Tuesday, March 25, 2008

Religion and State in Israel - March 24, 2008 (Section 2)

Religion and State in Israel

March 24, 2008 (Section 2) (continued from Section 1)

Editor – Joel Katz

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

Young settler woman who rejected court's authority released after 3 months

By Nadav Shragai, Haaretz March 20, 2008

Shriel repeatedly told the court that she would only recognize the authority of a tribunal that adheres to the laws of the Torah.

"I don't recognize your authority. You have no right to try me. I am not a criminal," she told judges.

"A young girl managed to stand up to an entire system that denies its Jewish roots and real purpose," the right-wing Honenu organization said.

"It's a goyish system of laws," Zvia's mother, Ruthie, said. "She did not betray her principles. That girl has more strength then all of us together."

Religious fuel for the bonfire

By Uzi Benziman, Haaretz March 23, 2008

While in custody, Zvia Sariel was granted a strange arrangement under which she was tried by a private rabbinical court (a body that calls itself The Sanhedrin, headed by Rabbi Yisrael Ariel).

…The rabbis and their political followers claim to represent independent Israel, purified, tall, confident and God-graced.

In practice, they educate their flock to behave like Jews from the Ghetto: to see Israeli rule as hostile, to try and trick it, to rebel against its laws, and to care for their small communities and not society as a whole.

The juvenile rebellion of Zvia Sariel and her friends aims to alienate them (and their families) from the state, to undermine its unity, to challenge its stability, and thus destroy the basis on which it was established and which the settlers allegedly seek to bolster.

Spreading the halakhic tunic over their behavior makes them immune to the state's arguments: They follow a different call - allegedly a divine one.

“An Attack on My Home”

By Dr. Amiel Ungar, Omedia.org March 18, 2008

Interview with Merkaz Harav alumnus Rabbi Menahem Fruman

Even if the state is not to our liking we welcome the state and the restoration of the res publica, the Jewish public domain.

The more the state becomes estranged from traditional values the more the tension becomes almost unbearable.

Next Time, in Joy

By Jonathan Rosenblum, Mishpacha March 19, 2008

The Torah community of Eretz Yisrael achieved a brief moment of unity this past week. Unfortunately, it took the tragic slaughter of eight young yeshiva students at Yeshivat Mercaz Harav to bring it about.

Who could have even imagined before the attack the circumstances that could bring the Belzer Rebbe, Rabbi Shmuel Auerbach, Rabbis Rafael Shmulevitz and Yitzchak Ezrachi of Mirrer Yeshiva, Rabbi Moshe Mordechai Farbstein of Hebron Yeshiva, Rabbi Asher Weiss, and Rabbi Shmuel Bloom, executve vice-president of Agudath Israel of America to the campus of Mercaz Harav?

Or that would provoke the fiercely anti-Zionist Satmar Rebbe to proclaim of the students of Mercaz Harav, the flagship institution of religious Zionism:

"When a disaster like this occurs, murderers penetrating into a yeshiva, it is as painful to HaKadosh Baruch Hu as the destruction of the Bais HaMikdash. This is a overwhelming tragedy for all of us. They were learning at that moment the same Torah we learn. The Gemara is the same Gemara."

Jewish Agency to close immigration department

By Anshel Pfeffer, Haaretz March 20, 2008

The Jewish Agency is planning to close one of its most historically important branches, the Immigration and Absorption Department, as part of a radical restructuring plan.

The plan, which Agency officials consider to be a major change in the identity of the organization that predates the creation of Israel and has existed in its current form since 1948, will introduce reforms aimed at addressing a series of financial and political blows that have plagued the organization in recent years.

"The new plan can either give it a new identity, or signal the end of the road. In any case, we have no choice," a Jewish Agency official said.

Jewish Agency fiercely defends restructuring plans

By Haviv Rettig, JPost.com March 20, 2008

According to Jeff Kaye, director-general of the Jewish Agency's Department of Resource Development and Public Affairs, media reports that donations to the agency were declining were incorrect.

Rather, he said, the donations are increasingly shifting from gifts to the agency's core budget - which includes funding for administrative costs - to "designated giving" for specific projects.

