Wednesday, March 31, 2010

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

Religion and State in Israel

April 1, 2010 (Section 1) (see also Section 2 and Passover edition)

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.

Hung up on hametz

By Dov Preminger March 29, 2010

Several of Jerusalem’s non-kosher eateries are bracing themselves for various degrees of protest and even possible violence throughout the week.

Despite winning a lawsuit filed against them in 2007 for selling hametz during Pessah, these businesses are still blacklisted by segments of the religious population in the capital.

“They tried to burn our store twice last year,” says Lahav, “once a few days before Pessah. The second time, during the middle of the day, they tried to light the gas on fire. The police didn’t catch them.”

Rabbis: 'Kitniyot rebellion' continues March 31, 2010

A group of rabbis has announced that more Orthodox Jews are abandoning the practice of abstaining from eating kitniyot (beans and pulses) during the Passover holiday.

Rabbi David Bar-Hayim, head of the Machon Shilo institute, notes with satisfaction that the organization is frequently cited as having an impact on people’s decisions.

“Each year I am contacted by an increasing number of people who inform me that they are no longer adhering to the ban on eating kitniyot,” says Rabbi Bar-Hayim.
“They thank me for the permit to eat kitniyot and for providing clear halachic insight that makes Torah Judaism relevant for thinking people.”

Kashrut demands get stricter every year

By Irit Rosenblum March 24, 2010

"Every year the level of koshering utensils, which were never koshered in the past, rises; demands to replace utensils that were not replaced in previous years, which adds up to expenses of millions of shekels," said an Eilat hotelier this week, complaining about the stricter requirements of making Eilat hotels kosher for the week of Passover.

"In previous years we were able to reach agreements, but this year the Eilat Religious Council is putting on more pressure and larger monetary demands than in the past," said the hotelier, complaining about the requirements.

Crisis who? Business brisk at Tel Aviv hotels for Passover

TheMarker March 31, 2010

Economic crisis? Not at Tel Aviv's hotels. No less than a thousand people forked over NIS 1,100 to partake of the seder at the Hilton Hotel in the city.

Not only was the Hilton fully occupied: It also sold seder meals on wheels, takeaway feasts that cost even more per diner - 5,000 of them, in fact.

The Sheraton reported 90% occupancy and 350 people registered for its seder feasts at its various dining venues. The version with the cantor and the five courses cost NIS 990 per person, and there wasn't a seat to be had.

The seder sans singer cost NIS 700 per seat. Moving on to the Dan Hotel, we find seders starting at NIS 1,050 per adult and NIS 790 per child, and almost full occupancy as well. And so it went with the other big hotels.

Export matza sales surge by 30 percent

By Sharon Wrobel March 30, 2010

Israeli food manufacturers enjoyed a 30 percent increase in the demand for matza products from Jewish communities in the US and Europe, according to a report by the Israel Export Institute.

Last year, export sales of matza rose 30% year-on-year and were worth $15.6 million compared with 12m. in 2008.

The surge was mainly led by sales to the US, which made up 64% of the total sales volume and amounted to $10m. Over the past six years, export sales of matza more than doubled from $7m. in 2003 to $15.6m. in 2009.

Hundreds of lone soldiers celebrate Passover in a Babel of tongues

By Anshel Pfeffer March 31, 2010

Photo: IDF Spokesperson

It's Monday night at Friends of the Israel Defense Forces recreational center in Givat Olga, and Maj. Malachi Rabad, rabbi of the IDF Human Resources Directorate, is responsible for leading the 580 assembled lone soldiers through the annual holiday ritual.

The IDF currently includes 4,600 lone soldiers, each without family to return to in Israel when on leave.

About 40 percent were born in Israel, but were either raised in broken homes or are otherwise estranged from their families. The rest are soldiers who immigrated to Israel alone.

Ethiopians: Let us celebrate Passover with families

By Yael Branovsky March 28, 2010

A few dozen Ethiopians on Sunday protested in Jerusalem for not being able to join their families for the holiday.

The immigrants displayed a Passover Seder table in front of the Prime Minister's Office, on which they placed pictures of their family members – some of which have been waiting to make aliyah for many years. Next to the pictures, the immigrants placed bowls of Maror (bitter herbs) to symbolize the hardship they have experienced because of the long distance between them and their families.

For more articles on Passover, please click here for Passover edition.

