Monday, April 14, 2008

Religion and State in Israel - April 14, 2008 (Section 1) (continues in Section 2)

Religion and State in Israel

April 14, 2008 (Section 1) (continues in Section 2)

Editor – Joel Katz

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

Cartoon by Yaakov Kirschen "Slippery Slope"

Knesset discusses Passover bread sale ruling

By Amnon Meranda, April 14, 2008

Labor MK Ophir Pines-Paz:

"The judge who rendered the ruling is a religious woman. The problem lies with the wording of the law. It is unenforceable and everyone knows it… we have to have a serious discussion on the proper way to maintain heritage and tradition not through coercion."

'Allowing hametz harms Jewish identity'

By Elie Leshem, April 14, 2008

Meretz MK Zehava Gal-On asked whether Israel's Jewish identity hinged upon pita bread.

"We don't have to make amendments to the Hametz Law [in order to annul the judge's decision], rather we must cancel [the Hametz Law]. Your attempt to coerce people and decide what, how and where to eat is not at the center of Jewish identity."

Shas angry as cabinet fails to mull chametz

By Yair Ettinger and Mazal Mualem, Haaretz April 14, 2008

Shas ministers were fuming yesterday over the cabinet's failure, ostensibly due to a technical glitch preventing the proposal from being delivered on time, to discuss the party's amendment barring the sale of chametz (leavened products) during Passover.

The proposal was meant to circumvent a recent ruling by a Jerusalem court allowing stores and restaurants to sell chametz on Passover but not to display it in public.


No prohibition against selling chametz

By Asher Maoz, Haaretz April 9, 2008

The writer teaches at the Tel Aviv University Faculty of Law.

[Torah and mitzvot observant Jews] will in any case not enter a store or restaurant where nonkosher products are sold and served, and as such they will not be exposed to chametz and their sensibilities will not be offended.

On the other hand, as long as there is no law prohibiting selling and serving leavened products to those who want them, why prohibit their display inside a place of business that is permitted to sell them?

Itzik clears out the chametz

By Shahar Ilan, Haaaretz April 10, 2008

Knesset secretary Eyal Yanun, until recently the deputy attorney general, revealed two unknown details about the affair in his letter.

The first is based on the fact that the ruling was made by a municipal court, and may not apply to other courts.

Yanun writes that:

"following my inquiries with the attorney general and the Jerusalem municipality's legal adviser, it transpires that the method of enforcing the law this Pesach has yet to be determined.

It is unclear what implications the ruling has or whether it will influence the status quo concerning chametz."

Should Jewishness in Israel be legislated or a choice?

By Rabbi David Hartman, April 10, 2008

One is caught in this dilemma.

I can appreciate the aversion people have for legislating religious principles. I appreciate the feeling of some that the government should not enter into your own private spiritual domain and dictate to you what you can and cannot eat on Pesach. Freedom of religion or non-religion is an option that should be decided by the individual and not by the legislative power of the Knesset.

On the other hand, if we are interested in some shared, collective space that mediates some flavor of Jewishness and gives a Jewish quality to our public life, then it is the role of the Knesset to establish the minimum conditions that would give expression to our Jewish historical heritage.

Should Jewishness be legislated or should it be the result of a personal freedom of choice?

Shas: We'll defy gov't on 'Passover Law'

By Roni Sofer, April 13, 2008

Interior Minister Meir Sheetrit said in response that "there is no point in amending the law," since the court has already ruled on the matter.

According to him, "the idea of backing up 'the Passover Law' by another one is inappropriate. We're no officers of God; nobody has ever actually enforced this law. Now that the Jerusalem Municipal Court acquitted those who have sold leavened goods, there's no point in delving into the matter."

Removing hametz from the heart

By Rabbi Reuven Hammer, April 9, 2008

The writer is a former president of the International Rabbinical Assembly and the head of the Rabbinical Court of the Masorti Movement.

Rather than spending their energy in trying to enforce unenforceable laws of dubious value, true religious leaders - as opposed to political leaders wrapped in the cloak of religion - would spend their time teaching and demonstrating the beauties of Judaism. Instead they are busy demonstrating the exact opposite.

…Hametz will disappear from the streets when it and all it stands for disappears from our hearts. Another law will not accomplish that.

