Monday, January 19, 2009

Religion and State in Israel - January 19, 2009

Religion and State in Israel

January 19, 2009

Click here to read ONLINE

Editor – Joel Katz

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

Rabbi Lau: Large number of religious troops not to be ignored

By Kobi Nahshoni January 19, 2008

Rabbi Yisrael Meir Lau, the chief rabbi of Tel Aviv-Yaffo and former chief rabbi of Israel, praised on Monday the yeshiva and pre-military religious program graduates who "took the place of the boys from the labor collectives in serving in combat units at a higher rate to their relative proportion in the general population."

…The rabbi told of how he took action in the past to establish and expand the pre-military religious programs and gained authorization for religious youth to delay military service by one to two years in order to provide pupils with a Torah education prior to volunteering to combat units.

Religious Zionism and the 'People's Army'

By Matthew Wagner January 19, 2008

But undoubtedly, the most dramatic change has been among religious Zionists. And one of the most dramatic catalysts of this transformation has been the creation of the religious pre-military academies.

Until the late 1980s, modern religious young men had two choices: enlist in the IDF immediately after high school along with tens of thousands of secular young men, or join one of a handful of Hesder Yeshivot that mix Torah learning with a shortened army service.

…In the mid-1980s Maj.-Gen. (res.) Amram Mitzna, then-OC Central Commander, who had been impressed by the high level of morale and idealism among religious Zionist soldiers, set in motion the establishment of religious pre-military academies.

…Bnei David, the first pre-military academy, was created in 1988 and was headed by Levinstein and Rabbi Eli Sadan. Today there are about a dozen religious pre-military academies and about ten secular ones.

In an interview with The Jerusalem Post last week, Sadan told how he had faced opposition from many leading religious Zionist rabbis. 

These rabbis actually tried to torpedo Bnei David before it was established, fearing that religious Zionists would abandon the Hesder Yeshivot, thus undermining Torah scholarship.

The Bostoner Rebbe's Tzitzis for Soldiers Campaign January 17, 2008

More protective than a bullet-proof vest! 

A pair of tzitzis for every soldier. 

Let's contribute to protecting the lives of our Jewish brothers fighting in Gaza...

Heroines of the home front

By Matthew Wagner January 18, 2008

Photo courtesy of Mirah Curzer

Since its founding 21 years ago, Bnei David has graduated 2,200 young men from its one-year, pre-military program. Over half of them became officers, the vast majority in combat units.

More than 100 went on to become middle-to-high ranking career officers in combat units. Many are fighting in Gaza.

Bnei David is producing some the IDF's most outstanding career officers, sparking a literal revolution in the role of religious-Zionist men in the IDF.

According to informal data (the IDF does not have separate data on religious soldiers), anywhere between 30 and 50 percent of graduates from officers' training courses are wearers of "knitted kippot," at a time when their percentage of the total population is around 10-15%.

But no less important has been the impact on religious-Zionist women, who have had to support the military careers of their husbands.

These women have had to cope with the long stretches of separation, while knowing the day-to-day dangers of combat service faced by their husbands.

Soldiers turn to secret weapon: Jewish spirituality

By Matthew Wagner January 14, 2008

[An IDF] rabbi said that numerous guest lecturers, rabbis who belong to the IDF's Jewish Consciousness Division, have visited the soldiers to boost their spirits before the go to battle. The soldiers were very receptive, he said.

Rabbi Aharon Pruss, who heads Chabad outreach activities aimed at IDF soldiers, said a special emphasis is put on encouraging soldiers to don tefillin.

"The rebbe [the late Rabbi Menachem Mendel Schneerson] said before the Six Day War that tefillin provide soldiers with special protection against the nations in times of danger," said Pruss, who referred to a biblical verse that infers that when a Jew wears tefillin, the nations of the world fear him.

"When our emissaries go to meet the soldiers, there is a tremendous demand to put on tefillin. They line up to do the mitzva, even though they do not put tefillin in normal times."

He said that another form of spiritual protection is assigning each soldier a letter in a Torah scroll that is in the process of being written, that corresponds to the soldier's name. 

Pruss said that this belief is based on a verse from the Book of Daniel.

