Monday, April 12, 2010

Religion and State in Israel - April 12, 2010 (Section 1)

Religion and State in Israel

April 12, 2010 (Section 1) (see also Section 2)

If you are reading in email or RSS feed, please click here to read ONLINE

Editor – Joel Katz

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

Netanyahu to decide over Ashkelon hospital ER relocation

By Barak Ravid and Dan Even April 11, 2010

Haaretz Cartoon by Amos Biderman March 26, 2010

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

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu was authorized Sunday to be the final decision maker over the relocation of the emergency room at Ashkelon's Barzilai Medical Center, after several weeks of debate regarding the controversial affair.

Following a last minute move to add the request to the weekly cabinet meeting, Netanyahu, who is also the official health minister, received the cabinet's approval to make the final decision, thus excluding Deputy Health Minister Yaakov Litzman (United Torah Judaism) from the decision making process.

PM granted authority on Barzilai April 11, 2010

“I asked the director-general of my office to investigate the matter and report the findings. Based on this, I ask that the government grant me the authority to make a decision to replace the decision made previously,” Netanyahu said.

Ministers authorize PM to decide on ER relocation

By Roni Sofer April 11, 2010

The prime minister is likely to take the recommendation of Prime Minister's Office Director-General Eyal Gabay and build the emergency room in the designated spot, despite ancient tombs located in the area.

PM opposes plan to move Ashkelon ER because of graves

By Barak Ravid and Dan Even April 8, 2010

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu told Deputy Health Minister Yaakov Litzman yesterday that he opposes relocating the new, reinforced emergency room planned for Ashkelon's Barzilai Medical Center despite the ancient graves discovered at the site.

ER affair: PM refuses to 'put lives at risk'

By Ronen Medzini April 6, 2010

[Sources in United Torah Judaism] said that at present the party does not intend to give an ultimatum regarding the faction's continued participation in the coalition, but Litzman's continuation as deputy health minister was in doubt.

"He's not the minister, but the deputy, so in any case it's not him who decides," they said. "The final decision is the hands of the rabbis."

Haredi Web sites slam Litzman over Barzilai

By Jonah Mandel April 8, 2010

Haredi online media outlets lambasted Deputy Health Minister Ya’acov Litzman Wednesday for the public outcry resulting from the delay in construction of a rocket-proof emergency room.

…Meanwhile, haredi online media outlets are expressing discontent over what is being described as an unnecessary battle that caused immense damage to the ultra-orthodox sector.

Tzohar rabbis to PM: Remove Barzilai graves

By Kobi Nahshoni April 2, 2010

Haaretz Cartoon by Amos Biderman March 23, 2009

The Tzohar rabbis' organization on Monday appealed to Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu with a demand that he order the evacuation of the graves located near the Barzilai Medical Center in Ashkelon and the renewal of construction of the fortified emergency room at the site.

In a document to the prime minister and other bodies involved in the affair, the rabbis ruled that the graves in question fall under the halachic ruling that "a grave that damages or interferes with the rights of the public can be removed", and that they should therefore be relocated in a dignified manner.

'Barzilai graves block fortified delivery room in Sheba'

By Meital Yasur – Beit Or April 6, 2010

Sheba Medical Center Director Zeev Rotstein warned on Tuesday that plans to construct a fortified delivery room at the hospital may be called off, due to the decision to allot NIS 135 million ($36.5 million) to the relocation of the Barzilai Medical Center emergency room in Ashkelon after ancient graves were found at the site.

Peres meets rabbis Yosef, Amar, says Barzilai "media sensation" regrettable

By Greer Fay Cashman April 4, 2010

At his meeting with Sephardi Chief Rabbi Shlomo Amar, Peres expressed outrage at the imbroglio that had evolved with regards to the construction of an fortified emergency wing at the Barzilai Medical Center in Ashkelon, especially in view of the fact that both Amar and Ashkenazi Chief Rabbi Yona Metzger had given a joint halachic ruling that the area, which is in dispute because it may contain Jewish graves, could be built on in order to save lives.

Old bones that never lie

By Ran Shapira Opinion April 8, 2010

Dror Barshad of the Antiquities Authority:

"The attorney general ruled, years ago, that human bones are not defined as antiquities. A sarcophagus is considered an antiquity per se, as is a coffin. The bones themselves cannot be defined as such, however.

If human bones are found in an excavation, we transfer them, without conducting any research, to the Religious Services Ministry. It decides how to bury the bones. We are able to say, according to our criteria, whether they belonged to Jews or not."

Even when the Antiquities Authority determines that burial sites are not Jewish, the Atra Kadisha people do not always accept its opinion.

Such is the case of the emergency room at Barzilai Medical Center in Ashkelon, which has been in the headlines recently.

Demonstrations and political pressure from the ultra-Orthodox at such sites interfere not only with excavation work, but also necessitate changes in building plans.

