Monday, December 14, 2009

Religion and State in Israel - December 14, 2009 (Section 1)

Religion and State in Israel

December 14, 2009 (Section 1) (see also Section 2)

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Editor – Joel Katz

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

Haaretz Cartoon by Amos Biderman December 10, 2009

“Coming soon: Torah law” [rt.]

“If a man has a stubborn and rebellious son … And all the men of his city shall stone him with stones, that he die…” [left]

Who's afraid of a Halachic state?

By Matthew Wagner December 12, 2009

Mavoi Satum, an organization that fights for women's rights in the rabbinic courts, which are responsible for divorce procedures, said that those who implement Jewish law have "failed miserably to find solutions to modern problems and to develop innovations," and noted that after six decades the courts have still not appointed a single female judge."

…Dr. Nahum Rakover, 77, winner of the Israel Prize in 2002 for his lifetime work in encouraging the use of Jewish law in the legal system … prefers not to answer a question about the appointment of women as judges in courts that rule exclusively in accordance with Halacha.

Haaretz Cartoon by Eran Wolkowski December 9, 2009

“And now, learned rabbis, let’s take things out of context.”

Neeman's sickly olive branch

By Rabbi Seth Farber Opinion December 10, 2009

Rabbi Seth Farber is the director of ITIM: The Jewish Life Information Center and the rabbi of Kehillat Netivot in Ra'anana.

I would conjecture that his formulations were an attempt to hold out an olive branch to the rabbinical court judges, with whom he has had several brush-ups in recent years. Seen in this context, one can understand - if not excuse - Neeman's error.

…If Neeman was indeed trying to offer an olive branch to the rabbinic world, he may well have succeeded.

But at the same time, he has alienated himself from the world in which democracy and modernity inform halakha, as much as they clash with it.

Little was gained from his foray, for the ultra-Orthodox continue to bask in their newfound power, without having to cede anything along the way.

Chief Rabbi Amar comes to Neeman's defense

By Matthew Wagner December 10, 2009

"Throughout the generations the nations of the world attacked us and attempted to kill us and they always opposed the laws of the Torah, but for Jews to do such a thing?"
said Amar during a speech at a rabbinic conference in Jerusalem on the implementation of Jewish law in monetary matters organized by the chief rabbi of Kiryat Ono, Ratzon Arussi.

Israel should bring Jewish law into its legal system

By Anshel Pfeffer Opinion December 11, 2009

Incorporating Jewish law into Israel's civil legal system is a fantastic idea, though that certainly doesn't mean giving more power to the corrupt and moribund religious courts.

But there is another compelling reason to expand Jewish content's role in Israel's laws. Jewish law has to be liberated.

The worst appointment

Haaretz Editorial December 10, 2009

Netanyahu must clarify that his government is committed to the fundamental values upon which the state is founded, and not to the establishment of a theocratic state, against the wishes and interests of the majority of the population.

Neeman: Step by step, Torah law will become binding

By Yair Ettinger, Jonathan Lis and Ofra Edelman December 9, 2009

The justice minister reiterated his praise for the courts that "resolve financial disputes in accordance with the principles of Jewish law."

He says that "we must bring back the heritage of our fathers to the nation of Israel. The Torah has the complete solution to all the questions we are dealing with."

Justice and Halacha Editorial December 9, 2009

In 1953, the secular state enacted the Rabbinical Courts Adjudication Law that empowered the rabbinate to apply Halacha in areas of marriage, divorce and citizenship. The results have been ... unsatisfactory.

Thousands of citizens must go abroad to marry because the state clergy does not acknowledge they are Jewish. Scores of women are chained in dead marriages because the same clergy will not grant them divorces. Tens of thousands of potential Jews have been turned away from Jewish civilization because they will not commit to leading Orthodox lifestyles.

The profane blending of politics, patronage and piety has alienated countless secular Israelis. Yet jealous of their prerogatives, the Orthodox will not share the taxpayers' resources with the Masorti and Reform streams who might be able to reach these people.

