Tuesday, November 27, 2007

Religion and State in Israel - November 19, 2007

Religion and State in Israel
November 26, 2007
Editor: Joel Katz


Much ado about Rabbi Eliyahu
By Anshel Pfeffer, Haaretz

There are a wealth of plausible reasons for the failure of the non-Orthodox versions of Judaism to gain a foothold in Israel, but the lack of public or private funding doesn't appear to be one of the main ones.

Despite the stranglehold of the ultra-Orthodox politicians over the state coffers financing religious activity, there are still hundreds of Orthodox synagogues and communities that don't receive any public funding and still have no problem attracting large numbers of members the year round.

By contrast, the few successful Reform and Conservative communities in Israel are still isolated islands of pluralism. It might be easy to get all worked up about Eliyahu's slur, but the Reform and Conservative leaderships would do better to worry about a comment made by another rabbi.

A few weeks ago, I asked Rafi Feurstein, chairman of Tzohar, the group of liberal-minded Zionist-Orthodox rabbis currently challenging the Rabbinical establishment over a wide range of issues, whether he would consider coordinating any of Tzohar's battles with Reform and Conservative leadership.

"No," he said. "They're nothing more than an esoteric phenomenon in this country, with no real relevance to Israeli society." He wasn't saying this out of instinctive hostility; it was just his honest assessment.


Rabbi Eliyahu never said anything about "reek of hell wafts" from Reform and Conservative synagogues

By Aviad Fenigstein (Moriya.org.il editor) NRG.co.il (Hebrew)

In defense of Rabbi Eliyahu, Aviad Fenigstein points to the fact that in the AUDIO tape of the rabbi's sermon, there is no mention whatsoever of the Reform and Conservative synagogues "reeking of hell wafts".

[The writer of this e-newsletter listened to the AUDIO sermon and Rabbi Eliyahu did not use the terms mentioned in the WRITTEN text: see Kol Tzofaich, Shiur 425 - Time: 37:30 - 38:45]

[However, Aviad Fenigstein fails to explain why the editor of sermons included the phrase in the WRITTEN text.]


Masortim threaten suit over leading rabbi's insult

By Yair Ettinger, Haaretz

Israel's Masorti (Conservative) Movement is threatening legal action against former Sephardi chief rabbi Mordechai Eliyahu for [reportedly] saying that "the reek of hell wafts" from Reform and Conservative synagogues, and it is therefore forbidden to walk by them. Eliyahu, a leading religious Zionist rabbi, [reportedly] made the remark last week during his weekly Torah lecture.

It was later reprinted in the bulletin Kol Tzofayich, which was distributed in synagogues throughout Israel over the weekend.


Reform Reflections: But what do you believe?

By Rabbi Michael Marmur, JPost.com

Reading through the responses to my previous blogs, though, I have discovered that it hardly matters what I write. Since it appears under the heading 'Reform Reflections', the article is to be decried, and its author accused of sundry misdemeanors.

There is a reason for this knee-jerk condemnation of any expression of Reform Judaism. It stems from the fear that any legitimacy given to non-Orthodox religious voices within the Jewish conversation will somehow weaken the basis of Judaism. The argument goes that if you read this and agree with it, mixed dancing and intermarriage cannot be far behind.

The question can fairly be asked: but what do you Reform Jews really believe?

I believe that Judaism is the ever-changing response of the Jewish people to God's word.

I believe that in every generation Jews have been called upon to express their highest commitments and yearnings in the language formed through millennia of Jewish expression.

I believe that in our generation the time has come to re-calibrate the roles allocated to men and women within Jewish tradition.


IDF: Full-time Torah studies, draft-dodging harm our ethic

By Yuval Azoulay, Haaretz

In a decade, around 25 percent of young people eligible to be drafted into the Israel Defense Forces will not serve due to full-time yeshiva studies, the IDF's human resources chief, Major General Elazar Stern said.

Stern also advocates increasing the numbers of ultra-Orthodox men serving in the Nahal Brigade.

By establishing this unit, "the IDF pulled the rug out from under the excuse of the ultra-Orthodox not to serve. There are conditions there they don't have in Bnei Brak [a heavily ultra-Orthodox town]. The food is not only glatt kosher, but they also force them to go to prayers. They put burlap up so they won't see a female clerk 300 meters away, even if she is dressed properly."


Stern: Draft Evasion 'Creeping' into National-Religious Camp

By Gil Ronen, IsraelNationalNews.com

The 'hesder' yeshivas, which combine religious study with army service, were not spared from Stern's tongue-lashing either. He said too much of their activity, like that of the Nahal Brigade's soldiers, was socially oriented, and that the IDF can no longer afford that in the present situation.

"The IDF Chief of Staff has already asked the hesder yeshivas to increase the period of service from 16 months to 24," he told the audience. "Bearing in mind the IDF's needs and the security needs, we think this should be considered positively."


Your values are not mine!

By Yoseph Goldsmith, YNetnews.com

Because Stern is a religious man, we need to speak out loudly and clearly against his claim and stop the naïve from believing his words and thinking that it is possible to combine ultra-Orthodox life and the army.

The reality is very different - his values are different than ours!

His ideals are not ours! And his goals are not ours! We have the Torah to live by, the Torah that is true, real and eternal. We live our lives by the Torah alone!


Religious edict puts ILA in a bind

By Miriam Bulwar David-Hay, JPost.com

Residents of the moshavim Batzra, Bnei Zion, Harutzim and Rishpon are taking advantage of the current shmita year to avoid paying for using supposedly agricultural land for commercial purposes reports the Hebrew weekly Ha'ir-Tzomet Hasharon.

They say the Israel Lands Authority cannot sue them for putting the land to extraordinary use this year, because the authority has "sold" the land and no longer owns it.


When the price is ripe

By JJ Levine, JPost.com

"I looked into the issue because I know that many of my customers will not buy heter mechira," says Moti Bouenos, the owner of Super Hamoshava on Rehov Emek Refaim. "But heter mechira is simply much cheaper and much better quality. Also, there are problems with the supply of produce [from Otzar Ha'aretz]."

Both Badatz and Otzar Ha'aretz are supposed to have signs with the exact source and halachic details of every vegetable and fruit, but this reporter found that the majority of stores did not have such information posted.


"No" expanding Rabbinical Court jurisdiction

By Rivka Lubitch, YNetnews.co.il (Hebrew)

Kadima and Shas are planning on passing a law that will expand the legal authority of the rabbinical courts regarding civil matters.

