Monday, March 8, 2010

Religion and State in Israel - March 8, 2010 (Section 1)

Religion and State in Israel

March 8, 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.

Tensions flare over conversion law

By Rebecca Anna Stoil and Gil Hoffman March 8, 2010

In an attempt to stave off a serious coalition crisis, representatives from Israel Beiteinu, Shas, and United Torah Judaism agreed on Sunday night that the Knesset's Constitution, Law and Justice Committee on Monday will discuss the conversion bill but will not vote on it.

The compromise was reached at a late-night meeting brokered by cabinet secretary Tzvi Hauser, after UTJ announced Sunday they would oppose the conversion bill despite a deal reached between Shas and Israel Beiteinu on the matter.

UTJ mocked Shas for supporting the bill, and sources in the party confirmed that they considered the bill to be an issue worthy of creating a coalition crisis.

Lieberman: Conversion bill held up due to rift between UTJ, Shas

By Attila Somfalvi March 8, 2010

Yisrael Beiteinu Chairman Avigdor Lieberman addressed during a faction meeting the deadlock in passing the conversion bill.

He said, "It is not related to Torah or halacha, but to the power struggle within United Torah Judaism (UTJ) and fights between Shas and UTJ."

Lieberman explained the rationale behind the main amendment to the bill – expanding the authority of municipal rabbis to approve conversions:

"There is an attempt to regress on the issue of the municipal rabbis. This attitude – of not being able to trust municipal rabbis in the conversion process – is simply heresy."

Care on Conversion Editorial March 7, 2010

Whether intended or not, one piece of Israel Beiteinu’s proposed legislation paves the way for intolerable discrimination against converts of all streams – Reform, Conservative or Orthodox – by denying them eligibility for automatic Israeli citizenship.

An amendment to the Citizenship Law introduced in Israel Beiteinu’s new legislation states that anyone who “entered” Israel as a non-Jew (and did not have a father, grandparents or spouse who was Jewish and therefore was not eligible for Israeli citizenship under the Law of Return) and converted to Judaism at some later date, whether in Israel or abroad, would not be eligible for automatic citizenship.

MK Rotem: Conversion bill ticket to paradise

By Ronen Medzini March 8, 2010

A harsh exchange of words took place at the Knesset's Constitution, Law and Justice Committee session on Monday, which addressed the conversion reform bill being spearheaded by Yisrael Beiteinu.

The committee's chairman, MK David Rotem (Yisrael Beiteinu) expressed his deep conviction in the law's importance: "When I reach the world of truth, after I pass this bill, I will brag about it and will be granted access to paradise. Whoever blocks it – I don't know what he will receive."

Conversion bill crisis threatens coalition

By Yair Ettinger March 8, 2010

The bill on conversion would also mean that the procedure could not only take place in the conversion court system headed by Rabbi Haim Druckman, but that potential converts could also approach a municipal rabbi.

The law would also mean that only the president of the High Rabbinic Court could annul a conversion.

Another clause in this bill, which angered Orthodox and as well as Reform Jewish leaders, states that a person who had converted in Israel but had not entered the country under the Law of Return, could not automatically receive citizenship.

United Torah Judaism was up in arms over clauses in the bill that could greatly weaken the influence of ultra-Orthodox rabbis when it comes to conversion.

It has become common for Haredi rabbis to intervene in the conversion process indirectly, mainly when converts came to them requesting services such as registration of marriage or divorce. Haredi rabbis have annulled conversions when they felt a convert was not following an Orthodox way of life.

According to Rotem's bill, the rabbis would lose this power.

Yisrael Beiteinu bill would make conversion insufficient for Israeli citizenship

By Yair Ettinger March 7, 2010

Proposed legislation that would broaden the authority of the Chief Rabbinate in Israel on matters of conversion would also alter the Law of Return, distinguishing between that law and the Citizenship Law.

The bill, put forth by MK David Rotem of Yisrael Beiteinu, is the result of negotiations he held with both Chief Rabbi Shlomo Amar and the ultra-Orthodox Shas party. According to this legislation, conversion - even if done in Israel - will be insufficient basis for requesting Israeli citizenship.

The bill proposes that the Law of Return only be applicable to Jews or their offspring, and not to non-Jews who opted to convert - even if the conversion follows Orthodox procedure in line with state religious courts in Israel.

Israel Beiteinu bills on conversion, civil union up for vote

By Rebecca Anna Stoil March 7, 2010

According to the coalition agreement signed a year ago, Israel Beiteinu’s legislation on civil union is to be passed in two phases. The first step – for which the agreement set a deadline of one year after the government’s formation – would permit civil union for those Israelis who are identified as “having no religion.”