Elyashiv slams ruling against Emanuel religious school

By Kobi Nahshoni April 9, 2010

The leader of the Lithuanian ultra-Orthodox community, Rabbi Shalom Elyashiv called for protest measures against the Supreme Court following its ruling in the matter of ethnic separation in the Beit Yaakov religious school in Emanuel.

Meanwhile, the Kol Haharedi news hotline reported that the Slonimer rebbe ordered his followers who live in Emanuel not to abide by the court ruling, despite the threat of imprisonment.

Elyashiv slams court’s ‘insufferable decree’ on school

By Jonah Mandel April 11, 2010

Friday’s Hamevaser newspaper called the court’s intervention in the school’s workings “dangerous,” and quoted unnamed senior rabbis as saying that they’d be willing to be go to jail along with the parents of Ashkenazi students, should the latter be imprisoned for contempt of court.

Haredi school network fined for discriminating against Sephardim

By Or Kashti April 8, 2010

The ultra-Orthodox network that runs the Beit Yaakov girls school in the West Bank settlement of Immanuel must pay NIS 5,000 for every day it continues to violate an August court order requiring it to eliminate any vestige of ethnic discrimination at the school, the High Court of Justice ruled Wednesday.

The court has scheduled a hearing with the parents of the 74 girls, who will be asked to explain why they should not be viewed as accessories to the violation of the earlier order.

They will also be asked whether furniture and equipment from the Beit Yaakov School is being used at the unauthorized institution and whether teachers from Beit Yaakov are being employed, either directly or indirectly, at the new school.

Religious school accused of contempt of court

By Aviad Glickman April 8, 2010

Some of the school's teachers are also required to attend the hearing. Each will have to "declare the exact number of hours she is present at the school, and clarify whether she meets with or gives any lessons to students who have stopped coming to the school after the verdict was delivered, and if so – under which framework, where and when."

'Kosher' bus line operating in Tel Aviv

By Tomer Peleg April 1, 2010

A bus line that separates between men and women has begun operating in Tel Aviv, odd news for many who consider it Israel's capital of liberality and equality.

Connex line 322, a licensed bus line, travels from Tel Aviv through Bnei Brak and terminates its route in Ashdod. Women sit in the back and men sit in the front.

Councilmember Meital Lahavi:

"In the end though this is a battle that should take place in the Knesset. I hope that finally the separation lines will be prohibited by law."

Haredim riot over "mixed bus" in Mea Shearim

By Abe Selig March 31, 2010

Declaring they would no longer allow "mixed buses" into their neighborhood, a group of haredi men began rioting in Mea Shearim on Wednesday, after an Egged bus that was not "Mehadrin", or separated by gender, made its way into the Jerusalem enclave.

Egged Halts Bus Service to Meah Shearim

By Yechiel Spira April 1, 2010

According to Egged’s Nir Landau, the manager of Egged Yerushalayim, the violent protests taking place in Meah Shearim have compelled the bus company to halt service to Meah Shearim.

NGO: Civil marriage debate irrelevant

By Ruth Eglash April 6, 2010

As Israel Beiteinu and other proponents of civil or non-Orthodox marriages continue to grapple with religious leaders and politicians, in an attempt to change the status quo, a grassroots revolution is rendering the debate irrelevant, according to Irit Rosenblum, executive director of the New Family Organization.

Her group champions the rights of Israelis to establish marriages or unions outside of the traditional system.

“There is no urgent reason to legislate civil marriages any more,” Rosenblum told The Jerusalem Post in an interview on Sunday.
“There have been so many legal changes to the status of common law marriages and other types of unions that it is simply no longer needed.”

Getting Married in Israel without Going Insane

By Abbey Greenberg Onn Opinion April 6, 2010

Most brides worry about looking perfect in their dress, getting the invitations out on time and making sure that her mother-in-law loves her.

My worries as a bride-to-be had less to do with invitations (they went out two weeks prior to the event) than with actually being allowed to marry my beloved.

As an American Jew in Israel without Israeli citizenship, before dresses and cakes, I first needed to prove my Judaism.

A different sort of orthodoxy

By Ksenia Svetlova April 2, 2010

“I think that there are at least 70,000 to 100,000 Russian Orthodox living in Israel today. Perhaps the real figures are even higher, but in any case this is quite a large section of Israeli society,” he says.

According to Usenkov, a Jewish oleh from Moscow who embraced Christianity while still in Russia, there are also many immigrants, especially from mixed Jewish-Russian families, who turned to Christianity after their relocation.

Rabbi: Make foreign workers accept Laws of Noah

By Ari Galahar April 6, 2010

A new initiative in ultra-Orthodox neighborhood suggests that foreign workers seeking to work for haredi families will be forced to stop practicing idolatry and accept the Seven Laws of Noah.

