Monday, November 23, 2009

Religion and State in Israel - November 23, 2009 (Section 1)

Religion and State in Israel

November 23, 2009 (Section 1) (see also Section 2)

If you are reading in email or RSS feed, please click here to read ONLINE

Editor – Joel Katz

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

Praying in her own voice

Click here for VIDEO

Praying in Her Own Voice, directed by Yael Katzir and produced by Dan Katzir and Ravit Markus.

Including Rabbi Sharon Brous, Rabbi Laura Geller, Rabbi Lisa Edwards, Rabbi Naomi Levy, Rabbi Lynn Brody, Rabbi Denise Eger and Women of the Wall’s Anat Hoffman.

Woman's arrest at Western Wall highlights Orthodox Jewish influence

By Vita Bekker November 21, 2009

Photo: Women of the Wall (Nofrat Frenkel, rt.)

Anat Hoffman, an activist in the group and a prominent advocate for the Jewish Reform Movement in Israel, said during a tense joint *television interview with Rabbi Shmuel Rabinovich, the Western Wall’s chief rabbi, that this was the first time a woman was arrested at the site for donning a prayer shawl.

In explaining the group’s actions last Wednesday to shift to the main women’s prayer section, she said: “Once in a while, we need to push the establishment and challenge it. The [Western Wall rules] need to change.”

Hoffman said her group has demanded that its services be permitted to take place at the women’s section and not in its designated – and more isolated – prayer site, for one hour per month.

(*Hebrew: interview begins at 3:40 min mark)

Woman of the Wall Arrest: A First-Hand Account

By Debra Nussbaum Cohen November 18, 2009

Photo: Women of the Wall (Nofrat Frenkel exiting Police Station)

Ordinarily at this point in their service, Women of the Wall participants exit the Kotel plaza, walk around the enormous staircase leading up to the Dome of the Rock, proceed south and descend stairs to the archeological dig site nearby known as Robinson’s Arch, where they read from their Sefer Torah.

…After singing Hallel had gone so well, and they had detected no hostility from the haredi women around them, “we felt the force was with us, and we decided to show the Torah what the Kotel looked like and took it out of the duffle bag,” Hoffman said.

Three men quickly walked up to them, right through the women’s section.

“They told us, very angrily, to shut up and that we couldn’t be here,” Hoffman said. “They have no legal right to decide who prays and how. We told them to butt out,” she said. “They said they’d bring police, who really are in charge of the Wall area. When the police came, without a word we all turned around to leave and go to Robinson’s Arch, which is not a holy place,” she said.

One police officer “decided to show us who’s boss and grabbed the woman who was holding the Torah and started pushing her ahead.”

Kotel rabbi calls 'Women of the Wall' prayer provocation November 18, 2009

"This is a prayer meant to bring strife and disagreement," he said on Army Radio. "Even if it is allowed according to Jewish law, the Kotel should remain out of disputes."

"The Kotel represents unity," the rabbi continued, and proceeded to call the women's Kotel prayer "an act of Korah," a prominent biblical figure who led a mutiny against Moses.

"The group's goal is to get attention and headlines," Rabinovitz continued. "They are trying to make a political fortune through hate.

The group has a place to touch the Kotel, the High Court of Justice gave it all it needs," he said, referring to a ruling allocating an area adjacent to the Kotel, yet away from the public eye, where woman may don talitot.

Woman wearing tallit at Kotel detained

By Matthew Wagner November 19, 2009

Rabbi Felicia Sol, of the B'nai Jeshurun Synagogue on Manhattan's Upper West Side, said that the attempt to read from the Torah was an experiment with "pushing the boundaries."

Woman wearing tallit at Kotel detained

By Matthew Wagner November 19, 2009

The woman told Army Radio that she was questioned by police for half an hour, and then released.

Israel Radio quoted Anat Hoffman, who chairs the 'Women of the Wall,' as saying that this was the first time in Israel that a woman has been arrested for wrapping herself in a tallit, and reading from the Torah.

Rabbi Gilad Kariv, the head of the Reform movement in Israel, said that millions of women in the Jewish world enjoy the right to pray wearing a prayer shawl.

He called the arrest "an embarrassment to the police and to the state," especially as it took place in the Jewish state and in the holiest site to Jewry.

A Wall for Us All Editorial November 18, 2009

Unless it is truly shared, those Jews who do not follow ultra-Orthodoxy — that is, most Jews — will feel increasingly unwelcome in what is supposed to be the touchstone of their homeland. That is something an embattled Israel can neither desire nor afford.