To do so, the bill sponsored by Rotem must reach the Knesset floor for its final vote by the time the Pessah recess begins on March 17.

The second step seeks a wider solution that would help a far greater number of Israelis, but that stage will be legislated at the earliest during the relatively brief summer session.

Laws to Reform Marriage, Conversion

By Maayana Miskin March 5, 2010

The marriage bill will be presented in two stages, with the first stage facing a vote next week. The bill would allow non-Jews who are not affiliated with any other religion to marry in civil ceremonies.

Currently, all Israeli citizens who wish to marry must do so through a representative of a religious faith.

The situation poses a problem for those who are not Jewish according to Jewish law, but who do not identify with any other faith. Hundreds of thousands of Israeli citizens, most of them immigrants from the former Soviet Union, have no religious affiliation.

Damages for divorce refusal, for men too

By Rivkah Lubitch February 27, 2010

Rivkah Lubitch is a rabbinic pleader who works at the Center for Women's Justice

In a recent precedent-setting verdict, Judge HaCohen determined that a man is entitled to compensation from his wife for ‘get’ (divorce) refusal, irrespective of the proceedings conducted in the rabbinical court.

No doubt this is a very important ruling that will have a significant affect on how parties act on the way to getting divorced: No more "foot-dragging" designed to wear down the other side - husband or wife.

At the same time this important decision was rendered, we at the "Center for Women's Justice" enjoyed a similar success.

'51% believe complaints against Rabbi Elon' March 8, 2010

A poll commissioned by Ynet and the Yesodot Center for Torah and Democracy reveals that most of the public believes the complainants' version of events and believes that Rabbi Elon did have forbidden sexual contact with them. Most of the public also showed positive sentiments towards the body that handled the affair.

  • Fifty-one percent of the respondents said they very much believe the complaints and suspicions against the rabbi, since Takana is a "very respectable forum".
  • Fifty-one percent of the respondents agree with Takana's conduct…
  • Forty percent recommend setting clear boundaries between a rabbi and his students…

Initiative: Ethics code for rabbis

By Kobi Nahshoni March 4, 2010

Dozens of rabbis and educators convened Wednesday evening at Jerusalem's Begin Center to discuss the Mordechai Elon affair, which has caused a storm within Religious Zionism.

The participants will discuss formulating an "ethical code" that will determine what is allowed and forbidden in rabbinic activities.

The document is aimed at preventing "compromising situations" and facilitating public supervision of rabbis while promoting full transparency of their private and public actions.

The conference was initiated by Religious Zionist organization Tzohar, and will include some 50 rabbis of the organization's advisory committee, who convene periodically to discuss current affairs that relate to the rabbinic world.

The Importance of Process Post the Takana Proclamation

By Professor Joshua Werblowsky M.D. Opinion March 8, 2010

The writer is a clinical psychiatrist living and practicing in Jerusalem.

The consequences of the allegations made by the Takana organization regarding Rabbi Mordechai Elon are still reverberating around the country and abroad, and will be felt for some time to come.

…Following the Elon revelations, many people remain in the denial stage. However, I have not seen any direction taken publicly by leaders of the community post the initial disclosures.

The spirit of the skullcap

By Reuven Pedatzur March 3, 2010

Reuven Pedatzur is a lecturer in the political science department of Tel Aviv University.

Book Review: “Masa Kumta: Nivutim Begova Ha'eynayim” (Navigations), by Elazar Stern

It would have made more sense for Elazar Stern to call this memoir of his life and army career "Kippa March" instead of naming it after the "masa kumta"("beret march"), the endurance hike with which combat soldiers complete their basic training, because it is the spirit of the skullcap on his head that hovers over these pages

Stern headed the army's Personnel Directorate until he retired from the Israel Defense Forces in 2008.

Leadel 7 Interview with Bambi Sheleg February 23, 2010

Bambi Sheleg is Editor of Eretz Acheret

Eretz Acheret is an Israeli NGO comprised of people from different sectors of society with a broad range of backgrounds and personal beliefs.

The goal is to provide Israeli and Diaspora Jews with a platform for open discourse and dialogue on all facets of the Israel-Diaspora relationship, as well as the opportunity to express their identity through the written word.

Gafni wins gov't support for free loan 'Gamahim' societies

By Moti Bassok and Zvi Zrahiya March 4, 2010

The Ministerial Committee on Legislation yesterday approved a bill to legalize free loan funds, despite the objections of the Finance Ministry and the Bank of Israel.