Converts petition over rabbis' refusal to register marriage

By Yair Ettinger March 29, 2010

Rabbi Farber of the Itim Center, who married the Serdukovs, told Haaretz, "After years of experience, we came to the conclusion that we could no longer allow militants in the rabbinate to control Judaism in the State of Israel. Not registering converts does harm to their basic rights, especially on the eve of Passover, when we are supposed to remember that we were once strangers in Egypt, and we have a moral obligation to care for those whose position in society is fragile.

Petitioners: Recognize state-approved conversions

By Dan Izenberg March 28, 2010

A convert to Judaism and her husband petitioned the High Court of Justice on Sunday against four rabbis who have allegedly repeatedly refused to grant marriage licenses to Israelis who converted to Judaism in Orthodox religious courts recognized by the state.

The petition was filed by Alina and Maxim Sardiyokov, Itim – The Jewish Life Information Center, and three other public petitioners including Maj.-Gen. (Res.) Elazar Stern, former commander of the IDF’s Manpower Directorate.

"This petition,” wrote attorney Aviad Hacohen, dean of Shaarei Mishpat Academic College in Hod Hasharon, “recounts the shameful and unacceptable practice whereby marriage registrars throughout the country refuse to register converts who converted according to the law and possess official certificates of conversion to Judaism issued by the State of Israel.”

Golani soldier gets Jewish burial despite incomplete conversion

By Aviel Magnezi March 28, 2010

Staff-Sergeant Ilan Sviatkovsky, who was killed in clashes with terrorists in Gaza Friday, died before he could complete his conversion to Judaism, but on Sunday he was given a Jewish burial in Rishon Letzion's cemetery.

Sviatkovsky, who immigrated to Israel from Uzbekistan with his family in 1994, was on his way to completing a controversial IDF conversion process called the Nativ Course. He planned on completing the process immediately upon returning from his service in Gaza.

…Rabbi Shaul Farber, head of ITIM, a nonprofit that helps potential converts navigate rabbinic bureaucracy, is one of the petitioners to the High Court. He told Ynet that Sviatkovsky deserved a Jewish burial according to the halacha.

When a Kosher Conversion Isn't Enough

By Michele Chabin March 29, 2010

"Imagine receiving your drivers' license in Tel Aviv, only to be told in Ashkelon or Ashdod that you can't drive because your license isn't recognized there. The same is happening with conversion certificates."

"These four rabbis are brutalizing genuine converts in order to achieve their own political aspirations," Rabbi Farber charged.

"They're trying to show how haredi they are and are doing so on the backs of the converts. It gives them credibility in ultra-Orthodox circles, which seek to undermine the validity of the conversions performed in the state Conversion Authority."

Free us from the Rabbinate Editorial March 28, 2010

The time has come to do away with the Chief Rabbinate. This is the only conclusion any clear-headed observer, concerned about the way Judaism is being represented in the public domain, can draw.

The Barzilai Medical Center fiasco, the disparaging treatment of converts and the tendency toward holier-than-thou stringency are just some of the most publicized recent examples of how the Chief Rabbinate has become not merely obsolete but downright inimical to the Judaism it purportedly represents.

Held captive by extreme haredi elements, it is failing to uphold its responsibility to faithfully represent the rabbinic tradition while grappling with the contemporary challenges faced by the reborn Jewish nation.

Petition may lead to wider acceptance of common law marriage

By Ruth Eglash March 25, 2010

A court petition filed last week by the Jerusalem Institute of Justice on behalf of a mixed-religion couple could have far-reaching consequences for Israel’s stringent marriage laws.

“There is a gap in the marriage law in Israel because there is no recognition of civil marriages,” said attorney Michael Decker, representing the Jerusalem Institute of Justice.

“People here cannot get married to someone of a different religion, and yet someone who is a permanent resident has no option to live in a common law marriage.

Israel must now introduce real civil marriage

By Nathan Jeffay Opinion March 25, 2010

But this was not history in the making; no walls were being cracked. This was cynical Israeli politics at its worst.

…The State of Israel has become matchmaker for these 350,000 people. They are allowed to get married, but only so long as they marry one another. Yisrael Beiteinu may have ticked a box on its election checklist, but it has created an absurd situation.

Israel has an obligation to these citizens. They were brought to Israel by Israel, in accordance with the state's noble vision of "ingathering the exiles"- and also in no small part with the hope of increasing the Jewish demographic (in civil if not religious terms) in Israel.

Rabbis oppose Egged plan for audio-visual aids for deaf and blind

By Yair Ettinger and Barak Sher March 26, 2010

Click here for VIDEO [Hebrew]

Pressure from ultra-Orthodox rabbis could lead to revoking plans to install more buses with an on-board audio-visual system for people with sensory impairments.

