Monday, February 1, 2010

Religion and State in Israel - February 1, 2010 (Section 1)

Religion and State in Israel

February 1, 2010 (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.

Minister asks High Court to okay gender-segregated buses

By Nir Hasson February 1, 2010

Transportation Minister Yisrael Katz told the High Court of Justice yesterday that it should permit the continued operation of gender-segregated buses for the ultra-Orthodox. A committee appointed by Katz last year under High Court directives called for an end to the so-called "mehadrin lines."

Katz wrote yesterday that while the state "cannot establish separation between men and women using public transportation," operators should be permitted to hang "behavior-directing" signs asking passengers to sit separately but indicating that it is not mandatory.

Attorney Einat Hurvitz, who represented IRAC to the High Court, said yesterday that Katz left many important elements out of his response.

"It's not clear on what authority he rejected the committee's determination that the separation involves violence and coercion against women. How could such an arrangement be voluntary? How could verbal violence and pressure against a woman who boards the bus be prevented?"

Jerusalem City Council member Rachel Azaria, a leader of the battle against the mehadrin lines, criticized Katz's response, saying that in it he was "betraying the secular, traditional, religious and most of the ultra-Orthodox publics for the sake of a minority of Haredi deal makers who decide for the rest of the community."

Rabbinical courts softened stance on husbands refusing their wives divorce in 2009

By Yair Ettinger January 28, 2010

Organizations supporting divorce-refused women, however, said the actual numbers amounted to hundreds, if not thousands, of cases. The courts and the organizations use different estimates, as the courts only consider a woman "mesorevet" after she had waited over two years for her husband's consent.

Rabbi Eliyahu Ben Dahan, director of the rabbinical courts explained the drop in sanctions by saying they could not be imposed in every divorce case.

"Sanctions are enacted only in extreme cases, like those involving a violent, ill or sterile husband," he said.

Attorney Batya Kahana-Dror, director of the organization Mavoi Satum ("Dead End"), which works for the rights of women who have been refused divorce, said that "in contradiction to natural justice, law and the halakha [Jewish religious law], the judges refuse to apply legitimate pressure on husbands who refuse divorce. As a result, thousands of women are barred from leaving failed marriages."

Decline in Jewish divorces due to economic downturn

By Matthew Wagner January 27, 2010

Rabbi Eli Ben-Dahan, director-general of the rabbinic court administration said that the reduction in divorces was probably due to the worsening economic situation, which forced some couples to postpone the costly endeavor of separation.

According to Attorney Batya Kahana-Dror, the director of Mavoi Satum, many women attempt to divorce but give up when they are unable to convince the rabbinical court to obligate the husband to give a get.

Only in extreme cases, for instance when it can be proved that the husband beats his wife or is a criminal, do the rabbinical courts obligate husbands to give a get.

As a result, wives open a divorce file, fail to get divorced because they cannot prove that their husband is a criminal and stop trying. All files that have no activity for six months or more are closed automatically.

Men's Justice too, from the Center for Women's Justice

By Susan Weiss Opinion January 27, 2010

The writer is founder and Executive Director of the Center for Women's Justice

A few months ago CWJ filed a tort claim against a woman for not accepting a get from her husband.

…men still suffer from the current way that the halakha allows for the dissolution of failed marriages

Bottom line: The halakhic divorce regime does not work. Certainly not for women, and not really for men. We need to be able to have a third party declare a failed marriage over if the parties, for whatever not very healthy reason, are not able to.

Mazuz: Jerusalem mayor 'fixed' budget increase for Haredi schools

By Akiva Eldar January 29, 2010

Jerusalem Mayor Nir Barkat, who beat ultra-Orthodox candidate Meir Porush during the last municipal election, has improperly boosted municipal funding for schools run by Shas and by Porush's United Torah Judaism party, according to a statement by outgoing Attorney General Menachem Mazuz.

Mazuz has instructed the Jerusalem District Court to overturn a decision made at Barkat's request in August which increases financial support for the two parties' schools. Mazuz says the criteria set for the budget allocations were "fixed" to suit the ultra-Orthodox groups.

IRAC & Attorney General Take On Haredi Jerusalem

By Anat Hoffman Opinion January 26, 2010

In a petition of ours against the Jerusalem Municipality's decision to provide full and exclusive funding for Haredi schools, the Attorney General has joined IRAC in arguing that such funding is illegal in its blatant discrimination and disregard for other schools in Jerusalem.