The Center for Women's Justice
The goal of the Center for Women's Justice (CWJ) is to safeguard the basic human rights and dignity of Jewish women who appear before the rabbinic and family courts in the State of Israel.


Philanthropist Leviev's Judaism Program - Rejected

By Hillel Fendel, IsraelNationalNews.com

The Pedagogical Council of the Education Ministry, headed by Dr. Anat Zohar - Associate Professor at the School of Education in the Hebrew University - rejected the program for its being too religious and "not suitable for public elementary schools."

"Despite the fact that many of the curriculum's units clearly deal with values such as charity, truth, and honoring parents," the council states, "the Orthodox approach is blatant, dealing chiefly with principles of faith and customs, and less with values."

The Education Ministry's rejection is considered to be largely a formality, and will not stop the program from being taught in the 70 schools in which it is already part of the schedule. It is taught for two hours a week to grades 1-6.


Diamond Billionaire Takes New York

By Marissa Brostoff, Forward.com

At the Chabad event, he spoke at length, in Hebrew, about the profound influence Chabad has had on both his personal and business philosophy. The late Chabad leader Menachem Schneerson blessed him, he said, when Leviev was a young man with no money to his name.

"I did better in every business venture since," Leviev said.


Gaydamak hopes to exploit ultra-Orthodox infighting on his way to Jerusalem city hall

By Yair Ettinger, Haaretz

David Silberschlag, Gaydamak's advisor who has been appointed head of Bikur Holim's management, says Gaydamak would only have a chance to win the ultra-Orthodox vote if the community is torn apart.

This rupture is appearing now. In addition to making large contributions to ultra-Orthodox institutions, some of them discretely, Gaydamak has made three friends who may help him win.

One is MK Ravitz: Gaydamak has financed a chain of ultra-Orthodox girls' hostels he set up. Another is Porush: Gaydamak is financing a children's school for him. The third is MK Litzman, who influenced Gaydamak to contribute $500,000 to the Gerer Hasidim hospital being built in Ashdod.


Gaydamak's party - Seeking universal appeal

By Lily Galili, Haaretz

Gaydamak's rescue of Jerusalem's Bikur Holim Hospital, for instance, could attract support from local ultra-Orthodox, which he hopes could then spread to the ultra-Orthodox in other cities.
Jerusalem, of course, is the crucial test.

He is likely to know soon which ultra-Orthodox sects will support him, but even ultra-Orthodox and Arabs together are not enough to give him the mayoralty. Therefore, Gaydamak is now seeking a lever with which to attract secular Jerusalemites who might otherwise stay home on Election Day.


The next haredi candidate?

By Peggy Cidor, JPost.com

A new, intense and for the moment relatively secret internal war threatens to tear apart the haredi leadership in our city: A new player has entered the political arena and he's shaking up the system - Arkadi Gaydamak.


Israeli military's top rabbi stresses role of religion on battlefield

By Lee Chi-dong, YonhapNews.kr (Seoul, South Korea)

Hat tip to Prof. Howard M. Friedman, ReligionClause.blogspot.com

"In the Israeli army, the spiritual side is very significant component in the matter of strength," Brig. Gen. Avi Ronzki, chief rabbi of the Israel Defense Forces (IDF), said in an interview last week.

"There was a great fear that our country was in a situation of danger that it never faced before. It made us think that the Jewish people were facing annihilation," he said. "In terms of religion, it was a very clear understanding of why we fight."
He said his [Yom Kippur] war experience was behind the decision to become a rabbi.


Barkat: Municipal rabbis selection turning political

INN.co.il (Hebrew)

Jerusalem opposition leader, Nir Barkak and MK Uri Ariel petitioned the Supreme Court against the new regulations for selecting municipal rabbis - Rabbi Eliyahu supports move.


Shas turns down Rabbinical Court summons

By Hillel Fendel, IsraelNationalNews.com

MKs of the hareidi-Sephardic Shas Party have been served with papers calling them to a Din Torah - a Torah court lawsuit - regarding their refusal to quit the government.


Survey: Only 20% of Israelis consider themselves secular

By Yair Ettinger, Haaretz

Just 20 percent of Jews in Israel describe themselves as secular, according to a recent poll.
Since the early 1970s, surveys that have measured Israeli Jews' affinity to tradition have fluctuated among various communities. But the recent figures represent a new low point for the secular community.

For example, in 1974, the number of those describing themselves as secular stood at more than 40 percent.


A fifth of the populace says it does not observe religious traditions

By Matthew Wagner , JPost.com

Eliyahu Sapir, a doctoral student in Political Science at Hebrew University, added that the gradual rise in the number of religious Israelis over the past three decades is definitely due in part to higher natural growth among the religious and the traditional.


Ideological change in South Africa

By Cnaan Liphshiz, Haaretz

Joel Pollak, who has extensively studied post-Apartheid politics in the South African Jewish community, says he believes the community's religious and ideological makeup is changing. That change, Pollak says, is affecting the makeup of the expatriate community in Israel - and maybe Telfed as well.

Another young secular Jewish activist who wished to remain anonymous talked of "an explosion" in religious Judaism in South Africa. "We were always considered a traditional-secular Zionist community but many young Jews are now observant and their connection to Israel is very religious in nature."

After elections, prominent volunteers leave Telfed


Cremation site discovered in Moshav

By Ido Yosef, NFC.co.il (Hebrew)

The ZAKA organization claims that it has succeeded in discovering the cremation site and prevented it from being built.


'Bringing homosexuality up for discussion in haredi world'

By Yoav Friedman, YNetnews.com

Chaim Album's film, V'ahavta, depicting turmoil endured by homosexual yeshiva student who falls in love with another man, wins award for best feature film produced at Ma'ale religious film school this year.

Album 'outed' himself during production of this film, and based film loosely on his own experiences as a gay ultra-Orthodox man.


Let my people go to work

By Laura Goldman, Globes.co.il

All sides have refused to come together to find innovative solutions to the problem of haredi poverty and unemployment.

People often chuckle that it will be easier for the Palestinians and Jews to come to terms.

I do not understand why we are all burying our head in the sand. Self interest should rule. It is our tax dollars that are paying for the yeshiva stipends and the National Insurance Institute Child Allowances.

We need to confront the reality that the Tal Law has been a dismal failure. It has not forced haredim into the IDF. It has just institutionalized poverty. It is time for Tal Law 2.0. Let's transform the haredi winter of despair to a spring of hope.