Just don't force us

By Amnon Rubinstein, April 10, 2008

The writer is a professor of law at the Interdisciplinary Center (IDC) Herzliya, a former minister of education and MK as well as the recipient of the 2006 Israel Prize in Law.

But if the majority in the Knesset submit to pressure and pass a law which actually forbids the sale of hametz, even when the public square and therefore religious sensibilities are not involved, that law won't be kosher.

It would exacerbate quiet rebellion on the part of many secular Israelis. It justly would be declared null and void by the Supreme Court as being incompatible with the Basic Law on Personal Dignity and Liberty, the very law initiated by this writer which introduced the concept of Israel as both Jewish and democratic.

Passover Law Roils Israel’s Orthodox

By Nathan Jeffay, April 10, 2008

Shahar Levy, who owns Restobar, a restaurant in Jerusalem’s Rehavia neighborhood that was in the dock before Asher-Zaban, said he is “very happy” with the judge’s ruling.

“However,” he added, “there is a part of this that upsets me. While it is good for us that we won, it makes me sad that it hurts relationships between the secular and the religious.”

Shas' Rabbi Yosef to Sabbath council: Stay mum on AM:PM row

By Nati Toker, Haaretz April 14, 2008

In the latest move in a debate among ultra-Orthodox sages, Shas party spiritual leader Ovadia Yosef has ordered the rabbinical council for Sabbath observance affairs to maintain media silence over an ongoing dispute with the AM:PM convenience stores, whose policy of keeping stores open on the Shabbat has sparked a campaign for a broad ultra-Orthodox consumer boycott.

Bnei Brak: Dozens of Secular Jews arrive to ‘Shefa Shuk’ for Shabbat groceries as a protest against the Haredi boycott

Click here for photos from

Rabbis say AM:PM to close on Shabbat

By Nati Toker and Nurit Roth, Haaretz April 10, 2008

David Wiessman, the controlling shareholder of Dor Alon, has agreed to keep all new outlets of the company's AM:PM convenience-store chain closed on Shabbat.

That's the claim of the Rabbinical Committee for the Sanctity of the Sabbath, which had threatened to call a boycott of Dor Alon's Blue Square and Shefa Shuk supermarket chains as well as its network of gas stations, because of AP:PM stores being open on Saturdays.

AM:PM by Tzahi Farber, The Marker April 14, 2008

[sign] “Closed on Shabbat”

“Now you can tell him about the Mezuzot”

Who stands to profit from the AM:PM boycott?

By Sami Peretz, Haaretz April 13, 2008

The food business, more than any other business, needs rabbis and other religious officials.

David Wiessman learned this the hard way. Supermarket and retailing chains give the owners influence and power over suppliers, manufacturers, customers and consumer patterns. And when we talk about the largest supermarket chain in Israel, with a 38% market share, the power and influence are even stronger.

…The third lesson is about the hypocrisy of the ultra-Orthodox. Often the sector draws praise for its ability to organize as consumers. This time, however, they don't deserve any such praise.

True, there is a split within the rabbinical establishment in the ultra-Orthodox community over the boycott of Wiessman's businesses, but no one from the ultra-Orthodox world has yet been able to explain why they are boycotting Wiessman.

The rabbis have never declared a boycott against ultra-Orthodox tycoons Lev Leviev or Moti Zisser, who also operate some of their businesses on Shabbat.

Rabbi Ovadia Yosef declines to sign boycott letter

By Ilanit Hayut, Globes April 7, 2008

Shas spiritual leader Rabbi Ovadia Yosef as well as top Lithuanian rabbis have decided to withdraw from the threat of a boycott of retail chain Shefa Shuk, a unit of Alon Israel Oil Company Ltd., owned by chairman David Weissman.

Aides of Rabbi Ovadia Yosef said today that he refuses to sign the boycott letter on which other leading rabbis have signed. The aides added that Yosef supports negotiations with Alon Group. They said that Rabbi Ovadia Yosef has never signed any boycott letter of any kind.

Shefa Shuk adopts an old Haredi tradition

By Adi Dovrat, Haaretz April 9, 2008

The chain of supermarkets Shefa Shuk found itself banned by the Haredi newspapers, after the ultra-Orthodox community rabbis called for a boycott of the Alon Group because its chain of groceries AM:PM desecrates the Sabbath.

Shefa Shuk is considered one of most well known in the Haredi community, with a 2007 advertising budget estimated at $525,000.

