Monday, November 2, 2009

Religion and State in Israel - November 2, 2009 (Section 1)

Religion and State in Israel

November 2, 2009 (Section 1) (see also Section 2)

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.

Naomi Ragen on battle against segregated buses October 28, 2009

Naomi Ragen, whose bestselling novels often deal with Haredi society and the tensions between strict social restrictions and the desire for freedom, said that speaking as a religious woman, there was no halachic problem with mixed seating of men and women on buses.

"That was the opinion of Rabbi Moshe Feinstein, may his memory be a blessing, who is considered one of the most important rabbis in the US in recent decades," she said.

Moving Backward: A Look at "Mehadrin" Bus Lines

By Naomi Ragen Opinion November 3, 2009

If, then, there is clearly no halakhic problem, what is really behind the sudden rise of Hareidi demands that public buses in Israel be sex-segregated, women banished to the back door and the back seats?

…When did this status quo suddenly become unacceptable? And more importantly, why?

Is this really a battle over religious observance? Or is it a battle over something far less holy, and far more prosaic?

'Bus segregation is legal if voluntary'

By Dan Izenberg and Matthew Wagner October 28, 2009

A special committee appointed by the Transportation Ministry recommended on Tuesday conducting a yearlong trial during which passengers on "mehadrin" public bus lines would be allowed to enter from either the front or the rear doors, so those who wished to maintain gender separation could do so.

However, the committee stressed that the separation of the genders must be solely on a voluntary basis, that the passengers riding on these buses may not impose it coercively and that bus drivers would be responsible for intervening to prevent coercion if it arose.

Transport Ministry: 'Kosher' bus lines illegal

By Kobi Nahshoni October 28, 2009

The High Court panel, composed of Justice Elyakim Rubenstein, Justice Salem Jubran, and Justice Yoram Dantziger debated the report after it was handed to them Tuesday morning.

The judges ordered that each side deliver its response to the report to the minister of transportation, and that the state would be required to deliver its own response within 30 days. At this point the court will give its verdict.

Haaretz Cartoon by Erin Wolkowski October 28, 2009

"Jews, Save Us!"

Labor MK Hopes to Ban Gender Separation on 'Mehadrin' Buses

By Hana Levi Julian October 27, 2009

Labor MK Ophir Pines-Paz has called on Transportation Minister Yisrael Katz to end the separation between men and women on the hareidi-religious bus lines, citing findings by a ministry committee investigating the issue.

"I intend to bring my bill to the Ministerial Committee [on legislation] next week," Pines-Paz announced. "Such separation is an outrage; there is nothing similar in any proper country."

Transport Ministry to release report on segregated bus lines

By Dan Izenberg October 27, 2009

"Travel in Security - Travel with Egged"

In its response to the petition, the Transportation Ministry informed the court that there were 90 bus lines serving the Haredi community.

The permits granted by Egged for these lines did not oblige the women to sit in the back of the bus. Thus, the seating arrangement was voluntary. The ministry did not subsidize the fares on the segregated buses. It was the bus companies that offered lower prices than those charged on the integrated lines.

Egged told the court that it had begun to offer segregated buses to the haredi community to compete with "pirate" buses that were already offering that service. Most of the routes were new, the company said; it had not converted existing integrated routes into segregated ones. There were reasonable alternatives for non-haredi customers on integrated routes, Egged added.

Egged said it could not run segregated and integrated buses on the same routes because there was insufficient demand. Finally, it said the bus lines were not discriminatory because there was an inherent difference between haredi and non-haredi society.

Poll: Majority Oppose Gender-Segregated Bus-Lines

By Matthew Wagner October 26, 2009

According to the survey, even among haredi Israelis 29 percent are in favor of doing away with or limiting the use of gender segregation.

Among Shas voters 48% supported abolishing or limiting the segregation, while among United Torah Judaism opposition was lower, at 20%.

Meanwhile, among religious Zionists a total of 88% expressed varying degrees of opposition to the use of gender segregation.

Separate but equal: Can 'Mehadrin' buses be OK?

By Rabbi Andrew Sacks Opinion October 29, 2009

The writer is Director of the Masorti [Conservative] Movement's Rabbinical Assembly in Israel

I believe that a public bus company may seek to meet the needs of a specific segment of its customers - as long as it does not come at a significant cost to others. This means that there may be room for segregated buses.

The preferred solution, I believe, is a private bus line that would serve the specific religious demands of the user.

Ma’ariv Editorial on Mehadrin bus issue

By Rubik Rosenthal October 29, 2009

Ma'ariv calls on Transportation Minister Yisrael Katz to accept the recommendations of a committee he appointed and bar the Egged and Dan bus companies from operating lines to and from ultra-Orthodox areas in which women are obliged to sit at the back of the bus.