The person behind the new initiative is Rabbi Asher Idan, who has published "a warning to the public in haredi neighborhoods

Holocaust remembrance barbeque

By Shmulik Grossman April 12, 2010

Rabbi and attorney Uri Regev, head of Hiddush:

“Holocaust Day is not an event that stands alone, it's part of a general perspective. Like Remembrance Day and Independence Day, Holocaust Day was determined by the Knesset whose laws they don't recognize, so it has no meaning for them.

5 Haredi youths suspected of uprooting terror attack memorial

By Liel Kyzer April 3, 2010

Five ultra-Orthodox youths were arrested Saturday for allegedly uprooting a memorial for victims of a suicide bombing on a Jerusalem bus.

The memorial, on Jaffa Road in Jerusalem, honors victims who died on the number 18 bus line in a 1996 attack.

Police said that one of the suspects tried to flee, but was caught after a short chase.

Mom of Neturei Karta Suspect in Vandalism against Terror Memorial Isn’t Remorseful

By Yechiel Spira April 11, 2010

Mrs. Tzvia Turbolo, the mother of Alexander, one of the suspects arrested last week for destroying a Jerusalem memorial to victims of an 18 bus suicide bombing attack does not see a reason to apologize. She actually defends the act.

She explained that a memorial statue is simply “idolatry” Kikar Shabbos reports.

'Haredim who defaced memorial not religious'

By Shmulik Grossman April 4, 2010

Their lawyer, Attorney Yair Nehorai, said the act was condemned by the Eda Haredit faction.

"All the people I have spoken to in Eda Haredit, and I am talking about the community leaders, are strongly against such acts."

He added that the suspects denied their involvement in the incident. "The people I spoke to," he said, "would like to stress that such an act is wrong, it hurts families and its non-religious."

Mea Shearim gets modern bookstore

By Nissan Shtrauchler April 5, 2010

Whoever thought that books were going out of style should visit the bookstore Or Hachaim Center in the ultra-Orthodox Jerusalem neighborhood, Mea Shearim.

Most of the books come with a recommendation or authorization from the spiritual council for reviewing books.

In the entrance to the store, there are computer stations and every book has a barcode, something new in the haredi sector. The design is also something unprecedented in the ultra-Orthodox world.

…In the past, Mea Shearim's residents picketed against such stores being opened in the neighborhood. Many of the residents belong to anti-Zionist sects known for their zealotry.

Dander Up In Israel over Proposed Fur Ban

Click here for AUDIO story

By Lourdes Garcia-Navarro April 7, 2010

A bill to make Israel fur-free is being debated in the Knesset, pitting animal-rights campaigners against the lobbyists for the global fur industry and the ultra-Orthodox Jewish community, which says the fur ban is an affront to its religious identity.

The proposed ban provides a religious exemption to those who wear the shtreimel.

But ultra-Orthodox members of the Knesset such Chaim Amsellem still oppose the measure. He says 90 percent of the fur that comes into Israel is for religious purposes.

Religion is no excuse for wearing fur

By Seth Freedman April 5, 2010

Since the shtreimel market accounts for 90% of the Israeli fur trade, MK Chaim Amsellem asserts "there's no logic in legislating a bill that doesn't do what it's supposed to".

He believes that a ban on fur would be the opening salvo in a wider war on religious practices such as shechita, the traditional Jewish method of slaughtering animals for meat which has been the subject of intense criticism around the world in recent years.

Holy Spit: Why Do Ultra-Orthodox Jews Spit at Christians?

By Shalom Goldman April 7, 2010

A very embarrassing and persistent problem has arisen in some of the sacred sites in Jerusalem where Christians and Jews cross each other’s paths.

Teenagers from a small sector of the city’s many Ultra-Orthodox (“Haredi”) Ashkenazi Jewish communities have taken to spitting at clerics wearing prominent crosses and dressed in traditional garb.

Assaults have been recorded at the Jaffa and Damascus Gates of the walled Old City, an area with many historic churches and monasteries, including the Polish Church of St. Elizabeth.

Synagogue goers fend off female paramedic

By Ronen Medzini April 9, 2010

Magen David Adom paramedic Ruti Levy was rushed Friday along with two other unit members to a synagogue in Jerusalem's Givat Shaul neighborhood after a man fainted in the site.

However, upon arrival she was prevented from entering the room and aiding the patient when ultra-Orthodox worshippers shoved her out claiming "a woman is prohibited from entering."

"I'm not a young girl, I wore a long-sleeved garment which was modest," she said and noted "I didn't take offence, but I got irritated and angry. I wanted to save a person and they didn't allow me."

Ultra-Orthodox men bristling over shortage of beard-friendly gas masks

By Anshel Pfeffer, Yanir Yagna and Yair Ettinger April 12, 2010

With the defense establishment running a shortage of special gas masks coveted by the bearded Haredi public, the ultra-Orthodox Shas party is demanding that Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu exercise his influence in order to speed up the supply of the kits.

