Monday, February 25, 2013

Religion and State in Israel - February 25, 2013 (Section 2)

Religion and State in Israel

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

According to a Channel 10 report confirmed by both parties, Lapid agreed to Bennett’s request to increase the number of haredim who would be given draft exemptions from 400 to 2,000. He also acquiesced to haredim being drafted at age 21 rather than 18.

Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu is furious at what he believes is a conspiracy by Yesh Atid leader Yair Lapid and Bayit Yehudi chairman Naftali Bennett to try to prevent Shas and United Torah Judaism from joining the coalition, Likud sources said on Sunday.

Representatives from both parties have spent the past few days working on the proposal and it appears that it shares many guiding principles with Lapid's initial plan. 

In his original plan, Lapid demanded 400 exemptions in total. The new proposal will likely see 1,500-2,000 exemptions.

The basic terms of Kandel's proposal ask for much less than what former Kadima MK Plesner tried to have implemented. Kandel, like Lapid, talks about a five-year transition. 

After this period, more than 60 percent of young ultra-Orthodox men, ages 18 to 24, would be drafted into either the IDF or national service.

The benefits of gradual integration of the haredi population in mandatory military service are obvious while maintaining the status quo will cause increasing damage to the economy, hurt motivation to serve among non-haredim and undermine social cohesion.

The following recommendations by Professors Avi Ben Bassat, Momi Dahan, and Mordechai Kremnitzer are intended to achieve the following goals: to equalize the burden of military service in the Israel Defense Forces gradually, to shorten the period of compulsory service for all soldiers, to increase motivation for military service among the Israeli population as a whole, to strengthen solidarity among all sectors of Israeli society, to increase Haredi participation in the workforce, and to promote respect and tolerance for Torah study.

Above all, the proposed arrangement is intended to comply with the provisions of the Basic Law: Human Dignity and Freedom, as interpreted by the courts.

Any coercion in cutting down the number of Torah students or cutting their stipend will cause greater alienation of the hareidi public and widen the rifts in the nation, and contribute nothing to equality in bearing the burden of citizenship," Rabbi Melamed said.

Crucially, Kandel’s proposal does not include quotas for the number of yeshiva students able to gain exemptions from national service, as demanded by Yesh Atid and draft reform campaigners, but provides incentives and financial sanctions to boost enlistment.

"The document is an insult," said a political source of Kandel's proposal. Kandel offered a negligible disincentive for draft-age Haredim, which would do nothing to convince them to join the army.

That "negligible disincentive" is an NIS 160 per month cut from government allowances – roughly 2 percent of an average Haredi family’s monthly income.

Yishai added: "What's the question, really? Are we a people's army or not. We have to eat kosher, we need proper conditions, and whole range of things the State Comptroller said the army didn't fulfill for the haredi public."

Among Jewish Israelis, 44% of those questioned said it was most important that the ultra- Orthodox join the workforce but not necessarily serve in the army, 31% said it is most important that the ultra-Orthodox serve in the army, 19% said serving in the army and joining the workforce are equally important and 5% said neither are important.

The IDF incurs much higher costs for Haredim serving in the Shahar program, which is targeted at ultra-Orthodox men between the ages of 22 and 26. 

Participants of the Shahar program have shorter military service terms, study academic subjects and receive vocational training. These soldiers cost the IDF an average of NIS 9,500 per month – NIS 5,500 a month more than the average IDF conscript.

The program calls for drafting more than 60 percent of ultra-Orthodox men up to the age of 24, while offering government incentives to these conscripts and the yeshivas from which they they were drafted. 

At the same time, the state would deny allowances to Haredi men who falsely claimed to be yeshiva students in order to receive government benefits and avoid army service.

By Benny Porat

My starting point, which I hope goes without saying, is that there is no point in imposing legal measures that would force certain groups to engage in activities that are against their beliefs. 

Attempts to draft the ultra-Orthodox by means of legislation, threatening to send military police to their yeshivot, or forcing the study of the core curriculum through court orders, will simply achieve the opposite results: further Haredi introversion, protests under the banner of "whoever is for God, follow me," and threats of self-sacrifice to protect the holy Torah.

By David M. Weinberg

Here’s how: We draft the haredim into the Israeli army or into national service – when they’re on vacation.

Haredim will serve only during their semester breaks, when they are anyway not “studying their hearts out” in yeshiva (or in the literal Hebrew phrase they like to use: “Studying to death in the tents of Torah”). No haredi youngster or married kollel man has to miss a day of yeshiva classes, any time, any year.

By Dr. Benjamin Brown

After all, everyone agrees that whatever happens, the process cannot take place overnight. 

If so, why hasten the end? Why impose "decrees" instead of quietly supporting processes that have already begun in any event? 

It is difficult to escape the fact that beyond a desire to see ultra-Orthodox military recruits and productive ultra-Orthodox members of the workforce, there seems to be a desire to "show them what's what."

IDF Senior Staff signed official orders regulating service conditions for hareidim integrated into the IDF.