Gavison's research institute tries to prove that there's no contradiction between Judaism and Liberalism

By Yair Sheleg, Haaretz (Hebrew)

Prof. Ruth Gavison, Metzilah: Center for Humanistic, Liberal, Jewish and Zionist Thought


Haifa police forcibly evacuate secular study group from synagogue

By Fadi Eyadat, Haaretz Correspondent

'The police evacuated from a synagogue Jews who want to fulfill their freedom of religion,' said Yisrael Bar David, who lives in Haifa's Romema neighborhood where the synagogue is located.
Haifa police Chief Dudu Ben Attia: 'Women are forbidden from entering the synagogue when there are men present,' he said. 'These are the religious rules.'


Safed rabbi: Reconsider alliance with Druze

By Kobi Nahshoni, YNetnews.com

"If many Druze allow themselves to vote for Balad, if they burn Jewish homes in Peki'in, if they take a Jewish policewoman captive - we need to reconsider our alliance," according to Rabbi Shmuel Eliyahu, Safed's rabbi and one of the Religious Zionism leaders.


Outlawed Pigs: Law, Religion, and Culture in Israel

By Prof. Daphne Barak-Erez, Tel Aviv University

Book Review

The prohibition against pigs is one of the most powerful symbols of Jewish culture and collective memory. Outlawed Pigs explores how the historical sensitivity of Jews to the pig prohibition was incorporated into Israeli law and culture.

Daphne Barak-Erez specifically traces the course of two laws, one that authorized municipalities to ban the possession and trading in pork within their jurisdiction and another law that forbids pig breeding throughout Israel, except for areas populated mainly by Christians. Her analysis offers a comprehensive, decade-by-decade discussion of the overall relationship between law and culture since the inception of the Israeli nation-state.

By examining ever-fluctuating Israeli popular opinion on Israel's two laws outlawing the trade and possession of pigs, Barak-Erez finds an interesting and accessible way to explore the complex interplay of law, religion, and culture in modern Israel, and more specifically a microcosm for the larger question of which lies more at the foundation of Israeli state law: religion or cultural tradition.


Back in the driver's seat

By Gail Lichtman, JPost.com

This Pisgat Ze'ev mother of seven claims to be the city's only haredi female taxi driver and the only cabbie offering a taxi service exclusively for women.


Niddah - the animated version

Click here for Dafna Sudri's animated clip "A Day in the Life of a Couple Practicing Niddah," exploring this ritual in a humoristic way.


Pray for the train to be on time...

By Kobi Nahshoni, YNetnews.com

The Union of Synagogues approached Transportation Minister Shaul Mofaz, asking that the first wagon of every train be designated as a synagogue.

Simultaneously, the Union's members are searching for a donor who'll sponsor the Torah Scrolls and Holy Arks needed.

The Union advertises a schedule for prayers held on the Beit Shemesh and Nahariya trains. In the near future, they will do the same for the trains to Modi'in.


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Tuesday, November 20, 2007

Religion and State in Israel - November 19, 2007

Religion and State in Israel
November 19, 2007
Editor: Joel Katz


Breaking with tradition

By Anshel Pfeffer, Haaretz

In Rabbi Benjamin Lau's eyes, each one of these incidents demonstrates an abdication of national responsibility by the rabbinical establishment, in the face of its preference for narrow sectarian interests.

"We allowed the rabbinate to become the preserve of political interests and rabbis who are taking orders from the Lithuanian leadership, which has no stake in the national interest. "There is no logic in allowing ultra-Orthodox-run rabbinical courts," continues Lau.

"This is one of those places where Israeli society comes into contact with the world of halakha. When a couple comes in for a divorce, I expect the rabbi to understand their social background.
But, if he hasn't gone to the army, and he's lived a life closed off from the Israeli street, you're going to have a cultural collision."


Divorcing the rabbinate

By Anshel Pfeffer, Haaretz
Although Tzohar was founded a decade ago, it was only this past March that this group of maverick Orthodox rabbis took the highly unorthodox step of challenging the Chief Rabbinate in Israel's Supreme Court.
"We weren't happy to do it," says Rabbi David Stav, one of Tzohar's founders.
Stav says he felt "that the group there in the Chief Rabbinate was just so corrupt, a group of ultra-Orthodox apparatchiks deciding who should be a judge."

"We never meant to be the enemies of the Rabbinate," says Rabbi Yuval Sherlo, one of Tzohar's founders, "but they gave us no choice.


The right to self-determination

By Ruth Gavison, Haaretz

The attempt to uproot Jewish nationalism as a central component of the State of Israel is therefore contrary to Zionism, contrary to the history of establishing the state, contrary to the international decisions that recognized the rights of the Jews to self-determination, contrary to the views held by most of the Jewish inhabitants of Israel - who want Israel to continue to be their nation-state - and contrary to the position of the Arab citizens of Israel, who regard themselves as Palestinian Arabs in nationality and as Israelis only in citizenship.


A stupid demand

By Yoel Marcus, Haaretz

We exist, and we are a Jewish state. The whole world has recognized us as a Jewish state. The Arab countries that attacked after Israel's Declaration of Independence did so because it was a Jewish state


Still a democracy?

By Shulamit Aloni, Haaretz

The government of Israel, with all due respect, does not represent the Jewish people but rather the citizens of the State of Israel who elected it.


Rabbi Mordechei Eliyahu: Forbidden to even pass by Reform or Conservative 'prayer-house'
By Edan Yosef, NFC.co.il (Hebrew)(translated excerpts)

Rabbi Mordechei Eliyahu is considered the spiritual leader of the Sephardic Religious Zionist community.

He explained to his audience that when he was in a Diaspora community, he was invited to be the 'sandak' in a building where there were three synagogues in a 3-story building.

"I saw in the entrance a sign indicating that on the first floor was a Reform 'prayer-house' (beit tefila) and on the second floor was a Conservative synagogue, and only on the upper floor was the 'Orthodox' beit-midrash where I had to go. And I stopped to think - how could I enter and go past these synagogues?"

According to the Halacha, it is forbidden to also pass by the entrance of a house of idol worship.

Rabbi Eliyahu added and said that in this spirit he asked if there was another way to go up and they responded that there was a side-kitchen where one could go up without going past the entrance of the Reform and Conservative 'batei-tefila'.

"I said to them that I would only go up using this kitchen and only if I wouldn't pass the entrances of the forbidden synagogues."

