Sunday, July 24, 2011

Religion and State in Israel - July 25, 2011 (Section 1)

Religion and State in Israel

July 25, 2011 (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.

Rabbinic ruling on Jewish identity doesn't pass muster at Interior Ministry

By Yair Ettinger July 20, 2011

Yehudit Weizman, an immigrant from Hungary who grew up Jewish, married a Jewish Israeli in a Jewish ceremony, and was recognized as Jewish according to halakha by a rabbinic court in Tiberias to boot. But the Interior Ministry defines her and her three children as people with "no religion."

For the Interior Ministry, Weizman is a Christian, because her maternal grandmother converted to Christianity during World War II.

She will only be registered as Jewish on her identity card, with all the concomitant legal implications, if she converts, the Interior Ministry told her. Even ultra-Orthodox rabbis, including those working for the state, have not made such a demand.

After such cases reached the High Court of Justice, the Interior Ministry agreed to a compromise under which it would recognize certain petitioners as Jews, although the court refused to set rules on the matter.

But relief may be on the way in the form of a bill, initiated by Tzohar, a group of moderate Orthodox rabbis...

The bill would require the Interior Minister to recognize rulings by rabbinic courts acknowledging people as Jewish.

Conversion to Judaism: Halakha, Hashkafa, and Historic Challenge

By Rabbi Marc D. Angel Opinion July 5, 2011

Rabbi Marc D. Angel is Founder and Director of the Institute for Jewish Ideas and Ideals, and Rabbi Emeritus of Congregation Shearith Israel.

This article is reprinted with permission from Hakirah: The Flatbush Journal of Jewish Law and Thought, Volume 7, Winter 2009.

At a time when thousands of people are seeking conversion to Judaism, the Orthodox beth din establishment is raising increased obstacles to them.

Unless converts are willing to promise sincerely to keep all the mitzvoth, they will be rejected as candidates for conversion.

If they have already converted, they now must fear that a beth din might invalidate their conversions retroactively if they do not maintain the proper level of religious observance.

The Jewish status of thousands of halakhic converts and their children are placed under a cloud, causing immense grief to the individuals involved and to the Jewish people as a whole.

...At this period of historic challenge, the Orthodox rabbinate can either rise to greatness or shrink into self-righteous isolationism.

Thus far, the rabbinic/beth din establishment has chosen the latter course. It is not too late to turn things around. The honor of God, Torah and the Jewish people are at stake.

Reform Movement praises Education Ministry for openness

By Jonah Mandel July 21, 2011

On the backdrop of growing criticism from liberal circles against the Education Ministry over what they perceive as a rise in nationalistic values, the Reform Movement in Israel is noting with satisfaction the growth in the ministry’s support for their programs in the public-school system.

The upcoming school year will be the second year in which the movement will receive funding of approximately NIS 200,000, as part of the Ministry’s “centers for enhancing Jewish education,” explained the head of Israel’s Reform Movement, Rabbi Gilad Kariv.

Civics studies to focus on connection between a Jewish and democratic state

By Tomer Velmer July 20, 2011

A new civics curriculum is underway after being approved by the Education Ministry on Monday. The new curriculum has a bigger emphasis on the connection between a Jewish and democratic state.

The program's approval encountered a few obstacles due to a public battle between civics teachers and Education Minister Gideon Sa'ar who sought to introduce the change.

...The chapter on Israel's characteristics as a Jewish State will also include various aspects of the role of Jewish law in the public arena, as well as a debate over the status of the Hebrew language as Israel's official language.

Study: Jerusalem's religious sector growing

By Tzofia Hirschfeld July 20, 2011

According to figures released by Jerusalem Institute for Israel Studies, since 2003 there has been a 19% increase in the traditional-religious population (36,000 people in 2009), a 15% rise in the national-religious population (54,000) and 14% in the haredi population (78,000).

Keeping up with the Jerusalemites - Rachel Azaria

By Liz Nord Opinion July 9, 2011

Prior to my arrival in Jerusalem, the mayor had been in the process of promoting Rachel [Azaria] to be one of his deputy mayors, a move that would increase her power and visibility.

The Haredi City Council members, whose representation on the council is greater than their actual representation in society, blocked the move. Ultimately, they agreed to a coalition with the far-left Meretz party in order to keep Rachel out.