OU Campaign to Provide Religious Items to IDF Soldiers January 14, 2008

In response to requests from Army commanders and rabbis in the field, the Orthodox Union today called on its synagogue network across North America to arm Israeli soldiers in Gaza with “spiritual ammunition” by conducting immediate fundraising campaigns to provide them with tefillin (phylacteries), tzitzit (fringed garments)  and tehillim (books of Psalms).

“The IDF arms the soldiers with their military weaponry. The OU’s mission is to arm them with spiritual ammunition as they put their lives at risk,” declared OU Executive Vice President, Rabbi Tzvi Hersh Weinreb.

Soldiers turn to secret weapon: Jewish spirituality

By Matthew Wagner January 14, 2008

According to an IDF rabbi stationed with Golani and Kfir Brigade soldiers near Tze'elim in the Negev, where they are preparing to enter Gaza, there is a tremendous thirst for anything spiritual.

The rabbi, who asked to remain anonymous because the IDF Spokesman had not given him permission to speak to the press, said that more than 1,500 sets of tzitzit, the four-cornered fringe garment religious men wear under their shirts, had been distributed to soldiers "who want the segula [spiritual protection] of being wrapped in a mitzva.

"Tzitzit are a heavenly flak jacket," the rabbi added.

The money to finance the tzitzit was raised by Radio Kol Hai, a religious radio station.

Many soldiers naturally turn to God in the face of warfare, the rabbi said.

"In Golani, there is a large percentage of Sephardi soldiers who might not wear a kippa all the time, but who have a strong faith in God. At times like this, when they face the dangers of war, that basic religious faith expresses itself.

"Dozens of soldiers here carry Psalms with them into battle as another form of spiritual protection. Some carry two books for a double effect," he said.

Grad rocket nearly strikes worshipers at synagogue

By Yanir Yagna January 18, 2008

Dozens of worshipers in a community near the city of Ofakim narrowly escaped injury yesterday when a Grad rocket hit a study hall adjacent to the synagogue where they were praying.

"We were in the middle of the shacharit morning prayer service and the rabbi just said the word vishmarech ["you shall be guarded" in Hebrew) when we heard a loud bang," recounted Nissim Almog, one of the worshipers who witnessed the attack.

"The Grad hit the study hall next to the synagogue - it was a miracle. Even the windows shattered outward and my mother who was in the women's section was not hurt." 

Fighters' Jewish Spirit Returns

By IDF Rabbi (Translated by Hillel Fendel) January 15, 2008

Click here for VIDEO

The Golanchiks (Golani Brigade soldiers), about to go out to war, want to hold on to the Rock of Israel! 

There wasn’t a soldier there who didn’t equip himself with a Tehillim in his pocket or combat vest - but the big surprise we had was when we gave out tzitzit [four-cornered shirt with the required ritual fringes attached]. 

Usually only the yeshiva guys take them, but this time, every soldier there seemed to want one!

“Rabbi, bring me some tzitzit, my whole tent wants.” “Hey, achi [my brother], take one of these, it’s better than the ceramic vest!” 

These were the types of calls we kept hearing over and over. Every package of tzizit that we opened was snatched up within seconds.

There was one young fighter who came to the synagogue whose face fell when he heard that there were no tzitzit left. 

He was totally bereft, until one of the officers who wasn’t going out to battle took off his own tzitzit and gave it to him, saying, “Take it, achi (in the Golani you can’t say something without achi), you need it now more than I do.”

Support the Soldiers

We are sending tzitzit to Israeli soldiers. These are special tzitzit, with a green, cotton beged

The soldiers are protecting us. The tzitzit are protecting the soldiers. $10 per pair. Tizku! 

There has been great success already. Religious and non-religious soldiers are wearing these tzitzit. 

Proof texts

By Rabbi David Golinkin Opinion January 19, 2008

The writer is the president of the Schechter Institute of Jewish Studies in Jerusalem

Much has already been written about the war against Hamas in Gaza, but very few have asked the question: What can we learn from our sources about the current conflict?

Two words of warning before every battle

We must teach our soldiers to remember two sources when they go out to fight our enemies: When Jacob heard that Esau was coming, it says: "And Jacob was greatly frightened and distressed" (Genesis 32:8) and the Midrash explains: "frightened - lest he be killed; and distressed - lest he kill" (Genesis Rabba 76:2).

