Monday, December 29, 2008

Religion and State in Israel - December 29, 2008 (Section 1)

Religion and State in Israel

December 29, 2008 (Section 1) (continues in Section 2)

Click here to read ONLINE

Editor – Joel Katz

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

Movement for Alternative Beit Din Gets an Important Boost

By Dr. Elana Maryles Sztokman December 28, 2008

The public drive to create a viable alternative to the rabbinical court system received some significant support this week.

Mavoi Satum, in cooperation with Kolech and Neemanei Va’Avodah, received a five-year commitment from the New Israel Fund to help make this vision into a reality.

The implications are enormous, not only for agunot, not only for religious women, not only for the religious public, but also for women and men across all segments of Israeli society.

Batya Cahana-Dror, Director of Advocacy at Mavoi Satum, recently published an extensive article on the significance of this topic in Eretz Aheret.

Several volunteers from Mavoi Satum translated this important article into English. I am publishing it here for the first time in English. The future of Israeli society is undoubtedly at stake.

Violence is Not Grounds for Divorce

By Batya Cahana-Dror, Director of Advocacy Mavoi Satum 

December 27, 2008 Eretz Aheret, Vol. 46, Summer 2008

Translated by Judith Garson Djemal, Symma Freedmen and Sandra Lazowick

The issue of women in the rabbinic courts is one of the most important issues, in which Jewish values face the test of democratic reality.

Inside the court system, the rift between the judges and those who stand before them is deepening.

The judges, under pretense of democratic discourse, effectively negate the law as a basis of authority, and those who are being judged remain helpless. The revolution for civil rights has been left behind.

The battle of mesuravot get - women denied divorce, presents a difficult challenge for the religious judiciary system, functioning in democratic surroundings, and touches on several points of tension in Israeli society: 

halakha vs. law, rabbinic courts vs. civil courts, theocracy vs. Western liberalism, Jewish feminism vs. spreading fundamentalism, conservative, defensive orthodoxy, and modern liberal orthodoxy.

…It is up to the national religious public to lead the way in disconnecting from the apologetic, defensive, conservative Orthodoxy - a disconnect that would mean establishing a new Israeli Orthodox stream that would, among other things, establish its own religious courts.

…The creation of an alternative establishment will bring about an additional halakhic course as a central stream in Judaism - one that has a community of followers among the religious and traditional sectors, and which has institutions that return the halakha to its natural vibrancy, connecting it to our concrete lives while connecting its entire public to the State of Israel as a Jewish state.

NIS 700,000: Latest Award to Woman Whose Husband Refused to Give Her a Get

By Susan Weiss for Women’s Justice December 23, 2008

On December 14, 2008, Judge Tova Sivan of the Tel Aviv Family Court accepted our petition for damages (NIS 700,000) in compensation for the pain and suffering that our client endured because her husband refused to give her a get.

Justice Sivan rendered this decision despite the fact that the rabbinic court had not ordered the husband to divorce his wife. In fact, the rabbinic court had denied her request for such an order.

…This is the first time that the Family Court has awarded damages for get recalcitrance to a woman whose petition to order her husband to give her a get was denied.

This decision is yet another example of how the legal discourse in the Israeli courts is changing; and is a clear statement from our civil courts that get refusal is a tortious act that Israeli society will not tolerate.

Netanyahu vows to find compromise on civil unions

By Gil Hoffman December 25, 2008

Likud Chairman Binyamin Netanyahu attempted to attract Russian immigrant voters on Wednesday by announcing that a government led by him would pursue some version of a "civil union" to register couples who cannot be married by the Rabbinate.

He made this declaration at a press conference at the party's Tel Aviv headquarters, which was called to launch its campaign aimed at Russian-speakers.

Civil marriage is not permitted in Israel, where the Rabbinate has a monopoly over Jewish marriage and divorce. But the state does register couples who marry abroad in non-religious ceremonies.

