Monday, January 5, 2009

Religion and State in Israel - January 5, 2009

Religion and State in Israel

January 5, 2009

Click here to read ONLINE

Editor – Joel Katz

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

IDF Chief Rabbi Blesses Soldiers as they Enter Battle

By Baruch Gordon January 5, 2009

IDF Chief Rabbi Avi Ronsky came to the Gaza front lines Sunday night in full battle gear to bless Israel's soldiers moments before they entered battle.

Rabbi Ronsky served as a former commander in an elite combat unit and fought in the Yom Kippur War.

Prayer for the South in Wartime

By Hana Levi Julian January 2, 2009

A new prayer written specifically for the besieged residents of southern Israel was approved this week by the Rishon LeTzion, former Sephardic Chief Rabbi Mordechai Eliyahu.

The prayer, which several youth movements have already adopted, has been distributed among both religious and secular Israelis.

The seven-line supplication asks G-d to protect residents of the south and IDF soldiers fighting terrorism.

It also asks Him to grant wisdom and strength to Israel's leaders.

English Translation

"May it be Your Will, L-rd our G-d and G-d of our forefathers, that You will have mercy on us and on all the residents of the south.

Protect us in the bounty of your kindness and spread out over us the shelter of Your peace.

Strengthen the arms of the fighting soldiers who protect us and give their souls for us.

Protect them and guard them from all misfortune.

Foil the plans of our haters and enemies; "Their swords shall plunge into their hearts and their bows shall break."

Sovereign of the Universe, give our leaders wisdom and courage and strength of heart to annihilate all of our enemies, and let the prayer of King David, may he rest in peace, come true regarding them: "I shall chase after my enemies and I shall catch up to them and I will not return until they are destroyed." Amen.

Western Wall: Hundreds pray for soldiers' wellbeing December 29, 2008

Several hundred people arrived at the Western Wall on Sunday to attend a lighting of the eighth Hanukkah candle and say a prayer for the wellbeing of IDF soldiers and the residents of Israel's southern communities.

Chief Sephardi Rabbi Shlomo Amar and Jerusalem District Police Chief Maj.-Gen. Ilan Franco were also present at the event.

Home Front Guidelines for Sabbath Services January 2, 2009

Col. Gil Shenhar of the IDF Home Front Command’s Southern District, has explained the instructions for holding communal Sabbath prayers in rocket-threatened cities.

Within a radius of 10 kilometers from Gaza, prayers are to be held only inside bomb shelters.  This includes Sderot, Kfar Maimon, and the new homes of former Gush Katif residents in Yated and Yevul. 

…The religious community is also advised to keep a radio tuned to the “Quiet Wave” near or in synagogues.  

Stations on the “Quiet Wave” broadcast silence, except for when an air raid siren occurs.  

Worshipers are advised not to congregate outside after the prayers, nor to bring children.

Putting their faith in Baba Sali and in the IDF

By Yanir Yagna January 4, 2009

The complexes housing the tombs of the famous rabbis in Netivot, which are usually full of worshippers, have changed since the Negev town found itself within rocket range of the Gaza Strip.

The tomb of Rabbi Israel Abuhatzeira, known as the Baba Sali, is almost deserted. 

Rabbi Yaakov Ifergan, known as "the X-Ray Rabbi," has canceled his customary all-night study sessions at his own father's grave, attendance at which is in the thousands. 

Rahamim, from Netivot, came yesterday to the Baba Sali's tomb. 

"I come to the Baba Sali especially now and ask him to protect us and all the people in the south so no one gets hurt," he said.

Some of the town's rabbis have said that the sanctity of the town and the righteous men buried there would protect it from Grad rockets, which would all land outside of town.

Under Missile Threat, Some Yeshivos Relocate and Some Stay Put January 4, 2009

After missiles began to fall in Ashkelon and Ashdod two Shabbosim ago, yeshivos all over the south coast and the Negev had to decide whether to remain in place or to relocate to safer pastures.

In Ashdod last Tuesday, a missile fell a short way from the chareidi neighborhood close to the Grodno yeshivas, a mere few meters from the homes of avreichim. 

A messenger was sent to ask Rav Elyashiv what the yeshiva should do...