Justice Minister: Rabbinical courts should support, not replace civil courts

By Yair Ettinger December 8, 2009

Army Radio quoted Neeman as having said that "step by step, we will bestow upon the citizens of Israel the laws of the Torah and we will turn Halakha into the binding law of the nation," at a Jewish law convention at the Regency hotel in Jerusalem, in the presence of many rabbis and rabbinical judges.

"We must bring back the heritage of our fathers to the nation of Israel," Neeman said. "The Torah has the complete solution to all of the questions we are dealing with," he added.

Justice Minister under fire for craving Torah law December 8, 2009

Rabbi Gilad Kariv, head of the Reform Movement in Israel, said in response, "A justice minister that is supposed to strengthen the democratic rule of law and the legal system in Israel has chosen instead to give his backing to a group of people who see civil courts as 'goyish' and in so doing undermines the trust citizens place in the rule of law.

"Allowing Halacha to take over Israeli law does not fit in with basic democratic principles and with the enlightened and progressive character of the State of Israel.

"The fact that the Justice Minister of the State of Israel supports such a move, even as a personal wish, is a bad sign for Israeli democracy," Kariv said.

Shas leader Rabbi Ovadia Yosef on Halacha December 8, 2009

Shas spiritual leader Rabbi Ovadia Yosef sent a greeting to the conference in which he stressed the halachic prohibition against using secular courts, and said that there was no halachic difference between gentile judges and Jewish judges deliberating according to gentile laws.

He called on the public to choose Jewish courts in any litigation.

Yosef quoted a halacha which states that "anyone who legislates in secular courts is raising one's hand to the Torah of Moses our teacher, he is deemed a wicked person and cannot not be counted in a minyan."

Legal Experts: Ne'eman cannot stay in post

By Aviad Glickman December 8, 2009

Former MK Professor Amnon Rubinstein:

"I don't think the minister should be fired, and I don’t blame Minister Ne'eman for being a religious man, but I do blame the parties that are meant to represent the non-religious public for betraying their constituents."

Slip of the tongue? / His credo snapped

By Yossi Sarid Opinion December 10, 2009

One can easily imagine what happened there at the conference.

Minister Neeman glorying in the company so dear to him - hundreds of rabbis and rabbinical judges - he, arrogant and benevolent, is respectfully invited to the dais to speak. He wants to please them, to flatter them.

He has no difficulty in dismissing the judicial system whose walls Prime Minister Netanyahu and Foreign Minister Lieberman appointed him to guard, as long as the rabbis approved of him, applauded him.

The double-standard state

By Israel Harel Opinion December 10, 2009

And it's not the first slander to which Neeman has been subjected. But ignorance it definitely isn't - not when those attacking him are former justice minister Haim Ramon, MK Ophir Pines-Paz and their ilk.

They know full well that when it comes to the democratic character of the state, Neeman's positions are much closer to theirs than to those of the ultra-Orthodox. And the same is true for the vast majority of the community to which he belongs.

Let's face the facts, Israel is a semi-theocracy

By Gideon Levy Opinion December 10, 2009

The Israelis who were frightened by the minister's remarks and who love viewing their country as liberal, Western and secular are forgetting that our life here is more religious, traditional and halakhic than we are prepared to admit.

…Let's admit that we live in a country with many religious and halakhic attributes. Let's remove the concocted secularist guise with which we have wrapped ourselves. Shocked by Neeman's remarks?

They are not so far removed from the reality of our lives. Israel is not what you thought. It's definitely not what we try to present to ourselves and the rest of the world.

The Minister of Halacha?

Forward Editorial December 9, 2009

It is not our role to select Israel’s leaders, or to call for their ouster. But American Jews can reiterate our support for a pluralistic Israel that respects certain boundaries between religion and state, that allows every citizen to practice religion freely, or not at all.