These funds serve mainly the ultra-orthodox community.

The bill, which was sponsored by Knesset Finance Committee chairman MK Moshe Gafni (United Torah Judaism), would allow free loan funds to operate without Bank of Israel supervision, even though they essentially function as banks.

Plan for new ultra-Orthodox city in Negev gets thumbs-up

By Ranit Nahum-Halevy March 4, 2010

The national planning and building council yesterday approved the establishment of a new city in the northern Negev, Kasif, for the ultra-Orthodox community. Fourteen council members voted in favor and seven opposed the plan for the city, to go up near Arad.

Kasif will cover 1,190 acres and 10,000 homes will be built in the first stage of construction for an expected population of 50,000.

'There will be no Tehran here'

By Yossi Klein March 7, 2010

Interview with Beit Shemesh Mayor Moshe Abutbul

Beit Shemesh is the largest city - with a population of about 100,000 - that has a mayor from Shas, the Sephardi ultra-Orthodox party.

[A] television report had described a confrontation between secular and religious residents of the city. At the heart of the debate is a secular school that Mayor Moshe Abutbul wants to shut down so he can hand the building over to ultra-Orthodox students.

…He firmly rejects the idea of separation as a way to prevent friction and disputes. This is not Jerusalem, with the Haredim in the north, the secular people in the south and the Arabs in the east. He wants a mixed Beit Shemesh; let secular people come live here, too - why not? He plans to build a hospital and offer fine homes at alluring prices.

Treasury chief: Boosting Arab and Haredi employment would make Israel rich

By Lior Zeno March 2, 2010

Israel would be among the world's richest nations if Arabs and ultra-orthodox Jews could be brought into the economy, Israel's top treasury official said on Wednesday.

"If two groups of people were left out of GDP calculations, Israel would rank among the foremost developed countries," Ministry of Finance Director General Haim Shani said. "They are the Arabs and the Haredis."

Agudat Yisrael's Menahem Porush: Man of the worlds

By Tom Segev Opinion March 4, 2010

Menachem Porush, who died last week, was one of the most powerful people in the history of Israeli politics, and one of the cleverest - a millionaire, a master of public relations and also a terrific actor: He could turn on the waterworks when he wanted to.

…A financial wizard, he prided himself on his ability to raise donations from philanthropists around the world and managed hundreds of charitable funds, but his community is nonetheless one of the poorest in Israel.

In a new book, journalist Yuval Elizur points out that, contrary to common belief, this is not only a sort of voluntary poverty, stemming from the fact that most Haredi men prefer to study full-time at the public's expense rather than work.

Even those who would like to get a job generally cannot because the ultra-Orthodox educational system fails to give them the necessary skills.

Their political leaders are largely to blame, including Menachem Porush, who was also among those responsible for the great political failure of Agudat Yisrael.

Maariv's Expose of Rabbi Yitzchak Goldknopf, the Powerful Boycott-Maker and Breaker

By Ezra Reichman March 7, 2010

Maariv published an expose of Rabbi Yitzchak Goldknopf, a pivotal Gerrer askan who stands at the head of the Igud HaTatim, the Bais Yaakov Kindergarten network, and the Committee to Observe Shabbos.

See original Hebrew

Not only does Goldknopf, 60 and the father of 10, concentrate immense political power in his hand, but he does so in an aggressive manner that intimidates potential opponents and rivals from Chassidic rebbes to businessman.

As if that wasn't enough, he also has key control of the Chassidic Hamodia daily, the main information channel for a large part of the chareidi community.

Haredim declare war on the Internet

By Jonathan Rosenblum March 5, 2010

The writer is the director of Jewish Media Resources.

Aware of the devastation caused by the Internet, and determined to prevent it from becoming completely entrenched, the leading haredi rabbis in Israel have declared war on it.

A conference for haredi educators in Bnei Brak two weeks ago, attended by a rare cross-section of the most revered senior rabbinical figures in the haredi world, promulgated several decrees against home Internet use.

Bezeq Announces Kosher Landline Phone Service

By Yechiel Spira March 3, 2010

Officials announce they worked in close cooperation with the Vaad Rabbonim for Communications, which has given its blessing and endorsement for the new kosher landline phone service, which of course blocks all unwanted data.

Israelis savour rise in kosher investments

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By Tobias Buck March 2, 2010

Along with a handful of fund managers and investment experts, Rabbi Dvir spearheads an Israeli phenomenon known as "kosher investment".