Nor was the chain cowed by the Haredi community's newspapers cold shoulder: it used the community's own methods to reach the community: posters, known as pashkevilim, to advertise its wares.

Secular-Hareidi Alliance on Behalf of the Sabbath

By Hillel Fendel, April 10, 2008

Several secular elements have also joined in the battle for Sabbath. Left-wing MK Shelly Yechimovitch of Labor, for instance, feels that it is unfair to force employees to work seven days a week. warns that supporting open-on-Saturday businesses "endangers our children's future. It is already hard today to find work in some areas that do not require work on Sabbath.

Even some of the most prestigious hi-tech companies demand 24/7 availability. But it is also happening in pharmacy chains, support personnel, and others - and soon it could happen to your own child."

Precedent: Rabbinical court to hear divorce case of non-Israelis

By Dan Izenberg, April 13, 2008

In a precedent-setting decision, the long arm of the rabbinical courts has extended itself all the way to the Guadalupe Islands and France, the rabbinical courts spokeswoman said Sunday.

A few days ago, the Higher Rabbinical Court agreed to consider a divorce lodged by a woman against her husband, even though neither of them is an Israeli citizen. Both are French citizens who have lived for the past 20 years in the French protectorate of the Guadalupe Islands.

Organ Donation: Legal, But Still Controversial

By Michelle Chabin, The Jewish Week April 9, 2008

Click here for Rabbi Shlomo Riskin VIDEO

Observers familiar with the issue say the rabbis are reluctant to give a general “heter” (or, approval) and want to be consulted on each potential case of organ donation, continuing the turf control issue between the Chief Rabbinate and the Ministry of Health.

Robby Berman, founder of the Halachic Organ Donor Society in New York, said he is “skeptical” it will have “any significant impact” on organ donation in Israel.

“The bottleneck to donation is not the law but people’s misunderstanding of the medical and halachic issues surrounding brain-stem death. The solution is education, not legislation. And the government did not allocate significant funds to educate the public on this issue,” Berman said.

Malaysian convert denied citizenship since he was born in 'enemy state'

By Shahar Ilan and Daphna Berman, Haaretz April 13, 2008

At the beginning of March, attorney Reut Michaeli of the Israel Religious Action Center asked Mazal Cohen, the Interior Ministry's director of visas to non-citizens, to have Soong issued Israeli citizenship and immigrant status.

"The Law of Return gives every Jew the right to immigrate to Israel. One cannot deprive a person of his right merely because he was born in one country or another," she wrote.

Soong was born to a Christian family in Kuala Lumpur. He left Malaysia for Singapore at the age of 19, gave up his Malaysian citizenship and has not been there for 15 years.

In 2000, Soong moved to the United States, where he joined a Reform Jewish community in Maine. A year later he converted to Judaism and in 2003 he received American citizenship.

Civil cemetery plans spark controversy

By Miriam Bulwar David-Hay, April 13, 2008

Hod Hasharon has approved a special budget of NIS 1 million for the construction of a civil burial ground adjoining the existing Jewish cemetery, and the decision is arousing a storm among the city's religious residents, reports

Religious councilors say they were misled into voting for the budget, and say they will vote against Mayor Hai Adiv at the coming municipal elections if the plans for a civil cemetery go ahead.

Handing the Haredim a noose

By Meirav Arlosoroff, Haaretz April 10, 2008

"There is no precedent in Israel, or to the best of our knowledge in the western world, for the state to finance institutions of education without setting minimum standards for the study program," wrote the [Israel Religious Action Center of the Israel Movement for Progressive Judaism] in its response to the High Court.

What would the Ministry do if another sector were to make the same demand, the Progressive Judaism movement wrote.

Could it reject the petition without falling into the trap of discrimination?

The Education Ministry's behavior seems to have doomed solidarity in Israel. The glue holding together the various, divided segments of society would dry out and flake, it wrote.

After U-turn, Arabic back at middle schools

By Or Kashti, Haaretz April 15, 2008

The Education Ministry has backtracked on a decision not to include Arabic language studies in the required secondary school core curriculum. Thus, Arabic will continue to be taught for three hours a week in grades 7 to 9.

Education Ministry officials said the ministry had taken Arabic out of the core curriculum in an attempt to create a core curriculum the ultra-Orthodox system would support, but the latter rejected any compromise.

