Monday, December 28, 2009

Religion and State in Israel - December 28, 2009 (Section 1)

Religion and State in Israel

December 28, 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.

'Rabbinical courts can annul conversion'

By Matthew Wagner December 24, 2009

Rabbinical courts have the legal authority to retroactively annul conversions to Judaism years and even decades after they were performed, even if the conversion was performed under the aegis of the Chief Rabbinate, according to a legal opinion by attorney Rabbi Shimon Ya'acobi, the legal adviser to the Rabbinical Court Administration, that was released to the press Wednesday.

Ya'acobi also argues that city rabbis have the right to question the Jewishness of converts to Judaism who come before them to be registered for marriage.

Ya'acobi's legal opinion is nothing short of a bombshell in the ongoing battle over the Jewishness of thousands of converts who converted under the aegis of the state-funded National Conversion Authority and conversion courts in the IDF.

Letter to Editor - One-sided opinion December 2, 2009

…It all boils down to an age-old halachic argument between those who feel converts are "good for the Jews" or "bad for the Jews."

These subjective decisions all have good Talmudic basis, and depend primarily on whether the deciding authority is more influenced by a sense of gevura or a sense of hessed - in contemporary terms, a strict constructionist interpretation of stated Halacha, or a more charitable one.

In the present time, the division between these two views among religious leadership may be more destructive than the issue itself.

Rabbi Macy Gordon


U.S. rabbi involved in sex scandal led fight against Israel conversions

By Yair Ettinger December 24, 2009

Rabbi Tropper's stated goal in founding the Eternal Jewish Family was to "fortify the walls of conversion," amid an ideological debate between the Haredi and national camps in Israel.

While functioning as a well-known rabbi in the New York area and head of the Kol Yaakov yeshiva, Rabbi Tropper enlisted wealthy Jews in the Haredi fight against to non- ultra-Orthodox conversions, especially those carried out by special conversion courts in Israel headed by Rabbi Haim Druckman.

As such, the doors of senior Haredi officials were thrown open to him, including that of Rabbi Shalom Elyashiv, a leader of the Lithuanian Haredi sect, and rabbi Tropper himself had the title of gaon ("most learned") bestowed upon him by the ultra-Orthodox press - all because of his efforts and comments against conversions by the Conversion Authority, against the "infiltration" of gentiles into the people of Israel.

Shas renews efforts on 'hametz law'

By Matthew Wagner December 23, 2009

Shas is pushing to strengthen the Hametz Law - which prohibits the display of bread for sale or consumption during Pessah - before the spring holiday arrives.

MK Avraham Michaeli (Shas) on Wednesday submitted an amendment to the law, first passed in 1986, that would override a novel interpretation to it given by a Jerusalem judge nearly two years ago.

The goal, Michaeli said, is to reinforce the law and give it the prohibitive strengths originally intended by the legislators.

The law states that "No merchant will display a hametz product in public for the sake of sale or consumption."

…Shas's Michaeli wants to remove the words "in public" from the original law.

Shas to introduce Chametz Law amendment

By Amnon Meranda December 23, 2009

"The court's definition of 'public,' which referrers to the sale of leavened foods only in public domain twists the legislator's original meaning, allowing for a situation in which, for example, a supermarket serving thousands of customers will be barred from selling leavened foods, but a vendor standing in a dark alley could do so," said the proposed amendment brief.

"The word 'public' should be stricken and leavened foods should be barred from any display in any business."

High Court: Jew for Jesus baker must apply for new kashrut certificate

By Dan Izenberg and Matthew Wagner December 22, 2009

The High Court of Justice on Monday ordered the Jew for Jesus owner of a bakery in Ashdod to apply for a new kashrut certificate instead…[of finding] the Rabbinate in contempt of court for failing to implement a ruling issued in June.

Judge Procaccia told Shraga, "Submit a formal application including the promise to fulfill all the regular conditions and you will receive an answer. We will be able to adjudicate the case on the basis of that answer, if, indeed, there will be a need to."

The attorneys for the Rabbinate would not promise to approve the application. Attorney Hani Ofek, representing the Chief Rabbinate, told the court that Conforty must apply to the Ashdod Rabbinate. If she were not satisfied with its response, she could appeal to the Chief Rabbinate.

"Rabbi Sheinin made it clear that no matter what the High Court decides he will never do anything against Halacha," said Portnoy.
"Even if they hang the rabbi from a tree he will never transgress the Halacha. And according to Halacha there has to be a kosher supervisor on the premises at all times."

Ashkenazi students skip school in wake of anti-segregation ruling

By Or Kashti December 25, 2009

The Education Ministry on Wednesday threatened to prosecute parents of students in a West Bank settlement school under the mandatory education law, unless the students returned to their classrooms.

The Ashkenazi students of the ultra-Orthodox Beit Yaakov girls' school in Immanuel stayed home on Wednesday, yet again, as part of an organized protest against the decision by the Education Ministry and High Court to end the segregation between Sephardi and Ashkenazi students.

