Monday, March 31, 2008

Religion and State in Israel - March 31, 2008 (Section 2)

Religion and State in Israel

March 31, 2008 (Section 2) (continued from Section 1)

Editor – Joel Katz

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

Rabbi Eric Yoffie on Orthodox monopoly

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Rabbi Eric Yoffie, President, Union for Reform Judaism,

Rabbi Eric Yoffie is against religious monopolies, and feels that Jewish life in Israel suffers with the government coerced by Orthodox policies.

The challenge and crisis of conversion in Israel

By Rabbi Donniel Hartman, Shalom Hartman Institute March 31, 2008

I don't expect the Rabbinate to accept conversions not in accordance with its understanding of Orthodox law.

I do expect the State of Israel not to give to one single rabbinate the sole authority of determining the Jewish identity for the whole state.

If we choose to have a government-sponsored Rabbinate, we must have multiple rabbinates.

If we want to solve the problem of the integration of non-Jews from the former Soviet Union into Israeli society, as well as the injustice facing non-Orthodox Jews in Israel on daily basis, Israel must adopt the model of world Jewry, where Jews of different beliefs have multiple access points into their tradition.

Religious tolerance must not be limited to Diaspora Jewish life, but must be the foundation of our national homeland.

In Christian Defense of Israel

By Daphna Berman, Haaretz March 28, 2008

Click here for John Hagee VIDEO

John Hagee will be in Jerusalem next week for the launch of the Hebrew translation of his book, In Defense of Israel.

Hagee, an American evangelical pastor and one of the leaders of the Christian Zionist movement, will be joined by David Brog, whose book, Standing with Israel: Why Christians Support the Jewish State, is also due out in Hebrew translation.

The book launch, which is sponsored by both Gefen and Modan publishers, will take place next Friday at the Menachem Begin Heritage Foundation in the capital.

MK Benny Elon and Chief Rabbi of Efrat Shlomo Riskin are also expected to speak about the "importance of the Jewish-Christian relationship."

Knesset Members to Meet With Mainline Protestants

By Rebecca Spence, March 27, 2008

In the wake of recent strains between Jewish leaders and the leaders of America’s mainline Protestant churches, the Board of Rabbis of Southern California is convening a luncheon with top interfaith leaders and three Israeli Knesset members.

The Israeli politicians at the event include the only Arab Christian Knesset member, Nadia Hilou, as well as Shlomo Molla, the only Ethiopian member, and Sephardic Kadima party member Yoel Hasson.

Jehovah's Witnesses grow by 'devious' methods, charge anti-missionaries

By Daphna Berman, Haaretz March 28, 2008

The Witnesses, as they are known, have had a presence here since the state's founding but say their active missionary work - an obligation for members - has gained traction in recent years, bringing in several hundred additional members. They now number an estimated 2,500 in Israel.

The Witnesses, as they are known, have had a presence here since the state's founding but say their active missionary work - an obligation for members - has gained traction in recent years, bringing in several hundred additional members. They now number an estimated 2,500 in Israel.

Shunned by her own family

By Daphna Berman, Haaretz March 28, 2008

Ruth Cohen's two children have not spoken to her since 2002, the year she left the Jehovah's Witnesses. An Israeli-born South African, Cohen became active in the Jehovah's Witnesses in Johannesburg as a teenager. She married an Israeli member of the group and spent most of her life as an active Jehovah's Witness, often going door to door - in Israel, South Africa and the United States.

But at a certain point, she became interested in her Jewish roots and "things started to not make sense anymore - I had a vague, uneasy feeling that things weren't right."

Judaism's golden mean Editorial March 31, 2008

…we'd like to hear leading rabbis in the haredi and national religious community explicitly denounce all anti-missionary violence - not just the Ortiz attack, but also the ongoing harassment in Arad and Beersheba.

Let them say what we all know: that in a sovereign Jewish state such violence is immoral, illegal and contemptible. Further, and more broadly, let our spiritual leaders declare that fanaticism - whether that embodied in the Taliban of Beit Shemesh, or in blanket prohibitions on all Arab labor - goes beyond the bounds of Judaism.