The rabbis who object to the system, stipulated by the law for Equality for Persons with Disabilities, say the screens could be used for unworthy purposes.

…Some of the rabbis agreed to have the screens used for commercials, which would finance the service. Egged promised to project no images or pictures on the screens, which could offend ultra-Orthodox passengers' sensibilities, but only texts.

However, the more radical ultra-Orthodox rabbis objected to having the screens installed in the first place, agreeing only to LED screens displaying the name of the next station.

J'lem: New cinema, but not on Shabbat March 25, 2010

The Jerusalem Municipality Finance Committee approved a plan for the construction of a new cinema complex in the Haleom parking lot opposite the Supreme Court, on condition that it remains closed during Shabbat, Israel Radio reported Thursday.

Following the report, the Forum for a Free Jerusalem movement said that a cinema closed on Shabbat would not fulfill the needs of the secular population in the city.

Chief Rabbinate stands behind Orlev legislation

By Dan Izenberg March 23, 2010

The Chief Rabbinate has announced that it will support a more moderate version of a bill submitted to the Knesset to extend the powers of the state rabbinical courts than the one being pushed by the haredi parties.

The moderate bill was submitted by Zevulun Orlev (Habayit Hayehudi) and called for allowing the rabbinical courts to arbitrate monetary disputes according to Halacha, in cases where both sides agree to do so.

The more far-reaching bill, submitted by MKs Uri Maklev and Moshe Gafni (United Torah Judaism) calls not only for that, but also for granting the rabbinical court exclusive right to hear all disputes stemming from the court’s ruling on divorce agreements.

Takana's promise of secrecy to accusers keeping police from charging Rabbi Elon

By Yair Ettinger March 24, 2010

Rabbis close to Takana, the group that originally alleged sexual misconduct on the part of Rabbi Mordechai (Moti) Elon, say police are not pressing charges against the educator because Takana had promised confidentiality to Elon's former students who had complained.

"The police were dependent on us but we could do nothing," one rabbi said.

…Rabbis involved in the case said they were not surprised by the apparent closing of the police file. "In any case, the most serious incidents, to our minds, are not criminal according to the existing law. There is no such thing as a criminal offense stemming from the authority and powers of a rabbi" when the individuals involved are over 18, a source in the group said.

Interpreting the decision by the police not to prosecute Motti Elon for sexual misconduct

By Elana Sztokman Opinion March 22, 2010

In short, I hope that the community does not conclude that because the police decided not to charge him that all is well and good.

Those involved (the police and Takana) all seem to be in agreement that Elon has been having sex with his male students.

The real implications of all this, and the impact on those students, need to be dealt with outside of the legal system.

Out in Israel Film Series

A Showcase of LGBT Movies--April 8-29, 2010 in San Francisco

In honor of Israel Pride Month, the San Francisco Jewish Film Festival (SFJFF) teams up with the Consulate General of Israel this April to present the “Out in Israel” film series—a special showcase of new, recent and classic films from Israel exploring lesbian and gay life, imagery and stories.

Supreme Court: Restaurant Must Comply with Rabbinical Guidelines

By Yechiel Spira March 24, 2010

The High Court of Justice has handed down a decision that is indeed a victory for Ashdod Chief Rabbi Yosef Sheinen Shlita in the ongoing saga of a bakery owned by a Jew for “J”, owned and operated by Penina Comforti.

…In the ruling released on Tuesday, Justices Eliezer Rivlin, Salim Jubran and Ayala Procaccia explained that in order for the bakery to receive a kashrut certificate from the local rabbinate, it must comply with the directives set forth.

Last Day of Barak's Ultimatum to Hesder Students

By Hillel Fendel March 24, 2010

Hesder army-students studying in Yeshivat Har Brachah were instructed to report to the Bakum (IDF Induction Center) Wednesday and choose which Hesder yeshiva they would like to enroll in.

They are being officially removed from the Har Brachah hesder arrangement, in accordance with a political decision made by Defense Minister Ehud Barak.

Several students agreed to “formally” be enrolled in another yeshiva, while continuing to study in Har Brachah.

Others announced that they are “on strike,” complaining that the decision by Barak is totally political and is harmful to the army. Still others are currently in the army, making the issue not relevant to them at present.

Close-knit community?

By Sarah Nadav March 26, 2010

Dramatic shifts to both the Left and the Right over the past 50 years have left the modern Orthodox and national-religious movements fragmented. These divisions have been causing friction as some factions push for more stringent interpretations of Halacha, while others are pushing boundaries on formally sacrosanct issues.

