Monday, May 21, 2012

Religion and State in Israel - May 21, 2012

May 21, 2012
Editor – Joel Katz
Religion and State in Israel is not affiliated with any organization or movement.

JTA May 16, 2012

A female Reform rabbi took her place on the religious council of Mevasseret Zion, a suburb of Jerusalem.

Rabbi Alona Lisitsa said she did not feel hostility from the rest of the representatives — all Orthodox — of the local religious council, according to reports.

The Reform Mevasseret Zion Congregation put forth Lisitsa’s name to join the council nearly a year ago.
The appointment was delayed in the Religious Affairs Ministry, until the courts got involved and ordered the ministry to approve the appointment. 

The community’s population is mixed secular-religious.

By Revital Hovel May 15, 2012

The Haifa District Court on Tuesday rejected an appeal submitted by Professor Uzzi Ornan, who sought to compel Israel's Interior Ministry to recognize his citizenship based on the fact that he was born in Israel, rather than on the grounds that he was Jewish.

Ornan, a linguist and member of the Academy of the Hebrew Language, who is also the founder of the League against Religious Coercion in Israel, petitioned the Interior Ministry in 2010 to recognize him as an Israeli, not on grounds of being Jewish but because he was born in Israel.

By Lahav Harkov May 16, 2012

The Knesset voted down a bill on Wednesday that would allow same-sex and interfaith couples to wed.

The legislation, proposed by MK Nitzan Horowitz (Meretz), would open the option of civil marriages for those who may not be wed according to Halacha (Jewish law), as well as those who choose not to be married by the Chief Rabbinate. 

It was rejected, with 39 MKs opposed and 11 in favor.

By Elli Fischer Opinion May 15, 2012

[B]y insisting on holding onto a very thin slice of governmental power, the rabbinate dooms itself to a much more profound irrelevance and contempt.

By winning the marriage battle, it loses the much broader war for the hearts and minds of Jews. Instating a civil option will, hopefully, help rehabilitate the image and restore the relevance of halakha to broader Jewish life in Israel.

By Jeremy Sharon May 17, 2012

The Rackman Center for the Advancement of the Status of Women at Bar-Ilan University on Wednesday held a conference on promoting the use of prenuptial agreements compatible with Jewish law.

The agreement presents a multi-layered approach to solve the problem of men who refuse to give their wives a bill of divorce, or get, thereby conferring upon them the status of an aguna – and preventing them from getting remarried and having children.

By Greer Fay Cashman May 17, 2012

Rackman Center director Prof. Ruth Halperin-Kaddari said the status of women in Israel has remained much the same for the past decade, though in some respects it has also worsened.

“While Israel considers itself a progressive democracy, this can’t be said for the sphere of family law,” she told Shapiro and BIU President Prof. Moshe Kaveh. 

Halperin-Kaddari is the only Israeli member of the United Nations Committee for the Elimination of Discrimination against Women (CEDAW).

By Haim Handwerker May 20, 2012

[I]n the World Baseball Classic regulations there is a "heritage provision" which allows anyone entitled to citizenship in a given country to also play for it.

This World Baseball Classic provision makes it possible for every Jew to play on the Israeli team, by virtue of the Law of Return. Taking advantage of this opportunity, Kurz has invited a number of outstanding American former major league baseball players to join the team. So far, three have accepted...

By Melanie Lidman May 13, 2012

The Kiryat Hayovel neighborhood in Jerusalem will be the future site of a secular yeshiva and pre-army program, the Jerusalem municipality announced on Sunday in the latest step of the neighborhood saga that has pitted ultra-Orthodox residents against secular and national-religious residents.

Jerusalem Mayor Nir Barkat announced that the Warburg compound in the neighborhood will not be dedicated to haredi educational institutions, as had been decided by the previous mayor, Uri Lupoliansky, who is haredi.

Levinson was quick to point out that the secular yeshiva’s new location is not meant to be antagonistic to Kiryat Hayovel’s haredi population, and that the institution also attracts haredi participants at some programs.

By Nir Hasson May 20, 2012

Jerusalem's secular residents have won an important victory in an ongoing battle against ultra-Orthodox groups over the fate of an open field in Kiryat Hayovel. 

Mayor Nir Barkat announced last week that the contested tract of land in the southwestern neighborhood of the capital would be used for a yeshiva - a secular yeshiva, that is.

The large barren field in Kiryat Hayovel has, in recent years, turned into a flashpoint between secular and ultra-Orthodox groups. 

The neighborhood has become a symbol of secular opposition to the increasingly Haredi character of Israel's capital.

