even private prayer cannot be tolerated in public schools. (To maintain this position consistently, you'd also have to outlaw private prayer in public parks.)

The prejudice against religious observance within these Israeli schools is simply that, a prejudice.

See also: Secular Ramat Gan high school bans pupils from praying

Mazuz: Arab government workers forbidden to work on Shabbat

By Kobi Nahshoni, January 24, 2008

Attorney General Menachem Mazuz determined that government offices must refrain from working or holding events on Shabbat so as not to violate the Hours of Work and Rest Law and prevent the absence of Jewish officials from various activities.

Prior to a seminar that was held by the Science, Culture, and Sport Ministry at the Wingate Institute in Netanya last Saturday for Arab directors of cultural institutions in Israel, National Union–NRP Knesset Member Eliahu Gabbay sent a harsh letter to Minister Raleb Majadele and Mazuz in which he demanded that the event be cancelled.

Unite Israel`s education system

By Dror Yinon, January 21, 2008

Dror Yinon is currently completing his doctorate in philosophy at The Hebrew University of Jerusalem.

Over the past few months, Israel has been so engrossed by the attack on its southern towns, it has failed to notice the rise of a greater strategic threat, one far more dangerous to the future of the state: the Nahari Law.

A unified state school system - where secular and religious children study together, eat lunch together, play basketball and go on field trips together - is the only way to secure our future as one people. Once the children learn to live together in peace, maybe their parents will learn to do so, too.

Education Ministry Imposes New Questionnaires on Talmid Torah Principals in Bid to Curtail Pedagogical Independence

By Yechiel Sever, Dei’ah veDibur January 24, 2008

The Education Ministry recently sent principals of exempt institutions questionnaires and forms that have numerous demands, even more than recognized but unofficial institutions.

The Ministry even threatened that if the principals refuse to fill out the forms the Ministry would stop funding them.

The whole purpose of the change is to undermine the independence of the talmudei Torah.

The forms demand detailed information on the curriculum and ideology of the school.

For firebrand, Herzliya resounds more than Winograd

By Anshel Pfeffer, Haaretz January 25, 2008

Professor Yehezkel Dror, founding president of the Jewish People Policy Planning Institute

First of all he wants all Israelis, from its leaders and opinion-makers to educators and regular people on the street, to discard basically all the accepted assumptions that they hold about the Diaspora.

He believes many of the assumptions are ostensibly Zionist precepts most Israeli children absorbed from their parents and from their very first years at school.

Israelis, rather, should stop seeing automatically their country as the center of the Jewish people; cease negation of the Diaspora as a legitimate way of life for Jews; discard the self-image of Israel as the safe haven for persecuted Jews around the world; change the role of Diaspora Jews from donors and helpers bereft of rights to an opinion on Israel's internal affairs; and drop the view that Aliyah is a fundamental Zionist duty.

The next stage, according to Dror, would be for the government to form a full-fledged Diaspora Ministry to boost relations with Jews worldwide, upgrading the Jewish Agency to the status of the Jewish People Agency with the role of building a stronger Jewish identity for all Jews.

New consultative forums would give Diaspora Jews a voice in Israeli affairs, while "partial aliyah" by which Jews divide their lives between Israel and other countries would be recognized.

Internally, he calls for a major shake-up of the Israeli education system so that young Israelis could overcome their ignorance of Jewish culture.

Prof. Dror: Israel, world Jewry drifting apart January 23, 2008

Dror pointed out that Israel-Diaspora relations are not infallible, and that there is a growing rift between world Jewry and the State of Israel. By and by, there is a marked wearing-away of Jewish identity among Jewish youths in the Diaspora.

[One of] several key reasons for both of these trends according to Prof. Dror:

Religious Diaspora youths are disappointed by the extent to which Israel is a religious “Jewish “ state, whereas secular youths are vexed by what they view as the prominent role that religious institutions play in Israel.

Not in it for the money

By Daniel Orenstein, Haaretz January 25, 2008

The writer is a postdoctoral fellow at the Technion Faculty of Architecture and Town Planning and a lecturer at the Arava Institute for Environmental Studies.

By closing the Ministry of Absorption, we could disperse its NIS 1.4-billion budget to benefit Israelis who live here - immigrants and long-time residents alike.

Stop pandering to the Israelis who have decided to seek their fortunes abroad, or to Jews who are happy where they currently live.

We can show them some respect for their decision - and some self-respect as well. By investing in those who live here, we will not only weaken the "push" factors that may cause future generations of Israelis to leave, but we will strengthen the "pull" factors that will bring Israeli ex-pats and other potential immigrants to Israel.

