Tuesday, February 28, 2012

Religion and State in Israel - February 27, 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 Yair Ettinger and Gili Cohen www.haaretz.com February 22, 2012

Israel’s High Court of Justice ruled on Tuesday that the law that allows full-time yeshiva students to defer army service is unconstitutional. The Knesset will not be able to renew it in its present form.

In theory, the ruling should require the state to draft around 62,000 yeshiva students and ultra-Orthodox youths this August, on top of 7,000 yeshiva students who serve according to the Tal Law’s stipulations. 

But a more likely scenario is that the ruling will force the Knesset to recraft the law, or the Defense Ministry will offer a new deal to Haredi men. 

In any case, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s coalition may be rocked by the ruling.
  *Special edition on Tal Law Supreme Court decision coming soon

Haaretz Editorial www.haaretz.com February 22, 2012

The Tel Aviv city council’s request for approval for public transportation on Shabbat is correct and courageous. 

Residents of greater Tel Aviv deserve this basic service. The argument that providing public transportation on the Sabbath and holidays would harm the religious status quo is an exaggeration and unfair.

JPost.com Editorial www.jpost.com February 21, 2012

If a poll were conducted, the vast majority of Tel Aviv’s residents would probably vote in favor of public transportation on Shabbat.

A nationwide poll conducted in 2010 by the Smith Institute for Hiddush, an organization fighting for separation of state and religion, found that 63 percent of Israelis favored public transportation on Shabbat, including 93% of secular Israelis.

Nevertheless, permitting public transportation in Tel Aviv – dubbed “the first Hebrew city” – would mark a deviation from tradition as enshrined in the status quo.

By Kobi Nahshoni www.ynetnews.com February 21, 2012

Tel Aviv's chief rabbi, Yisrael Meir Lau, asked Mayor Ron Huldai on Tuesday to reverse the city council's decision to seek a Transportation Ministry permit to run buses on Shabbat, Ynet reported.

Lau said he was filled with a deep sense of "pain and disappointment" upon learning of the decision and called on Huldai to follow in the footsteps of past mayors who "did not allow the candle of Shabbat to burn out."

By Hagai Segal Opinion www.ynetnews.com February 25, 2012

Even those who are completely secular in their own homes are supposed to understand that public behavior on Shabbat in the State of Israel cannot be the same as the public behavior overseas.

A Jewish (and democratic, of course) state cannot go hand in hand with the mass movement of buses on Shabbat and Jewish holidays.

Should Tel Aviv become like Geneva and Givataim turn into Paris, what was the point of all the effort?

By Ben Hartman www.jpost.com February 22, 2012

Deputy Mayor Asaf Zamir: "Driving is permitted on the Sabbath so the only people who are affected by the lack of buses are those who don't own cars and find themselves confined to their homes on Shabbat," Zamir said, two days after the Tel Aviv City Council voted 13-7 to ask the Transportation Ministry for permission to operate public transport systems on Shabbat.

By Jeremy Sharon www.jpost.com February 22, 2012

The Tzohar national-religious rabbinical association also called on the municipality to refrain from damaging Israel’s Jewish character without a broad public debate.

“Because we live together, and the importance of maintaining the state's Jewish character, I believe that any decision that affects all residents – religious and secular – needs to be made through public discussion and consensus rather than unilateral action,” said Tzohar chairman Rabbi David Stav.

Rabbi Uri Regev, director of the Hiddush religious freedom lobbying group, said the transportation minister should “respond to the will of the public, and not surrender to pressure from the haredi [political] parties.”

By Daniel Schmil www.haaretz.com February 22, 2012

The proposal to allow public transportation to operate in the city on Shabbat, approved on Monday by the Tel Aviv city council, was hedged so highly with qualifiers that buses are unlikely to leave their garage on Friday evening and Saturday.

By Yair Ettinger www.haaretz.com February 22, 2012

Ultra-Orthodox politicians refused to be daunted Tuesday by the Tel Aviv city council’s resolution to sanction buses on Shabbat, saying the move would be defeated soon enough.

Deputy Mayor Naftali Lubert (United Torah Judaism) called the decision “cheap, Meretz spin,” referring to the left-wing party. He said he couldn’t be bothered to threaten to leave the city coalition.