"No court ruling or Education Ministry decision can bring the two groups together," an Immanuel resident said Wednesday.

The Pluralist

By Lauren Gelfond Feldinger December 27, 2009

Interview with Dr. Adam Hofri-Winogradow, assistant professor at the Hebrew University's Faculty of Law, an expert on legal history and comparative law.

Q: Could religious law play an even bigger part in the future?

A: It is possible, yes, that there will be more religious law applied. If a massive majority of Israel's Jews come to support the application of Halacha to additional subjects, and this support is reflected in the Knesset, we could eventually edge somewhat closer to a "Halacha state," so far as the law applied to Israel's Jews is concerned.

Petah Tikva's Haredi parents take their beef to Yishai

By Nir Hasson December 24, 2009

Parents of children in Shas' Maayan Hahinuch Hatorani educational system in Petah Tikva will demonstrate this morning in Jerusalem outside the Interior Ministry office of party chairman Eli Yishai - the first open sign of a break between the grassroots of the movement and the Shas leadership.

The problems started with the passage of two laws called "Nahari law 1" and "Nahari law 2," named after MK Meshulam Nahari (Shas), a minister without portfolio. The laws were intended to regularize the transfer of funds from local authorities to ultra-Orthodox schools.

Municipalities have used the laws to justify cuts in funding and services for Haredi schools and required them to provide various services themselves - or pay for them.

Where is justice for women?

By Rivkah Lubitch Opinion December 21, 2009

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

Even religious people who pray for ‘judges of old’ were horrified when Justice Minister Ne'eman suggested that we apply Din Torah to Israeli law. Many think that it is possible to adopt Halacha into a modern legal system, but only after it has been adjusted for our generation.

…Would the honorable minister please answer the following question: Would his imagined legal system allow women to testify? Would it allow a secular Jew to testify? Could women act as judges? Would there be equality between men and women? Between Jew and non-Jew?

…"Why should I, as a woman, agree to accept Jewish law if it discriminates against me and won’t accept my testimony in a court of law"?

Israeli Politics and a Woman's Womb

By Elana Sztokman Opinion December 24, 2009

This phenomenon of religious women challenging the male domination of thought and knowledge is fascinating.

In this case, it’s not about women taking on formal leadership roles, but rather about taking ownership of their own bodies, thought processes and lives — without rejecting religious life.

In fact, their commitment to religiousness is in some ways reinforced through this form of empowerment. Indeed, Adler’s “talking back to the rabbi” is arguably more significant than some of the formal changes going on with Orthodox women, such as women being halakhic advisers on “family purity.”

Egged secretly begins running bus line on Shabbat

By Yanir Yagna December 21, 2009

The Egged bus cooperative, Israel's main public transport company, has apparently secretly begun to operate buses on Shabbat, Haaretz has learned. Buses Nos. 370 and 380, on the Be'er Sheva-Tel Aviv route, depart Be'er Sheva before the Sabbath is over. The early departures are not featured on the company's Web site.

One of the company's drivers told Haaretz:

"I guess they don't want to upset the ultra-Orthodox. Buses leave Be'er Sheva an hour and a half before the end of the Shabbat every Saturday."

Jerusalem Eruv Poles to Be Returned on Tuesday

By Yechiel Spira December 22, 2009

While the sides involved will be meeting in Jerusalem City Hall next week, a meeting on Monday resulted in agreement, that under the watchful eye of Jerusalem Religious Council officials, Jerusalem City Hall employees on Tuesday will return the approximately 30 eruv poles that were torn out in the capital during recent days, by City Hall.

Haredi ex-MK claims Reform anti-religious activists, media exaggerate scale of Mea She'arim violence

By Abe Selig December 24, 2009

"There is a group of people who are against the haredim all the time," former Knesset member and haredi journalist Rabbi Israel Eichler said. "They are mainly funded by Reform Jews from America who want to portray the haredi world in a bad light."

"The truth of the matter is that the secular, haredi and [national] religious public live in peace and quiet throughout Jerusalem, be it on the city's buses, on the streets, in the bank or in the business world.

Those who are trying to heat up the situation are the media and radical anti-religious activists, who receive millions of dollars from the United States to launch smear campaigns against the haredi and religious public, including the settlers," he went on.

"Every child who throws a rock turns into 'thousands of haredim' or a situation that resembles Iran," Eichler added. "This makes their donors in America happy, who want to convince people the danger is the haredim and not the Arabs."

Litzman defends move to separate sexes in psych wards

By Dan Even December 24, 2009

The initiative to separate the sexes in psychiatric hospitals in Jerusalem was discussed by the Knesset Labor, Welfare and Health Committee yesterday. Deputy Health Minister Yaakov Litzman (United Torah Judaism) is behind the move, and presented the committee with an order from the Jerusalem Juvenile Court which he claims requires him to hospitalize minors in wards segregated by gender in psychiatric hospitals.