…With the future of the movement uncertain, rabbis, intellectuals and members of the modern Orthodox community will be coming together at a conference during Pessah titled “Is modern Orthodoxy an endangered species?”

The conference is co-sponsored by the Institute for Jewish Ideas and Ideals, a US-based modern Orthodox organization, and Ne’emanei Torah V’Avoda, which is based in Israel. This is their first joint project.

Moskowitz Prize Winners for Zionism Announced – Nahal Haredi

By Hillel Fendel March 24, 2010

Rabbi Yoel Schwartz is the founder and driving force behind the Nahal Hareidi – the first IDF unit organized especially for hareidi-religious soldiers.

The framework allows the soldiers to maintain their way of life, including scheduled time for prayers, Torah classes, kosher l’Mehadrin food, and the like. Rabbi Schwartz was originally shunned and persecuted within his own hareidi public for his work in Nahal Hareidi.

First Reform rabbi to receive honor on Independence Day

By Raphael Ahren March 26, 2010

U.S.-born rabbi Richard Hirsch is the first Reform rabbi to receive the honor of lighting a torch during the state's official Independence Day ceremony.

A committee under the auspices of the prime minister's office named him this week as one of fourteen Israelis to participate in the upcoming event on Mt. Herzl in April, which hundreds of thousands of Israelis traditionally watch either live in Jerusalem or on their TV screens.

Galilee Diary: Definitions III

By Rabbi Marc Rosenstein Opinion March 23, 2010

Our topic was "the 'streams' of Judaism in the Galilee."

After an introductory lecture on the development of the denominations, especially Reform, we went on to four encounters: …Conservative kibbutz, Hannaton…Kibbutz Lavi, one of the pillars of the Orthodox kibbutz movement…Khirbet Ammudim, a few miles away, where the ruin of a third century synagogue sits in the middle of a cow pasture….Kibbutz Yagur, famous for leading the way in producing an elaborate Passover seder every year, with an original Haggadah and original music.

Bus posters replace Al-Aqsa with Temple

By Shmulik Grossman March 28, 2010

Two hundred Egged buses were plastered with posters Sunday that call for the construction of the third temple "quickly and in our time". The posters carry a drawing of Temple Mount without the mosques situated there.

J’lem posters call for 3rd Temple

By Abe Selig March 29, 2010

The campaign’s organizers chose to plaster the posters on buses whose routes take them through predominately Arab neighborhoods of east Jerusalem.

Replace Temple Mount mosques with Jewish Temple, rightist campaign says

By Chaim Levinson and Haaretz Service March 28, 2010

A right-wing group announced a campaign Sunday ahead of the Passover festival calling for the construction of the Jewish Temple on the location of the existing temple mount mosques.

The extreme right-wing Our Land of Israel party (Eretz Israel Shelanu) said it intended to mount an extensive bus campaign, with the slogan "May the Temple be built in our lifetime," along with an artist's rendition of the completed Temple.

Right-wing MKs tour near Temple Mount

By Yaakov Lappin March 25, 2010

Four National Union MKs overcame police attempts to block them from touring the Old City near the Temple Mount on Wednesday.

Lawmakers Uri Ariel, Ya’acov Katz, Michael Ben-Ari and Arye Eldad said it was their right to walk around in any section of Jerusalem they pleased, and expressed outrage when their attempt to tour in the vicinity of the Temple Mount was blocked by several special patrol officers armed with machine guns who had been deployed to the site by Jerusalem police chief Cmdr. Aharon Franco.

What does it really mean to be a Jew?

By Matt Lerner Opinion March 29, 2010

What does it mean to be a Jew? Is it solely a religious affiliation? Is it simply an affinity to an ancient cultural tradition? Or is it literally bone-deep?

…Does Jewish ancestry forty generations in the past really mean anything to the world's far-flung Jews?

Or is it their practice and culture that truly matter? Is information about distant ancestry truly relevant?

Menasseh’s children

By Michael Freund Opinion March 25, 2010

The writer served as deputy director of communications and policy planning in the Prime Minister’s Office from 1996 to 1999. He is the Founder and Chairman of Shavei Israel, which assists the Bnei Menashe to return to the Jewish people.

Prime Minister, I appeal to you: Please bring the Bnei Menashe home to the Jewish state.

Four months ago, I met with Sephardi Chief Rabbi Shlomo Amar and Interior Minister Eli Yishai, both of whom expressed their support for bringing the remaining members of the community to Israel. All that is needed now is for your government to take the courageous and historic decision to reunite this lost tribe with our people.