The need to create the core curriculum arose following a Supreme Court ruling that secondary schools must teach a core curriculum to receive state funding.

Studying with the other

Haaretz Editorial April 13, 2008

One of the big questions that will determine the future of the mixed school system is whether the national religious public will meet the challenge and send their children to school with non-observant children.

This is an opportunity for religious Zionists to try to win people over from a place of equality rather than with a patronizing attitude.

Chief rabbis against dodging IDF reserve duty

By Kobi Nahshoni, April 8, 2008

Israel's chief rabbis are expected to declare the Shabbat before Passover "Shabbat of the reserves" and instruct Israel's Jewish leaders to stress the importance of reserve duty to their congregations.

Personnel Directorate Head Major-General Elazar Stern told the rabbis that the integration of 'Hesder' yeshiva students (program that combines advanced Talmudic studies with military service) into regular army units "would bring religious and secular people closer together."

The fighters of the 106 municipal hotline

By Yair Ettinger, Haaretz April 9, 2008

The nine people drafted into the Beitar Ilit security department are the first group ever of ultra-Orthodox to join the national service program.

Only around 60 yeshiva students are taking part in a national service program, the majority of them as individuals in frameworks such as the Magen David Adom emergency medical service and the Jerusalem municipality.

The group in Beitar Ilit is the first instance of an organized group that also received the approval of the city's rabbis, Rabbi Yaakov Tewfik and Rabbi David Tzvi Ordentlich.

So far 2,300 yeshiva students and kollel students have finished the deciding year and to date, there are some 600 in the middle of it. Of the 50,000 yeshiva students registered with the IDF, as of January, the percentage in the middle of a deciding year is 1.2 percent. That is not a lot, but it is also not an amount that can be ignored.

A separate peace

By Meron Rapoport, Haaretz April 11, 2008

The IAA takes an unequivocal position with regard to the return of finds, above all the scrolls. "The Dead Sea Scrolls are the property of the Jewish people across the generations and they will remain in our hands," says Uzi Dahari, the Authority's deputy director. "There are things we will not agree to take on loan. They are ours, and the international convention is not relevant to them."

Prof. Hanan Eshel, from Bar-Ilan University, a researcher of the scrolls and a longtime adversary of the IAA, said, "I am one of the only two religiously observant Jews here," and added that he "is in fact not opposed to ownership of the scrolls being transferred to an international body instead of Israel. The most important thing is that it not remain in the hands of the Antiquities Authority."

US archaeologists bridge Israeli-Arab gap

By Tom Tugend, April 10, 2008

The art of authentic forgery

By Nadav Shragai, Haaretz April 14, 2008

Criminal case 482/04, the State of Israel v. Oded Golan and others, lays out the details of one of the biggest forgery scandals ever in the history of archaeology.

According to the indictment, those misled by Golan, a well-known Tel Aviv antiquities collector, included renowned experts who were ready to confirm the authenticity of the many and controversial findings he supposedly discovered, such as the Jehoash Tablet inscription and an ossuary that supposedly held the bones of James, the brother of Jesus.

Religion and State in Israel

April 14, 2008 (Section 1) (continues in Section 2)

Editor – Joel Katz

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

Religion and State in Israel - April 14, 2008 (Section 2) (continued from Section 1)

Religion and State in Israel

April 14, 2008 (Section 2) (continued from Section 1)

Editor – Joel Katz

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

After their verbal sparring, Hagee and Yoffie may meet

By Ron Kampeas, JTA/ April 9, 2008

"I was told he was interested in meeting with me," said Yoffie, the president of the Union of Reform Judaism, in an interview with JTA. "I'd be delighted to sit down and talk to him."

Hagee's spokesman, Juda Engelmayer, confirmed that the pastor was considering such a meeting.

The rabbi, the preacher and love of Israel

By Shmuel Rosner, Haaretz April 11, 2008

Hagee wonders why Yoffie preferred a public clash to a discreet meeting.

Who knows, maybe there will still be a meeting. Maybe it will be the beginning of a wonderful friendship.

But it won't provide a solution to the fundamental question: Does the friendship of personalities like Hagee help Israel or harm it?

Gentler Hagee Seen Gaining New Traction

By James D. Besser, The Jewish Week April 9, 2008

Despite withering criticism from the leader of the Reform movement, there is growing evidence that America’s leading Christian Zionist, Pastor John Hagee, is winning acceptance in pro-Israel circles. And some politicians are taking note.