Based upon the newly signed agreement, the IDF is officially ordered to provide the soldiers with strictly kosher food, optimal Sabbath observance and complete gender segregation, in addition to regular Torah study and ample time for prayer three times a day.

“We want to allow between five and ten percent of the haredi community each year to study Torah with the support of the state,” Mordechai Kremnitzer, of the Israel Democracy Institute told The Media Line. “But this must be limited to the crème de la crème. All others should serve in the army.”

His plan calls for drafting ten percent of eligible ultra-Orthodox men this year and adding ten percent each year, to a total of 80 percent. Religious institutions which fail to comply would lose their government funding.

For the Beit Shemesh women’s council, which has existed for almost five years, the central challenge of the conflagration in 2011 was preventing ongoing conflict within the group. After months of lingering tension, the women brought in mediators last year for three months of weekly meetings.

Brenda Ganot, a Modern Orthodox council member, said that while the sessions were generally conducted in a spirit of mutual respect, they are unlikely to solve much.

“People are still afraid,” Ganot said. “The greatest fear is that the city will become a haredi city. There’s not a day I don’t wake up and say, ‘Why am I still in Beit Shemesh?’”

By Barry Gelman

How Ophir will react to a very strict interpretation that ostracizes her by marginalizing other, equally valid, interpretations, in anyone’s guess. What is so disappointing here is that Halacha is being used to drive people away from observance instead of being used to bring them closer.

You won.There was a competition in Israel for Israeli-ness that lasted over a century, since the second wave of immigration, and in the end you won.We lost and you won.For decades it was a Mexican standoff, where each one waits for the other guy to give in,about which Avi Ravitsky, a religious man, wrote: “The status quo was based on the false assumption” which was accepted by both sides, “that the opposition camp was doomed to dwindle away “and perhaps even disappear.” 

It turns out, Haaretz learned yesterday, this wasn't the first time the Philatelic Service censored a stamp for fear of offending the religious public.

After being criticized in recent years for concealing girls' faces for "modesty reasons" or replacing them with dolls, this year some Israeli toy stores have decided to completely remove pictures of girls from their advertisements.

By Israel Harel

In light of the Haredi rabbis’ disqualification of his conversions and disparagement of him and his public (“clowns” is the usual Haredi term for Zionist rabbis), Drukman’s willingness to be dragged from admor to admor was an insult to his dignity and that of many members of the community he represents.

By Jeff Barak

Ever since, Netanyahu has closely allied himself to the reactionary haredi world, even though their welfare-dependent way of life runs totally against his deeply held free-market beliefs. 

Netanyahu knows there is no logic in the state investing billions of shekels in the independent Shas and United Torah Judaism school systems, where pupils receive no secular education, and are left unfit to join the modern workforce and thus condemned to a life of government-subsidized poverty.

By Meirav Arlosoroff

The most critical aspect of equality is actually in the economic sphere, and that’s where Haredim are really good at manipulating the country.

By Yori Yanover

In an article titled “Maybe the Secular Are Right?” that was published this winter in the Haredi Kikar Hashabbat, Rabbi Bloch asks: “Why is it so common for Haredi pundits and public figures to pin the motives for secular hatred against Haredim only on the formers’ bad qualities, their emptiness, anti-Semitism and the ignorant man’s hatred for the scholar? 

And another question we should ask ourselves is whether, in some cases, the value benefits from this conduct or another are worth the consequent heavy price of hilul Hashem. Rabbi Bloch then poses 12 questions which he encourages his Haredi readers to ponder.

By Amir Mizroch

The majority of Israeli voters have spoken: they demand an equal sharing of the national burden. Even if that means Torah study in secular schools [which I think is a great idea but which the haredim apparently believe is a catastrophe]. Any government that arises here now and does not significantly change the status quo will be an illegitimate government.

1. Compel haredi schools to teach the core curriculum, including English and math, so that their children can one day join the workforce.

2. Compel haredi adults into the workforce so that they are not such a heavy and growing financial burden on the secular middle class.

3. End the haredi monopoly on the institutions of religion and state so that Judaism becomes more inclusive and less degrading for the non-haredi.

4. Lower the cost of living, with a special emphasis on the cost of housing, and to take the Housing and Construction Ministry out of haredi hands.

VIDEO: (How) Can we count Haredim? or “Everything you wanted to know about Haredim, but were afraid to ask”

By Anshel Pfeffer

The ultra-Orthodox community is facing two major crises − the more immediate one is the new Israeli political landscape that is about to force on them a new national-service law that threatens to prise thousands of yeshiva students away from their Talmud volumes, breaking the rabbis’ monopoly over the young men’s lives. 

The wider crisis is the irrevocable exposure of the entire younger Haredi generation to the outside world through the Internet and the unavoidable question marks being raised on the most fundamental articles of faith.

The two groups are responsible for most poverty in Israel, mainly because they are 1-income families; 60% of Haredi men do not work, while 80% of Arab women stay at home. And the Haredi women and Arab men who do work tend to earn less than other groups. 

In addition, both Haredim and Arabs have more children on average than most Israelis, so even families where there is a decent income can find themselves close to the poverty line.

