Thursday, December 6, 2012

Religion and State in Israel - December 6, 2012

Religion and State in Israel

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

Solving the specific jurisdictional issue, the court said that it could exercise its authority over matters normally given to the rabbinical courts, where the rabbinical courts failed to exercise its jurisdiction.

The state had tried to argue that the rabbinical courts should be given more time and that the couple had not waited long enough for it to rule, nor had they exhausted its possible relief.
Photo credit: AndyDr

"From my point of view, even if the State appeals and we have to keep going down this road, the verdict shows the beginning of the undermining of the Rabbinate," Kama said.

Judge Yehezkel Eliyue: "Under these circumstances the rabbinic court lacks the authority to hear the petition, and in any case is not the proper forum to discuss it."

“The irony is that while this is the beginning of a civil revolution, it’s based on divorce rather than marriage,” newly divorced Kama, a senior lecturer in communications in the Emek Yizrael College, told Reuters.

By winning a ruling from a civil court, Kama and Even may have also set a precedent for Israeli heterosexual couples, who until now have had to have rabbis steeped in ancient ritual handle their divorces, legal experts say.
“This is the first time in Israeli history a couple of Jews are obtaining a divorce issued by an authority other than a rabbinical court, and I think there is significant potential here for straight couples” to do so as well, said Zvi Triger, deputy dean of the Haim Striks law school near Tel Aviv.

This new documentary, by Jonathan Lopatin and Paula Weiman-Kelman tells three stories of spiritual innovation, focusing on young Jews in Israel, Canada and the US.

These stories -- vibrant, quirky, moving -- are braided together, like the fringes of a tallit, to create an inspiring portrait of cutting-edge Judaism in the 21st century.

Israel Defense Forces officials have assured senior Lithuanian rabbis that ultra-Orthodox men reporting to the draft office will be interviewed and examined exclusively by men.

The promise was made after the rabbis ordered yeshiva students not to report to the draft office after receiving the first notice from the army following complaints of "humiliating physical checkups."
The crisis began in recent days after the rabbis realized that the army was preparing to draft many haredim, and particularly after yeshiva students complained that they had been required to undergo humiliating checkups (of their testicles, for example) - some by women.

This is the first time a key Haredi figure has issued such a call, other than the marginal anti-Zionist, ultra-Orthodox group Eda Haredit.

The call follows reports that ultra-Orthodox youth are being summoned for medical tests, including an examination of their testicles - which has outraged the community - and psychotechnical evaluations.

Some yeshiva students have reported that they were not dealt with “in accordance with their haredi lifestyle” at the recruitment office, and yeshiva deans have voiced concern about the medical exams that all recruits are given, particularly that they not be conducted on yeshiva students by women.

By Alexander Langer

While any plan attempting to solve this puzzle will be controversial, and will likely be unpopular with Israel’s religious right and its Arab citizens, it is necessary for the future of Israel as a Jewish state.

Without a broad-based “peoples’ army”, one of the institutional pillars of the Israeli state and Israeli society, Israel’s internal disunity will become increasingly pronounced, and efforts to solve its many problems, both external and internal, will become harder.

Rabbi Avi Shafran, Agudath Israel of America: “I have no reason to doubt that some, if not all, of the women Ms. Hoffman regularly brings to the Kotel, are well-intentioned and heartfelt Jews, not necessarily intent on disruption in the guise of ‘activism.’ But they are misled all the same.”

Rabbi Meir Fund, The Flatbush Minyan: “... to say that the spot has functioned as an Orthodox synagogue for thousands of years would not be off the mark. So to say that it should no longer be that is the ultimate expression of chutzpah.

“Having said that, I believe that everything that can be done within the confines of halacha [Jewish law] should be done to make every Jew feel welcome there.”

“There is a famous Chanukah song, which says that every one of us is a candle and together we make a big light,” says Anat Hoffman. “The Orthodox say there is one light, one way to be Jewish. I say there are many lights.”

By Rabbi Shmuel Rabinowitz
The writer is the rabbi of the Western Wall and the holy sites.

Recently, worshipers at the Western Wall were again caught, and not to their advantage, in the struggle among various streams of Judaism over recognition and influence.