In other words, the Haredi members were so threatened and upset by the idea of a religious, yet socially liberal, woman rising in the ranks, that they chose to join forces with the councilors who are most ideologically different from them in order to prevent it.

Tel Aviv 2010: 6% drop in weddings

By Kobi Nahshoni July 21, 2011

[Eldad Mizrahi, chairman of the Tel Aviv-Jaffa Religious Council] points to additional reasons for the drop in the number of marriages in his city, including the fear of a commitment in light of the rise in divorce cases and the many alternatives for weddings "according to Jewish Law" – civil marriage or other agreements between couples.

He says the Rabbinate must acknowledge the "competition", make the registration procedures simpler and prevent bureaucracy or other phenomena making it difficult for people to visit its offices.

New Jersey rabbi accused in Jewish divorce kidnapping plot

By Bernd Debusmann Jr. Reuters July 18, 2011

A New Jersey rabbi and his wife surrendered to authorities on Monday on charges of kidnapping an Israeli man and threatening to bury him alive if he did not agree to a traditional Jewish divorce.

High Court condemns Israeli government’s reluctance to fund secular burials

By Yair Ettinger July 21, 2011

The High Court of Justice has given the government one last chance to respond to a claim that it is still avoiding its 15-year-old legal obligation to fund secular burials in Israel.

In deliberations held last week, the justices said they were likely to accept a petition filed against the treasury and religious services ministry by the Menuha Nehona, or rightful rest, movement, which provides civil burial services, and strongly attacked the behavior of the government.

[Attorney Yifat] Solel called the High Court decision "progress toward an end to the continued discrimination against secular people in Israel, who seek to be released from their captivity to the local burial societies."

Fighting for Israel’s Soul

Freedom fighter

By Esti Ahronovitz July 22, 2011

Prof. Naomi Chazan, president of the New Israel Fund:

"We fund Haredi, Mizrahi and Arab groups. We support new immigrants and also veteran citizens and the elderly.

We fund Noar Kahalacha, which combats ethnic discrimination in ultra-Orthodox educational institutions and went to court against discrimination of Mizrahi girls in schools in Emmanuel; and also Banish the Darkness, a religious-secular coalition against racism.

Shatil provides services to some 500 organizations. The donations come mainly from good Jews abroad, many of whom are longtime donors.”

Q: How do you see yourself the day after another law like this is passed?

“I hope these laws will not be passed. If the idea is to distance world Jewry from us, fine, go ahead and pass another of these laws, and that will be that. How can diaspora Jews be proud of an Israeli state that runs roughshod over human rights?”

Q: The average Israeli doesn’t really care what American Jews think of him.

“It’s not a case of what American Jewry thinks. The question is: What is good for us? Is it good for us to be gagged?”

We’ve Got It Backward: Israel Education Should Come First, Then Advocacy

By Gary Rosenblatt Opinion Editor and Publisher July 19, 2011

There is a recognition taking hold that people’s views on Israel are not just about policies, like settlements, but about people and values and connecting on a personal level.

There’s no one magic approach that works for everyone, but it’s clear that advocacy is best when it is grounded in education, and we need a lot more of it.

This idea of thinking of Israel in a new and meaningful way that brings us closer to understanding, appreciating and making real the Zionist dream is not a simple task. But it’s critically important, now -- for Israel and for us.

Two-way street: Israel should learn about Diaspora, too

By Rabbi Daniel Greyber Opinion July 19, 2011

Israelis, please understand: We Diaspora Jews are your sisters and your brothers. As a member of the family, I plead with you: Get to know us, not as a stereotype, but as living communities and real people.

Love is a two-way street. I believe with all my heart that what will allow all of us to survive and build a better Jewish future is a feeling of connection and love between us.

I remain committed to Israel. I pray Israel feels the same sense of commitment to this connection.

I invite Israeli educators to visit the United States not (only) to raise money, but also so we can learn together and better understand one another’s worlds. Together we can nourish a deep love for the Jewish people in our communities. It is that love that unites us all.

From US to Israel for Jewish education

By Yoav Friedman July 22, 2011

Danny Oberman, executive vice president at Nefesh B'Nefesh, adds that "the cost of education in North America is among the main reasons for the decision of many families to immigrate to Israel, especially in the past two years, in light of the financial crisis in the US.

"We hear from many parents who made aliyah with us in recent years how happy they are with the decision they made, and with the fact that they not only got to give their children a better Jewish and Zionist education than in Jewish schools in the US, but also managed to save a lot of money.

