Monday, March 2, 2009

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

Religion and State in Israel

March 2, 2009 (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.

Lieberman, religious parties optimistic

By Ronen Medzini March 3, 2009

On the issue of civil marriage a compromise offered by Shas would allow non-Jewish couples to wed in Israel. 

Lieberman accepted the proposal and, according to a participant in the meeting, said he was pro-halacha as long as it is not interpreted in an extreme way that discriminates against whole sectors of the population.

Ultra-Orthodox MKs said in response that a proper court would have to be appointed to handle such cases, and stressed that they would not agree to officially legitimize the marriage of Jews to non-Jews.

Regarding Lieberman's demand to ease the conversion process, the religious party leaders said they would agree to the easing of "bureaucratic restrictions", but nothing more.

Lieberman voters 'feel cheated'

By Daniel Edelson February 24, 2009

Yisrael Beitenu voters have voiced mixed feelings following the report that party chairman, Avigdor Lieberman, is willing to compromise on civil marriage to join a coalition with Shas.

Victoria, a 25-year-old Israeli who has a Jewish father and Christian mother, says she feels betrayed. 

"I voted for Lieberman because this was one of his cornerstone promises. Now I really feel cheated," she told Ynet.

Irit Rosenblum, founder of the 'New Family' organization, called on Lieberman not to compromise. 

"We're talking about hundreds of thousands of people who live in the State of Israel and who cannot wed, not to mention hundreds of thousands of others who would prefer alternate ways to marry..."

UTJ meets Likud for 'difficult' talks

By Gil Hoffman February 25, 2009

“There are problems with the issues of civil unions and conversions that we cannot accept," said UTJ chairman Ya'acov Litzman after the meeting at Ramat Gan's Kfar Maccabia Hotel. "We will consult with out rabbis and see what we can do."

'Elyashiv digging in over civil unions'

By Rebecca Anna Stoil March 1, 2009

Hours before Likud Chairman Binyamin Netanyahu's coalition negotiations were to resume, haredi party representatives late Saturday night denied any knowledge that Degel Hatorah mentor Rabbi Yosef Shalom Elyashiv had expressed opposition to any compromise on the issue of civil unions.

Likud, Nat'l Union: Public voted for a change in direction

By Attila Somfalvi February 26, 2009

Habayit Hayehudi will also demand that any change in the existing status quo agreements on the topic of religion and state be conditional on the agreement of coalition members.

The party also intends to advance MK Zevulun Orlev's proposal to shift the weekend to Saturday and Sunday, so that Shabbat can be reserved for spiritual and cultural issues and shopping centers can be open on Sunday for people to run errands.

Regarding the contentious issue of civil marriage, Habayit Hayehudi will demand that all legislation on the issue be coordinated with the Chief Rabbinate and conform to Halacha.

Religious women's groups ask Netanyahu to limit power of country's rabbinical courts

By Shelly Paz February 26, 2009

The directors of two religious women's organizations sent a letter to Likud leader Binyamin Netanyahu on Wednesday, ahead of the coalition talks with Shas and United Torah Judaism, asking him to restrict the jurisdiction of rabbinical courts to divorce cases only.

Attorney Batya Kahana-Dror, director of Mavoi Satum (Dead End), and attorney Ricki Shapira, director of Kolech (Your Voice), sent copies of the letter to Netanyahu, the heads of the Knesset factions, the coalition negotiators and every member of the new Knesset.

Kahana-Dror and Shapira wrote that expanding the rabbinical courts' authority as part of the negotiations to forge the next government would harm the status of women and increase the number of agunot - "chained women" - whose husbands refuse to grant them a divorce.

The two NGO heads also appealed to Netanyahu to appoint women to the committee responsible for choosing rabbinical judges.

In praise of civil marriage

By Zvi Triger Opinion February 26, 2009

Introducing civil marriage ceremonies that are equal and open to all is the only way to resolve the discrimination…

…Meanwhile, the “national split” that those who object to civil marriages warn us of should not deter us: After all, the “nation” has been split for a long time now; in any case, the daughter of a Hassidic leader cannot marry a secular man, even if both of them are unquestionably Jewish.