City that never sleeps (Tel Aviv), Mayor Huldai, Infidel Bus Lines (קווי חולין)
©Haaretz cartoon by Eran Wolkowski - February 22, 2012

By Shmuel Rosner Opinion www.jewishjournal.com February 23, 2012

Leaving the numbers aside for a moment, here are some possible conclusions and speculations that can be entertained in light of this new data:
1. If you’re one of those panicked over the strengthening of the Israeli Haredi community, you might want to reconsider.

2. If you’re a Conservative or a Reform leader, tired of hearing that these streams have no way of succeeding in Israel – here’s your window of opportunity, opened wide.

3. Commitment does matter, a lot. Having many self-defined Conservative and Reform Israelis is probably nice, but it will not be truly important if the number of practicing Conservative and Reform Israelis doesn’t significantly grow.

4. The old formula of dividing Israelis into “religious” and “secular” with some “traditionalists” in the middle is losing relevance. There’s a center of moderates. An important silent center of moderates that needs to be heard. Variations are many, but old clichés are hard to die.

By Rabbi MK Haim Amsalem Opinion www.jpost.com February 23, 2012
The author is a Knesset member, an ordained rabbi and the founder and chairman of the Am Shalem movement. www.amshalem.org/en/

Today’s Chief Rabbinate is under the strong influence of extreme and anti-Zionist organizations and political parties that act with animosity instead of love, as if it were created to provide people with religious burdens instead of religious services.

This approach is foreign to the Jewish tradition passed to us from community rabbis throughout the generations, including the original chief rabbis of Israel. They strove to demonstrate love to all Jews and tried to share the beauty of Judaism with everyone.

...The time has come for Israeli citizens to demand this radical shift, and I hope to lead the charge toward this change in the next Knesset. When this transformation takes place, it will change the face of Israel and Judaism worldwide, with the restoration of unity and Jewish and Zionist pride.

By Ariel Beery Opinion http://blogs.timesofisrael.com February 22, 2012
Ariel Beery is the co-founder and co-director of the PresenTense Group

[We] need to transition from the current set of Rabbinical institutions — which sow the seeds of hatred and division — into a new set of institutions that strengthen the connection between the People of Israel and the Tradition of Israel.

The most promising proposal I have heard focuses on the recognition of the local character of tradition that already exists, and strengthening that localization by devolving power to the municipalities and the people of Israel.

This proposal starts with the assumption that the relationship between tradition and politics in Israel will never be like that in the United States, in that the Jews were always both a tradition and a people, maintaining both a religion and a polity.

Instead, the State of Israel should learn from European states — and more particularly, and ironically, the current system in Germany, where each individual is empowered through their contributions to the State to determine who will oversee their traditional affairs.

By Yair Ettinger www.haaretz.com February 28, 2012

Speaking to an audience consisting mainly of settlers, [IDF Chief Rabbi Rafi] Peretz defended the new IDF orders obliging religious soldiers to take part in official ceremonies, even if they consist of women singing. 

The orders, which Peretz had participated in drafting, exempt these soldiers from attending unofficial events, intended mostly for entertainment.

[Rabbi Eliezer Melamed, head of the West Bank Har Bracha yeshiva], who has been castigating Peretz for weeks over his approach to religion in the IDF and even called for his resignation, said that while he supports military service for religious men, "if there's a halakhic [Jewish religious law] problem, they must refuse [to obey orders]."

By Kobi Nachshoni www.ynetnews.com February 28, 2012

Rabbi Eliezer Melamed, head of the Har Bracha Yeshiva:
"Religious soldiers can't follow the halacha laws properly in the army. They are forced to change their way of life. It's a problem for a God-fearing man to serve in the IDF today. They tell him that commands come before his conscience," the rabbi said.

By Akiva Novick www.ynetnews.com February 27, 2012

Dozens of senior IDF officers, air force pilots, and elite unit troops are getting that little extra spiritual push that helps them get through the tough exercises and combat training: A five minute daily phone-in Torah lesson via conference call.

