Monday, November 14, 2011

Religion and State in Israel - November 14, 2011 (Section 1)

Religion and State in Israel

Editor – Joel Katz
Religion and State in Israel is not affiliated with any organization or movement.

Where have all the women gone?
By Tamar Rotem November 14, 2011
"Jerusalem residents and veteran public relations people say that there has been a growing process of capitulation to the Haredi extremists with their patently illogical demands."
[Publicist Uri] Pridan believes it is a social problem that goes beyond the mere restrictions of Jerusalem. He warns that if the breach is not stopped, the exclusion of women will get as far as the secular city of Tel Aviv.

By Nir Hasson November 13, 2011
"We must make sure that those who want to advertise [with] women's images in the city can do so without fear of vandalism and defacement of billboards or buses showing women," Mayor Barkat wrote.
Dvora Evron, a religious staff member at Oranim Academic College:
"We have come today to have our voices of concern heard for both women and Judaism," she said. "The phenomenon of exclusion that we are witnessing is improper and presents a distorted view of Judaism."

By Oz Rosenberg and Revital Blumenfeld November 11, 2011

Hundreds of people amassed in multiple locations across Israel on Friday to protest what they conceive as the exclusion of women from the public sphere.

Jerusalem council member Rachel Azaria, who attended the local rally, told Haaretz that "we, women and men, secular, religious, and, slowly, Haredi, are changing the rules of the game and of discourse."
"As long as a few people are shouting, nothing will happen. But you can't silence the public mainstream for too long," Azaria said, adding: "Even if we used to be a small group, now we are a mass."

By Dina Kraft November 13, 2011

Kimmy Caplan, a professor of Jewish history at Bar-Ilan University who researches haredi society, said the trend toward gender separation is partly a response to the growing number of haredi women entering the workforce.
“They are meeting all kinds of people, and some haredi leaders see this as dangerous,” Caplan said. “It has the potential, as far as some leadership sees it, to be a danger because it can bring home questions, doubts, exposure to alternative ways of life.”
He explains that “There are certain leaders who think there is a need to create a balance by having more segregation in the neighborhood to compensate for a drop of segregation by women going out to work every day.”

By Jeremy Sharon and Lahav Harkov November 8, 2011

The Knesset Committee for the Advancement of the Status of Women held a stormy hearing on Monday on a policy of the independent haredi radio station Kol Berama that prevents women from working as radio broadcasters and from being interviewed on the station’s programs.

Committee chairwoman MK Tzipi Hotovely (Likud): “There are rights in the State of Israel that are protected by legislation and these laws also apply to sectarian radio stations, whether they’re aimed at specific sectors or not,” she said.

The lobbying arm of the Reform movement in Israel was also involved in the campaign against Kol Berama, and argued that the station’s policy infringes on women’s employment rights and the law of equal opportunities in the work place.

By Amy Teibel AP November 8, 2011
"The stronger the ultra-Orthodox and religious community grows, the greater its attempt to impose its norms," said Hannah Kehat, the founder of the religious women's forum Kolech. Their norms, she said, are "segregation of women and discrimination against them."

By Dan Even November 8, 2011

Last week, Canaan Pirsum Bitnuah, the advertising agency handling the bus ads, which feature the faces of men and women, asked ADI for permission to replace the ads on buses in Jerusalem and Bnei Brak with ones showing men only.
"The photos showed only the women's faces; there were no exposed shoulders or anything at all provocative. But we were warned that if we didn't change the images, the buses might be burned," ADI spokeswoman Dvora Sherer said.

By Edmund Sanders November 12, 2011

Rabbi Shmuel Pappenheim, a spokesman and leader for an umbrella group of ultra-Orthodox factions:
"We used to be a small minority fighting for survival," he said. "Now we are a huge minority. As the saying goes, with food comes more appetite."
He said the segregation was not intended to discriminate or oppress women but to "protect women's honor and dignity."