Israel is suffering from a shortage of the Bardas, a mask that covers the entire head and is meant for older people who are ill and for men with beards.

As a result, most Haredi men do not have any protection due to the traditional mask's incompatibility with beards. The masks are meant to protect from biological or chemical attacks.

From prayer fringes to shopping binges

TheMarker April 2, 2010

Welcome to Itzkowitz. Almost every Orthodox Jew in the world knows of it. Itzkowitz is what most call what may be the busiest synagogue in the world. It was founded before the State of Israel by Zvi Itzkowitz smack in the center of the religious city of Bnei Brak, at the intersection of Rabbi Akiva and Rabbi Shach (formerly Herzl) streets.

Day in and day out, thousands of worshippers pass through the place, which is known as a "minyan factory."

Religious fencer wins medal on Shabbat April 6, 2010

Fencing champion Yuval Freilich, who made headlines when he forced the Fencing Association to avoid holding fencing matches on Shabbat, marked his greatest achievement on Saturday, ranking third in the World Championships in Fencing, held on the one day he previously refused to compete on.

See also: High Court: Fencing nationals open to religious

‘Jewish heritage, tradition essential to our culture'

By Jonah Mandel April 7, 2010

Does being religious enhance literary skills?

The Education Ministry on Tuesday released the breakdown of the latest results of matriculation exams (bagrut) in literature, for the school year 2007/2008, and seven of the 10 high schools with the best averages, including the top five, were religious institutions.

Egged removes 3rd Temple poster

By Ron Friedman April 6, 2010

A Pessah advertising campaign calling for the rebuilding of the Temple in Jerusalem has been removed from Egged buses in the capital following complaints and threats of vandalism.

The Our Land of Israel group, which ordered the campaign, said it would sue Egged and Cnaan Advertising, the company that handles Egged’s advertising services, for breach of contract.

'Third Temple' bus ads removed

By Shmulik Grossman April 6, 2010

Kobi Cnaan, the signpost franchiser's director, said the signs were removed following many threats received by the company over the past week.

"Had we noticed the content of the advertisement, it's possible that we would not have put it up in the first place. We preferred not to be part of a provocation to begin with, but we will consider filing a complaint with the police due to the many threats."

The Ethiopian Way

By Aryeh Tepper April 1, 2010

In 2005, thirty-five-year old Sharon Shalom was appointed rabbi of a synagogue in the working-class town of Kiryat Gat.

The synagogue was founded by Holocaust survivors; Shalom was born in Ethiopia, and moved to Israel at the age of nine.

Charged with breathing new life into a declining community, he succeeded by filling the empty pews with . . . Moroccan Jews.

New pact aims to boost Vatican ties

By Gil Hoffman April 9, 2010

The Knesset’s Christian Allies Caucus signed a partnership agreement with pro-Israel Italian parliament members at Rome’s Fleming Hotel on Wednesday night, in a move that is expected to improve ties between Israel and Italy and eventually also with the Vatican.

A group of Italian parliamentarians met at the Senate in Rome on Wednesday with Israeli caucus chairman MK David Rotem (Israel Beiteinu), Labor MK Orit Noked and former tourism minister Benny Elon, who chairs the International Israeli Allied Caucuses. Israeli Ambassador Gideon Meir addressed the crowd in Italian at the event.

The many faces of Christian Zionism

By Larry Derfner April 1, 2010

In a new book, Emory professor Shalom Goldman explores American Christians and their ‘Zeal for Zion’

The history of Christianity’s encounter with Zionism is older and far more nuanced and pluralistic than commonly understood, and this encounter has, by and large, been a sympathetic one, Goldman says during an interview in Jerusalem.

Israel gets first disabled-accessible shul

By Eti Dor April 7, 2010

Good news for people with special needs: Israel's first disabled-accessible synagogue was inaugurated in the northern city of Kiryat Bialik last week.

The synagogue, located in the town's Givat Harakafot neighborhood, was inaugurated on Thursday in the presence of Minister of Religious Affairs Ya'akov Margi, Kiryat Bialik Mayor Eli Dukorsky and the city's Rabbi Yosef Yashar.

Religion and State in Israel

April 12, 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.

Religion and State in Israel - April 12, 2010 (Section 2)

Religion and State in Israel

April 12, 2010 (Section 2) (see also Section 1)

If you are reading in email or RSS feed, please click here to read ONLINE

Editor – Joel Katz

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

Why is this Pessah no different from last year’s Pessah?

By Dan Izenberg April 1, 2010

Haaretz cartoon by Amos Biderman April 16, 2008

In case no one noticed, pizzerias, restaurants and grocery stores in Jerusalem that wish to, are displaying bread, buns, pitas and other hametz products made from flour just as they have until now, despite a vow by Shas to put an end to the practice.