NFC Footnote: One of Rabbi Eliyahu's students wished to clarify that the Rabbi spoke about the difficulty of entering [such a building] and all the more so - to be photographed as he entered an entrance where it is written "Reform Synagogue" and "Conservative Synagogue".


Fallower than thou

By Yair Ettinger, Haaretz

The shmita crisis, whose first chapter ended in an ultra-Orthodox defeat at the High Court of Justice, has diverted attention from a no less fervid ideological battle raging within religious Zionism.

On the surface, this is about a dispute in rabbinic law. Beneath the surface, this is a stormy fight that touches upon the political agenda within religious Zionism.

Rabbi Benny Lau, the rabbi of the Ramban Synagogue in Jerusalem, told Haaretz recently that rabbis must denounce the oppression of manpower company workers just as they must thwart the threat hanging over most producers and consumers of produce in Israel.

"The title 'rabbi' has to come with collateral," he said. "What is happening now in religious Zionism is bringing us closer to intra-Zionist solidarity. Rabbis want to see religious services as a more central core of Israeli society while saying what needs to be said in the face of ultra-Orthodox violence."


Finance Minister signs reduction of customs for shmita

By Amiram Cohen, Haaretz

Finance Minister Roni Bar-On signed at the end of last week a directive to reduce customs levies on fresh agricultural produce imported for the ultra-Orthodox during the shmita, or sabbatical, year.

Most of the imports will be fruits and vegetables for those choosing to strictly observe the halakhic proscriptions of using produce grown on Jewish-owned lands in Israel.

Bar-On emphasized that the order is for one year only, and will not harm local farmers. The order will allow imports of up to 10 percent of the produce used in Israel, or about 100,000 tons.

Many of the imports will come from Jordan, with which Israel already has mutual zero-customs agreements.

Other produce, for example potatoes and carrots, may come from Turkey or Cyprus and customs duties on these products will be cut by 50 percent.


Haredim win apartments at cut rate

Reform Movement's Israel Religious Action Center highlighted on Israel TV

VIDEO - Israel Channel 2 Ulpan Shishi (Keshet-tv.com) (Hebrew) (8.5 minutes)

A special program operated by the Ministry of Housing and Construction: the State sells the land at discount price to contractors and they sell the apartments at convenient prices to customers. Since 2002, the Haredi sector is the only one to benefit.

(Rabbi Gilad Kariv, Associate Director, Israel Religious Action Center; Attorney Orly Erez-Likhovski interviewed)


Jewish disengagement

By Naomi Chazan, JPost.com

Many American Jews know little, if anything, about the main domestic issues facing Israel today.

While they may have read about corruption in the corridors of power, they are not conversant with the constitutional debate in the country.

They are familiar with the monopoly of Orthodoxy, but ignore its ramifications for human and civil rights.

Multiple Jewish voices reengaged with Israeli concerns can contribute enormously to defining Israel's longer-term interests and placing current policies in perspective.

They can help fortify the country's democratic foundations. And, ultimately, they can sustain the increasingly tenuous connection between Israel and world Jewry so apparent in Nashville.


Two imperfect models of Jewish conferencing

By Haviv Rettig, JPost.com

If this isn't done, the American Jewish community may continue to raise lots of money, but it will become an old-age home. In Israel, we may find a Hebrew-speaking nation running a country that has little to do with the world Jewish community.

At this GA, while some interesting things were said about endowments and programming benchmarks, the opportunity for a serious discussion about cultural renewal was missed.


'Micro-communing' on campus

Nathalie Gorman, sophomore and president of the Chicago Friends of Israel student organization. In business management terminology, it's an "actionable" idea for American Jewish educators.

"There's a very frail basis for most [young] people's support for Israel," she says. "They've been shown a video, given flags and candy. They're told Israel is good and you should like it.

So when they get to places like this where their views are challenged, that knee-jerk support doesn't hold up - not in this [college] setting, and certainly not in the adult world."


Haredim and State

By Esti Keller, JPost.com

Dr. Aviad Hacohen, Dean, Shaarei Mishpat Law College:
"Haredi communities have recognized the Supreme Court's existence only in the past 10 to 15 years, a development which is the result of their continued Israelization [integration into Israeli society] during this period," he says.

"This is demonstrated in the increasing numbers of haredim in the work force, the gradual decline of their use of Yiddish in favor of Hebrew and their increasing participation in politics, among other factors."


Haredi men in pursuit of spiritual excellence

By Rabbi Levi Brackman, YNetnews.com

According to some reports, 51% of haredi Jews in Israel live below the poverty line.
In addition the fact that the Israeli government has to support these families, who for the most part do not go to the army, causes social strife with secular Israeli Jews.

Add to this the fact that most of the students who are studying in the yeshivas and kollels are not quite cut out for full time learning, and it becomes obvious that a change of track is needed.

The orthodox world needs to strike a balance between intense scholarship and seeking a career.
The pursuit of learning is noble and must be supported. But making it into an obligatory full time occupation for the entire society has social consequences that are unsustainable in the long run.

One hopes that the religious leaders in those communities would have the courage to look at other models more beneficial for both their own communities and for Israeli society as a whole.


Passion, not poison

By Jonathan Rosenblum, JPost.com

The outcome in the clash between these two opposing approaches within the haredi world is of vital importance, not only for the haredi world itself but for the larger Jewish community that desperately needs to be touched by the haredi passion for being Jewish.


Jaffa Muslims sue for access to Waqf funds

By Yigal Hai, Haaretz

The first in a series of legal deliberations were held yesterday in Tel Aviv to address a suit filed by the Muslim community in Jaffa against the state, and the committee that is the caretaker of Waqf properties in the Tel Aviv-Jaffa metropolitan area.

The suit, filed by a human rights organization representing the community, is demanding a detailed listing of all Waqf properties as well as the income derived from them, either by sale or rent, since 1996.

Attorney Hisham Shbeita, representing the community, said that the issue is not the right of return, but funds to which they are entitled for community purposes, which have not been paid by the state.


Vatican: Ties with Israel worsening

Associated Press

''If I must be frank, the relations between the Catholic Church and the state of Israel were better when there were no diplomatic ties,'' said Archbishop Pietro Sambi, interviewed earlier in the week in Washington, where he now serves as Pope Benedict XVI's envoy to the United States.

''The Holy See decided to establish diplomatic relations (in 1993) with Israel as an act of faith, leaving to latter the serious promises to regulate concrete aspects of the life of the Catholic community and the Church'' in Israel, Sambi said.