Click here for VIDEO
Interview with Noa Sattath, Israel Religious Action Center (video via New Israel Fund)

By Peggy Cidor November 11, 2011

Last week’s monthly city council meeting ended with Mayor Nir Barkat’s decision to expel Rachel Azaria from the coalition.

Even before the end of the meeting, rumors – accompanied by twinkles in the eyes of at least two city council members – promised that the separation wouldn’t last too long.
“At most one month,” said city councillor No. 1. “If it lasts for more than two weeks, I am not myself,” said city councillor No. 2.

By Rachel Neiman November 13, 2011

downloadable songbook was made available with backing from sponsors: the Masorti movement, which is affiliated with the Conservative Judaism movement; Noam, the Masorti youth movement; the Israel Religious Action Center (IRAC), the public and legal advocacy arm of the Reform Movement in Israel; Be Free Israel, a nonpartisan movement working on behalf of Israel as a Jewish and democratic state; and Israel Hollaback, the local branch of a world movement that uses technology to end gender-oriented and sex-oriented street harassment.

By Kobi Nahshoni November 13, 2011

Ultra-Orthodox radio station Kol Barama will allow women to call in for one hour every Sunday morning, following the public battle against women's exclusion from its programs.
The move was the focus of a discussion held recently at the Knesset's Committee on the Status of Women.

By Rabbi Shlomo Riskin Opinion November 12, 2011

What are the origins of an official religious establishment in Israel, and what is causing the negative feelings towards the Chief Rabbinate and its judiciary system?

...I understand that the present controversy between Tzohar and the Ministry of Religious Affairs is on the road to resolution. But the general and underlying problem still remains in full force.

...Let us only pray that until the proper changes in the system are put into effect, a disgruntled Israeli populace will not throw out the baby with the bathwater.

By Merav Michaeli Opinion November 14, 2011

It is doubtful the Rabbinate understands how good Tzohar is for them: Were it not for Tzohar, possibly the Rabbinate's insensitivity would have led some of the secular population to demand marital justice, a real alternative to marriage in Israel: civil marriage, Reform marriage, Conservative marriage, marriage in accordance with the couple's conscience and beliefs.

By Kobi Nahshoni November 10, 2011

Religious Services Minister Yakov Margi and Tzohar Chairman Rabbi David Stav reached a series of understandings on Wednesday evening, allowing the Modern Orthodox organization's rabbis to resume their wedding project.

The details are still unclear as a final agreement has yet to be reached, but one of the options raised during the meeting was advancing a bill initiated by MK Otniel Schneller (Kadima), which seeks to cancel regional marriage registrations. Margi confirmed to Ynet that he has no objections to this proposal.

Rabbi Gilad Kariv, director of the Religious Action Center, added: "In recent years, Tzohar rabbis have become the fig leaf of a rotten and corrupt establishment, and therefore they have no one to complain against but themselves.
"Its time for these to direct their public courage at real change in the relations of state and religion in Israel and at conducting civil marriage, rather than performing 'slightly nicer' ceremonies sponsored by the rabbinical establishment."

By Jeremy Sharon November 10, 2011

Tzohar had accused Margi and the Chief Rabbinate of dealing with their free wedding service in a discriminatory manner. 

The group claimed that Margi was enforcing regulations on its program that the ministry ignored when it came to private haredi rabbinical courts. It also alleged that the bureaucratic obstacles were imposed to safeguard the income of rabbinate-approved rabbis.

By Jeremy Sharon November 8, 2011

Tzohar also claims that the law of registering in the city of the couple’s residence is being selectively applied to Shoham to hinder the organization’s free wedding services. 

It alleges that private haredi rabbinical courts register couples outside of those courts’ jurisdiction all the time, and the Religious Services Ministry and Chief Rabbinate simply ignore this.