The partnership covenant proposed by Yisrael Beiteinu will merely serve to perpetuate the exiting problems, and therefore it would be best if such law is not passed in its current format. 

Civil marriage for all

Haaretz Editorial March 1, 2009

The bill to be presented this week by new MK Nitzan Horowitz of New Movement-Meretz is a worthy response to the coalition agreement apparently being drafted and which deals with "civil partnership."

Such partnerships, which have been proposed by Avigdor Lieberman and on which Shas and Likud have yet to form an opinion, are couched under the guise of a civil arrangement.

But in practice, they are nothing but a shrewdly crafted maneuver within the narrow boundaries of Orthodox hegemony, one that enhances the control of the rabbinate over marital unions in Israel. 

It's all about the money

By Yair Lapid Opinion March 2, 2009

…it isn't Jewish Law that our rabbis are concerned with, but rather, they are concerned for their business.

The Chief Rabbinate's offices cost us NIS 20 million (roughly $5 million) a year, and we spend NIS 350 million (approximately $90 million) on religious services (not including the funding granted to synagogues, religious councils, and rabbinical courts which are budgeted separately.)

To this, add the NIS 600 (roughly $150) marriage license fee, and the giant and flourishing kosher-certificate industry at banquet halls – someone may even ask what exactly they're doing with all this money.

This money is the only reason why they continue to abuse hundreds of thousands of people while showing rudeness and indifference, and without showing even a hint of the mercy that is the essence of Judaism.

IDF unlikely to shorten army service due to drop in eligible conscripts

By Anshel Pfeffer March 2, 2009

Last year, despite the army's efforts to increase enlistment rates, 25.8 percent of 18-year-old men and 44 percent of women did not enlist, and the army expects these rates to rise in the coming years.

The main factor fueling this growth has been the increase in men who obtain draft deferments to study in yeshiva and women who declare that their religious principles bar them from serving.

The former figure has more than doubled, from 4.9 percent of all 18-year-old boys in 1991 to 10.9 percent in 2008, while the latter has soared from 21.3 percent of all 18-year-old girls in 1991 to 34.6 percent in 2008. 

…Zamir said the army estimates that about 8 percent of all 18-year-old girls falsely declare themselves religiously observant to evade army service.

He noted that even at secular girls' high schools, 11 percent of all graduates sign such declarations. 

To put a stop to this phenomenon, the army has begun hiring private investigators to check out girls who sign the declaration.

Last year, Zamir said, 527 girls retracted their declarations after being confronted with photographic evidence of them violating the Sabbath, kissing men or otherwise demonstrating that they are not religiously observant. 

In an effort to increase draft rates among religious men, the army has started a new program to recruit drop-outs from ultra-Orthodox high schools.

Military won't let the facts get in the way of ideology

By Amos Harel March 2, 2009

[T]he army hired private investigators to tail girls suspected of falsifying their declarations. That has nabbed a few hundred draft-dodgers, but they are a drop in the ocean.

And the chances of actually changing the rules for obtaining religious exemptions anytime soon are near zero - especially if, as seems likely, a government dependent on the ultra-Orthodox parties is formed. 

IDF Intelligence and Navy Look to Hareidi-Religious

By Hillel Fendel March 1, 2009

Following in the footsteps of the Israel Air Force, the Navy and the Intelligence Corps have decided to run special recruitment programs for the hareidi-religious sector.

The service in the Navy will be a two-year stint, including technological training, an all-male environment and mehadrin kosher food. At the end of the two years, the hareidi soldiers will be offered the choice of continuing in the army as a career. reports that several hareidi soldiers who served in the Navy have been asked in recent weeks if they would enlist as career officers, in order to serve as counselors and guides for the expected new young hareidi soldiers.

Qualifying soldiers must have at least two children and will serve in naval bases in the Haifa area. Their basic training period will be a shortened version, and they will then undergo professional technological training.

A similar program is being planned for the Intelligence Corps: The soldiers will be trained in computer science and hi-tech professions, and will work with classified information in bases in central Israel.  