This process, he added, was taking place among American Jewish federations and in the field of philanthropy generally.

According to agency figures, while donations to the core budget have dropped by up to $2m. each year, "designated giving" to specific projects run by the Jewish Agency has risen by some $10m. annually, and now makes up some one-sixth of all income from donations.

Jewish Agency's vulnerability underlined

By Haviv Rettig, JPost.com March 21, 2008

The leak, which billed the new plans as a dramatic shift in Jewish Agency priorities away from the core Zionist value of aliya, appears to have been intended to torpedo the restructuring effort, possibly by someone who would stand to lose their job in a leaner Jewish Agency.

Government seeks to understand Diaspora

By Haviv Rettig, JPost.com March 22, 2008

This focus was mistaken because "in the Diaspora, aliya is not on the agenda. Jewish education and identity are more important to [Diaspora Jews], who, unlike us, are a minority in their country.

We must change the discussion to reflect this." While Yehezkel is quick to note that "aliya is an important part of the relationship" and the Diaspora is critical for Israel's image overseas, the relationship must become two-directional.

Jewish Agency turns to Haredi donors as budget dwindles

By Anshel Pfeffer, Haaretz March 24, 2008

As Jewish Agency funds dwindle, the immigration-oriented governmental body is turning to ultra-Orthodox philanthropists for donations to bring thousands of young Jews to Israel on organized trips, Haaretz has learned.

Sources involved in the talks between the Jewish Agency and the philanthropists said that next year, a Jewish Agency subsidiary called The Israel Experience will participate in the Moreshet program, which is funded by ultra-Orthodox donors.

Israel to set up Internet portal for world Jewry

By Anshel Pfeffer, Haaretz March 24, 2007

Why is there no central Internet-based portal for Jews and Judaism?

"It will never happen," declares one participant in the meeting, who asked not to be identified.

"If it's a government site, it will be treated like one and will not be popular. If people can freely state their opinions and advertise, there will be lots of things the government and Jewish organizations will not be able to live with, and they'll have to censor."

First meeting set for Israel-Diaspora task force

By Haviv Rettig, JPost.com March 18, 2008

At the meeting, to be chaired by Cabinet Secretary Ovad Yehezkel, and including task force members Jewish Agency head Ze'ev Bielski and Diaspora Affairs Minister Isaac Herzog, discussion is expected to be centered around two ideas:

Establishing a worldwide network of Israeli cultural centers modeled on the British Council, and dramatically increasing financial support for existing Israel-Diaspora programs such as birthright Israel and Masa.

Rabbi Elyashiv asks for American aid

By Neta Sela, Ynetnews.com March 24, 2008

Rabbi Yosef Shalom Elyashiv, leader of Israel's Lithuanian non-Hasidic haredi Jews, has asked US Ambassador to Israel Richard Jones to help the people residing in Zion in its distress. The two met at Rabbi Elyashiv's home on the eve of Purim.

The visit to the Lithuanian leader's home was part of a several-hour tour of Jerusalem's ultra-Orthodox centers, which included visits to Talmud Torah schools and yeshivot and to homes to leading rabbis in the haredi public.

For women only

By Judy Siegel-Itzkovich, JPost.com March 23, 2008

Meaning "For You [feminine]" in Hebrew, B'Shvilaych is claimed to be the only holistic wellness facility for religious women (haredi and Modern Orthodox) in the country.

Not only Jerusalem residents come, but from as far as Bnei Brak, Haifa, Ashkelon, Safed and the Etzion Bloc. The religious outlook ranges from National Religious settlers to Neturei Karta and Satmar hassidism.

Haredi life, too purely rendered

By Allan Nadler, Haaretz, By arrangement with The Forward

The writer is professor of religious studies and director of Jewish studies at Drew University.

Israeli director David Volach's stunning debut film, "My Father, My Lord" (“Hofshat Kayitz")

Its depiction of Haredi society, the world of the Lithuanian yeshiva in particular, is meticulously accurate.