Tzohar Executive Vice-President Nachman Rosenberg accused the ministry of deliberately lying in this regard.
“I can say with 1,000-percent certainty that private haredi courts register couples not resident in their jurisdiction who then get married also outside of the jurisdiction of the [rabbinical] court where they registered,” Rosenberg said. “We have documented evidence of this, and it happens all the time.” November 8, 2011

The Kadima MK urged Religious Services Minister Ya'akov Margi (Shas) to "understand that in the State of Israel there exist many sects and a each one will live according to his own faith and his own worldview."

Editorial NY Jewish Week November 8, 2011

It’s about time rabbis concerned with the fabric of Jewish life in Israel are standing up to those haredi political and religious leaders seeking to narrow rather than broaden connections to the majority of Israelis who are not religiously observant.

By Yair Ettinger November 8, 2011

Rabbi Moshe Be'eri, Tzohar's executive director:
"Every time I pleaded before the rabbinate or the Religious Services Ministry, I felt like someone going before the czar to protect his people, the people of Israel. But this time the czar is someone with a kippa."
Religious Services Minister Yaakov Margi said he would not allow Tzohar to establish a "mini-rabbinate," though Ultra-Orthodox rabbinical courts have been registering couples as married and providing them with marriage certificates for decades, regardless of where the members of the couple live. The state rabbinate then rubber-stamps the Haredi marriages.

By Kobi Nahshoni November 8, 2011

Since the State's establishment, the Rabbinate has allowed several private rabbinical courts – first those affiliated with the Eda Haredit faction and later those belonging to other ultra-Orthodox communities – to register marriages on their own, viewing each one as a branch of the Rabbinate.

By Yair Ettinger November 11, 2011

More than in any other field controlled by the religious establishment, private conversion is flourishing in Israel.

Hundreds of converts, mainly those who are not eligible for citizenship under the Law of Return, are joining the Jewish people outside the state rabbinic conversion courts, even though the latter are the only ones empowered to approve official "conversion certificates."
Rabbi Shlomo Riskin: “What is happening now in Israel is not part of the rabbinic law I know and love, neither with respect to women who are refused a divorce, nor with respect to conversions.”

By Bradley Burston Opinion November 9, 2011

Every time a bureaucrat in black - ostensibly, ostentatiously, a Rav, a rabbi, a man of greatness – can discriminate against women; every time he can deny them access to holy sites and relegate them to the backs of buses; every time he can prohibit the image of a woman's face in public advertising; every time he can decide when and where and if, as soldiers, as students, as worshippers, they may sing or dance or speak or stand or even be present in Jewish worship, Iran wins.

By Ilan Ben Zion Opinion November 8, 2011

Judaism is a comingling of nationhood, religion, and culture.  Therein lies the problem of Israel’s definition as a “Jewish and democratic state”.  To what extent ought the Jewish religion play a role in the running and identity of the Jewish state, and who says which interpretation is authoritative? 

... An Israeli constitution needs to separate Israel from Judaism the religion and make the state indifferent to the religious identities of its citizens.

By Gideon Levy November 13, 2011

One day not long from now we will wake up to a different kind of country, the country that's now in the making.

...Separate buses and streets for men and women. Radio and television will only broadcast men singing. At some point, women will be required to cover their heads. Then it will be the men's turn. They will be barred from appearing clean-shaven or without a head covering. That day is not long in coming.

By Josh Nathan-Kazis November 13, 2011

A social service trip to Israel may seem like an innocuous program for a Jewish social service organization.

But at Avodah, a domestic Jewish anti-poverty group, one staff member has quit and others involved with the group have launched a protest petition amid heated argument sparked by the prospect of just such a trip.

The conflict follows the announcement of an Israel trip planned by Pursue, an alumni network jointly sponsored by Avodah, which focuses on service projects in the United States, and by American Jewish World Service, which works in underdeveloped countries.

Editor – Joel Katz
Religion and State in Israel is not affiliated with any organization or movement.
All rights reserved.

