Tuesday, December 8, 2009

Religion and State in Israel - December 7, 2009 (Section 1)

Religion and State in Israel

December 7, 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.

Chief Rabbi: Israeli conversion certificates valid for marriage

By Yair Ettinger www.haaretz.com December 7, 2009

In an unusual departure from the ultra-Orthodox stance, Israel's Ashkenazi Chief Rabbi has declared that anyone holding a conversion certificate issued by the State of Israel can register to be married in his place of residence.

Rabbi Yona Metzger's declaration, contained in a letter to the Knesset's Committee for Immigration, Absorption and Diaspora Affairs, comes on the heels of converts' complaints that local rabbis were refusing to recognize them as Jews according to Jewish law and to register them for marriage.

..ITIM's director, Rabbi Seth Farber, welcomed Metzger's position but asked whether the chief rabbi was simply advocating a temporary solution to the problem.

Threat of suit pressures Rabbinate to reopen conversion annulment issue

By Cnaan Liphshiz www.haaretz.com December 4, 2009

A local nonprofit assisting Jewish converts is for the first time planning to take the Chief Rabbinate of Israel to court for not preventing the retroactive annulment of conversions, Anglo File has learned.

The organization's founder asserts "back room" talks convinced him such outside pressure would give rabbinate leaders the impetus to address the issue on its own.

"We've cooperated with the rabbinate for years, building a dialogue and trust with them, but the situation cannot be allowed to go on," said Rabbi Seth Farber, the U.S.-born founder of the Jerusalem-based assistance organization ITIM, which is preparing a petition to the High Court of Justice against the rabbinate.

Never mind the rabbis, here's the chuppah

By Cnaan Liphshiz www.haaretz.com December 4, 2009

The matter-of-fact manner in which Maxim Serdhiukov recounts how Ashkelon's rabbi in August refused to register him and his converted fiancée for marriage betrays little emotion. But signs of his indignation are nonetheless present.

"This country has a Knesset and it has laws, and if some punk rabbi decides to take the law into his own hands, then I will not remain silent about it," says the 24-year-old Serdhiukov, who was born in Latvia to Jewish parents who immigrated to Israel in 1993.

…"Imagine you walk into [the Arlosoroff] station in Tel Aviv to catch a train to Haifa, when the ticket lady tells you that because you're Ashkenazi, you'll have to catch the train at Tel Aviv University," Serdhiukov says. "Would you do it?"

The State of Conversions in Israel - Rabbi Haim Druckman

By Aliza Hausman www.alizahausman.net December 2, 2009

Lecture at the Hebrew Institute of Riverdale, NY on December 1, 2009 co-sponsored by Yeshivat Chovevei Torah Rabbinical School (YCT) and the International Rabbinic Fellowship.

Click here for AUDIO (mp3)

Q: From our perspective in the States, it looks like the [Chief Rabbinate] is becoming areidiized. Do you see a possibility of change in the future? How do you think change can be brought about, and how could we support it?

A: Generally speaking that's true. But it depends on what issue. In terms of [conversion] , we work together with [Chief Rabbi Amar] no problem, though we don't always see eye to eye. In other aspects — [heiter mechira] for instance, and [shmitta] — in the end, the appointed rabbis handle it even in those local rabbinates that refused.

Nofrat Frenkel's speech at the demonstration

http://rabbicreditor.blogspot.com November 30, 2009

Nofrat Frenkel's speech at the demonstration on Saturday night (November 28, 2009) in Jerusalem:

Translation by Shoshana Michael-Zucker, Kehilat Hod Ve-Hadar, Kfar Saba__._,_.___


"My house shall be called a house of prayer for all peoples," said the prophet Isaiah. If God's Temple is to be a House of prayer for all peoples, surely it must also be one for all Jews, male and female, of all varieties and movements.

The attempts of patriarchal, chauvinist ultra-Orthodoxy to turn the Kotel into an ultra-orthodox synagogue will not succeed. The Kotel is a place prayer for everyone, male and female…

Nofrat Frenkel, 28 Nov. 2009

Here is a wall at which to weep, Part I: The Kotel

Miriam Opinion http://tovahhaaretz.blogspot.com December 2, 2009

…The group decided to read Torah at the Kotel, instead of relocating elsewhere like they usually do.

We rolled the Torah to the reading for Rosh Hodesh, and then rolled it back up and started the Torah service, led by a young Israeli medical student, Nofrat Frenkel. At this point, the commotion started.

Men came over and asked Nofrat why she was wearing a tallit, and demanded that she put the Torah away and that we leave. To which Nofrat responded, "Because it's a mitzvah, where is yours?" The police came over and started to lead Nofrat away, still holding the sefer Torah and wearing her tallit.