The Intelligence program has been code-named Binah Yerukah (Green Insight), and will begin after the Passover holiday, some two months from now.

After Haaretz probe, IDF limits rabbinate activities

By Amos Harel March 2, 2009

The Israel Defense Forces Personnel Directorate released a document limiting the military rabbinate's involvement in educational activities, after a Haaretz report exposed the right-wing political content mixed with religious material the rabbinate was distributing to soldiers. 

The official said the army would be monitoring whether the rabbinate follows the new guidelines. 

Embrace commandment of war, Hesder students told

By Yaakov Lappin February 26, 2009

A small number of young men soon to be drafted into the IDF from Hesder yeshivot around the country gathered at the Jerusalem Theater on Monday evening to hear speakers from the national-religious camp espouse the virtues of fulfilling "the commandment of war."

The event, the first of its kind, was organized to salute young religious men about to be inducted and attracted just over 100 youths.

IDF Chief Rabbi Brig.-Gen. Avichai Ronsky told the youths it was a privilege to be able to take part "in the commandment of war and the preparations for fulfilling it."

IDF launches offensive on beards

By Hanan Greenberg March 2, 2009

Army regulations require male soldiers to be clean-shaven at all times. Growing a mustache or a beard is allowed for medical or religious reasons only, but it requires special authorization.

…Medical-based authorizations will be limited to a certain period of time, while religious authorizations will have to be endorsed by the respective units' rabbi.

Rabbi Ovadia rules women may chant Scroll of Esther for men

By Yair Ettinger March 2, 2009

Click here for VIDEO – Rabbi Ovadia Yosef [Hebrew]

Yosef said women should not read for men if there are men capable of doing the reading. But in a "small community" where there are no men capable of chanting the text properly, it is permissible to bring a woman to read, he ruled. 

Yosef also said that women could write a kosher Scroll of Esther - another task that most rabbis say can be done only by men. 

He said that ancient megillahs written by women have been found in Yemen, and it would be permissible for women to do so today as well, "to earn a living for their household," since women "were part of the miracle" that the megillah describes. 

However, he admitted wryly, it is an open question "whether anyone would buy it." 

In both cases, Yosef's rulings were specific to Megillat Esther and do not necessarily apply to other sacred texts, such as the Torah.

Maran Rav Ovadia Shlita: When a Woman May Read Megilla

By Yechiel Spira March 2, 2009

The Rav used an example of a small community which lacks men who might know how to read megilla. 

In such a case he stated if a woman knows how to read, she should do so, but without using the melody explains Rav Aaron Butbul Shlita, who heads Rav Ovadia’s Yabia Omer Institute, but she should be meticulous in her pronunciation without the melody and thereby permit all to fulfill their obligation of megilla on Purim.

By not using the cantellation explains Rav Butbul, the erva problem is avoided. 

Rav Butbul stressed this is not an “ideal situation” but a solution to a problematic situation where the men are unable to read the Hebrew or unfamiliar with the megilla text and the woman is capable of providing the solution.

7,400 Units in Phase 1 of Charish

By Yechiel Spira February 26, 2009

It is now being reported by the daily HaMevaser that Education Minister Prof. Yuli Tami has approved land allocations for kindergartens and schools for the new community. 

HaMevaser reports the community will contain 15,000 housing units, and the first phase will be 7,400.

Background article: Natural expansion

By Avi Bar-Eli February 7, 2007

The growing demand for housing of Israel's rapidly expanding ultra-Orthodox population, coupled with special features of this community, creates unique challenges for urban planners and the real estate industry. 

The Haredi community will need 100,000 new housing units by 2025, according to a study commissioned by the Housing Ministry. 

Two weeks ago, TheMarker reported a ministry plan to transform Harish, in Wadi Ara, into an ultra-Orthodox community with 30,000 residential units. 

The same article said the ministry is also considering the creation of a new, ultra-Orthodox city in the northern Negev, near Kiryat Gat. 

