Monday, January 18, 2010

Religion and State in Israel - January 18, 2010 (Section 1)

Religion and State in Israel

January 18, 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.

What the Women of the Wall Want

By Anat Hoffman Opinion January 13, 2010

If you want a quick lesson on the growing gender segregation and discrimination in Israel, I suggest taking a look at the policies in place at the Western Wall, which are being constantly revised to deny women equal access at this sacred space. Things have changed tremendously in my 21 years of going to pray with Women of the Wall every Rosh Hodesh.

Women of the Wall is sometimes accused of protesting against the “status quo” at the Western Wall. In fact, there is no status quo at the Wall — things change all the time.

Questioning, fingerprinting of Women of the Wall leader Anat Hoffman sparks protests

JTA January 14, 2010

Click here for VIDEO

Hoffman's questioning threatens to further exacerbate tensions between American Jewish groups and more conservative elements within the Israel's Orthodox-controlled religious establishment.

She told the JTA that she hopes to "wake the American Jewish giant" in an effort to prevent the attorney-general from moving ahead with prosecution. If convicted, Hoffman said, she faces prison time or a fine of about $3,000.

Up against the Wall

Click here for VIDEO

By Rabbi David Forman Opinion January 16, 2010

How do the Women of the Wall genuinely expect to alter the present prejudicial policy? While the principle of equality is not debatable, it is little wonder that few take these women seriously, as they reduce their appearance at the Wall to Rosh Hodesh, attracting only a handful of women at the most.

At present, the view is that Orthodox Jews pray at the Wall in masses and therefore, as undemocratic as it may seem, should be able to determine the guidelines for prayer there.

…So all those women who should be able to express their rights at the holy site of all Jews must be present in traditional garb at the Wall every day - 50 or 60 at a time. Force the police to either disperse and arrest you or protect and defend you.

Better yet, produce 5,000 women in a massive protest (as the haredi community does at a moment's notice), and you will effect change, not only in government policy, but in the public attitude.

Let Reform and Conservative Jews from the Diaspora rush to Israel in its hours of direst need, and recognition of their respective movements here becomes possible.

Leaders Mull Options To Protest Restrictions at Kotel

By Debra Nussbaum Cohen January 13, 2010

Acts of civil disobedience are among the strategies that the Reform movement is weighing as it mulls how best to advocate for religious pluralism in Israel, particularly at Jerusalem’s Western Wall — the site of recent confrontations between women worshipping as a prayer group, the Orthodox rabbis who control access to the wall and the police.

“One possible strategy is a campaign of civil disobedience,” said Rabbi Eric Yoffie, the president of the Union for Reform Judaism.

“You have certain laws there. We could defy them in terms of how we pray and conduct ourselves at the wall — doing it aware of the fact that this is violating the law and could lead to prosecution. But we haven’t made that decision per se.”

Don't be right, be smart!

By Rabbi Barry Schlesinger January 12, 2010

The writer is the president of the Rabbinical Assembly of Israel and the rabbi of the Masorti Congregation Moreshet Avraham in Jerusalem.

Women of the Wall at Robinson's Arch

A three-tiered plan of action is called for, which will revisit the entire Western Wall complex and redefine the modalities of each area.

1. The Western Wall Plaza should be under the jurisdiction of the Jerusalem Municipality and not subject to gender segregation or the halachic rulings of the rabbi of the Wall.

2. The northern section of the Western Wall (north of the Mughrabi Gate) will continue to serve those who feel that a separation between women and men is required.

3. The southern section of the Western Wall (south of the Mughrabi Gate) will be opened to all Jewish men and women who wish to pray together without separation.

The Robinson’s Arch ‘Solution’ Is No Solution

By Haviva Ner-David January 12, 2010

Rabbi Haviva Ner-David is founding Director of Reut: The Center for Modern Jewish Marriage, and of Sh’maya: A Spiritual and Educational Mikveh in the Galilee.

As long as women’s prayer and egalitarian prayer is not taken seriously enough in Israel to warrant use of holy ritual objects like tallit, tefillin, shofar, and a Torah scroll — these two public prayer sites will never be separate but equal, and any Israeli Jew with progressive religious notions will be treated like a tourist who must pay his or her way to earn basic rights.

When I heard ultra-Orthodox men calling me “Christian” that morning at the Kotel, I understood that this is where the problem lies.

