Tuesday, January 17, 2012

Religion and State in Israel - January 16, 2012 (Section 1)

Religion and State in Israel

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

By Ethan Bronner and Isabel Kershner www.nytimes.com January 14, 2012

In other words, while rejecting the state, the ultra-Orthodox have survived by making deals with it. And while dismissing the group, successive governments — whether run by the left or the right — have survived by trading subsidies for its votes. Now each has to live with the other, and the resulting friction is hard to contain.

“The coexistence between the two is breaking down,” said Arye Carmon, president of the Israel Democracy Institute, a Jerusalem research organization. “It is an extreme danger.”

By Yehudah Mirsky Opinion www.jewishideasdaily.com January 16, 2012

Suddenly, it seems, gender segregation is everywhere in Israel—buses, army bases, Jerusalem sidewalks, Beit Shemesh schoolyards and, above all, the front pages.  What is going on here?  Why is all this happening now?

...Americans may be astonished that we need to debate whether women should sit in the back of the bus.  But in Israel, this debate, unwelcome as it is, can still be a good thing.  Proponents of Israeli civil society, religious and secular, must demonstrate that they can mount a principled defense of their core values and their conception of the public sphere.

By Judith Sudilovsky www.eni.ch January 12, 2012

Should Israel allow segregation by gender in the public sphere simply because one religious group -- ultra-Orthodox Jews -- demand it? This issue has become a focal point as Israel struggles with its identity as a Jewish democratic state.

"This is taking us straight to the most important dialogue [for the country]: what kind of values do we want for our Jewish state?" said Anat Hoffman, executive director of the Israel Religious Action Center, in an interview with ENInews.

By Prof. Yedidia Stern Opinion www.idi.org.il January 11, 2012
Prof. Yedidia Z. Stern is Vice President of the Israel Democracy Institute and a member of the Faculty of Law at Bar-Ilan University.

I would like to offer an additional explanation, which sheds light on why the exclusion of women is intensifying within the national religious community as well.

...Attitudes toward women, whether in the army or elsewhere, do not merely stem from a question of how to interpret a certain ruling in the Code of Jewish Law, but are an expression of a deep desire to reshape the nature of Israel. The voice may be the voice of "modesty discourse," but the hands are the hands of an ideological revolution.

Focusing on the issue of sovereignty and the public sphere when considering the struggle over the exclusion of women makes it clear that this dispute does not "only" concern questions of equality, human dignity, and the rights of women. It is also an expression of a power struggle to determine who will control the general Israeli public sphere and the particular space of the community.

Rachel Azarya, a member of the Jerusalem Municipal Council known for voicing opinions against the exclusion of women seemed upset by the latest turmoil in Israeli society but said she was pleased that the term “exclusion of women” has finally found its place in common conversation, and not only in university gender studies courses.

By Nir Hasson www.haaretz.com January 13, 2012

There are no more than three female scribes in Israel, and Klebansky is apparently the only one working at the sacred craft on a regular basis.

Klebansky took part last year in the writing of a Torah by women from all over the world, which eventually found a home in a congregation in the United States.

But the current project is the largest so far - an entire Torah written in Israel by a woman that will remain in Israel for use by a Modern Orthodox congregation.

By Shmulik Hadad www.ynetnews.com January 11, 2012

During his speech at the official ceremony, Rabbi Scheinen noted that "there has been a lot of talk about the exclusion of women, but I haven't seen any woman in Ashdod appointed as a police station commander, as this is a masculine role which women are unable to fill."

By Alex Israel Opinion www.thinkingtorah.blogspot.com January 4, 2012

First, modesty in the public arena is not achieved by suppressing women; it is not women who are to pay the price. In most places that the Shulkhan Arukh addresses modesty, the man is instructed to restrict his gaze and not to look at a woman in an inappropriately sexual manner.

But it doesn't say that a woman is required to button up in order to prevent or "protect" the man. Men are expected to take care of their sexual drives and to control their eyes and minds.

By Moran Azulay www.ynetnews.com January 11, 2012

Culture and Sports Minister Limor Livnat (Likud) and Beit Shemesh Mayor Moshe Abutbul got into a heated argument Wednesday during a discussion on the exclusion of women from the public sphere.

"The exclusion of women, regardless of the tone in which it is enforced, is something we cannot accept," she said.

By Melanie Lidman www.jpost.com January 12, 2012

City Councillor Rachel Azaria (Yerushalmim) has been intimately involved with the struggle for women’s rights in Jerusalem for years.