"The [demand] is actually much larger because, in every decade, the number of units required to meet the needs of families in the ultra-Orthodox sector doubles," said Rabbi Pinhas Salzman…

Rabbi's death brings rare moment of unity for Lithuanian Haredim

By Yair Ettinger February 26, 2009

Although the death of a revered religious leader can often spark squabbling over his successor, the funeral Tuesday of Rabbi Avraham Kahaneman, president of the renowned Ponovezh Yeshiva in Bnei Brak, actually served as a high point of unity amid a long-standing power struggle. 

…In an unusual move for the ultra-Orthodox world, Kahaneman went to a civil court, hoping it would reach a different conclusion; that proceeding is still underway. 

In the meantime, Markovitz has been taking on authority beyond that granted him by the arbitration panel. 

Bezeq Launches Kosher Revolution Campaign

By R. Gil February 26, 2009

One year after launching its kosher line, Bezeq has decided the public is ready for the next phase.

The “Kav Venaki” campaign directed by ad firm Afikim is off and running, announcing a kosher revolution by Bezeq that can reach every home.

The move was fully coordinated with Vaadas HaRabbonim LeInyonei Tikshores and the technological platform was provided by Bezeq.

Compounded problems

By Peggy Cidor March 1, 2009

Jerusalem’s Schneller Compound

The process of turning the compound into a much-needed residential project for local haredim began 10 years ago, but it seems that despite the fact that a tender will soon be released for the construction plan, the haredi community, or at least its leaders, are far from satisfied.

The NIS 50 million it cost to move the army out of the compound will have to be paid for somehow - most likely by building luxury housing instead of affordable residential buildings.

Jerusalem: Haredi riots prompt switch to metal trash cans

By Ronen Medzini February 26, 2009

The Jerusalem Municipality has replaced dozens of plastic garbage bins with noncombustible metal ones, this after recurring ultra-Orthodox riots in protest of the annual Gay Pride Parade have cost the city more than a million shekels over the past five years.

City Council Member Sa'ar Netanel (Meretz) found that the riots of 2008, which erupted in protest of the arrest of three "modesty patrol" members, cost the city NIS 150,000 ($36,000).

According to Netanel, the June 2007 protests against the gay parade, during which some 300 trash cans were damaged, cost the city NIS 200,000 ($48,000), and the damages caused during haredi protesters in 2005 were estimated at NIS 100,000 ($24,000)

The “Jewish” GPS March 2, 2009

New navigating device finds kosher restaurants, synagogues and other Jewish facilities.

Click here for VIDEO

Judaic studies from a vending machine

By Elan Lubliner February 26, 2009

You won't find cola, cigarettes or packs of gum in the lonely vending machine on the third floor of the capital's central bus station. Instead, you'll find siddurim, machzorim and other religious books on sale for just NIS 10-15.

The vending machine is there because of Meoros HaDaf HaYomi, an organization dedicated to spreading the study of Judaism in general and Gemara in particular. 

HaDaf HaYomi has more than 500 classes around the country and publishes books, videos and audio clips on the Internet.

Lehem Erez wants to go kosher

By Navit Zomer February 26, 2009

The Lehem Erez bakery and café chain is looking to go kosher, Yedioth Ahronoth newspaper reported on Wednesday.

According to the report, the chain's owner Giora Naftali has been working vigorously towards received a kosher certificate for its baked goods.

The report said the chain will no longer operate its bread and cakes factory in Poleg, Netanya on Shabbat. Some of the chain's branches already close on Shabbat, including shops in Kfar Saba, Jerusalem, and Tivon.

Once Again, Prayers in Ancient Jericho Synagogue

By Hillel Fendel February 25, 2009

For the first time in nearly nine years, Jews prayed at the centuries-old Shalom Al Yisrael synagogue in Jericho. Israeli soldiers and PA police guarded.

This past Thursday, Rabbi Shmuel Rabinovitch, the Rabbi of the Holy Sites, and Oded Viner of the Chief Rabbinate, together with army officials, paid an emotional visit to Shalom Al Yisrael. 