Litzman also informed the committee that he intends to separate minors in this way in all such hospitals around the country. He said the segregation was meant to make life easier for ultra-Orthodox patients who ask to be hospitalized.

Haredi girls petition against psychometric exam prerequisite

By Aviad Glickman December 22, 2009

Five ultra-Orthodox young women filed a petition Thursday with the High Court of Justice demanding they be accepted into the nursing school at Netanya's Laniado Hospital without psychometric exam scores.

The petitioners further claimed that in setting this prerequisite they were being prevented from joining the work force simply due to their haredi affiliation.

They also demanded that the court order the two officials to explain why more reasonable conditions were not set which would have properly reflected the different needs of members of the ultra-Orthodox community.

War over the homeland

By Ron Leshem Opinion December 22, 2009

Twenty years from now, most of Israel's young people will be ultra-Orthodox or Arabs. Denial devices blind our eyes to this statistical fact.

It may be inconceivable, but it is certainly possible that in 30 years we'll be living in an unenlightened third-world country, subject to Torah law as interpreted by extremist rabbis who gradually, in a series of small steps, turn out the lights.

Saar: Increase Academic Scholarships for Haredim December 21, 2009

Education Minister Gideon Saar said Sunday night that academic scholarships should be increased for the Hareidi religious sector in order to permit more of them to get academic degrees.

Saar made the comments during a visit to the hareidi-religious campus of the Ono Academic College.

Police attacked by Haredi mob in Jerusalem December 24, 2009

Police officers on Thursday morning were attacked by a haredi mob after being dispatched to the ultra-Orthodox Beit Yisrael neighborhood in Jerusalem to tend to a woman who was assaulted by the "modesty patrol."

Two cops hurt in clashes with ultra-Orthodox in Jerusalem

By Yair Ettinger December 27, 2009

Thousands of ultra-Orthodox demonstrators gathered on Sunday evening at an industrial zone in Jerusalem where Intel has its compound, to protest the company's decision to stay open on the Sabbath.

As their protests picked up speed over the course of the evening, the demonstrators began throwing rocks at police officers, wounding two. Two protesters were arrested in the wake of the clashes.

Haredim removed from Golda Meir Blvd.

By Abe Selig December 27, 2009

Special police forces on foot and on motorcycles dispersed the Haredi protesters who had managed to block Jerusalem's Golda Meir Blvd. on Sunday evening, in the culmination of a 1,500-strong haredi protest against Intel's continued Shabbat operation of its microchip factory in the capital.

Haredim demonstrate Intel Shabbat operations in Jerusalem

By Abe Selig December 27, 2009

Hundreds of haredim were protesting Sunday evening across the street from the Jerusalem Intel plant.

The haredim offered prayer and recited psalms as protesters continued to arrive. The event remained calm and without disturbance.

Charedi websites close following ban

By Anshel Pfeffer December 23, 2009

Two Charedi news websites closed down this week and a wave of resignations has hit other sites following the strictest rabbinical ruling against the internet to date.

A letter signed two weeks ago by some of the most senior rabbis of the Charedi community in Israel, including Rabbis Yosef Shalom Elyashiv, Aharon Leib Steinman and the leaders of the main Chasidic sects, reiterates a “severe prohibition of private usage of internet in every home”.

Statement about Dei'ah VeDibur December 17, 2009

The focus of the campaign of the Gedolim against chareidi Internet sites is directed at the forums and blogs that are conducted on an anonymous basis for fun and profit.

Dei'ah VeDibur is the opposite of these. I am fully identified. The site is run on with a low-key style with the aim of informing about the issues that affect the chareidi community. The site has no advertising and no one benefits in any material way if there are more or fewer viewers.

We do not wish, by our presence, to be seen as in any way endorsing or encouraging use of the Internet.

Mordecai Plaut

Planning body advances plan to solve Tel Aviv area's grave problems

By Ron Friedman December 23, 2009

High-density burial, which is permitted by Halacha, is seen as one of the main solutions to the burial-ground shortage. A special interministerial committee was established in 2003 for the purpose of promoting the practice.

…Another practice that has been adopted of late is burying loved ones in private cemeteries belonging to kibbutzim. This has become particularly popular among those who do not want an Orthodox funeral service.

Many kibbutzim use land adjacent to the kibbutz to bury kibbutz members and their families. In recent years, they have also agreed to bury non-members in exchange for substantial sums, a practice frowned on by the Religious Services Ministry.

Gafni Ties Court Funds to Beis Din Funding

By Yechiel Spira December 23, 2009

MK (Yahadut HaTorah) Rabbi Moshe Gafni, who chairs the Knesset Finance Committee, rejected a treasury request for NIS millions to refurbish courtrooms during a committee session on Monday.

Gafne questioned why the treasury is only seeking funding for courts, and not batei din [religious courts], which he explained are generally in greater need of refurbishing then the civil courts.