Disgrace at Western Wall

By Rabbi Peretz Rodman Opinion November 22, 2009

Rabbi Peretz Rodman is a past president of the (Masorti/Conservative) Rabbinical Assembly of Israel and chairman of the public affairs committee of Israel’s Masorti Movement. He lives in Jerusalem.

Photo: Women of the Wall website (Anat Hoffman, rt.)

News of the recent arrest of Nofrat Frenkel of Women of the Wall for the “provocation” of wearing a tallit and carrying a sefer Torah in the Western Wall plaza made me wonder about the appropriate response.

…I wondered what the men and women at the Kotel who witnessed the confrontation and arrest thought and felt about what they saw.

The shawl and the hood

By Rabbi Michael Marmur Opinion November 22, 2009

The writer is the Vice-President for Academic Affairs of the Hebrew Union College - Jewish Institute of Religion, and is based in Jerusalem.

Judaism is being debased by officials acting less like instruments of the state and more like blunt objects. Judaism is being desecrated by a religious establishment apparently intent on thrashing the highest values of our tradition to within an inch of their lives. Judaism is being shamed by a public apparently inured to the quotidian reality of oppression, obscurantism and obtuseness.

…Given the fact that the mere act of wearing a tallit is now considered a provocation, I expect we will soon see the creation of Women of the Shawl. The symbolic struggle matters because it represents a struggle for the soul of Israel, and it's a struggle we can't afford to lose.

Tour guides complain of harassment of tourists at Western Wall

By Nir Hasson November 20, 2009

Tour guides have complained recently that increasingly fundamentalist practices were being enforced at the wall and said that ultra-Orthodox harassment is ruining the experience for tourists and other visitors.

Tour guides at a meeting of the "Jerusalemites" movement yesterday complained of harassment of tourists at the Western Wall.

Movement head Rachel Azaria, a Jerusalem city council member, blamed Western Wall Rabbi Shmuel Rabinowitz for the growing fundamentalist rules imposed at the wall, where women are ordered to cover up themselves and men are pounced on by Chabad activists.

VIDEO: Insubordination in the IDF- Hesder Yeshivas November 23, 2009

Click here for VIDEO

PM slams soldiers' protest of outpost evacuation

Click here for VIDEO November 22, 2009

Haaretz Cartoon by Amos Biderman November 18, 2009

Religious Zionist rabbis hold secret meeting to discuss evacuation, refusal

By Chaim Levinson November 23, 2009

Dozens of religious Zionist rabbis held a secret meeting in Jerusalem yesterday to discuss ways of bolstering the hesder yeshivas, the halachic argument for refusing to obey military orders to evacuate settlements, and the campaign against having the army evacuate Jews from their homes.

The rabbis in attendance included Zalman Baruch Melamed, rabbi of Beit El and head of the yeshiva there; Shmuel Eliyahu, rabbi of Safed; and Yaakov Yosef, son of Shas spiritual leader Ovadia Yosef.

Silence of the rabbis

By Elazar Stern Opinion November 17, 2009

General (Reserves) Stern served as the IDF’s manpower directorate chief, chief educational officer, and commander of the army’s officers’ school.

If indeed it turns out that the soldiers involved in the abovementioned acts are members of hesder yeshivas, and if these troops are backed by their rabbis, then the army must end its cooperation with these yeshivas.

Yet if their rabbis do not endorse these acts, they must say so clearly and remove these people from their ranks on their own accord, even before the army does so.

Should they fail to do it, this too would constitute a clear statement; A clear and dangerous one.

IDF to hesder yeshivas: Take action or else

By Kobi Nahshoni November 18, 2009

Two anti "expulsion signs", highly publicized conference in support of the "faithful soldiers" and a tailwind from the rabbis, have all pushed the IDF too far, and the highest ranks of the military are now speaking out in favor of canceling the agreement with the yeshivas which combine advances religious studies with military service.

…The IDF identify two main yeshivas – and their rabbis – as supporters of the disobedience: The Elon Moreh Yeshiva, headed by Rabbi Elyakim Levanon, and the Har Bracha Yeshiva, headed by Rabbi Eliezer Melamed.

'Tal Law failed to encourage enlistment'

By Rebecca Anna Stoil November 18, 2009

During a marathon meeting of the Knesset's Foreign Affairs and Defense Committee to discuss the Tal Law on Tuesday, retired Supreme Court justice Tzvi Tal said that the law in his name had failed to encourage haredi enlistment to the IDF.