"In quite a few cases, we are talking about saving more than $100,000 per family a year."

Birthright Israel: As Political As Chopped Liver

By Leonard Saxe and Jeffrey Solomon Opinion July 19, 201119

Cross-posted: Does Taglit-Birthright Israel Have a Political Agenda?

Leonard Saxe is director of the Cohen Center for Modern Jewish Studies at Brandeis University. Jeffrey Solomon is president of the Andrea and Charles Bronfman Philanthropies.

Taglit-Birthright Israel is counter-cultural. It is particularistic in a universalistic world and its programming tackles issues of identity and group commitment that many contemporary young adults seek to avoid.

The program has created a new paradigm — a new way for diaspora Jews to relate to Israel — that emphasizes the connections among people, not mythology or ideology. In an era where political diversions are ever sharper and destructive, it is a breath of fresh air and sign of hope for the future.

Peoplehood vs. Zionism

By David Breakstone Opinion July 22, 2011

The writer is vice chairman of the World Zionist Organization and a member of The Jewish Agency Executive. The opinions expressed in this column are his own.

A prime example is the recently published report “Jewish Peoplehood Education” – the outcome of a three-year exploration of the subject by a global task force commissioned by the UJA-Federation of New York and supported by the NADAV Foundation and The Jewish Agency for Israel.

The mandate it was given was “to grapple with how to engage the next generation with the Jewish collective.” Among the guiding principles it advances is that “The centrality of Israel in the formation of a Jewish peoplehood needs to be revisited, reinterpreted and rearticulated.”

...Tag on the phrase “including the upbuilding of the Jewish state as the ultimate manifestation of the Jewish people’s right to self-determination, need for self-expression and capacity for self-reliance” and I’d be quiet.

Peoplehood is history

By David Suissa Opinion July 19, 2011

David Suissa is a branding consultant and the founder of OLAM magazine.

The latest buzzword in the Jewish world is “peoplehood.”

...If you ask me, the most natural way to promote Jewish peoplehood is to teach the extraordinary history of the Jewish people.

...Our sense of solidarity can only be enhanced by a greater familiarity with our incredible journey.

Unfortunately, history is the ugly stepchild of Jewish outreach. It doesn’t have the romance of spirituality, the imperative of Torah study, the headiness of repairing the world or the practical relevance of daily rituals. What it does have, however, is narrative. Hundreds and thousands of narratives that have the power to bond us with the collective Jewish experience.

Misunderstanding What a “Jewish State” Actually Means

By Evelyn Gordon Opinion July 21, 2011

The problem is this view reflects a profound misunderstanding of what a “Jewish state” actually means.

Judaism has never seen itself exclusively or even primarily as a religion; indeed, you won’t find the modern Hebrew word for “religion” anywhere in the first five books of the Bible.

The Biblical terms for what we today call Jews are Am Yisrael – “the nation of Israel” – and Bnei Yisrael, “the children of Israel.” And that’s precisely the point: From a Jewish perspective, the Jews are first and foremost a nation.

Thus, the term “Jewish state” is in no way analogous to “Christian state.” Rather, it’s analogous to “French” or “Danish” or “German” state. Just as these are the respective homelands of the French, Danish and German peoples, a Jewish state is the homeland of the Jewish people.

Looking for My Birthright in All the Wrong Places

By Molly Tolsky Opinion July 22, 2011

Birthright was not going to get me.

I had heard about the brainwashing propaganda party that takes place on these 10-day free trips to Israel. I was well aware of Birthright’s intent, and pretty darn sure that it couldn’t possibly work on me. I was there to see the land, learn about the culture and return unscathed.

VIDEO: Risking it all for Aliyah

By Benjamin Spier July 24, 2011

Alex Veksler says he doesn't regret giving up a job at a major US bank to bring his family to Israel.

Click here for embedded VIDEO

Education center dedicated to Herzl’s vision opens in J'lem

By Mackenzie Green July 24, 2011

The Stella and Alexander Margulies Education Center was dedicated at a ceremony on Mount Herzl on Thursday night.

The 1,000-sq.m. center, which stands adjacent to the Herzl Museum, houses a library and an interactive exhibit, which the museum hopes will draw researchers and students alike.

The NIS 16.5 million building was erected by Yakov and Yoav Molcho and was funded in large part by Marcus Margulies, a longtime supporter of the Jerusalem Foundation.