Palestinians clean Joseph's Tomb

By Efrat Weiss, YNetnews.com

This is a positive turnaround - the beginning of a ray of light, members of the Committee of Samaria Dwellers, of Breslov Hassidim, after learning that Palestinians have begun cleaning Joseph's Tomb in Nablus.


Poll: Seculars stick to religious bar mitzvah ceremony

By Kobi Nahshoni, YNetnews.com

A breakdown of the results by religious affiliation indicates that while 100% of parents who identified as observant, religious and ultra-Orthodox said they would celebrate their child's bar mitzvah in accordance with Jewish Law, only 79% of secular parents said the same.

The remaining 21% of secular parents said they would not tie religious tradition to the birthday.
The numbers show that Orthodox synagogues are still the most popular venue with 65% of respondents saying they would likely hold the bar mitzvah there. 26% answered they would prefer the Western Wall and only 6% opted for a Reform or Conservative synagogue.


Haredi Hooligans

By Michele Chabin, The Jewish Week

"It wasn't until 1,500 people stood on a street corner that the police and the municipality began to take us seriously," said Sharon Raanan, who recently created the "Action Committee Against Violence in Beit Shemesh," what she called an "activist organization to fight haredi violence."

The municipality and local people decided to go public after the attack on the Egged bus passenger.

"It was the proverbial straw," Lerner, who wears the knitted kipa of a Modern Orthodox Jew, said of the incident. Lerner said the demonstration was organized "to send a message."
Raanan says she is still waiting for the community's haredi rabbis "to come out with a public statement that the hooligans are rodfim"- pursuers who threaten the lives of others - "and to require their followers to photograph the hooligans who are perpetrating the violence."


Campaign launched to boost recruitment to haredi army unit

By Matthew Wagner, JPost.com

As part of IDF efforts to reduce draft dodging, the heads of the Nahal Haredi battalion have in recent weeks been working aggressively to mainstream army service for dropouts from haredi yeshivot.

Sources within the battalion recently leaked the names of current or former Nahal Haredi soldiers who are the sons or grandsons of prominent haredi rabbis and MKs.

Meanwhile, last week Nahal Haredi officials inundated haredi neighborhoods with flyers modeled after pashkevilim, the black and white notices ubiquitous in these communities, that called on "young yeshiva students not currently enrolled in a Torah institute" who want to "earn a respectable salary" to call a toll free number.

The Jerusalem Post called the number that appeared on the flyer titled "Have you thought about your future?" and was answered by an IDF induction clerk.


Shabbos Water Tower Inaugurated in Modi'in Illit

By A. Cohen, Dei'ah veDibur

According to a Mekorot representative, the new water tower, which will allow Modi'in Illit to have completely Shomer Shabbos water, was built 340 meters (1,100 feet) above sea level, is 45 meters (150 feet) in diameter and cost NIS 7 million ($1.8 million) to construct.

Seventy percent of the funding came from the Modi'in Illit Local Council and 30 percent from Mekorot.

Mekorot Chairman Mr. Eli Ronen said the "Shabbos tower" allows Modi'in Illit residents to lead their lives as they require and to receive water on Shabbos without human intervention.

The water tower is filled to the top before Shabbos and the pumps bringing in water from Mekorot are turned off at the beginning of Shabbos. At the beginning of each week the council receives a graph showing water consumption every Shabbos.


Venture proposes kosher Internet solution

By Noa Pereg, Globes.co.il

Neto Shops Ltd. and entrepreneur group DSK are planning to launch a private venture for the haredi (ultra-orthodox) community early next year - an Internet search engine of websites and information pages with no direct link to the Internet.


The newest rave: Shabbat gadgets

By Tani Goldstein, YNetnews.com

Observing Shabbat but have to call your grandmother? Have to have a cup of coffee when you come back from weekend services? The Halachic Institute for Science and Technology has just the thing for you.


Chabad leaders arrested for alleged theft, money-laundering

By Nurit Roth and Roni Singer-Heruti, Haaretz

The leader of the "Young Chabad" movement in Israel and four other suspects were arrested by Israeli police on suspicion of embezzling $60 million from donated monies, tax evasion and money-laundering.

The arrests of Yosef Aharonov, his assistant and the others followed a collaborative secret eight-month investigation by the Central District Fraud Squad and the Tax Authority.

Young Chabad is a nonprofit organization dedicated to spreading the word of Torah and the Chabad-Lubavitch Hasidic messages. It was founded by the Lubavitcher rabbi (and is also known an Lubavitch Youth), to serve as the operational arm of the Chabad movement.

It is the most dominant of the ultra-Orthodox movement's arms in Israel, and runs on a budget of about NIS 30 million a year. From that amount, about 20 percent is allocated by the state. For the rest, Chabad relies largely on donations, including from leading business figures in Israel.

By the way, that annual figure of NIS 30 million (and NIS 7 million from government) is based on reports by Young Chabad to the Registrar of Associations.


Knesset panel to discuss painful Jewish Agency FSU cuts

By Haviv Rettig, JPost.com

According to MK Ze'ev Elkin (Kadima), the move represents an "incredible ideological revolution. This opens a new page in the relationship between the state of Israel, the Jewish Agency and the World Zionist Organization.

The Agency is saying that Hebrew instruction is not one of its priorities, but only what the [American Jewish] federations [who fund most of the Agency's budget] want.

In fact, the Agency today functions as just one more non-profit working to get American money. If the Agency is just another non-profit, maybe the state should relate to it differently, since it would no longer be part of the national institutions."


New bill would give citizenship to thousands of non-Jewish children

By Ruth Eglash, JPost.com

Roughly 6500 children of Israeli citizens live here without clear national status. Some even serve in the IDF without being granted full-blown citizenship.

This dubious status is held by two main groups of immigrant children - those who are fourth-generation Jews, i.e. they have a Jewish great-grandfather and are not entitled to automatic citizenship like their parents (4000 children); and children from a Jewish Israeli's non-Jewish spouse's previous marriage, neither of whose biological parents were Jews (2500 children).


Husband signs divorce papers 20 years after disappearing

By Raanan Ben-Zur, YNetnews.com

Twenty years after disappearing and leaving his wife "agunah" (bound in marriage by a husband who is missing) a French Jewish man has been located in an Israeli jail and has agreed to give his wife a divorce.