Especially because it is not only the ultra-Orthodox who believe that they are the only authentic religious Jews, but the majority of the Israeli population — even those who are secular themselves — seem to agree.

Anat Hoffman on Being Interrogated by Police

By Anat Hoffman January 11, 2010

The Wall as a national and religious site now needs to be liberated from Rabbi Shmuel Rabinovich's control.

Rabinovich is an Ultra-Orthodox rabbi who has been appointed as rabbi of the Wall by secular leaders in Israel who, like many Israelis, were brought up to believe that there is only one brand of authentic Judaism - Rabinovich's brand.

He was given absolute jurisdiction over the site, and he has abused his power. But the real problem is not Rabinovich: the problem is the absolute power he has over Israeli Judaism.

Conservatives Protest Israel's Treatment of Women of the Wall

By Debra Nussbaum Cohen January 11, 2010

Rabbi Steven Wernick, USCJ’s executive vice president, told The Forward, “

The harassment of those who are progressive such as we saw with Nofrat Frenkel and now with Anat Hoffman is unconscionable.”

These moves by the Jerusalem police drive “a wedge between our communities at a time when working for unity within Israel and enhancing the connection between Diaspora Jewish communities and Israel should be a primary concern,” says United Synagogue’s statement.

Statement of Rabbi Eric Yoffie on Women of the Wall

By Rabbi Eric Yoffie January 12, 2010

"I am deeply distressed by the campaign of intimidation against the Women of the Wall. Such intimidation offends the religious sensibilities of millions of Jews in Israel and throughout the world.

…We hope the day will come when all Jews will be permitted to pray at the Wall in accordance with their own religious customs, in an area allotted for that purpose.”

Women of the Wall vs. the Jewish State

By Phyllis Chesler Opinion January 16, 2010

But, it is true: Over the years, WOW sometimes let a little tallit (prayer shawl) show; sometimes they even made spontaneous decisions to attempt a forbidden Torah-reading at the Wall as well. Not often; sometimes, when it was very quiet, almost deserted, when there did not seem to be anyone around to “offend” or “provoke.” Dangerously criminal behavior—yes?

…No ultra-religious zealot has ever been arrested for violence against WOW. Only women have been arrested for “provoking” the violence and now for breaking an unjust law.

In Union Square, 200 pray in solidarity with Women of the Wall

By Amanda Pazornik January 14, 2010

With a kippah affixed to her head and a tallit draped on her shoulders, Dr. Abby Caplin spoke of the violence befalling women who wear the same religious garments while praying at the Western Wall in Jerusalem.

“They have been cursed at and had chairs thrown at them,” Caplin said. “There are no repercussions for this behavior.”

Approximately 200 men and women gathered Jan. 10 for a morning service at San Francisco’s Union Square in support of Women of the Wall.

Women and Religion

By Rabbi Robert B. Barr January 12, 2010

Rabbi Barr expands upon Nicholas Kristof’s Op-Ed piece about women and religion

Click here for AUDIO blog

On Supporting Freedom of Religious Practice in Israel January 14, 2010

We urge the municipality of Jerusalem, the State of Israel and its ambassador to the United States to realize the gravity of this issue and take immediate steps to promote religious pluralism, provide equitable treatment to non-Orthodox streams of Jewish life and end the harassment of women seeking to pray with dignity at the Western Wall, Judaism's most holy place.

Ministerial Committee undecided on Shas' Chametz law

By Amnon Meranda January 17, 2010

The Ministerial Committee on Legislation remains undecided on a bill on leavened food, which the Shas Party is attempting to pass before next Passover. The committee has decided to appoint a sub-committee on the matter.

The sub-committee will be charged with coming to a decision within the coming week.

Cabinet to Decide on New Chametz Law

By Gil Ronen January 17, 2010

The change would widen the scope of the prohibition on displaying chametz to include the interiors of stores. It would amend the present Chametz Law, which says that “the owner of a business will not display in public a chametz product for sale or consumption” by changing the words “in public” [Hebrew/Aramaic befumbi– ed.] to “in a public place” [bemakom tziburi].

Jewish digital barcode to fight chametz January 13, 2010

Israel's Chief Rabbi Yonah Metzger revealed the Chief Rabbinate's new advanced project last week at the world conference for rabbis and community leaders from 33 different countries.