When Israel left Egypt "the angels wanted to sing. Said God: "My handiwork [the Egyptians] are drowning in the sea - and you are singing?!" (Megila 10b).

Lev Ledaat Brings Torah to the Soldiers January 14, 2008

As part of his efforts to share Chasidic philosophy with Israel’s many yeshiva students, Rabbi Moshe Shilat created the Lev Ledaat network of evening learning programs.

Six months ago the students expanded on the concept, sharing their learning and inspiration to soldiers by making weekly visits to local army bases.

Lev Ledaat’s students meet with soldiers once a week in addition to four evenings of learning as a group. 

Classes on the bases are engaging and exciting, covering the Torah portion of the week, Chasidic philosophy and Kabbalah, and Jewish law. 

Once a month, the students arrange special gatherings to celebrate holidays and special events on the base.

The program enjoys the full support of the IDF’s Rabbinate who praised the students as “special young men who express the dedication and commitment of a soldier via their studies.”

Halachic ruling: Lives more important than bones

By Matthew Wagner and Judy Siegel January 15, 2008

Protecting Jews from Hamas's Grad rockets is more important than respecting the rest of the dead.

That is the unsurprising halachic decision issued Wednesday by the two chief rabbis of Israel regarding the ongoing controversy surrounding foundation construction at Ashkelon's Barzilai Medical Center.

The construction is designed to fortify the hospital against Grad rockets fired by Hamas terrorists in Gaza, by adding an underground operation room.

But the necessary digging will disinter Roman- or Byzantine-era graves, an act that is prohibited according to Jewish law if the bodies are Jewish - which is unclear.

Last week Chief Ashkenazi Rabbi Yona Metzger reasoned that since the digging is aimed at saving lives, and since there is a doubt whether the bones are Jewish, building the underground room takes precedence over not disturbing the deceased.

The Chief Rabbinate's Governing Council ratified Metzger's decision, which was also backed by Chief Sephardi Rabbi Shlomo Amar.

The quick, the living or the dead

By Ronny Linder-Ganz January 16, 2008

"As soon as we started to dig, the Antiquities Authority showed up, told the Religious Services Ministry [that graves had been found], and everything stopped. Then the talking began," says Scharf.

"I agreed to compromise on a solution that would have involved losing 10, 15 beds in the emergency room so they could start building.

But then the Hevra Kadisha [burial society] people began running around the place, checking every stone and speck.

"They turned the place into a virtual minefield. There were places that they declared were graves, though according to the Antiquities Authority, there's no grave there or anything else.

But everybody - the Antiquities Authority, the Religious Services Ministry and the Prime Minister's Office - stood at attention. It's a disgrace." 

Kashrut supervisor fired over divorce

By Artzi Halfon January 17, 2008

Tel Aviv's Religious Council recently fired the newly divorced kashrut supervisor of the David Intercontinental Hotel for fear that he would take advantage of his work in order to host women in the hotel room he stays in during weekends.

The man, Moshe Wahab, decided to take the case to court, and the judge ruled that the suspension was faulty and discriminative.

You Can Run But You Can’t Hide – Israeli Rabbis Pursue Husbands who Flee Without Giving a Get

By Naomi Klass Mauer November 26, 2008

…Rabbis Eliyahu Ben Dahan and Shmuel Gamliel of Israel's High Rabbinic Court in Jerusalem [have] come up with a simple plan that should have far-reaching results.

While one cannot turn to a U.S. court to implement a get, an order for child support given by a bet din in Israel is enforceable in the U.S.

As weeks and months go by and a recalcitrant husband not only refuses to give his wife a get but doesn't send child support either, the money he owes begins to add up until eventually a lawyer in the state where the husband resides serves him with child support papers.

Before a court hearing can even be held, Rabbi Gamliel and members of ORA contact the husband and suggest he give a get so that the matter will end right there.

Faced with large financial obligations, many men have opted to give the Get by shaliach (messenger) and avoid the whole court scene.

The Beth Din of America is happy to arrange the get and the woman is finally freed.

See also:

ORA Resolves another Case - Woman Receives Her Get after 4 Years of Waiting—ORA Resolves its 93rd Case

Haredim negotiate for mehadrin El Al flights

By Matthew Wagner January 12, 2008

In another example of how market forces serve religious faith, El Al is in advanced negotiations with representatives of the haredi community to provide super kosher or "Mehadrin" flights.