A small but fast-growing niche within asset management, such funds promise to invest only in financial products that conform with the halakhah, the body of Jewish religious law.

This means complying with the traditional ban on interest, but also avoiding companies that violate the Sabbath or offend other Jewish customs.

Shas Amsellem: Light Rail Doesn’t Serve the Chareidi Public

By Yechiel Spira March 3, 2010

Speaking in Knesset last Wednesday, MK Rav Chaim Amsellem of Shas stated the light rail system under construction will not do anything to assist the chareidi community, explaining it does not run in those areas and therefore, it will not provide any relief regarding traffic snarls in chareidi neighborhoods do to vehicular congestion.

Haredim riot in J'lem; none injured

By Efrat Weiss March 7, 2010

Haredim hurled stones at cars and buses driving through the ultra-Orthodox Jerusalem neighborhood of Mea Shearim on Sunday. They also hurled stones and burned trash cans on Yehezkel Street in the city. No one was injured, but a military vehicle passing through was damaged.

Police barred public transport vehicles from entering the neighborhood. The residents are protesting the arrest of haredim in northern Israel, who were protesting against excavation works in the area.

IDF to Chareidim – Bring a Friend

By Yechiel Spira March 3, 2010

Forty new chareidi recruits joined the ranks of the military in the beginning of January and after a very brief basic training period; they are now being assigned to their units, all part of the specially crafted programs to comply with their lifestyle, permitting adequate for davening, learning and kashrut on a mehadrin standard with appropriate hechsherim.

Rabbinate Considering Banning Pesach Beer Bottle Return February 23, 2010

The Chief Rabbinate is considering prohibiting stores from accepting empty bottles for refund over Passover, because they may have held chametz, leavened beverages such as beer, which are not permissible on Passover.

Rereading the Purim story reveals feminist role models

By Tamar Rotem March 3, 2010

Dr. Hagit Gur Ziv, who heads the Center for Critical Pedagogy, is concerned about the way in which the Purim story and holiday stories in general are conveyed to children.

She says that the underlying messages of the traditional stories in reference to women or minorities are problematic, to say the least.

PODCAST: Hearts and Minds

Produced by Daniel Estrin and Julie Subrin March 8, 2010

The Chabad-Lubavitch Hasidic movement is known for its outreach among non-Orthodox Jews, encouraging them to become more religious. Chabadniks are posted to about 75 countries, where their efforts are generally met with curiosity, indifference, or, at worst, irritation.

But in Ramat Aviv, an upscale, liberal, and famously secular neighborhood of Tel Aviv, the sect’s arrival has prompted a much stronger reaction: fury.

Chabad’s presence in Ramat Aviv is growing, and secular residents—who in the fall formed a residents association to oppose the Chabad incursion—are convinced that the Hasidim are trying to brainwash their children and take over the neighborhood.

Now, every Friday, the two camps face off outside schools and in other public spaces, where Chabad representatives approach passersby, mostly kids, and invite them to wrap tefillin and pray.

Lindenstrauss to Investigate School Discrimination March 2, 2010

State Comptroller Micha Lindenstrauss announced Tuesday that he would set up a special panel to investigate charges of discrimination in the Hareidi school system.

He said that reports from officials, including Knesset Education Committee head MK Zevulun Orlev (Bayit Yehudi) indicated that there was ongoing against children from Sephardic backgrounds in Hareidi schools run by Ashkenazic organizations.

UTJ Rejects Charges of Discrimination in Chareidi Schools

By Eliezer Rauchberger March 4, 2010

UTJ representatives in the Knesset rejected on Tuesday claims raised by the Knesset State Control Committee alleging discrimination against Sephardim in the chareidi educational system.

At the conclusion of the meeting [State Comptroller Michal] Lindenstrauss announced that his office was currently looking into the issue of discrimination in the recognized-but-unofficial education system, saying the inquiry would be complete within a few weeks.

Family unable to bury boy, 16, who died in fall from Netanya roof

By Yaniv Kubovich March 7, 2010

The family of Sisai Astan, the 16-year-old who fell to his death from a school roof in Netanya on Saturday, has been unable to find a Jewish burial plot for the youth.

Families that are not considered Jewish by Israeli authorities face burial problems. Sisai's father failed his conversion test because he is not fluent in Hebrew, says the family, and as the sole breadwinner, he lacks the time to study.

State to High Court: A Decision Regarding Barzilai within 2 Weeks

By Yechiel Spira March 8, 2010

The State on Wednesday, in its response to the High Court of Justice regarding the construction of the fortified emergency room of Barzilai Hospital in Ashkelon, promised a decision within two weeks.