They will come, not for a bribe, but for quality of life, education, social services and a clean environment.

In praise of the Jewish blogosphere

By Richard Silverstein, Haaretz January 25, 2008

In the age before blogs, Jewish leaders were like political bosses.

They ruled their roosts, and anyone who questioned them was easily frozen out of communal discourse.

Blogs have changed that. Now, Jewish "bosses" can be held up to immediate public scrutiny.

See also original, expanded version

High Court nixes gov't plan to stop Falashmura immigration

By Anshel Pfeffer, Haaretz January 28, 2008

The government must reexamine the eligibility for immigration of thousands of Falashmura and allow an additional 1,500 to move to Israel, the High Court of Justice ruled last week.

However, the Interior Ministry downplayed the decision, saying: "The High Court accepted the state position not to open the lists.

Nonetheless, it said the state would do well to determine whether there is room to expand the list of eligibles to 17,000.

It is not an order, and the state was asked to announce within three months what it has decided.

The matter has been transferred to the cabinet secretary for a decision."

Haredi leadership opens men-only driving lessons

Haredi spiritual leadership, concerned that the Transportation Ministry's coed classrooms for teaching mandatory drivers' lessons might lead to lascivious behavior and sexual fantasizing, opened on Thursday their own alternative, men-only classrooms.

The Council for the Purity of the Camp, an organization representing a wide range of Hassidic courts and haredi Lithuanian Jewry, which receives spiritual guidance from Rabbi Yosef Shalom Elyashiv and leader of the Ger Hassidic sect, Rabbi Ya'acov Aryeh Alter, arranged for the men-only course to be opened in cooperation with the Transportation Ministry.

What would Rav Kook say?

The girls' anti-establishment act, which would most likely have been dismissed as extremist and anti-Zionist in the years before the withdrawal from Gaza, struck deep chords of empathy among the vast majority of post-disengagement religious Zionists.

An educator at Ma'ale Levona asked rhetorically, "How can I teach my girls to respect an institution, when it rules in direct contradiction to the Torah?"

A thundering silence

Haaretz Editorial January 24, 2008

Through this symbolic act of rebellion, and the religious Zionist leadership's overwhelming silence in response to it, religious Zionism has positioned itself as a movement that denies the sovereignty of the state.

The problem is not the silence of the girls, but the silence of the leadership. Religious Zionism is slowly removing itself from the camp that carries the torch of the Zionist enterprise, and one can legitimately ask whether its behavior is not becoming anti-Zionist.

In the past, religious Zionism symbolized the actualization of the state. Today, it symbolizes rebellion against the state. And its leaders bear the responsibility. This is not the passing caprice of a few teens, but the metamorphosis of an entire camp from a center of constructive activity to a center of subversion.

It should have elicited a 'Wow'!

, January 25, 2008

James Charlesworth, a renowned expert on Jesus who is professor of New Testament Language and Literature at Princeton Theological Seminary and director of its Dead Sea Scrolls Project.

He is now to set about obtaining permits to reenter both the Talpiot Tomb and an adjacent tomb which has never been properly excavated, and wants to put together the most expert team he can so that, if such access is permitted, it is not wasted.

What is exciting for me is that we have Jews, Roman Catholics and Protestants working on this together, and their faiths are not a factor...

I think the tomb is a window to the past. Let's have the courage to look through it.

When the Rabbinical Court plays with the numbers

By Rivkah Lubitch, (Hebrew) January 24, 2008

The writer is a rabbinic court pleader and staff member with the Center for Women's Justice.

Looking at the statistics of the Rabbinical Court for 2007, one would think that the state of those getting divorced, agunot, and mesorvei-get has never been so good.

In order to truly understand the situation, we need an outside party to examine the Rabbinical Court statistics and publish numbers with actual value. It’s the public’s right to know.

Cameras for Prison Kashrut

By Levi Ashkenazi, (Hebrew) January 27, 2008

The Prison Authority has begun to place cameras into the prison kitchen facilities in order to ease the work of kashrut supervisors.

The project is said to cost NIS 1 million.

As part of the project, screens will be set up in the room of the Prison rabbi that operate 24 hours a day.

Israeli Bat Mitzvahs are becoming increasingly extravagant

Click here for VIDEO

By Haaretz Staff and Channel 10 January 27, 2008

Bat Mitzvahs, which used to be celebrated in rather modest family gatherings in Israel, have now emerged onto a new scene, and those whose parents can afford it, celebrate no less extravagantly than they would their weddings.