Monday, July 6, 2009

Religion and State in Israel - July 6, 2009 (Section 2)

Religion and State in Israel

July 6, 2009 (Section 2) (continued from Section 1)

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Editor – Joel Katz

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

Calls for ouster over IDF Chief Rabbi's 'sexist' comments

By Anshel Pfeffer and Yuval Azoulay July 5, 2009

The statements by the Israel Defense Forces' Chief Rabbi, Brig. Gen. Avichai Rontzki, in which he expressed his opposition to women serving in the army, have stirred a storm in the army and in the political arena.

Following the report in Haaretz yesterday, Chief of Staff Gabi Ashkenazi issued a statement through the IDF Spokesman, saying that "the service of women in the IDF is fixed, it is appreciated, it is mandated by law and by security realities, has been in place since the establishment of the IDF, and even earlier, in the Hagana and the other underground groups, and will continue."

Ashkenazi made it clear that the issue of women serving in the IDF had not been discussed at any level in the army, including the Military Rabbinate, and emphasized that "the focus of the IDF efforts on this issue is to bolster the motivation to serve, open more opportunities and professions to women, and in general to their involvement in the various departments, including the combat units."

Send the IDF Chief Rabbi home

Haaretz Editorial July 5, 2009

The Chief Military Rabbi of the Israel Defense Forces, Brig.-Gen. Avichai Rontzki, has managed once again to stretch his scope of authority to breaking point.

"In my personal opinion," he said according to statements obtained by Haaretz military correspondent Anshel Pfeffer, "the service of women in the army is not self-evident."

This means, in simple Hebrew, in principle women should not serve in the army.

IDF Chief Rabbi says women shouldn't serve

By Anshel Pfeffer July 2, 2009

Ronski has spoken out in the past against integrating women into combat units, arguing that women cannot realize their full potential in combat units, that putting men and women together under such difficult conditions creates all kinds of sexual problems, and that having women in these units offends the sensibilities of male religious soldiers.

But he has said he favors using women as instructors in the army, because they tend to have personality traits appropriate for this job, such as "delicacy, patience and persistence."

Loud-mouthed rabbi reflects IDF's religious bent

By Amos Harel July 2 ,2009 Opinion

A significant change is occurring within the IDF, and it has not yet been sufficiently analyzed. The face of the army, especially the middle ranks, has become more religious over the last decade.

It's not just a matter of counting skullcaps at graduation ceremonies at Training Base 1, where religious soldiers account for 30 percent of infantry officer course graduates.

The same process is playing itself out in most of the fighting units. As a result the IDF, and not just its chief rabbi, is speaking with a different, more religious voice.

Army officials: Military rabbi must watch his tongue

By Hanan Greenberg July 2, 2009

The rabbi's associates explained that the rabbi's statements made to the said religious forum are not rightly understood by those who are unfamiliar with the halakha.

Educational wars of the Jews

By Akiva Eldar July 3 ,2009

In addition to [Chief IDF education officer Brig. Gen. Eli Shermeister], the Posen Foundation and other educational organizations have been working to instill non-religious Jewish cultural values in the IDF.

According to Prof. Eli Yasif, who heads the Posen Foundation, the major army programs that educate officers - the officers training courses, the Command and Staff School, the National Defense College - will be conducting seminars at the Bina campus in Ramat Efal, where the foundation offers its courses.

Yasif promises to present modern Judaism to the officers and is expecting "a battle of the titans between the very powerful military rabbinate and the army's education system, which is in need of the kind of training and support we give."

Religious soldiers refuse to ride in Hummer driven by female soldier

By Anshel Pfeffer July 6, 2009

A group of religious soldiers in the reserves refused last week to participate in a training exercise that required them to ride in jeeps driven by female soldiers, Haaretz has learned.

The incident took place when a group of armored corps battalion reservists from Northern Command attended the national ground troop training exercise at Tze'elim base in the south.