If the Minister does not, the author believes, "he will lose more of whatever prestige as he has left."

FOX capitulates to Haredim, removes billboards

By Kobi Nahshoni October 27, 2009

The FOX clothing chain announced Monday it would remove billboard ads depicting a young man and woman with only a blanket covering their upper bodies due to pressure from the ultra-Orthodox sector.

The ads, starring Bar Refaeli and Noam Tor, have been replaced by more modest advertisements of their winter line.

"FOX has decided to replace the pictures due to a number of appeals received by the chain over recent days. Despite the limited number of the appeals, the chain has decided to consider them because it is a fashion chain that appeals to the general public and all its sectors," a statement from the clothing chain said.

The chain's managers also apologized to the haredi public, claiming that no harm was intended.

Haredim oppose Bar Refaeli billboards

By Kobi Nahshoni October 26, 2009

The Haredi media is all abuzz after the "vain pictures" of model Bar Refaeli appeared on advertisements for FOX along the highway. The "modesty lobbyists" have already declared war against the popular clothing chain: "We will fight them with all our might."

The Holiness and Education Watch Chairman Rabbi Mordechai Balloy even hinted that he would initiate a boycott of FOX when he noted that "thousands of haredim buy at the chain."

FOX said in response that "the said advertising is part of FOX's winter campaign and the pictures shown representing day-to-day situations familiar to everyone. They are within the bounds of good taste.

This advertising had no intention of hurting the feelings of any sector, especially not those of the haredi public. The FOX chain serves, and will continue to serve loyally all of its customers from the various sectors."

Op-Ed: Israel must break growing stranglehold of religion

By Uri Regev and Stanley Gold Opinon October 28, 2009

The increased stranglehold of religion on the state has a dire impact on Israel today.

…Israelis want change. Israeli pollster Rafi Smith recently completed a large-scale public opinion survey commissioned by Hiddush showing that 83 percent of Israelis maintained that freedom of religion and conscience should be upheld in the State of Israel. But change will not occur by itself.

Israel: Jewish State or Orthodox State?

By Josh Rubin Opinion October 27, 2009

Josh Rubin is a senior at Solomon Schechter High School of Long Island.

Standing at the Western Wall this past summer, I felt profoundly uncomfortable.

As American Jews we too often place Israel on a pedestal rather than examine it critically and objectively.

In my opinion we, a large majority of North American Jews, are failing to be true Israel supporters. True supporters are there when Israel is right, but they should also be there to offer constructive criticism when there are unresolved issues in Israel.

I consider myself a strong supporter of Israel, which is why I am writing this article: to magnify the fine print so many of us overlook when we discuss the Jewish state.

Isn’t it time that Israel recognizes the fact that the vast majority of the Jewish community in and out of Israel is non-Orthodox?

Isn’t it time that Israel respects and accepts all Jewish beliefs? As supporters of Israel who are not afraid to offer constructive criticism, we must insist that Israel reflect and respect all Jewish beliefs regardless of denomination.

Poll: Which religious law would we add to books? October 27, 2009

Ynet-Gesher Foundation poll on religion-state issues

  • Secular & traditional populations would cancel the IDF exemption for yeshiva students (55% & 54% respectively).

Are you for or against closing malls and commercial centers on Shabbat?

  • 86% of the secular population came out in opposition;
  • 50% of the traditional voted against;
  • Religious and Haredi populations voted for closing malls on Shabbat (89% and 100% respectively).

US: Israel favorites Orthodox

By Matthew Wagner October 29, 2009

"Israeli government policy continued to support the generally free practice of religion, although government discrimination against non-Jews and non-Orthodox streams of Judaism continued," stated the 12,000-word report.

The Orthodox monopoly over marriage, burial and conversion was criticized by US State Department officials.

"Approximately 310,000 citizens who immigrated under the Law of Return but are not considered Jewish by the Orthodox Rabbinate cannot be married, divorced, or buried in Jewish cemeteries within the country," said the report.

"As in previous periods," the report continued, "the Religious Affairs Ministry failed to implement the 1996 Alternative Burial Law that established the right of any individual to be buried in a civil ceremony and did not utilize any of the money allocated in the 2008 budget for the development of civil/secular burial plots."

The report even went into surprising detail about the mandatory marriage counseling demanded by the Chief Rabbinate of all Jews - Reform, Conservative or Orthodox - before being married.

U.S. State Dept. International Religious Freedom Report 2009 - Israel

Israeli press and NGO's make State Dept.'s work easier

By Matthew Wagner Opinion October 29, 2009

Why would the US State Department go into so much detail about one brochure used by a marriage counselor? In a report on the infringement of religious rights in the Middle East it seems hardly worth mentioning the fact that some Israeli couples have the bad luck of being exposed to a little chauvinism.