The visit was facilitated by Civil Administration head Brig.-Gen. Yoav Mordechai, and was coordinated fully with the Palestinian Authority and top PA officers.

Religion and State in Israel

March 2, 2009 (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 - March 2, 2009 (Section 2)

Religion and State in Israel

March 2, 2009 (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.

Fresh Rift Seen Over New Conversion Rules

By Michele Chabin February 25, 2009

In a potentially divisive flare-up in the ongoing “Who is a Jew” struggle, Israel’s Interior Ministry is poised to institute new, stricter guidelines for diaspora converts wishing to immigrate to Israel, The Jewish Week has learned.

According to the new guidelines, spelled out in a two-page draft document in the works since 2005, potential converts from all religious streams seeking to make aliyah must study Judaism a minimum of 350 hours in “a recognized” Jewish community.

They must also spend a total of 18 months in the community where they are converting (at least nine months following the conversion), in order to prove their sincere commitment to Judaism.

Until now, the ministry has never dictated the number of hours a convert must study. 

Finally, the guidelines — which are retroactive, according to sources — automatically refuse citizenship to anyone whose visa application to Israel was rejected in the past for any reason.

Rabbinic court slammed for nixing conversion of Emil Fackenheim's son

By Cnaan Liphshiz March 2, 2009

Jerusalem's rabbinic court erred and overstepped its authority last year when it retroactively declared that the converted, Canadian-Israeli son of prominent Jewish philosopher Emil Fackenheim was in fact a non-Jew, the court's ombudsman ruled earlier this month. 

Eliezer Goldberg, the former Supreme Court justice and State Comptroller who monitors rabbinic court activity, rejected the ruling made in August 2008 by Jerusalem rabbinic judge Yissachar Dov Hagar regarding Yossi Fackenheim, the 30-year-old son of the late Holocaust survivor, esteemed theologian and Reform rabbi. 

Signs of a system 'in chaos'

By Cnaan Liphshiz February 27, 2009

The Yossi Fackenheim case

Hod Hasharon's chief Ashkenazi rabbi, Reuven Hiller: 

"I wholeheartedly object to such rulings," he said. "This is an extreme view that has no place in Judaism, and its recent emergence is very regrettable. 

In the past, the hard-line Haredi establishment fought against the nullifying conversions at all price. Now we see a complete reversal which shouldn't be allowed to happen."

Dutch social worker with Israeli father blocked from making aliyah

By Dana Weiler-Polak February 24, 2009

Esther Timmerman could have lived almost anywhere she wanted. That is how it is when you are born in Holland and carry a Dutch passport. For many Israelis, this would be a dream come true.

But Timmerman, 38, decided she wanted to live in Israel - and that is when her problems began. 

Panel in charge of reviewing Law of Return 'too homogenous'

By Shahar Ilan March 1, 2009

Interior Minister Meir Sheetrit should revise the makeup of the Ne'eman committee charged with studying changes in Israel's immigration policies, say 21 human rights groups.

Two weeks ago, the cabinet approved Sheetrit's establishment of the committee, headed by former finance minister Ya'akov Ne'eman, to examine possible changes in the Law of Return, as well as study the recommendations of a committee established four years ago for the same purpose, which have not been implemented. 

The committee includes former Education Minister Prof. Amnon Rubinstein, attorney Jacob Weinroth, Professor Yaffa Zilbershats and Udi Praver of the Prime Minister's Office.

14-year-old girl becomes Israel's youngest-ever divorcee

By Yair Ettinger February 27, 2009

The Jerusalem Rabbinic Court held expedited divorce proceedings for a 14-year-old girl and her 17-year-old husband this week, after the court ruled the makeshift wedding ceremony the two held did indeed conform to Jewish religious law. 

…The divorce proceeding was held earlier this week, after the religious court ruled the couple had met the three requirements for marriage under Jewish law: The couple had recited the wedding vows, exchanged an item of value (traditionally a ring), and consummated the relationship.

The court said the divorce would be reported to the Interior Ministry, which means that when the girl receives her identity card at age 16, it will state she is divorced. 

