Monday, April 21, 2008

Religion and State in Israel - April 21, 2008 (Section 1)

Religion and State in Israel

April 21, 2008 (Section 1) (continues in Section 2)

Editor – Joel Katz

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

Knesset hearing on chametz becomes Jewish identity debate

By Haaretz Staff and Channel 10 April 15, 2008

Click here for VIDEO

District Court rejects Hametz appeal

By Ofra Edelman, Haaretz April 18, 2008

The Jerusalem District Court [April 17, 2008] rejected an appeal by MK Avraham Ravitz (United Torah Judaism) calling on the Jerusalem municipality to enforce laws against the public display and sale of leavened products during Passover.

In rejecting the appeal, the court said Ravitz had approached the municipality about the matter on Sunday and did not wait for its answer before turning to the court. The court also said Ravitz should have appended an affidavit corroborating his claims, for example that the city is insufficiently enforcing the laws.

The court also rejected Ravitz's request that the court not publish the ruling so as not to increase public debate.

Haaretz Cartoon April 16, 2008 by Amos Biderman

By Yair Ettinger, Shahar Ilan and Tomer Zarchin, Haaretz April 15, 2008

Attorney General Menachem Mazuz on Tuesday ruled that the state will not appeal a Jerusalem court's controversial decision to allow the sale of chametz by certain businesses during the holiday.

Mazuz's position is that the matzot law is not designed to prohibit, and does not prohibit, the sale or consumption of those products during Passover, but only instructs the owners of businesses not to publicly present chametz products for sale or consumption.

Mazuz ruled that the legal prohibition should be interpreted as banning the presentation of chametz in the public, external area of businesses. This would preclude the sale of the food on the street and in markets, as opposed to the showcasing of the products within the closed, internal space of shops.

Much Ado about Hametz

Dr. Yishai Blank, a senior lecturer in the faculty of law at Tel Aviv University:

The Israeli criminal code distinguishes between two types of public space.

There is an area in which the public has unconditional access or right of access, known in Hebrew as tziburi. And there is a space which can easily be seen by members of the public known as pumbi.

There are offenses that are prohibited in one public space and not the other. For instance, the burning of foreign flags, and the commission of indecent acts are prohibited in public when public refers to an area in which the act can be seen by others. In a public place where people don't see these acts, they would not be considered offenses.

The "Passover Law" prohibits the display of hametz in a public place where it can be seen (pumbi), but does not ban it from being in every place where the public has access (tziburi).

…There is no prohibition on the consumption or even the sale of hametz. There is a prohibition on the display of hametz in the public sphere.

There is a reason that the legislators chose one meaning of public (pumbi) and not the other. The idea is that when you walk down the street you shouldn't be forced to see hametz. If it's within a confined public sphere - such as a non-kosher restaurant - that's a different matter.

Haredi extremists plan Jerusalem protests over chametz ruling

By Tomer Zarchin, Shahar Ilan and Yair Ettinger, Haaretz April 16, 2008

Attorney General Menachem Mazuz on Tuesday announced that the state will not appeal a Jerusalem court's decision earlier this month to withdraw charges against local business owners who had displayed chametz on their premises during Pesach in previous years.

Mazuz said the Festival of Matzot Law was not intended to prohibit the sale or consumption of chametz, but only its public display for sale or consumption.

As such, it would preclude the display in the public space, such as a street stall, an open-air market or a display case facing the street, but not within the closed confines of a place of business.

Jerusalem eateries worried about hametz violence

"We do not want a battle, and we do not want to fight with the haredi or modern Orthodox public, but we do want to live according to our lifestyle, without hurting others," said Shahar Levy, owner of the city's Resto-Bar.

Last year, about 100 haredim held a violent protest outside downtown Jerusalem eateries selling leavened products, pelted police with stones, and insulted customers.

Jerusalem mayor urges business owners not to sell bread during Passover

In a letter to business owners, Lupolianski wrote: "I am no fan of coercion, but rather, of dialogue."

…"As the mayor of Jerusalem, I turn to you and ask that this year too, during Passover, we shall continue the customary tradition in Jerusalem, which takes public sentiments into consideration," Lupolianski concluded.

Reactions to chametz ruling

By Tomer Zarchin, Shahar Ilan and Yair Ettinger, Haaretz April 16, 2008

Anat Hoffman, executive director of the Reform movement's Israel Religious Action Center in Jerusalem, described Mazuz's decision as "balanced and sane," adding:

"When will the religious MKs realize already that the Jewish identity of the State of Israel lies not on our plates but rather in our hearts."

Rabbis from the Tzohar Forum of Rabbis, on the liberal side of religious Zionism, said that Mazuz' decision

"reinforces the sense that the legal system has become a focus of democratic thought that has forgotten its role in shaping the face of the state as Jewish, not just democratic.

However, Tzohar also said in a statement,

"religious legislation on one hand and interference in the legal system on the other, are not a substitute for a probing discussion by Israeli society of common identity and symbols that is so necessary to reinforcing the Jewish identity of the State of Israel."

Is this Pessah different?

By Peggy Cidor, April 21, 2008

Jerusalem Deputy Mayor Yehoshua Pollack disagrees.

"I think it's a real case of hypocrisy," he says. "The religiously observant public began to ask questions and apply pressure. They asked us - and not only haredim - why we apply the law when a resident in a religious quarter closes a balcony without a permit, while we do not apply the Hametz Law.