Basic Law on Democracy

By Shahar Ilan Opinion December 13, 2009

If Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Justice Minister Yaakov Neeman want to make a genuine lasting impression on Israeli democracy, there is no doubt that promoting such a bill [a Basic Law on Democracy] is the right way.

It will not be easy for parties to oppose it. Would Shas' Eli Yishai or United Torah Judaism's Moshe Gafni oppose a law to enshrining the democratic character of the state in law?

Haredi leaders question conversion policy of Ashkenazi Chief Rabbi

By Matthew Wagner December 9, 2009

Rabbis representing the Ashkenazi haredi rabbinical leadership were poised on Tuesday to send a letter to Chief Ashkenazi Rabbi Yona Metzger demanding that he "clarify" his stance on city rabbis who refuse to recognize conversions performed by the Chief Rabbinate of Israel.

Rabbi Gedalia Axelrod, a former head of the Haifa Rabbinical Court, who is working together with Eisenstein, wrote a letter addressed to the "rabbis of Israel" calling to fire Ulman for trying to interfere in religious matters.

"We call to express support for rabbis in Israel who are steadfast in their refusal to marry a gentile with a Jew," wrote Axelrod.

"If a rabbi does not have the power to protect his faith in his refusal to marry a gentile with a Jew, it would be better to permit civil marriages."

My battle for the converts will run as long as there is discrimination

By Rabbi Seth Farber December 10, 2009

Rabbi Seth Farber is the founder and director of ITIM: the Jewish Life Information Centre and the rabbi of Kehillat Netivot in Ra’anana

Now, I respect the personal right of any rabbi to challenge the authenticity of another rabbi’s conversions. However, it seems highly immoral for a local rabbi registering marriages to draw a salary from a rabbinate whose authority he refuses to acknowledge.

…This week, the Ashkenazi Chief Rabbi wrote that should he determine that the rabbis in question refuse to register converts, he plans to appoint alternative registrars. Essentially, he has accepted the basic notion that his authority is being undermined by a set of extremists.

But will this protect Orthodox converts? And will there be guarantees that can allow legitimate converts to rest easy again, as they once did, before conversion annulment became part of the Jewish world’s lexicon? Honestly, I don’t know. And until I’m convinced, ITIM will continue to fight, even at the risk of being confrontational.

The back of the bus is for everybody

By Naomi Chazan Opinion December 12, 2009

The writer is president of the New Israel Fund.

…the vast majority of Israelis have come out against the appalling notion that women can be forced to ride in separate sections of buses (and in the future, by extension, trains or airplanes).

Transportation in Israel is a public commodity. Like every other public good, it belongs to all segments of Israel's increasingly diverse society.

The minister of transportation, as the representative of all Israelis, can delay no longer. Gender desegregation on buses - indeed everywhere - is the order of the day.

New Israeli Hotline Opening for Complaints about Sex Segregation

By Debra Nussbaum Cohen December 10, 2009

In response to Haredi efforts in Israel to increasingly segregate public areas by gender…an Israeli feminist organization is setting up a hotline for women to call to file complaints about discrimination or attack in public places.

The hotline is being called “Hashme’eini,” the feminine term for “Let my voice be heard,” and is being established by Kolech, the Israeli feminist organization for religious women. It is being supported solely by the New Israel Fund, which is spending $7,000 on it for its first year.

Many Israel Beiteinu voters complain civil union bill does not address problem

By Ruth Eglash December 11, 2009

A significant portion of Israel Beiteinu's voters believe that the pending Civil Union Bill aimed at easing marriage restrictions on Israeli citizens not considered halachically Jewish falls far short of addressing the core problems faced by some 300,000 people who cannot get married here.

According to a study conducted in recent weeks by the Jerusalem Institute of Justice and the Israel Women's Network, 44 percent of those who voted for the immigrant party, which pushed civil marriage as a central part of its platform, said they were extremely disappointed with the bill currently moving through the Knesset because, if passed, it would only allow civil unions between two people not considered Jewish. It would not enable a marriage between someone not recognized as Jewish and someone who is.