Psalm Read Aloud on Army Radio

By Hillel Fendel January 4, 2009

In an unprecedented radio event, a chapter of Tehillim (Psalms) was read aloud during prime-time on IDF Army Radio, on behalf of the war effort.

The broadcasters were Kobi Arieli and Avri Gilad, who represent the religious-nationalist and left-secular viewpoints, respectively, on the humorous/political "The Last Word" show. 

Arieli introduced the segment by saying that he had received countless SMS messages since last night asking him to recite Psalm 20 on behalf of the ground troops entering Gaza.  

Gilad then said that he, too, had received one this morning.  They then agreed, tongue in cheek, that "in order to stop this flood of SMS messages," they would read aloud the Psalm on air.

Arieli then dedicated the next moments to the soldiers in Gaza, and recited: 

"May the L-rd hear thee in the day of trouble, May the Name of the G-d of Jacob strengthen thee out of Zion... Some trust in chariots, and some in horses - but we will call out in the Name of G-d.  They fall, but we are arisen and stand upright.  Save L-rd, O King, Who hears on the day that we call."

Chabad Reaches Out To Soldiers and Residents of Southern Cities December 31, 2008

Chabad Shluchim in Israel are offering a broad range of services to soldiers on the front lines in Gaza.

Utilizing the resources of the 230 Chabad Houses throughout Israel, Chabad representatives are visiting the soldiers on a continual basis, helping them to put on Tefillin, and bringing food packages to the troops.

"We’ve given out tons of Tehillim books and various literature," said Ofir Gozlan, director of the Chabad Judaica store in the Neve Zeev neighborhood of Beersheva. 

"Even the police came to us to get inspirational learning materials to distribute amongst themselves."

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Soldiers of Different Religions Serving Together

By Inbal Noy October 2, 2009

It seems that the Medical Corps’ Officer’s Course, which has come to a close at the military medical school Training Base 10, has become an IDF melting pot.

The current course graduates graduated with a certificate from the biggest Officers’ Course of the Medical Corps that was held at Training Base 10 in past years with 26 cadets.

Four of this course’s graduates were from four different religious backgrounds: Moti Shuv, a religious Jew from Ashkelon; Muhmad Chogierat, a Bedouin Muslim from the village of Bir el Maksur; Hisham Abu-Salach, a Druze living in the village of Beit Jann; and Rashel Hatzbani, a Christian from Haifa.  The first three even share the same room.  

Charity under fire

By Ruth Sinai January 4, 2009

Rubik Danilovich walks quickly toward his guest and embraces her. This is how the new mayor of Be'er Sheva carries himself, even amid the preparations for Hamas rocket barrages.

The guest is Dvora Ganani, the director general of the International Fellowship of Christians and Jews

She nonchalantly hands Danilovich a check for NIS 421,000, a gift from American Christians intended for needy Israelis. 

…The fellowship donates to welfare-related causes in 150 local and municipal councils.

In the Footsteps of the Maccabees: Celebrating Hanukkah with Soldiers

By Arnon Ben-Dror December 25, 2008

Around 20,000 soldiers are participating in Hanukkah celebrations that are organized by the Military Rabbinate as a part of their In the Footsteps of the Maccabees project. 

Around 3000 soldiers are participating in educational tours, as part of the project, to four sites around Israel that are historically significant in the story of the Maccabees:  Bet Guvrin, Tzipori, Jerusalem, and Gush Etzion. 

Soldiers will also come together for a Hanukkah candle lighting ceremony at the Latrun Amphitheater. 

The ceremony will be attended by the Chief Rabbis of Israel, Rabbi Shlomo Omer and Rabbi Yonah Metzger, and the Chief Rabbi of the IDF, Brig. Gen. Avichai Ronski.

Yeshiva students waiving IDF service on the rise

By Shahar Ilan January 2, 2009

Yeshiva students deferring the military draft make up one out of every seven Jewish 18-year-olds.

The percentage of these youths waiving their Israel Defense Forces service rose to 14 percent in 2007, up from 12.6 percent in 2006, according to figures presented to the High Court of Justice by the state in its response to a challenge to the Tal Law, which governs such deferrals. 

Information provided by the IDF shows that in 2000 9.5 percent of 18-year-olds received a deferment. In 2007, the number had risen to 14 percent.