"We were asked hard questions, we had to provide answers. No one can expect us to apply the law to the haredi residents, and close our eyes to lawbreakers if they are secular.

"Imagine what would have happened if an attorney from the haredi community would have sued us for not applying the law against those who openly sell hametz?" he says. "So we had to act and the mayor was right; he had to send the inspectors and file indictments. That's the law, what should we do differently?"

Law and order

By Peggy Cidor, April 17, 2008

"The original idea was that the state doesn't look into your private [life], but the public space should respect the Jewish traditions," explains an attorney from the [Jerusalem] municipal Legal Office.

Attorney Gilad Barnea, who represented Restobar owner Shahar Levy, one of the five indicted, says that for years, the laissez-faire attitude toward the enforcement of the 1986 Hametz Law was well known among business owners.

Why does the Chametz law matter?

By Jonathan Rosenblum, Jerusalem Post April 18, 2008

The chametz Law, which forbids the public display of chametz (leavened products) for the purpose of sale during Pesach, benefits the secular Jewish state not religious citizens.

…the law serves to remind Israeli Jews that they are members of a people with a very long history and distinctive practices that set it apart from all other peoples of the world.

Strengthening national identity, as many secular Israelis have come to recognize, is the key to Israel's long-term survival.

And symbols that have their origin in traditional religious practice – e.g., bans on the sale of pork, Shabbat closure laws, the closing of restaurants on Tisha B'Av – play a role in instilling Jewish national identity.

Chametz law makes sense

By Ze'ev Segal, Haaretz April 16, 2008

The interpretative approach and the enforcement policy, according to which the prohibition against the display of chametz applies to the public space of a business - as opposed to the closed, internal space - covers not only streets, markets and sidewalks, but also open public spaces within closed shopping malls.

This differentiates from the closed, internal space of places of business within shopping malls.

Religious parties picking the wrong Pessah fight

By Haviv Rettig, Opinion April 15, 2008

What these haredi MKs did not say - perhaps because they did not notice it - was that the judge also affirmed the legal prohibition of displaying hametz in public during the Pessah holiday.

The right of the Israeli Jewish majority to have its moral or religious prohibitions reflected in the public sphere, similar to the "blue laws" of the United States, is upheld regularly by Israel's judiciary, often when it is hardly necessary to do so.

…In politicizing the question, they have strengthened those who say that their goal is not social or religious, but political. When Israeli life is increasingly religious (and even, to a growing extent, Orthodox) how can they perceive themselves under siege of "liberal terrorism?"

In confusing religious affiliation with religious political victories, they send the message that parliamentary politicking has shifted their focus from the former to the latter.

Reform Reflections: Inspiration from the Haredi community

By Rabbi Michael Marmur, April 16, 2008

…Following the decision of the court, representatives of the edah charedit have sent letters to some sixty businesses and outlets pleading with them not to sell leavened products during Pessach in the City of Gold.

I like this response. By turning to these fellow Jerusalemites and asking them to reconsider their decision, these Haredi representatives are playing according to the rules of a modern liberal democracy.

…Jerusalem should be pure this Passover. It should be purged of poverty, and garbage, and corruption, and prejudice, and hate.

The price of freedom Editorial April 18, 2008

In the renascent Jewish homeland, which marks its 60th independence day next month, Israelis are grappling with how to cherish tradition while respecting the individual's right to freely disregard (sometimes foolishly) what should be treasured.

Consider the latest quarrel in Jerusalem over the sale of hametz during Pessah. A very few stores sell bread, which the law allows so as long as they don't ostentatiously display it in public. This strikes us as a reasonable compromise. So why interfere with it?

When issues of personal freedom, religion and collective values are at stake, coercion is not only counterproductive, it is often also unnecessary. Seventy percent of Israelis won't go near bread during the festival; 60% would like to see stores closed on Shabbat. That's because the values and mores of Jewish civilization appeal to traditional and secular Jews even when the motivation is not necessarily halachic.

And yet this age of great personal freedom will not have achieved its full potential until non-Orthodox and secular Jews - to paraphrase popular theologian Dennis Prager - start taking Judaism as seriously as do the Orthodox.

The pita principle

By Shahar Ilan, Haaretz April 15, 2008

The cabinet sent Minister Ruhama Avraham Balila into the debate. At first she tried to make do with: "The judge's decision is a challenge for the cabinet. We must study the matter thoroughly and deeply."

This did not seem to satisfy Shas, as later she tried again, announcing: "The cabinet does not object to the appropriate aims of the law being preserved," or in other words the passage of a law to reinstitute the law. She then said she would support Yishai's bill, which is bad news for the opponents of a new chametz law.

Man strips in protest of bread sales during Passover

By Avi Cohen, April 21, 2008

The man, dressed as a haredi, arrived Monday afternoon at a store belonging to the non-kosher Tiv Taam supermarket chain in the city of Bat Yam, just south of Tel Aviv. Upon his arrival, he undressed and remained with only a sock covering his private parts.

The man explained that he could not be prosecuted for an indecent act in public, because according to the court's interpretation of the leavened food law, a supermarket is not considered a public place. He even wrote on his stomach, "This is not public."