The barcode of products which are not kosher for Passover are registered on the supermarket's main computer as products which are not for sale, thus when a customer tries to buy a product defined as chametz the computer does not allow the sale.

More Speculation on Jerusalem’s Chief Rabbi Race

By Yechiel Spira January 14, 2010

It appears that Mayor Barkat, who is bound by his pre-election deal with dati leumi supporters, may be willing to accept a Sephardi dati leumi rav, in this case, HaRav Tzion Arusi of Kiryat Ono.

[This] would deliver a major blow to Shas, with the Sephardi party working to close a deal with the mayor in favor of placing the Shas candidate in the Sephardi rabbinical post and the mayor’s dati leumi candidate in the Ashkenazi post.

No Compensation for Rabbis Presiding Over Weddings January 11, 2010

Starting this month rabbis employed by the state are prohibited from receiving compensation for presiding over the wedding of a couple living in that rabbi's community.

Along with the Justice Department's new regulation that just went into effect, the Chief Rabbinate published a list of rabbis who are approved to preside over marriages.

See 2006 article: Despite ban, ex-Chief Rabbi Lau still taking fees for weddings

Chief Rabbi calls fast day for Thursday

By Matthew Wagner January 11, 2010

Chief Sephardi Rabbi Shlomo Amar called on all capable to fast and pray this Thursday in hope that God will bring an end to the drought that has depleted Israel's water sources and struck a blow to local agriculture.

Why rabbis sin

By Rabbi Jeremy Rosen Opinion January 15, 2010

Rabbi Rosen is a rabbi and writer. He lives in New York and blogs at

All closed groups behave this way, not only Orthodox Jews. This is precisely why Israel's Supreme Court is so unpopular with the Haredi world - and so necessary, because it will recognize no such defenses.

It is why a free press, and now the Internet too, is so important, and why public opinion must not let even outwardly pious criminals get away with their wrongdoings.

Neeman: Halachic values are better suited than secular law to Israeli society

By Dan Izenberg January 14, 2010

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]

Jewish law should be referred to much more than it is today because it is based on unique ethical values and often provides better solutions to modern legal dilemmas than secular law, Justice Minister Yaakov Neeman told an audience on Thursday at the Interdisciplinary Center - Herzliya.

Neeman spoke at a symposium entitled "Jewish Law in Israeli Law," almost six weeks after he said in a speech in Jerusalem that Halacha should eventually become the binding law in Israel.

Israel's religious system will bring to its demise

By Sefi Rachlevsky Opinion January 17, 2010

This pattern is anything but coincidental. When the secular system allows religion to create a messianic bubble within it, it creates a hothouse that converts religion into reality and fosters the growth of violent sentiment with no room for those who are both pragmatic and religious.

Unless democratic, non-messianic forces in Israel unite, they will find that the existential threat to Israel is the religious-messianic threat both within and without. They must dismantle the religious-messianic autonomy, step by step, and restore equality, democracy and openness in Israeli society, or Israel will be no more.

Rabbi Sherlow Angers Many with Controversial Ruling

By Yechiel Spira January 11, 2010

Quoted in the weekend Makor Rishon newspaper, the rabbi explains the State of Israel has the right to adjust the borders of Eretz Yisrael as it deems the situation demands. Speaking with Kol Chai Radio on Monday night, the rav confirmed the quote is accurate, and it was taken from his writings, word for word.

'Close business on Shabbat for license'

By Matthew Wagner January 12, 2010

Closing one's business on Shabbat would be a condition for obtaining a business license, if Shas has its way.

Shas Chairman and Interior Minister Eli Yishai announced this week that he was supporting a measure being debated by the Knesset Internal Affairs and Environment Committee, which is chaired by MK David Azoulai (Shas).

Shas’ Margi looks to religious councils to strengthen base

By Matthew Wagner January 18, 2010

Margi has also succeeded in pushing through appointments on existing religious councils. He said in a recent interview in Haaretz that he has appointed 45 people to religious councils across the country, 27 of whom are connected to Shas.

According to Margi's spokesman Alon Nuriel, as religious affairs minister, Margi has the power to appoint members of religious councils in cities, towns, local authorities and settlements in which the local government has failed to put together a religious council within 12 months of local elections.

However, he is bound by criteria adopted by the Justice Ministry which are designed to prevent political nepotism.