Volach's screenplay is also a sensitive dialectical discourse with the talmudic 'My Father, My Lord' and breaks new ground in cinematic history tradition, one that includes a serious - and, to my knowledge, unprecedented - engagement with major themes in medieval Jewish philosophy and mysticism, along with a searing critique of their misapplications in the contemporary Haredi world.

…the sad irony about "My Father, My Lord" is that only those who have devoted significant time to advanced Torah study are likely to catch its many deeper, subtler references to classical rabbinical texts.

The audience that would be most rewarded by Volach's work, yeshiva-educated Haredim, is the one least likely ever to see it.

Topsy-turvy days

By Yair Ettinger, Haaretz March 20, 2008

During a year in which Defense Minister Ehud Barak is (supposedly) threatening to overturn arrangements that permit yeshiva students to defer military service, scaled-down IDF infantry uniforms are still a popular costume among ultra-Orthodox boys at Purim, along with police uniforms, cowboy gear and Biblical characters.

But Doron Aryeh of the Sifrei Geula book and Judaica store, in Jerusalem, which at this time of year mainly sells Purim costumes and accessories, says that the leading children's costume in the ultra-Orthodox street, this year is the "Hatzolah volunteer."

Paramedics who serve in the Hatzolah ("Rescue") organization are a symbol of the new, Israeli, ultra-Orthodox masculinity, on the one hand, and absolutely kosher, on the other.

'Mt. Meron is a terror attack waiting to happen'

By Matthew Wagner, JPost.com March 24, 2008

The security problem is just one of the pressing issues that has been left untouched as various groups vie for control over the holy site.

United Torah Judaism chairman Ya'acov Litzman initiated the discussion in the Knesset two months ahead of Lag Ba'omer (May 23), the anniversary of Bar-Yohai's death, in an attempt to sort out who is responsible for managing the site.

Ostensibly, the site is run by a national body called the National Center for Holy Sites, created by the NRP and placed under the auspices of the Religious Affairs Ministry.

However, with the dismantling of the Religious Affairs Ministry at the end of 2003, the national center was transferred to the Tourism Ministry.

RCA and Chief Rabbinate

By Rachel Yehuda, Letters to TheJewishWeek.com March 19, 2008

It is because this centralized Torah authority in Israel [Rabbinate] is not divinely ordained, but rather, politically instituted by the Knesset, that it is important for world Jewry and rabbis outside of Israel to constrain the power of this body in the true spirit of traditional Judaism.

Without doing so, we risk having the Chief Rabbinate of Israel become a papacy. At issue here is not conversion per se, but rather, how centralized any rabbinic activity should be and who decides and enforces the procedures.

Today the problem might be conversions; tomorrow it will be weddings.

Long queues reported at Temple Mount

By Etgar Lefkovits, JPost.com March 24, 2008

"When things are peaceful in Jerusalem and tourism is on the rise, there is no reason why the police should prevent visitors from entering the Temple Mount," said Eilat Mazar, a prominent archeologist and spokeswoman for the nonpartisan Committee Against the Destruction of Antiquities on the Temple Mount.

According to police statistics, nearly 240,000 tourists visited the Temple Mount last year, a whopping 41.4 percent increase over the year before.

About 5,200 Israeli Jews visited the site last year, an increase of 6.3% compared to the year before.

In comparison, hundreds of thousands of Muslims routinely flock to the site during Ramadan, while thousands attend weekly Friday prayers.

Moslem Wakf Construction/Destruction Renewed on Temple Mount

TempleInstitute.org March 2008

On Tuesday, March 4th, Rabbi Chaim Richman and a party he was escorting around the Temple Mount were eye-witnesses to a confrontation between the Israeli police and Moslem Wakf workers being personally instructed by the Wakf Muftis to illegally cover and repave an area on the northern side of the Temple Mount.

The police prevented the Wakf from continuing the work, and are now denying to journalists that the incident ever took place. However, Rabbi Richman's party, equipped with a camera, was able to document the confrontation.

Interview: Strengthening the Diaspora vs. Promoting Aliyah

By Ezra HaLevi , IsraelNationalNews.com March 20, 2008

Rabbi Tzvi Hersh Weinreb was interviewed by Israel National Radio’s Aliyah Revolution show on the balance the Orthodox Union strikes between encouraging Aliyah and strengthening the Diaspora.