Poll: 81% won't buy bread on Passover

By Kobi Nahshoni, April 17, 2008

Fifty-two percent of the participants said they will make sure not to buy at a store using the permit, 31% neither on Passover nor afterwards, and 21% during Passover only. An additional 29% will not buy leavened goods but other groceries. Oppositely, 15% expressed satisfaction with the ruling, making it easier for them to find bread during the holiday.

A result analysis shows that only 29% of the seculars are happy with the option of buying leavened goods more easily. The rest will only buy other goods in these stores (48%), will not enter stores at all during holiday (12%) or prefer other stores even after Passover (6%).

Thirty-nine percent of the traditionalists will prefer not to enter these stores at all during the holiday, 33% will do the same after the holiday and 20% will only purchase unleavened goods during Passover as well.

It’s Pesach. . . so make sure you kosher your water

By Anshel Pfeffer, Jerusalem April 18, 2008

Jerusalemites will spend next week drinking, washing and flushing their toilets with Kosher le’Pesach water.

Why? Because a week before the holiday, the Israeli national water company, Mekorot, disconnected Jerusalem from the national pipeline that pumps water all the way from the Kinneret lake down to the Negev.

Throughout the Pesach week, households will have to rely on water drawn by the municipal water company, Hagihon, from local reservoirs and wells.

This annual tradition stems from the concerns of strictly Orthodox Jews that the bread thrown in to the lake by fishermen on the Kinneret and the remains of shore-side picnics might cause traces of chametz to reach their drinking water.

Hesder Yeshiva Boys to Run Passover Seders

By Hillel Fendel, April 17, 2008

In a joint, first-time initiative of the IDF Chief Rabbinate and the Union of Hesder Yeshivot, hundreds of army soldiers currently studying in yeshivot have been recruited to make army kitchens Kosher for Passover and to run Seder meals.

The hesder students, together with soldiers of the Chief Rabbinate, spent the days before the Passover holiday cleaning army base kitchens - no easy feat - and making them suitable for Passover use.

The hesder students will also take part in running traditional liturgical Passover Seders in various bases.

35% of Factories in Israel to Close for Chol Hamoed

By Yated Ne'eman Staff, Dei’ah veDibur April 18, 2008

Some 35 percent of all industrial factories in Israel will be closed for Pesach and all workers will be on vacation according to a survey conducted by the Manufacturers' Association.

Eighty-eight percent of food manufacturers that participated in the survey will be closed during Chol Hamoed, along with 32 percent of metal plants, 17 percent of textile factories and 10 percent of construction and consumer goods factories.

The Manufacturers' Association reports that 42 percent of industrial plants will work as usual during Chol Hamoed and 23 percent will curtail operations. Even of those factories with curtailed operations 44 percent will leave only a few departments running, 33 percent will operate with a limited number of workers and 22 percent will reduce the length of the workday.

Kibbutzim seek to revive declining community tradition - Passover seders

By Eli Ashkenazi, Haaretz April 18, 2008

Fein is not the only one determined to rekindle the kibbutz tradition of communal seders.

In the Lower Galilee kibbutz of Beit Keshet, Moshe Sadovsky is hard at work organizing the community's annual seder, which he helped revive a few years ago. Sadovsky, a graduate of an ultra-Orthodox yeshiva in Jerusalem, moved with his wife to the kibbutz four years ago after finding work there as a kashrut supervisor.

"I wanted to get to know secular Jews, and I wanted them to get to know me," Sadovsky explains.

Welcoming the stranger to the Seder table

By Solomon Israel, April 14, 2008

The Seder is a joint effort by Beit Daniel, Keren B'Kavod - the social action branch of the Israeli Reform Movement's Israel Religious Action Center - and the Mesila Aid and Information Center for the Foreign Community, a Tel Aviv municipal organization dedicated to providing social services and information to Tel Aviv's large population of foreign workers.

"We felt that we needed to do more," explained Rabbi Meir Azari of Beit Daniel. "If you are in Tel Aviv, you can't ignore the presence of the foreign workers... This is an opportunity to meet them, to show them that we care."

"I don't think that you will be able to see a lot of synagogues in Israel hosting non-Jews for the Seder," he said.

But he added, "For most of them, probably this is the first time that they are sitting and not serving. This is an opportunity for them to feel welcome."

Haredi boycott sparks secular protests in Bnei Brak

By David Wainer, April 15, 2008

Last week, in response to Weissman's decision to close down some of his AM:PM outlets, Sari Rozner Glazer and Anat Confortes announced a "counter-boycott" through a Facebook event entitled "We will buy at Shefa Shuk and we will keep AM:PM open 24/7."

The announcement called on anyone who cared about the issue to "come shop for your Pessah needs" in the Shefa Shuk outlet in Bnei Brak, where many haredim have been refraining from shopping.

In their Facebook group, Glazer wrote: "The battle that was started by leaders in the haredi community against the group Dor Alon, owned by Dudi Weissman, is a battle against the people's freedom of choice. Last week, the pressure applied by the haredi community succeeded in closing outlets of AM: PM (owned by Weissman) on Shabbat."

"We will shop in Bnei Brak as if it were a routine," she added. "We will express our will as 'Tel Avivim,' secular Israelis, and as people who care to safeguard the liberal identity of freedom in Israel. We have buying power and the power to influence."