Palm Sunday marked in J'lem, W. Bank

AP March 28, 2010

Hundreds of Christians from around the world marched from the Mount of Olives into Jerusalem to mark Palm Sunday, retracing the steps of Jesus 2,000 years ago.

This year the Roman Catholic, Protestant and Orthodox Churches mark Holy Week on the same dates. The Orthodox Church uses a different calendar from the others, but they coincide every few years.

Religion and State in Israel

April 1, 2010 (Section 1) (see also Section 2 and Passover edition)

Editor – Joel Katz

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

All rights reserved.

Religion and State in Israel - April 1, 2010 (Section 2)

Religion and State in Israel

April 1, 2010 (Section 2) (see also Section 1 and Passover edition)

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.

Haaretz Cartoon by Amos Biderman March 26, 2010

(PM Netanyahu returns to Israel from trip to U.S.)

Netanyahu aide likely to overturn ruling to move Ashkelon hospital

By Barak Ravid, Tomer Zarchin and Yanir Yagna March 29, 2010

The director general of the Prime Minister's Office, Eyal Gabai, is expected to recommend to Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to reverse the previous cabinet decision on moving the new emergency room at Barzilai Medical Center in Ashkelon.

Instead, Gabai will recommend to Netanyahu to move the graves at the site that prevented building the emergency room, which is to be reinforced against rocket attacks, at its original site.

TA: Dozens protest Ashkelon ER relocation

By Vered Luvitch March 26, 2010

Some 200 people held a rally on Tel Aviv's Rothschild Boulevard on Friday afternoon, in protest of the cabinet's decision to accept Deputy Health Minister Yakov Litzman's demand and relocate the emergency room at the Barzilai Medical Center in Ashkelon due to the discovery of ancient graves.

Litzman’s failure Editorial March 25, 2010

The good news to emerge from the Barzilai Medical Center emergency room imbroglio is that public outrage in this country cannot be completely overlooked – that it can still impose second thoughts on perverse government decisions.

The bad news is that our fundamentally flawed coalition system facilitates the infliction of flagrantly unreasonable decisions in the first place.

Burying Judaism alive

By Yair Lapid Opinion March 23, 2010

Now choose life, Rabbi Litzman. Choose the living over the dead; choose the blessings of the Lord above over the bizarre curses of the ephemeral “Atra Kadisha” organization headed by Rabbi Shmidel; choose the lives of our children over the graves of our forefathers (or whoever it is that is buried there; nobody is able to provide a clear answer about that.)

Watchdog: Barzilai move may be linked to Litzman's Ashdod hospital connection

By Dan Even March 26, 2010

The State Control Committee yesterday called on the cabinet to revoke its decision to relocate the planned bomb-proof emergency room at Ashkelon's Barzilai Medical Center because of ancient graves found on the site.

Knesset c’tee to PM: Add doctors to Barzilai task force

By Judy Siegel March 25, 2010

The Knesset State Control Committee on Wednesday urgently called on Prime Minister (and official health minister) Binyamin Netanyahu to dismantle the task force his office appointed to recommend ways to resolve the dispute over where to build a reinforced emergency department in Ashkelon’s Barzilai Medical Center.

Possible solution to Barzilai dispute March 23, 2010

A proposal brought forward by the ultra-orthodox organization "Atra Kadisha" may resolve the dispute over the location of a new emergency wing for the Barzilai Hospital in Ashkelon.

Knesset session on Barzilai canceled

By Gil Hoffman March 23, 2010

Kadima and Meretz decided on Tuesday to cancel a special session of the Knesset that had been planned for Wednesday to debate Sunday's cabinet decision to move a proposed new emergency room planned for Ashkelon's Barzilai Medical Center due to graves found on the site.

'Relocation of ER will kill patients'

Haaretz Cartoon by Amos Biderman March 22, 2010

"But, Rabbi Litzman, what should we do with helicopter on Shabbat?"

[Emergency] [Barzilai Hospital]

By Meital Yasur Beit-Or March 24, 2010

Dr. Eitan Hai-Am, who recently resigned from his post as Health Ministry director-general over the cabinet's controversial decision to relocate the emergency room at Ashkelon's Barzilai Medical Center because of ancient graves found on the site, said the task force appointed by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to review the issue is not professional enough.

Opposition, groups seek to reverse decision on Barzilai ER

By Dan Even March 25, 2010

Public outcry is expected to swell today over the cabinet decision to relocate the emergency room at Ashkelon's Barzilai Medical Center because of ancient graves found on the site.

The opposition called for a special Knesset session to discuss the decision.