Immigrants who are not halachically Jewish but do not want to fly to Cyprus to marry Jews have been lobbying for years to at least be allowed to register legally as couples at the Interior Ministry.

Orthodox immigrant MK Ze'ev Elkin, who recently left Kadima for Likud, sponsored a bill in the outgoing Knesset that would allow legal registration for couples without violating Halacha.

Netanyahu did not officially endorse Elkin's bill, but he said he would work to find a compromise solution to help such couples, despite warnings from Shas that it would not join any government that advances civil marriage.

No more illusions

By Rabbi Reuven Hammer Opinion December 23, 2008

The writer, who served on the Neeman Commission, is the head of the Rabbinical Court of the Rabbinical Assembly of Israel and a member of the board of directors of the Joint Institute for Jewish Studies.

One solution readily available is to make recognition of conversions by other rabbinical groups meaningful not only by recognizing them but by providing for the possibility of marriage outside of the framework of the Chief Rabbinate.

This could be done by the authorization of civil partnerships which could be solemnized religiously by rabbis of all denominations.

Another solution would be to permit alternative Orthodox courts to perform conversions that would be recognized by the state and to permit these courts to authorize marriages as well.

There are enough modern Orthodox rabbis in Israel who understand the situation and the Halacha who could do this. It requires courage for them to stand up against the current monopoly, but it can be done.

These solutions are not mutually exclusive and both require the breaking of the monopoly of the Chief Rabbinate on marriages.

Conversion Crisis in Israel Boils with New Appointee

By Nathan Jeffay December 24, 2008

“The Jewish Agency wants it to be known that it wants those who made aliyah under the Law of Return who were not halachically Jewish to have the chance to become so without obstacles,” Jankelowitz said.

It is expected, however, that such a body would still leave conversion in the hands of Orthodox rabbis, a position that rankled Reform delegates to the Jewish Agency congress. They saw the proposal as a betrayal of their fight for equality under Israeli law.

A motion that the Reform delegates introduced at the congress calling for government recognition for non-Orthodox conversions failed.

The idea of trusting Orthodox rabbis to deliver moderate conversions “has become bankrupt,” Dalya Levy, executive director of Arzenu, the international Zionist organization of the Reform movement, told the Forward.

“We think we’ve come to the end of the line on the whole process,” she said. 
“Whenever we say we don’t like being second class and prefer to be equals we are told we are being divisive.”

Secular conversion - an oxymoron

By Aliza Hausman Opinion December 23, 2008

The writer is a Latina Orthodox Jewish convert, freelance writer, educator and blogger. Currently working on a memoir about her conversion, she lives in New York with her husband, who is pursuing rabbinical ordination.

But what in the world is a secular conversion? What exactly does it look like? I'm sorry, but "secular conversion" sounds like an oxymoron.

…It seems clear to the observant outsider, no pun intended, that the way must be paved for civil marriage and civil burial institutions in Israel that don't make people feel like outsiders.

Because in the meantime, the current practice of religious marriages and religious burials excludes thousands of Israeli citizens. It ensures that these people feel that they are not full-fledged citizens.

Now, don’t get me wrong. There is no question that the thousands of Israeli citizens of Jewish descent have a commitment to their Jewish relatives and their Jewish friends and family.

There is no question that they have pledged their faith in the State of Israel. Many of them are out there risking their lives every day for the state. God bless them. But whether they have pledged themselves in the Jewish faith is another story altogether.

Perhaps it's time that being an Israeli citizen stopped being synonymous with being a Jew.

Because being an Israeli citizen should not arbitrarily make someone Jewish.

Aliya 'qualifications'

By Maurice Singer December 22, 2008

The writer is Senior Aliyah Consultant at the Jewish Agency.

Q: My husband was born to a Jewish father and a non-Jewish mother. We have two children. We all made giur [conversion] before a Masorti [Conservative] Beth Din in London. 