He said if the treasury wishes to refurbish courts, then it must also find funds to simultaneously address the alarming and dilapidated state of many religious courts.

Court Rejects Reform Attempt to Block Shul Construction in Netanya

By L.S. Wasserman December 17, 2009

The Be'er Channah Foundation has succeeded in canceling a temporary restraining order issued following a request by Reform figures that had put a halt to the construction of the Be'er Channah Beis Knesses in Netanya's Ramat Poleg neighborhood.

Six months ago Reform figures managed to obtain a restraining order to halt construction on all of the plots allocated for synagogues throughout the city of Netanya…

Teva Pharmaceuticals Seeking a Hechsher

By Yechiel Spira December 25, 2009

According to a Ladaat report, the Israeli pharmaceutical giant Teva has turned to the Chief Rabbinate of Israel, seeking a hechsher [kashrut certificate] for its products.

Senior company officials have already met with Chief Rabbis, Rishon L’Tzion HaRav Moshe Shlomo Amar Shlita and HaRav Yonah Metzger Shlita.

Petitioners demand indictment for Yitzhar rabbis

By Dan Izenberg December 21, 2009

A group of petitioners on Sunday called on the High Court of Justice to indict two Yitzhar settlement rabbis for writing and marketing a book in which they say Jewish religious law permits the murder of Palestinian babies and that at times it is preferable to deliberately kill innocent people.

The book was written by Rabbi Yitzhak Shapira, head of Od Yosef Chai Yeshiva, and Rabbi Yosef Elitzur, a teacher at the school.

Rabbis draft prisoner swap guidelines

By Kobi Nahshoni December 22, 2009

A group of leading Zionist-religious rabbis have drafted a document that for the first time presents clear guidelines for prisoner swaps.

The rabbis who signed the document include Shlomo Aviner, Yaakov Ariel, Haim Druckman, and Dov Lior.

Forum looks to Jewish sources for public policy insights

By Matthew Wagner December 23, 2009

On Wednesday, in the fifth in a series of conferences dealing with a wide range of subjects that bring together science and Torah, economists and Torah scholars will be getting together at Bar-Ilan University's Beit Midrash to show that ancient Jewish texts can teach us something about creating a better modern economy while at the same time showing that contemporary economic theories can help us to understand age-old rabbinic teachings.

The program is called "Nitzotzot: The President's Doctoral Forum for Innovation in Torah and Science," and it pairs outstanding doctoral students with erudite rabbis to foster a cross-fertilization of ideas.

Old Macdonald's had a 'shiur'

By Emily Hochberg December 25, 2009

When the congregation of the New Synagogue of Netanya, better known as the "MacDonald's shul," gathers on Saturday, it will be marking a 30-year milestone for new olim.

Crumbling Tiberias synagogue to regain its former glory

By Eli Ashkenazi December 27, 2009

Two descendents of Rabbi Haim Shmuel Hacohen Konorti stood Wednesday in the 173-year-old synagogue that bears the honorific by which their ancestor was known - "the senior."

Dolev and Ninio have established a non-profit association for the conservation of the Ninio courtyard, and have recently brought several groups into the project of rescuing the site.

Conservation work began this week, supported by the Tiberias municipality, the city's economic corporation and the Society for the Preservation of Israel Heritage Sites.

Traditional Jewish Music Sought in Secular Kibbutzim

By Hillel Fendel December 22, 2009

A new initiative by the Ayelet HaShachar (Morning Star) outreach organization is gaining in popularity in the Galilee: Cantorial (hazanut) evenings featuring traditional Jewish cantors singing traditional Jewish music.

The first one was held in Kibbutz Kinneret, one of the first kibbutzim (agricultural cooperative communities) in Israel and long considered a bastion of secularism, and enthusiastic requests have already come in for more.

Jewish activists planning Temple Mount ascent

By Abe Selig December 16, 2009

A group of activists dedicated to bringing Jews to the Temple Mount told The Jerusalem Post on Tuesday that they were hoping to see hundreds of participants take part in a planned "mass pilgrimage" to the site scheduled for Thursday morning in honor of Hanukka, which celebrates the rededication of the Second Temple after it was recovered from Hellenist Greeks more than 2,000 years ago.

Model Altar of Unhewn Stones Completed at Temple Institute

By Gil Ronen December 25, 2009

The Temple Institute in Jerusalem announced Friday the completion of a model of the biblical altar which G-d, through Moses, commanded the nation of Israel to build at the Mount of Eval (Ebal) overlooking Shechem:

Religion and State in Israel

December 28, 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 28, 2009 (Section 2)

Religion and State in Israel

December 28, 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.

Mock 'chastity squads' protest segregated bus lines

By Kobi Nahshoni December 27, 2009

A mock "chastity squad" divided the walking routes leading up the government offices in Jerusalem for men and women on Sunday morning in protest against the segregated bus lines in public transportation in the capital.