Religion and State in Israel - November 14, 2011 (Section 2)

Editor – Joel Katz
Religion and State in Israel is not affiliated with any organization or movement.

By Amos Harel November 14, 2011
“The removal of women from an array of core positions, the separation of women from the public sphere, and the forcible imposition of behavioral norms suited to a small portion of the religious population upon the army as a whole - all this causes serious damage to the army's image, and does not adhere to the IDF's spirit and ethos.”

By Yagil Levy Opinion November 8, 2011

Is there a connection between the warning of the outgoing Judea and Samaria Division commander, Brig. Gen. Nitzan Alon - who said a "radical minority, marginal in quantity but not in influence, is liable to bring about extensive escalation through what are called 'price tag' acts but reach the level of terrorism" - and the separation of women at the army's Simhat Torah celebrations?

By Dina Kraft November 14, 2011

Yisrael Schulman is one of several Haredi men trained by a company called Verisense: “Now people are living a very low quality of life," Schulman says. "I don’t think the community can survive without education and work.

“Ultimately more people will have to work, and you can feel a shift toward that. Change will come because people do want to work.”

By Gershom Gorenberg Opinion November 8, 2011

The following is adapted from Gershom Gorenberg’s new book The Unmaking of Israel.
In economic terms, the haredi revival in Israel has been disastrous. Israel's ultra-Orthodox community is ever more dependent on the state and, through it, on other people's labor.

Exploiting political patronage, ultra-Orthodox clerics have largely taken over the state's religious bureaucracy, imposing extreme interpretations of Jewish law on other Jews.
By exempting the ultra-Orthodox from basic general educational requirements, the democratic state fosters a burgeoning sector of society that neither understands nor values democracy.

And to protect their own growing settlements, haredi parties are now essential partners in the pro-settlement coalitions of the right.

By Oren Majar November 11, 2011

Shahar Cohen [is] the youngest person on Prof. Manuel Trajtenberg's 15-member committee for social and economic change...

"For instance, the section on ultra-Orthodox employment could set in motion a genuine revolution if it is implemented.

The most positive aspect of that section is that it does not take a coercive approach; that is why many pragmatic-minded members of the Haredi community were prepared to endorse the report.

They also realize that the present situation simply cannot continue. More aggressive measures would have led them to close the door in the secular public's face.

[The report] is proposing training and education programs, and making working more attractive. How? By limiting state-funded yeshiva tuition to five years. Only 10 percent of yeshiva students - namely, only the outstanding students - would receive tuition funding after reaching the limit. The other 90 percent will thus be more motivated to go out and work."

By Yaron London Opinon November 8, 2011

Halevy’s words prompted protests, of course. Members of Shas and United Torah Judaism accused him of resorting to grave incitement.

They are certain, or pretend to be certain, that the ultra-Orthodox improve the status of Jews before God, and that the more people study Torah, the greater the people of Israel’s security would be.

By Dr. Haim Shine Opinion November 7, 2011

The ultra-Orthodox population is the Jewish people's insurance certificate. Israelis are not everywhere, yet in every sub-culture to which he or she is connected, he or she can be sure that their sons and their son's sons will continue to affiliate as Jews.

...The ultra-Orthodox public is the insurance policy for the continuing existence of the Jewish people. Even when the premium goes up, one does not forego life insurance.

By Sharon Shenhav Opinion November 9, 2011
The writer, a Jerusalem-based women’s rights lawyer, is the director of the International Jewish Women’s Rights Project of the International Council of Jewish Women.

On October 31, Chief Ashkenazi Rabbi Yonah Metzger informed Israel Radio, Reshet Bet, that he had visited a shelter for battered Orthodox women in Beit Shemesh and was horrified to hear of their suffering.

Rabbi Metzger’s concern and compassion is well deserved and to be commended. However, it comes a little late. Where has he been for the past 40 years? Has he been so out of touch that he doesn’t read newspapers or listen to radio or television?