If we make Aliyah, he would be granted Israeli citizenship. What would happen with my children and I?

A: If your husband can prove that he had a Jewish father then all of you are included within the Law of Return and as such are eligible to make Aliyah. 

As far as recognition of being Jewish you will have to battle with the Rabbinate regarding their attitude as to the Masorti giur.

Spiritual waterworld

By Ayelet Dekel December 25, 2008

Some of Mayyim Hayyim's rituals have been adapted and translated into Hebrew by a group of four Reform rabbis in Israel, who have compiled a book of suggested ceremonies, "Parashat Hamayyim" ("Watershed: New Opportunities for Immersion"). 
"Not that there is a mikveh [in Israel] where you could use them," Kline said in an interview.

Indeed, almost all mikvehs in Israel - with exceptions such as that on Hanaton, a Conservative kibbutz - are supervised by the National Authority of Religious Services, and are only open for women's immersion, according to Orthodox practice, after sundown. Local Reform and Conservative rabbis often counsel their converts to immerse in the sea.

Rabbi Haviva Ner-David, who received Orthodox ordination privately, comments that immersion "should actually be a ritual through which all denominations can come together."

The Israel Religious Action Center of Reform Judaism (IRAC) has appealed to the Be'er Sheva and Jerusalem District Courts to allow non-Orthodox converts and brides access to the municipal mikvehs in those cities. 

The appeals are to be answered by the State Prosecutor's Office, which has meanwhile requested an extension in providing a response.

"We will not accept this discrimination," says Rabbi Gilad Kariv, IRAC's associate director.

"The state finances the mikvehs, and it is unacceptable that they will be closed to Jews who are not Orthodox. As taxpayers, we are paying for the mikveh in Tel Aviv, for example, but have to take our converts to the Tel Baruch beach."

National service for ultra-Orthodox a surprise success

By Shahar Ilan December 25, 2008

The number of ultra-Orthodox men currently performing national service - 470 - is more than double the number the National Civilian Service Administration had expected by the end of 2008, according to a report the administration will present to the cabinet Sunday. 

…The Tal Law was considered a failure for the first five years after its 2002 passage. 

The law allows yeshiva students over age 22 to take a year off from their studies without being drafted into the Israel Defense Forces and then choose between returning to full-time Torah study or completing an abbreviated stint in national service.

One major obstacle blocking ultra-Orthodox participation in the program was the Finance Ministry's objection to funding a national service administration, preventing its establishment.

Shabbat Shalom: Parshat Miketz Genesis: 41:1-44:17

By Rabbi Shlomo Riskin Opinion December 27, 2008

Is there a concept of separate of Synagogue and State or at least Synagogue and Politics, in the Biblical tradition?

…the Chief Rabbis of Israel - High Priests of our modern age - must remain independent from the Prime Minister and Parliament.

The Rabbinic-ethical voice must be perceived as the eternal word of G-d, free of any political blandishments and concerned only in influencing by means of moral persuasion.

It must be independent of political coalitions and Knesset popularity; it must be as close as possible to the voice of God. 

Is this the case in Israel today?

When we remember that the chief Rabbis are elected by the political Knesset, and that the political coalition parties have a major hand in choosing the judges of the Chief Rabbinate High Court, politics plays a strong role in the determination of religio-legal policy.

Clearly it is time for a change!

Rabbinate without borders

By Amos Harel Opinion December 24, 2008

Whether due to education, ideology or achievement orientation, the fact is that the religious Zionist community sends its sons to front-line units and officers' courses in greater numbers than any other segment of society.

The army will have to learn to meet them halfway on noncritical issues. A religious combat soldier should not be forced to listen to a female singer or be taught by female sports instructors wearing shorts.

But there are times when the army gets confused. A good example is the behavior of the IDF's chief rabbi, Brig. Gen. Avichai Ronski.