The protestors, some 20 activists of the Yerushalmim movement handed out fliers outside the Supreme Court building which directed pedestrians to their designated pavement according to their sex.

The demonstrators held up signs which read,

"Passersby! We implore you to adhere to complete separation between men and women in the government compound. Men are required to move to the right side and women to the left side. Mothers are required to separate from their children and husbands. Please do not disrupt our lifestyle of god-fearing Jews, God and his Torah."

Jerusalem groups to protest 'mehadrin' bus lines

By Abe Selig December 25, 2009

On the same day that Transportation Minister Yisrael Katz is expected to deliver his recommendations to the Supreme Court about "mehadrin" bus lines - which designate separate seating for men and women - some residents of the capital plan to make their voices heard on the subject.

Poll: Majority of Israelis oppose gender-segregated buses

By Abe Selig December 27, 2009

"If gender segregation isn't stopped on buses, our fear is that it will continue to move further into the public sphere," said Martin Viler, a spokesman for the Yerushalmim movement, which is led by city councilwoman Rachel Azaria.

"Our goal today was to call attention to the ongoing segregation of the sexes on the mehadrin bus lines, but also to warn the public that if it continues unabated, we'll soon see it on the streets, and not just in haredi neighborhoods."

Factions clash over Israel's buses

By Seth Freedman December 16, 2009

With the gulf between the secular and religious camps in Israel continuing, the issue of gender segregation on public transport has become the latest bone of contention.

Activists from both sides are eagerly awaiting a ruling – due at the end of the month – from the Minister for Transport, whose decision will either bring an end to the forced separation of men and women on state-run buses or enshrine the partition in Israeli law.

Chanukah demonstration at Western Wall December 22, 2009

Returning to the Kotel

By Haviva Ner-David Opinion December 23, 2009

Rabbi Haviva Ner-David is a writer, teacher, and activist.

This past Friday was my first time coming back to Jerusalem to join my sisters at the Kotel for our monthly Rosh Hodesh service.

I have been active in Women of the Wall for over 15 years. I am on the board and had been praying at 7 am each month, rain or shine, with these women at the Kotel for all of those years. Until I moved this past summer to Kibbutz Hannaton in the Lower Galilee.

Kibbutz Hannaton is a religious Kibbutz, but it is religious in the same unacceptable-to-the-Israeli-religious-powers-that-be way as Women of the Wall.

Poll: 90% of Israelis want less gender-separation at Kotel

By Jamie Romm December 24, 2009

A new poll conducted by Hiddush, a group promoting religious freedom and equality in Israel, shows that 90 percent of the adult Jewish population here wants to see, at minimum, a liberalization of the gender-separation policy at the Kotel.

In the current poll, the 90% in favor of a change included 81% of the self-defined religious people who were polled.

These respondents were either against the mehitzot that separate the men from the women or wanted them to be moved to give the same amount of space to both.

Seventy-one percent of respondents believed that the mehitzot degrade women.

Oren Asks for Inquiry on Wall Arrest

By Debra Nussbaum Cohen December 23, 2009

Israeli Ambassador Michael Oren blamed his own government for giving him an “incomplete” report recently that led to his giving leaders of Conservative Judaism an inaccurate account of one of their members’ detention at Jerusalem’s Western Wall.

When asked about the incident at the annual meeting of the United Synagogue of Conservative Judaism in December, Oren dismissed these accounts as “widely misreported,” saying she was simply “led away” from the area.

In the face of challenges to his account, the Israel embassy released a statement December 22 conceding he had misinformed the Jewish leaders.

“The ambassador’s response was based on information he had requested and received from Israel, but which was subsequently proven to be incomplete,” the statement said.

Challenging Traditions at the Heart of Judaism

By Isabel Kershner December 21, 2009

Anat Hoffman, chairwoman of Women of the Wall, which was founded in 1988, said she had never seen so many turn up in the month of Tevet.

“We are pushing the envelope. History is made of moments like this,” she said.

…“Women are exempt from carrying out certain commandments, but not forbidden,” said Ms. Frenkel, who kept her prayer shawl hidden beneath her jacket by the Kotel this time around.

But the rabbi of the Western Wall, Shmuel Rabinowitz, said “there is no value to prayer that creates controversy and offends other female worshipers” at the site.

The dispute is not about interpretations of religious law, he added, but about the sanctity and the accepted custom of the place. “On Friday the heavens wept,” he said.

Jewish women risk arrest, insults to pray at holy site

AFP December 27, 2009

Anat Hoffman said the police commander for the Wall recently told her the women could be arrested for wearing fringed black and white prayer shawls like those used by the men. "He did say something flowery would be okay," said Hoffman.

She wore a paper crown with the inscription: "The Kotel is for all," and smiled as she joined the crowd in singing traditional Hanukah songs. The women's voices startled an elderly ultra-Orthodox man who promptly scurried away.