The troops train with large Hummer jeeps, used to simulate tanks and other armored vehicles. The Hummers are driven by female soldiers while the reservists act as tank commanders.

Some religious reservists balked at riding in vehicles driven by women.

Not by force

By Rabbi Reuven Hammer Opinion July 2, 2009

The writer is the head of the Rabbinical Court of the Masorti Movement and the author of several books, the most recent being Entering Torah.

If Israel is to ever be a modern state, it cannot be the only democratic state in the world in which a religious establishment that is not responsible to the will of the people has official, governmentally sanctioned, control over so many parts of our lives.

Not by force should Judaism be conducted in the Jewish state.

At a recent convention here (as a matter of fact in the same place where the Jewish Family Conference took place) the international Rabbinical Assembly (Conservative/Masorti) called for the dissolution and privatization of the Chief Rabbinate.

Citizens of Israel should not have to support with their tax moneys an institution that is forced upon them.

Rather let this rabbinate compete for allegiance with whatever other religious organizations may be formed, and let tax moneys be distributed equitably, based upon the number of members in each such NGO.

Yes to Judaism, yes to Jewish tradition, yes to Jewish law, but lo b'koah. A free people in its own land has the right to choose its own religious affiliation.

By doing so it will join all other Jews in lands of freedom who affiliate by choice with Judaism. In that way we may see a true flourishing of Judaism here once again, and realize the true promise of a Jewish state.

A Jewish Renaissance … in Israel

By Toby Appleton July 3 ,2009

[W]hen I moved to Jerusalem a couple of years ago, I was surprised to discover that religious life here has blossomed and today offers an assortment closer to a Ben & Jerry’s boutique than the Breyers vanilla/chocolate/strawberry freezer-pack of my childhood.

Egalitarian minyanim, secular yeshivas, improvised wedding ceremonies and the growing strength of the Conservative and Reform movements (called “liberal Judaism” here), are all evidence that new modalities of religious expression are exploding.

…Despite the inroads made by alternative spiritual communities here, politics still has the final word.

It is the Orthodox rabbinate that has the power to legally marry Israelis, decide if buses and businesses can run on Shabbat, and determine who is considered a Jew under state law. Genuine religious pluralism is a de facto but not yet a de jure condition of modern Israeli life.

Educational wars of the Jews

By Akiva Eldar July 3, 2009

Felix Posen insists that his foundation is not trying to convince religious people to become secular, but rather seeks to address the secular public, which is ignorant about modern Jewish history, thought, literature and art.

The foundation supports educational programs at about 40 universities in the United States, Britain and Israel.

For example, Posen initiated the Ofakim program at Tel Aviv University, which annually trains 15 outstanding teachers in a variety of subjects in Jewish studies - Jewish philosophy, Bible, Hebrew literature, Jewish history, the culture of the sages and Hebrew language.

Kolech Conference 2009

By Dr. Elana Sztokman July 5, 2009

Next week’s Kolech Conference is offering a cutting edge array of sessions on issues of gender and Jewish life, including fighting the rabbinic courts through the civil courts, educating religious boys, single motherhood, religious dress, women in the economy, racism within religious feminism, and more.

Speakers include noted author Dr. Aviva Zornberg, Mizrahi feminist poet Esther Shekalim, Dr. Gilli Zivan of the Yaakov Herzog Center, and more.

“Can the Civil Courts Reform the Beit Din?,” Susan Weiss, The Center for Women’s Justice, Attorney and Executive Director

“Effecting Change at the Grass Roots: Mobilizing the Public and the Public Servant,” Robyn Shames ICAR – The International Coalition for Agunah Rights

The Kolech Conference will take place next Wednesday, July 13, at the Keshet School in Jerusalem. For more details or to register, click here.

Two Orthodox women's conferences present decidedly different takes on feminism

By Matthew Wagner July 2, 2009

Is feminism compatible with Orthodox Judaism? Is a woman's role primarily in the home? Can women learn the same Jewish texts as men?