Despite the changing daily reality of Israeli life, rabbis have continued to maintain their central role in the Jewish and Israeli experience, both as individuals and as an establishment.

What challenges do rabbis face, and what course of action do they take to meet those challenges?

These questions will be explored in a symposium in honor of the anthology Rabbis and Rabbinate: The Challenge, edited by Yedidia Z. Stern and Shuki Friedman and published by IDI and Am Oved.

This event is free and open to the general public with advance registration.
Registration: Tel. 02-629-2223 or
Rabbis and Rabbinate: The Challenge - On Ethics, Authority, and Responsibility  
Tuesday, November 15, 2011, 3:00 p.m.–7:00 p.m.
The Jerusalem Center for Ethics - The Konrad Adenauer Conference Center, De Botton Auditorium, Mishkenot Sha’ananim, Jerusalem

By Moshe Negbi Opinion November 10, 2011
The writer is the legal analyst of Israel Radio and a senior lecturer at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem.

Yigal Amir is in jail but his senior partners to the murder of the prime minister are still free and happy.

Amir himself testified about those partners already on the night of the assassination when he said in his investigation: 
"Without the rabbinical ruling or the 'din rodef' [the right to pursue and kill someone who has supposedly sinned] that applied to [Prime Minister Yitzhak] Rabin, issued by a number of rabbis that I know about, I would have had difficulty murdering. A murder of that kind must have backing. If I did not have backing ... I would not have acted."

By Akiva Novick November 9, 2011

[The survey] reveals that 65% of seculars and 61% of traditional Jews identify with the Rabin memorial.

Among religious Jews, only 26% feel very affiliated with the memorial, while 39% reported feeling slightly affiliated.

By Jeremy Sharon November 9, 2011

The Reform Movement in Israel presented a report to the Knesset Lobby Against Racism on Tuesday about racial incitement by rabbinical figures.

The report claims that most complaints against rabbis accused of religious incitement are not investigated.

Out of 48 complaints filed between 2002 and 2011, the police initiated just 18 criminal investigations, the report says. The remaining complaints were either dropped prior to investigation or were left unanswered.

By Hagai Stadler Opinion November 10, 2011
Hagai Stadler, a member of the religious Zionism camp, is a Principal at the Yarden Management and Investment Group

Whether we want to or not, the murder of Yitzhak Rabin shall forever remain a terrible stain in the history of religious Zionism. 

Up until now, the camp’s leaders chose to look down and avoid a genuine inquiry into the rift, out of defensiveness and populism.

By Arie Hasit November 7, 2011
Arie Hasit is an educator at Ramah Programs in Israel and is beginning the Israeli bet midrash program at the Schechter institute. The views expressed in this article are the author's alone.

...I would like to reclaim the label of “religious,” so that in Israel, religiousness is associated not only with the strict observance of the Sabbath and Kashrut, but with good deeds, charity, and a desire to make the world a better place.

By Rabbi Marc D. Angel Opinion November 12, 2011

Some years ago, I visited a great Torah luminary in Israel. Because of his independent and original views, he was increasingly isolated from the rabbinic establishment. He commented sadly: “Have you heard of the mafia? Well, we have a rabbinic mafia here.”

By Yair Ettinger November 9, 2011

Some 100,000 people attended the Jerusalem funeral Tuesday of Rabbi Nosson Tzvi Finkel, the head of the Mir Yeshiva, who died at the age of 68.

Mir, in Jerusalem's Beit Yisrael neighborhood, is believed to be the largest yeshiva in the world, though enrollment estimates vary between 3,000 and 5,000. It has a large affiliate in New York and branches in Modi'in Ilit and Jerusalem's Ramat Shlomo.

By Raphael Ahren November 11, 2011

An estimated 100,000 ultra-Orthodox Jews crowded the streets of Jerusalem Tuesday for the funeral of Rabbi Nosson Tzvi Finkel, the head of the capital's Mir Yeshiva, which is considered the Harvard of the Haredi world.