Western Wall Rabbi: There will be No Negotiations Regarding the Kosel

By Yechiel Spira December 24, 2009

While secularists view the Kosel [Western Wall] as a national treasure, an asset that belongs to “all Jews”, frum and non-frum alike, their representatives wish to enter into talks with Israel’s Chief Rabbi of Holy Site HaRav Shmuel Rabinowitz Shlita, hoping to arrive at an agreement that will accommodate their secular lifestyle at the Kosel.

The Rav told the secularists that perhaps he erred in some of his statements, “and if that is the case I am correcting myself. There will not be any negotiations regarding the Kosel”.

Rabbi calls on Haredim to visit Western Wall at night

By Kobi Nahshoni December 25, 2009

Ultra-Orthodox rabbis have called on their followers to visit the Western Wall early in the morning or late at night, because "it is almost impossible to pass through the place without running into a prohibition".

The ad was published in Yated Neeman newspaper Tuesday by the Rabbinical Transportation Committee, which supports kosher bus lines – seating women and men separately – in Jerusalem.

Blog series on Women of the Wall December 18-26, 2009

Blog series in solidarity for Women of the Wall

Some Color at the Kotel: Rosh Chodesh Tevet

By Anat Hoffman Opinion December 21, 2009

Anat Hoffman is the Executive Director of the Israel Religious Action Center in Jerusalem.

And while standing and waiting in the rain, part of our new Torah was ruined.

That night, after laying it out to dry as best it could, I couldn't help but notice that the portion that had gotten wet, from parashat Pinhas, told the story of the daughters of Zelophehad, who stood in front of Moses and all the important men of the day to plead for the rightful inheritance of their father's name.

They spoke up for themselves, and Moses listened. He brought their case before God, not before other men. Their plea was declared just. Inheritance was revolutionized.

Har Bracha soldiers wait for compromise

By Kobi Nahshoni December 23, 2009

Some 100 students and soldiers are already facing the dilemma of whether to abandon the yeshiva that the IDF and Defense Ministry cut ties with, or become regular soldiers and serve in the military for three years.

Even after an ultimatum was given to the students of the Har Bracha Yeshiva, which was deemed a supporter of insubordination, the Hesder Yeshiva Association still believes a compromise can be reached.

Rabbi urges parents protest against evacuation

By Kobi Nahshoni December 23, 2009

Rabbi Zalman Melamed, one of the Religious Zionism stream's senior rabbis, urged parents of IDF soldiers to protest against orders handed down to their children to evacuate settlements in the West Bank, and recommended they demonstrate outside the army bases in which their children serve.

Melamed is head of the Beit El Yeshiva and father of Rabbi Eliezer Melamed, whose yeshiva was recently removed from the arrangement with the IDF following its refusal to condemn its troops' insubordination.

'Find new yeshiva or serve full 3 years in IDF' December 23, 2009

"Whoever is for G-d, Follow me!"

The IDF will give an ultimatum to soldiers studying at Yeshivat Har Bracha, according to a letter obtained by Army Radio on Wednesday morning.

"Soldiers will be given 60 days to switch to another hesder yeshiva," read the letter. "Any soldier that refuses to move to another yeshiva within the given period will leave the hesder track and serve the full three years."

Hesder Yeshiva Quits Army

By Hillel Fendel December 23, 2009

The head of the Yeshivat Hesder in the Negev city of Arad, Rabbi Yinon Ilani, has sent a letter to the Union of Hesder Yeshivot, asking to be removed from both the Union and the Hesder arrangement with the army.

“Rabbi Stav said to the media that the Union is obligated to both State law and Torah law,” Rabbi Ilani wrote, “but that it is not yet clear how to integrate both of them.

If the Yeshiva heads cannot decide the proper approach, then what can be expected from a simple soldier? Why not say clearly: ‘We are loyal to the State and its laws as long as they do not contradict our holy Torah; every law that opposes the Torah is blatantly illegal?’”

Religious Zionists must disown the zealots

By Isi Leibler Opinion December 24, 2009

Religious Zionists are confronted by an unenviable challenge which could permanently undermine their status in Israel.

From being regarded by the mainstream as the voice of religious moderation and a force of societal unification - whose youth have earned the reputation as role models of devotion and dedication to the state and its defense - they are now teetering on marginalization at best, and stigmatized as zealots at worst.

Cracks emerge in hesder unity as rabbis eye faithful

By Matthew Wagner December 22, 2009

Just one day after 57 hesder yeshiva heads met and issued a statement of unity there were already signs of dissent Monday.

Several heads of hesder yeshivas told The Jerusalem Post they were dissatisfied with the overly conciliatory message that went out from Sunday's meeting at Or Etzion Yeshiva.

VIDEO: Interview with Rabbi Dov Wolpe, The Task Force to Save the Nation and the Land

*Click PLAY, then place mouse on arrow at bottom-right, click “CC” for Closed Captions - English subtitles.