Netanyahu tries to entice the other party heads to join his coalition

Speaking later in a Knesset faction meeting, Bennett said that the term “equality in the burden of service” should also relate to the “burden of Torah,” as well as that of work and military service.

He also stated that “the current situation cannot continue,” especially in light of the greatly increasing size of the haredi population which, he said, necessitates change from the current reality.

The move is likely a ploy by the ultra-Orthodox party to pressure the Bayit Yehudi party and its leader Naftali Bennett into scaling back its rhetoric on the issue of haredi enlistment.

MK Yair Lapid ruled out that his Yesh Atid party would join Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu’s government together with Shas, according to a report on Channel 10 Thursday night.

Veteran Channel 1 religious affairs correspondent Uri Revach exclusively broadcast a clip Thursday night from Rabbi Eyal Amrami, the rabbi of a Sephardi synagogue in Jerusalem’s Har Homa neighborhood, threatening Lapid.

By Aluf Benn

Yesh Atid and Habayit Hayehudi reflect the anxiety of the Zionist mainstream that these communities are taking over the country. They fear that the changing demographics are creating a different reality here than what our parents dreamed of, and they believe they have to put the minorities back in their place before it’s too late.

The number of ultra-Orthodox students in institutions of higher learning has doubled in the last six years, going from 3,000 in the 2005-2006 academic year to 7,350 in 2011-2012, but the potential for increasing the number has yet to be exploited, the Technion's Samuel Neaman Research Institute says in a report published this week.
By Rabbi Dov Lipman [Op-Ed from June 2012]

Schools should talk more openly about God, Knesset gatherings should begin with a prayer, all national ceremonies should include specific mention of God, and we should be searching for ways to increase discussion regarding spirituality instead of shying away from it. Doing so will transform our country for the better and will reaffirm our very reason for choosing to live and fight for this land.

Let Israel become the beacon of light to the entire world from where Jews openly and proudly declare to be one nation under God.

By Ilana Blumberg

The place where I have chosen to spend the most time studying is Elul, a Beit Midrash around my street corner. Its name draws upon the rabbinic ideas: “Elu v’elu divrei elohim hayim,” which means “these words and those words are both those of the living God.” Elul is devoted to inclusive study for both secular and religious Jews, and everyone in between.

Dance instructor Raquella Siegel dreams of creating a Modern Orthodox hip-hop scene in Israel, with nationwide competitions.

Minister Meshulam Nahari (Shas) hid a conflict of interest when he submitted a funding request to the Prime Minister's Office tenders committee for an exemption. The nonprofit to which Nahari requested the government transfer NIS 15,000 is chaired by the grandfather of Nahari's daughter-in-law.

Former MK Nino Abesadze (Labor) received a letter containing death threats on Thursday. The apparent basis for the letter, which arrived at the Knesset, was a hatred of Russians.
The envelope contained a news clipping dealing with Abesadze’s protest against a TV ad put out by the ultra-Orthodox Shas party during the recent election campaign.

By Avi Shafran

Left unexplained is how allowing women to make fully informed decisions about babies they are carrying – yes, babies; Israel permits abortions even into the third trimester of pregnancy – is discriminatory. An equally over-activated Nurit Tsur, the former executive director of the Israel Women’s Network, scoffed that “the Chief Rabbinate… has been infiltrated by haredi elements,” as if any authentic Jewish approach condones abortion for financial considerations.

By Ed Rettig

To judge from historical experience with previous waves of immigration, the path to full integration is at least a generation long and achingly difficult, as many of us who live in Israel with our foreign accents and histories of acculturation can testify. Israeli society today is much better at integrating immigrants than it was decades ago, and there are positive signs today.

"As a child who was raised in a small Jewish village who survived the rigors of Aliyah via Sudan and fulfilled the dream of 'Return to Zion,'" he concludes, "it is a great honor to be here as the official representative of the State of Israel, in order to help full the dream of the 'Return to Zion,' for others, who also hope to fulfill the age-old Zionist dream."

By Tamar Sternthal

A serious journalist covering the widespread use of Depo-Provera among Ethiopians would have taken into account women’s desire for discreet birth control. Gabai interviewed the head of the Israeli Society for Contraception, who noted the cultural preference for injections, but she completely discounted this point in her conclusion.

Asher Seyum, an Israeli consul and Jewish Agency director of operations, led the procession. Some 30 years ago, as a young teen, Asher undertook a more difficult exodus march. He and members of his family walked some 500 miles from Gondar to Sudan on their journey to reach Zion.

By Robby Berman

Consider the infamous case of Avi Cohen. Cohen had gotten a donor card in earnest, but Rabbi Yaakov Ifergan (who pretends to have supernatural powers and is known as “the X-ray rabbi”) told his wife not to allow the donation of his organs, claiming Cohen would be the first person in history to wake up from brain death (he didn’t).

The Institute for the Advancement of the Deaf and the national-religious rabbinic association Tzohar joined together on Purim to hold for the first time a sign-language megila reading for the deaf and hard of hearing.

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