The second half of the report, which scrutinizes the level of religious freedom provided by the Palestinian Authority, lacks such detailed accounts.

But of course the reason for the discrepancy is obvious: Israel has a robust, self-critical network of NGOs, news media and watchdogs that make the US State Department's job a heck of a lot easier.

Haredi activist teargases woman for using 'men only' sidewalk

By Yair Ettinger and Liel Kyzer October 29, 2009

An activist in Jerusalem's ultra-Orthodox Eda Haredit community was conditionally released from prison Monday, a day after his arrest for allegedly spraying an ultra-Orthodox woman with tear gas in the capital's Mea She'arim neighborhood.

Yoel Kraus was arrested after the woman filed a police complaint. The alleged attack occurred about two weeks ago, during the Sukkot holiday, as the woman was walking on a "men only" sidewalk, and refused Kraus' demand that she move to the women's side.

Eda Haredit: Organ donation is murder

By Kobi Nahshoni November 1, 2009

Following a Ynet report on the Chief Rabbinate's decision to recognize brain-respiratory death, thus allowing organ donations in accordance with Jewish religious laws, the Badatz, the Eda Haredit's high court, ruled that taking organs from a person in such a condition or removing him or her from life support is murder.

Hoop dreams

By Yair Ettinger October 27, 2009

Yitzhak David Grossman, a rabbi who is traveling across North America with the Maccabi Tel Aviv basketball team for a series of exhibition games with U.S. teams and for several conferences and dinners whose proceeds will benefit his charity, has hit a snag.

…What may be a problem for Grossman are the troubles awaiting him upon his return to Israel at the end of his North American travels. Lying in wait for him are rivals who are attempting not only to affect the financial future of his charity, Migdal Ohr, but also to besmirch the rabbi's reputation. They are also taking steps intended to keep the rabbi of Migdal Ha'emek from realizing his dream of winning a heated race for chief rabbi of Jerusalem.

That dream may go unrealized because of a surprising step taken by Lithuanian ultra-Orthodox leader Rabbi Yosef Shalom Elyashiv, who recently added his signature to a letter prohibiting charities from accepting donations from the International Fellowship of Christians and Jews.

Accepting Gentile Charity October 25, 2009

Last week it was reported that Rabbi Yosef Shalom Elyashiv ruled that Jewish organizations in Israel may not accept funding from the International Fellowship of Christians and Jews. Presumably, this is because it is essentially accepting donations from Gentiles. I would, therefore, like to discuss the halakhic issues surrounding this and what room there is to be lenient.

Evangelical Funding Heats Up: Rival Groups to Reveal Names

By Hillel Fendel October 25, 2009

Following the recent ban by hareidi-religious authority Rabbi Yosef Shalom Elyashiv on receiving evangelical Christian funding, the Christian organization in question threatens to reveal the names of hareidi-religious organizations that receive such funding. In response, the website “Jewish Israel” says it will publicize the Jewish charity organizations and public institutions that do not.

Keep religion out of IDF

By Dror Ze’evi Opinion October 30, 2009

The defense minister and top defense officials must embark on an in-depth examination of the slow process whereby the army’s character is changing. They need to reexamine the way religious figures are integrated in the establishment in general, and in swear-in ceremonies in particular.

The New Jewish Convert

By Joan Alpert November/December 2009

A Muslim, a Mormon, a Baptist, a Protestant, a Chinese American, an African American, a Mexican American and the great-granddaughter of a Nazi officer tell their stories.

Yitzhak Jordan, aka Y-Love: A black Orthodox Jew and hip-hop artist creates rhymes from the Talmud

In Israel, I also became a rapper. Everything musical was from becoming Jewish. At the yeshiva, my first study partner, David, a white Jewish MC from Long Island, and I would freestyle as a way to learn Talmud better.

In 2001, when I returned to the U.S., David and I happened to be in Manhattan at the Orange Bear, and we took the open mike for two hours. Our only rhymes were the stuff we made up during yeshiva; they were in Aramaic about Torah and Talmud.

Nobody understood us, but they loved it. The club owner asked us to play every Thursday night. That’s how my hip-hop career started.

Tinamarie Bernard: The great-granddaughter of a high-ranking Nazi officer, she recently made aliyah

My second husband, an Israeli, and I each had been married for nine years to non-Jews before we met three years ago.

My father-in-law is a Holocaust survivor, and my beloved and I now have a young daughter, so imagine this: In two generations, two families inextricably linked by horror are now linked by marriage, love and a baby.