It's not really about Shabbat

By Avirama Golan, Haaretz April 16, 2008

Israeli society should relate seriously to the Sabbath law and show national responsibility for the worker's right to rest on the day that Hebrew tradition gave the world.

This cultural and social fight should be waged with political and public tools by those with society's good in mind.

However, the people who initiated the ultra-Orthodox boycott do not fit this definition.

In the worst-case scenario, they wish to coerce Israeli society into their way of life. In another bad-case scenario, they are seeking to profit.

Survey: Public wants stores to close on Shabbat

By Adi Dovrat, Haaretz April 16, 2008

Just one-third of the public thinks that the chain stores should open for work on Saturday, and about 60% believe that they should remain closed, according to a survey in 'TheMarker,' which included 500 respondents.

Of the 30% of respondents who were of the opinion that chain stores should be open on Saturday, two-thirds defined themselves as secular. None of the religious and ultra-Orthodox respondents believe that the stores should remain open on Shabbat, but about 8%, said that didn't know, or refused to answer the question.

Asked whether the Dor Alon Group should agree to the demands of the ultra-Orthodox community to close AM:PM retail branches on Saturday, 44% of the respondents said yes - but a similar percentage said that the Group should refuse, an dthe stores should stay open on weekends.

Answers to the survey varied according to the degree of respondents' religious observance: nearly all ultra-Orthodox respondents said that Dor Alon should close down the stores on Saturday, compared to 70% of the religious respondents, and about 20% of the secular respondents.

Among the secular population, 70% said that the Group should not close down AM:PM branches on Saturday, compared to 16.5% who said that they should.

Among respondents who described themselves as 'traditional,' about 53% said that the branches should be closed, and 34% said that the Group should keep them open.

By virtue of her sex

By Ruthie Blum, April 17, 2008

Attorney Batya Kahana-Dror, 43-year-old Jerusalemite mother-of-four is the legal affairs adviser for Mavoi Satum (Dead End)

She is also a leading member of the Orthodox-feminist Kolech [Your Voice], through which she made "sexy" headlines earlier this month, due to an opinion piece she wrote that was posted on the organization's Web site.

Taking her cue from the ancient Greek comedy Lysistrata, in which the play's female characters withhold sex from their husbands, Kahana-Dror called upon her fellow women to refrain from going to the mikve [ritual bath, following menstruation, required before conjugal relations can take place] - amounting to the same thing.

See also: The Lysistrata option

"…What I want is for the Orthodox rabbinate here to confront such questions. I also want to see women Orthodox rabbis and women rabbinical court judges. This is possible from a halachic perspective. The fact that the rabbinical court is devoid of women is unthinkable in a democratic society.

…Not long from now, we'll be establishing alternative Orthodox rabbinical courts. I am about to start a forum for women who want to make this happen.

…Today, our rabbinical court sees its function as exactly the opposite of this. It isn't there to solve the problem, but rather to guard the Halacha, so that there should be no divorces extracted from men by force - to ensure that it's kosher."

Rabbinical court forces woman to divorce over medical condition

By Yoram Yarkoni, April 17, 2008

The Great Rabbinical Court in Jerusalem rendered a rare ruling Thursday, forcing a woman to agree to a divorce because she was diagnosed with epilepsy.

According to a report in Yedioth Ahronoth, the court further ruled the woman will not be eligible for alimony. The husband was, however, obligated to pay her the full amount mentioned in her ketubah – NIS 18,000 (approx $5,000).

“…The rabbis are going by a religious ruling rendered centuries ago. People with epilepsy live full lives just like everybody else," said the woman's attorney, Avraham Stern, adding his client intends to file a petition with the High Court to have the ruling overturned.

Court hunts 'wanton husband'

By Ruth Eglash, April 18, 2008

For the first time ever the rabbinic court system in Israel has turned to the secular media in an attempt to track down a wanton husband who is refusing to grant his wife a divorce.

"Agunot are one of our main concerns, and we are making every effort to find those husbands who have deserted them," said Ben-Dahan, noting that the court currently runs a page on its web site entitled "Wanted," which features the names and faces of runaway husbands.

Robyn Shames, director of the International Coalition of Agunah Rights, said she welcomed the move.

"I think it's fantastic - any move by the rabbinic courts to find men in an unwanted marriage should be applauded. Efforts need to be made to encourage society to change how they relate to men who refuse to give divorces - they should be treated just like men who violently abuse their wives, because it is a form of abuse."

For Chief Rabbinate, click here

By Itamar Eichner, April 16, 2008

The Prime Minister's Office is exploring several reforms in the National Authority for Religious Services – the Chief Rabbinate, Yedioth Ahronoth reported Monday.

The PMO's move came after several surveys conducted in the matter, indicated that the Israeli public has lost its faith in the services provided by local religious councils.

Cabinet Secretary Oved Yehezkel, who initiated the move, will be heading the team. Yehezkel was reportedly appalled by the surveys, which indicated over 70% of the secular sector wants nothing to do with the Chief Rabbinate; and that 61% of them believe it is obsolete – a sentiment shared by 40% of the general public.