The Right to Disrupt Your Prayers

By Yaakov Menken Opinion www.cross-currents.com November 30, 2009

Nofrat Frenkel made the news two weeks ago — by getting herself arrested. In violation of an Israeli court order, she took out a Torah scroll in the area of the Western Wall consecrated for women’s prayer, and prepared to read it.

Why is such an apparently benign, religious act against the law, worthy of arrest? When it isn’t a religious act at all, but rather a political one, aimed to disrupt the prayers of those around her and to confront them with her agenda.

…What she does not have, though, is the right to disrupt the prayers of others. It is the freedom of religious worship of “the offended public” which needs our protection — protection from those like Nofrat Frankel, who believes her religious “freedom” must involve a political confrontation in order to be worthwhile.

CSI: Jerusalem - the crime of being a woman

By Rabbi Andrew Sacks Opinion www.jpost.com December 6, 2009

The writer is Director of the Masorti [Conservative] Movement's Rabbinical Assembly in Israel

Last Saturday evening some three thousand people gathered to march to Take Back Our City. Hundreds of Masorti Jews turned out. So did Reform, secular, modern Orthodox, young, old, students and political leaders. This demonstration was organized with little PR and people were informed mainly by word of mouth.

The great Jewish philosopher Abraham Joshua Heschel spoke of praying with his feet when he marched in Selma, Alabama, for civil rights. The throng gathered in Zion Square, in downtown Jerusalem, were surely praying with their feet.

Women of the Wall - Am Israel

By Beth (Elisheva Hannah) Frank-Backman Opinion www.lilith.org December 1, 2009

Several years ago when I used to join WOW for Rosh Hodesh prayers, my fellow liberal Jews used to ask me, but “why pray at the wall? I don’t see the point of praying there. Let them have their wall if it means so much. We know better that God is not restricted to a place.”

…Like the prayers of Hannah, the prayers of the Women of the Wall are the longing of women to take their part in an act of creation and healing, hand in hand with God. Even if Eli isn’t listening, God is.

Free Jerusalem

By Rabbi Elyse Goldstein Opinion http://jerusalemofgoldstein.blogspot.com December 1, 2009

So my family and I took part in a quickly-organized protest rally convened by a consortium of groups under the banner “Free Jerusalem” on the last Saturday night of November in Jerusalem.

The Jerusalem press reported that a few hundred “secular Jerusalemites” marched. In truth it was close to 2500 people of all ages, with many, many kippot and tzitzit, skirts and hair-covering scarves.

The Conservative and Reform movements were there in full form. Secular? If by that you mean those who do not wear or live in black-and-white.

The speeches emphasized the willingness of the protesters to dialogue with the haredim, and their desire for a peaceful and united city, but their unwillingness to let Jerusalem devolve into a fundamentalist city with its own brand of morality police, run by those who do not recognize the rights of all citizens of that city.

Separating the issues

By Yael Brygel www.jpost.com December 7, 2009

One would not expect to see Eda Haredit leader Yehuda Meshi Zahav and Shahar Ilan, deputy director of Hiddush, an association to promote equality and freedom of religion, in the same room…

Alongside Meshi Zahav and Ilan on the panel sat Rabbi Ya'acov Shapira, founder and head of Midreshet Ye'ud, a modern Orthodox learning institute; novelist and activist Naomi Ragen; and Rabbanit Rivka Shimon, a well-known matchmaker in the haredi world and supporter of the segregated bus lines.

Topics included where the line could be drawn between wanting to protect religious values and not infringing on the rights of individuals; their vision of how the Western Wall should be managed; and whether compromise was possible.

Interview with Anat Hoffman

By Simon Round www.thejc.com December 3, 2009

“The important question is not who is a Jew but who is a rabbi. I want every type of rabbi to be considered a rabbi in my country — not just the Orthodox ones. I want every rabbi to be able to compete for government jobs.

I want people to be married in any way they choose, whether that is Orthodox, Conservative, Reform or civil.

I want that people should be buried in any manner they choose, with music if they want, with non-Hebrew lettering on the stone if they wish.”

And, of course, she is insistent that everybody has equal access to the Western Wall. “It is a national monument and should be open to all including the Pope with his cross, Arabs without head covering, anyone as long as they don’t have a bomb — even a woman with a tallit and a sefer Torah.”

Saying 'No' to the Back of the Bus

By Elana Sztokman Opinion http://blogs.forward.com/sisterhood-blog December 7, 2009

"Drive in Safety, Drive with Egged"

Let’s not confuse the issues. The haredi movement for gender segregation is not about real protection of women from men, but about illusory protection of men from women.