Shas runs amok

Haaretz Editorial January 15, 2010

Israelis have recently been swept into a maelstrom of religious legislation and antidemocratic actions that are harmful to their liberty and way of life. The source of this dangerous upheaval is Shas, whose leaders' wanton conduct has exceeded all reasonable bounds.

Ushering in a messianic age

By Jeff Barak Opinion January 11, 2010

The writer is a former editor-in-chief of The Jerusalem Post.

Haaretz cartoon by Amos Biderman January 10, 2010

Perhaps the messiah really is on his way. At the end of last week, Shas leader Eli Yishai pulled the plug on the "jobs law" bill his party was pushing, which would have created dozens of deputy mayors in cities and towns across the country, at the annual cost of around NIS 1 million per deputy mayor.

Like a bird that can't fly backward

By Nehemia Shtrasler Opinion January 12, 2010

Shas' behavior was completely predictable. Just as you cannot teach a bird to fly backward, it is impossible to demand statesmanlike behavior from Shas…

[T]he real criticism must be aimed at the one who gave Shas this power, the one who capitulates to it on every issue, the one who gave it control over all the civilian ministries that determine the public's quality of life - the Interior Ministry, the Housing Ministry and the Religious Services Ministry (along with giving the Health Ministry to UTJ) - and thereby enabled it to extort even more, increase its power and harm the nonreligious majority.

Shas gimme gimme

By Yossi Sarid Opinion January 15, 2010

He's right, Ovadia, he knows our souls. The secular Israeli really is a donkey of donkeys - a domestic animal used for riding and carrying loads. And not because we don't keep the Sabbath, but because we are still keeping Shas - which the saving of human lives should have superseded long ago.

Jewish-Mexican tycoon dies in helicopter crash

By Cnaan Liphshiz, Mazal Mualem and Nati Toker January 13, 2010

Mexican Jewish business tycoon Moises Saba, a major supporter of Israeli charities who was closely associated with the Shas party, was killed on Sunday in a helicopter crash outside Mexico City, in which three members of his family and the helicopter pilot also died.

Shas spiritual leader Rabbi Ovadia Yosef and Moises Saba had a close relationship and met regularly during Saba's frequent visits to Israel. Shas sources said yesterday that Saba's death would be a major blow to party institutions. Saba was a main contributor to Rabbi Yosef's publishing house.

Mogul Moises Saba dies in helicopter crash

By Haviv Rettig Gur January 12, 2010

Saba was a major donor to the Israeli search-and-rescue organization ZAKA. In mid-2009, he held a fund-raising event for the organization in his home that was attended by former US president Bill Clinton.

Saba was particularly well-known in the Sephardi Jewish world. One of the members of the ZAKA team is Rabbi David Yosef, son of Shas spiritual leader and former Sephardi chief Rabbi Ovadia Yosef, who went as a representative of his father and the Shas movement.

Mikveh Workers Decry Camera Security System January 14, 2010

Workers in Jerusalem mikvaot claim that a new security system recently installed is the cause of a great deal of immodesty – because the system features video cameras, with all clients who enter the building being filmed.

As state slumbers, volunteers step in to rescue neglected Sanhedrin Tombs

By Nir Hasson January 15, 2010

The ultra-Orthodox residents of Sanhedria, the neighborhood where the tombs are located, have expressed little interest in maintaining the ancient burial caves, though they were recently cleaned up by a group of Russian-speaking immigrants who have little connection to Judaism.

Rafi Kasimov, who coordinates the Land of Israel program for Russian speakers at the Conservative movement's Schechter Institutes, called on the ultra-Orthodox to join his students' attempt to restore the site.

Do our charity dollars work for--or against--us?

By Rabbi Marc D. Angel Opinion January 11, 2010

Rabbi Angel is Director, The Institute for Jewish Ideas and Ideals

Should we be giving our limited charity funds to those who foster a religious life in which men do not receive training or encouragement to find gainful employment or in which men (in Israel) avoid military service in Tzahal by staying in kollels or in which people are imbued with neutral-Zionist or even anti-Zionist attitudes; or in which obscurantist and fundamentalist teachings are presented as the true word of God?

Should we be supporting institutions that promote a narrow, xenophobic vision of Judaism, or that have moved far "to the right", that seek to undermine Modern Orthodox ideals and values where ever they can?