March 5, 2012 - 20:45 – 21:15 Panel: The Orthodox Woman’s Voice - Orthodox Women Speak
Participants: Prof. Tzvia Greenfield, Rachelie Ibenboim – CEO of the Organisation Meir Panim
Moderator: Tali Farkash

March 6, 2012 21:30 – 22:00 Panel: Kiddushin, Marriage and What’s in Between
Participants: Prof. Haviva Pedaya, Alon Abutbul, Moderator: Adv. Batya Kahana Dror

By Jonah Rank Opinion http://blogs.timesofisrael.com February 24, 2012

Between the 7 men standing with me in the men’s section of the Kotel and the men standing behind the women’s section, Women of the Wall had over a minyan’s worth of male allies today.

I wonder just how many other male allies we had at the Wall. I suspect that some of the strictly dark dress I saw today could never give away how much sympathy towards the Women of the Wall actually is felt by some of the quieter folks in the men’s section.

By Amanda Borschel-Dan www.timesofisrael.com February 26, 2012

It’s a story about tension, identity and dialogue. About living on the borders of a culture, yet still navigating within them. About negotiating, pushing back, and yes, acceptance. 

Its tale is particular, yet so universal that scholars and laymen all over the world are picking up Elana Sztokman’s new work, “The Men’s Section: Orthodox Jewish Men in an Egalitarian World.”

By Liz Nord Opinion http://ejewishphilanthropy.com February 26, 2012

Of all the important facets of the current “Battle for Jerusalem,” this one speaks to me the loudest, and it turns out that one of my original characters, City Councilwoman Rachel Azaria, is right in the middle of it.

Rachel is a Modern Orthodox Jew herself and has used her position on City Council to oppose Haredi gender segregation practices to the detriment of her own career.

I recently realized that not only is Rachel’s story a great metaphor for the larger story of Jerusalem today, but it’s a story that speaks to women struggling for equality everywhere.

Suddenly, the film was not only about the battle of my protagonists, but my battle as a Jewish woman, and one that I’ve been fighting since my Bat Mitzvah in an Orthodox shul where girls weren’t allowed to daven with the Torah and were relegated to leading Havdallah services.

By Nathan Jeffay http://forward.com February 28, 2012

Even as Orthodox women take on clergy-like roles, the task of interpreting Jewish law has long been the exclusive domain of men. But a new group called Beit Hillel aims to bring down that barrier.

An alliance of 120 Orthodox rabbis and 30 female religious scholars, Beit Hillel was formed to counter the increasingly hard line that rabbis in the religious Zionist community are taking against women in official religious roles.

The group’s formation, in February, paves the way for Jewish legal positions formulated by women to be issued under the names of leading Modern Orthodox rabbis.

By Lawrence Grossman www.forward.com February 26, 2012
Book Review: Pledges of Jewish Allegiance: Conversion, Law, and Policy-making in Nineteenth- and Twentieth-Century Orthodox ResponsaBy David Ellenson and Daniel Gordis Stanford University Press
And here lies a great irony. 

Two non-Orthodox scholars analyze the Orthodox legal tradition on conversion, in the hope that showing how strongly it has been influenced by public-policy considerations will aid those who seek to interpret Jewish law in a way that strengthens the Jewish people.

But those Orthodox rabbis who currently make decisions on conversion do not care what anyone outside Orthodoxy thinks, nor do they acknowledge that extralegal considerations influence their own stand, since they consider their restrictive rulings objective applications of the law. 

Sadly, this book will convince only those who need no convincing.

By Alex Sinclair Opinion www.haaretz.com February 24, 2012
Dr. Alex Sinclair is director of programs in Israel Education for the Jewish Theological Seminary.

Rather than seeing Israel education as a purely American issue, in which the role of the American Jew is "to be impacted" by Israel, this new definition envisions it as a dialogical enterprise, which will create opportunities for American Jews and Israelis to influence and be influenced by each other.

The Israel education agenda must evolve in the light of this understanding.

By Stephen Kuperberg Opinion http://blogs.timesofisrael.com February 21, 2012
Stephen Kuperberg is executive director of the Israel on Campus Coalition

As it turns out, Beinart was dead wrong: wrong in the facts, and wrong in the interpretation. 

In an interview in the Israel Campus Beat, Leonard Saxe, who directs the Steinhardt Social Research Institute and Cohen Center for Modern Jewish Studies at Brandeis University, called Beinart “an ignorant consumer of research on American Jewish attitudes to Israel,” adding — not for the first time — “The bottom line is that Beinart is wrong about the facts. 