Women are being asked to remove themselves from what is now considered a man’s domain. The bus is de facto a man’s space, with women as an afterthought. Women will wait, women will stand in the back, women will squash, women will cover up, women will remain silent.

Women will accommodate a society that seeks to erase women from its midst. Erasing photos of women in the newspaper, erasing women cabinet members, physically and materially making women cover up and be seen as little as possible.

Women to Israeli government: No to back of the bus

By Sarah Breger http://momentmagazine.wordpress.com December 4, 2009

Whether it is the case of marriage, divorce or kashrut, the gap between haredim and the rest of Israeli society is growing larger and larger. Whether it is possible to bridge this gap is unclear, but for now it is unfortunate that women will once again become victims of a religious and political power play.

Say No to the Back of the Bus – New Israel Fund

www.nif.org December 2009

Haredi man delays bus after refusing to sit next to woman

By Ruth Margolin www.ynetnews.com December 5, 2009

"I sat on the bus line from Kiryat Gat to Kiryat Malachi next to a young haredi man. He started elbowing me and shoving me. He also swore at me and warned me not to sit next to him," 66-year-old Evelyn Assal related Sunday, describing her experience boarding a bus on her way to a funeral.

…The Egged bus company stated in response that passengers are free to sit where they like on that bus line.

Rabbis: Woman must pass polygraph test

By Matthew Wagner www.jpost.com December 3, 2009

In a precedent-making decision, the Rabbinical Court in Haifa this week forced a woman in the midst of a divorce case to undergo a lie-detector test to determine if she was a drug user and had cheated on her husband.

The court said that the test could help determine whether the mother was fit to have custody over her children.

Cinematheques to screen film intended for women only

By Raphael Ahren www.haaretz.com December 4, 2009

A dogged Orthodox American filmmaker has managed to bring in her latest movie to the Cinematheque theaters in Tel Aviv and Jerusalem on condition they be targeted to women-only audiences.

The screenings mark the first time these venues - considered strongholds of secularism - have made such a concession.

Marketing materials for the upcoming Jerusalem screenings of "A Light for Greytowers," to be held on December 10 and 24, will include a disclaimer explaining that the Haredi actresses don't want men to see them singing or dancing for reasons of modesty and "kindly request that only women and girls attend." Yet men will not be prevented from entering the theater, organizers said.

Ilan De Vries, director-general of the Jerusalem Cinematheque:

"We are happy to screen the film but we didn't agree to saying that anyone would not be allowed to see it. We believe in pluralism and democratic values and our program is open to all who are interested, regardless of their sex."

Aish HaTorah dedicates $20 million building across from Kotel

By Matthew Wagner www.jpost.com December 7, 2009

Click here for VIDEO

Aish HaTorah, the institution known for its programs that bring unaffiliated Jews closer to traditional Judaism, dedicated the building last week in Jerusalem's Old City overlooking the Kotel that holds its new world headquarters.

About $20 million was raised from various donors including Kirk Douglas; the Dan family (founders of Novopharm, Canada's second largest generic drug company, which was sold to Teva for half a billion dollars); Len Leader, the founder and former CFO of AOL; Sol Kerzner, the South African hotel and gambling magnate; Louis Mayberg, founder and principal of National Capital; and the Bronfman family.

Another $20m. will be invested in the building to create a "museum for the Jewish idea”.

Haredi minister mulls segregating sexes at psychiatric hospitals

By Dan Even www.haaretz.com December 1, 2009

The latest storm to emerge from the office of Deputy Health Minister Yaakov Litzman stems from the plan being considered to separate the sexes in Jerusalem's psychiatric institutions. The idea is to transform the Kfar Shaul Psychiatric Hospital to men-only, and Eitanim to an all-women's facility.

In a letter to the Israel Medical Association, Dr. Gregory Katz, head of the doctors' union at the hospital wrote”

"It is clear that this [proposed] plan runs contrary to any professional and ethical common sense, in medicine in general, and in psychiatry in particular. Moreover, this is religious coercion in its most extreme form and undermines gender equality."

Israel moves toward allowing egg donations among lesbian couples

By Dan Even and Tomer Zarchin www.haaretz.com December 1, 2009

Deputy Health Minister Yaakov Litzman (United Torah Judaism) is promoting a bill on egg donations, which was previously approved on first reading and was also debated in the Knesset Labor, Welfare and Health Committee.

In recent weeks, the legal adviser to the ministry has met with rabbinic figures including Sephardi Chief Rabbi Shlomo Amar in order to discuss sensitive aspects of the bill, due to come up for a Knesset vote in the coming weeks.