Click here for VIDEO

December 15, 2009

On Zionism and refusing orders

By Prof. Shlomo Avineri Opinion December 22, 2009

The pain and distress of those who support settlements throughout the historical Land Of Israel is understandable. But expressions of pain, however genuine, cannot be a substitute for acknowledging that in the Jewish state only one legitimate body is authorized to enforce political decisions.

Failing to acknowledge this is to undermine Zionism's historic achievement, and the alternative is another Lebanon.

IDF's Kfir Brigade - Fighting Palestinians and insubordination

By Yaakov Katz December 27, 2009

Alongside the operational threats, Col. Oren Abman is also facing a new and unique challenge from within the brigade, insubordination.

…The recent wave of insubordination has to do with a number of factors, Abman explains to his officers. Firstly, since the Kfir Brigade is deployed in the West Bank, its battalions are the ones who rub up with the local population and are chosen to provide general security for evacuations.

In addition, in recent years and since the IDF Manpower Division has cut the number of hesder students who are drafted into the traditional infantry brigades, Kfir has seen a rise in the number of soldiers it gets from yeshivas, many of which are located in the West Bank.

The two Nahshon soldiers, for example, are from settlements and both serving in the IDF in the hesder program, which combines yeshiva study with military service.

The ’00s: Variations on a Theme of Trauma

By Gary Rosenblatt December 22, 2009 The Jewish Week Editorial

It is clear that the project is the community’s most dramatically successful Jewish identity program in memory. But can Birthright reverse the trend of a young generation of American Jews increasingly distanced from their history, heritage and religion?

To date, follow-up efforts to involve Birthright alumni in Jewish life back home have been less than successful, but studies indicate that the Birthright experience often has a profound and lasting effect on participants.

Russian Jews name Sharansky 'Man of the Year' December 24, 2009

Jewish Agency Chairman Natan Sharansky was named “Man of the Year” by the Union of Jewish Communities of Russia in ceremony at the Kremlin in Moscow on Sunday.

Sharansky received the award at the ceremonial hall of the Kremlin in the presence of Russia’s Chief Rabbi Berel Lazar, Russian Jewish community leaders, and public figures.

Bar-Ilan University celebrates French aliyah December 26, 2009

Bar-Ilan University's Dahan Center for Sephardic Heritage, together with the Ariel Institute, will on Monday host an international conference marking 40 years since the immigration of many thousands of French Jews to Israel.

A nightmare of an aliya

By Ruth Eglash December 23, 2009

It's been nine months since Michael Diamant first approached the Jewish Agency about making aliya and more than two months since he actually moved here, but for the former resident of Stockholm, citizenship in the Jewish state seems more elusive than ever.

VIDEO: Christmas and New Year’s Kashrut Controversy in Jerusalem

December 27, 2009

Click here for VIDEO

(Note: no audio during interviews with Rabbi Tovia Singer)

Christmas Blessing by President Shimon Peres

Santa distributes Christmas trees in Jerusalem

Jerusalem Municipality Distribution of Christmas Trees

JNF funds Christmas tree distribution in J'lem

By Abe Selig December 16, 2009

In an effort to spread some holiday cheer, the Jerusalem Municipality on Wednesday announced that it would be distributing free Christmas trees to the capital's Christian residents in front of the Old City's Jaffa Gate on the morning of Christmas Eve.

According to the municipality, the trees are supplied by the Jewish National Fund, which owns large swaths of forest-land across the country.

Season's Greetings from the IDF

December 20, 2009

Lt. Col. Avital Leibovitch, head of the foreign press branch of the IDF Spokesperson Unit, takes a moment to wish the world a happy holiday. Whether you are Jewish, Christian, Muslim, or Druze - the Israel Defense Force is happy to wish you a joyous new year and a peaceful holiday season!

Herzog: Postpone Pope Pius XII's beatification

By Matthew Wagner and Lisa Palmieri-Billig in Rome December 27, 2009

Welfare and Social Affairs Minister Isaac Herzog met Saturday evening with senior leaders of the Catholic Church in Israel and asked that the beatification of Pius XII be delayed until his role during the Holocaust could be better scrutinized and clarified.

"I call on the heads of the Vatican to delay the beatification process until Vatican archives with documents dating to Pius's stint as Pope during World War II are opened."

Metzger 'hurt' by pope's call on Pius

By Matthew Wagner December 23, 2009

Chief Ashkenazi Rabbi Yona Metzger said Tuesday that Pope Benedict XVI's decision to proceed with the beatification of Pius XII would make it difficult to continue with Catholic-Jewish interfaith dialogue.

Nevertheless, Metzger made it clear that the Chief Rabbinate would not cut off relations with the Vatican.

"It will be difficult to continue our dialogue with the Vatican because this move hurts our relationship," said Metzger.

"But from experience we have seen that maintaining contact with leaders of other religions is important. Nevertheless, we will express our dissatisfaction with this controversial decision.