Yeshiva head says IDF brass 'contaminated by politics,' urges soldiers not to evacuate settlers

By Amos Harel and Anshel Pfeffer November 18, 2009

The head of the Har Bracha Yeshiva, Rabbi Eliezer Melamed, has written in a book distributed to all graduates of his yeshiva that soldiers are not allowed to participate in evacuating settlements.

The book also accused senior Israel Defense Forces officers of being "contaminated by politics."

Rabbis grapple with IDF insubordination

By Matthew Wagner November 18, 2009

What should a religious soldier do when his loyalty to the Jewish state clashes with his religious faith and convictions?

This question was discussed among heads of Hesder Yeshivot and Pre-Military Yeshiva Academies (mechinot) on Tuesday, in response to yet another instance in which religious soldiers demonstrated their opposition to using the IDF to evacuate Jewish settlers in Judea and Samaria from their homes.

MKs in uproar over soldiers' protest

By Yaakov Katz and Rebecca Anna Stoil November 18, 2009

IDF sources said the military would consider revoking Hesder status from the Elon Moreh yeshiva, run by Rabbi Elyakim Levanon, who called on soldiers to refuse orders ahead of the withdrawal from the Gaza Strip in 2005.

Barak may move against Yeshiva heads

By Amos Harel November 19, 2009

Defense Minister Ehud Barak said he would consider taking action against Hesder Yeshiva rabbis who preach refusing to obey orders, but Barak added that he would prefer to reach an understanding that would make such steps unnecessary.

Barak said he would try to do so without cutting government funding to yeshivas, despite the recommendations of senior officers to remove two extremist yeshivas in Elon Moreh and Har Bracha from the Hesder program.

However, Barak, who has the authority to do so, seems to be in no hurry to take such action for now.

The new golems

By Benny Ziffer Opinion November 20, 2009

Could it be, after all, that a yeshiva education is better at developing independent thought than a secular education?

Is it possible they are turning out people who are more caring than their peers in the secular education system, who care mainly about who will be the first to be bounced off "Big Brother"? Shh. What are you saying? Traitor. This is not the time, when secularism is in danger.

The danger of mutiny

By Nehemia Shtrasler Opinion November 22, 2009

It is no accident that the refusal movement began in the Kfir brigade. It operates solely in the West Bank, with a high percentage of soldiers from hesder yeshivas (which combine army service with religious studies) and from settlements.

…There is no reason in the world for religious young men to serve in the army for only a year and a half, instead of the three years served by their secular brothers.

Why doesn't the IDF afford such conditions to those who go on to study engineering or computers? Are they less important than Talmud?

Bnei Akiva teens join troops' anti-evacuation protests

By Yaheli Moran Zelikovich November 22, 2009

Teens belonging to the Bnei Akiva youth movement joined soldiers protesting the evacuation of Jews from illegal settlements Saturday by holding a sign saying, "Netzach tribe does not evict Homesh" at a movement convention in Hashmonaim.

‘Disobedience posters exploitation of Bnei Akiva’

By Kobi Nahshoni November 23, 2009

Rabbi Chaim Druckman, considered Bnei Akiva's spiritual authority, came out in a conversation with Ynet against what he called the "political exploitation of Bnei Akiva" and condemned Saturday's anti-settlement evacuation banner waving in the town of Hashmonaim.

IDF: 19% of potential recruits seek exemption on religious grounds

By Ronen Medzini November 17, 2009

Brigadier-General Amir Bogovsky of the IDF's Human Resources Directorate said Tuesday during a meeting of the Knesset's Foreign Affairs and Defense Committee that 19% of recruit applicants seek exemption for being yeshiva students.

During a debate on the Tal Law regarding the recruit of yeshiva students, committee chairman Knesset Member Yohanan Plesner (Kadima) said that within 10 years a quarter of applicants would be exempt.

IDF Chief Rabbi Rontzki's pearls make army's top brass squirm

By Amos Harel November 17, 2009

Rontzki has already said on more than one occasion that he does not see himself as a "quartermaster of religion."

In his own eyes, he is a priest anointed from on high, leading warriors into battle and strengthening them with words of Torah. That is the understanding that leads him to show up faithfully at every battalion exercise.

But the pearls emerging from his lips have already put him in competition with Rabbi Ovadia Yosef, though without the Shas spiritual leader's religious authority.