Rabbi Vizner managed to locate the prisoner and tried to persuade him to give his wife a divorce.

After the man eventually agreed, rabbinical judges arrived at the court, got the man declare that he was giving his wife a divorce and to sign the divorce papers, and the woman was finally released from marriage.


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Tuesday, November 13, 2007

Religion and State in Israel - November 12, 2007

Religion and State in Israel
November 12, 2007
Editor: Joel Katz


Aren't kibbutzniks Jewish?
By Zevulun Orlev, YNetnews.com

The writer is chairman of the National Religious Party

The State Prosecutor's Office decision to exempt kibbutz communities from keeping the Shabbat in accordance with the Labor and Rest Times law is yet another link in the legal system's move - headed by the Supreme Court - to empty the Shabbat of any Jewish meaning.

In fact, the legal system is declaring that kibbutz communities are not part of the Jewish people, just because they are organized as a cooperative society.

*December 2006 National Labor Court ruling*
Court rules Jews may not work in kibbutz stores on Saturday
By Haaretz Service

The National Labor Court on Tuesday [December 2006, jk] ruled unanimously that the labor laws prohibiting Jews from working on Saturday applies to stores in kibbutzim as well.

The judges overruled the Regional Labor Court's decision to rescind the charges against Kibbutz Tzora and six of its members that had been working in the kibbutz-run stores 'Kna'an Fashion' and 'Kna'an and Crafts' on Saturdays.

The Regional Labor Court had ruled that "the facts of the indictment don't point to any wrongdoing." This is because it is impossible to determine what the religion of a communal organization such as a kibbutz is, and therefore it is impossible to determine what its legal day of rest should be, and because the legal clause prohibiting working on Saturday doesn't apply to trade.

Austrian bishops barred from Western Wall for wearing crosses
By AP, JPost.com

Thirteen Austrian bishops were barred from praying at Jerusalem's Western Wall last week by Jewish religious authorities when they refused to take off their crosses, according to Austrian officials.

On a planned visit on Thursday to the wall the bishops were given an ultimatum by the rabbi of the site: Either remove the crosses or stand behind a fence several meters (yards) from the site.

The bishops refused the request and watched people praying from behind the fence, according to an Austrian official.

"They were a bit disappointed they were not let into the wall," said Arad Benko, spokesman for the Austrian embassy. He said the bishops were not informed before the visit that wearing the crosses would be a problem.

Shmuel Rabinowitz, the rabbi of the Western Wall, said that while the site is open to all religions, worshippers are expected not to offend the sensitivities of Jews.

"Appearing like that at the wall plaza and at a meeting with me is insulting and provocative," Rabinowitz told the Israeli daily Maariv. "I told them that the pope didn't show up at the wall with a cross, but hid it."


'Diaspora not giving enough to Reform'
By Matthew Wagner, JPost.com

"I am disappointed with people in the movement for not giving more to building up Progressive Judaism in Israel," said Gerald Daniel, who practically single-handedly built both North Tel Aviv's Temple Beit Daniel and Jaffa's Mishkenot Ruth Daniel center - named after Daniel's wife, who died last June - for a total of $12 million.

Rabbi Meir Azari, who heads the Beit Daniel community center and congregation, pointed out that the Reform Movement in Israel has 26 congregations across the nation, but only six of them own a building. The rest rent or make temporary arrangements for prayer due to a lack of funds.

"If there were just one or two more people like Mr. Daniel, we would be able to transform Reform Judaism into a real force in Israel," said Azari. "As a community leader, one is severely limited without a permanent building."


Lunch in Jewish Disneyland
By Rabbi Michael Marmur, JPost.com

All over the city of Jerusalem on Shabbat, Jews are sitting down to lunch in unlikely configurations.

... In Jerusalem there are also encounters and contacts going on which reach out beyond the stereotypes and the boundaries.

... Over Shabbat, my family and I were fortunate enough to sit at the table of an eminent Orthodox rabbi and his family. Also present were a highly impressive couple, also at the forefront of Zionist Orthodoxy in Israel.

I learned a great deal over lunch (and the moussaka was delicious).

I learned that many of the great challenges faced by the Modern Orthodox world are highly similar to those we in the Liberal camp are grappling with.

... It's almost impossible to come up with a workable recipe for pluralism within the Jewish people. It's fiendishly hard to know where the division runs between being open-minded and empty-headed.


Mayoral candidate: J'lem needs a Zionist chief rabbi
By Neta Sela, YNetnews.com

Jerusalem mayoral candidate Nir Barkat is trying to lead a move for the election of a Zionist chief rabbi alongside an ultra-Orthodox rabbi in the capital. The National Religious Party and the Meretz and Shinui factions have already announced their support for the initiative.

According to Barkat, the Jerusalem opposition leader and a council member, "A chief Zionist rabbi is a necessity in a city where 70% of the Jewish population is not haredi and has its own unique needs.

According to David Hadari, an NRP faction member, "It is unthinkable that haredi elements who do not accept the Chief Rabbinate's rulings will be the ones elected as the city's rabbis".

About two years ago, Barkat petitioned the High Court of Justice, demanding that new rabbis be appointed for Jerusalem, as the city has had no chief rabbis for about five years since the deaths of former Chief Rabbis Shalom Mashash and Yitzhal Kolitz.


Beit Shemesh Anglos protest rising violence by Haredim
By Daphna Berman

Long-time resident Eliyahu Shiffman said at the protest" [The Haredim] talk about 'our neighborhood,' but that's chutzpa. It doesn't belong to them. It belongs to all of us."

The demonstration this week was organized by a number of Anglo activists, including Deputy Mayor Shalom Lerner, who is reportedly planning to run for mayor next year. Among the speakers were leading rabbis and other members of the city council, which included religious music and concluded with the singing of "Hatikvah," the Israeli national anthem - a seemingly innocuous gesture that only highlighted the tensions.

"Beit Shemesh is an open place and we don't want to change its character," Lerner (National Union-National Religious Party) told AngloFile this week.

The Action Committee Against Violence in Beit Shemesh - Petition

Support the Peaceful Citizens of Beit Shemesh


Religious girls' school teachers strike in their own special way

By Tamar Rotem, Haaretz

Pelech High School, of course, knew how to protest in its own special way. But joining the protests was not necessarily natural or to be taken for granted.

Only a week ago, three weeks after the start of the strike, Pelech decided to join the group of militant Jerusalem teachers, and even suggest to pupils to participate more actively in the protests.