Each day I affirm my connections to Judaism. Our family made aliyah in August. It certainly feels like coming full circle, like finding the home I never knew I’d left.

VIDEO: A Green Chariot

Click here for VIDEO

Director: Gilad Goldschmidt

22-year-old Sasha has immersed himself in a religious community in Israel. He changes his name to Yair, speaks only Hebrew and has all but forgotten his Russian roots. When he receives a box filled with his late mother's belongings, his religious identity is shattered.

Netanyahu Cuts a Third from Religious-Zionist Education Budget

By Hillel Fendel November 1, 2009

The cuts affect yeshiva high schools, ulpanot (girls’ high schools), hesder yeshivot, girls’ midrashot, post-high school yeshivot, Torah core groups in development towns, seminars for Judaism and Land of Israel studies, centers for basic Jewish-Zionist education, and more.

'Woman refusing to walk on other street side attacked'

By Abe Selig October 27, 2009

Kraus is known to police most recently for his organizational role in the haredi riots that rocked the capital over the summer after the municipality decided to open a public parking lot near the Jaffa Gate on Shabbat.

Scores of police and rioters were injured during the months of unrest, which saw weekly confrontations between the two sides in front of the Karta parking lot, opposite the Old City.

Rabbinical ruling causes havoc on elevators

AP October 26, 2009

The ruling last month by one of Israel's leading rabbis (Rabbi Elyashiv), calling the elevators a no-go, has reignited a vigorous debate over the lifts, forcing Orthodox Jews living on top floors to decide if they're up for the steep hike home from synagogue on Saturdays.

The decision stretches far beyond Israel's borders.

Proponents of the lifts say followers need not change their habits.

"I think people understand nothing has changed technologically," said Rabbi Israel Rozen, head of the Zomet Institute, which specializes in Sabbath-appropriate electrical equipment. He supports the use of Sabbath elevators.

Haredi father blocks burned toddler from Hadassah

By Ronen Medzini October 30, 2009

A 16-month-old toddler, who was severely burned when boiling water spilled on her, was hospitalized Friday morning in Shaare Zedek Medical Center in Jerusalem, which does not have a burn unit, because her father opposed her hospitalization in Hadassah Ein Kerem Hospital.

The father justified his insistent refusal, claiming that "the rabbi advised otherwise."

i-rox to train Haredi women as software engineers

By Shmulik Shelah October 25, 2009

i-rox Software Products Ltd. will train 20 haredi women as software engineers. 100 Haredim applied for the three-month course.

i-rox CEO Yehudit Suissa said that demand for the course has soared, requiring the company to hire a large number of personnel.

Remembering Rabbi Shlomo Lorincz

By Jonathan Rosenblum Opinion October 29, 2009

I am convinced that if we could just clone 40 more like Lorincz, it would be possible to bring about a mass return-to-religion movement in this country, so great was the kiddush Hashem in his every word and deed.

Behind-the-Scene Discussions about Carta Parking Lot Proposal

By Yair Alpert November 1, 2009

Protests against the opening of the Karta parking lot in Yerushalayim have lessened somewhat and it has now been learned that negotiations are ongoing behind the scenes between representatives of the Eidah Hachareidis and the Yerushalayim Municipality in an attempt to find a solution to the satisfaction of both parties.

The arrangement being discussed would have the parking lot being transferred each Shabbos to an Arab businessman. The parking lot would be operated by a Shabbos goy and chillul Shabbos would thus be avoided, at least from that standpoint.

Skverer Rebbe to Gerrer Rebbe: Cell Phone is ‘Yeitzer Hara of the Generation’

By Dovid Bernstein October 31, 2009

Calling the cell phone “the yeitzer harah of this generation,” the Skverer Rebbe told the Gerrer Rebbe that shortly, his kehillah would be releasing a new kosher phone that would have several security features, including the inability to send text messages.

A Look at Badatz Beit Yosef

By Yechiel Spira October 27, 2009

A look at Badatz Beit Yosef organization, launched by HaGaon HaRav Ovadia Yosef Shlita, and run today by one of his sons, HaGaon HaRav David Yosef.

The Badatz Beit Yosef began about 20 years ago, with R’ Ovadia Yosef deciding it was time to actualize a kashrut organization that adheres to the rulings of “Maran”, the Beit Yosef, the halachic authority for Sephardim.

From Judaism to Islam and back again

By Matthew Wagner October 27, 2009

This week X arrived at the rabbinical court in Jerusalem and asked to declare her faith to Judaism. Although Judaism does not recognize conversions to other religions and someone born a Jew remains Jew for life, X nevertheless wanted to be sure no doubts would be cast on her status.

Religion and State in Israel

November 2, 2009 (Section 1) (see also Section 2)

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.

All rights reserved.