On Reform Judaism and Christian Zionism

By Amotz Asa-El, April 13, 2008

By welding itself to a particular peace formula and elevating it to a degree of an article of faith, Reform is actually losing sympathy, certainly in Israel.

To us, statecraft, geopolitics, diplomacy and strategy should be divorced from faith, worship and ritual.

That goes for Catholicism, Lutheranism, Calvinism, Evangelism, Islamism, Shi'ism, Hassidism, Conservatism, modern Orthodoxy, ultra-Orthodoxy - and Reform Judaism, too.

You, Rabbi Yoffie, bring to all this the very same political non-authority that plagues Hagee, Robertson, Parsley, Mordechai Eliahu, Haim Druckman or Moshe Levinger or for that matter Muqtada a-Sadr.

Like them, you're no statesman; heck, you're not even the junior spy that Nelson Glueck was. You're clergy, and that's already plenty of work in its own right. Stick to it.

Pastor Hagee and Israel

New York Times, Letter to the Editor April 10, 2008

Re “For McCain, Little Talk of a Controversial Endorsement” (news article, April 8), about the Rev. John C. Hagee and the organization he founded, Christians United for Israel, and the reaction to his efforts on behalf of Israel:

Pastor Hagee has been a true friend of Israel for many years. Christians United for Israel is among the strongest supporters of Israel in the United States.

The signers of this letter have been chairmen of the Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations, and we appreciate and respect Pastor Hagee’s dedicated efforts and those of Christians United for Israel.

Harold Tanner
James Tisch
Mort Zuckerman
Mel Salberg
Lester Pollack
Shoshana Cardin
Ken Bialkin
New York, April 8, 2008

Secular and Zionist - Interview with Aharon Barak

By Ari Shavit, Haaretz April 11, 2008

It is clear to me that if we are to live here together, secular with religious, we must compromise. I am ready to compromise. I do not demand my hundred percent. I proposed a compromise on the issue of Bar-Ilan Street [in Jersualem].

I am not very rigid in the matter of drafting yeshiva students. I understand that both the Sabbath and yeshiva study are the most cherished values of the religious public. But I expect that just as I acknowledge what they hold precious, they must acknowledge what I hold precious.

Regrettably, many of them believe that [according to an old parable] their cart is full and mine is empty, so my cart has to make way for theirs on the bridge. I cannot accept that. My cart is not empty.

I endorse the state's support for religion, for example, as long as it is on the basis of equality. It does not bother me if the public space possesses a certain religious cast.

But I insist that in exchange, the religious public recognize my most cherished values: equality, freedom of the individual. A striving for that balance characterized my judgments in all my years on the Supreme Court.

Rabbi Metzger: Abuse stems from distortion of Kabbalah

By Neta Sela, April 14, 2008

"If, as a result of studying practical Kabbalah, this person's mind has been disrupted, and if it is true that this 'rabbi' (Elior Chen) explained this acts of abuse as a repair of the soul, this is horrifying proof of what can happen when Kabbalah is studied without being supervised and guided by the greatest sages of Israel who are known to all as having superior knowledge of Kabbalah's wisdom."

Don’t politicize child abuse case

By Rabbi Levi Brackman, April 14, 2008

Horrific story of rabbi-inspired abuse must not be used to stigmatize haredi society

Breaking the haredi 'conspiracy of silence' on domestic abuse

By Calev Ben-David, April 11, 2008

It seems to me the haredim cannot have it both ways - arguing on one hand that behavior like this is exceptional in their environment, usually committed by someone not "really haredi," yet still showing reluctance to expose crimes being committed right in their own backyard in order to stop (or prevent) them.

This is an issue on which the haredi media should be taking a lead among their public - as has been the case with the secular media - and not holding it back by reinforcing negative patterns of behavior.

'If he said jump off the roof, you'd jump'

By Uri Blau and Yair Ettinger, Haaretz April 11, 2008

…The married men of the group were Chen, Fischer and D., the husband of the mother suspected of child abuse. D. and she were born and raised in the United States in Zionist, Orthodox families.

After they immigrated, they lived for a few years in a settlement in Gush Katif in Gaza and then moved to the Jewish Quarter in Jerusalem.