New Stone Setting

By Raphael Ahren July 22, 2011

Law professor Suzanne Last Stone was appointed earlier this month the new academic director of the Jewish People Policy Institute in Jerusalem.

The head of the Center for Jewish Law and Contemporary Civilization at Yeshiva University's Cardozo Law School, Stone is moving from the institute's board - where she served for several years - to its professional staff to "strengthen the academic dimension of [its] daily activities, in addition to maintaining quality control of all JPPI publications from the academic perspective," according to the organization.

Christian Zionists unite in D.C. to express support for Israel

By Natasha Mozgovaya July 20, 2011

Over 5000 Christians, mainly Evangelicals, gathered this week at the Convention Center in Washington for the annual conference of the organization CUFI, Christians United For Israel.

Religion and State in Israel

July 25, 2011 (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 - July 25, 2011 (Section 2)

Religion and State in Israel

July 25, 2011 (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.

IDF general causes storm after calling to curtail religiosity in army

By Amos Harel July 20, 2011

The outgoing Human Resources head also recommends reforming the organizational orders for the Education Corps and the Military Rabbinate, arguing that currently, the IDF essentially lets the two bodies, which have conflicting orientations, compete.

Zamir proposes giving the Education Corps responsibility for Jewish consciousness activities, as opposed to the Military Rabbinate.

The latter has drawn complaints from commanders who called its actions "religious-nationalist brainwashing."

IDF Brig-Gen (Res) Elazar Stern: 'Some people think army is yeshiva'

By Aviel Magnezi July 20, 2011

Former IDF Chief Rabbi Ronsky:

"Who are the officers in this corps? These are just guys from Tel Aviv! They can't teach Judaism – where will they get their information from, Wikipedia?" he told Ynet.

Ronsky added that he believes such awesome battles are taking place over the IDF because it is Israel's most influential education system. "This is a battle over the image of Israeli society – no less," he explained.

"The question is whether it will have the image of a Jewish national army – and I'm not referring to religion – which stresses Jewish history, the Bible, and other connections with religion, or whether it will be an army of a 'people's state'."

IDF officers against religious extremism

IDF must fight its growing religious extremism

Haaretz Editorial July 21, 2011

The memorandum of surrender to the rabbis was drafted in 2003 and is entitled "Appropriate Integration."

But contrary to its title, it undermines integration and is inappropriate. The chief of staff's advisor on women's affairs, Brig. Gen. Gila Kalifi-Amir, protested vehemently against the radical religious coercion and discrimination against female soldiers and officers that the document has engendered.

Ex officer slammed for saying IDF becoming too religious

By Yaakov Katz July 21, 2011

Rabbi Uri Regev, from Hiddush, an organization which promotes religious freedom and equality, called on Defense Minister Ehud Barak and Chief of General Staff Lt.-Gen. Benny Gantz to establish an external committee to review the military’s relationship with religion.

“It will be unfortunate to involve the Supreme Court in questions relating to religion in the IDF, but there might be no choice if you don’t realize that this is a threat to democracy and freedom of religion in Israel,” Regev wrote in a letter to Barak and Gantz.

With God on their side

Is the IDF becoming an Orthodox army?

By Amos Harel July 22, 2011

According to the IDF journal Ma’arachot last year, the proportion of religiously observant cadets in infantry officers courses leaped from 2.5 percent in 1990 to 31 percent in 2007.

Zamir provides a complimentary statistic: Between 1994 and 2009, the proportion of graduates of state-religious schools who are serving as majors in combat units rose from 6.9 percent to 20 percent.

...Both documents conclude the IDF went too far in acceding to the rabbis’ requests. And, implicitly, they raise another problem: The more the IDF excludes women from its center of activity, due to exacerbated problems of modesty, the more tension it will generate.

‘Full integration of women into IDF would be good for Israel’s security’

Is the army sacrificing women on the altar of the religious?

By Merav Michaeli July 21, 2011

Based on what Zamir and the advisor on women's affairs said, it appears that the army is sacrificing women on the altar of the religious and the ultra-Orthodox.

"There is a clear, profound and wide-ranging process of what could be called 'religification' of the army. The issue of women plays a significant part in this. It's a symbol, and an extremely central theater of conflict.”