'Haredim torched messianic Jew's car'

By Ben Hartman www.jpost.com December 3, 2009

Beit She'an police on Wednesday arrested two haredi residents on suspicion they torched a car belonging to a local messianic Jew late Tuesday night. The car was parked next to the city's police station when it was burned.

The owner of the car, Eliav Levine, identifies with the messianic Jewish community and has lived with his family in Beit She'an for a year and a half. Originally from the former Soviet Union, Levine and his family have been subjected to repeated harassment by local Orthodox Jews, Levine's attorney said Wednesday.

'Haredi Madoff' bilked Bnei Brak families

By Nati Toker www.haaretz.com December 3, 2009

Another Ponzi has been uncovered in the ultra-religious sector. Kikar Shabbat, a news Web site caters to the sector, reports that Moshe Zussman bilked about $50 million from Bnei Brak residents and wealthy families overseas.

Israel Basketball star Doron Sheffer - The Ice Man, melting

By Esti Ahronovitz www.haaretz.com December 3, 2009

Like every climax in his life, this time a deep abyss awaited on the other side of the mountaintop as well. An abyss whose bottom he was very familiar with. In the year he raised the cup, he started to become more religiously observant.

In 2003 he came to the capital in order to play for Hapoel Jerusalem, after one resignation from professional basketball that left shocked the sports world, a two-year spiritual journey all over the world, a fight against cancer, and a not particularly successful comeback in Maccabi Tel Aviv.

Rivlin, Cheshin launch Knesset Bible-study

By Jonathan Lis www.haaretz.com December 2, 2009

Knesset Speaker Reuven Rivlin and former Supreme Court justice Mishael Cheshin launched a Bible study group at the Knesset yesterday.

The group will be open to all Knesset members, alumni and employees, as well as to students. Rivlin said he launched the group because the Bible is too important to Jewish history and culture - and thus modern-day Israel - to be left to archaeologists and scholars of the ancient world.

Israel may turn Megiddo Prison into a tourist site

By Eli Ashkenazi www.haaretz.com December 7, 2009

Megiddo prison, surrounded by prison guards on horseback supplemented by guard dogs, is not a place that many people would care to approach. But if a plan now in the final stages comes to fruition, it could become a tourist attraction drawing Israelis and tourists from around the world.

Behind the prison walls, the remains of the oldest Christian house of worship ever discovered were unearthed four years ago in the course of prison renovations.

8 people arrested after riots at holy burial site

By Eli Ashkenazi www.haaretz.com December 7, 2009

Eight men were arrested yesterday morning after "particularly violent" riots at the burial site of Rabbi Shimon Bar Yochai (Rashbi) on Mount Meron, police reported.

The men, from the Eda Haredit community in Beit Shemesh outside of Jerusalem, were protesting repair work being done on the premises.

…A year ago, the state decided to regularize the site's administration by replacing representatives from various ultra-Orthodox sects with a committee of five.

If the Vilna Gaon was right, the Third Temple is on its way

By Nir Hasson www.haaretz.com November 30, 2009

On March 15, the reconstructed Hurva Synagogue, considered the most important house of prayer in Jerusalem will be rededicated. It was last destroyed in the War of Independence.

However, during the reconstruction process, the Hurva has become a bone of contention between ultra-Orthodox and other Jerusalemites.

The conflict is over what kind of institution the Hurva will be. A group of secular and national-religious Jerusalemites say that if the state does not act quickly, the Hurva will become another ultra-Orthodox synagogue, where women and tourists are unwelcome.

Vandals Smash Mt. of Olives Rabbi's Gravestone

By Gil Ronen www.israelnationalnews.com December 3, 2009

Jews who came to pray Monday at the area reserved for the Lalov Hassidic group on the Mount of Olives in Jerusalem found that the gravestone of the Rabbi of Lalov had been smashed by vandals. The gravestone was dedicated recently, after 30 days had passed since the funeral of the rabbi.

Globus Group plans large new movie theater for Jerusalem

By Ilanit Hayut www.globes.co.il December 3, 2009

Sources inform ''Globes'' that Globus Group will build a multiplex in Jerusalem at an investment of NIS 20 million. The multiplex will have 20-25 screens, and will be open on Saturdays as well.

Bostoner Rebbe Levi Yitzhak Horowitz dies at 88

By Matthew Wagner www.jpost.com December 6, 2009

Rabbi Levi Yitzhak Horowitz, better known as the Bostoner Rebbe, passed away Saturday after struggling to recover from the cardiac arrest he suffered during the summer.