The crisis over the display of hametz in stores and restaurants erupted two years ago following a ruling by Jerusalem Local Affairs Court Judge Tamar Ben-Asher Tsaban, who canceled fines issued by the municipality against four businesses that displayed the forbidden products during Pessah.

Law banning sale of chametz widely flouted

By Nir Hasson, Yuval Azoulay and Fadi Eyadat April 2, 2010

Despite the ongoing political clashes around the chametz (leavened bread) ban and its interpretations, this year as every year, the ban was only symbolically enforced.

From Jerusalem - which had once seen stormy pickets outside restaurants that dared sell products deemed not kosher for Passover - to secular Tel Aviv and proudly interreligious Haifa, there's no difficulty finding chametz in all its varieties.

Local authorities freely admit that municipal inspectors, charged with enforcing the ban, only use their powers in a handful of cases every year.

Post-Pesach warning: Don't buy chametz from seculars

By Kobi Nahshoni April 7, 2010

The sale of leavened food by a secular person has no halachic validity, and therefore one must not buy chametz after the holiday of Passover in businesses which are not owned by religious people, Rabbi Yosef Sholom Elyashiv rules.

According to the haredi authority, when it comes to a person who does not observe mitzvot, "there is no real intention in the sale, and he sees it as a 'religious act' only."

Haredim try breaking into restaurant selling chametz

By Ronen Medzini April 4, 2010

Some 70 ultra-Orthodox men demonstrated Sunday outside a Jerusalem hamburger chain, Iwo Burger, in protest against the sale of chametz during the Passover holiday. They also tried to break into the restaurant.

The protesters managed to block entry to employees and tear down signs before they were evacuated by police. They did not resist evacuation.

Thousands take part in Priestly Blessing at Western Wall

Click here for VIDEO

By Kobi Nahshoni April 1, 2010

Close to ten thousand worshippers participated in Thursday's Priestly Blessing at the Western Wall which is held during the intermediate days of Passover and Sukkot.

Lone soldiers join Peres for Seder

By Raphael Ahren April 2, 2010

While U.S. President Barack Obama's seder in the White House was front page news, seder night at the President's Residence in Jerusalem was a rather modest affair with a total of 12 attendees. President Shimon Peres celebrated with his daughter Zvia, some of his grandchildren and great-grandchildren - and two lone Israel Defense Force combat soldiers from New Jersey.

Rightists arrested over Pesach sacrifice

By Shmulik Grossman March 29, 2010

Right-wing activists Yehuda Glick and Noam Federman were arrested Sunday on suspicion of planning to sacrifice young goats near the Temple Mount.

Glick was detained near Jaffa Gate in Jerusalem's Old City and was taken in for questioning by the police.

The young goat found in his possession was handed over to the Wildlife Supervision Department in the Agriculture Ministry.

Israelis Spend Over NIS 4 Billion for Passover Needs April 6, 2010

Israeli households spent over NIS 4.2 billion over Passover, five percent more than last year, and 15% more than during corresponding non-holiday shopping periods, the Central Bureau of Statistics said.

Included in the figure was money spent by families who bought products and services for the holiday, the CBS said.

Chametz in Ben-Gurion International Airport Duty Free Shops April 8, 2010

The Chicago Rabbinical Council has verified that the only store in Ben Gurion Airport that has properly sold his chametz as well as not selling any chametz over Pesach is the James Richardson Store at Gate D7.

Regarding other stores, there is an issue of chametz that remained in Jewish possession over Pesach, and therefore in violation of the rabbinical ban permitting such a situation. Such foods are prohibited forever.

Op-Ed: Israel-Diaspora relations: a new equation

By Julie Schonfeld Opinion March 22, 2010

Rabbi Julie Schonfeld is executive vice president of the Rabbinical Assembly, the international association of Conservative rabbis

The vast majority of world Jewry cannot relate to the Judaism of the ultra-Orthodox minority. During this eventful week, Conservative and Reform leaders, along with the Jewish Federations of North America, called out the Israeli government on the coercive power that coalition arithmetic has granted to the Orthodox.

We proclaimed that it so harms Israel-Diaspora relations as to name it for what it is: a security threat. We set aside our other agendas and spent our week on this issue. We treated it with the level of seriousness and focused attention that we, as stalwart lovers of Israel, treat any threat to her security.

Diaspora Jewry derived a new axiom this week: ISRAEL’S FUTURE = SECURITY + RELIGIOUS FREEDOM.

Israeli conversions in legal challenge

By Anshel Pfeffer April 1, 2010

Israel's Supreme Court will have to decide whether local rabbis can refuse to marry converts, in what may turn out to be a landmark case.

The latest challenge the rabbis are posing to the converts is an attempt to sabotage the only successful conversion programme still operating in Israel, run by the IDF.