Religion and State in Israel

April 21, 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 21, 2008 (Section 2)

Religion and State in Israel

April 21, 2008 (Section 2) (continued from Section 1)

Editor – Joel Katz

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

Blows exchanged at Palm Sunday prayers

Click here for VIDEO April 21, 2008

Dozens of Greek and Armenian priests and worshippers exchanged blows in Christianity's holiest shrine on Palm Sunday, and pummeled police with palm fronds when they tried to break up the brawl.

Each denomination jealously guards its share of the basilica, and fights over rights of worship at the church have intensified in recent years, particularly between the Armenians and Greek.

The Eastern Orthodox churches, including the Armenians and Greek Orthodox, follow a different calendar than Western Christians and began Easter Week observances on Sunday.

Armenian, Greek worshippers come to blows at Jesus' tomb

AP April 20, 2008

A fist-fight broke out after Armenian clergy kicked out a Greek priest from their midst, pushed him to the ground and kicked him, according to witnesses.

Father Pakrad, an Armenian priest, said the presence of the Greek priest during the Armenian observances violated the status quo. Our priests entered the tomb. "They kicked the Greek monk out of the Edicule," he said.

Pakrad accused the Greek Orthodox of trying to step on the Armenians' rights. "We are the weak ones, persecuted by them for many centuries."

Prior Conversions Now May Be Questioned

By Michele Chabin, The Jewish Week, April 16, 2008

Now it’s official.

Orthodox converts whose conversion rabbi belonged to the Rabbinical Council of America (RCA), but who did not request an ishur, or official conversion endorsement, from the Beit Din of America (BDA) may find their conversions scrutinized not only by the Chief Rabbinate in Israel, but by rabbis in the U.S. and around the world, The Jewish Week has learned.

Demanding certification on past conversions performed by RCA members “opens up a Pandora’s Box,” believes Rabbi Seth Farber, founder of ITIM, an Israeli organization that handles, among other things, numerous cases of converts needing to prove their Jewishness.

“Practically speaking, how many generations back will such an investigation need to certify? What happens when all the rabbis are dead and can’t vouch for their conversions?” Rabbi Farber asked.

Vaad HaRabbonim LeInyonei Giyur Warns Against IDF Conversions

By Yechiel Sever, Dei’ah veDibur April 17, 2008

The Vaad HaRabbonim Haolami LeInyonei Giyur founded by HaRav Chaim Kreiswirth zt"l, is warning against further decline in the conversion system in Eretz Yisroel after the mainstream media broadcast disturbing figures regarding the fictitious conversion industry under IDF auspices.

Vaad HaRabbonim holds the Sephardic Chief Rabbinate largely responsible for backing the IDF conversions and issuing a conversion certificate as well as other documents that allow them to later marry at the Rabbinate, thereby bringing non- Jews into Kerem Beis Yisroel.

The Vaad says that the Rabbinate must stop recognizing these conversions in order to put a halt to army conversions. The Vaad HaRabbonim says the IDF, which is overwhelmingly secular, is no place to set up a conversion program, which should remain solely in the hands of fixed, reputable botei din.

Letters currently being sent out to the rabbonim of major cities include a reminder to all marriage registrars that they have a legal and halachic right to reject conversions in cases where is appears that the convert did not sincerely take on Torah and mitzvas. These cases can be referred back to the regional beis din or the Chief Rabbinate's office.

More women to check haredi buses

By Solomon Israel, April 15, 2008

The Transportation Ministry announced on Monday that it would expand a committee created to address gender-segregated mehadrin bus lines, after the High Court of Justice said that the panel's original composition, which included only one woman, was inadequate.

The court's decision came after a petition from the Israel Religious Action Center (IRAC). "We responded to the court by saying that there should be appropriate representation for women (based on Israeli law)", Einat Hurvitz, director of IRAC's legal department, wrote to The Jerusalem Post.

"We also said that there should be representation [of] other professionals and not only transportation staff, because of the public importance [of] the committee's work and [the fact that the] conclusions will serve as a precedent on other issues where segregation is sought."

The original seven-member committee appointed to examine the issue included only one woman, a member of the Transport Ministry's legal department. According to IRAC's Hurvitz, the ministry will appoint more women to the new committee, but has not yet selected any. The ministry will update the High Court on the committee's revised membership on May 11.

"We welcome the formation of the committee," explained Hurvitz about IRAC's position. IRAC further hopes that the Transportation Ministry will "decide that any segregated bus will have an alternative that is not segregated", wrote Hurvitz.

Peres to declare reconciliation between secular and Haredim

By Yair Ettinger, Haaretz April 17, 2008

Peres told the rabbis that he would address "first secular people, before complaining about the ultra-Orthodox and others.

I'll say: Let's examine ourselves before preaching to others. After all, we're the majority. This is no way to behave, with disrespect, with lack of restraint. I hope this voice will be heard in all the communities. This issue must become part of the public discourse."

"Let's return to our roots," he said.

"There is no dispute that Israeli youth must learn the Torah. You cannot be an Israeli without being Jewish. Why should we give up the great treasure of Jewish literature? What have our Jewish fathers left us? Neither houses nor pyramids. What is the people of the book? A nation that has books, so why shouldn't this people study them?" Peres said.

Reconciling conscription

By Shahar Ilan, Haaretz April 21, 2008

Above all, his excellency the president should remember that the ultra-Orthodox lifestyle, which he expects secular people to respect, is no theoretical matter for the secular community.

When the ultra-Orthodox avoid studying math, English and civics, they sabotage Israeli democracy and economy.