It was not only Aristotle who preached the desirability of the golden mean. Authentic Judaism, too, has always sought a balance between "too much and too little." Clearly, the lesson needs to be taught anew; and it is up to those we turn to for spiritual succor to teach it.

Conservative students split on gay ordination anniversary

By Matthew Wagner, March 27, 2008

In an incident that underlines the tension between the US and Israeli branches of the Conservative Movement over ordination of gay and lesbian rabbis, the Schechter Rabbinical Seminary in Jerusalem clashed this week with a group of visiting American rabbinic students.

A proud position

By Ruth Eglash, March 27, 2008

For Yonatan Gher, "coming out of the closet" will likely pale in comparison to the challenges he is about to face over the next six months.

Next week, he will also take on a job that would have most people shaking in their boots - Executive Director of the Jerusalem Open House.

"I come from Greenpeace," quips Gher, who also served as a spokesman for the Masorti Movement in Israel for four years.

"I believe that the ultra-Orthodox leadership has a tendency to go from issue to issue, looking for something that they can take a position against," he explains. "Before us, it was immodest dress codes or businesses that opened on Shabbat. Then they turned onto the parade. My hope is that they will move onto another issue and leave us alone."

Besides, says Gher, "I think some of the ultra-Orthodox leadership is beginning to realize the disadvantages of the approach they have taken. They've drawn attention to us, and now they have to deal with questions in their own community, like: 'What exactly is gay?' and 'What does it mean to be gay?'"

MKs Demand that Gov't Authority Operate Mt. Meron Holy Site

By Hillel Fendel, March 25, 2008

MKs Azulai, Litzman (United Torah Judaism) and others say that the problem stems from a lack of clear authority over the site. "Many bodies have a claim there," Azulai said, "including the police, the Regional Council, the Ashkenazi and Sephardi hekdeshim (bodies that have been unofficially running the place for decades), the Tourism Ministry, the Holy Sites Authority, etc."

…The issue is of critical importance with the impending approach of the minor holiday of Lag BaOmer - when each year over 100,000 people descend onto the site, many of them days in advance, to mark Rabbi Bar-Yochai's date of death. Lag BaOmer is now less than two months away.

…Following the police report, it is likely that an authority - such as the Western Wall Heritage Foundation that runs the Western Wall - will be established to operate and oversee the holy site of Mt. Meron.

Rest of Falashmura must be brought to Israel, protests group

By Anshel Pfeffer, Haaretz March 28, 2008

The Public Council for Ethiopia's Jews held an emergency meeting in Jerusalem yesterday, announcing it would fight the government's intention to stop bringing Ethiopian Jews to Israel.

Meir Shamgar is the council's honorary head and former Supreme Court president.

The meeting was also attended by former Canadian justice minister Irwin Kotler, Harvard law professor and author Alan Dershowitz, and the chief rabbi of Haifa, Rabbi Shear-Yashuv HaCohen.

The council decided, among other things, to organize protests against ending the Falashmura immigration to Israel, to petition the High Court of Justice on behalf of the Falashmura awaiting aliyah, and enlisting the aid of Jewish communities around the world in pressuring the government over the issue.

50% losses for supermarket chain under ultra-Orthodox boycott

By Shoshana Chen, March 31, 2008

Despite the fact that no official boycott has been announced, ultra-Orthodox consumers have already begun to impose informal sanctions on the Shefa Shuk supermarket chain.

According to estimates provided by concerned advertisers and suppliers, the chain's eight stores catering to the ultra-Orthodox sector have already suffered a 50% drop in revenue.

Education Ministry ditches Limor Livnat's '100 Zionist concepts' program

By Or Kashti, Haaretz March 26, 2008

One of the curricular cornerstones of the previous minister of education, aimed at teaching Zionism, democracy and cultural heritage to the country's junior-high students, is to be scrapped from next year in favor of a program based on primary texts.

…With regard to the texts used to teach the topics, the report states: "The committee adopts the principle of giving equal value to the source material: No specific canon, such as the Bible or the Talmud, shall be accorded a superior status.

Students in state schools must come into contact with the totality of Jewish culture in order to shape their own attitude toward the entirety of the sources."

Kindergarten plan causes religious storm

By Miriam Bulwar David-Hay, March 30, 2008

A municipal plan to build a secular kindergarten on the grounds of a state religious school in central Tel Aviv has sparked outrage from religious parents, reports Yediot Tel Aviv.