Licht noted that 2.5 percent of those deferments were members of the national religious camp who study for a short time and then join the army. 

In 2008, 53,000 yeshiva students between the ages of 18 and 41 had deferred status, up from 30,400 in 1999. 

The number of students in hesder yeshivas (combining military service with yeshiva studies) is growing at average rate of approximately 2,500 students per year. 

Former Defense Minister’s Personal Connections with Israel Movement for Progressive Judaism’s Mechina January 1, 2009

Members of this year’s Mechina, the military preparatory course run for high school graduates by the Israel Movement for Progressive Judaism, recently hosted the country’s former defense minister, Moshe Arens, who has a grandchild in the program.

He spoke with participants about Israel’s security challenges, his own political views and his contribution to the country’s military industry.

Arens is an aeronautical engineer, and besides having been a professor at the Technion, he was a top executive with Israel Aerospace Industries both before and after serving in politics.

According to the director of the Mechina, Rabbi Aharon Fox, Arens was eager to learn about the program, its curriculum and activities, as well as its graduates, many of whom have gone on to top combat units and even become officers. (Fox says the class of 2006 has already produced three.)

The Mechina prepares youths for the rigors of army life by focusing on leadership capabilities, as well as on Jewish education and social responsibility.

Despite war: 250 new olim arrive in Israel January 3, 2009

Some 250 new olim have landed in Israel this week, undeterred by the raging war in the south.

The immigrants came from the United States, Canada and Britain in a joint operation of Nefesh B'Nefesh and the Jewish Agency. 

The olim arrived in Israel on four separate flights on Monday and Wednesday.

State sued for discriminating against Reform synagogues

By Nissan Shtrauchler January 4, 2009

The Ministry of Religious Affairs was recently sued by the Reform Movement in Israel for refusing to include Reform synagogues on its list of synagogues around the country.

The movement filed a lawsuit with the Kfar Saba Magistrate's Court based on the law against discrimination, which is usually applied in cases where individuals are refused entry to a nightclub due to their appearance or ethnic affiliation.

"We found out that the ministry's website features a database of synagogues from across the country, as well as 22 different prayer versions, but that not even one Reform prayer version or synagogue appeared on it," said Attorney Orly Erez- Likhovski who represented three Reform congregations in the case.

"We approached the Religious Affairs Ministry, but they ignored us. We therefore filed a lawsuit for discrimination on religious grounds.

"Shortly after that the list of synagogues has been taken off the site entirely, and despite the request of a magistrate court judge that it publish an updated list, the ministry refused to do so, even at the price of keeping the list of the site," she added.

In light of the ministry's refusal, the judge ordered the State to pay each of the synagogues $2,500 in compensation.

While satisfied with the court's ruling, the Reform movement remained disappointed with the Religious Affairs Ministry. 

"It's sad to discover that the heads of the Religious Affairs Ministry prefer to take the list of synagogues in Israel off the site rather than include Reform synagogues on it," said Rabbi Gilad Kariv of the Israel Religious Action Center of Reform Judaism.

"We believe that the court's ruling represents the opinion of most of the citizens of Israel, and that the day will soon come when the State of Israel will treat all the congregations of the Jewish people with respect and equality," he added.

The ministry said in response: "The minister of religious affairs can only be sorry for the court's conduct with regards to the Reform movement."

Rabbis probed for alleged incitement

By Aviad Glickman December 31, 2008

Deputy Attorney General Shai Nitzan instructed the police to launch an investigation against several prominent rabbis in the Orthodox community on suspicion of incitement.

Tuesday's decision followed petition filed by the Israel Religious Action Center (IRAC) back in March. 

IRAC filed its petition following several media reports suggesting Rabbi Chaim Kanievsky decreed that Jews were no longer allowed to hire Arab laborers.

IRAC also asked the State to investigate alleged incitement by other prominent rabbis, the likes of Yitzhak Shapira, David Druckman, Daniel Stavsky, Ido Alba and Rabbi Yehuda Kroizer.

The rabbis are suspected of issuing calls for revenge against Arabs following the attack on Mercaz Harav.