…it seems that [Chief of Staff Gabi Ashkenazi] would be wise to summon Ronski and make it clear, once and for all, where the boundaries of an IDF chief rabbi's activity and speech properly lie.

Betzedek Challenges Ashkelon's Annulment of Fines for Businesses Open on Shabbos

By Yechiel Sever December 25, 2008

The City of Ashkelon has annulled the standard penalty built into the municipal ordinance that prevents businesses from operating on Shabbos and holidays. Following the unexpected move, legal rights organization Betzedek has warned the legislation is illegal and essentially nullifies the municipal ordinance entirely.

Recently it came to light that shortly before the recent municipal elections in the city, the former mayor passed an ordinance annulling the penalty clause from a number of city ordinances, including the law forbidding businesses and entertainment spots from opening on days of rest. Last week the ordinance was placed on the books.

Betzedek Director Atty. Rabbi Mordechai Green sent an urgent letter to Benny Vaknin, the newly elected mayor, demanding that the municipality restore the penalty clause to the ordinance in question and even significantly increase the amount of the fine imposed for violations.

This Hanukkah: 82% of Israelis still believe in miracles December 23, 2008

The poll showed that 96% of the Jewish Israeli public light Hanukkah candles, 82% believe in miracles and 69% believe the Jews' resistance against foreign cultural influences is relevant today as well.

Ninety-six percent of participants asked if they planned to light Hanukkah candles said yes, with 78% saying they would light candles on each of the holiday's eight nights.

Eighteen percent said they would light a candle on at least one of the nights, and 4% said they would not be lighting their menorah this year, agreeing with the statement: We don't care about the holiday.

According to the poll, 82% said yes, and 41% said they have experienced miracles firsthand in the past, with 41% saying they were still waiting for their first miracle.

IDF Chief of Staff Ashkenazi Lights Candles with Nachal Charedi December 25, 2008

IDF Chief of Staff Gabi Ashekenazi lit Hanukah candles with the Nachal Charedi battalion Tuesday evening. 

The Nachal Charedi battalion is composed of religious soldiers and operates in Samaria.

Ashkenazi said to the soldiers, “The secret weapon of the IDF is spirit. I look at all of you and say to myself, ‘If these are our soldiers and this is our spirit, then there is nothing we cannot do.’”

Jerusalem mailmen prepare letters to Heaven for Kotel

By Max Socol December 25, 2008

…every year, as Hanukka and Christmas approach, Yaniv's small warehouse in the Givat Shaul neighborhood is transformed into the address for wishes and prayers from around the world. Letters to God, or Jesus, or Heaven, come pouring into the holy city - and Yaniv and his crew are tasked with sorting the special letters and delivering them to the Western Wall.

Two weeks ago, a ceremony was held, widely covered in the international press, in which rabbis scooped up handfuls of letters from boxes marked "Letters to God," and stuffed them into crack in the Wall

The photographs from the event are sure to warm hearts around the world.

Choosing your own Christmas trees from KKL-JNF forests December 14, 2008

Every year just before Christmas, [the Jewish National Fund] distributes trees to churches, monasteries, embassies and the foreign press in Israel.

JNF subsidizes the project to continue the good relations with our Christian citizens and visitors. We also supply trees to the United Nations missions in Israel

Personally, I have been working in KKL-JNF for 27 years and I want to see this beautiful tradition continue every year."

Santa Claus and Judah Macabee join forces in Tel Aviv 'end of year' fair

By Matthew Wagner December 22, 2008

Santa Clauses, Christmas trees and reindeer are nowhere near as ubiquitous as Hanukka candles here during this holiday season, but they are definitely making inroads.

As more Israelis spend time abroad and the million immigrants from the former Soviet Union, many of whom are not Jewish, make their presence felt, malls and shopping centers throughout the country are using Christmas symbols to lure consumers.

Christmas symbols are no longer relegated solely to Arab Christian cities such as Nazareth and Bethlehem or to the Russian-language press and television.