The parents say they will fight with "every legal means" to prevent a secular kindergarten from being placed in the yard of the Moriah religious school near Kikar Rabin.

A municipal spokeswoman urged the religious parents to remember that, "We are all Jews," and that secular and religious residents of Tel Aviv could, and do, live in harmony.

But the committee was unmoved, saying it could only imagine the "riot" that would break out if religious parents wanted to put a religious kindergarten in a secular school.

"High-tech in the service of the rabbis"

Letters to the Editor, Haaretz March 25, 2008

By Rabbi Avi Shafran, Director of Public Affairs Agudath Israel of America

Curiously missing from Avirama Golan's article, about the "oppression" of ultra-Orthodox Israeli women working in the high-tech industry, are any comments whatsoever from the women themselves.

That might be because the vast majority of them consider it a high honor to work to support their families and husbands studying Torah full-time.

Two Cases for Decentralization

By Jonathan Rosenblum, Mishpacha, March 26, 2008

In Eretz Yisrael too there is a great centralization of the learning community. The dream of every yeshiva bochur is an apartment in Jerusalem or Bnei Brak, or, failing that, in one of the new all-chareidi communities within commuting distance – Beitar, Elad, or Kiryat Sefer.

Yet that dream is increasingly beyond realization for many young couples. In outlying Jerusalem neighborhoods in the process of "chareidization," the price of a small apartment that the couple will likely outgrow in a few years is rapidly climbing towards $200,000.

Recent government-imposed housing freezes in Beitar and elsewhere have sent housing prices skyrocketing, if one can even find an apartment to buy.

Language wars - round two

By Yair Ettinger, Haaretz March 27, 2008

While Israeli state schools are busy marking the 150th anniversary of the birth of Eliezer Ben-Yehuda, who revived the modern Hebrew language, he is presented in the ultra-Orthodox pamphlet as "a wicked man who spent his life fighting with hatred against religion and wanted to uproot it totally."

"The publication of the pamphlet at this particular time reflects a reality in which Hebrew is growing stronger at the expense of Yiddish," says Dr. Dalit Asulin, a researcher into the Yiddish of the ultra-Orthodox and a research fellow at Ben-Gurion University of the Negev.

"There are no Haredim in Israel who do not know Hebrew, and preserving Yiddish requires a constant effort on the part of the rabbis and the educational personnel, particularly with regard to children."

Like the previous pamphlet, it will be funded by members of the Satmar Hasidic court from the United States "who very much like this anti-Zionist propaganda," as the yeshiva student phrased it, incidentally revealing a peep into an important branch of the Haredi economy.

UTJ joins Yesha Council, seeks expansion of Haredi settlement

By Yair Ettinger, Haaretz March 31, 2008

The ultra-Orthodox United Torah Judaism party joined hands for the first time Sunday with the Yesha Council of settlements, to promote a cause that both hold dear: expanding the population of the Haredi settlement of Beitar Ilit, located between Jerusalem and Gush Etzion.

…Some of the MKs were careful to avoid larger questions about the future of the territories, focusing instead on the Haredi community's severe housing shortage.

'Haredi code of silence must be broken in abuse cases'

By Ruth Eglash, March 28, 2008

The code of silence that exists in ultra-Orthodox communities regarding physical and sexual abuse against children must be broken, and ordinary citizens as well as professionals should be prosecuted for not reporting such cases to the authorities, Welfare and Social Services Ministry officials and child activists told The Jerusalem Post on Wednesday.

Orthodox treatment

By Esti Keller, March 31, 2008

Beit Avraham is Jerusalem's only religious halfway house catering to this population. The therapy session demonstrates the dual role religion and therapy play in the center's rehabilitation process.

Keren Hateshuva is a religious organization that assists former convicts in reintegrating into society. Beit Avraham, which opened a year ago, is the organization's current flagship project. It receives partial government funding but relies heavily on donations.

State program to tackle problem of polygamy in Bedouin community

By Ruth Sinai, Haaretz March 27, 2008

Together with leading figures in the Bedouin community, the state will initiate a program to address the problem of polygamy, which Social Affairs Minister Isaac Herzog described as an "epidemic."