The state was responding to a petition demanding a response as to why the government is not moving ahead with the fortified unit of the hospital, capable of withstanding rocket attacks. The project enjoys the approval of the nation’s chief rabbis despite the need to exhume bodies and relocate a cemetery.

Growing Controversy between Barzilai Hospital & Minister Litzman

By Yechiel Spira March 3, 2010

The controversy stems from the ruling of the Chief Rabbinate of Israel, permitting the exhuming of bodies to permit construction on the site planned, but Gedolei Yisrael Shlita have stated otherwise, resulting in Litzman’s refusal to approve the plan.

Next Step in Efforts to Appoint Rabbi Diskin as Kiryat Ata Chief Rabbi

Source: March 1, 2010

Two citizens of the northern Israeli town of Kiryat Ata filed a petition with the Supreme Court three weeks ago against the Israeli Chief Rabbinate and Minister Yaakov Margi on the grounds that elections for two Chief Rabbis should be held in the town.

The reason for the petition was to allow Chabad shliach Rabbi Chaim Shlomo Diskin, who has been acting as de facto Chief Rabbi for some time, to be elected to this position in an official capacity.

Bill would crack down on mystics

By Jonathan Lis March 4, 2010

Legislation that would outlaw the advertising of services offered by mystics and others dealing with spirits - including those who claim to chase away the devil and the evil eye, as well as fortune-tellers - has been proposed in the Knesset.

The 2nd Conference on the Study of Contemporary Spirituality March 8, 2010

The 2nd Conference on the Study of Contemporary Spirituality will take place at the University of Haifa on Monday, 8 March, 2010. The conference will host an astounding 32 sessions and dozens of lectures presenting studies that encompass the field of contemporary spiritualism in Israel and around the world.

Click here for the full program in English [pdf]

Hassidism & Neo-Hassidic

Jewish Mysticism at the 21st Century

Female Spirituality in the Jewish World

Praying Communities in Renewed Judaism

New Trends in Israeli-Jewish Identities

  • 1. Israeli Jews – A multi-dimensional conceptualization of religiosity and spirituality Dr. Hagit Hacohen Wolf (Hebrew University of Jerusalem)
  • 2. New traditionalists in Israel Mr. Assaf Lebovitz (Hebrew University of Jerusalem)
  • 3. Spiritual trends in the Talmud teaching at "Hesder" yeshivas Mr. Shimon Fogel (Ben Gurion University of the Negev)
  • 4. Politics, mysticism and post-Zionism of Rabbi Menachem Froman Mr. Udi Avramovich (Ben Gurion University of the Negev)

Halfway there

By Yocheved Miriam Russo March 5, 2010

A rehabilitation program for recently released prisoners designed for Orthodox men claims to have an unparalleled success rate.

Hershkowitz: Evolution does not contradict religion

By Kobi Nahshoni March 5, 2010

The Education Ministry's chief scientist made quite a stir when he came out against Darwinism. In response to a question posed by the newspaper B'Sheva, which is slated to be run on Saturday, Science and Technology Minister Daniel Hershkowitz (Habayit Hayehudi) said that Darwin's theory of evolution, which claims that man evolved from the monkey, must not be discounted.

Minister Hershkowitz was asked whether the Education Ministry's chief scientist's reservations regarding evolution are just cause to oust him from his post.

As a rabbi and a scientist, Hershkowitz responded that there is no contradiction between religious faith and Darwinism and that the chief scientist's position need not be a pretext for his dismissal.

Litzman ignores critics, appoints controversial candidate to head ministry's psychology council

By Dan Even March 7, 2010

Despite opposition from psychologists around the country, Deputy Health Minister Yaakov Litzman has named Prof. Yoel Elitzur to head the ministry's Council of Psychologists, which is responsible for certifying specialists in the field as well as setting policy for the practice of psychology.

Bill would reward parties that boast more women

By Mazal Mualem March 8, 2010

Efforts to increase the number of female Knesset members have frequently been stymied by ultra-Orthodox parties, but a new bill proposed ahead of today's celebration of International Women's Day could change that.

…While women made up just 15 percent of the previous Knesset, parliaments in several other countries established quotas for female representation. They offered parties financial incentives as well as penalties for failure to meet minimums.

But in Israel, the absence of penalties could make the proposal more successful than its predecessors since it might not be thwarted by the ultra-Orthodox parties.

Shas MKs said they would consider refraining from objecting to the law.

Religion and State in Israel

March 8, 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.