Nor are the country's foreign workers - the Filipinos, the Romanians and the Sudanese - the only target market.

Church of Nativity wired for live webcast December 24, 2008

As over a billion people turn their eyes towards the Church of the Nativity this time of year, the holy site in Bethlehem is ready to go online via live streaming video in time for the holidays for the first time ever.

The service has included streaming video 24/7 from key Christian holy sites in Jerusalem including Calvary, Mount of Olives, the Eastern Gate, the City of David, and the city of Jerusalem since its launch in October 2008.

A festival for all of us

By Andrew Tobin December 5, 2008

The Wadi Nisnas district of Haifa features an eclectic community of Christians, Muslims and Jews. 

In celebration of this diversity, the Festival of Festivals begins tomorrow for the 15th year running.

The festival encompasses Christmas, Hanukkah and Eid Al-Adha, with major events taking place every Saturday this December. Tens of thousands of visitors are expected.

Religion and State in Israel

December 29, 2008 (Section 1) (continues in Section 2)

Click here to read ONLINE

Editor – Joel Katz

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

Religion and State in Israel - December 29, 2008 (Section 2)

Religion and State in Israel

December 29, 2008 (Section 2) (continued from Section 1)

Click here to read ONLINE

Editor – Joel Katz

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

Shas launches women's headquarters 

By Ronen Medzini December 25, 2008

The women's headquarters of Shas, located in Jerusalem's Givat Shaul neighborhood, differs from regular election headquarters.

…The headquarters are run by none other than the chairman's wife, Mrs. Tzipi Yishai. Yishai doesn’t usually talk to the media, but was available for a unique interview.

"Our activities differ from those of the men," she told Ynet. "We believe in the power of a women's prayer. 
In the special days we organize things together; all the women supporting Shas work and pray together."

"Without praying and without believing it won't work, and this is our faith," says Miriam, head of operations at the women's headquarters. 

One way to convince the new voters is by granting each one with a personal blessing from Rabbi Ovadia Yosef himself.

The Feiglin revolution

By Ron Pressler December 26, 2008

Moshe Feiglin was born in 1962 in Haifa, and grew up in Rehovot. He attended a state-religious school, while his father remained secular and his mother retained her Lubavitch affiliation.

…For high school, he went to the Rabbi Haim Druckman's Or Etzion yeshiva, but when he finished he didn't want to continue on to a hesder yeshiva (combining religious study and army service), but rather opted to do regular army service.

….Manhigut Yehudit drew thousands of supporters. Some were people from the traditional religious right who agreed with its hard line, a minority were secular, and some were religious people who believed that the "keepers of the Jewish flame," in their own eyes, ought to be leading the nation, and be not shunted into sectarian parties with a limited appeal.

Many of the latter were immigrants from the United States or the former Soviet Union. Many were newly religious, highly educated (Feiglin takes pride in the fact that his driver in the previous campaign was an atomic engineer) and hailed from the upper middle class. 

And all were united in one thing: scorn for the establishment, including the rabbinic establishment.

UTJ decides to run again as unified party

By Matthew Wagner December 29, 2008

Just ahead of the midnight deadline on Sunday, Degel Hatorah and Agudat Yisrael decided to run together again as United Torah Judaism in February's election.

It was also decided that MK Ya'acov Litzman would continue as chairman of UTJ.

A new name, Rabbi Dov Landau, a Ger Hassidic Yeshiva head and senior kosher supervisor, had been mentioned as a candidate to lead Agudat Yisrael if it opted not to run with Degel, or to lead UTJ if Litzman did not run.

UTJ candidates for Knesset are: Litzman (Agudah), followed by MK Moshe Gafni (Degel), MK Meir Porush (Agudah), MK Uri Maklev (Degel), Menahem Eliezer Moses (Agudah), a Viznitz Hassid, Israeli Eichler (Agudah), a Belz Hassid, and Menahem Carmel (Degel).