If the deal between the sides is sealed, the flights, which would begin this Pessah season, would adhere to strict gender separation, Glatt kosher food and no secular on-flight movies

The gender separation would include male flight attendants for haredi male travelers. Haredi females would be served by both male and female flight attendants.

El Al Flight from Madrid to Tel Aviv Delayed until Motzei Shabbos to Avoid Chilul Shabbos

By Yechiel Sever January 15, 2008

El Al issued instructions to delay until Motzei Shabbos a flight scheduled to depart from Madrid and land in Israel late Friday afternoon.

Flight 396 was scheduled to land in Israel at 3:20 p.m. local time. The plane had already left the terminal with dozens of passengers on board, but as it started to taxi towards the takeoff runway a powerful snowstorm began to brew, causing a delay.

The captain notified El Al's operations and control department that the takeoff was being delayed for two hours, meaning the estimated arrival time would be very close to candle lighting time in Israel.

After consulting with the company's rabbi, Rav Yochanan Chayut, a decision was made to delay the entire flight until Shabbos ended in Madrid. 

All of the passengers were provided with accommodations at hotels in the city.

Court: No more wall separating Ashkenazim, Sephardim

By Kobi Nahshoni January 15, 2008

After a year of deliberations, High Court Justices Edmond Levi, Hanan Meltzer and Edna Arbel ordered the Beit Yaakov religious school and the Independent Education Center to nullify within a week all discriminatory practices and protocols that separate between Ashkenazi and Sephardic students, including the removal of a wall in the school's courtyard, unifying the two teachers' rooms meant for two different "learning tracks" and cancellation of the unlawful levies on parents of students in the "Ashkenazi-Hasidic track."

In the decision handed down by the court, it was also decided that the Emanuel Regional Council is to present an arrangement acceptable to all parties for the separation of the school's various learning tracks, otherwise the High Court will not authorize the existence of separate learning tracks in the school.

Haredi men address women's medicine meet

By Yair Ettinger January 16, 2008

Hundreds of religious and ultra-Orthodox men thronged to lectures on woman's sexuality, fertility, menstruation and birth control in Jerusalem yesterday in the "Innovations in Women's Medicine" conference.

All the lecturers were men while the women, who also came in the hundreds, had to sit behind a barrier in the ninth annual conference held by the Puah Institute, dedicated to women's medical and halakhic issues. 

Conference organizer Rabbi Benjamin David:

“…it's a matter of modesty. We are a very open institute but we have our limits and we don't think it proper for a woman to stand on the stage and address 1,000 people." 

Environmentalists Oppose Eilat Mehadrin Beach January 18, 2008

A new Mehadrin beach in Eilat has led to a dispute between the Ministry for the Environment and the Eilat municipality.

Eilat Mayor Meir Yitzchak Halevi recently approved the construction of a partition dividing between the separate beach and an adjoining beach. 

To date, the partition ends 3-4 meters past the shoreline, but the municipality plans to extend the wall dozens of meters into the water.

…"The separate beach provides a solution for thousands of the city’s residents and vacationers who belong to the religious community," the Eilat municipality said in a statement.

"The works for the separate beach are close to completion and have a legal building license."

Madoff Victims Include 'Rachemstrivker' Chasidus January 18, 2008

…Not only did [Madoff] hurt Yad Sarah and other Israeli institutions, including universities, but also the Rachemstrivker Chasidic movement headquarters in Jerusalem.

According to information obtained by, a grand festive dinner said to be scheduled for less than two weeks from now in the United States was cancelled at the last minute due to the Madoff scandal.

Apparently, the Jewish millionaire ensnared Rachemstrivker institutions in his net, with the dinner at which Madoff was to be guest of honor cancelled.

In the wake of the cancellation, the Rachemstrivker Rebbe, shlita, also decided to cancel his planned visit to the U.S. The Rebbe is currently staying in Tiveria.

Alleged local Ponzi scam targeted ultra-Orthodox

By Yuval Maoz and Nati Toker January 15, 2008

Could Ilan Morgan be a local twist on Bernard Madoff? The two have at least two things in common: They promised phenomenal returns on investments, and are under house arrest.

But there the similarities end: Madoff has admitted to running a Ponzi scheme, possibly the biggest in history, and he targeted the rich.

