Monday, April 20, 2009

Religion and State in Israel - April 20, 2009

Religion and State in Israel

April 20, 2009

Click here to read ONLINE

Editor – Joel Katz

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

'Civil marriage inevitable'

By Kobi Nahshoni April 18, 2009

There is no choice but to allow civil marriages in Israel, Coalition Chairman Zeev Elkin (Likud) said during a conference in Ramle.

"There will be no escaping a solution of registering partnerships between Jews and non-Jews as well," he said, warning that otherwise the State will have to contend with one million immigrants from the former USSR "lending their support to the notion of a state of all its citizens."

Elkin, who was a member of Likud's coalition negotiations team and led to a compromise on the issue of marriages of non-Jews between Yisrael Beiteinu and the ultra-Orthodox parties, said: 

"Today the State of Israel is starting to recognize this issue and advance on a path that would enable marriages between non-Jews. 
I find it amazing that it hasn't been done before. There was no Jewish Law reason to prevent it; the opposite is true."

Rabbinic judges go unpunished for divorcing mentally disabled woman without her knowledge

By Tomer Zarchin April 20, 2009

Four religious court judges (dayanim) are continuing in their posts, despite serious findings over their involvement in granting an "express divorce" to a developmentally disabled woman - without her knowledge. 

…S. said the court arranged the get by deceiving her, and without her knowing that it was a divorce proceeding. 

The Na'amat women's organization filed a complaint with the Ombudsman's Office of the Israeli Judiciary on S.'s behalf.

The Ombudsman at the time, former judge Tova Strassberg-Cohen, found Domb had opened the divorce file and even paid the court fee by personal check, and the father-in-law had given him blank forms that Domb had signed. 

The ombudsman ruled this was one of the most serious cases against a judge in recent years: Domb and the rabbinical court did not examine the parties' details, or validate the signatures or the address of the couple.

“Let her/him go!”

By Rachel Levmore April 20, 2009

The writer is an active Rabbinical Court Advocate since 1995.

We have reached a point in Jewish history where pleas alone, no matter how justified or anguished, do not suffice.

Even stern rulings of the Rabbinical or Israeli Supreme Courts do not resolve the deep problem.

Justice Elyakim Rubinstein (the minority opinion), laid out an overview of proposed solutions from within the Halacha —ranging from methods of annulment after the fact, to prenuptial agreements for the prevention of get-refusal.

The great hametz debate

By Matthew Wagner April 16, 2009

…in recent years, some modern-Orthodox leaders have reached the conclusion that religious legislation might be doing more harm than good.

They argue that society has become more splintered; alienation has grown between religious and secular; and attempts to use legislation to enforce the Jewish character of the state will only exacerbate the tension.

Rabbi Rafi Feuerstein, chairman of Tzohar, a group of modern-Orthodox rabbis, said that coercion was counterproductive.

"I personally believe that secular Israelis should want to have a hametz-free public domain, because otherwise in what way is this state Jewish?" he said. 
"But I also believe that any attempts to force people through legislation will only turn them off. Coercion does not bring anyone closer to Judaism."

Rabbi Ya’acov Meidan is coauthor of the Gavison-Meidan Covenant with prominent secular law professor Ruth Gavison.

Meidan said that there was definitely religious value in preventing another Jew from committing a transgression, including through coercive legislation. 

"But sometimes the price you pay is too high. You might prevent someone from transgressing a prohibition, but in doing so through coercion, you end up engendering hate, alienation and fierce opposition."

They're sticking their fingers in our plates

By Shahar Ilan April 19, 2009 Opinion

Roi Lachmanovich, media adviser to Interior Minister Eli Yishai, told Haaretz last week that before Pesach next year Shas would make sure to pass a law prohibiting the display of chametz, leavened foods, in all businesses.

"Unfortunately this year we began working too late. But next year, without a doubt, the situation will change," Lachmanovich said. 

Lachmanovich seeks to amend the law to remove from it the word 'public,' so that the display of chametz will be completely prohibited.

"We will correct this distortion of justice," he said. The coalition agreement does not guarantee Shas' support for the bill, but according to Lachmanovich, "if someone decides to make a big to-do and embarrass us, we will take action to embarrass them."

Pesach in the Old City of Jerusalem April 13, 2009

Click here for VIDEO

MKs push for public transportation on Shabbat

By Shahar Haselkorn April 20, 2009

Knesset members from both the opposition and the coalition recently submitted three separate bills calling for the operation of public transportation on weekends.