…Today IRAC submits a written summation of our arguments to the Court, and then in two weeks' time the Jerusalem Municipality and Haredi networks will present their own before the Court can reach a verdict.

"It will be an important moment," Tali says, "because municipalities across Israel look to the Jerusalem District Court for guidance in handling similar cases of their own."

Prevent the Schism

By Yizhar Hess Opinion January 24, 2010

Yizhar Hess is executive director and CEO of the Masorti Movement in Israel.

See also original Hebrew

These incidents, which reflect an internal problem in Israel – yet another sign of Haredi dominance of the Kotel, touch a raw nerve with North American Jewry.

…This is a dangerous trend. Not simply because of the Kotel events. The Kotel is but a metaphor for a larger picture.

Women seek equality at Kotel

By Josh Lipowsky January 29, 2010

Pluralism is a very foreign concept in Israel,” said Women of the Wall chairwoman Anat Hoffman. “There isn’t a word for it in Hebrew.”

Hoffman is fighting to bring pluralism into Israeli language and society.

Principal refusing to sanction parents in integration row

By Or Kashti January 26, 2010

The ultra-Orthodox Beit Yaakov School in Immanuel is not taking measures against parents who are refusing to send their daughters to school in the wake of a High Court of Justice order to integrate the institution's separate classes for girls of Ashkenazi and Mizrahi origin.

Several sources say that in a High Court session last week, it was disclosed that the Independent Education Center had instructed Principal Rivka Stern not to take measures against the parents on the grounds that such action would be considered a violation of din moser - the religious prohibition against revealing information about a Jew to non-Jewish authorities.

Ariel College students earn credit for courses taken at seminaries, yeshivas

By Yotam Feldman January 29, 2010

Students at Ariel College in the West Bank can accumulate credits for degrees by taking religious studies courses in seminaries and yeshivas in various settlements.

While its television campaign portrays students pursuing "breakthrough technological research" at Ariel College, the institution actually allows students to substitute Jewish history courses with religious studies.

One of the leading programs offered by the college is in the Har Bracha seminary, adjacent to the yeshiva whose head, Rabbi Eliezer Melamed, made headlines when he urged soldiers to disobey orders to evacuate settlements.

Hebrew University President Menahem Ben Sasson believes such a study program does not enable study content and degree quality to be supervised.

For religious gays in Israel, new initiatives are providing hope

By Ben Harris January 24, 2010

When Gidi Grunberg was 16, he fell in love with a boy at his Orthodox high school near Tel Aviv.

Consumed by guilt, he transferred to a high school that was more strictly religious, hopeful that with more rigorous Torah study his attraction to men would pass.

…Israel's paucity of alternatives to Orthodoxy, a fact liberal Jews frequently decry, is prompting religious gays to push for greater openness within the Orthodox world rather than decamp for more liberal options, as they often do in the Diaspora.

Havruta, an association of Orthodox gay men, has succeeded in opening discussions with several liberal-minded Orthodox rabbis.

A similar organization, Bat Kol, serves religious lesbians. Another group, Shoval, helps teach tolerance in the Orthodox community.

Hopeful hints of change toward LGBT Orthodox in Israel

Editorial January 28, 2010

Israel has long been the Middle East’s lone sanctuary when it comes to gay and lesbian equality. Yet even there, pockets of homophobia remain.

Now, it appears, the winds of change have begun to blow.

Ultra-Orthodox Seek Boycott of Their Own Web Sites

AP January 26, 2010

Prominent ultra-Orthodox Israeli rabbis are targeting a new foe in the decidedly impious world of the Internet: They've demanded a boycott of their community's own Web sites, accusing them of disseminating "gossip, slander ... filth and abominations."

It's the latest flashpoint in a long-simmering battle by rabbis in the profoundly insular ultra-Orthodox, or haredi, community to preserve their influence over hundreds of thousands of followers in an era when the forces of technology are growing ever more powerful.

War on Internet Is a Fight the Rabbis Can't Win

By Miriam Shaviv Opinion January 27, 2010

Ultimately, it seems, it was the threat to rabbinic authority — rather than the threat of exposure to the secular world — that pushed the rabbis into taking draconian measures.

The December order from senior rabbis — including top Haredi authorities like Yosef Sholom Elyashiv and Aharon Leib Shteinman — instructed their followers not to visit Haredi Web sites, which they said were full of “lies,” “gossip” and “abominations.”