For keeper of Israel's crypts, Barzilai is part of long struggle

By Yair Ettinger March 25, 2010

Rabbi David Shmidel, 76, has been at the forefront of the Haredi fight against construction at ancient grave sites since the 1950s.

He is well known to archaeologists and contractors who have faced off against him for years, beginning with the struggle over Maimonides' Tomb in Tiberias in 1956.

The struggle continued with the Ganei Hamat Hotel in Tiberias and Area G of the City of David in Jerusalem in the 1980s, and issues over the construction of Route 6 a few years ago.

Limor Livnat, are you a part of a Chelm coalition?

By Yossi Verter March 24, 2010

Interview with Minister of Culture and Sport Limor Livnat (Likud)

Q: Don't you find it infuriating that an anti-Zionist organization like the Atra Kadisha should determine the fates of hundreds of thousands of residents of the south?

A: I have great respect for the same Jewish values and for those who take care to safeguard Jewish graves, and not just Jewish graves, but graves in general, and the dignity of those to whom the graves are important.

Every grave must be respected, but an attempt must also be made to find solutions and they, the Atra Kadisha people, have shown flexibility in dozens of cases in the past. Why are they being so rigid this time? I can't answer that.

Netanyahu orders reevaluation of decision to move Barzilai ER

By Dan Even March 24, 2010

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has instructed officials to reevaluate Sunday's controversial cabinet decision to relocate the planned construction of a bomb-proof emergency room for the Barzilai Medical Center in Ashkelon due to ultra-Orthodox objections after ancient burial grounds were discovered under the original site.

Panel to ‘reconsider’ Barzilai decision

By Gil Hoffman March 23, 2010

In a move seen as caving in to public pressure, Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu on Monday instructed his director-general, Eyal Gabai, to head a task force that would reevaluate Sunday’s cabinet decision to relocate the proposed reinforced emergency room for Ashkelon’s Barzilai Medical Center.

Bar-Ilan professor: No halachic ban on moving remains

By Ben Hartman March 22, 2010

There is no halachic reason to change the site for the fortified emergency room at Ashkelon’s Barzilai Medical Center due to the presence of ancient bones there, even if they are Jewish, an expert on Jewish law at Bar-Ilan University told The Jerusalem Poston Sunday.

According to Dr. Jeffrey Woolf, a senior lecturer in the university’s Talmud department and director of the school’s institute for the study of post-Talmudic Jewish law, Halacha includes procedures for transporting human remains and does not contain an absolute prohibition on such transport.

PM reconsidering Barzilai ER location

By Judy Siegel-Itzkovich March 22, 2010

Following a torrent of criticism over the decision to change the location of the planned reinforced emergency department for Ashkelon’s Barzilai Medical Center, Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu instructed Prime Minister's Office Director-General Eyal Gabai to head a team that will examine the various options for construction of the emergency department, so that "no lives will be endangered."

Officials: Political deal-making behind ER relocation

By Ilana Curiel March 22, 2010

Officials in Jerusalem on Monday claimed that a political deal between Yisrael Beitenu Chairman Avigdor Lieberman and Deputy Health Minister Yakov Litzman of the ultra-Orthodox United Torah Judaism (UTJ) party was behind cabinet's controversial approval of the costly relocation of Barzilai Medical Center's new fortified emergency room building to a more remote spot so as not to disturb ancient graves found on the site.

Former Haredi MK slams 'secular blood libel'

By Kobi Nahshoni March 23, 2010

The haredi community is outraged over media coverage of the Barzilai Medical Center emergency room's relocation due to the discovery of ancient graves, a former Knesset member told Ynet Monday.

Journalist Yisrael Eichler charged that the secular media used the opportunity to weave a blood libel against the haredim.

"On the Jerusalem-Tel Aviv Highway, everyone makes that turn near Shaar Hagai just because of some sheikh that is supposedly buried there," he said.
"There are also hundreds of sites where millions were spent so that bucks and deer could continue to run free in nature."

The Four Questions about Israel’s Future

By Uri Dromi Opinion March 24, 2010

…This change in government will also allow us to begin to address the third challenge, that of loosening the Haredi grip on Israeli society. Ultra-Orthodox Jews, by and large, don’t serve in the army, and their schools often condemn their children to lives of poverty.

As if that weren’t bad enough, the Haredi sector tries to impose its way of life on others.

This situation is unsustainable, both for Israeli society and for the Haredi community. It has persisted because the ultra-Orthodox parties have held the balance of power between the left and the right, which have long been divided when it comes to the peace process.

If the center-right and center-left — Likud, Kadima and Labor — can come together, they will be able to restore a proper balance to the state’s relations with the Haredi sector.