If the UTJ does not receive six seats, Eichler will rotate with Porush.

UTJ Ticket Won't Be Split, Faction Officials Say December 28, 2008

Mere hours before the deadline for submission of Knesset rosters Sunday at midnight, the Degel HaTorah and Agudas Yisroel parties that make up United Torah Judaism announced that the UTJ ticket will not be split in the upcoming elections.

…The composition of the Knesset list will be 50-50, with Agudas Yisroel representatives in places 1,3,5,6, and 9, and Degel HaTorah representatives in 2,4,7,8, and 10.

In addition, MK Meir Porush reportedly signed a document in which he agrees to retire from the Knesset and give his seat to a Degel HaTorah representative should the United Torah Judaism party win fewer than 7 seats.

At Habayit Hayehudi, ideology is one thing - and politics is quite another

By Nadav Shragai December 25, 2008

When Maj. Gen. (res.) Ya'akov Amidror agreed to chair the public council that would put together the list of Knesset candidates for the new party Habayit Hayehudi ("The Jewish Home"), he had no idea how hard the task would be.

"Orthodox politicians have egos, too," he says.

"Combine that with the ideological dimension, which in the Orthodox community is a way of life and not just something you spout off, and you'll get an explanation for what happened," he says, referring to cracks and rancor in the party, founded just a month ago. 

"A split will only increase the ruination, and will set religious Zionism back years," Amidror warns.

Orbach to head Habayit Hayehudi campaign

By Nadav Shragai December 26, 2008

Former journalist Uri Orbach will be the campaign manager of Habayit Hayehudi, senior party officials recently decided.

The religious Zionist party hopes that Orbach's media experience will be useful in promoting its agenda.

Orbach, who is fifth on the party's roster, has over 20 years of experience as a journalist and radio presenter. He is also a published author.

Voice of religious Zionism to stop the presses after 71 years

By Nadav Shragai December 25, 2008

The new political party that was built to be the home of the national religious public is still standing, but the newspaper that has been the voice of religious Zionism for the past 71 years, Hatzofeh, will print its last edition Friday.

Hatzofeh, founded in August 1937 by Rabbi Meir Bar-Ilan, first represented the Mizrahi movement, and later the National Religious Party.

Five years ago it was purchased by Shlomo Ben-Zvi and Ron Lauder, and about two years ago it merged with the daily Makor Rishon. 

New Rift Opens Up in Beit Shemesh

By Joshua Mitnick December 23, 2008

About 10 years ago, the city developed a new neighborhood called Ramat Beit Shemesh Bet to attract haredi residents who were being priced out of the Jerusalem neighborhoods they had grown up in.

But Beit Shemesh Bet attracted Chasidic residents linked to the Neturei Karta and Satmar groups, two movements used to living in their cloistered Jerusalem community of Mea Shearim and known for their disdain for the Israeli state and their strict religious practices.

Friction with the nationalist Modern Orthodox community in Beit Shemesh was probably inevitable. 

…Lerner, the former deputy mayor, said ultra-Orthodox residents are trying to assert their independence from Beit Shemesh. He said that some haredi residents have expressed frustration with the extremist’s behavior, but that the Neturei Karta and the Satmar communities have never lived outside of Mea Shearim and aren’t used to the constant intermingling.

Ultra-Orthodox rabbis target another retail food chain

By Kobi Nahshoni December 27, 2008

After the boycott they declared on supermarket chain Shefa Shuk several months ago dealt a devastating financial blow to the company, the ultra-Orthodox Committee for the Sanctity of Shabbat has now turned its attention to Shufersal.

The large retail chain is currently in negotiations to buy 20% of book store chain Steimatzky, which operates several branches on Shabbat…

Byzantine bones stall protective work at Barzilai

By Judy Siegel-Itzkovich December 25, 2008

Ashkelon's Barzilai Medical Center has the funds to build an underground emergency room and surgical theater, but the project is being held back because of the opposition of haredi activists to the excavation and relocation of Byzantine era bones discovered on the hospital's campus.