By Nir Hasson May 17, 2012

After 15 consecutive years of declining enrollment in Jerusalem's secular public schools, this year 109 more children were enrolled in the city's secular elementary schools than last year.

The change is negligible in a city the size of Jerusalem, but secular people hope it signals a trend.
Rabbi Uri Ayalon says last year's uptick in the number of secular children in the school system does not surprise him.

"There is no doubt the secular population is beginning to raise its head. They feel less oppressed. People want to be with winners. The moment they feel, 'my people are here,' and not because they have no choice, it has an impact," he says.

By Rabbi Uri Regev Opinion May 15, 2012
Rabbi Uri Regev is the president of Hiddush — Freedom of Religion for Israel

Now is the time for American Jewry to realize that change can happen. You can contribute by demonstrating your desire for an Israel that lives up to a vision of religious freedom and equality and stops the delegation to second-class status not only of women, but also Reform and Conservative Jews, and many Jews by Choice.

Now is the time to offer support to the organizations and movements working to realize this vision, to raise a clear and unequivocal voice in communicating to Netanyahu: It is high time for religious freedom and equality for Jews in Israel.

By Rachel Azaria Opinion May 18, 2012

How can it be possible, you're probably asking, that the need to spare men embarrassment, or the possibility of being attracted to a woman, justifies taking a chance on women's lives?

It's an excellent question. No less significant is the question of why the Jerusalem municipality - including the city's secular mayor - would cooperate with this travesty.

How is it possible that signs promoting a walk for breast cancer awareness include not a single word about that disease.

By Allison Kaplan Sommer May 15, 2012

The head of the Kfar Sava Women’s Council reacted with fury after it was revealed that a decision had been made by the city ‘youth council’ which organizes the event, to ban girls from singing solo, at the request of the national-religious youth movement B’nai Akiva, which said it would not participate in the event if female singing voices were part of it.

Rabbi Uri Ayalon: “There must be no negotiation or compromise when it comes to equality of the sexes.”

By Jeremy Sharon May 20, 2012

The Matan Women’s Institute for Torah Studies, a respected and popular religious seminary, has announced that it will be closing its flagship course in Talmudic studies due to a shortfall in funds.

A statement from Matan said that budgetary constraints resulting from the global economic downturn meant that it could no longer afford to run the course and finance the stipends.

Students on the current course will be able to finish their third and final year of study next year but unless more funds are forthcoming, the program will close after that.

By Mordechai I. Twersky May 18, 2012

We hoped that our start-up support would enable the Institute to continue to operate without Avi Chai's funding, and such was the case until recently," Eli Silver, Avi Chai-Israel's executive director, said in a statement released to Haaretz, noting its $1.5 million in grants to the institute through 2005.

"A three-year program for a 12-person cohort is a significant investment in a relatively small number of program participants," Epstein says of Matan's Talmudic institute. 

As Avi Chai winds down it operations, Epstein predicts the Matan case "does portend a painful scenario that will be repeated each year until the 2020 Avi Chai sunset."

The following statement has been issued by Matan – The Women’s Institute for Torah Studies, following reports in multiple publications of the closing of the Advanced Talmudic Institute.

By Yehudah Mirsky Opinion May 17, 2012

The current status quo has endured thanks to an unholy alliance of Haredi and secular politicians, who scratch each other's backs, and get each off the hook from having critically to engage their own Jewishness.

Haredi politicians like having friends in the secular political class, who enjoy looking tolerant vis-à-vis Haredi colleagues, and who no longer quite believe in their own values.

Some knowledgeable observers think that once the dust settles, nothing will have changed, and they may be right.   But is it too much to hope that the coming months might see something more?

By Nehemia Shtrasler Opinion May 15, 2012

[Housing and Construction Minister Ariel] Atias’ torpedoing the agreement is part of a struggle the housing minister is waging to have most of the affordable apartments (about 5,000 all told ) earmarked for the Haredi community.

Atias did this by unilaterally setting the criteria for distributing the apartments. He decided that the primary criterion for participating in tenders for the cost-price "mehir lemishtaken" apartments, for which the government discounts the land by 50 percent, will be years of marriage.

By Moshe Raveh Opinion May 16, 2012
The writer is a professor and the president of Bar-Ilan University.

The Council for Higher Education in Israel, under the leadership of its Planning and Budgeting Committee chairman, Prof. Manuel Trajtenberg, has drawn up a comprehensive plan to make higher education accessible to the ultra-Orthodox public by opening macharim (haredi frameworks) that aim to reach a target of 27,000 ultra-Orthodox students, ultimately amounting to 9 percent of the entire student population – a representation similar to that of the haredi sector within the population as a whole.