70% of ultra-Orthodox men, 50% of women do not participate in workforce
By Haim Bior, Haaretz

More than 70 percent of ultra-Orthodox men and about 50 percent of women are not employed, and most of their families live below the poverty line, according to a survey conducted by the Trade, Industry and Labor Ministry, the Koret Fund and the Milken Institute.

The authors of the survey recommend changing the law that allows yeshiva students to postpone their army service (the Tal Law).

They would like the law to allow community service too, which would allow the ultra-Orthodox to enter the job market.

Changing the law would add 1.4 percent to Israel's GDP, say the authors, Koret's Sharon Azrieli and Shimon Yifrah, an economic adviser to the trade and industry minister.

50% of haredim involved in job market
By Matthew Wagner, JPost.com

"Haredi society has arrived at several multilevel junctions," said Dr. Kimy Caplan, a lecturer at Bar-Ilan University in Ramat Gan.

"The common denominator of the junctions at all levels is the ongoing struggle with Zionism, Israeli secularism and daily life in Israel." Caplan is the author of The Internal Popular Discourse in Israeli Haredi Society.

Dr. Avi Kay: "Haredim were never encouraged to choose a profession. So you have situation where men aged 30 or more want to work, but they haven't the slightest clue what they want to do."


Ethiopians want Sigd to be recognized as Jewish holiday
By Ruth Eglash, JPost.com

Hundreds of members of the Ethiopian community signed their names to a petition Thursday calling for Israel's religious leaders to incorporate the annual Sigd festival in the calendar of religious Jewish holidays.

The drive to have the holiday made part of the Jewish calendar was initiated earlier this week by the Israel Association of Ethiopian Jews, which sent its request to Sephardi Rabbi Shlomo Amar and Ashkenazi Rabbi Yona Metzger.


A first: 40 haredim join Air Force
By Yossi Yehoshua, YNetnews.com

The first ever group of Orthodox Jews was recruited into the Israel Air Force (IAF) last week as part of project "Blue Dawn".

In the framework of the project, 40 haredi men who had dropped out of their yeshiva studies, received training in areas such as aircraft maintenance, mechanics and the arming of fighter jets and helicopters. The recruits all have a low medical profile and cannot serve in combat positions.

The project was launched due to the depleted supply of human resources in the Air Force and in an attempt to provide Orthodox men with professional experience that would later help integrate them into the private market.

However, rabbis of the Netzah Yehuda organization, which founded the IDF's Nahal Haredi battalion, have expressed their objection to the project.

"We and our families paid a heavy personal price so that the Nahal Haredi would gain its legitimacy, and we were shocked to hear of another program for the recruitment of haredim that is famous for its permissiveness. This can hurt the Nahal Haredi."

The IAF rejected the claim, saying the program was set up in accordance with "all of the IDF Rabbinate's demands".


Symposium on immigration policy confounds mixed religion families
By Ruth Englash, JPost.com

The Association for the Rights of Mixed Families is holding a one-day symposium on "The Challenges of Immigration: Naturalization and Integration in Israel."

Dr. Ludmilla Oigenblick, executive director: The association, she said, was not asking that the country change the Law of Return, which states only those with a Jewish parent or grandparent are entitled to aliya, but just that the state show leniency for those caught in such a predicament.


Plight of the great-grandchildren
By Yael Branovsky, YNetnews.com

Though he has lived most of his life in Israel and completed his military service like the rest of his peers, 22-year-old Alex cannot marry the love of his life - simply because he is one of the thousands of 'fourth generation' youths, descendants of Jewish great-.grandparents who are ineligible for automatic citizenship under the Law of Return.


Police rabbi suspected of corruption
By Rebecca Anna Stoil, JPost.com

Allegations of corruption in the police have already reached high levels, with top corruption-busters and even the country's former top cop among the suspects.

On Sunday a new name was added when it was revealed that the Justice Department's Police Investigative Department (PID) is investigating the Israel Police's chief rabbi, Dep.-Cmdr. Rabbi Eliyahu Mugrabi, under suspicion of receiving illegal kickbacks for presiding over family events.

Mugrabi, who was questioned at least once by investigators, has been for several weeks the subject of a PID probe into numerous incidents in which he allegedly received money to preside over circumcisions and weddings.

He is also suspected of acting as a go-between in deals between owners of ritual objects shops and police officers, receiving valuable gifts from shop owners, and for accepting "repentance money" before the High Holy Days under the claim that he was donating the money to charity.


Rabbis warn Bush: Annapolis will bring destruction to US
By Neta Sela, YNetnews.com

A fringe group of prominent ultranationalist rabbis issued a harshly-worded letter to United States President George W. Bush earlier this week, warning him that the upcoming Annapolis peace conference would bring destruction upon America.

"We wrote to President Bush, a man who believes in the Bible, to warn him against the terrible danger to which he is exposing his country by hosting such a conference," said Rabbi Meir Druckman, one of signatories to the letter.

Among the rabbis who signed the letter are several leading religious figures, including Rabbis Dov Wolfa, Yekutiel Rap, Gedalia Axelrod as well as the chief rabbi of Kiryat Arba and Hebron, Dov Lior and the son of former Chief Rabbi Ovadia Yosef, Yaakov Yosef.


About Us

Religion and State in Israel is not affiliated with any organization or movement.

Please send your comments or suggestions to ReligionandStateinIsrael@gmail.com

Wednesday, November 7, 2007

Religion and State in Israel - November 5, 2007

Religion and State in Israel
November 5, 2007
Editor: Joel Katz

Peres seeks improved relations between Beit Hanassi, Reform rabbis
By Matthew Wagner, JPost.com

In contrast to his predecessor, Moshe Katzav, who refused last year to address the head of the Reform Movement, Rabbi Eric Yoffie, as "rabbi," President Shimon Peres met Friday with a group of five newly ordained Reform rabbis at the Hebrew Union College in Jerusalem.

"What I appreciate in Reform Judaism is its accommodation of the best of higher Jewish values with the modern world," Peres said.

The previous week, he met with Rabbi Tony Bayfield, head of the British branch of Reform Judaism. It was the first meeting between Peres and a member of the Reform movement since Peres took office in July.

Sources said the meetings were part of Peres's bid to repair damage caused by Katzav to relations between the presidential office and Reform Judaism.
During the meeting with Bayfield, Peres reportedly said, "Since the rabbis get to decide who is a Jew, the Jews should decide about who is a rabbi."