Morgan, a portfolio manager and former convict, hasn't admitted to conning clients and he targeted the ultra-Orthodox community. 

New mayors turn focus to local agendas - Jerusalem

By Jonathan Lis January 15, 2008

One of the initial steps taken by Jerusalem's new mayor, Nir Barkat, as part of his efforts to bring about a "secular agenda," was a significant change in the municipal budget: the budget for cultural institutions in the city was doubled from NIS 10 million to NIS 20 million, and the budget of the youth movements and sports associations in Jerusalem was significantly increased.

In an unusual step, Barkat succeeded in bringing all the factions of the city council into the coalition, with the exception of a single city council member who has remained in the opposition.

For the first time, the administration of the city includes a deputy mayor from Meretz and alongside him a deputy from the ultra-Orthodox United Torah Judaism faction. 

Barkat's city council has taken away those portfolios from the ultra-Orthodox that they have held in recent years: the finance portfolio and the planning and construction portfolio have remained in the hands of Barkat's Jerusalem Will Succeed faction.

The members of the ultra-Orthodox factions received sectoral portfolios, which deal with the education and culture of the ultra-Orthodox population. 

Budgeting for success

By Peggy Cidor January 15, 2008

Jerusalem Municipality Finance Committee head David Hadari of Habayit Hayehudi (The Jewish Home):

"Jerusalem suffers from being the capital of Israel and the largest city," he says.

He goes on to explain that

"Other cities do not host government ministries, in addition to so many organizations, such as NGOs and cultural institutions, not to mention the large number of religious institutions which are, by law, exempt from arnona.

Regarding the religious institutions, we understand that churches and mosques, as well as synagogues, should not pay arnona.

But what happens when a church has a guest house or reception hall? We believe they should pay taxes for them, but the Foreign Ministry warns us not to create a diplomatic incident. 

Okay, we won't cause trouble, but we expect the government to pay the difference - after all, is it the residents of Jerusalem's fault? Why should they have to bear the burden of these issues?"

And by the way, we're talking about a lot of money - some NIS 220m. for the religious institutions, and about twice that amount from ministries that don't bother to pay their municipal taxes.

A New Vision of Israeli Society: Professor Alon Tal and the New Meimad-Green Movement Party

By Dr. Elana Sztokman January 16, 2008

“What I like about this merge is how it blends secular, young Jews and mostly religious or traditional Jews,” Tal emotes.

“We were so excited about a partnership with this party, even though they had a rabbi with a black suit on as their head and the people in our party were much more secular – because we thought that was something as a statement of sorts.

It was good for the country. All the polarization that exists in Israeli society is fabricated by larger parties and manipulated by them. 

While in fact, on the key day-to-day issues, we don’t have any problems, and we have the same visions.”

Building a Bit of America in Beit Shemesh

By Nathan Jeffay January 15, 2008

Nofei Hashemesh’s unique selling point is that it is importing to Israel the American model of Modern Orthodox Jewish life, centered upon a synagogue led by a rabbi who acts as pastoral head and religious guide.

It is selling property but marketing a lifestyle — a close-knit Orthodox community led by a charismatic rabbi, who is himself an import from America.

“American rabbis are like shepherds to their communities, something that is missing in Israel. I believe that by bringing in this model to Israel, we can have a far more lively kind of community,” the project’s developer, Shelly Levine, told the Forward.

Birthright Nails Down Adelson’s $20-Million Pledge

By Anthony Weiss January 12, 2008

Birthright Israel, one of the most prominent organizations promoting Jewish identity among young adults, has worked out a deal with its largest donor to confirm a $20 million pledge that had been in question for the coming year.

…But Birthright now faces a major fundraising challenge to secure the pledge: The organization must still raise $10 million in new gifts — a heavy lift in a climate where non-profits are struggling just to hold onto existing donors. 

A modest proposal

By Rabbi Daniel Gordis Opinion January 18, 2008

The writer is senior vice president of the Shalem Center in Jerusalem.

…I herewith offer a "modest proposal" that would permit many more Diaspora Jews to be part of our angst and our joy, the tears and the celebrations of Israeli life.

They'd understand us better than they can from either their perches in suburban America or the luxury hotels in which they park themselves when they come for visits, and inevitably, they'd then make our case in ways that they simply can't right now.