When the ultra-Orthodox dodge army service, they create severe discrimination and hurt Israel's security.

When the ultra-Orthodox shirk work, they contribute to Israel's decline to employment patterns typical of the developing world.

The damage caused by these phenomena is worsening. The draft rate is constantly falling, and Israeli society can no longer bear the outcome.

His excellency President Peres is right: There is an urgent need for reconciliation, because otherwise we can expect confrontation, forced draft and a terrible rift that will make disengagement pale in comparison.

However, this reconciliation should be achieved by persuading the ultra-Orthodox to agree to a quota of yeshiva students who will not be drafted, to accept the core curriculum and to recognize that at least some of them should work.

This is not a matter of multiculturalism that can be solved only by tolerance.

This is about exploitation and discrimination, and they are real. There can be no reconciliation without drafting at least some of the ultra-Orthodox.

The president, and especially the ultra-Orthodox, should understand this before it is too late for all of us.

Bravo to Michael Melchior

By Isi Leibler, April 15, 2008

The new "mixed" educational stream proposed by Melchior would permit those who either are not observant or are merely traditional (probably the bulk of the nation) to provide their children with a broad Jewish education encompassing an appreciation of Jewish civilization.

It would also provide bridges to enable youngsters from religious and nonreligious backgrounds to indulge in dialogue and learn to respect and even appreciate one another.

We can only hope that Melchior will succeed in transforming into law his bill, which has already been approved by the Knesset in its first reading.

If such a new system is created, it will have wide appeal - even the potential for ultimately becoming the dominant stream - as well as paving the way for wider reforms.

Jewish Agency, Nefesh B'Nefesh near deal

By Haviv Rettig, April 17, 2008

North American aliya, the source of acrimony between the Jewish Agency and the private Nefesh B'Nefesh organization, may soon get a boost from a cooperation agreement being developed between the two, The Jerusalem Post has learned.

The reported agreement has not yet been finalized, and the sides are forbidden to speak about the matter. But sources familiar with the discussions told the Post that the agreement will likely see the New York-based Nefesh B'Nefesh integrated closely into Jewish Agency aliya operations in North America.

Fame in U.S. doesn't translate well

By Anshel Pfeffer, Haaretz April 18, 2008

Newsweek has published its second annual list of the 50 most influential rabbis in the U.S.

Number two on the list (up from 12 last year), Eric Yoffie, president of the Union for Reform Judaism, might have been interviewed twice over the last few months in Haaretz, but his influence on anything that happens in Israel is less than negligible.

Even within the small Israeli Reform community, his power is limited due to the independent positions taken by the Israeli Reform movement and the uneasy relationship it has with its American "parent organization".

A list of the most influential rabbis in Israel would read like this: Yosef Elyashiv, Ovadia Yosef, the Gerrer Rebbe, Mordechai Eliyahu, and so on; aged ultra-Orthodox leaders of Hasidic sects, Litvaker yeshivas or their Sephardi counterparts and groups of radical young settlers.

These rabbis command the allegiance of tens, if not hundreds, of thousands of followers, control political parties and whole government coalitions, who with one word can launch huge demonstrations, block the entrance to Jerusalem, ruin businesses, build or dismantle settlements and decide the fate of peace treaties between Israel and its Arab neighbors.

That's the difference between Jerusalem and Babylon; in the U.S., an influential rabbi can get on "Oprah," in Israel he can launch World War III.

Rabbi Walks the Walk - Home to Israel

By Ezra HaLevi, April 18, 2008

An American Jewish rabbi is making Aliyah (immigrating to Israel), inviting not only his congregation, but all of American Jewry, to follow suit.

Rabbi Shalom Rosner, rabbi of Congregation Bais Ephraim Yitzchak in Woodmere NY (known as “The Island Shul”) announced his decision last month. He will help establish a new community in the Beit Shemesh region called Nofei HaShemesh.

Nofei HaShemesh will take some of the hallmarks of American Jewish life – community rabbis and synagogue-centric communal life – and bring it to a region already populated by a large number of olim (immigrants to Israel). Located between the existing Anglo-rich neighborhoods of Scheinfeld and Nofei Aviv, 30 families have already purchased homes in the 400-unit neighborhood now being built.

Dr. Tamar Rosner, the rabbi’s wife, is taking part in the Nefesh b’Nefesh Aliyah organization’s special promotion seeking to bring doctors on Aliyah.

Following Rabbi Rosner’s announcement, an ad was taken out in Jewish papers and magazines both in Israel and the US by leading rabbis of his various communities.

Leader of American Hasidic Dynasty Leaves the States [for Israel]

By Michael Casper, April 17, 2008

…the Bostoner rebbe, as Levi Yitzchak is commonly known, has relocated to Israel, leaving members of the community to speculate over the future of the group.

The Bostoner Hasidic sect is composed of about 200 families in Brookline; 300 in Har Nof, outside Jerusalem; 100 in the settlement town of Beitar, and scattered smaller communities in Brooklyn, making up a grand total of about 1,000 families worldwide.

Although sources close to the rebbe insist that he will remain in Israel because of health reasons, the New York-based Jewish Press newspaper has reported that “he is moving to Beitar, where land, homes, and living conditions are cheaper and more affordable, so that more of his Hasidim will follow him to Israel.”