The bills, filed by Likud, Meretz and Hadash MKs, seek to change the status-quo that has prevailed since the days of Israel's first Prime Minister David Ben-Gurion, according to which public transportation is forbidden from Shabbat's onset to its conclusion.

Fighting the Mixed Bus Service

By Yechiel Spira April 20, 2009

Unwilling to accept the “unacceptable situation forced upon the frum community,” an atzeres rally has been called for Thursday, the eve of Rosh Chodesh Iyar, to “decry the current situation” regarding the mixed bus service and the refusal of authorities to permit mehadrin buses in Yerushalayim.

The Vaad points an accusing finger at Egged Jerusalem and senior officials in the Transportation Ministry, for their continued adamant refusal to permit mehadrin bus service on the buses traveling to and from the Kosel.

The organizers explain the site was chosen to highlight the fact that even mispalalim traveling to the Kosel must be permitted to do so within acceptable parameters of modesty, mehadrin buses.

Culture war in Beit Shemesh heats up over outdoor gyms

By Yair Ettinger April 19, 2009

The Beit Shemesh municipality has decided to wipe out a free outdoor gym, which the city only recently built at a cost of hundreds of thousands of shekels, for safety concerns, says city hall.

But residents, many of them Modern Orthodox, say there is religious coercion involved as part of an ongoing "culture war." 

Some residents told Haaretz they believe the city's new mayor, Moshe Abutbul of Shas, and his secular partners in the municipal coalition have given the town's ultra-Orthodox parties a green light and okayed the demolition in the framework of political haggling.

The ultra-Orthodox are not happy with the outdoor gym because it brings women and men together in "immodest" circumstances, say city residents. 

New Pharm opens haredi-friendly branch

By Shoshana Chen April 16, 2009

Hamashbir Chairman Rami Shavit opened a New Pharm branch in a new commercial center in Bnei Brak that is especially adapted to accommodate the religious community.

Shavit views the New Pharm branch as a pilot: "If it succeeds, we will convert the Hamashbir Lazarchan sales point in central Bnei Brak to a New Pharm drugstore."

Special features of the new branch made to meet the community's demands include having the hair coloring products and feminine hygiene products placed in a separate section for women.

The branch will also carry products with kashrut labels that do not exist in the chain's other stores, such as Bio Vit vitamins and Materna baby formula that hold Mehadrin kashrut.

A screen will be placed in the branch to offer a discreet area for woman to test and apply make-up.

MIRS opens center staffed by Haredi women

TheMarker April 14, 2009

MIRS - the smallest of Israel’s cellular quartet - has opened a new service center in the city of Elad, employing ultra-Orthodox women only.

MIRS invested more than NIS 1.5 million in establishing the service center, some of which went to adapting the facility to the needs of its 70 employees.

For example it has a nursing room, a glatt kosher kitchen and personal training rooms, so the women don't have to travel to the central MIRS training facility.

MIRS says the women earn the same salaries as all its other parallel employees.

Erotic show sparks row in Ashdod

By Yair Harush April 11, 2009

After Carmiel's chief rabbi declared an all-out-war on the performance, it's now the turn of Ashdod's religious council members to express their rage.

The status-quo in the port city of Ashdod has been maintained throughout the years, but its foundations were undermined this week. An erotic theater company from Moscow, which held a semi-nude performance at the local Yad Lebanim memorial hall for fallen Israel Defense Forces soldiers, managed to rattle the nerves of religious council members.

The city's ultra-Orthodox deputy mayor, Mordechai Lieberman, said that he had been approached by rabbis who asked him how such a show could take place in the city.

Helping seminary girls turn soldier

By Dina Kraft, JTA April 16, 2009

Capt. Ofra Gutman's work as the first female officer in the IDF's Chaplaincy Corps is a mix of the sacred and the logistical.

Tens of thousands of religiously observant female soldiers serve in the army, but until Gutman's post was created eight months ago, they had no address for spiritual and practical matters. Many would not even have thought of turning to the Chaplaincy Corps, which is partly why the IDF's chief rabbi, Avi Ronsky, created the position for a female officer.

Chana Pasternak, the executive director of Kolech, a forum for religious women, who helped lobby for the creation of Gutman's post, says "Jewish women serving in the army finally have somebody they can turn to on religious and spiritual matters."