Officers slam author of letter on religious extremism in the IDF

By Amos Harel July 21, 2011

Rabbi Uri Regev, the director of Hiddush, an organization to promote religious freedom and equality, demanded that Defense Minister Ehud Barak and Chief of Staff Lt. Gen. Benny Gantz appoint an independent civilian body to examine the relationship between the army and religion.

"Zamir's warnings justify the establishment of a reliable and pluralistic civilian body to reevaluate this relationship, given a situation in which freedom of religion and conscience is under a growing threat," Regev wrote.

IDF commander Nitzan Alon visits Haredi leader

By Kobi Nahshoni July 19, 2011

Judea and Samaria Division Commander Brigadier-General Nitzan Alon, who has recently been under attack from right wing elements, met with haredi leader Rabbi Yosef Shalom Elyashiv. Alon sought a blessing from the rabbi and addressed the recent infiltration by Jewish worshipers at Joseph's Tomb.

During the meeting the rabbi said: "there is a halachic prohibition to enter the tomb in Nablus without first coordinating the visit with security forces as it constitutes mortal danger to both the worshipers and the IDF soldiers."

Shas demands guidelines for yeshiva inspections

By Jonah Mandel July 22, 2011

A furious Shas is demanding that the Finance Ministry draw up guidelines for their inspections in yeshivot after a reportedly unsavory visit by two inspectors at a Bnei Brack institution.

...The financial support yeshivot receive from the state is determined by the number of students registered at the institution.

The money is then provided by the Education Ministry, but the ongoing supervision over the correlation between the number of students in the books and in the institutions is carried out by an accountant firm sub-contracted by the Finance Ministry's Accountant General.

The past year has seen a tightening of the supervision over the yeshivot, after a few large-scale swindles were exposed.

Police using anti-mobster methods to crack down on Mea She'arim zealots

By Yair Ettinger July 22, 2011

When Yoel Kreus was arrested last week in Jerusalem's Mea She'arim neighborhood, his attorney accused police of removing the main organizer of the ultra-Orthodox demonstrations on the pretext of alleged tax offenses.

This week another central wheeler-dealer of the ultra-Orthodox sect Eda Haredit in the neighborhood was arrested on suspicion of tax offenses.

The arrests are indeed part of a new police strategy, led by incoming Jerusalem District Commander Maj. Gen. Niso Shaham, to crack down on the city's ultra-Orthodox zealots, Haaretz has learned.

AUDIO SLIDESHOW: Dancing in the streets of Tel Aviv - “Na Nach”

By Benjamin Preston July 17, 2011

Lieberman calls on Chabad to encourage aliya

By Jonah Mandel July 19, 2011

Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman called on the Chabad movement to expand its indefatigable activities worldwide to include “bringing all the Jews from around the world here to Israel.”

Speaking at the Knesset during a Monday event honoring the emissaries of the hassidic movement stationed in the Former Soviet Union, the foreign minister noted the revolution the ubiquitous “shluchim” have brought to a part of the world where, until not too long ago, that kind of Jewish religious expression and activity was forbidden.

Ahead of the event, NGO Hiddush: For Religious Freedom and Equality distributed to all Knesset members a letter “exposing the statements of senior Chabad leaders against the State of Israel and Zionism.”

Hiddush head Rabbi Uri Regev said that “any Zionist MK with national dignity should keep away from saluting this anti-Zionist hassidut.”

PM's plan creates affordable housing, mostly for Haredim

By Zvi Zrahiya, Arik Mirovsky, Meirav Arlosoroff and Jonathan Lis July 20, 2011

The Finance Ministry is believed to strongly oppose the idea, arguing that the vast majority of people who have bought homes through this program are ultra-Orthodox.

...Senior government sources said the proposal by Atias, from the ultra-Orthodox Shas party, will not really address the housing shortage. It is primarily designed to shore up Netanyahu's coalition and satisfy his ultra-Orthodox Shas and United Torah Judaism coalition partners, they said.

Haredim support 'tent city' protests, but won't join in

By Jonah Mandel July 19, 2011

A permanent haredi presence at the Tel Aviv housing protest would kill the cause by turning the secular media against it, a United Torah Judaism MK said on Tuesday.

Speaking just a few hours before a planned visit to the site, Yisrael Eichler had no doubt that current public support of the protest, that would benefit all Israelis including the ultra-Orthodox, would flip if haredim became visible in it.