Dr. Ron Lobel, the hospital's deputy director-general, says that Barzilai has the $40 million needed to carry out the project, which would protect the facility from rocket attacks, but since January has been unable to recommence work after a preliminary dig because of protests by haredi activists.

The Atra Kadisha organization, a haredi group dedicated to preserving Jewish grave sites, has in the past managed to suspend work at several construction sites.

Lobel says that pleas for help have been sent to the prime minister, other ministers, the chief rabbis and prominent haredi rabbis for months, but to no avail. 

"Approval to start construction must be granted immediately," he said.

Bones found at rabbi's tomb on Mount Meron ignite uproar

By Eli Ashkenazi December 25, 2008

Two pits, apparently tombs, uncovered during restoration work at the site, have raised a furor among the ultra-Orthodox.

The storm was fed by rumors that the bones of Bar Yohai himself had been uncovered, and that a truck-driver who had agreed to remove the earth of the desecrated tombs had flipped his truck. 

The decision to renovate was made by a committee consisting of four representatives of ultra-Orthodox groups, who have been managing the sacred site for several years.

The committee is now headed by a representative of the state, Rabbi Shmuel Rabinovich, the rabbi in charge of Israel's Jewish holy places.

Yeshiva students expelled for getting a driver's license

By Uri Gilhar December 23, 2008

Four students were expelled from the Tiferet Israel yeshiva in Jerusalem last week after it became known that they had obtained driver's licenses in violation of the yeshiva's rules.

The decision triggered a heated debate among the ultra-Orthodox public surrounding the question of the legitimacy of owning a license.

…Most ultra-Orthodox rabbis oppose the notion of a haredi person getting a license.

"It's inappropriate for a person who defines himself learned in the Torah to have a driver's license," a prominent rabbi told the yeshiva director when the latter came to consult him on the issue.

Rav Amnon Yitzchak vs. B'Chedrei Chedorim Internet Forum December 29, 2008

The rav billed "the greatest of all machzirim b'tshuva" has opened a file in Rav Nissim Karelitz's beis din against the owners of the B'Chedrei Chedorim chareidi web site for disseminating slander and lies against him in their Forum.

He demands that they remove all mention of him, reveal the names of the writers, and pay one million shekels in compensation.

B'Chedrei Chedorim spokesman: "An attempt to intimidate our surfers and shut their mouths."

Israeli farmers perform rain ritual December 22, 2008

Israeli farmers re-created a ritual described by a 16th century Jewish scholar in the hopes of bringing rain.

The farmers from the Upper Galilee, led by Rabbi Eliyahu Biton, on Sunday encircled the tomb of Rabbi Shimon bar Yochai located on Mount Meron while shaking the Four Species that are traditionally used on Sukkot, the daily Ha'aretz reported.

Yosef Karo, a 16th century religious scholar, composed the special prayer for rain. According to Karo's book "Maggid Mesharim," much rain fell after Karo and his students completed the ritual.

Rabbi Elyashiv, Rebbes Support Rabbi Lau as Chief Rabbi of Yerushalayim December 28, 2008

Rabbi Elyashiv’s home was the location of a recent discussion among various Rabbanim as to who would be the most fitting candidate to fill the position of Yerushalayim’s Chief Rabbi.

…Shas is supporting Rabbi Yitzchok Dovid Grossman, who is very active in Kiruv Rechokim. They feel he will be inclined work closely with the Sefardic Chief Rabbi of Yerushalayim.

New Motorcycle Unit Will Serve Medics on Shabbos Too

By Yechiel Sever December 25, 2008

The first medics' motorcycle unit in Israel, which was launched by United Hatzalah a few weeks ago, will serve medics in responding to emergency calls on Shabbos as well.