...“[Recently], I felt there were times I needed to pray ‘sheheheyanu’ [the prayer of thanksgiving for new experiences] because something is really changing,” Azaria said on Tuesday. “I feel we’re at a point where we’re redesigning the rules of the game. The key words are solidarity and responsibility, and I feel we’re going in the right direction.”

By Debra Nussbaum Cohen Opinion http://blogs.forward.com January 11, 2012

There is something perverse about the obsession with female dress of these “guardians of modest,” and I don’t mean perverse just in the sociological sense. 

These men are so focused on sublimating their own sexual impulses that they see women only as sexual objects, whose images and very personhood must be contained to the point of invisibility.

By Judy Siegel-Itzkovich www.jpost.com January 12, 2012

Many of the pinch-hitting physicians who showed up were from Ma’ayanei Hayeshua Hospital in Bnei Brak and Jerusalem’s Bikur Cholim Hospital, both of them haredi-affiliated.

They did not say whether they had been pressured into appearing at the last moment.

I phoned a modern-Orthodox woman pediatrician who was not there and who declined to have her name mentioned.

“I have refused to attend Puah’s events for the past seven years as a matter of principle,” she said. “I am one of two women doctors in the country who are also lactation consultants. A discussion on breastfeeding was scheduled but I was not allowed to speak, even though men don’t know very much about breastfeeding.”

By Elana Sztokman Opinion http://blogs.forward.com January 10, 2012

Meanwhile, Pu’ah announced that they will be holding a second conference in June for women only.
This is in some ways monumental, since Pu’ah has been hosting conferences for more than a decade, and this is the first time women have been invited.

But separate conferences do not exactly fix the problem. Holding two separate conversations about women’s bodies, one for women only and one for men “experts” only, makes the problem worse. Men, even “experts,” need to hear from women.

This is true in all matters, but most importantly on matters relating to women’s health.
Having separate conversations merely cements archaic notions that women are objects and that men should not see us, hear us, or be in the same room as us.

By Menachem Burnstein Opinion www.jpost.com January 10, 2012
The writer is the director of the Puah Institute.

The common denominator among the organizations that have criticized the conference – Kolech (Your Voice), Yisrael Chofshit (Free Israel) and others is that they are funded by the New Israel Fund.

The goal of this campaign is clear: To destroy an important, vital organization that provides free counseling, day and night, to thousands of individuals and couples from all sectors of Israeli society.

By Judy Siegel-Itzkovich www.jpost.com January 9, 2012

The mostly national religious and haredi audience of women and men – are separated by cloth dividers, with the women directly facing the dais and closed-circuit TV giving a clear view of the speakers.

...Women participants, some of whom take care of their infants and knit during the lectures, are invited to send notes to the dais to ask questions.

...Behind the scenes, the Post learned that the reason why women are not invited to lecture from the dais is that it would cause members of the more extreme Eda Haredit from attending – whom Puah wants to include in the audience.

www.puahonline.org/ January 11, 2012

Those who are sensitive to the needs of the religious sector are aware that many will not attend other medical conferences because of the differing modesty standards, which they consider a serious halachic problem.

Therefore the Rishon LeTzion, HaGaon HaRav Mordechai Eliyahu ztl, ruled that Puah should allow attendance to men and women with separate seating, and to invite men lecturers. This directive was reinforced by all the major Rabbis from the charedi and national religious sector.

www.kolech.com January 11, 2012

Women’s presence as speakers is forbidden because of their gender, while at the same time, a public discussion of their sexuality and of feminine issues is done by men. Many women have complained to 

Kolech about Puah’s conferences including both participants in the audience and experts prevented from taking part in the discussions. Female experts are replaced by men who may sometimes be of less expertise.

www.kolech.com January 9, 2012

We must not delude ourselves that these are individual concessions necessary for “domestic peace”. 

Every such concession distorts the balance which is essential for the religious public sphere. The academics do not have only a technical role to play, but also a moral message. 

They know very well that the world which values women as human beings and not as bodies is not a less worthwhile world, but rather a more just and a richer world. This message is just as much a part of the academic world as the structure of ribosome’s.

Jpost.com Editorial www.jpost.com January 8, 2012

Still, while activists for gender equality have every right to protest Puah’s exclusion of women and to prevent the state from funding a conference that excludes women, Puah, a self-declared religious organization, has the right to adhere to its version of religious expression when organizing a private conference.

By Judy Siegel-Itzkovich www.jpost.com January 9, 2012

The ethics bureau of the Israel Medical Association has issued an official policy paper – to which members are supposed to adhere – stating the exclusion of women is unacceptable.

The IMA was reacting to the fact that some physicians – all IMA members – agreed to lecture along with leading rabbis at Wednesday’s conference on gynecological issues of the Puah Institute for Medicine and Halacha.