The defense minister and chief of staff know this well. They apparently prefer to wait until Rontzki's term is up, hoping he will not use the time he has left to create even bigger scandals.

IDF to check up on women falsely seeking exemption from service

By Jonathan Lis November 23, 2009

The Ministerial Committee for Legislation voted yesterday to support a bill promoted by the Defense Ministry that would help identify women who falsely claim to be religious in order to avoid army service.

IDF Cracking Down on Fake Religious Women Shirking Tour of Duty

By Nissan Ratzlav-Katz November 22, 2009

Under the new bill, draft-age girls seeking religious exemptions would also be required to declare that they were enrolled in a religious educational institution for at least two out of the three years preceding their exemption request.

They would also have to obtain an official certificate from the school as evidence of their claim.

For those girls who were not enrolled in a religious educational institution, the law would permit the draft board to make a religious exemption decision on a case-by-case basis.

Gov't backs follow-up on 'religious' female draft-dodgers

By Attila Somfalvi November 22, 2009

The IDF employs private investigation companies and even documents young women engaging in "non-religious" activities on Shabbat. The increased pressure paid off, and more than 1,000 young women who had made religious lifestyle declarations notified the IDF that they would enlist.

In 1991, 21.3% of young women declared they could not enlist because they lead a religious lifestyle. This year, that number rose to 34.6%. The IDF Personnel Directorate estimated that 8% out this figure are not indeed religious.

MK Hasson: IDF shouldn't determine who is religious November 22, 2009

MK Yisrael Hasson (Kadima) responded in a statement Sunday night to the proposal that those exempt from IDF service on religious grounds be monitored to verify the validity of their claims.

"The army should not be the body determining who is religious and keeping kosher and Shabbat," he said.

"Furthermore the army can't be following private citizens through the use of private investigation companies in a society pretending to be democratic," he added

'Fire rabbis who don't recognize military conversion'

By Kobi Nahshoni November 20, 2009

Local rabbis who do not recognize military conversions must immediately step down from their posts, and the Chief Rabbinate must fire them or take them to court for disciplinary offenses, according to the Knesset Committee for Immigration, Absorption and Diaspora Affairs that discussed Wednesday municipal rabbis' refusal to marry individuals who underwent the IDF conversion course.

Founder and Director of the Jewish Life Information Center Rabbi Seth Farber tried to show how absurd the current situation is.

"It is as if a police officer in Tel Aviv would not recognize a drivers' license issued in Jerusalem," he said.

Rabbi Gilad Kariv [Israel Movement for Progressive Judaism] said that he intends to file a damages suit against the said municipal rabbis and called upon all those affected by their strict policies to do the same.

'Rabbis may be punished over converts'

By Matthew Wagner November 19, 2009

The legal adviser to the Chief Rabbinate said Wednesday that he would take disciplinary steps - including layoffs - against city rabbis who refused to recognize converts who converted under the aegis of the Chief Rabbinate.

Meanwhile, Ashkelon's chief rabbi, who was invited to the Knesset meeting but refused to come because representatives of the Reform and Conservative movement were also invited, defended his decision not to recognize Elina.

Bloi said that he originally planned to take part in the Knesset committee meeting. But one day before the meeting he found out that representatives of the Reform and Conservative movements would be attending as well.

"I am willing to sit with secular Jews, but there is no way that I will sit in the same room with a Reform or Conservative Jew and discuss conversions. It's like taking part in a Gay Pride Parade."

MKs reject bill that would bar rabbis from annulling conversions

By Jonathan Lis November 20, 2009

The Knesset plenum yesterday rejected a bill that would have prohibited rabbis from annulling conversions to Judaism which were granted in the past and recognized by the state.

Lawmakers present at the hearing were surprised to see the Yisrael Beiteinu faction reject the bill - drafted by MK Shlomo Molla (Kadima) - as Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman's party had long promised voters it would work to rewrite conversion laws.

Wanted: Religious-Zionist Families to Aid Would-be Converts

By Hillel Fendel November 22, 2009

The Ministry of Immigration and Absorption reports success in recruiting religious-Zionist families to “adopt” would-be converts, but still needs another 2,000.

…the Ministry of Immigration and Absorption began a six-month campaign to recruit religious-Zionist families to the cause.

The campaign included advertising, gatherings, informational literature, and the like – and scored significant success: The number of religious families who agreed to rally to the cause rose by several hundred, a 30% jump.