There D. abandoned the values of religious Zionism and began to take an interest in mysticism. The couple and their children felt comfortable in the Jewish Quarter, where there are many foreign residents who join the ultra-Orthodox communities in the city; D., who dresses in a white robe, is familiar to the residents. The couple sent their children to a relatively liberal Talmud Torah (school for young boys).

…Gabai and Kugman took control of the home in the Jewish Quarter and later of the villa to which the wife moved two months ago. The villa, part of the prestigious Wolfson complex in the Shaarei Hessed neighborhood of Jerusalem, belongs to the wife's mother, who lives in the United States and is the proprietor of a well-known Jewish newspaper.

Happiness, Ltd.

By Michael Fox, Haaretz April 11, 2008

A representative sample of Israel's Jewish population was questioned as to its level of happiness.

Of those who claimed to be "very happy," the poorest sector of the country's Jewish population, the Haredim (ultra- Orthodox), romped home by a furlong: sixty-two percent claimed to be very happy, a condition boasted by only twenty-two percent of respondents who described themselves as secular.

…I still wonder how the questioners got their answers. I would like to have been a fly on the wall while the questions were asked, because there are surely grave difficulties in obtaining replies from Haredim to such intrusive questions.

Evangelicals urge police to act on harassment of messianic Jews

By Daphna Berman, Haaretz April 14, 2008

A leading evangelical organization in Israel has called on local police to stop "overlooking" cases of "harassment, intimidation and even physical violence" against messianic Jews, in the wake of last month's attack, which seriously injured a member of Ariel's small Christian missionary community.

In an open letter released Sunday, the International Christian Embassy in Jerusalem condemned the attack against 15-year-old Ami Ortiz, son of prominent messianic pastor David Ortiz, breaking some three weeks of silence on the subject.

Needed: A New Path to Our Jewish Roots

By Bambi Sheleg, Special to The Jewish Week April 1, 2008

Bambi Sheleg is the editor of Eretz Acheret, a bimonthly magazine that probes the complexities of Israeli and Jewish identity.

How do we transform a culture that evolved in the diaspora, absent of any sovereignty, into one whose focus of development is sovereignty?

…What exactly should be the relationship between our heritage and the concrete reality in which we live?

What is the metamorphosis that Jewish traditional thought needs to undergo in order to realistically contend with Jewish sovereignty and all its many and sundry challenges?

The challenge facing the Jewish state today is to formulate an approach that is true to the Jewish past as well as the present — a present that demands real solutions rather than mythic ones.

The return to religion: A state-funded fashion

By Uzi Benziman, Haaretz April 13, 2008

The return to religion is not a process that is undergone solely for the sake of heaven;

…The time has come to stop the state's financial support for this movement.

It's impossible to name the exact figure of the national budget that is earmarked for religious revival organizations. The money is spread throughout hundreds of individual budget items under various and sundry names.

…Every person is free to choose his own way of life, but it isn't the state's job to fund the private whims of its citizens. The Haredi sector receives generous budget allocations that fund its spiritual needs; those who decide to found and operate institutions for religious proselytizing should raise the funds for them on their own.

The secret of the Israeli mosaic

By Alexander Yakobson, Haaretz April 9, 2008

During her visit to Israel, Fadela Amara sensed the fruit of this accomplishment - a society where people take ethnic differences for granted more so than in many societies that take pride in their openness and acceptance of the other.

…If Amara consulted with experts on nationalism, they no doubt told her that one may join the Jewish people only through religious ritual. Israeli reality, however, tells a different story.

The Rutted Road To Unity

By Sarah Shapiro, Special to The Jewish Week April 1, 2008

Bar Ilan, whose name would henceforth signify not only a physical route connecting disparate sections of the capital but the fault line running through Israel’s heart (and mine) is a utilitarian six-lane thoroughfare.

Israeli Heart, Jewish Soul

By Michael Oren, Special to The Jewish Week April 1, 2008

Michael Oren is author, most recently, of “Power, Faith, and Fantasy: America in the Middle East, 1776 to the Present” (Norton).

Serious efforts must be mounted to loosen the Chief Rabbinate’s stranglehold over personal affairs — marriage, divorce, and burial — to rid the kashrut system of corruption, and reform the conversion process.

Major resources must be invested in facilitating dialogue between Israeli Jews from various religious backgrounds as well as between Israeli and diaspora youth.