"There is a conflict here because the Rabbinate which is controlled by ultra-Orthodox rabbis is seeing the IDF conversion route as a direct challenge," says Dr Aviad HaCohen, the lawyer who served the petition on Sunday.

"While the government is investing huge resources to promote conversion, it is also financing the courts and local rabbis who are trying to block this.

The way they are treating converts conflicts both the democratic and the Jewish ideals which are the state's basis and we hope that the Supreme Court will rule that this is also illegal."

Chief Sephardic rabbi slams Haredi parties

By Kobi Nahshoni April 4, 2010

Sephardic Chief Rabbi Shlomo Amar criticized the haredi parties in the Knesset Wednesday and claimed that they were displaying "weakness on ideological matters" while "focusing too much on budgets".

The rabbi explained his involvement in the conversion and marriage bills.

"The fact that we have so-and-so non-Jews who are not allowed to marry puts pressure on us to ease conversions, and not only ease, but also allow Reform authorities to convert," he said.

"So I said we could amend two things: We can amend the conversion laws and we can give goyim the right to marry between themselves and then the pressure will drop. Really, when you check, you realize that most of them marry each other."

Why We Need a Reversion of Conversion

By Rabbi Hyim Shafner Opinion April 3, 2010

Rabbi Hyim Shafner is the Rabbi of Bais Abraham Congregation in St. Louis, Missouri

Myself and several other rabbis met with Rabbi Chaim Amsalem, a member of Knesset from the Shas party.

Rabbi Amsalem showed us the 2 volume magnum opus he has just published entitled “Zera Yisrael,” “seed of Israel” which refers to someone who is not technically Jewish by birth but has some connection to the Jewish people, a Jewish father or grandparent, or perhaps lives in the Jewish country fighting its wars and casting their lot with its people.

Such people are not halachically Jewish but are not like other non-Jews either, they occupy an intermediate space in Jewish law referred to as zera yisrael, much as the person in my story above or the myriads of Jews I see on a daily basis in America who due to an entire generation assimilating have a Jewish father or grandfather and a non Jewish mother.

Anti-draft-dodger activists take campaign to the streets

By Dan Izenberg April 2, 2010

The Israeli Forum for the Promotion of an Equal Share of the Burden is due on Friday to hold a two-hour vigil in Ramat Gan to protest the fact that 35 percent of conscription-age men and woman do not perform military or any other kind of national service.

“There is a Compulsory Security Service Law in Israel and this country is governed by the rule of law,” Miri Bar-On, the founder of the forum, told The Jerusalem Post. “Therefore, it cannot be that the law will only apply to 65% of the population.”

According to Bar-On, the law has proved to be a failure and should be annulled. She quoted senior officers in the IDF Manpower Branch as warning that in another 10 years, 25% of all 18-year-old Jewish Israeli men will study in a yeshiva rather than serve in the army. Today, the figure has already reached 13%.

Anti-draft dodgers rally in Haredi stronghold

By Yoav Zitun April 2, 2010

Forum Chairwoman Miri Baron explained that the group's objective is to increase awareness among the general and haredi public of this controversial subject.

"It's always good to have dialogue, even on street level, so that they know some people are opposed to the situation continuing as it is, and are unwilling to accept that there is a law stipulating mandatory service that does not apply to haredim," she said.

Student-Soldier Refuses Barak's Hesder Ultimatum

By Hillel Fendel April 8, 2010

Defense Minister Ehud Barak’s fight against the Hesder yeshiva in Har Bracha has been ratcheted up another notch: A student-soldier thrown out of the Hesder arrangement has begun a work-to-rule strike, and refuses to serve in the new track assigned to him.

He faces possible jail time for refusing to cooperate with what he views as a heavy handed IDF approach to force soldiers to expel Jews.

Ask the Rabbi: Women Warriors

By Rabbi Shlomo Brody April 9, 2010

The author, on-line editor of Tradition and its blog, Text & Texture, teaches at Yeshivat Hakotel.

photo: IDF Spokesperson

The inclusion of women in the army roiled the state in its early years, and continues to remain controversial within the religious community.

The IDF estimates that close to 30 percent of religious girls join the army, even as the vast majority of the religious Zionist rabbinate opposes female enlistment, as highlighted by recent remarks by outgoing OC Chaplaincy Corps Avi Ronsky.

VIDEO: Is Modern Orthodoxy an Endangered Species? April 6, 2010

Click here for VIDEO

Does Modern Orthodoxy Have a Future?

It is undeniable that Modern Orthodoxy has changed since the early days of Torah Va'Avodah. But is it developing in a planned, desirable way? Do we need to intervene and change course? Is it fair to intercede or should we allow natural evolution to run its course?

Speakers: Rabbi Yuval Cherlow, Rabbi Prof. Daniel Sperber, Rebbetzin Chana Henkin, Rabbi Dr. Shaul Farber

Rabbi Lau’s Religion Problem

By Haim Watzman Opinion April 1, 2010

But the real question is whether Rabbi Lau and his colleagues in the religiously moderate Tzohar organization will take concerted action not just to decry but to actively oppose the unthinking Judaism they decry.