Legal battle over convert's Jewish status

By James Martin November 19, 2009

The head of a legal team fighting to restore a convert’s status as a halachically recognised Jew has warned Jerusalem’s High Rabbinical Court that there would be a “war of the titans” if it did not revoke a judgment that he had never been Jewish.

Anat Hoffman, executive director of the Israel Religious Action Centre, spoke after the court postponed an appeal hearing against a decision by the Jerusalem Beth Din to rescind Yossi Fackenheim’s Orthodox conversion.

Wedding refugees

By Sarah Stricker November 20, 2009

In Elena’s case, only her father is Jewish, and therefore she is considered a gentile. And in Israel this means that the two of them are not allowed to marry.

The separation between state and religion, as most western countries know it, does not exist Israel. It is the only democracy in which there are only religious but no civil marriages.

…every month 150 to 200 couples fly to Cyprus, the Israeli Las Vegas. It takes less than half a day to make the trip and get married. Couples fly over in the morning, say "I do", and off goes a messenger to the Cypriot capital of Nicosia to get the documents certified.

To many people, like Oded and Noa, this alternative is so important that they fly to Cyprus even though they have no legal necessity to do so.

Both of them have flawless Jewish family trees, so, in theory, they could get married in Israel. However, they are liberal.

"My faith is very important to me. I cannot get married while carrying out customs which I do not agree with”, Oded says.

PODCAST: Radio Interview on Agunot issue

with Dr. Elana Sztokman & Attorney Giti Nachliel, Mavoi Satum and

Rabbi Eli Ben-Dahan, Israel Rabbinical Courts Administrator

Click here for PODCAST (mp3) November 12, 2009

High court lets student switch from religious to secular school

By Dan Izenberg November 16, 2009

The High Court of Justice on Sunday found one good man in Sodom and gave him permission to switch from the state religious junior high school in Shlomi to the Western Galilee state secular regional school.

Fourteen secular families petitioned the High Court against the Ministry of Education and the head of the Shlomi local council after they ordered their children to study at the state religious school. There is no secular post-primary school in the northern town.

Jewish school entry: How do they do it overseas?

By Anshel Pfeffer November 19, 2009

Israel: The admissions policy varies according to the level of state funding. Most primary schools are fully state-funded and therefore accept all children in their catchment area, regardless of faith and religion.

This includes most state religious schools, although in some, the parents and headteachers unofficially check the religious observance of the prospective pupils’ families.

High Court: Kashrut Credibility is Not Judged by Jewish Law

By Hillel Fendel November 18, 2009

The ruling states that the Halakhic standards that measure when one’s personal kashrut claims may be believed are not part of the “hard core” of kashrut laws to which the State of Israel is obligated.

Therefore, the fact that the rabbinate does not "trust" the owner is not sufficient reason to withhold the kashrut certification. The certification must be issued immediately, Beinisch ruled, and if not, the city's Chief Rabbi will be fined.

Beinisch acknowledges that the messianic beliefs of the owner may well lead to “difficulties” in terms of the rabbi’s trust in his kashrut practices – but “the trustworthiness of a restaurant owner must be measured according to standards of general law, and not according to Halakhic standards.”

The rabbinate had demanded that a kashrut supervisor receive keys to the establishment and that he be the one to open and close it each morning and night. However, Judge Beinisch ruled that this demand was unreasonable and harmed the owner’s basic rights.

See also: Messianic Jews get nod for kosher bakery [June 2009]

Another Jewish town adds 'Zionist loyalty' to bylaws

By Jack Khoury November 16, 2009

Less than six months after two northern communities proposed changing their bylaws to make "loyalty to the Zionist vision" a condition of acceptance into the community, a third has just followed suit.

All three locales are small communities where houses can legally be sold only to people approved by a vetting committee. All are also located in the Misgav Regional Council.

Unusual Partners Study Divisive Jerusalem Site

By Isabel Kershner November 14, 2009

Book Review: “Where Heaven and Earth Meet: Jerusalem’s Sacred Esplanade”

The book is a collection of essays by renowned scholars on the history, archaeology, aesthetics and politics of the place that Jews revere as the location of their two ancient temples, and that now houses the Al Aksa Mosque, the third holiest site in Islam.

The book, published by Yad Ben-Zvi Press and the University of Texas Press, contains details of archaeological discoveries and theories little known beyond expert circles, as well as some new and archival photographs that have rarely been seen before.

Religion and State in Israel

November 23, 2009 (Section 1) (see also Section 2)

If you are reading in email or RSS feed, please click here to read ONLINE

Editor – Joel Katz

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

All rights reserved.