The Taglit-birthright israel program that has strengthened Jewish identity worldwide by bringing nearly 160,000 young Jews to Israel should be expanded to enable more Israelis to experience different forms of Jewish spirituality in America and elsewhere.

National priority must be given to convincing all of Israel’s citizens that the state can be made more Jewish without rendering it less Israeli.

The Rutted Road To Unity

By Sarah Shapiro, Special to The Jewish Week April 1, 2008

Bar Ilan, whose name would henceforth signify not only a physical route connecting disparate sections of the capital but the fault line running through Israel’s heart (and mine) is a utilitarian six-lane thoroughfare.

The next generation

By Gideon Lichfield , The Economist Apr 3, 2008

Direct link to VIDEO INTERVIEW

Ideals and Ideologies: Israel at Sixty - A conversation with Jeffrey Goldberg

Aliya fair wins over ex-Israelis

By Michael Lando, April 11, 2008

An estimated 19,000 Israelis leave the country every year. But the number of Israelis who return to Israel has been steadily growing since 2000, according to ministry numbers. That year, 2,641 returned, and in 2007, 4,070 returned. This year, given the tax breaks, more are expected.

The longer Israelis stay abroad, the less likely they are to return, according to the Immigrant Absorption Ministry.

One-third of returning Israelis go back after four or fewer years abroad; another third return after five to 10 years abroad; and 27% return after 11 or more years abroad. Less than 10% who have lived abroad for 20 years or more return.

Birthright for mixed marriages

By Rabbi David Forman, April 13, 2008

Quite the opposite from being a "disaster," not only does Judaism come to life in Israel; it informs the life of every Israeli Jew.

Indeed, programs like birthright, which provides a 10-day free trip to Israel for college-age Diaspora Jews, are predicated on the thesis that even a short visit to Israel is perhaps the best way to strengthen Jewish identity.

Why not establish a trip to Israel as a mandatory part of any conversion course and as an integral part of outreach programs to interfaith and mixed-married couples?

New Religious High School for English Speakers April 10, 2008

A new yeshiva high school for the English speaking public will open in Jerusalem in the coming school year. Rabbi David Samson, noted author and educator, is founding the new program and accepting 9th and 10th grade boys in the first year.

The program answers a need, according to the founders, of many new immigrant families who are concerned about their children's integration into the Israeli yeshiva high schools. Some students don't adjust well in the Israeli frameworks, and the new program, called Yerushalayim Torah Academy, offers an alternative.

More on women and Torah scrolls

By Rabbi Shlomo Riskin, April 11, 2008

…And especially in a generation when Torah and Talmud study for women is burgeoning, with major Orthodox institutions in America and Israel teaching Bible, Talmud and Codes to women on the highest levels, is it any wonder that some women also desire to embrace the Torah and demonstrate their love of it by dancing with scrolls on Simhat Torah?

If Halacha says it is permissible, why remove their religious satisfaction on the day marked by rejoicing in the Torah?

The writer is the founder and chancellor of Ohr Torah Stone Colleges and Graduate Programs, and chief rabbi of Efrat.

See also “Blood sisters”

Hence, it would seem to be that on Simhat Torah and family occasions where all of one's crowd comes to shul, women can certainly come, grasp and kiss the Sefer Torah, and when the opportunity permits - behind a proper mehitza or in a separate all-women's congregation - even read from the Torah.

New kids on the block

By Peggy Cidor, April 14, 2008

The numbers are astonishing. By the end of 2007, there were 7,884 street youth aged 14-26, known and registered in various ways with the Youth Advancement Division.

As for the "newcomers," the numbers are even more dramatic: "For years, we hardly ever had more than 10 cases of youth from the religious Zionist community," says Amedi. "But today, we know of at least 1,000 of them, which means about 1,000 in addition to those with whom we still have no contact, which could be twice that figure."

For the love of the land

By Amir Mizroch, April 10, 2008

Religious-Zionist youth, many of whom belong to Bnei Akiva, have had to deal with the hard questions which arise as a result of this reality - questions for which their leadership doesn't always have answers.

As is true of the national-religious-Zionist population that fills its ranks, the Bnei Akiva youth movement is becoming both more religious and more ideological. Torah study as an activity inside the branches is increasing, and for the first time in its history, the youth movement has a rabbi as its secretary-general. There are about 40,000 youths across the country who spend a significant part of their Shabbat at Bnei Akiva branches.