The motorcycles, which were shown to the rabbinical heads of United Hatzalah, provide a halachic solution for certain parts of the country where medics encounter a halachic problem upon returning home following a response to an emergency.

Mikvaot join green trend December 25, 2008

With winter coming later each year and Israel facing a severe water crisis, the Ministry of Religious Services has launched a new initiative aimed at saving water.

The ministry is encouraging mikvah operators across the country to install special filters that would enable mikvaot to recycle water and reduce the frequency of replacing water at the ritual baths.

Peres to establish Jewish youth forum

By Haviv Rettig Gur December 26, 2008

President Shimon Peres is looking to establish a forum within Beit Hanassi that will bring together young leaders from throughout the Jewish world to grapple with the questions facing the Jewish people as a whole, The Jerusalem Post has learned.

…Key to the new framework would be the "integration" of existing groups that deal with the connection to the Diaspora, including the IDF and the Mandel Leadership Institute.

Can American Orthodoxy Afford to Have its Best and Brightest (Not) Make Aliya? December 23, 2008

From the Orthodox Forum publication "Religious Zionism Post Disengagement: Future Directions"

Edited by Chaim Waxman; Robert S. Hirt, Series Editor

The Orthodox Forum Series is a project of the Rabbi Isaac Elchanan Theological Seminary, an affiliate of Yeshiva University

Click here for article (pdf file)

US court: Ex-Agriprocessors manager to remain jailed

By Allison Hoffman December 25, 2008

"The prosecutors' purpose is clearly to single out Jews because they allegedly have foreign ties as de facto dual citizens, and the effect of what it proposes will be to single out Jews - because of their belief in Jewish flight risk, these prosecutors will always ask, 'Is the defendant a Jew?'" his lawyers wrote.

Scoles chastised Rubashkin's attorney Baruch Weiss for focusing on the question of Rubashkin's "de facto citizenship" after having argued in earlier hearings that his client would not bother fleeing to Israel because he would simply be extradited back to the US.

"That [the] defendant's connections to Israel include rights to de facto Israeli citizenship has nothing, per se, to do with [the] defendant's race or religion," prosecutors wrote. 
"That [the] defendant's right to foreign citizenship is based upon [the] defendant's cultural heritage is solely a matter of foreign law."

Jewish Agency: Na'aleh will not be cut

By Haviv Rettig Gur December 22, 2008

Amid concerns that Jewish Agency cutbacks were threatening the continued operation of Na'aleh, an agency spokesman promised the unique youth aliya program would survive, one way or another.

On Tuesday, an emergency meeting of the Knesset Absorption and Immigration Committee will discuss the possibility that "the Jewish Agency's decision to withdraw from the program threatened its very existence," according to a statement by the Na'aleh Alumni Association.

Gov't must step in and save Na'aleh youth aliya, MKs insist

By Haviv Rettig Gur December 23, 2008

Thirteen MKs called on the government to rescue the Na'aleh aliya program in an emergency session of the Knesset's Immigration and Absorption Committee on Tuesday.

Rabbinical duo leads drive to revive Conservative kibbutz

By Raphael Ahren December 26, 2008

Until they met a few years ago in rabbinical school, Yoav Ende and Yonatan Sadoff had led quite different lives.

Now, after having been ordained earlier this month by the Schechter Rabbinical Seminary in Jerusalem, they are planning to spend their next stage of life together on a sparsely populated kibbutz twelve kilometers north of Nazareth, near the Arab town of Shfaram.

The freshly ordained rabbis are leading a group of pioneers to Kibbutz Hanaton, founded in 1984 as the kibbutz of the Conservative movement.

…The young team's vision includes a symbiosis of study center and living Judaism on kibbutz. Besides teaching and preaching, the rabbis will also officiate at weddings and oversee conversions, although - or because - Conservative rabbis are not officially recognized in Israel.

Religion and State in Israel

December 29, 2008 (Section 2) (continued from Section 1)

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