Crucially, they also instructed Haredi schools not to admit any child whose parents are involved in such Web sites.

As a result, several sites capitulated and closed down.

But this is only a very partial success for the rabbis.

Rabbonim Prohibit Supporting Stores in Gas Station Operating on Shabbos

By Yechiel Spira January 25, 2010

Local rabbonim in Yerushalayim have prohibited purchasing goods in grocery stores operating in gas stations if those stores remain open on shabbos, the Erev shabbos HaMevaser reported.

Kiryat Yovel Residents Go Legal with New Shul

By Yechiel Spira January 28, 2010

The residents of Jerusalem’s Kiryat Yovel neighborhood celebrated the opening of their new shul, a shul that enjoys legal status and will be free from the legal conflict surrounding the rapidly growing chareidi area.

A Shabbos of Violence between Gur and Chabad in Arad

By Yechiel Spira January 31, 2010

Two women were lightly injured and four men were arrested on shabbos afternoon in another shabbos of clashes between Gerrer Chassidim and Chabad Chassidim in Arad.

Dozens of Haredim attack police officer on motorbike in Mea Shearim

By Efrat Weiss January 31, 2010

A police officer was attacked by dozens of haredim while riding through the Jerusalem neighborhood of Mea Shearim. He was knocked off his bike and fled the scene. He sustained light injuries as a result. The police initiated searches for the attackers.

Court Rejects Appeals to Halt Ramat Beit Shemesh Building

By Yechiel Spira January 31, 2010

The High Court of Justice eliminated the last hurdle, the petition filed by opposition members seeking to prevent publicizing the building tenders in Ramat Beit Shemesh. The court’s rejection of the petition accompanied the removal of the temporary injunction issued earlier.

Chabad excommunicates rabbi

By Anshel Pfeffer January 28, 2010

A new schism emerged last week in the Lubavitch movement in Israel following reports that one of the leaders of its “messianic” stream had stopped fasting on days marking the destruction of the Temple in Jerusalem.

Rabbi Gedalya Axelrod, a leading Lubavitch rabbi in Haifa, published a letter last week saying that “according to halachah”, Rabbi Zimroni Tzik, who runs the Chabad House in Bat Yam, should be excommunicated.

IDF Soldiers Visit the Rebbe's Kfar January 28, 2010Shturem

In Kfar Chabad the word "soldier" brings to mind the hundreds of Chayolei Tzivos Hashem of the Rebbe. Yesterday, soldiers of a different sort were spotted in the Rebbe's Kfar.

IDF soldiers spent a day in Kfar Chabad for a day of study. The visit began in 770 where Rabbi Menachem Lattard greeted them and spoke about the topic of Shlichus.

The soldiers watched a video of the Rebbe, davened in the Rebbe's room, and toured the matzah bakery.

Rabbis: Efrat will be smoke-free

By Matthew Wagner January 26, 2010

Halacha prohibits the sale of cigarettes, Chief Rabbis of Efrat Shlomo Riskin and Shimon Golan have announced, adding that they will attempt to enforce the prohibition through persuasion.

Riskin said that he had already met with the owners of two of five stores that sell cigarettes in Efrat, and had convinced them to stop selling cigarettes.

Kidney Mitzvah

By Sally Satel January 27, 2010

Why such low rates? "Most Jews are under the mistaken impression that traditional Jewish law requires a body be buried whole at all costs," according to Robby Berman, director of the Halachic Organ Donor Society, an organization that encourages Jews all over the world to donate organs to the general population.

Another barrier to deceased donation has been the definition of death. Some ultra-Orthodox rabbis reject brain death as the definition of death because the ventilator is providing oxygen that allows the heart to beat for a few more days after brain death.

They insist that the heart must cease to beat before a person can be pronounced dead—a condition making it difficult to obtain suitable organs in a timely manner. To facilitate donation, Israel passed a law in 2008 establishing "brain death" as the definition of death relevant for all legal purposes, including organ donation.

See also: Ethics @ Work: Recompense for organ donors

Rabbinate: Room service only on plastic plates during Pesach

By Kobi Nahshoni January 28, 2010

The Passover holiday is fast approaching, and with it, a slew of unique kosher stipulations. After ordering that products containing chametz be blocked from sale at supermarkets through barcode identification, Chief Rabbi Yona Metzger has ruled that kosher hotels must serve room service meals only on disposable plates during the holiday.