Two different Orthodox women's organizations, both holding conferences in July, have radically different answers to these questions.

On Wednesday, a Chabad-sponsored Women's Empowerment Rally is expected to attract about 5,000 to Tel Aviv's Nokia Stadium.

And on July 13, Kolech, a modern Orthodox women's organization, will hold its sixth international conference entitled "The Woman and Her Judaism."

6,500 Chabad women gather in Tel Aviv

By Tzofia Hirschfeld July 3, 2009

Some 6,500 women members of the Chabad organization, young and old, gathered at the Nokia Stadium in Tel Aviv Thursday evening for a unique conference that included joint prayers, lectures and even a standup comedy show.

The event was held by the N'shei u'Bnos Chabad organization.

Hotels sign modesty code to attract haredi guests

By Kobi Nahshoni July 1, 2009

Some 20 hotels that host vacationing ultra-Orthodox guests sign document detailing modesty code to be kept in order to make sure stringent guests comfortable.

Among other things, hotels commit to unplug televisions, disallow looking into pool from rooms, instating modest dress code for female employees. Imposition of code not supported by rabbis responsible for granting kosher certificates

Secular-religious tensions on the rise in Tel Aviv’s Ramat Aviv

By Stephanie Rubenstein July 3, 2009

In the country's capital, the decision to open the Carta parking lot on Shabbat has sparked a series of riots by haredim. Last Saturday, MK Ophir Paz-Pines (Labor) declared that relations between the secular and haredi populations had reached a "severe crisis."

But clashes between the two sectors are not unique to Jerusalem. In Ramat Aviv, the continuing influx of haredim to the traditionally secular area is causing a rise in tension between them and their non-religious neighbors.

Over the past few years, Chabad members have begun renovating public buildings and institutions in Ramat Aviv.

NIS 8 Million Mehadrin Beach

By Yechiel Spira July 2, 2009

While many chareidim are seen among the guests in Dead Sea hotels, their presence on the beach is not a commonplace sight.

This may soon change as a mehadrin beach costing NIS 8 million is being constructed towards accommodating chareidim, a move that is expected to attract frum vacationers to the area in greater numbers.

The Tamar Regional Council is constructing a separate beach in the Chamei Zohar area near the Moriah Hotel, an area about 15 dunam (about 3.5 acres), with a four meter (yard) concrete wall dividing the areas designated for men and women.

Rabbi Shapira: Time to Fight Neo-Reformists in Our Midst

By Gil Ronen July 5, 2009

Rabbi Yehoshua Shapira, a leading national-religious rabbi, has declared war on what he says is a neo-Reform stream within the religious Zionist camp.

Besides Kolech – a feminist women's group funded by the New Israel Fund – he mentioned a ruling which allowed co-ed activity in the Bnei Akiva youth movement…

…The rabbi cited the synagogue “Shira Hadasha” in Jerusalem for straying “out of bounds” and said that the women who prayed there were not Orthodox. But that synagogue is not a special case, he added. Rather, it is part of “a huge system that is collapsing under our hands.”

Jews and Muslims unite against Jerusalem Museum of Tolerance

By Nir Hasson July 1, 2009

A new Jewish-Muslim initiative is seeking to derail the planned Museum of Tolerance, which is currently being built in Jerusalem on the site of a former Muslim cemetery.

The initiative's hopes to get the site declared ritually impure under Jewish law, due to the fact that the construction has involved unearthing the remains of hundreds of Muslims. Such a declaration would keep religious Jews from visiting the museum.

The proposal has already received the blessing of Rabbi David Schmidl, head of the ultra-Orthodox Atra Kadisha organization, which fights against the desecration of Jewish graves.

Its Jewish sponsors - who include two left-wing activists plus one activist from the ultra-Orthodox Shas party - are also seeking support from Chief Sephardic Rabbi Shlomo Amar, but he has not yet replied to their letter.