Vatican, Israel joust over Jerusalem site

By Edmund Sanders December 23, 2009

The Roman Catholic Church has been fighting for more than 450 years to win back control of the Crusader-era sanctuary, also known as the Holy Cenacle, which was seized from Franciscan monks around 1551 during the Ottoman Empire.

Vatican officials had hoped to make a deal with Israel this year, but the latest round of negotiations ended this month without an agreement, leading some to say that the impasse is souring diplomatic relations between the two sides.

IN PICTURES / Israel uncovers first Jesus-era house in Nazareth December 21, 2009

Israeli archaeologists said Monday that they have uncovered remains of the first dwelling in the northern city of Nazareth that can be dated back to the time of Jesus.

The find sheds a new light on what Nazareth might have been like in Jesus' time, said the archaeologists, indicating that it was probably a small hamlet with about 50 houses populated by poor Jews.

Israel Ministry of Tourism Greetings December 2009

"From the Holy Land, where it all began, we send you our warmest season's greetings and our best wishes for a happy New Year. May 2010 bring you and yours joy and happiness, may it be the year you visit the Holy Land for a life-changing pilgrimage."

Israel's Messianic Jews wary of stepped-up persecution

By Michele Chabin December 22, 2009

Community members say the decades-old harassment has intensified in recent years, as ultra-Orthodox Jewish groups dedicated to stopping missionary activity have grown stronger and more confident.

Anti-missionary activists hold protests outside Messianic places of worship and post photos and the addresses of believers on lampposts. They tell the Ministry of the Interior that Messianic Jews are converts to Christianity, something that would make them ineligible to immigrate to Israel.

Although Israeli law permits missionary activity—provided the evangelizer does not offer any material incentive to a potential convert—the persecution and forced conversion of countless Jews for generations has made Jews extremely wary of proselytizing.

Holly in the holy city

By MJ Rosenberg December 26, 2009

Jewish tourists in Israel for the first time marvel at the lack of Christmas spirit - no "Deck the Halls" music in coffee shops, no happy-ending made-for-TV specials, and no last-minute-shopping Christmas Eve stampede at the mall.

But despite the low level of visible Christmas cheer, the city is still preparing for Christmas and the throngs of holiday visitors in more private ways - inside churches and Russian supermarkets, in the narrow passageways of the old city and the festive Christmas trees adorning apartments of foreign workers.

It's beginning to look a lot like Christmas

By Mya Guarnieri December 25, 2009

The majority of the customers and staff of these stalls are immigrants from the former Soviet Union. But their winter celebration, which is held on the New Year, shouldn't be confused with Christmas, manager Alexander Zelentsov says.

"In Russia, it's the biggest holiday of the year," Zelentsov remarks, explaining that it's the only national holiday free of politics or history.

It is also a completely secular occasion, he adds. "From the outside, it looks like Christmas, but there is no connection.

No snow, but Christmas in Jaffa is jolly all the same

By Lital Levin December 25, 2009

Jaffa's Christmas procession, organized by the city's Greek Orthodox Scouts, marched on Louis Pasteur Street.

The children - most of them Arab except for three Philippine girls accompanied by their mothers - wore Santa costumes. A few girls dressed up as angels, and even babies wore red Santa hats. A thin, tall girl flaunted short tight pants, leggings and high red-and-white boots.

Tourism Ministry presents 3-year plan

By Ron Friedman December 24, 2009

Tourism Minister Stas Misezhnikov presented his ministry's three-year plan to boost tourism at a press conference in Tel Aviv on Wednesday. The plan, which aims to bring in an additional one million foreign tourists by 2012, focuses mostly on attracting tourists who come to Israel for religious, historical and cultural purposes.

According to the ministry, the sectors Israel should be focusing on are Evangelical Christians, Russian Orthodox and Catholic Christians and Jews.

Tourism minister wants million more tourists in 3 years December 26, 2009

Thirty-nine percent of incoming tourism was of Jewish travelers and 54% of Christians.

The most toured sites were Jerusalem's Western Wall (74%); the Jewish Quarter (66%); Mount of Olives (54%); Church of the Holy Sepulchre (53%) and Via Dolorosa (51%).

Report: 154,000 Christians live in Israel December 24, 2009

On Christmas Eve 2009, some 154.5 thousand Christians live in Israel, representing 2.1% of the total population, according to a report published Thursday by the Central Bureau of Statistics. The data does not include foreign workers residing in Israel.

The majority of the Christian population – some 20,000 – lives in the northern city of Nazareth, while another 14,100 live in Haifa, 12,800 live in Jerusalem and 9,100 in the northern town of Shfaram.

From Santa to Sanballat

By David Parsons Opinion December 24, 2009

The writer is media director for the International Christian Embassy Jerusalem

It comes as no surprise that the 'culture wars' over Christmas being waged in other lands have hit Jerusalem.

Religion and State in Israel

December 28, 2009 (Section 2) (see also Section 1)

Editor – Joel Katz

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

All rights reserved.