By Jeremy Sharon May 15, 2012

About 70 percent of young haredi students see themselves spending an extended amount of time engaged in religious studies in yeshiva, according to research conducted by the Industry, Trade and Labor Ministry.

Between 15-40% of respondents, depending on stream, said they would only limit their time in yeshiva upon getting married, in order to learn a profession or enter an institute of higher learning to gain a foothold in the job market.

By Hila Weisberg May 15, 2012

Between 25% and 30% of unmarried yeshiva students aged between 17 and 20 do not foresee devoting their futures mainly to religious study, according to a poll commissioned by the Industry, Trade and Labor Ministry and conducted by two researchers who study the ultra-Orthodox community.

By Jeremy Sharon May 13, 2012

Haredi news website Tzofar published an op-ed on Friday titled “Take out Yaron London” in response to an article by London in the Yediot Aharonot daily asking what efforts could be made to reduce the amount of haredim in Israeli society.

By Tzipi Malchov May 13, 2012

During the meeting, Deputy Mayor Yitzhak Pindros and Councilman Yaakov Halperin were opposed to inviting renowned Israeli singer Yardena Arazi to perform at the annual Yakir Yerushalayim (Worthy Citizen of Jerusalem) awards.

The ceremony is set to take place on Jerusalem Day at the Tower of David adjacent to the Old City and the Jaffa Gate.

By Nati Tucker May 14, 2012

Journalists from the ultra-Orthodox radio station Kol Chai have set up a workers' committee and joined a new journalists' organization that operates under the auspices of the Histadrut labor federation.

By Yair Ettinger May 15, 2012

A rabbinical judge who has been accused of bribery and refusing to compel abusive husbands to grant their wives a divorce has recently been appointed head of the Jerusalem Rabbinical Court, one of the country's largest and most important Jewish religious courts.

Sephardi Chief Rabbi Shlomo Amar appointed Rabbi Yisrael Yifrah to the post despite receiving complaints about Yifrah that had prompted him to remove the rabbi from the list of candidates for the Great Rabbinical Court.

By Maya Epstein May 10, 2012

Thus, eighty-one percent of ultra-orthodox surfers say they watch videos online. They also report blogging more often than secular or merely "observant" Jews.

Religious Israelis are the most active group in terms of uploading videos, with 29 percent saying they do so, compared with 19 percent of secular Israelis.

By Joanna Paraszczuk May 13, 2012

In 2005, before his contract at the ministry ended, Bilik allegedly took a copy of the stolen data to a haredi organization in Jerusalem, where he provided database services connected with the organization’s donors.

By Ruth Eglash May 15, 2012

A course launched last month to train haredi male counselors how to work with sexually abused children in their community indicates a new willingness to address an issue that was once considered taboo.

“The whole approach to this is different for haredim than for secular people,” said Tali Shlomi, director of Knowledge, Technology and Resources at Haruv...

By Asher Zeiger May 17, 2012

Giving a lesson recently on the laws of the Sabbath, Rabbi Ovadia Yosef, the spiritual leader of Shas and former Sephardi chief rabbi, ruled that the laws are different regarding Jews and gentiles in terms of violating the Sabbath to save a life. May 17, 2012

What should religious doctors do if a gentile is injured in a car accident on Shabbat and is rushed to the hospital? According to Rabbi Ovadia Yosef, this does not warrant violating the sanctity of the Sabbath.

By Aviad Glickman May 17, 2012

Two men were charged on Thursday with assaulting a 70-year-old woman due to what they believed was her involvement in a pedophile ring that operated in a Jerusalem neighborhood, Ynet reported.

According to data from the Jerusalem Municipality, in the 2011-2012 academic year the city’s municipal educational system has 224,650 students. Of these, 43% attend Haredi educational institutions...

Among students in grades 7-12 (middle and high school), a total of 37% receive a Haredi education, 33% receive a municipal Arab education, and 30% receive a state or state-religious education.

By Noah Klieger May 16, 2012

Some 30 descendants of the Templars, a Protestant sect of German origin of that settled in Israel in the mid-1800s, arrived in the Jewish state from Germany recently for an emotional reunion, Yedioth Ahronoth reported.

The group, which was hosted by the Schechter Institute of Jewish Studies, convened at the same building that housed the Templar center centuries ago, located in Tel Aviv's Neve Tzedek neighborhood. 

Members of the Temple Society believed that inhabiting and working the Holy Land will bring forth the savior.

By Nir Hasson May 16, 2012

On a stand at the book fair in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia about two months ago was a sign advertising the first translation in history of the Babylonian Talmud into Arabic.