Poll: 57 Percent for Secular Marriage December 11, 2009

A new poll commissioned by the Women's Lobby and the Jerusalem Center for Justice says 57 percent of the Israeli public favors passage of a law that would allow a Jewish couple to choose between a secular marriage and one performed by the rabbinate. According to the poll, 69 percent said that they would opt for the rabbinate.

The poll was released in conjunction with a gathering on Thursday sponsored by the two groups entitled, "Secular Marriage: A Revolutionary Solution or a Big Bluff?" Chairman Rina Bar-Tal of the Women's Lobby told the gathering that the poll proved that the religious establishment had nothing to fear from secular marriages

The Agunah Problem and Israel’s Law of the Land

By Diana Villa December 2009 / pgs 4-5 (click image)

Look Inside >>
December 2009, The Law of the Land is the Law

Mahara”t Sara Hurwitz on Women of the Wall

By Mahara”t Sara Hurwitz Opinion December 10, 2009

I understand that the circumstances surrounding Nofrat Frenkels arrest is complicated.

However, that does not change the fact that women should have the right to daven peacefully at the holiest site in the world. Their presence does not exclude men from praying. There is a mechitza separating men and women. No one is advocating for its removal.

So, in the spirit of inclusivity, why can’t men and women find a way to pray harmoniously side by side?

Is the Writing on the Wall?

By Peggy Cidor December 10, 2009

The list of groups, organizations and individuals who feel that the Western Wall has changed from a national site connected with Jewish history and legacy into a strict haredi location with all the relevant interdictions and extreme rules of modesty is getting longer every day.

Women of the Wall member Batya (Betsy) Kallus:

"We view Nofrat's arrest as part of the expanding level of control that the ultra-Orthodox are exerting at the Western Wall.

Their efforts to limit women's participation in prayer at the Western Wall does not reflect the general trend within the modern Orthodox community throughout the world, which recognizes women's rights to don tallitot.

It is disturbing that only at the Western Wall is it illegal for a woman to don a tallit. In conclusion, Women of the Wall believe that the Western Wall is a national symbol of the entire Jewish people and belongs to all of us, women and men alike."

Arrested for Wearing a Prayer Shawl - It's Simply Prayer. WOW! December 6, 2009 Comment

Dear Abby,

I write as the Legal Liaison of the International Committee for Women of the Wall. Thank you for your support.

We ask that you not refer to Rabinowitz as “Rav HaKotel” or “Western Wall Rabbi” in any of your postings, etc but rather as “Memuneh Al Hakotel” (Administrator of the Kotel).

His title is not mere semantics.

Rather, the title “Memuneh” accurately reflects his political and legal status, namely: Administrator of the Kotel, according to the Statute Governing Holy Sites.

We have never and do not now recognize his halachic authority as our mara d’atra, or halachic decisor, to determine minhag hamakom (local custom) at this holy site. Calling him “Rav” imputes to him authority that we do not recognize...

Shalom, Miriam Benson

Women of the Wall – Audio Interview with Anat Hoffman December 1, 2009

Click here for Transcript of interview

Click here for PODCAST

A group called ‘Women of the Wall’ holds monthly prayer meetings at the Western Wall. Recently, a woman was arrested for wearing a prayer shawl and reading the Torah at the Wall.

The group is pushing for more women’s religious rights within Orthodox Judaism. And it’s getting some in Israel really angry, as Linda Gradstein reports.

Israel Gay Rabbi Comes out of his Orthodox Closet

By Yermi Brenner December 11, 2009

Click here for VIDEO

Uncertain Territory: Conservative Judaism’s Pioneering Gay Rabbinical Students Tread Carefully in Israel

By Beth Schwartzapfel December 7, 2009

When the first openly gay rabbinic students came through the doors of Conservative Judaism’s Jewish Theological Seminary in 2007, there remained in the back of everyone’s mind one sensitive, still-unresolved issue:

What would happen when they went to Israel?