Soldiers Who Grow Sefirah Beards Face Tougher Regulations

By Avraham Zuroff April 17, 2009

Commanders at an unidentified IDF base did not allow unshaven soldiers to go home during the Passover holiday, according to a report broadcast on Voice of Israel government radio.

The reason was allegedly related to tightening of a regulation against soldiers growing beards.

An updated IDF directive dated March 2009 now forbids soldiers from growing beards during the post-Passover Sefirat HaOmer period.

IDF to Provide Glatt to Those Seeking Mehadrin

By Yechiel Spira April 20, 2009

It took an attorney who represents the interest of the mehadrin community serving in the IDF to persuade the military rabbinate to agree to provide glatt food to soldiers seeking a mehadrin diet, primarily the chareidi soldiers affiliated with Netzach Yehuda (Nachal Chareidi) in addition to reservists maintaining a dietary standard above the standard IDF Chief Rabbinate hechsher of military kitchens.

Kosher food chains report rise in turnover on Pesach

By Gali Berger, Calcalist April 16, 2009

Restaurants and coffee houses seemed to be the big winners this Pesach, especially restaurants that offered kosher menus.

The BIG Shopping Centers chain reported a 7% rise in the number of visitors compared to Passover 2008, and a 25% rise compared to an ordinary weekday.

The Café Café chain reported fivefold turnover in its kosher branches during the holiday, and three times as many customers in its non-kosher branches.

Chabad goes online to teach emissary kids across the world

By Yair Ettinger April 14, 2009

The Online School is intended for the children of Chabad's emissaries who run the movement's centers and Jewish communities in remote corners of the globe, where there is no ultra-Orthodox community, or the community is too small to maintain a school. 

Until the virtual school was set up, many of the 4,000 emissaries had to school their children at home.

The online Hebrew-language school, which opened four years ago, provides children around the world with the same Jewish education that a child in Crown Heights might receive. 

This is one of three online schools operated by Chabad's world emissary office in Brooklyn's international Chabad Lubavitch movement headquarters. 

The schools operate in different languages and hours, according to the location and time zone. The largest online school, with some 500 pupils, is for families from the United States. Studies are held in English in American time. 

The Hebrew-language school has 200 pupils and all its teachers are in Israel. The smallest school, intended for the Far East, gives lessons in English. 

Deputy Minister Gila Gamliel Thanks Rebbe April 16, 2009

Gila Gamliel, elected again to the 18th Knesset for Likud in February 2009, was appointed Deputy Minister in the Prime Minister's Office.

She was in the U.S. for the Pesach holiday and expressed her interest in praying at the Ohel in Cambria Heights, Queens.

On a rainy Tuesday, April 14, she arrived with a driver and a Lubavitch acquaintance.

Gamliel, married and a resident of Tel Aviv, holds an M.A. in Philosophy from Ben Gurion University of the Negev.

She said she has come to deliver her gratitude to the Rebbe for her successful bid in the latest elections.

Gamliel credits the Rebbe with the election of her uncle Yoel Gamliel to the Head of municipality of Gedera, a town in the Center District of Israel.

The new black music

By Nati Toker April 14, 2009

Yoni Sabag, the head of Cellcom's marketing department:

"We don't interfere with business deals of one kind or another or with wars," says Yoni Sabag, the head of Cellcom's marketing department.

"I can say unequivocally that even in the field of music, which is related to cell phones, we work closely with the rabbis' committee.

We're very pleased about this cooperation and it works both ways. We listen to them regarding of other activities as well.

They express their opinion and we don't oppose them. We are willing, and what they allow us to do we'll do. We won't act against a decision of any committee." 

Students in religious schools fare poorly on Judaism test

By Or Kashti April 16, 2009

Fifth-graders in state-religious schools scored an average of just 70 on a nationwide exam intended to test their knowledge of Judaism, compared to 76 the previous year.

The fourth-graders, who were tested on the Book of Exodus, fared even worse, with an average grade of 56 out of 100 points. 

The exams were administered last year, and the results were recently made public by the Ministry of Education. 

According to a source in the ministry's state-religious schools division, the results "seem to point to a problem in the teaching of the Bible in the religious schools. 

Let them return to dust

By Reuven Hammer Opinion April 17, 2009

"Body Worlds" has now come to Israel. It purports to have educational value in showing the wonders of the human body. Maybe so, but I have to ask: Is it really proper to display dead bodies in this way? 

…Would we want our bodies or those of our loved ones to be treated and indeed mutilated as these have been for the "edification" and entertainment of others?