By Doron Rosenblum Opinion March 25, 2010

"To help you be Israel's masbirim [information purveyors], we have concentrated for you the biggest myths you are likely to encounter, and, contrariwise, the true facts - so that you will be able in real time to present them to your interlocutors and foment a change in their opinions. Together we will change the picture!"

  • Myth: Israel attaches greater importance to the bones of dead people from ancient times than to living people.
  • Myth: Israel is actually a theocracy.
  • Myth: Israel customarily ignores official guests who arrive after the start of Shabbat or after midnight, and does not hold ceremonies of welcome or farewell for them at the airport.
  • Myth: Israel is a primitive country steeped in mystical hokum and magical thinking. In Israel the economic and political bigwigs subordinate themselves to a celebrity rabbi known as "The Roentgen," or the "X-Ray Rabbi."

Fund Will Invest Only in 'Kosher' Companies March 28, 2010

The Ayalon Investment House, managed by Levi Rahmani, has started a new investment fund that promises to invest only in stocks issued by companies that adhere to Halacha, Jewish law.

A symbol of discontent?

By Peggy Cidor March 25, 2010

About three years ago, Russian Christian oligarch Andrei Bykov gave a statue of King David playing a harp as a gift to the Holy City.

Bykov asked that his statue be displayed at the entrance to the site of the legendary king’s tomb, on Mount Zion, which is also the site of Cenacle, believed to be the location of the Last Supper.

A statue in Jerusalem is no simple matter, and then-mayor Uri Lupolianski wisely sought out the best kosher stamp of approval, to ensure it would not be considered a graven image. The municipality spokesman then released a statement saying that Rabbi Shalom Elyashiv himself had approved. Today, Yehoshua Pollak, who was deputy mayor at the time, says that Elyashiv’s approval was likely unwritten.

Undermining liberty

By Israel Harel Opinion March 26, 2010

The majority in Israel allows the ultra-Orthodox to issue decrees in the most basic matters of identity because of their political power. This majority is doing itself a grave moral injustice, especially to ultra-Orthodox society. The majority can wean the ultra-Orthodox from their absolute dependence on the state, thus turning them, albeit against their will, into a productive community.

If the majority does so, then by force of reality, like the ultra-Orthodox in America, in addition to scholars who study the Torah there will be ultra-Orthodox scientists, doctors, engineers and psychologists. They will be productive, rather than dependent. Thus, one may assume, their appetite to impose on the majority's lifestyle that it objects to will diminish.

Death threats telephoned to Shefa Shuk chain executives

By Nati Toker March 26, 2010

(Poster not related to article)

The fight between ultra-Orthodox groups and the Shefa Shuk supermarket chain - which caters to that population - is threatening to become violent: Senior Shefa Shuk executives, who themselves are ultra-Orthodox, have been receiving threats over the telephone over the past few weeks, including death threats.

Neighborhoods with large ultra-Orthodox populations have been flooded in recent weeks by a poster campaign to convince the Haredi public to boycott Shefa Shuk.

'Someone like that should never marry'

By Tamar Rotem March 26, 2010

Esther-Malki Starik, 26, grew up in the Toldot Aharon Hasidic sect, one of the most insular Haredi communities.

She was first married at 18 and divorced a year later (she does not wish to elaborate on the circumstances); she was married to Anshin for three years.

Young Haredi women in her sect rarely speak to the press, but Starik is determined to expose the injustice done to her: the fact that her husband's mental instability was concealed from her for years.

She and her family cannot understand how, in a society in which "clarifications" are made about every prospective bride and groom, the fact that Nachman Anshin had been violent in the past was hidden, as the court ruling notes.

Moses, redacted

By Anshel Pfeffer Opinion March 26, 2010

Today's Haredi rabbis believe they are the direct spiritual descendants of Moses and the scholars of the Talmud, but their refusal to see the suffering of individuals and adapt halakha accordingly, their insistence that "innovation is forbidden by the Torah," is much more reminiscent of Karaism, as they blindly cling to ancient texts.

Over the last two weeks, one ultra-Orthodox leader, the centenarian Rabbi Yosef Shalom Elyashiv, has ordered his emissaries in the Knesset to block any new legislation designed to make the conversion process more friendly for the hundreds of thousands of immigrants who are not recognized by the Rabbinate as Jews.

He also wants to force the government to change the plans to build a much needed bomb-proof emergency ward at Barzilai Medical Center in Ashkelon.

In both cases, Elyashiv threatened a coalition crisis to uphold the most hidebound version of halakha, despite the fact that many Orthodox, even Haredi, rabbis believe that there is room for flexibility.