All understood that their curriculum, like that of all JTS rabbinic students, would include a third year spent abroad at the Conservative movement’s seminary in Jerusalem, which has so far refused to ordain gay rabbis.

Now, Ian Chesir-Teran and Aaron Weininger — the pioneering gay students — are poring over their Talmuds and arguing the fine points of Jewish law at Machon Schechter in Jerusalem, JTS’s sister seminary. And so far, say both the students and their school, the year abroad is proceeding smoothly, at least on the surface.

Secular, ultra-Orthodox jockey over swath of land in Jerusalem

By Nir Hasson December 10, 2009

The secular residents of Jerusalem's Ramot neighborhood are vying with the ultra-Orthodox for dominance over land earmarked for hundreds of apartments and a sports center.

Secular residents want to open a sports center to attract young people and curb ultra-Orthodox expansion. The religious community is equally determined to win the tender and prevent that from happening.

Bank catering to Haredim holds men-only business conference

By Matthew Wagner December 8, 2009

Bank Poalei Agudat Israel, which caters primarily to the haredi community, has prohibited women from attending a business conference it is sponsoring Tuesday in Ramat Gan that will deal with a wide range of economic issues including employment, construction, investments and haredi institutions.

An invitation that was sent to the bank's customers states that attendance at the economic conference will be permitted to men only, due to customer demand.

Haredi women outraged over men-only business convention

By TheMarker December 9, 2009

Even though PAGI explained it was merely segregating sexes in keeping with ultra-Orthodox custom, some women in the community expressed outrage. Gender-based discrimination perpetuates their seemingly inferior status in Haredi society, they said.

"The separation of men and women is not something that we invented," First International Bank of Israel stated in a response, "and it is a part of almost every aspect of life in the Haredi sector."

Gender Segregation Plan Stirs Anger

By Nathan Jeffay December 9, 2009

Israel’s medical establishment is reacting angrily to revelations that the country’s Health Ministry is working on a plan to make Jerusalem’s two largest psychiatric institutions single-gender.

The controversy marks the latest in a series of dust-ups over the place of religion in the health care system since the United Torah Judaism party took control of the Health Ministry following Israel’s February general election.

But some critics say the push for gender segregation at the two institutions would be the first change under the ultra-Orthodox party’s stewardship in which religious ideology would have a far-reaching operational effect on health care provision.

Jerusalem mayor and tensions with ultra-Orthodox

By Ari Rabinovitch December 8, 2009

Interview with Jerusalem Mayor Nir Barkat

Q: Are some of the ultra-Orthodox flexing their muscles for a secular mayor?

“It’s true that there is about two percent of the population in the city, six or seven percent of the ultra-Orthodox community, that is more violent than it was in the past.

It’s a very small minority. Indeed I think that you will find that in spite of the fact that there were riots, it did not change any of the decisions I made or anybody else made.

On the one hand, there is a more extreme part of the population that was violent — and stopped, by the way, because violence got them nothing and violence will not achieve anything under my leadership.”

Hareidi MK Angry Over Smaller Harish

By Gil Ronen December 9, 2009

MK Rabbi Menachem Eliezer Moses (United Torah Judaism) berated the National Council for Planning and Construction on Wednesday for its decision to scale down plans for a hareidi city in north-central Israel.

The council decided to approve plans for a city that could hold 50,000 residents, instead of 150,000 as was previously planned.

The project is now to include 9,000 housing units, compared with 20,000 to 25,000 that the planners had hoped for.

Jerusalem Foundation’s Sallai Meridor seeks to revive Jerusalem

By Gil Shefler December 10, 2009

In an interview with JTA at the Jerusalem Foundation's offices in New York, Meridor showed a keen familiarity with Jerusalem's problems.

He said he's pained that Jerusalem is Israel's poorest big city, alarmed by the flight of young, secular and educated Jews from the city, and deeply concerned by the growth of the city's non-Zionist fervently Orthodox and Arab populations.