That would require new organizational and political frameworks—the abandonment of the official state rabbinate, which has been taken over by the ultra-Orthodox and fundamentalists, and of the political parties that now claim to represent the Zionist religious community.

Why Do Men's Voices Lend Credibility to Jewish Women's Issues?

By Elana Sztokman Opinion April 2, 2010

As a woman, I sometimes feel like I’m in a catch-22. I want to bring attention to issues concerning women, but I also want men to pay attention.

When women are doing all the talking, we run the risk of marginalizing ourselves, of turning our ideas into “women’s stuff.”

By inviting men to speak about women’s issues, we may gain credibility and breadth, but we contribute to the problem by having men speak on our behalf, muting our voices once again.

I found myself in this frustrating predicament the other day. I was speaking on a panel at a conference organized by Rabbi Marc Angel’s Institute for Jewish Ideas and Ne’emanei Torah Va’Avodah.

Family Affair / The Khuris

By Avner Avrahami and Reli Avrahami April 9, 2010

Ran's occupations:

Yeshiva student, sixth year at Orot Shaul hesder yeshiva (combining religious studies with military service) in Petah Tikva and a sociology student at the Open University ("He made the president's list" - Adi). After completing his undergraduate degree next year, he wants to go on to a Ph.D. in the field and maybe also become an ordained rabbi.


He dealt with all the religious issues of soldiers of all faiths ("I had Armenians, too"). Discharged after a year and returned to the yeshiva in Petah Tikva.

Sharing the burden:

"The hesder track is actually five years, and the hesder students make a great contribution in the military and public realms."

Orthodox Women Rabbis: Why We Need Rabba---not Maharat--Sara Hurwitz

By Haviva Ner-David Opinion April 7, 2010

I also received Orthodox smicha, and I have had to overcome stage fright and low self esteem to gather up the courage to call myself “Rabbi”–a title I worked many years to earn.

Living in Israel, where the idea of women rabbis is much less accepted than in the U.S., it would be much easier for me not to call myself “Rabbi.”

I face this issue constantly when I have to fill out the “profession” box on school questionnaires, hospital forms, government applications, etc.

And I will admit that sometimes I do not write “rabbi,” instead listing all of the many things I do as a rabbi: “teacher, counselor, spiritual guide, mikveh director, ritual consultant, organizational director, writer, etc.” I, too, do not always want to make waves. But we must, if we want to change the world.

Women of the Wall challenge Israeli laws

By Meghan McCarty April 1, 2010

Women of the Wall

Click here for VIDEO

“The weather was not a deterrence to our prayers. It was raining chairs this morning,” joked WOW Chairperson Anat Hoffman.

On Tuesday morning police surrounded the group, but their presence was more a protective measure than a threat. Officers instructed the women to wear their tallis hidden inside their jacket. After the chair throwing, the police detained two men and a line of female police officers was ordered to stand in front of the group.

Hoffman said the monopolization of the Kotel by one form of Judaism at the expense of all others was still a major concern, but she sees Women of the Wall gradually chipping away at that hegemony.

“Am I still riding at the back of the bus? Yes,” said Hoffman. “But I can do things in the back of the bus that I wasn’t allowed to do before and someday we’ll be able to ride any place on the bus we wish.”

Women of the Wall organization pray at the Western Wall in Jerusalem

AP April 2, 2010

Since its founding in 1989, Women of the Wall has fought a legal battle asserting a right to conduct organized prayer at the Western Wall.

Holding Leaders Accountable for Kotel Violence against Women

By Micah Kelber Opinion April 8, 2010

Women and men should let the Prime Minister know that he cannot look the other way when women are threatened with violence like this.

He needs to lean on his ministers to deal with this once and for all — or find other people who can solve this problem.

With all the rhetoric about Israel needing to protect herself, we should insist that Israel start by protecting women at its holiest place.

No God? No problem

By Elana Estrin April 9, 2010

When 31-year-old Tzemah Yoreh opens his prayer book, he recites the following passage: “I will pour out my heart. But to whom?... Why? Why, oh why do you not exist, my God?”

You can’t find those words in any synagogue’s siddur – at least not yet. Yoreh prays from Liturgical Experiments: A Siddur for the Skeptical, the tentatively titled atheist siddur he composed himself.

“I’m happy that someone is searching for spirituality, for a religious experience. That’s good,” says Rabbi Yuval Cherlow, head of the hesder yeshiva of Petah Tikva.

“But it’s too far from Judaism because it’s trying to isolate the prayer from believing in God and basic halachic principles. I think it’s too far to be identified as a Jewish alternative siddur.”

Why do so many Diaspora Jews want to join the IDF?