In terms of Jewish law, this means she cannot marry a Cohen, since it prohibits marriage between Cohens and divorced women. 

14-year-old bride divorces 'husband'

By Ruth Eglash February 26, 2009

Although it is illegal under Israeli civil law for minors under 17 to marry, Jewish law requires only these three elements for a marriage to be valid.

New record: Married and divorced at 14

By Kobi Nahshoni February 26, 2009

After the young couple held their "wedding," the boy's family became concerned that if they were to break up in the future without obtaining a divorce first, they would not be able to get married again to other people.

They therefore implored their son and his girlfriend to separate legally, but the girl refused, saying she wanted to continue the relationship until she is 17, at which time they would be able to hold a formal wedding.

The boy's relatives then offered her financial compensation, and she eventually agreed after receiving NIS 10,000 (roughly $2,500) from the parents.

Rabbinical judges have once again turned the Torah into a laughing stock

By Rivkah Lubitch Opinion March 2, 2009

Rivkah Lubitch is a rabbinic advocate with the Center for Women’s Justice

Halachic rules, which were once completely relevant, practical and logical (such as the betrothal of a young couple), continue to be implemented in a destructive manner.

Where are the spiritual leaders who will assume responsibility for the Torah, and see to it that it continues to be a guide for life, and not tuned into a laughing stock?

Trust me, God is weeping not only for these two children, but also for the rabbinical judges and the Torah.

Women worshippers stir row at Western Wall

By Kobi Nahshoni February 25, 2009

Photo courtesy of Mirah Curzer

Over a hundred women arrived at the Western Wall Wednesday morning wrapped in prayer shawls and wearing kippahs, to mark 20 years since the inception of the Women of the Wall organization.

The group, which included dozens of Reform movement members from North America, accompanied the Hallel prayer with singing, consequently provoking heated responses from other visitors and the Wall's ushers, who demanded that the group leave the place as its members "failed to follow the place's customs."

Anat Hoffman, Executive Director of the Israeli Religious Action Center (IRAC), the public and legal advocacy arm of Reform Judaism in Israel:

"We feel that there is a great deal of hypocrisy here: On the one hand, the Western Wall symbolizes the unity of the Jewish people, and on the other hand women, who comprise half of this nation, are being silenced, along with the traditions of the biggest Jewish community in the world (American Jewry)," Hoffman claimed.

She added that "local customs" should not be defined by the most extreme ultra-Orthodox denomination in Israel. 

"The State has turned the Western Wall into an orthodox synagogue where regulations are being enforced by force."

Orthodox irate over Women rabbis' prayer at Western Wall

By Cnaan Liphshiz February 26, 2009

Hod Hasharon's chief Ashkenazi rabbi, Reuven Hiller - an outspoken critic of the Reform Movement - called the act "an unnecessary provocation," adding, "They may pray in their synagogues with shawls but why come to a place revered by all sects and offend people there?" 

Jackie Ellenson - the wife of Hebrew Union College President David Ellenson - also noted the Wall was sacred to all Jews in explaining the prayer. 

"The ultra-Orthodox movement does not own the Wall," she said. "All Jews own it." 

Fostering Jewish pluralism in Israel

By Maya Spitzer March 2, 2009

The Batei Midrash Network, a group of pluralistic organizations dedicated to Jewish learning throughout Israel, hosted this landmark day of learning at the Jerusalem International Convention Center on Friday, the fourth day of the weeklong Central Conference of American Rabbis Jerusalem 2009 Convention.

For the Central Conference of American Rabbis, the Beit Midrash was symbolic of the growth and success of the Progressive (Reform) Movement, and of Jewish pluralism as a whole in Israel.

"People from all over Israel have come to Jerusalem to study with Reform rabbis," said Rabbi Peter Knobel, president of the Central Conference.

Against the backdrop of the state's refusal to recognize non-Orthodox streams of Judaism, the event demonstrated the solidarity of the worldwide Reform movement, said Rabbi Miri Gold, who is currently embroiled in a fight with the government for recognition as rabbi of Congregation Birkat Shalom in Kibbutz Gezer.