…Some two weeks ago, Rabbi Metzger announced that the Chief Rabbinate would demand that supermarkets install a dedicated program in their cashiers that would identify chametz items prohibited from sale during the seven days of the holiday.

Mondrowitz Extradition Ruling Raising Questions

By Hella Winston January 26, 2010

The Israeli Supreme Court’s recent ruling that alleged child molester Avrohom Mondrowitz could not be extradited to the U.S. has generated strong reactions from child advocates here and in Israel, and raised questions from legal experts about both the ruling itself and how the case unfolded over the past 25 years.

Shapira's distinction between Jewish, gentile blood

By Matthew Wagner January 29, 2010

Rabbi Yitzhak Shapira, who was detained for questioning by the Shin Bet (Israel Security Agency) in connection with the burning of a mosque in Yasuf, a village near Nablus, is head of the Od Yosef Chai Yeshiva in Yitzhar, and is a disciple of Rabbi Yitzhak Ginsberg, who lives in Kfar Chabad.

Court upholds decision to release rabbi arrested over mosque arson

By Efrat Weiss January 28, 2010

The Jerusalem District Court on Thursday upheld the city's Magistrates' Court decision to reject the police's appeal and order the release of Rabbi Yitzhak Shapira from custody.

Petition: Rabbi's arrest humiliating

By Kobi Nahshoni January 28, 2010

Dozens of rabbis and religious-Zionist yeshiva heads published a petition slamming the arrest of Rabbi Yitzhak Shapira in connection with the torching of a Palestinian mosque.

The rabbis who signed the petition include Safed's Chief Rabbi Shmuel Eliyahu, Har Bracha Rabbi Eliezer Melamed, Kiryat Shmona's Chief Rabbi Tsfania Drori, Kiryat Arba Chief Rabbi Dov Lior, and Elon Moreh Chief Rabbi Elyakim Levanon.

Settler rabbi arrested over West Bank mosque arson

By Chaim Levinson January 26, 2010

The Shin Bet security service on Tuesday arrested the head of a West Bank religious seminary for his alleged involvement in the torching of a Palestinian mosque in the village of Yasuf last month.

The suspect, Rabbi Itzik Shapira, is one of the heads of the "Od Yosef Chai" yeshiva in the West Bank settlement of Yitzhar.

VIDEO: Archaeology in Jerusalem: Digging Up Trouble

By Jaron Gilinsky

Click here for VIDEO

Archaeology in Jerusalem: Digging Up Trouble

By Tim McGirk February 8, 2010

The Jerusalem syndrome is a psychological disorder in which a visit to the holy city triggers delusional and obsessive religious fantasies. In its extreme variety, people wander the lanes of the Old City believing they are biblical characters; John the Baptist, say, or a brawny Samson, sprung back to life.

Archaeologists in the Holy Land like to joke that their profession is vulnerable to a milder form of the syndrome.

Mount of Olives cemetery goes online

By Ronen Medzini January 31, 2010

The oldest Jewish cemetery in the world is now online. A new website mapping out the graves on the Mount of Olives in Jerusalem has been launched.

The site, which is the initiative of and sponsored by the Elad Association, now includes an information archive of some 20,000 tombs, and is constantly being updated.

Renovating David's Tomb

By Shachar Poni January 25, 2010

Ever since the Six Day War, a number of bodies have been active at the site of King David's Tomb in Jerusalem – the Diaspora Yeshiva is in charge of most of the structures around the main building, the Ministry of Religious Services manages the room of Zion – the tomb and the entrance rooms, and the Interior Ministry maintains the Last Supper Room and the adjacent rooms.

Egypt foils attack on Jewish grave

By Matthew Wagner and AP January 31, 2010

Egyptian prosecutors arrested 25 Muslim extremists suspected of forming a new group that planned to carry out terrorist attacks in the country, including at the burial place of a Jewish mystic, according to Egypt’s independent Al-Masry Al-Youm newspaper.

One of the group’s targets was the grave of Rabbi Ya’acov Abuhatzeira, a 19th century rabbi and mystic who was the grandfather of the Baba Sali, Yisrael Abuhatzeira, himself a famous Kabbalist, who was said to be a miracle worker. He died in 1984 and is buried in Netivot.

Religion and State in Israel

February 1, 2010 (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.