Shas threatens coalition over housing flap

By Gil Hoffman July 20, 2011

Shas chairman Eli Yishai warned Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu on Tuesday that if Shas’s proposal for solving the housing shortage is not adopted, his party would leave the coalition.

Threats to leave the coalition – which were once delivered frequently by the Sephardi ultra-Orthodox party – have become increasingly rare for Shas. Yishai’s spokesman said this particular threat should be taken seriously.

J'lem: 250 Haredim protest opening of Karta parking lot

By Melanie Lidman July 23, 2011

In what has become a weekly occurrence, more than 250 ultra-Orthodox demonstrated on Rehov HaNeviim to protest the opening of the Karta parking lot in Jerusalem's Old City on Saturday.

Committee for the Sanctity of Shabbat: Seculars ignited Shabbat protests

By Kobi Nahshoni July 19, 2011

Shabbat protests have returned to Jerusalem, but it seems that even the members of the Eda Haredit faction, which organizes them, are at odds over their necessity.

Shmuel Chaim Pappenheim, considered one of the faction's unofficial spokesmen, has slammed the decision to resume the protests against the operation of the Karta parking lot on weekends, claiming that most of the community members are against them.

PHOTO Gallery: Sabbath wars in Jerusalem

By Matanya Tausig July 16, 2011

Click here for PHOTO Gallery

Israel security forces block Ultra-Orthodox Jews from reaching a main street which they planned to block as part of a demonstration against a municipal parking lot that is open on the Jewish Sabbath in Jerusalem.

Poll shows new low in Haredi trust in legal system

By Tomer Zarchin July 20, 2011

People in ultra-Orthodox and settler communities are unlikely to consider the court system in Israel legitimate, according to a new poll.

On a scale of 1 to 5, with 1 being the lowest and 5 the highest. The overall Jewish population gave the courts a mark of 3.52, while the settlers gave it a 2.78 and the ultra-Orthodox a 2.24.

By the grace of God, and Mark Zuckerberg

By Nati Tucker July 21, 2011

Not only are the Haredim online, but they've joined the Web 2.0 age and are active on social networking sites. They've also discovered how to make money on Facebook, and they're doing a good deal of business online.

The Haredi encounter with the Internet began with the popular website B'Hadrei Haredim, which touts itself as the biggest Haredi portal in the world. The name is a pun on the phrase "B'hadrei Hadarim," which means "behind closed doors."

The Jewish-Muslim sisterhood of the veil

By Avirama Golan Opinion July 20, 2011

Secular Israelis have a hard time deciphering the religious revolution taking place before their eyes because they are used to quarreling with ultra-Orthodox Jews who represent a stable and conservative form of religiosity.

They are confused by nationalist ultra-Orthodox Jews, also known by their Hebrew acronym Hardal.

New: 'Segregated Facebook' for haredim

By Kobi Nahshoni July 24, 2011

Mandy has 321 male friends. His wife, Chaya Mushka, has 321 girlfriends. How many new couples will they be able to match? Well, none.

All these friends are on FaceGlat – the haredi version of the Facebook social network, in which Mandy and Chaya Mushka are not even allowed to meet.

Yes, the Jewish mind doesn’t rest. Technology keeps presenting new wonders, and there's always someone ready to take the challenge.

This time it's Kfar Chabad resident Yaakov Swisa, 25, who founded a "kosher" social network with complete segregation between men and women and free of any immodest pictures or ads.

Work resumes on removal of 500 fake gravestones in Jerusalem's Mamilla Muslim cemetery

By Melanie Lidman July 21, 2011

After nearly a year, the Israel Lands Authority this month resumed work removing 500 fake tombstones from the Muslim Mamilla Cemetery in downtown Jerusalem, prompting furious condemnation from Muslim groups.

Last August, Jerusalem municipality officials, working in conjunction with the ILA and the Israel Antiquities Authority, removed around 300 counterfeit tombstones, calling their erection “one of the largest acts of deception in recent years.”

Allah’s Safe Haven? The Controversy Surrounding the Mamilla Cemetery and the Museum of Tolerance

By Yitzhak Reiter The Jerusalem Institute for Israel Studies, The JIIS Studies Series no. 409

The construction of the Museum of Tolerance in Mamilla reflects a clash between human dignity (respect for the deceased) and the urban development interests of modern society.

It also reflects a conflict between the needs of the Jewish state and the sensitivities of the Muslim-Arab minority, with its need for symbols of identity in the local and national landscapes.