Criminal probe opened against rabbis who signed anti-Arab labor ads

By Tomer Zarchin and Nadav Shragai December 31, 2008

…Deputy Attorney General Shai Nitzan also ordered an investigation against a group of ultra-Orthodox kashrut supervisors in Jerusalem who tried to get the businesses they supervised to stop employing Arabs.

They were relying on a religious ruling by Rabbi Chaim Kanievsky that Jewish businesses should not employ Arabs. 

Nevertheless, Nitzan did not order a probe of Kanievsky, due in part to his old age.

Mir Yeshiva in Yerushalayim Faces Financial Crisis December 31, 2008

The financial situation of the Torah world grows increasingly dire as the global economic depression shows no signs of reversing.

The Mir Yeshiva of Israel, which has long been known as one of the world's most financially sound Torah institutions, is reportedly one month behind in it payments to Kollel students.

The Rosh Yeshiva of Mir, Rabbi Nosson Tzvi Finkel, announced within the past week that he cannot guarantee the stipends. 

"In regard to the past, present, and future, I do not make any pledges. I will try," he said. "The Yeshiva is in a worse state than people realize," said an administrator from the Mir.

Meanwhile, the administration of the Ponovezh Yeshiva has drained its budget to pay the student’s stipends, using up a significant portion of the funds allocated to it by the Israeli government. 

Ponovezh students will be forced to seek help from outside organizations to make ends meet in the coming days.

Sex in the Supermarket

By Dr. Elana Maryles Sztokman Kolech December 28, 2008

Rabbi Menachem Mendel Fox of Jerusalem has issued a ruling that supermarkets must create sex-segregated checkout lines, including men serving men and women serving women.

According to last week’s Kol Hair newspaper, this has already been implemented in the supermarkets in his Ramot neighborhood

…The reason why men like this rabbi continue to spew forth absurdities that put down women and men alike is because people follow him.

Sparks fly over poster campaign

By Miriam Bulwar David-Hay December 4, 2009

A poster campaign by ultra-Orthodox Jews in Netanya that aims to warn Jews against dating non-Jews has raised a red flag among the city's Russian immigrant community, reports

Russian community members say the posters appear to be directed against them and constitute racist incitement that may warrant police action.

According to the report, ultra-Orthodox Jews recently placed numerous large posters on billboards around the city saying:

"God despises licentiousness - A Jew does not go with a non-Jewish woman, a Jewess goes with a Jew. Go home." 

An unidentified ultra-Orthodox source said the posters were part of a fight against an "epidemic (of mixed relationships) that needs to be stopped."

Who Weeps for Rachel?

By Netty C. Gross January 4, 2008

Issue 20, January 19, 2009 The Jerusalem Report

Clutching worn prayer books, arriving in a steady stream of chartered buses from all over Israel, they come to the tomb of Rahel Imeinu, "Our Mother Rachel."

…Not all Orthodox women share the enthusiasm for the tomb.

Dr. Chana Kehat, an activist with Kolech, the Forum for Religious Women, a modern Orthodox feminist group, says that she stopped visiting the tomb in her teens when she abandoned the ultra-Orthodoxy of her youth and concluded that Rachel was not buried there.

Kehat says she is not fond of the practice of praying at the graves of the dead altogether but is "particularly disturbed" by the displays of religious fervor at Rachel's Tomb because the sorrowful image of the biblical Rachel crying merely reinforces "negative stereotypes" about women being emotionally weak.

"It is that very weakness," she says, "that appeals to the ultra-Orthodox and to women who reject the challenges of religious feminism.

State comptroller: Rabbi Shimon Bar Yochai tomb in 'very sad' state

By Eli Ashkenazi January 4, 2009

State Comptroller Micha Lindenstrauss called the situation he found yesterday on a fact-finding visit to the tomb of Rabbi Shimon Bar Yochai in Meron "very sad." 

The head of the Meron Galil Regional Council, Shlomo Levy, called on Lindenstrauss yesterday to "nationalize" the tomb, because it has "too many owners."

The state body responsible for holy sites recently took control of the tomb complex, much to the displeasure of the bodies actually running it. 

The state official in charge, Rabbi Shmuel Rabinovich, has reportedly been threatened.

Lindenstrauss noted the numerous unlicensed souvenir stands at the site and the lack of a proper sewer system.