The huge project, which sparked debate in Saudi Arabia over the propriety of advertising the sale of Jewish religious literature in a Muslim country, was the work of a Jordanian research institute.

By Itamar Marlios May 19, 2012

A group of some 90 Jordanian researchers has spent six long years translating the entire Talmud into Arabic – an echo of Rabbi Adin Steinsaltz, who labored 45 years translating the Babylonian Talmud from Aramaic into Hebrew.

By Yori Yalon May 16, 2012

In 1999, only 5.8% of new immigrants chose to make their homes in Jerusalem. In 2005, the number jumped to 12% and in 2010 a record 15% preferred the holy city as their place of residence. In comparison, only 6% of immigrants chose Tel Aviv in 2010 and only 5.5% chose Haifa.

By Rabbi Shlomo Brody May 17, 2012

Since 1948, religious Zionists have debated how to religiously celebrate our national sovereignty. Among rabbis and laypeople alike, there remains a strong sense that beyond outdoor hikes and barbecues, we must manifest our joy and gratitude in religious expression.

By Andrew Esensten May 18, 2012

The first issue of Torah Tidbits - the weekly "parsha pamphlet" produced for the Anglo community by the Orthodox Union's Jerusalem center - appeared in 1992 in two Jerusalem synagogues. It was a single piece of paper with a dvar Torah on one side and announcements on the other.

The 1,000th issue, which can be found this Shabbat in nearly 500 synagogues in Israel, as well as online at, is a full-color booklet with an aliyah-by-aliyah summary of the week's Torah portion, commentaries from rabbis, event notices, mazel tovs, advertisements and more.

By Eli Ashkenazi May 20, 2012

On Shabbat morning two weeks ago Rabbi Gavriel Marzel, the assistant of the Chabad Tzemach Tzedek synagogue in the Old City of Safed, discovered that six Torah scrolls had been stolen. The same thing had happened in recent years in four other synagogues in the Old City. In most cases valuable items of Judaica were stolen.

By Maor Buchnik May 17, 2012

A group of kids playing in a deserted house in the old city of Safed was surprised to uncover an unexpected treasure of six Torah scrolls hidden under piles of sheets and blankets.

By Danna Harman May 15, 2012

“Just for fun, we put together a holiday video parody for ourselves and the other alumni,” says Shani Lachmish, 25, who, like the rest of the Fountainheads, is a graduate of Ein Prat, an academy for leadership that offers programs for young Jews- men and women, secular and religious, Israeli and foreign – who come together to study Bible, Talmud and Western philosophy.

By Akiva Eldar May 17, 2012

The Jerusalem Rabbinical Court has awarded legal and administrative custody over Joseph's Tomb in Nablus to two rabbis who have been involved in organizing visits to the site without the army's permission.

The IDF Spokesman's Office told Haaretz that the claim that the rabbis are henceforth in charge of the site is ridiculous.

"Visits to Joseph's Tomb are coordinated by the Civil Administration and arranged by the Israel Police, in coordination with rabbinical figures, including the rabbis mentioned, and the Palestinian Authority," it said in a statement.

By Jeremy Sharon May 15, 2012

The Jerusalem District Court accepted the state attorney’s request to add five new witnesses to the trial of Rabbi Mordechai “Moti” Elon, who is accused of indecent assault against two minors.

The testimony of the new witnesses will be used to support the claims of the two plaintiffs against Elon.
Judge Haim Liran said that some of the testimonies of the new witnesses were significant and their inclusion in the trial is therefore justified.

By Melanie Lidman May 20, 2012

Police arrested three right-wing activists on the Temple Mount on Sunday morning, after a group of activists started praying on the holy site in honor of Jerusalem Day.

MKs Michael Ben Ari and Uri Ariel (National Union) joined the activists in the pilgrimage to commemorate the anniversary of the 1967 Six-Day War, when Israeli soldiers liberated Old City and the Temple Mount from Jordanian forces.

By Jeremy Sharon May 17, 2012

But inter-religious and political concerns aside, there is another, less prominent but nevertheless bitter dispute currently being waged, this one between different Orthodox Jewish groups regarding the permissibility of going up to Judaism’s holiest site.

The divisions among different rabbinic leaders are sharp; some outlaw ascent to the Temple Mount in absolute terms on pain of spiritual excommunication; others see the refusal to go up and insist on the Jewish right to pray at the site as a deviation from Torah law.

May 21, 2012
Editor – Joel Katz
Religion and State in Israel is not affiliated with any organization or movement.
All rights reserved.