Let's declare ourselves a separate religion

By David Forman Opinion March 1, 2009

[I]f, together, the Reform and Conservative movements were to declare themselves a separate religion from Orthodoxy…the state would have no choice but to grant them the rights and privileges enjoyed by other religions in the country, which would necessarily include control over life-cycle events for their own constituency.

…Once the Reform and Conservative movements declare themselves independent religions, Orthodoxy will rightfully be reduced to merely one of three branches of Judaism. 

Unfettered of Orthodox parochialism, Israel would then be free, with the help of a vibrancy, inclusiveness and progressiveness that religion should embrace, to fulfill the promise of its Declaration of Independence…

Reform rabbis urge relocation of Museum of Tolerance

By Etgar Lefkovits February 26, 2009

The leaders of Reform Jewry in North America on Wednesday urged the Los Angeles-based Simon Wiesenthal Center to relocate its planned Museum of Tolerance in Jerusalem to an alternative location in the city due to the location of a Muslim cemetery found on a section of the planned construction site.

"While the Israeli Supreme Court has permitted the Wiesenthal Center to move ahead, an organization with high-minded goals like those of the Museum of Tolerance cannot be satisfied with mere adherence to the law."

Of pride and prayer

By Yair Ettinger February 26, 2009

Havruta members say their organization does indeed provide an outlet for free expression, but also invests seriously in community-building activities, as described on its Web site .

Some members have come out to their families, rabbis or friends, but they say that fewer than 10 percent are fully out of the closet.

Havruta and Bat Kol have been holding meetings with rabbis in an effort to gain recognition for their groups from the religious establishment.

Members emphasize that their activity is "a quiet declaration that if rabbis do not sit down in earnest to confront the issue, reality will do it for them. Orthodox homosexuals are spearheading the change themselves."

'Bruriah' has it all

By Hannah Brown March 1, 2009

In Kushnir's film [“Bruria”], Hadar Galron stars in the title role, a contemporary, well-educated Orthodox woman who was the daughter of a rabbi.

Her beloved father wrote a controversial book about the Bruriah legend and the modern-day Bruriah goes on a quest to find a copy of her father's book, which his religious opponents burned when she was a child.

Her quest puts her into contact with a younger man, while at the same time, she faces conflict with her husband, as their oldest daughter declares that she wants to study to be a rabbi.

Politics rule race to replace Jewish Agency chair

By Raphael Ahren February 27, 2009

Uzi Dayan and Menachem Ben-Sasson are the leading candidates for the chairmanship of the Jewish Agency for Israel, insiders revealed this week.

Sources familiar with the situation believe Avi Pazner, a former ambassador and current chairman of Keren Hayesod, will be tapped as interim chair. 

Other names being bandied about this week include Zalman Shoval, a former MK and two-time ambassador to the U.S., Dan Gillerman, the former Israeli ambassador the United Nations, who does not belong to any political party; outgoing MKs Rabbi Michael Melchior and Colette Avital, Ofra Strauss (chairwoman of Strauss-Elite) and South African-born Avraham Infeld, who most recently headed the Chais Family Foundation. 

Conservative Rabbis should foster Zionism before pushing Aliyah

By Gil Troy Opinion February 26, 2009

Aliyah is most appealing when it bubbles up naturally, from powerful Israel trips, inspiring experiences with Israelis, and, alas, still in this world, the occasional Diaspora-based trauma, be it anti-Semitism or another alienating force.

Once a Zionist revival makes Aliyah a possibility, then the practical help the Conservative Rabbis offered will prove beneficial.

But, as with most ideological and educational initiatives, first lay the proper groundwork - and do whatever damage control is required - before rushing ahead.

Should Christianity be taught in schools?

By Kobi Nahshoni February 24, 2009

The Jerusalem Institute for Israel Studies conducted a survey examining the public's stances towards Christianity, the Christian world and Christian presence in Israel.

Most respondents believe that schools should teach students about Christianity, but not about the New Testament and that the State should allow freedom of religious exercise, but prevent Christian bodies from purchasing land in Jerusalem.