Even if all the proper waivers of consent have been signed, this seems to me a perverse usage of the body of a human being, reducing the person to a mere object. The "thou" becomes an "it." 

Natan Sharansky named Netanyahu's pick for Jewish Agency head

By Barak Ravid April 19, 2009

Prime Minster Benjamin named former minister Natan Sharansky as his candidate for chairman of the Jewish Agency, the Prime Minister's Bureau announced on Saturday. 

The prime minister intends to recommend Sharansky for the position to the Jewish Agency's board of trustees. Until a few months ago, the job was filled by Zeev Bielsky, currently a Kadima MK. 

Jewish Agency pleased at Sharansky candidacy

By Haviv Rettig Gur April 19, 2009

According to sources familiar with the discussion, Netanyahu told Sharansky the position would be a springboard to the presidency, but Sharansky is facing pressure from Adelson Institute contributor Sheldon Adelson to remain at his current post.

In the Jewish Agency, officials are welcoming the prime minister's decision.

"The Jewish Agency needs a chairman who has international stature, something it hasn't had since Ben-Gurion was chairman before the state was founded," said an agency official.

"Sharansky himself is a brand, and that's important for fundraising," the official added.

As income from the major communal organizations abroad declines in a bad recession, "donors will feel that an agency headed by Sharansky is worth giving to directly."

If he accepts Netanyahu's endorsement and runs for the position, Sharansky would be elected to the position in mid-June. 

He would first be elected chairman of the World Zionist Organization at the organization's General Council meeting in Jerusalem June 16-18, and then be elected chairman of the Jewish Agency by the agency's Assembly, which will meet June 21-23.

Why do the Orthodox make aliya?

By Yizhar Hess April 19, 2009 Opinion

The writer is the executive director and CEO of the Masorti Movement. This article reflects his personal views.

The feeling of being at home is not instilled by just the Hebrew language or the fact that the public calendar is the Jewish one.

It is also the religious services that are granted, to a particular religious stream, at public expense; 

it is the synagogues - for every possible Orthodox ethnic group and style - that the state builds; it is the mikvaot that adorn almost every neighborhood but which do not permit access to converts who are not Orthodox or to brides wishing to immerse themselves before their huppa; 

it is the thousands of rabbis (more than 3,000 according to some estimates) employed in the public sector, rabbis who are all - need it be said - Orthodox.

Put everything together - education, religious services, community activity that is often funded by public money - and the picture looks a bit different.

For olim from an Orthodox background it is easier. The establishment embraces them in a way that it does not do for others.

Open Letter to our Diaspora Affairs Minister

By Gil Troy April 19, 2009 Opinion

Gil Troy is Professor of History at McGill University. He splits his time between Montreal and Jerusalem and is the author of Why I am A  Zionist: Israel, Jewish Identity and the Challenges of Today.

Make sure to deliver the good news about Israel, the updates about normal life in the Jewish state, not just the bad news.

And make sure to challenge Diaspora Jews constructively - to use Israel as a vehicle for finding ideological fulfillment and communal satisfaction, to step in and take responsibility to make sure that the successful initiatives of the last two decades like birthright and Partnership 2000 do not languish due to this financial crisis.

Be the shaliach-in-chief, an emissary to synagogues and schools, to organizations and foundations. But remember how many Diaspora Jews are unaffiliated, and reach them through non-traditional means in the general media and on the internet.

Orthodox Christians celebrate 'holy fire' in J'lem

AP April 19, 2009

Thousands of Orthodox faithful, carrying torches and bundles of candles signifying the 33 years of Jesus' life, packed into Christianity's holiest shrine on Saturday to celebrate Easter Week's holy fire ritual.

About 10,000 worshippers attended the afternoon ceremony, some arriving before dawn to make sure they would be able to enter the cavernous, heavily secured church. 

Believers who arrived too late celebrated outside in the church's cobblestone courtyard, some of them beating on hand drums.

Maronite group revitalizing Aramaic April 12, 2009

A group of Christian Maronites in Israel have decided to revive the language spoken by Jesus, opting to use Aramaic as their daily language.

The Sunday Times of London reported that the community north of Nazareth has set out to incorporate Aramaic back into the community life to, among other things, better understand religious texts.

The newspaper noted that Aramaic was the street language of the Maronite community about a century ago, but today fewer than 5 percent of the local population consider themselves fluent in the ancient tongue.

Religion and State in Israel

April 20, 2009

Click here to read ONLINE

Editor – Joel Katz

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