In 1984 Horowitz decided to establish a second center for his hassidic dynasty in the Har Nof neighborhood of Jerusalem. Over the years he split his time between Boston and Har Nof. In 1999 a center was established for the younger members of the hassidic movement in Beitar Illit.

Religion and State in Israel

December 7, 2009 (Section 1) (see also Section 2)

Editor – Joel Katz

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

All rights reserved.

Religion and State in Israel - December 7, 2009 (Section 2)

Religion and State in Israel

December 7, 2009 (Section 2) (see also Section 1)

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.

Hesder officials: IDF can't censure us

By Matthew Wagner and Yaakov Lappin www.jpost.com December 7, 2009

Hesder yeshiva heads declared Sunday night they would fight any attempts by the IDF to penalize the Har Bracha Yeshiva, whose head, Rabbi Eliezer Melamed, has called on soldiers to refuse to act against settlers and settlements.

Har Bracha is a hesder yeshiva, which maintains a program that combines Torah study with military service.

Former OC Southern Command urges IDF to look into 'hesder' arrangements

www.jpost.com December 7, 2009

Former OC Southern Command Maj.-Gen. Yom Tov Samia has urged the IDF to look into arrangements it has with hesder yeshivot in order to put a stop to the phenomenon of insubordination.

"If a program needs to be dismantled then let it be dismantled," said Samia during a conference at Netanya Academic College.

Minister Hershkowitz: Don't close hesder yeshiva

By Roni Sofer www.ynetnews.com December 7, 2009

Minister Daniel Hershkowitz, chairman of the Habayit Hayehudi party, sent a letter to Defense Minister Ehud Barak Monday in which he protests an appeal to close down the Har Bracha yeshiva because its rabbis preached insubordination in the army.

"The closing down of a yeshiva may fan the flames of this dangerous phenomenon and have disastrous effects on the IDF and the state of Israel," Hershkowitz wrote in his letter.

Women lying about religious lifestyle allowed to appeal

By Anshel Pfeffer and Jonathan Lis www.haaretz.com December 7, 2009

The government yesterday decided to restrict the Israel Defense Forces' ability to enlist women who falsely claim to be religiously observant so as to avoid military service.

The Ministerial Committee for Legislation has declared that even if the IDF finds that a young woman was lying when she said she was leading an observant lifestyle, she cannot be recruited immediately, but instead must embark on a process of appeal, in which her case will be debated by representatives from the army and the Chief Rabbinate.

Women accused of evading IDF service may appeal to Rabbinate

By Roni Sofer www.ynetnews.com December 6, 2009

The committee formulated a final draft accepted by all parties, which states that women who profess false religious affiliation must be enlisted to the IDF within two years, or by the age of 20. If the woman is caught at age 21 or later she cannot be drafted according to the law.

Haredi national service program misses its mark

By Yair Ettinger www.haaretz.com December 3, 2009

A program to recruit Haredi yeshiva students to volunteer for national service will grow more slowly than expected, Haaretz has learned.

An internal document prepared by the Civilian Service Administration says it now expects to reach 2,000 Haredi volunteers by 2014 - and not by 2012, as the administration told the High Court of Justice less than three months ago.

IDF chief wants to enlist Arabs, Haredim in national service

By Anshel Pfeffer www.haaretz.com December 2, 2009

IDF Chief of Staff Gabi Ashkenazi expressed support on Tuesday for a national service system that would draft all Israelis, some of whom the Israel Defense Forces would select to serve in the army.

The army is also trying to recruit more ultra-Orthodox soldiers, about 1,000 of whom have taken on technology-related jobs in the army this year.

From Mishnah to Military Intelligence: Haredi yeshiva graduates enlist in IDF

By Anshel Pfeffer www.haaretz.com December 3, 2009

A group of 70 Haredi yeshiva students have been conscripted to the first course of the Binah Beyarok ("Intelligence in Green") program whose objective is to absorb young ultra-Orthodox men into the ranks of army intelligence.

The project began when the commander of the corps, Major General Amos Yadlin, gave instructions to absorb 300 young, ultra-Orthodox men after the success the Air Force had in absorbing Haredi soldiers in its technical side.

…The first task was to define the target population - yeshiva students aged 22 and older, married with children, who needed to leave the yeshiva to make a living.

Thus, they were different from the Haredi Nahal unit, Netzah Yehuda in the Kfir Brigade, which from the outset was for youngsters who left yeshivas for lack of suitability.

How does the U.S. help fund pro-settler IDF troops?

By Akiva Eldar and Chaim Levinson www.haaretz.com December 1, 2009

The Task Force to Save the Nation and the Land, the organization that offered every soldier refusing to evacuate a settlement, and the Kfir Brigade soldiers who publicly demonstrated their opposition to evacuation, NIS 1,000 for every day they spend in military prison, is a registered non-profit organization and has a license to operate.