By Anshel Pfeffer April 2, 2010

Officers in the IDF's Personnel Directorate are already talking openly of tapping into the global Jewish potential as a possible solution for the shortfall in enlistment due to lower birthrates and the growing proportion in the population of Israeli Arabs and ultra-Orthodox, who do not serve in the army.

JNF's strange place in the sun

By Amiram Barkat March 28, 2010

At the beginning of January this year, the Jewish National Fund (JNF) carried out one of the strangest deals in its 110-year history.

The JNF, since 1901 the land buying arm of the World Zionist Organization, entered a new and attractive area solar energy.

Lone soldiers' parents visit Israel April 3, 2010

A group of 30 parents from around the world visited Israel recently for a week-long visit with their children serving in the Israel Defense Forces as part of the Jewish Agency’s Keshet program, which brings parents of lone soldiers to visit their children in Israel.

Immigration to Israel from North America up by 20% in 2010

By Cnaan Liphshiz April 4, 2010

Immigration to Israel from North America during the first quarter increased by more than 20 percent from a year earlier, according to data compiled by Nefesh B'Nefesh and the Jewish Agency, pointing to a busy year.

Freedom and identity

By David Brinn April 4, 2010

Interview with Natan Sharansky

It’s one of the challenges and part of the new strategic plan of the Jewish Agency to develop courses for Israeli schools in the Jewish Diaspora. It’s a very high priority, and we currently have very good partners in the Education Ministry, with Minister Gideon Sa’ar and director-general Shimshon Shoshani.

We’re also discussing the next steps, after programs like Masa and Birthright, in bringing together mutual groups of Israeli and Diaspora Jews, who through common experience will strengthen their mutual identity.

Jewish Peoplehood as Outcome

By Alisa Rubin Kurshan Opinion April 7, 2010

Alisa Rubin Kurshan is vice president for strategic planning and organizational resources at UJA-Federation of New York

Israelis today are seeking new ways to express their deep spiritual and communal yearnings as evidenced by the many new forms of religious expressions that are exploding in Israel — from the “secular yeshivot” that are attracting hundreds of Israelis, to the emerging spiritual communities throughout the country that are writing their own prayer books, to the burgeoning field of Jewish spiritual care and much more.

Israelis on the “secular” side of Israeli society are searching for meaningful connections to many Jewish traditions.

Galilee Diary: Definitions IV

By Rabbi Marc Rosenstein April 1, 2010

[T]here are a couple of different conversations one can have here as a Reform Jew, and I've had them both.

With a committed Orthodox Jew, one has to argue against the ideological position that God gave all the mitzvot at Mt. Sinai, that there is a chain of authority descending from Moses to the local rabbi, and that denying that chain and usurping that authority is a violation of God's will and a danger to the Jewish people: An argument about basic beliefs.

With a masorti Jew, the argument takes place on a different plane. "This is how we've all always done it, this is what Judaism is, this is who we are, this is what makes us Jewish and keeps us a people - how is it conceivable that you would reject/undermine/undo/re-form these traditional norms:" A conversation about identity - or perhaps not really a conversation at all.

Definitions V

By Rabbi Marc Rosenstein April 7, 2010

While in recent years some have found their way to the liberal movements, the vast majority who decide to "become religious" understand their only authentic option to be Orthodoxy (much as we don't like it, the Hebrew word "dati," meaning religious, is universally understood to mean Orthodox, and when we protest that that is not accurate, we get impatient looks).

There are plenty of Orthodox rabbis actively engaged in missionizing among the non-religious population - through local study groups, through revival meetings, through youth activities and social services.

However, it seems obvious that most of those who become involved are not being tricked - they are finding something they've been looking for.

2009 Religious Freedom Report: The Worst Year of the Decade

By Shahar Ilan, Vice President of Research and Information

A major escalation in Haredi religion-based violence, attempts at religious coercion and efforts to enforce gender segregation were among the trends that characterized 2009.

The Haredim also received more government funding (in excess of NIS 1 billion a year). In a positive development, 2009 is the first year in which nearly 1,000 yeshiva students joined the Israeli army and a similar amount began national service.

Israel's Democracy: Past, Present, Future

Ruth Gavison, Haim Cohn Professor of Human Rights, Faculty of Law at Hebrew University in Jerusalem

"Can Israel Be a Jewish and Democratic State?"

Ruth Gavison, Haim Cohn Professor of Human Rights, Faculty of Law at Hebrew University in Jerusalem, will speak on "Can Israel Be a Jewish and Democratic State?"

Tuesday, April 20, 2010 4:15 PM - 6:30 PM UCLA School of Law, Room 1420 405 Hilgard Ave. Los Angeles

The Simpsons - The Greatest Story Ever D'ohed"

Religion and State in Israel

April 12, 2010 (Section 2) (see also Section 1)

Editor – Joel Katz

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

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