We have as an organization, and I make sure to make it a part of every public presentation I do. I emphasize the importance of living in Eretz Yisrael, the importance of Aliyah.

The importance of – if you are not ready for Aliyah for whatever reason – that you visit Israel, send your children for the year to Israel, etc, etc. That is certainly part of our message and our mission.

…But at this point, we are faced with hundreds of thousands of Jews who need guidance, leadership, etc.

So there has to be a balance. In reality. Ideally, obviously we would all pick up this afternoon and move to Eretz Yisrael. But we are dealing with reality.

The realities are that there are a growing number of young families in the New York metropolitan area who are not considering Aliyah, who are faced with impossibly high housing costs, with the difficulties of raising their children religiously in New York.

For Forward.com background article, click here

Satisfied now? Local N. American women say yes, more so than male counterparts

By Cnaan Liphshiz, Haaretz March 21, 2008

Satisfaction was also closely connected to ideological immigration. 76% of French immigrants - who top the satisfaction chart - said they immigrated out of religious-Zionistic reasons.

By contrast, only 32 percent of Argentineans said they moved because of ideals, with 57 percent citing lack of security in their country of origin - which in 1999 suffered a devastating economic crisis.

"The more the immigrant is religious, the more he or she is satisfied with life in Israel," the study states. According to Amit, religious attachment might also make immigrants less likely to leave.

Tax reform timing could elate some immigrants, irk others, say tax experts

By Cnaan Liphshiz, Haaretz March 21, 2008

But critics suggest that offering financial incentives to people who haven't yet immigrated to Israel while withholding the same incentives from immigrants who have, could be seen as not doing enough to reward ideologically-motivated immigrants.

Proposed Israeli tax reform for new residents

By Leon Harris, JPost.com March 19, 2008

According to Immigration Absorption Minister Ya'acov Edri: "This program is a historic breakthrough that will make it possible for many Jewish people around the world and hundreds of thousands of Israelis living abroad to come to Israel without worrying about the financial side."

Shattering a 'national mythology'

By Ofri Ilani, Haaretz March 21, 2008

Interview with Tel Aviv University historian, Prof. Shlomo Sand, author of “When and How the Jewish People Was Invented?” , Resling (Hebrew)

Q: Why do you think the idea of the Khazar origins is so threatening?

"It is clear that the fear is of an undermining of the historic right to the land. The revelation that the Jews are not from Judea would ostensibly knock the legitimacy for our being here out from under us”.

…"We must begin to work hard to transform our place into an Israeli republic where ethnic origin, as well as faith, will not be relevant in the eyes of the law”.

Knesset approves organ donation law

By Judy Siegel-Itzkovich, JPost.com March 24, 2008

A few weeks ago, the Chief Rabbinate and the Israel Medical Association (IMA) reached an agreement on how to determine the moment of death, making the process possible for the Knesset Labor, Social Affairs and Health Committee to approve for its final readings in the plenum.

The IMA opposed previous versions of Schneller's bill on the grounds that it would bring about "rabbinical supervision" of the determination of death.

5-year-old boy registered with two fathers

By Ruth Eglash, JPost.com March 17, 2008

While the issue of gay and lesbian couples adopting has seen progress over the past year, with Minister of Welfare and Social Services Isaac Herzog even launching a program for same-sex parents to adopt via the ministry, the issue of marriages in this regard is still far from being resolved.

"It is still a very difficult situation," said Hadar. "There needs to be a general change in the process and this does not just affect same-sex couples but also those who are not recognized by the orthodoxy. It is a battle for all of secular society."

Christian Rivalry Burns at Site of Jesus’ Tomb

By Nathan Jeffay, TheForward.com March 20, 2008

With big egos competing for sacred space and urgent claims that a miracle is imminent, Jerusalem’s latest religious conflict has all the makings of a classic Holy City conflagration.

All, that is, except for the cast of characters: There is not a single Jew or Muslim involved.

Religion and State in Israel

March 24, 2008 (Section 2) (continued from Section 1)

Editor – Joel Katz

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