By Kobi Nahshoni www.ynetnews.com January 10, 2012

After being criticized for the absence of female lecturers from its annual gynecology conference, the Puah Institute decided Monday to hold another gynecology conference, this time exclusively for women. The event will be held in about half a year.

By Patrick Martin www.theglobeandmail.com January 10, 2012

As far as Puah is concerned, it operates on a strictly kosher basis, as required by the ultra-Orthodox rabbinate. While there are women on its board of directors, its public face is strictly male, and the two sexes are not allowed to mix at its events.

To be sure, not all sectors of the ultra-Orthodox community support these exclusionary tactics, explains Nachman Ben-Yehuda, a Hebrew University sociology professor and author of the recently published book Theocratic Democracy. “But most people are too afraid to speak out.”

www.nif.org January 10, 2012
To:Minister of HealthPrime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu
[...] The fact that the Ministry of Health finances the activities of Puah Institute and supervises it makes it directly responsibility for the discriminatory, abusive, and exclusionary conduct of the group. It requires you to act immediately against it. The Ministry of Health has the authority and the capacity to ensure that the attacks on women and women’s freedom do not take place, and that women are allowed on stage, as experts and lecturers on the subject.

By Jeremy Sharon www.jpost.com January 13, 2012

Culture and Sport Minister Limor Livnat told the Ministry of Religious Services on Wednesday that it has two weeks to finalize amendments to the guidelines for burial procedures, to prevent the exclusion of women from giving eulogies at funerals.

At the committee hearing on Wednesday, a letter signed by the director-general of the Ministry of Religious Services, Avigdor Ohana, was presented in which he said clearly that burial societies were obligated to allow women who wished to give eulogies to do so.

...However, in a legal review presented by the ministry’s legal adviser at Wednesday’s hearing, the Ministry stated that it has “no real authority or ability” to enforce Ohana’s directive that burial societies are obligated to allow women to give eulogies if they so wish.

By Mordechai I. Twersky www.haaretz.com January 13, 2012

Plia Oryah, a 19-year-old Modi'in native, is among several parties to a December 29 petition asking Israel's Supreme Court to compel Ashkenazi Chief Rabbi Yona Metzger, Religious Services Minister Yaakov Margi, and the Office of the Chief Rabbinate to reverse official directives to municipal and regional ritual bath operators.

The directives explicitly deny access to women who are single, divorced or widowed.

By Rabbi Shlomo Brody Opinion www.jpost.com January 15, 2012
The writer, online editor of Tradition and its blog, Text & Texture text.rcarabbis.org , teaches at Yeshivat Hakotel.

Should Israeli law permit civil marriage? The answer is yes because, given all of the non-ideal options, it is the most likely to help this country become a more Jewish and a more democratic state.

To my mind, allowing for civil marriage would remove much of the animosity created by religious coercion and instead facilitate more meaningful religious experiences for those who would continue to choose a rabbinic wedding. According to surveys, 80 percent of secular couples eligible to halachically marry would opt for a religious wedding, even if they had a civil alternative.

The choice would become a meaningful decision of Jewish identity that would be further strengthened by a rabbinate forced to provide premaritial counseling and wedding ceremonies that are both halachic and meaningful.

It behooves us to forsake the empty symbolism created by state-mandated religious coercion and replace it with substantive Jewish identity.

By Joanna Paraszczuk www.jpost.com January 1, 2012

The High Court of Justice denied a petition filed by author Yoram Kaniuk asking that citizens have the right to be recorded as having “no religion” in the population registry.

Kaniuk asked justices to order the Interior Ministry to accept official registrationstatements or affidavits prepared by a lawyer as official public documents declaring a citizen’s status as “no religion” for the purpose of the population registry.

By Lahav Harkov www.jpost.com January 10, 2012

Jewish people from around the world joined a Knesset meeting titled “A new paradigm for relations between Israel and the Jewish people” on Tuesday, as webinar technology was used in the Knesset for the first time.

MK Haim Amsalem, a rabbi and the author of a book on the Jewish laws of conversion, said the chief rabbinate’s current policies are stricter than necessary and have “almost closed the door” for those with one Jewish parent who want to join the Jewish people.

By Rabbi Reuven Hammer Opinion www.jpost.com January 13, 2012
The writer is former president of the International Rabbinical Assembly

In 2010 the Israeli Chief Rabbinate decided to require documents proving the Jewishness of one’s mother, grandmother, great-grandmother and great-great-grandmother when applying for marriage. Needless to say this is a near impossibility for most people. Is this really Jewish law?