The Task Force to Save the Nation and the Land is headed by Rabbi Shalom Dov Wolpe, a Chabad Hassid of the messianic stream.

Nahal Haredi Reserve Battalion Established

www.israelnationalnews.com December 1, 2009

A reserve unit for soldiers from the Netzach Yehuda (Nahal Haredi) battalion of the Kfir Brigade came together for the first time on Sunday in Givat Ze’ev.

Soldier sent to detention for cooking on Shabbat after cat ate his meal

By Hanan Greenberg www.ynetnews.com December 2, 2009

A combat soldier from the Nahshon battalion was sentenced to 20 days in detention, after he found out a stray cat "tasted" his Shabbat meal and decided to cook a new meal, despite IDF's strict orders that forbid cooking on the holy day.

Watchdog calls to clarify criteria for city rabbi appointments

By Matthew Wagner www.jpost.com December 3, 2009

In a move to reduce the mixing of politics with religious appointments, a legal issues watchdog threatened this week to petition the High Court of Justice against the Religious Services Ministry unless the ministry publishes clear criteria for the appointment of Sephardi and Ashkenazi city rabbis.

In a letter to Religious Services Minister Ya'acov Margi (Shas), the Movement for Fairness in Government demanded an immediate freeze in all rabbinic appointments until the ministry explained the criteria it used for deciding when to appoint a Sephardi or an Ashkenazi rabbi or both.

NRP says Shas has taken control of Petah Tikva religious institutions

By Yair Ettinger www.haaretz.com December 4, 2009

Petah Tikva is one of several cities - including Ramat Gan and Haifa - where religious Zionist parties like the National Religious Party and Habayit Hayehudi have lost control of the religious councils.

Many Shas members have become members or heads of religious councils in communities throughout the country, apparently due to efforts by Religious Services Minister Yaakov Margi.

The minister, a Shas member, has taken advantage of a new regulation that lets him make appointments if, a year after elections, a local authority has failed to agree on religious council members.

MK calls for probe of Shas religious appointments

By Jonathan Lis and Yair Ettinger www.haaretz.com December 1, 2009

MK Yoel Hasson (Kadima) said yesterday he wants the State Control Committee to order a comptroller's investigation into appointments made by Religious Services Minister Yaakov Margi.

The announcement came as Haaretz reported that many members of Margi's Shas party have recently become members and heads of religious councils around the country, apparently due to the minister's efforts.

Hebron rabbi permits gentile Shabbat construction in settlements

By Matthew Wagner www.jpost.com December 6, 2009

Rabbi Dov Lior, the rabbi of Hebron-Kiryat Arba, issued a halachic ruling last week that it was permitted to employ non-Jews on Shabbat to build in Judea and Samaria during the present construction freeze.

The rationale behind the ruling is that inspectors who report building activity do not work on Shabbat. Therefore, building on settlements can continue unhindered on Shabbat.

Litzman to PM: Allow construction in Haredi settlements

By Ronen Medzini www.ynetnews.com December 2, 2009

The freeze of construction in settlements served a harsh blow to the ultra-Orthodox settlements of Beitar Illit and Modi'in Illit, which attract residents due to the housing crisis in the haredi sector, and the relatively affordable prices compared to haredi neighborhoods in central Israel.

Deputy Health Minister Yakov Litzman (United Torah Judaism) spoke with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on Wednesday and requested he consider the needs of the ultra-Orthodox, and approve construction in the two settlements.

'Haredi school discrimination continues'

By Matthew Wagner www.jpost.com December 4, 2009

Sephardi girls are still being discriminated against by a haredi school in Immanuel despite a three-month-old High Court decision forcing the school to stop separation based on Sephardi/Ashkenazi criteria, according to a petition brought to the High Court on Thursday.

New committee for billboard modesty in Tel Aviv

By Yoav Zeitun www.ynetnews.com December 12, 2009

City Councilman Rabbi Naftali Lubert, one of the prominent activists in recent years for making billboards more modest…recently contacted Menachem Leibe, the director-general of the Tel Aviv Municipality, with a petition that any such billboard receive authorization from the city's spokesperson prior to being published.

The stated objected is to prevent the publication of billboards of a sexual nature that are only made more modest after the municipality contacts the advertising agency.

…The city was quick to take action. Legal advisor Attorney Uzi Salman sent a letter to the advertising agencies saying from here forth no billboards would go up without prior authorization from the advisory council to the municipality.