Golden bell, possibly from Cohanim robe, found in J'lem

By Melanie Lidman July 22, 2011

A golden bell ornament that archaeologists believed belonged to a priest or important leader from the Second Temple Period was found in an ancient drainage channel in ruins next to the Western Wall on Thursday, the Israel Antiquities Authority announced.

The small bell, which has a loop for attaching to clothing or jewelry, was found underneath what is today known as Robinson's arch. The area underneath the arch was the central road of Jerusalem, which lead from the Shiloah Pools in the City of David to the Old City and the Temple Mount.

Officials: New donor cards will reduce organ transplants; blames religious groups

By Dan Even July 22, 2011

Health officials are worried that the Knesset will authorize changes to organ donor cards that would move certain people up the waiting list for transplants without increasing the overall number of transplants. The officials are putting the blame on religious groups.

In the current format, a potential donor may condition a donation on the decision of a clergyman of the family's choice.

'King's Torah' splits Israel's religious and secular Jews

By Yolande Knell July 20, 2011

Eliyahu Gross, 21, travelled with friends to Jerusalem but tells me he had not read the King's Torah.

"I was just demonstrating against the idea of the restriction of the Torah," he says, stressing the need for uninhibited discussions of Judaism's founding legal and ethical religious texts.

"In my point of view, anything that's against the freedom of the Torah is basically against my freedom as a Jew."

...A research fellow at the Israel Democracy Institute, Yair Sheleg, has long studied religious trends in the country and warns that misunderstanding between different groups is dangerous. He stresses that secular Jews should not view all religious Jews in the same way.

"I found an inner struggle between the liberals and extremists within the religious Zionist sector," he says. "The extremists gain power if they feel that [Israel's] secular majority describes the whole sector as extremists."

"When young people feel they are hated, it makes them more extreme. It's a self-fulfilling prophecy."

Rehovot residents win battle over new synagogue in city

By Gili Cohen July 21, 2011

The High Court of Justice issued an injunction on Tuesday prohibiting the Rehovot municipality from going forward with plans to build a synagogue in the city.

...The fight against the synagogue is not one of secular versus religious, the petitioners stressed.

In fact, the battle is being led by a religiously observant couple, attorney Michal Lichter and her husband Gilad, and supported by dozens of area homeowners as well as the local neighborhood committee.

To some of Israel’s rich and famous, a rabbi serves as adviser, guru and miracle worker

By Matti Friedman AP July 23, 2011

A few evenings every month, some of Israel’s wealthiest and most powerful people can be found in a living room in this seaside city, waiting to have a few minutes with a rabbi they see as an adviser, guru or miracle worker.

...The rise of wonder-rabbis among the wealthy and influential here is linked to a more general rise in religious sentiment in Israel and to New Age trends, said psychologist and sociologist Yoram Bilu of Hebrew University in Jerusalem.

A visit and donation to the rabbi offers an experience Bilu termed “instant redemption,” with none of the intellectual or practical demands of the actual religion.

Bilu ties it to the uncertainties of Israeli life: “Israeli businessmen operate in a very stressful, unpredictable environment, and the whole society is in a permanent state of emergency.”

The Loyalties of the Sephardim

By Aryeh Tepper Opinion July 22, 2011

In a recent Haaretz column, Gideon Levy, the radical leftist polemicist, sounded the warning that Israel's religious Zionists—"the knitted skullcaps"—have joined hands with the ultra-Orthodox and the Sephardim to form "a united tribe of zealots."

Why have the ultra-Orthodox and the Sephardim formed this coalition? In Levy's telling, both groups are responding to the history of discrimination they've suffered at the hands of the Zionist Left.

...But Levy is familiar with the ignorance of his target audience outside of Israel, who sadly but predictably hailed his article as "phenomenally provocative."

Levy's article was nothing of the sort, but it did aptly demonstrate that anti-Israel passion blinds otherwise intelligent people, both in Israel and abroad, from seeing what is in right front of their noses—or under other people's skullcaps.

Beck moving J'lem rally over fears of 40,000 Muslims July 19, 2011

Click here for embedded VIDEO

Conservative radio host and former Fox News commentator Glenn Beck announced that he is moving a mass rally planned for August from the Southern Wall of Jerusalem’s Old City.

Religion and State in Israel

July 25, 2011 (Section 2) (see also Section 1)

Editor – Joel Katz

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

All rights reserved.