Many immigrants who claim to be Jewish have difficulty proving it to the satisfaction of the chief rabbinate because of the lack of reliable documentation.

By Rabbi Yehoshua Looks Opinion www.haaretz.com January 15, 2012
Rabbi Yehoshua Looks is Managing Director of HaOhel Institutions in Jerusalem, now launching a new venture, Threshold, fostering Jewish Educational Entrepreneurship.

Rabbi Isser Yehuda Unterman, Chief Ashkenazi Rabbi of Israel from 1964-1973, worked to reform the rabbinic court system to make it more open to secular Israelis.

A woman once extended her hand to Rabbi Unterman and he immediately shook it. He later made it a point to explain, “Don’t think that I am lax on not touching women. I am stringent on respect for all humanity.”

By Arie Hasit Opinion www.haaretz.com January 12, 2012
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.

If Israel strives to be a model for Jewish communities throughout the world—and despite its failures, it certainly should—Israel should be the breeding ground for new, pluralistic Jewish communities in the style of Hillel.

New York Jewish Week Editorial www.thejewishweek.com January 10, 2012

But on another front, that of the Israeli domestic scene, there are signs that recent attacks by Jews on other Jews — on soldiers at an IDF army base, and on youngsters attending a school in Beit Shemesh — may have reached a trigger point, shocking citizens and leaders into positive action.

Like the famous Peter Finch character in “Network,” the fictional TV anchor Howard Beale, Israelis seem to be saying they’re “mad as hell and they’re not going to take this anymore.”

www.momentmag.com January/February 2012 Moment Symposium
Anat Hoffman is the executive director of the Religious Action Center and chair of Women of the Wall.
"It has to do with the three Ws: wealth, wisdom and work. To be a pro-Israel diaspora Jew, you must find a balance between them."

By Daniel Tauber Opinion www.haaretz.com January 13, 2012
Daniel Tauber, a new immigrant from New York, is an attorney admitted to practice law in New York and Israel.

In short, young American Jews, as well as those from other English-speaking countries, are more open to aliyah than ever before.

This is an opportunity that the Jewish Agency and the State of Israel need to take advantage of.

They should be offering new programs to attract these young people, and increasing funding for absorption programs meant to ease the cultural and psychological shock-and-awe of leaving one of the wealthiest countries in the world for Israel and its bureaucracy-laden absorption process.

www.jewishjournal.com January 9, 2012

The issue today has become more acute. Not because the religious, the Haredim, the Masortim and the secular are unable to live together.

But because the extremists, even though only few, are seeking to undermine the togetherness.
I am aware that they are the extreme margin, and believe that the majority of Haredi, Dati-Leumi and secular communities seek to live together in a spirit of mutual respect, tolerance and brotherhood. And to each their way of life.

By Steve Klein www.haaretz.com January 6, 2012

A group of young men and women on the first ever Taglit-Birthright baseball trip in Israel are sparking interest in the game as some of them prepare for a shot at making the 2012 World Baseball Classic with the Israel national team.

David Leichman, an IAB board member who organized the initiative with Birthright. A Jewish educator who has worked with many Birthright groups, Leichman said the goal is to get the word out about Israel’s participation in the World Baseball Classic and possibly recruit Jewish ballplayers from abroad.

He explained that according to WBC rules, a player can play for any country where he is eligible for citizenship.

By Rachel Marder JointMedia News Service www.jpost.com January 15, 2012

Rosenblum says it’s time for Israelis to take on greater fiscal responsibility for societal needs, and Israelis are seeing a need to maintain a strong stake in their changing and growing communities.

That’s why he started the apolitical Takdim foundation (“precedent” in English), in partnership with the Ramat Hasharon municipality, a suburb of Tel Aviv, to work with Israelis on giving for the sake of “mutual responsibility” and tikkun olam (repairing the world).

By Rachel Marder www.jpost.com January 12, 2012

The Nitzanim preschool, which opened this fall with 20 students, is the first educational program in Jerusalem for children of foreign workers and asylum-seekers, says Udi Cohen, the director of the Reform Movement’s preschool program based at Hebrew Union College. The children of Nitzanim, ages three to six, come from Ethiopia, Eritrea, the Congo, the Philippines and Korea.

As a Reform institution, the preschool teaches Jewish content and leads religious services, but Cohen says it is careful in the Nitzanim class not to push Jewish ideology or practice on the non-Jewish pupils. The class celebrates Shabbat, Rosh Hodesh (the new month) and other holidays because these are central to Israel’s calendar, but Nitzanim doesn’t engage in regular prayer time.

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