Messiah in the neighborhood

By Avirama Golan www.haaretz.com December 3, 2009

Ramat Aviv has recently been the scene of well-publicized clashes that are often erroneously described as a cultural and communal struggle between secular and Haredi Jews.

…What is crucial to understand is that the new residents of this neighborhood - a neighborhood whose overall character is secular even if religious people also live there - are not just Haredim who happen to have moved house

…This is not a local, secular Ramat Aviv issue. This is a war over the nature of Israeli society. The people to blame for the retreat of humanism, culture and knowledge in the face of ignorance and idol worship are not the ignorant, but the public figures who fawn over them, betray their own values and leave our children alone at the front.

Seculars use God's name against Haredim in Jerusalem fight

By Nir Hasson www.haaretz.com December 1, 2009

Under the boxes, on the street, someone had spray painted the name of God…The boxes had been placed on top of the graffiti as a holy roadblock by an anonymous group of secular Jerusalemites who have taken upon themselves to act lawfully and creatively against the Haredim.

The tactics the group uses aim to create confusion among the ultra-Orthodox by turning their own mores and mindset against them.

Haredi Mayor: 'Obama, leave us out of the freeze'

By Matthew Wagner www.jpost.com December 7, 2009

The mayor of the Haredi town Beitar Illit appealed Sunday to the Obama administration to leave his town out of the building freeze since it was not an ideologically motivated settlement.

Beitar is populated primarily by haredi families who came out of a desire to escape the cramped quarters and high prices in the traditional haredi centers of Jerusalem and Bnei Brak.

Poll: 61% believe secular exodus threat to Jerusalem unity

www.ynetnews.com December 7, 2009

The secular-haredi battle over the character of Jerusalem is perceived as the largest threat to the unity of the city, according to a joint Ynet-Gesher poll conducted on the backdrop of recent clashes in the capital.

Examining the answers according to religious affiliation shows that the secular exodus from the city is the most potent threat in the eyes of secular and traditional Israelis (75% and 56% respectively).

How would the average Israeli respond to a group of haredi families moving into his neighborhood? Fifty-six percent would be concerned that the neighborhood would become haredi.

An analysis of the results according to religious affiliation shows that the sentiment most popular among secular, traditional, and even religious Israelis is the fear of the neighborhood becoming haredi (61%, 55%, and 46% respectively).

Former MK to seculars: Instead of protesting, have babies

By Kobi Nahshoni www.ynetnews.com November 30, 2009

Former Agudath Yisrael Member of Knesset Rabbi Menahem Porush

"All those who are fomenting (opposition) are a very small group of young people consumed by hatred. It's nothing. We have no reason to be intimidated by them. We are growing bigger and will continue to do so. Nothing will stop it."

"All of this hatred is out of jealousy," said Rabbi Porush. "They (the seculars) just need to show that they are still here, but they barely exist at all."

"We aren't to blame. We have a grandfather, a father, a son, a grandson, and a great-grandson – all together. What do they have? Everywhere we open a yeshiva, a seminar; they fill up immediately while the secular schools stand empty."

Religious weekly allows women's pictures to protest Shalit deal

By Kobi Nahshoni www.ynetnews.com December 1, 2009

Rightist rabbis opposed to releasing Shalit in exchange for hundreds of terrorists are willing to bend some unwritten rules to thwart the swap.

The Religious Zionist movement "Mayanei Hayeshua," which has an in-house rabbanit, has dedicated the front cover of its weekly publication to the cause. In addition, dozens of pictures of terror victims, most of them women, were published in the weekend edition.

In so doing, the movement strayed from the haredi codes it has taken upon itself that stipulate that no pictures of women be published in the magazine.

…Since the launch of the "Mayanei Hayeshua" magazine six years ago, the editorial staff has strictly followed the prohibition against publishing images of women in any form at their rabbis' instruction.

In many instances, the publication even turned down advertisement slots even though they would have brought in more revenues for the magazine.

One of the volumes published this year showed pictures of the movement's activists with female activists' faces blacked out in a feat of graphic work that drew criticism from the liberal religious spheres.

New-Pharm still not kosher enough for some in Bnei Brak

By Matthew Wagner www.jpost.com December 7, 2009

On Saturday night, dozens of Bnei Brak residents converged on the store, which opened six months ago, and demanded that it close its doors due to the negative influence the store's cosmetics and perfume departments might have on the town's young people

The demonstrations, which were not organized by mainstream elements, came as a surprise to New-Pharm management, which had consulted with Bnei Brak Chief Rabbi Ya'acov Landau via PR firm McCann Erickson's haredi department.