Rabbi: Send johns to jail

By April 10, 2008

A man who visits a prostitute should be sent to jail, according to a special religious opinion drafted by prominent Religious-Zionist Rabbi Yuval Sherlo.

"The desire to prevent prostitution in Israel should be one of the major moves in maintaining the sanctity of Israel and the status and dignity of women," Sherlo wrote in his response to MK Orlev's query. "Therefore, one should seemingly be a party to any initiative that advances this reality."

West Side Story, Meah Shearim style

By Neta Sela, April 9, 2008

The bride's parents objected, rabbis protested and the public took to the streets – but the young couple refused to give up.

Against all odds and despite violent demonstrations outside the wedding hall, a young ultra-Orthodox woman from overseas and her Jerusalemite fiancé were married in the capital Tuesday evening.

Vaadas HaRabbonim Approves New Exchange for Kosher Cellcom Subscribers

By Yechiel Sever, Dei’ah veDibur April 10, 2008

Due to the large number of Cellcom subscribers using kosher phones, phone numbers with a prefix reserved for kosher phones have run out and the company had to make a new exchange prefix available.

After receiving the approval of Vaadas HaRabbonim LeInyonei Tikshoret a new kosher prefix is set to open with the numbers beginning 052-71.

Since the special prefixes were introduced, each of the cellular companies has set aside a two-digit prefix capable of accommodating 100,000 subscribers.

Now Cellcom, which has the largest number of kosher cell phone users, has become the first cellular provider exhaust its supply of kosher phone numbers.

Growing 'Gush Katif-style' produce

By Yoav Stern, Haaretz April 10, 2008

A few Arab farmers are hoping this shmita year will give them the added advantage they have been waiting for in order to establish themselves in the Israeli agricultural market.

One such farmer is Abu Nasser. "Write the name of my company," he says. "Alei Hasharon L'Mehadrin." So next time you buy vegetables, check the label.

Is The Western Wall In Danger Of Crumbling?

Click here for VIDEO

According to reports the stones that make up part of the wall that was built in the 19th century in the days of Moshe Montefiore are slowly disintegrating [not the ancient stones stemming back to the days of the Second Temple].

Because Halacha forbids the replacing of the stones, scaffolding will be erected in the area where worshippers pray to prevent them from being harmed by falling pieces, and the stones will be sprayed with water in an attempt to strengthen them.

The Western Wall Rabbi Shmuel Rabinovitch told reporters that while the situation does not present any immediate danger to worshippers, the problem has to be dealt with.

Renovation he said will begin after the Passover holiday and work will be coordinated with the National Antiquities Authority and in strict accordance to Halacha.

Rabbonim Denounce Turning to Secular Courts to Stop Expansion Project at Rashbi Gravesite in Meron

By Yechiel Sever, Dei’ah veDibur April 10, 2008

Gedolei Yisroel are voicing strong objections to Sephardic site overseers at Meron who have turned to the secular court system in an effort to block expansion of the area set aside for prayer at the gravesite for R' Shimon Bar Yochai in Meron — for unclear reasons. Recently they have even sought a court injunction to halt expansion work and to raze tefilloh rooms already under construction.

In their letter, gedolei Yisroel shlita write that the site is often overcrowded and bringing the case to a secular court is a grave prohibition — "dehavei mecharef umegadef beharomas yad beToras Moshe Rabbeinu." The rabbonim urged them to bring the case only to a beis din and "to make every effort to elevate this great house of prayer."

"The Holy Temple and the Approach of Passover”

Throughout the seminar demonstrations [were] conducted in order to illustrate various aspects of the Passover offering, including the following topics: checking for blemishes; proper slaughter; the Hallel service; the current production of the Priestly garments

…in successfully flouting the politically correct doctrine of the post-modern godless humanism they were attempting to foist not only upon us, but upon the entire Jewish nation, we did experience an inkling of what the Israelites must have felt when, while still in Egypt, they performed the original korban Pesach in full view of the horrified Egyptians, who worshipped as gods the very lambs that were being slaughtered.

Who's Afraid of the Passover Lamb?

Arutz Sheva Radio "Temple Talk" with Rabbi Chaim Richman and Yitchak Reuven

Religion and State in Israel

April 14, 2008 (Section 2) (continued from Section 1)

Editor – Joel Katz

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