Though there is no clear data on the numbers of polygamous families in Israel, Karinawi estimates that a quarter of Bedouin men have more than one wife.

'We have more women than men'

By Mijal Grinberg, Haaretz March 27, 2008

Mona Al-Habanin, of Rahat, director of the Desert Princess association for Bedouin women's rights, says polygamy lowers women's status, and that the use of religion to defend the practice was a "distortion" of religious interpretation.

"It says it can be done if there is equality, but there cannot be equality."

"Mostly men don't take women who are older, divorced or widowed as their second wife . They take young women, for their pleasure." Many such women are for all intents and purposes single parents, but the state does not recognize them as such, she says.

Galon calls for Knesset discussion of pending Jaffa Muslim cemetery sale

By Yigal Hai, Haaretz March 26, 2008

Following yesterday's report in Haaretz concerning the protest of Arab leaders over the approval of the sale of half a Muslim cemetery in Jaffa to developers, MK Zahava Galon (Meretz) asked the Knesset Interior Committee to discuss the matter.

"The sale is causing unrest in Jaffa," that could, wrote Galon, be avoided through dialogue about exchanges of land and financial compensation.

The land was sold in 1973 by Jaffa's Muslim religious trust, before it became part of the cemetery which has been in use since 1943.

However Jaffa's Muslims viewed it as land necessary for the cemetery's expansion and used it for burials despite the sale. The community now wants the buyers compensated and the land returned.

A little break in the wall

By Nissan Straukler, March 31, 2008

In honor of Israel’s 60th anniversary, German company Ravensberger, making high-end puzzles and other toys, has manufactured a 1,000 piece puzzle depicting the Western Wall.

The Israeli company Sacheck-Na placed 400 puzzle pieces inside the Western Wall, wrapped within blue notes emblazoned with the company’s logo and containing various wishes such as “I want a united Jerusalem”, or “I want peace”.

The company urged Israelis to go on a treasure hunt to retrieve the missing puzzle pieces. Whoever finds the missing pieces will have their very own puzzle sent to their home.

Western Wall Rabbi Shmuel Rabinowitz, said in reaction to this marketing scheme that “I see this course of action as an affront to the Western Wall and the holiness that it represents.

"The sacred stones of this wall are meant to be a site for prayer, not games. Even if this is a worthy cause, one must separate the sacred from the secular, and marketing is definitely a secular endeavor. "

After 2,000 Years: "Chumash with the Daughters of Rashi's Commentary"

Event Launches Groundbreaking Women's Torah Commentary in Tel

A unique, first-time event between HUC-JIR and Beit Daniel, the center for Progressive Judaism in Tel Aviv, celebrate[d] and launch[ed] the new anthology, The Torah: A Women's Commentary in Israel on March 27, 2008.

For the past fourteen years, more than 100 theologians, historians, sociologists, scholars, anthropologists, poets, rabbis, and cantors from the United States, Canada, Israel and South America – all of them women – took a fresh look at the Torah. The Torah: A Women's Commentary is the result of their exhaustive research, thought, and discussion.

Shabbes in the capital

By Neri Livneh, Haaretz March 28, 2008

Sane religious people are also leaving Jerusalem. Journalist Kobi Arieli, who was invited together with me last week to take part in a televised discussion about Jerusalem, announced that he would only return to the city when his dead body was covered with a tallit and 10 of his friends were escorting him to the grave. Even columnist Uri Orbach has left the city with his family.

A religious pet can only flourish in a secular environment. Soon, perhaps, we will be seeing the rise of a new class in Jerusalem: the secular-pet class. But they'll have nothing but a dog's life to look forward to.

The President’s Conference: Facing Tomorrow

Israel at 60 -May 13-15, 2008 Jerusalem

Facing Tomorrow will be a conference of focused exploration, a synergistic gathering of major world leaders, Jews and non-Jews, thinkers and doers, poets and physicists, rabbis and entrepreneurs, including the next generation of leadership -- young men and women of exceptional promise and originality.

Religion and State in Israel

March 31, 2008 (Section 2) (continued from Section 1)

Editor – Joel Katz

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

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

Click here for VIDEO

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.