Chareidi Youths Working with Dogs in Search & Rescue

By Yechiel Spira www.theyeshivaworld.com November 29, 2009

Students affiliated with the Netivei Noam Yeshiva will be working in concert with ZAKA search & rescue officials, training as the new handlers of dogs that will assist in such life-saving efforts.

The announced move brings an end to another stereotype, that dogs and chareidim are not synonymous. It appears when the issue at hand is pikuach nefesh; anything towards achieving the goal is acceptable.

Letter to the Editor

www.haaretz.com December 6, 2009

In response to "It doesn't pay for Haredi men to work," November 12, 2009

Meirav Arlozorov falsely claims that I - as a kollel student - have no incentive to enter the workforce. She asserts that I receive special tax breaks and free day care, which I don't.

Has she ever met a kollel couple? I'm afraid not. Thus, she is unfamiliar with the story of their very real struggle to make ends meet. It's a harsh battle they fight for the sake of Torah study…

Yehuda Goldman, Jerusalem

Haredim continue Jerusalem protests

By Efrat Weiss www.ynetnews.com December 5, 2009

Some 200 ultra-Orthodox demonstrators are protesting in Jerusalem against the opening of the Karta parking lot on Saturdays. Earlier, hundreds demonstrated in the road leading to the Intel plant in Har Hotzvim to protest Shabbat desecration.

Israel's rabbis rail against epidemic of 'abomination' – internet use

By Ben Lynfield http://news.scotsman.com December 7, 2009

Ultra-Orthodox rabbis in Jerusalem have launched a crackdown on the use of the internet, on the grounds it is filled with "abomination" and is leading believers astray.

The rabbis have called on the public to report to them anyone engaging in religiously proscribed use of the web.

Posters have sprung up in the ultra-orthodox Mea Shearim area, signed by the "Committee for the Purity of the Neighborhood".

The posters voice alarm at growing surreptitious use of the net by rabbinical seminary students who live in rented flats.

"To our dismay, there have been found in the unsupervised apartments computers with all sorts of abomination," say the posters. "Possession of a computer has been forbidden by the great sages of Israel and its results cannot be estimated."

Jewish Agency drops El Al as exclusive carrier for olim

By Cnaan Liphshiz www.haaretz.com December 1, 2009

The Jewish Agency and El Al took another step toward divorce yesterday, when the agency for the first time signed a deal for bringing new immigrants to Israel with El Al's local competitor, Arkia.

In so doing, the agency - whose $2.5-billion contract with El Al expired this month - effectively ended the national carrier's 60-year exclusivity in transporting newcomers immigrating via the organization to Israel.

NBN, JDate team up to match olim, sabras

By Raphael Ahren www.haaretz.com December 2, 2009

Nefesh B'Nefesh has teamed up with the local branch of JDate to help connect new immigrants with potential dates, the aliyah assistance group said yesterday.

Ahead of next month's arrival of some 100 North American singles, JDate Israel will set up a special section on its homepage, inviting Israeli singles to create profiles and immigrants to browse through them. Interest in singles flights, and the singles on them, has risen since 100 singles immigrated together in September.

Initially, the special section will be accessible only to immigrants arriving December 29, but Nefesh B'Nefesh said it plans to expand the service.

Taking it up a notch

By Mitchell Bard Opinion www.jpost.com December 5, 2009

The writer is the author of more than 20 books includingWill Israel Survive?and Executive Director of the American-Israeli Cooperative Enterprise.

Birthright Israel is probably the most important project to be created for the strengthening of Jewish identity and Diaspora-Israel relations since Israel Bonds and the United Jewish Appeal.

That said, most if not everyone agrees that the program has not reached its full potential. We would like to see more of the participants become committed to Judaism and Israel and active participants in Jewish life on campus and in the wider community.

…Given the economic situation, birthright has been cutting back, but this is not the time for retrenchment. It is time to take birthright to the next level.

Ministry bans student Jewish Agency trips to U.S. during school year

By Or Kashti www.haaretz.com December 7, 2009

As of next month, elementary and high schools will no longer be allowed to send students and teachers on delegations outside Israel during the school year, the Education Ministry recently said.

The decision - which does not apply to trips to Poland and international competitions - is expected to affect the Partnership 2000 exchange program, in which dozens of delegations of Israeli pupils visit the United States through a cooperation between the Jewish Agency and various Jewish federations.

'Stimulus' earmarked for immigrants

By Haviv Rettig Gur www.jpost.com December 1, 2009

A growing budget crisis that threatened to upend many crucial programs for absorbing new immigrants has been reversed with the addition of some NIS 172m. to the Absorption Ministry's coffers for fiscal year 2009.

Religion and State in Israel

December 7, 2009 (Section 2) (see also Section 1)

Editor – Joel Katz

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

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