His thesis of how politics drives American attachment is a straw person, not sustained by evidence.”

By Steven M. Cohen Opinion http://ejewishphilanthropy.com February 24, 2012
Steven M. Cohen, research professor of Jewish Social Policy at Hebrew Union College-Jewish Institute of Religion and director of the Berman Jewish Policy Archive at NYU Wagner.

Accordingly, few Jews who are disturbed by Israel can properly be seen as distant from Israel, let alone anti-Israel. 

If such were not the case, then we’d have to regard most of the writers for Ha’aretz as distant from Israel … and even an occasional columnist for The Jerusalem Post

Rather, the distressed and disturbed, North American Jews who are critical of Israeli leader and policies are actually very close to Israel, with a good number having spent long periods in Israel on Masa-sponsored programs over the years.

By Mordechai I. Twersky www.haaretz.com February 24, 2012

Roman's presentation was one of scores delivered by representatives of Israel's immigrant community, on a day when the Knesset devoted a series of hearings to elicit views of Israel's contentious legislative body and the efficacy of its parliamentary system.

By Janete Cozer Aharon and Amanda Borschel-Dan www.timesofisrael.com February 24, 2012

On February 15, Moshe celebrated his 100th birthday, and he still radiates optimism. He is full of energy and continues to plan for the future.

In March he will make aliya, and he plans to live happily ever after with his children and their extended families.

By Anav Silverman www.ynetnews.com February 27, 2012

A class of 33 eighth grade students from Hebrew University High School (Leyada) in Jerusalem greeted the oldest couple to make aliyah in the history of Israel earlier this month.

The Israeli students, aged thirteen to fourteen years old; many with parents or grandparents who happened to have made aliyah, have spent the past two months studying aliyah in a special class project about olim from the early stages of the Yishuv to modern day Israel.

By Dan Brown Opinion http://ejewishphilanthropy.com February 26, 2012

The morning meeting was notable on several fronts, including the recognition by many of the speakers of the “elephant in the room” as related to recent media criticism of JAFI. In fact, in his opening remarks, Natan Sharansky – JAFI’s chair of the executive – addressed the issue head on by stating “the Jewish Agency is about Aliyah.” 

Turning around recent media stories, Sharansky added, “as to the articles in the press about our strategic plan, I’m glad people are finally paying attention!”

By Nadav Shemer www.jpost.com February 26, 2012

Taglit-Birthright Israel has contributed more than NIS 2 billion to the Israeli economy since its inception in 2000, the organization said Sunday in an announcement timed to coincide with the peak of its winter season.

www.globes.co.il February 27, 2012

Noble Energy Inc. yesterday announced that it has joined the Jewish Agency Youth Futures program, which supports disadvantaged children and children at risk in Israel's periphery. Noble Energy's $2 million donation targets programs in four towns: Beersheva, Ofakim, Lod, and Safed.

www.juf.org February 23, 2012

In a show of continued support of religious diversity in Israel, the Jewish United Fund of Metropolitan Chicago has made $332,000 in grants for 2012, to fund six new and 10 ongoing programs within Israel's liberal and transdenominational religious movements.

Of the total, Progressive (Reform) movement programs will receive $110,000; Conservative movement programs - split between the Masorti movement and the Schechter Institute - will receive $116,000; and Modern Orthodox and Transdenominational programs will receive $106,000.

By Aviva Lori www.haaretz.com February 22, 2012

With Galia, it was Judaism that entered the ideological vacuum that was created. "I was at the commune and we were counselors at the seminars on Zionism and Judaism," Galia recalls. "That was where we met the counselors from the Reform Movement. I visited Lotan, the Reform movement's kibbutz in the Arava, and I made connections with people there."

...In the meantime, I did my rabbinical studies at the Hebrew Union College in Jerusalem."
Since being ordained in 2003, she has been the rabbi at Beit Daniel in Tel Aviv. She is responsible for the congregation's 200 families, she conducts marriage ceremonies and bar mitzvahs, does conversions and is in charge of the Reform Movement's rabbinical council in Israel.

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