Jews comprise about 65 percent of Jerusalem's population, but almost half of those are non-Zionist Orthodox Jews.

In desperate bid to keep flock away from Web, rabbis denounce Haredi sites

By Yair Ettinger December 11, 2009

Ultra-Orthodox Internet forums are in an uproar over a harsh letter against the sites, signed by leading Haredi rabbis, that is due to be published Friday in the three Haredi daily papers.

The news, appropriately, was broken by one of the sites themselves. The site, called "Haredim", reported that the rabbis had denounced the sites as containing "lies and terrible impurity" and instructed all Haredim "not to look, not to cooperate, not to advertise."

Rabbis take on Haredi websites

By Kobi Nahshoni December 11, 2009

The rabbis further stated that it is the ultra-Orthodox websites "which impeach a public tempted to (surf) the vilest of places, which have already caused so many in Israel to breach Torah laws about things best kept private."

The document was signed by dozens of the ultra-Orthodox public's most prominent rabbis, including Rabbi Yosef Shalom Elyashiv, Rabbi Aharon Yehuda Leib Shteinman and Rabbi Chaim Kanievsky.

Haredim asked to report yeshiva students with internet connection

By Kobi Nahshoni December 8, 2009

Posters displayed throughout ultra-Orthodox neighborhoods in Jerusalem are calling on residents to report yeshiva students who own computers and are connected to the internet for fear of "to'eva (abomination)."

The posters are signed by the "Committee for Preserving Our Camp's Purity," one of the so-called "modesty squads" operating in Jerusalem.

Some yeshiva students who cannot find rooms in the overcrowded haredi dormitories in the capital rent their own flats. Rabbis who have forbidden the use of computers are demanding greater supervision over tenants and landlords.

Ma’ariv Editorial on ultra-Orthodox December 10, 2009

Ma'ariv says that "If the forecasts come true, in about 20 years the ultra-Orthodox will number three million people – about a third to half of the Jewish population."

The author opines that "If the ultra-Orthodox do not change their living habits, the State of Israel will have difficulty existing…"

Haredi men held for 2008 stabbing of J'lem Arab

By Liel Kyzer December 10, 2009

One year after an East Jerusalem man was stabbed in the capital's Mea She'arim neighborhood, a gag order has been lifted on the arrest two weeks ago of three ultra-Orthodox men - two minors and one adult - for the crime. Nationalist motives are suspected.

Body-building is Kosher in Jerusalem neighborhoods

Click here for VIDEO December 8, 2009

The Bostoner Rebbe, the first American-born Hasidic leader

By Raphael Ahren December 11, 2009

Friends, family and followers eulogized this week Grand Rabbi Levi Yitzhak Horowitz, known as the Bostoner Rebbe, as a quiet revolutionary who reached out to unaffiliated Jews and provided an alternative voice among Hasidic leaders. Rabbi Horowitz died Saturday in Jerusalem after suffering this summer a cardiac arrest from which he never fully recovered.

Movies for the (female) masses

By Matthew Wagner December 10, 2009

…by choosing the visual media and utilizing song and dance performed by women, Garbose must ensure that only women attend A Light. (Garbose has other Jewish films in development that are for general audiences, but they're not musicals.) "The truth is that the onus is on the man," says Garbose.

"I am obligated by Halacha to market the film for women only. And we begin every screening with a cute animation which shows a bunch of women yapping away when, suddenly, a man strays in and everyone goes silent."

Mainstream Distribution for Film Targeted at 'Women Only' Audiences

By Rebecca Honig Friedman December 7, 2009

Orthodox filmmaker Robin Garbose is one happy camper right now. She has secured distribution for her first feature film in two mainstream movie theaters in Israel.

But while any independent filmmaker would be happy to have her work released in theaters, the victory is especially sweet for Garbose, whose film, “A Light for Greytowers,” is intended for an audience of women only.

There is one catch, however…

Religion and State in Israel

December 14, 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.