Imagine a world in which every synagogue, every federation and every JCC purchased an apartment in Israel for its members to use on their visits.

Not some million dollar apartment in Baka or the German Colony, or an apartment in one of those tourist neighborhoods that turns into a ghost town between Succot and Hanukka, and then again until Pessah.

The kind of apartment that I'm suggesting would cost substantially less than that. It wouldn't have to be palatial. It could be in Tel Aviv, or Haifa, or Kfar Saba.

Ziegler-Schechter split highlights Conservative divisions

By Ben Harris January 15, 2009

In a further sign that the American and international wings of the Conservative movement are moving in different ideological directions, a Los Angeles rabbinical seminary has ended its longstanding residency program with Machon Schechter in Jerusalem, the only institution that ordains Conservative rabbis in Israel.

Beginning this fall, third-year students at the Ziegler School of Rabbinic Studies will spend their Israel year at the Conservative Yeshiva, a co-educational institute for Diaspora Jews housed at the Fuchsberg Center of the United Synagogue for Conservative Judaism, the movement's North American synagogue umbrella. 

The change was announced last week in a memo to the United Synagogue's staff and board members.

A giant of Orthodoxy

By Rabbi Reuven Hammer Opinion January 15, 2008

The writer is an author and lecturer who serves as the head of the Rabbinical Court of the Masorti Movement.

The recent passing of Rabbi Emanuel Rackman, of blessed memory, deprived the Jewish world of one of its outstanding leaders and left Orthodoxy the poorer by removing one of its most inspired and inspiring figures.

Rackman represented Orthodoxy at its best, combining strict adherence to Jewish law with respect for modern learning, both religious and secular.

He was known for his bold approach to solving problems of divorce within the framework of Jewish law in a way that would have alleviated the suffering of so many women.

Unfortunately there were not enough other Orthodox rabbis who were willing to adopt his stance.

…Indeed one of the tragedies of Jewish life here is the fact that the Chief Rabbinate has been taken over by those closer to the haredi world than to the modern Orthodox model.

Can one even imagine a rabbi in the mold of Rackman as chief rabbi of Israel?

Israel Reform Movement appoints new Director

ProjeNews January 18, 2008

The Israel Movement for Progressive Judaism Welcomes its New Executive Director, Rabbi Gilad Kariv, Esq. 

The IMPJ would like to introduce its new Executive Director, Rabbi Gilad Kariv. The appointment was officially approved by the IMPJ Board on January 7, 2009 and began on January 15, 2009.

For the last 11 years, Rabbi Kariv has been an active and committed member in the Israel Movement for Progressive Judaism (IMPJ).

During the last four years he served as the Associate Director of the Israel Religious Action Center (IRAC)...

Custom, Prayer and Ceremony - The Jews of the Land of Israel

Foto Friday - Yuval Nadel

By Rachel Neiman January 16, 2009

Click here for PHOTOS

The world of haredi observant Jews is one that most secular Israelis never get a chance to see - and if they do, they find it alien, even threatening. 

Photographer Yuval Nadel, an Israeli-born Jew with a secular up-bringing, became familiar with and learned to appreciate and respect the people who lead a religious lifestyle.

In a collection of photographs called “Custom, Prayer and Ceremony - The Jews of the Land of Israel”, he documents that meeting between secular and religious without trying to explain the lifestyle or Jewish customs.

Rites of Passage: In Cuba, a Revival in Judaism Leads Some to Israel

By Joel Millman January 14, 2008

While any Cuban, technically, is allowed to emigrate, very few get the required paperwork from the Cuban government or can raise the thousands of dollars required for documents and transportation off the island.

Jews bound for the Holy Land, however, can expect to have those fees paid by Israel.

...The journey from Havana to Jerusalem, however, isn't easy.

The process of converting to Judaism takes years and includes being approved by a council of elders at the synagogue and then an ordained rabbi.

Since Cuba has none, usually converts have to wait for a visiting rabbi from Israel, Argentina or Chile.

Last but not least, male converts have to submit to a ritual circumcision. In 2007, dozens of adult Cuban men underwent circumcision as part of their conversion process.

Religion and State in Israel

January 19, 2009

Click here to read ONLINE

Editor – Joel Katz

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