The prayer of thousands of people who came to the Western Wall from afar was disturbed by illegal demonstrations, provocation, and arrests that were meant as a show for the media.
I have written this before and will write it again – the Western Wall is not Orthodox, just as it is not Reform.

When JOFA founder Blu Greenberg was in Jerusalem for the First International Jewish Feminist Conference, in 1988, and went with other conference attendees to pray together at the Kotel (a moment which also gave birth to Women of the Wall), she became the first woman to be called to the Torah there, she recalled this week.

“There was a lot of screaming from the other side and, even though it’s not really in character for me, I screamed the bracha back,” she said. At the same service, “we couldn’t sing Hallel. It felt like a hand clamped over my mouth.”

The real challenge is to break the Haredi monopoly at the Kotel, said several discussion participants. “They took over and want to make everyone Haredi,” said Kehat.

“They have turned the Wall into a shtiebel,” Weiss said. “It is not a synagogue, but a national religious symbol and should be returned to all of us.”

Jewish life may be blossoming, Rabbi Geller acknowledged, but, she added, “I can’t be the kind of Jew I want to be in Israel.”

Rabbi Guzik, who heads Sinai Temple’s Israel Center, posed this question: As an educator trying to instill a love of Israel in Jewish children, how can she teach a young woman here to don a tallit — a prayer shawl — when she could be arrested for wearing it in Israel?

“Anat [Hoffman] has become a stirring symbol,” said The Forward’s Eisner, “a symbol that may go beyond what just women want.”

But, while many American Jews are concerned about issues of religious pluralism in Israel, few Israelis seem to be as worried. “Our issues are not Israelis’ issues,” Eisner said.

“There is a cultural disconnect. Sometimes my Israeli friends are baffled by our concerns. We have some bridges to build between us.”

"There are many restaurants and institutions where the inspector comes in once a month simply to collect a check and does not appear the rest of the month," Rabbi Andrew Sacks says. "But beyond that, a serious problem is that the inspectors themselves are paid directly by the restaurateur. So there can be no objectivity."

Rabbi Ehud Bandel says it is time to reclaim Judaism from the religious establishment. "It's up to us to make sure that the Knesset will change this legislation and enable freedom of religion and free market of religion, which will only be good for religious life here in Israel."

“The restaurant owners are definitely on the front line,” Jerusalem City Council member Rachel Azaria told the Times of Israel, “and as pioneers in this battle they are exposed to the risks.”

Modern-Orthodox Rabbi Aaron Leibowitz, who is spearheading a training program for volunteer kosher supervisors, said the Rabbinate’s oversight of its supervisors is inconsistent.

“Owners complain (the supervisors) come very seldom,” he said. “Some complain they show up only for their paycheck.”

By Ambassador Michael Oren

Over the past four years, I’ve seen how too often we no longer speak with one another but past one another. I’ve dealt with topics that American Jews view through the prisms of religious freedom and women’s rights and Israelis through the lenses of sovereignty, law and public safety.

… In growing numbers, Israelis are inspired by American Jewish pluralism and are seeking to test it in a sovereign Jewish context. The relationship between Israel and American Jewry has become more symbiotic, more organic and more critical to our common survival, both physically and spiritually, as Jews.

Accordingly, Israelis must acknowledge the American Jewish experience as legitimate, permanent, and as a source of enrichment for Israeli Jewry.

[I]n other areas, like the visibility of women in Haredi-dominated spaces, there appears to be backsliding rather than progress.

In Israel “a woman can be a fighter pilot but she can’t get a
get,” or religious divorce, said Susan Weiss of the Center for Women’s Justice.

“We’re very progressive except in those areas where the state has ceded to religious authorities,” like on matters of marriage and divorce. Israel is now, Weiss said, “a partial theocracy.”

The Itim Resources & Advocacy for Jewish Life organization has turned to the Chief Rabbinate of Israel, seeking a change in the current process to permit women to attest to one’s single status prior to one being cleared for marriage.

To date, only men are eligible to attest to the single status of a person in most local rabbinates. Itim feels that since there is no real Halachic reason for this testimony, a woman should be able to sign as well.