Special Haaretz Series

From Gondar to Mevasseret, for perhaps the last time

By Anshel Pfeffer, Haaretz April 15, 2008

Kasa's family is one of the last to leave Ethiopia for Israel. Only 474 Falashmura with permits to immigrate to Israel remain in Gondar - eight more flights.

The Jewish Agency office in Addis Ababa is to be shut at the beginning of June. More immigrants to Israel have passed through this office in recent years than through any other Jewish Agency office in the world - 300 a month, 4,600 a year.

Digging deeper in Ethiopia

By Anshel Pfeffer, Haaretz April 12, 2008

The government now wants to stop them from arriving, in two months.

But if they are eligible according to previously-agreed criteria, why can't the thousands of Falashmura in the Gondar compounds come to Zion?

And if this is not enough for them to eventually become Israeli citizens, then why has Israel allowed at least 26,000 of them in so far, at a huge financial and social cost?

Shouldn't someone be called to account? It is about time reality intruded on the romantic dream.

Falashmura dream of aliyah fades as deadline approaches

By Anshel Pfeffer, Haaretz April 11, 2008

The Jewish Agency has already begun dismantling the Gondar compound. Unlike in other places, the Jewish Agency did not deal in Jewish education or strengthening the local community. In addition, it is at the center of the controversy between the state and Falashmura representatives and Jewish organizations demanding the immigration continue.

Falashmura and NACOEJ representatives claim that the Israeli government was guilty of smoke and mirrors in deciding to bring the Falashmura to Israel and then limiting their numbers.

They demand Israel examine the applications of the remaining 8,700 Falashmura in Gondar.

But the state fears that each additional immigrant will demand to bring his relatives in an endless cycle…”

Compound's requirement - skullcaps and prayer

By Anshel Pfeffer, Haaretz April 13, 2008

To a large extent, the religious activities in the Gondar compound are aimed at influencing Israeli and worldwide Jewish public opinion to pressure the Israeli government.

In any event, the Falashmura who are allowed to immigrate will receive full Israeli citizenship only after completing conversion.

They are deemed eligible for aliyah by virtue of having a relative in Israel who submitted an application for them and by proof of Jewish matrilineal descent. Attending synagogue and baking matzot does not affect that.

Falashmura group vows to close camp if Israel okays aliyah

By Anshel Pfeffer, Gondar, Ethiopia, Haaretz April 14, 2008

The North American Conference on Ethiopian Jewry (NACOEJ) says that if Israel will process the 8,700 residents of the camp and bring them to Israel, it will not ask for any more to be brought in and will cease its activities in Ethiopia.

The government representatives say they do not believe NACOEJ will do so, pointing out that construction of the school is a long-term project.

NACOEJ has been accused of creating international pressure on Israel to allow in more Falashmura. Dani Adamesu, head of the Israeli Association for Ethiopian Jews says "there is a conspiracy of silence in the community. NACOEJ is pushing more and more people into the compounds although there are those who continue their relationship with the church. They are creating an almost irreversible situation."

Yosef Aneo, an Ethiopian Jew with Canadian citizenship who represents foreign companies in Ethiopia says that "it's easy to go to the villages and say there's a possibility to come to Israel, and bring in another 50,000."

Israel is losing its sovereignty

Haaretz Editorial April 14, 2008

The Jewish Agency is now winding up its activity in Ethiopia, and this should be welcomed. But the Falashmura and their supporters in Israel and the Jewish world refuse to recognize the decision.

Some of the Ethiopian immigrant organizations are threatening an international struggle, angry demonstrations and hunger strikes. Shas leader Eli Yishai plans a highly publicized visit to Ethiopia next month, and has even submitted a draft bill to the government calling to examine the right to aliyah of another 8,700 Falashmura.

We can only hope that now, as opposed to the past, the government will succeed in withstanding this pressure and will implement the present decision in full.

What is needed now is a clear statement by the prime minister that the State of Israel retains its right to decide who will receive its citizenship.

Smacks of discrimination

By Tom Segev, Haaretz April 18, 2008

The one million immigrants from the former Soviet Union who have settled in Israel over the past decade and a half include hundreds of thousands of non-Jews whose connection with Judaism is nothing more than a Jewish grandfather.

Many did not convert. No one asks about their parents, and no one demands proof that they uphold even one of the 613 Jewish commandments.

The Falashmura community, in contrast, even includes some people whose parents converted to Christianity, but who did not convert to Christianity themselves.

Difficult Donations

By Netty C. Gross, The Jerusalem Report, April 16, 2008

Halleli's donations and the late-March events coincided with the passage of the new law on brain and respiratory death, initiated by Knesset Member Otniel Schneller (Kadima), which may help overcome the shortage of organs.

Leading the opposition was Ashkenazi ultra-Orthodox United Torah Judaism (UTJ), which voted against the legislation.

That camp's decision-makers and interpreters of Jewish religious law have argued (and continue to do so) that brain death is not death. MK Moshe Gafni (UTJ) told the Knesset on the day the law was passed: "A brain dead person is a living being."

There were disagreements within UTJ. Knesset Member Avraham Ravitz, a colleague of Gafni's, who suffered from kidney disease for many years and received a kidney donation from a son in recent years, supports the new law.