High cost of leaving ultra-Orthodox Judaism

By Heather Sharp January 11, 2010

(Videos also included in article)

Ms. Paneth stresses that Hillel does not persuade people to leave, but merely provides practical help and emotional support to those who decide for themselves to do so.

She believes the 2,000 or so people Hillel has helped in the past decade are "the tip of the iceberg", and that numbers are growing as the internet makes the secular world more accessible.

Israeli ultra-Orthodox rail against net use

By Ben Lynfield January 16, 2010

Ultra-Orthodox rabbis in Israel have launched what they claim is a ''divinely ordained war'' against use of the internet among their followers.

They charge that the web is filled with ''abomination'' and can cause the faithful to abandon the strict religious way of life.

Haredi R&D center to open in TA

By Sharon Wrobel January 14, 2010

RealCommerce, a Web and mobile-technology integrator is launching a development-programming and software center in Tel Aviv and plans to hire 50 haredi women within a year.

RealCommerce intends to recruit mostly ba'alot tshuva (returnees to ultra-Orthodox Judaism) in the Tel Aviv area who are having a hard time finding a job or don't want to commute to Modi'in Illit and other locations.

Haredi media calls on its own to question rash of child abuse cases

By Tamar Rotem January 11, 2010

It is difficult to ignore the fact that this is one of a series of violent acts in which children were harmed by members of extremist ultra-Orthodox sects.

…Members of these extremist groups try to shake off the implications of this worrisome series of events.

The Valis case and that of the mother accused of starving her child exposed the complex relationship between the extremist ultra-Orthodox groups and the authorities, especially the social welfare authorities.

[Social welfare representative Ruth] Shapira said, however, that there has been a general regression in the attitude of the ultra-Orthodox toward social services.

Police order Gerrer Chassidim to stay away January 11, 2010

Following the violent behavior in the central Arad shul this past Shabbos involving Gerrer Chassidim, Arad police on Monday evening began issuing orders to a number Gerrer chassidim to distance themselves from the central shul where the Shabbos violence occurred.

Police have taken this first step in the hope of bringing the situation under control before Shabbos, to avoid yet another Shabbos of confrontation in the shul.

Gerer Chassidim Attempt to Wrest Control over Arad Synagogue January 12, 2010

For the second time in less than a month, Arad police were called this past Saturday to deal with disturbances between Chabad and Gerrer Chassidim at the city’s Ashkenazi central synagogue.

Gur Chassidus Seeking to Take Over Arad

By Yechiel Spira January 11, 2010

For those familiar with the Chabad community in Arad, a southern city, they are familiar the community is a modest one, some 50-60 families, about a fifth the size of the city’s Gur community, which according to the Chabadnikim, are seeking to bully their way towards control of Chabad [institutions].

SuperBus Wants Chareidi Drivers

By Yechiel Spira January 11, 2010

The SuperBus Company, which operates bus routes in many areas including Modi’in Illit, Beit Shemesh and other chareidi areas, is seeking to improve its service and is now in the midst of a recruitment campaign, seeking chareidi drivers. At present, many of the company’s drivers are Arab.

Litzman Intervenes to Expedite Permits for 5,000 Chareidi Mosdos

By Yechiel Spira January 11, 2010

Senior officials quoted anonymously in the daily Yediot Achronot explained that Deputy Health Minister Litzman applied enormous pressure on district level health officials and inspectors to ensure the chareidi mosdos receive the permit to permit licensing and funding.

He applied “considerable pressure” to certify as many mosdos as possible, to enable funding, demanding they be given “top priority”.

Barkat Authorizes NIS 5 Million for Hareidi Classrooms January 12, 2010

Jerusalem Mayor Nir Barkat has allocated NIS 5 million for the construction of new classrooms for Hareidi religious students in the city.

The money will be used to build 1,137 classrooms, Barkat told United Torah Judaism MK Menachem Mozes.

Guidelines for playing kosher music

By Yisrael Haver January 14, 2010

Copy of Guidelines in English included

$50,000 Cash and Checks Worth Hundreds of Thousands Stolen From Rav Shteinman’s Home January 17, 2010

$50,000 in cash and checks worth hundreds of thousands of dollars were stolen Thursday from the home of Rav Aharon Leib Shteinman while the rosh yeshiva was at an ateres chizuk in Beitar and Yerushalayim.

Religion and State in Israel

January 18, 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.