Sunday, a ceremony took place at the International Convention Center in Jerusalem celebrating the milestone of 6,000 soldiers who have been converted through the Nativ program, a partnership between The Jewish Agency for Israel, the Government of Israel and the Israel Defense Forces.

The 6,000 soldiers completed the Nativ educational course over the last eleven years and then chose to convert.

The Housing and Construction Ministry manipulated prices in an affordable housing tender to tailor it to the ultra-Orthodox community - after blocking an attempt by the Israel Defense Forces to acquire the land to build housing for career soldiers, the Jerusalem municipality has charged.

The state has 90 days to decide whether affordable housing should be limited to people who work, the High Court of Justice ruled last week.

It also needs to explain why it isn't canceling the criteria set by the Israel Lands Administration for the Mehir Lemishtaken affordable housing program, even though these criteria go against the cabinet's recommendations.

Minister Atias is a member of the ultra-Orthodox Shas party. Many ultra-Orthodox men do not work, and thus would not be eligible for the Trajtenberg committee's criteria.

Under the deal signed Sunday - which still requires confirmation from Habayit Hayehudi, whose National Religious Party faction is scheduled to meet today to vote on the matter - Habayit Hayehudi leader Naftali Bennett will head the joint list and National Union's Uri Ariel will take the second spot.

Bennett can now present himself to religious voters as a unifier. He has bolstered his list with settlers and Mizrahi candidates, which he was lacking, and will be the undisputed leader of a medium-size party with relatively young members, most of them first-time MKs.

These include a secular woman, Ayelet Shaked, who has been placed in a prominent position to appeal to non-religious voters.

By Rabbi Dov Lipman

Yesh Atid has plans which will enable ultra-Orthodox young men to serve in the army while maintaining their spiritual sides and will also provide opportunities for community service – such as volunteering within the ultra-Orthodox community – as their mandatory service to the country.

The Council of Torah Sages of the Degel Hatorah party, the non-hassidic half of the ultra- Orthodox United Torah Judaism Knesset faction, selected on Monday night current Bnei Brak Mayor Yaakov Asher to be the third-placed candidate on their electoral party list.

The ultra-Orthodox Degel Hatorah party appeared to be on the verge of splitting Monday night after several members of the party's Council of Torah Sages boycotted a meeting called to finalize its Knesset slate.

At least seven government employees are listed on Shas promotional materials as working on the Sephardi ultra-Orthodox party's election campaign - in possible violation of national directives prohibiting civil servants from involvement in partisan political activity.

VIDEO: Rabbi Diov Lipman, candidate for Knesset with Yesh Atid, on IBA News

Likud coalition chairman MK Ze’ev Elkin was quoted … as stating it is entirely possible the government coalition following the general elections will not contain chareidi parties. He explained that chances of building a coalition that does not include chareidim is not out of the question, Globes reports.

Moshe Zarfati, a former colonel in the air force and a hi-tech entrepreneur, is No. 2 on the party list, with businessman Reuven Agassi in at No. 3.

Amsellem had tried to get some higher-profile figures on his list - including Elazar Stern, a former head of the army's personnel directorate, and education activist Yoav Laloum, whose Noar Kahalacha organization fights ethnic discrimination in Haredi schools - but to no avail.

"Everything is permissible - theft, bribery, unholy wars - but a person who, heaven forbid, wants to try to help his public via a secular party is therefore a heretic."

"There is today a very large sector, comprised primarily of young Haredi men, which feels it lacks appropriate representation on a national level. No other sector is so unrepresented. Now we are hearing criticism that is being articulated; we are on the map." (Haredi Likud primary candidate Yaakov Vider)

The divide in the non-hassidic haredi world has reached crisis point following the appointment of Bnei Brak Mayor Yaakov Asher to the No. 3 spot on the Degel Hatorah party electoral list.

See also articles here, here and here.

More Haredim and Arabs are in the labor force, but they are supporting big families on low wages.

"Despite the long-term benefits of increasing the workforce as a poverty-reducing measure, in the short term the results involve low wages, particularly for people coming from a population with less education and few usable skills."

Avishai Sivan's "Tikkun," about a brilliant young ultra-Orthodox Torah scholar who becomes driven by sexual urges after a near-death experience, won a Euro 60,000 production grant last week from TorinoFilmLab, an international laboratory offering training, development and economic support for film productions.