On almost all issues seculars exhibited an open-minded approach towards Christianity, whereas religious respondents were less than tolerant.

The Ultimate Kibitzer

By John W. Kennedy February 24, 2009

Rabbi Yechiel Eckstein wants Jews to trust evangelicals, and evangelicals to love Israel.

"Our donors are those Christians who genuinely believe Jews and Christians share a biblical view and ought to come together for the sake of their shared vision, [part] of which is Israel," Eckstein says.

Now, other Jewish and evangelical groups have jumped on the bandwagon to raise evangelical support for Jewish causes. These days, the bridge Eckstein built is crossed by everyone from televangelist John Hagee to the Israel Ministry of Tourism.

Eckstein steadfastly opposes efforts to single out Jews for outreach. 

"My red line is with those who proselytize through coercion, deception, overzealous techniques, and targeted missions toward Jews, those who go door to door looking for the Goldbergs and Steinbergs," Eckstein says. "Are they doing actions that are deleterious for Jewish survival?"

Vatican seen preferring Haifa over Nazareth

By Barak Ravid and Jack Khoury March 1, 2009

Vatican officials seem to be leaning toward Haifa over Nazareth as the site for Pope Benedict XVI's principal Mass during his planned visit to Israel this May, a senior government official involved in preparations for the visit said yesterday. 

Haifa and Nazareth are both competing fiercely for the honor of hosting the Mass, which will give whoever wins it a moment in the international spotlight. Thousands of people are expected to attend the Mass, which will be televised live worldwide. 

Pope's visit to cost state NIS 43 million

By Yaakov Lappin February 26, 2009

Government ministries, the police and the Shin Bet (Israel Security Service) are gearing up for a visit by Pope Benedict XVI and have drawn up a wide-ranging plan to prepare for the occasion, which is expected to cost the state NIS 43 million.

Pope’s visit to Israel March 1, 2009

Vice Premier Haim Ramon briefed ministers on plans regarding Pope Benedict XVI's visit to Israel.

The Government approved the plans. Government ministries and bodies involved in planning for the visit will act as follows:

…The Chief Rabbinate will be responsible for the "religious" issues involved in the visit of such a senior Christian figure.

…The responsible minister will submit sensitive issues regarding the visit (including the Pope's visit to the Palestinian Authority and to the Temple Mount) to the Prime Minister for his approval.

Jerusalem prepares for Pope's visit

By Tzipi Malkov February 24, 2009

The Pope's visit is also expected to have some positive side effects for Jerusalemites, as the municipality intends to launch a massive cleanup and rehabilitation project aimed at upgrading the capital's shabby appearance in honor of the event.

Christian Allies Caucus seeks to broaden ties

By Etgar Lefkovits March 1, 2009

The newly appointed chairman of the Knesset's Christian Allies Caucus, Israel Beiteinu MK David Rotem, said Thursday that he hopes to broaden Israel's connection with Christian supporters of Israel around the world.

Over the last five years, the caucus's work has been given the cold-shoulder by the mainstream American Jewish leadership, whose outlooks on social issues, such as abortion, the separation of church and state and school prayer, are 180 degrees apart from the Christian Right in America, with only their support for Israel unifying them.

Rotem brushed aside ongoing concerns among some Jews - especially in the haredi community - that forging connections with Christians encourages proselytizing, noting that the caucus's guidelines bar any connection with missionary groups.

Chief Rabbinate decides to resume dialogue with Holy See March 1, 2009

The Chief Rabbinate has decided to resume dialogue with the Holy See, after the Vatican declared that an apology from Holocaust denier Bishop Richard Williamson wasn't good enough and that he must repudiate his views if he wants to be a Roman Catholic clergyman.

Israel Radio reported Sunday that the Vatican confirmed that a Chief Rabbinate delegation headed by Haifa's Chief Rabbi She'ar Yashuv Hacohen would visit in some two weeks and meet Pope Benedict VI.

In the meeting, preparations are expected to be made for the Pope's visit to Israel in May.

Religion and State in Israel

March 2, 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.