Organic is the true kosher

By Tzofia Hirschfeld July 1, 2009

The Schechter Institute of Jewish Studies held a study day for traditional women on the subject "Jewish Women Maintaining a Healthy Soul."

Phyllis Glazer:

"The food we have today is a result of life in exile, a life of cold and suffering. But this is not true Judaism," clarifies Miriam in a conversation with Ynet.

"After we lived for years in the dark, cold cities in Europe, we lost touch with nature and its produce.

"Life in the ghettos of Europe brought us away from the source.

Cheap Glatt at stake in kosher game of chicken

By Matthew Wagner July 3, 2009

Concerned that exacting kosher stringencies have pushed meat and poultry prices beyond the reach of many poor haredi families, a group of rabbis is out to prove that a cheap, Glatt kosher chicken is not a contradiction of terms.

But these rabbis might be headed for a kosher meat war, complete with mudslinging by competitors fearful of being cut out of the market.

Unholy battle ends in victory for religious council

By Miriam Bulwar-Hay July 1, 2009

After a long legal battle, the Tel Aviv District Court has vindicated the struggles by the Kfar Saba Religious Council to oust a rabbi appointed to the city by the national rabbinate, reports

The court ruled that Rabbi Nahum Shir was not authorized to provide religious services to residents in the city or to work in the Religious Council's offices, and ordered him to pay NIS 20,000 in legal costs.

Sacred sells for Israeli musicians

By Nathan Jeffay July 2, 2009

Given that she is one of Israel’s most popular musicians, Etti Ankri’s latest album may seem a little esoteric: it consists entirely of poems by the 12th-century philosopher, Rabbi Yehuda Halevy.

But Ms. Ankri is not taking a gamble. In mainstream Israeli music today, sacred means sales.

Prayer ala carte?

By Raphael Ahren July 3, 2009

Aharon Varady always dreamed of putting together his own prayer book. Realizing that many people - including himself - often see prayer as a dull and robotic exercise in the fulfillment of a religious duty, he thought for years about ways to enable people to create their own prayer book, or siddur, in order to make the most of their experience.

A fellow at this year's PresenTense Institute, Varady earlier this month finally embarked on a daring project, creating a tool for "individuals and groups to build the siddur they've always wanted," as his Web site explains.

Varady is one of sixteen fellows currently participating in the Jerusalem-based PresenTense Institute, which for the third consecutive summer invited Jewish social entrepreneurs mostly from English-speaking countries into its headquarters on Emek Refaim Street to assist them in launching their various projects.

Sharansky Inherits a House Divided

By J.J. Goldberg July 1, 2009 Opinion

It looks like a turf war, but it’s more.

The two big communities are divided by a yawning gap in basic Jewish self-understanding. In America, being Jewish is about personal identity and voluntary engagement. In Israel it’s about membership in a Jewish polity.

Both sides want a relationship, a concrete expression of Jewish solidarity, but they can’t agree on what that means. American Jews keep looking for Israeli partners who share their independent, volunteer spirit, and they keep on bumping into politicians.

Israelis keep looking for an authoritative American Jewish institution with which to partner, and they keep finding — well, free spirits.

The Jewish Agency is where these differing perspectives collide. Its Diaspora leaders can’t see how a philanthropy can legitimately entangle itself in politics.

The Israeli leaders can’t imagine a national institution that isn’t political. Year by year the two communities’ self-understandings diverge further, defining common ground becomes harder and the Jewish Agency’s standing becomes more tenuous.

Whither goest PresenTense projects?

By Raphael Ahren July 3, 2009

During its first two years, the PresenTense Institute hosted nearly 30 fellows who launched various projects aiming to "equip the next generation of social entrepreneurs with the tools and ideas they need to go out into the world and make a difference," as CEO Ariel Beery put it.

Religion and State in Israel

July 6, 2009 (Section 2) (continued from Section 1)

If you are reading in email or RSS feed, please click here to read ONLINE

Editor – Joel Katz

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