But the ultra-Orthodox are split along the Sephardi-Ashkenazi divide. Shas Knesset Member Haim Amsallem told reporters that the new law was "historic" because it issues "a clear statement of the rabbis that the end of brain activity is death," and with that determination confirmed, transplanting the deceased's organs becomes a positive religious commandment.

Mazuz declines case against Waqf

By Nadav Shragai, Haaretz April 17, 2008

Attorney General Menachem Mazuz decided to suspend criminal proceedings against the Jerusalem Waqf, in the wake of a complaint lodged by some 150 people.

The complainants accused the Waqf of causing repeated damage to the antiquities on the Temple Mount, and to the nation's heritage.

Mazuz ruled that the offenses listed by the complainants were "forced," and that they tried to define them "artificially" as criminal offenses. He cited former chief justices who advised caution in enforcing the law on Temple Mount.

See also: Halting Work on the Temple Mount? August 2007

Some of Israel’s leading archeologists have called for a halt to work by the Wakf Authority on the Temple Mount. In an exclusive interview, Dr. Gabriel Barkai discusses why he believes the damage done by the recent work to Temple Mount is irreparable.

Citizen Ben-David

By Calev Ben-David, April 14, 2008

"His parents were able to come under the Law of Return because each has a Jewish grandparent, but because Nikolai isn't halachically Jewish, he doesn't qualify and has had to go through a citizenship process which has taken years," Benita explains later. "We have many such cases nowadays."

After we entered Benita's office, it quickly became clear that Eva's case - that is, the ease of it - was exceptional. The majority of applicants who go through this procedure are hopeful immigrants who do not qualify for citizenship under the Law of Return. Most want to live here on grounds of family reunification - mainly Arabs, foreign workers, non-Jewish Ethiopians and Russians.

"I know for many of you this morning is the end of a long, hard road," says Benita.

Rights groups: Population Admin. in contempt of court

By Shahar Ilan, Haaretz April 16, 2008

Five civil rights groups yesterday initiated contempt of court proceedings against the Population Administration for non-compliance with a December court ruling to make public its procedures and regulations.

The Association of Civil Rights in Israel (ACRI), the Israel Religious Action Center (IRAC), Moked - Hotline for Foreign Workers, Kav La'oved (Worker's Hotline for the Protection of Workers' Rights) and Hamoked Center for the Defense of the Individual have asked the Administrative Court in Jerusalem to compel the Population Administration, a branch of the Interior Ministry, to comply with the court verdict requiring it to publish all its procedures and instructions.

Among other things, these procedures pertain to the awarding of citizenship to spouses of Israelis, the annulment of citizenship and the granting of refugee status. The non-publication of these procedures are said to be preventing thousands of non-Jews from obtaining citizenship, residency permits and work permits.

Partitioning the past

By Neil Asher Silberman, Haaretz April 18, 2008

All too often in archaeology - especially in the archaeology of Israel - things are not what they seem.

…Indeed the very concept of "heritage" is almost necessarily exclusionary, delimiting "our" heritage from "theirs." Israelis tend to see stones, pots and ancient coins as materialized illustrations of a meaningful national narrative that runs from the beginnings of Jewish history to the rise of the State of Israel.

An Interview with Alice and Moshe Shalvi

By Elana Maryles Sztokman, April 16, 2008

Jewish Women: A Comprehensive Historical Encyclopedia was edited by Paula Hyman, the Lucy Moses Professor of Jewish history at Yale University and Dalia Ofer, academic head of Hebrew University’s Avraham Hartman Institute of Contemporary Jewry.

Rabbi clears out thousands of prayer notes from Jerusalem's Western Wall for burial nearby

AP April 2008

[Western Wall Rabbi] Rabinowitz and a squad of helpers coaxed the pieces of paper from the crevices with sticks. The notes fell to the ground and were scooped in handfuls into plastic-lined garbage bins for later transfer to the ancient Jewish cemetery.

"We treat these notes as holy, as something that people wrote to the creator," Rabinowitz said. "We treat them according to Jewish law and inter them along with all holy writings."

He said neither he nor his staff read the notes. "It's like a prayer, it's an expression of a person's request from the heart to the Creator," he added.

For those unable to reach the wall in person, religious and postal authorities deliver notes that arrive by mail, e-mail or SMS message.

Postal authorities say letters, some addressed simply to God, come from all corners of the globe, including a few from predominantly Muslim nations like Indonesia.

Like us, like him

By Nadav Shragai, Haaretz April 16, 2008

Inbar Kawanstock, director of the Lehi Museum, believes that national-religious youth are attracted to Yair and his ideology because Lehi was a minority group that fought the majority.

Kawanstock notes that 15 of the 17 schools who are sending contestants to the Yair and Lehi quiz, slated to take place in the Aner Center in Tel Aviv in late May, are religious schools, and that most of the 100 students who independently registered to participate in the quiz are also religious.

Samaria Youth Leave Towns, Take to Wilderness

Click here for VIDEO

By Maayana Miskin, April 17, 2008

Dozens of young men and women hiked through Samaria recently, walking in areas that Jews usually avoid. One group walked through the hostile Arab village of Huwarra on its way to Tapuach Junction. Soldiers arrested 30 of the hikers.

Religion and State in Israel

April 21, 2008 (Section 2) (continued from Section 1)

Editor – Joel Katz

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