Most of the mourners probably did not know that in his early years the revered American-Israeli scholar regularly exchanged his skullcap with a baseball batting helmet.

By Eitan Kensky November 11, 2011

Finkelman argues that Haredi Jews, though they regularly borrow from secular society, are determined to maintain their separateness from it. 

To do so, they create "symbolic boundaries" between themselves and the general culture. Haredi popular literature is a lens through which we can examine those boundaries.

By Tova Dadon November 12, 2011

An explosion in a pipe in Ashdod has left hundreds of residents without water. Municipal workers who attempted to fix the malfunction met with resistance from ultra-Orthodox residents, who claimed that the work disturbs Shabbat.

By Jonathan Rosenblum Opinion November 11, 2011

If one key test of a liberal education is the ability to learn new skills, then talmudic learning could be an important component. 

True, talmudic learning will not teach one math, unless one studies the rabbis’ complex calculations of the lunar cycle; nor will it provide grounding in a specific science. But it is not irrelevant to any of these pursuits. And the combination of intellectual rigor, discipline and concentration required is unsurpassed.

By Jeremy Sharon November 14, 2011

Police on Sunday brought in Chief Rabbi of Kiryat Motzkin David Meir Druckman for questioning in connection with a letter he signed with 24 other rabbis in 2008 calling for a boycott of Arab labor.

...The rabbi did, however, answer questions put to him by the police and declared that acted according to the law and has done nothing to require an investigation of him. He was brought to the Zvulun police station in northern Israel.

By Nir Hasson November 14, 2011

Archaeologists have resumed excavating the Jerusalem site where the Museum of Tolerance is to go up, amid controversy surrounding the exhumation of skeletons in what had been a Muslim cemetery for nearly 1,000 years.

In addition to fielding objections to the museum site, the Simon Wiesenthal Center, which is sponsoring and financing the project, also has to contend with the recent resignation of the two architects who planned the museum.

By Revital Blumenfeld November 10, 2011

Although the cabinet decided a year ago to bring the last of the Falashmura from Ethiopia to Israel at a rate of 200 a month, an interministerial committee with responsibility for the operation has decided to reduce the rate to 110 a month.

...The committee contends that immigrant absorption centers where the Falashmura would be received are full, and ordered the pace of immigration of the Ethiopians to be reduced starting within a week.

AFP November 11, 2011

Israel's Chief Rabbi Yona Metzger, Latin Patriarch of Jerusalem Archbishop Fouad Twal, Chief Imam of Israel Mohammed Kiwan and the leader of the Druze community, Moufak Rate, were received together for a meeting, which is a continuation of interfaith dialogue of Assisi.
See also: 

November 2011

Rabbi Moshe Zemer z"l (of Blessed Memory) was one of the most prominent leaders of the Israel Movement for Progressive Judaism, and one of the leading pioneers of Reform Judaism in Israel.

He established the Movement's communities in Ramat Gan and Tel Aviv and led the way to founding the Movement (IMPJ) and MaRaM (Moetzet Harabanim Hamitkadmim, The Council of Progressive Rabbis).

By Nir Hasson November 14, 2011

A Bible museum that will include a sculpture garden featuring biblical characters and exhibits showing what daily life was like in biblical times will be built in the Jerusalem area, the cabinet decided in a unanimous vote on Sunday.

November 8, 2011

Prof. Lifshitz and Prof. Shochetman are receiving the prize in the humanities for their far-reaching work in researching Jewish law.

Prof. Lifshitz, who holds the Henry J. and Fanny Harkavy Chair in Comparative Law, has done extensive research in Jewish law, harking back all the way to the time of the ancient sages.

Prof. Shochetman is the author of numerous books and research articles in the area of law generally and Jewish law in particular, in which his depth of analysis has stood out.

Editor – Joel Katz
Religion and State in Israel is not affiliated with any organization or movement.
All rights reserved.