"The place doesn't look the way it should," Shaul Tzemach, director general of the Tourism Ministry said. "There is not even a semblance of control."

Efrat's rabbi: Same-sex couple can raise a family

By Elad Tene January 1, 2009

"I don't object to gay-lesbian parents or single mothers bringing a child into the world, as long as they do so responsibly," 

said Rabbi Shlomo Riskin, the rabbi of the Efrat settlement, during a discussion on the subject of Orthodox Judaism and homosexuality Tuesday.

"The synagogue is meant to accept any Jew. I must love the foreigner, as well as those who are different. Our role as parents is to love our children, and the rabbis' role is to love the members of their congregation," he stated.

Despite all this, Riskin stressed the importance of adhering to Orthodox practices, and clarified that he could not advocate gay marriage instead of heterosexual ones.

Gillerman turns down offer of Jewish Agency chairmanship

By Haviv Rettig Gur December 30, 2008

Former UN ambassador Danny Gillerman has turned down a request that he run for chairman of the Jewish Agency, The Jerusalem Post has learned.

The position is expected to become vacant following February's national election, as current Chairman Ze'ev Bielski is No. 15 on Kadima's Knesset candidates list.

…As the search continues, sources within the agency believe there is a desire to move away from candidates who represent political parties. 

Thus, the people being considered for chairmanship - some have not yet been approached - include businesspeople Ofra Strauss, Eitan Wertheimer and Avi Naor, and veteran educator Avraham Infeld.

One politico who agency officials are considering approaching is Labor MK Colette Avital.

Birthright Jewish project: Our budget has shrunk

By Ranit Nahum-Halevy January 2, 2009

"Every dollar we received, we spent in order to connect another Jew with his roots. Our budget was on an enormous upward trend, but it will be smaller next year, partly because of the huge campaign we led in honor of the state's 60th anniversary," 

said Gideon Mark, the CEO of Birthright, at a conference held in Jerusalem's International Convention Center last Thursday. 

"In terms of funding, from today on it is a question mark," said Mark.

"Birthright is a success story of the Jewish nation, but to our regret we have not succeeded in guaranteeing the funding for even another two years.

We have to struggle every year," he said. Mark expects the contributions of 2009 to drop 38% compared with 2008.

U.S. gold medalist ready to dive in and help Birthright

By Raphael Ahren January 2, 2009

Swimmer Benjamin Wildman-Tobriner, the three-time world champion and Olympic gold medalist, is currently in Israel - not to compete but as one of many young Americans in the country this winter on free Birthright Israel trips.

"While I was raised to be a proud Jew, I didn't really have a strong connection to Israel," said the 24-year-old San Francisco resident, who won gold in Beijing with the 4 x 100 meter freestyle relay. 

'Papal visit to Israel could help Catholic-Jewish ties' www.jta.orgJanuary 1, 2009

A papal trip to the Holy Land would be a decisive step in overcoming the problems that still dog Catholic-Jewish relations, a senior Vatican official said.

Cardinal Walter Kasper, the Vatican official in charge of relations with Jews, made his remarks in an interview Wednesday in the official Vatican newspaper, L'Osservatore Romano.

Love Thy Neighbor - What’s behind evangelical support for Israel?

By Jeremy Gillick December 30, 2008

In his book Evangelicals and Israel: The Story of American Christian Zionism, Stephen Spector, a freewheeling professor of English at Stony Brook University and author of Operation Solomon: the Daring Rescue of the Ethiopian Jews, makes the case for a more nuanced understanding of Christian Zionists.

Based on a range of evangelical and academic literature as well as dozens of interviews with evangelical leaders and American and Israeli officials, Spector argues that we’ve misunderstood a large, rich, and diverse religious group—at both their expense and our own. 

Local Testimony - Religion and Faith January 2009

The "Local Testimony" exhibition is held each year together with the World Press Photo exhibition, and presents the best of local photojournalism.

Since it was first held in 2003, hundreds of thousands have visited the exhibition and its accompanying website.

The exhibition has become the major, fascinating and popular event in the field of newspaper and magazine photography in Israel.

Religion and State in Israel

January 5, 2009

Click here to read ONLINE

Editor – Joel Katz

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