As an Orthodox Jewish woman, where does she draw the line on women giving voice to lyrics in front of men? "I have no idea, I go according to the halakha [religious law] and there is no prohibition against spoken word, so why not?" she replies.

Aharon Horwitz:
Zionism is about translating Jewish truths into action as much as it is about creating a safe and secure state. Zionists should be the first to call for change in Israel if its leadership fails in the Zionist imperative. This is best done by living here — by acting and ultimately voting!

“At Bar-Ilan University, the system of checks and balances has failed. Practically speaking, the university runs according to the will of the president and the director general, weakening the supervision and the oversight of their actions,” wrote State Comptroller Joseph Shapira, summarizing his office's harshest-ever report on an academic institution in Israel, where 60 percent of the budget comes from the state.

The authors of the report ascribe Israel's high ranking to the fact that around 75 percent of Israeli immigrants in the past 20 years were from the former Soviet Union. According to Immigrant Absorption Ministry figures, about half of them had at least an undergraduate degree when they arrived in Israel.

Nearly 70 percent of foreign-born Israelis of working age (15 to 64 ) work, compared to 60 percent of native Israelis in this age group.

By Rabbi Yonatan Neril

The Jewish tradition teaches us to use energy wisely. In some cases, wasting energy is a violation of Bal Tashchit, the prohibition not to waste excessively.

“The Sigd brings together elements that exist in several Jewish holidays in a way that no other Jewish holiday does,” she says.

“It has aspects of repentance—asking for mercy and hoping that God has forgiven us—that are found in the High Holidays.” In addition, she explains, “it has the mourning for Jerusalem found in Tisha B’Av and the return to Zion found in Yom Ha’atzma’ut [Israel’s Independence Day]. And it has the covenant and the giving of the Torah, which are found in Shavuot.”

More than five hundred new olim from Ethiopia celebrated Thursday as they inaugurated a new Torah scroll at The Jewish Agency’s Ibim Absorption Center, outside of Sderot.
Just the week before, Ibim’s residents – like those in surrounding communities - had been forced to often run to bomb shelters and protected rooms due to the very real threat of rocket fire from the Gaza Strip.

By Liz Nord
I tried to articulate my position (and that of this project) in the following letter to the editor:
I’ve been researching the results of tension between Jerusalem’s ultra-Orthodox and mainstream communities over the past three years for my documentary film “Battle for Jerusalem.”
Based on my experience, the non-ultra-Orthodox population is misrepresented by the secular protagonist in your article, “The Ultra-Holy City.”
While many secular people do feel they are fighting to keep their city democratic and religiously pluralistic, most are not radical provocateurs like the man profiled in your story.
They are just people–young parents, teachers, artists, small business owners –who are trying to make sure there’s a place in Israel’s capital city for their own families and for Israelis of all stripes to live as they wish.

One of the two central witnesses in a case of alleged indecent assault against prominent national-religious leader Rabbi Moti Elon gave testimony on Tuesday in the Jerusalem District Court.

Elon, formerly the dean of the renowned national-religious institute Yeshivat Hakotel in the Old City of Jerusalem, was charged with five counts of indecent assault and indecent assault by force in November 2012. He strenuously denies the charges.

When rockets start falling, Rabbi Yechiel Eckstein springs into action. The worse things look on the ground here, the easier it is to ask hundreds of thousands of evangelical Christians in America to open their pocketbooks.

This money, like all the funding Eckstein raises, comes from a very particular, and to some, curious, source. It comes direct from America's Bible belt, where hundreds of thousands of evangelical Christians reach into their pockets to support the Jews of the Holy Land through Eckstein and his personal, unique ministry.

This baptismal site of Yardenit is the largest income stream for the second oldest kibbutz in Israel, Kibbutz Kinneret.

Though it is not the site of Jesus’ baptism — the actual spot is near Jericho, in the Israeli-occupied West Bank, and wasn’t easily accessible until a couple of years ago — Yardenit is the most popular place on the Jordan River for baptisms.

Rabbi Shmuel Portman Hapartzi, founder of the school of prophets, says he is affiliated with Chabad's messianic stream, believes that the generation of redemption has already arrived and that prophecies are permitted again.

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