Would Moses have wanted his name on this version of the Torah?

Guide to Israel’s gender-separated beaches

Tidhar to Build Chabad Project in Beit Shemesh

Source: March 25, 2010

Currently, negotiations are under way with Israel’s largest construction companies for a new Chabad neighborhood in Beit Shemesh.

Around 1500 housing units will be built, of which 400 will be allotted to a Chabad neighborhood, Chabad Beramah, with the approval and guidance of Agudas Chassidei Chabad.

Image improvements?

By Peggy Cidor March 26, 2010

…last week a new player joined the team at the mayor’s office: Ya’acov Izak, whose task will be to find a way to publish the mayor’s activities in the haredi press.

According to sources close to the Mayor’s Office, the idea is that once haredi residents read about the mayor’s efforts to improve their conditions and their quality of life in their own newspapers, they might refrain from demonstrating almost every weekend, a legal activity that is causing substantial damage to the city’s image.

Animal rights campaigners push for ban on wearing fur in Israel

By James Hider March 29, 2010

Israel could become the first country to ban the wearing of animal fur; a move campaigners hope will encourage other countries to follow suit.

However, ultra-Orthodox MPs are blocking the final steps in the process because many of their constituents traditionally wear sable hats known as shtreimels, which they argue are part of their cultural identity.

Maran R’ Chaim Kanievsky: Those Who Fly El Al Are Protected By a Double Siyata D’shmaya March 23, 2010

EL AL President Eleyzer Shkedy recently met with HaGaon HaRav Chaim Kanievsky Shlita at his home in Bnei Brak to consult with the Rav on a wide range of issues.

During the meeting, HaRav Kanievsky praised EL AL and made the following statement,

“Without a doubt, all Jews, especially those who are Shomerei Torah and Mitzvos, should prefer EL AL over all other airlines."

Do bacteria require kosher permit?

By Kobi Nahshoni March 26, 2010

A new book published ahead of the Passover holiday does not reveal the [Coca Cola’s] secret formula worth millions, but its authors – who are experts in the field of kashrut – definitely reveal a number of dark secrets about the food industry.

…Rabbi Aryeh Goldberg, deputy director of the Rabbinical Centre of Europe, notes that the book is unique as it is appeals to the entire public and not just to the small community of people involved and specializing in kashrut issues.

108 Orphans Celebrate Bar Mitzvah at Western Wall

By Malkah Fleisher March 23, 2010

Minister of Religious Services Yaakov Margi (Shas) took part Monday in welcoming 108 orphaned boys from all over Israel into the performance of Torah commandments.

The event was organized as in previous years by the Colel Chabad, with help from the Western Wall Heritage Foundation.

Rabbi Druckman: The Almighty, not Obama, Has World in His Hands

By Tzvi Ben Gedalyahu March 23, 2010

U.S. President Barack Obama thinks he guides the world, but the truth is that the Almighty is behind the wheel, Bnei Akiva Yeshivot chairman Rabbi Chaim Druckman said Monday night.

Jaffa religious housing project wins case

By Haviv Rettig Gur March 24, 2010

The Supreme Court on Monday rejected a request from the Association for Civil Rights in Israel to delay construction on a residential project in Jaffa believed by some residents to be part of a private effort to “Judaize” the area.

A rabbi not afraid to deviate

By Yair Ettinger March 29, 2010

You might have to go all the way to Manhattan, or at least take a quick trip to Ashdod at the right time, to find an important rabbi with a hat and beard who openly deviates from the official Haredi line.

One such rabbi is Rabbi Yoshiyahu Yosef Pinto.

"We are against mixing religion and politics. Lies and flattery married to each other: That's politics. We will never have anything to do with politics - for eternity," said Rabbi Pinto - and much more.

'Miracle' rabbi's non-profit plundered charity donations

By Chaim Levinson March 28, 2010

Managers of Rabbi Nir Ben-Artzi's charity Talmi Geulat Am Yisrael are suspected of having plundered its donations, listing them as "loans" and then "repaying" them to themselves.

The registrar of association's initial findings were so grave the non-profit's license was immediately suspended.

…A multitude of such "loans" and "returns" had brought the non-profit to bankruptcy. It now has debts of over NIS 2 million.

The Be'er Sheva District Court appointed a receiver for the NGO, who is today dividing its assets among its creditors. Weitzman, Shukrun and Katurza, meanwhile, have set up a new non-profit.

Religion and State in Israel

April 1, 2010 (Section 2) (see also Section 1 and Passover edition)

Editor – Joel Katz

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

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