Dr. Michael Marmur, dean of the Hebrew Union College, said the change in presidents marked a new and positive era.

"Up until now, Katzav had made it impossible for us to meet with him," he said. "But today there is a new breeze blowing."

"I have no interest in forcing anyone to call me rabbi against his or her will," Marmur added.

"The rabbi's congregation is the one that reaffirms the title every single day."

Reform Reflections: Who is a Rabbi?
By Rabbi Michael Marmur, Jpost.com

It matters a great deal to me, however, what the President of the State of Israel calls our rabbis. If the name of the game in Israel is Monopoly, and if anyone outside that monopoly is invisible, then I fear that Israel will not fulfill its historic task.

The State of Israel needs to forge an unbreakable bond with the Jews outside Israel, and the burgeoning number within, who look to non-Orthodox rabbis for spiritual leadership.

Sheetrit: Limit Law of Return; some JA governors storm out
By Anshel Pfeffer, Haaretz

Speaking at a meeting of the Board of Governors of the Jewish Agency, Sheetrit said that every Jew who wishes to come to Israel should be permitted to do so, but there is no need to grant citizenship to them "five minutes later."

The interior minister was particularly critical of the immigration to Israel of "lost tribes," saying that he will insist on ending this phenomenon.

Stop "bringing immigrants by force," Sheetrit said. "Immigration should only be by choice. There is a need to change the Law of Return so that Israel can conduct itself as a country and not as a committee for the Jewish people.

Hands off the Law of Return
JPost.com Editorial

Part-Jews who immigrate at their individual initiative merit the warmest reception. They are among those for whom the Law of Return was enacted. Its aim, however, was never to hunt for prospective immigrants and entice them with material benefits. Thus vestigial quasi-Jews should not be actively sought and wooed.

Sheetrit, therefore, would do best to seek to change government policy and discourage aggressive searches for Jews where almost none exist. He should not be pompously taking out a contract on the Law of Return.

Zionist leaders protest donors' bid to separate JA, WZO

By Anshel Pfeffer, Haaretz

The protest letter is signed, among others, by heads of world organizations affiliated with Israeli parties, representatives of the Orthodox, Conservative and Reform movements, and Maccabi and Naamat.

The organizations Wednesday called on JA, UJC and United Israel Appeal leaders to refrain from harming WZO and its status as the umbrella organization for immigration to Israel and international Jewish and Zionist education.

A new Jerusalem and Babylon
By Haaretz Editorial

The relations between Israel and the the world's Jews, especially those in the United States, have always been fraught with hypocrisy.

The threat by a group of prominent donors to halt funds unless the Jewish Agency cuts itself off from the WZO - a blatant and patronizing demand as it may be - could accelerate a very necessary debate.

Immigration groups agree to mediation
By Daphna Berman, Haaretz

The Jewish Agency and Nefesh B'Nefesh have reached an agreement to enter mediation and are expected to begin the process shortly, in a move that may finally repair the high-profile rift between the two immigration organizations.

"Our hope is that a mediator will introduce ways for the two groups to move forward," said Paula Edelstein, co-chair of the Jewish Agency's Immigration and Absorption Committee. "The current situation is not good for the Jewish people or the State of Israel."

Jewish Agency cutbacks
Haviv Rettig, Jpost.com

The Jewish Agency's operational budget that finances overseas programs will be cut by millions of dollars, according to officials attending this week's Jewish Agency Board of Governors meeting in Jerusalem.

Chief Rabbinate ordains substitute kashrut supervisors
By Neta Sela,YNetnews.com

Eight days after the High Court's ruling, the Chief Rabbinate obeyed the decision and authorized five rabbis to grant kashrut certificates to businesses which practice heter mechira in area where local rabbis refused to do so.

Tzohar organization said in response, "We are satisfied with the Rabbinate's decision. We will continue to operate the alternate kashrut apparatus until we are convinced that every business that wants a certificate based on heter mechira receives it. We did not establish an alternative rabbinate; we will be happy if the Rabbinate fulfills its mandate and make our apparatus unnecessary."

Chairman of the Knesset's Constitution, Law and Justice Committee, MK Menachem Ben Sasson, congratulated the Chief Rabbinate's decision that put an end to the crisis. Ben Sasson said, however, that "the Knesset must pursue a legislative solution so we will not have to face such hurdles again in the next shmita year."

A big production and power struggle over produce
By Matthew Wagner, Jpost.com

Haredi rabbinic leaders, most of whom are at best ambivalent about the entire Zionist endeavor, saw the Chief Rabbinate primarily as a tool for strengthening control over religious affairs and tailoring them to a narrow, strict and purist interpretation of halacha.

Needless to say, these rabbis, when ruling on issues of shmita, did not factor into their legal equations the Zionist ethos of supporting Jewish agriculture, which is seen as an extra-halachic consideration.

Import of agricultural produce to Israel to resume
By Zvi Lavi, Ynetnews.com

"It is unacceptable that the secular residents and the foreign diplomats in Herzliya will be forced to purchase strictly kosher (Badatz Lemahdrin) food because the local rabbi disagrees with the Chief Rabbinate's order," said Agriculture Minister Shalom Simhon.

Converts hit new Israeli barrier
By Simon Rocker, The Jewish Chronicle

Since most diaspora conversions are non-Orthodox, the conditions are "particularly designed to limit Reform and Conservative conversions", argues Rabbi Uri Regev, the Israel-based president of the World Union for Progressive Judaism. But protests have come not only from the non-Orthodox.

Rabbi Shaul Farber, the Orthodox head of Itim - the Jewish Life Information Centre in Israel, which advises potential converts - said: "These criteria demonstrate complete disregard and disrespect for the local Jewish community."

Rabbi Chaim Weiner, convenor of the London-based European Masorti Bet Din:"Changes to the immigration procedures in Israel frequently come down to the ultra-Orthodox authorities wishing to assert their power over Jews abroad."

Majority of secular public views rabbinical authority 'irrelevant'
Kobi Nahshoni, Ynetnews.com

It is the sole authority overseeing marriage, divorce, conversion, kosher licensing and virtually ever other aspect of Jewish life in Israel.

But a new study conducted by Ynet and the Gesher Institute reveals that 41% percent of the general public believes the time has come to dismantle the National Authority of Religious Services (NARS).

Rabbis Invited For Pre-Annapolis Temple Mount Talks
By Ezra HaLevi, IsraelNationalNews.com

Israel's Chief Rabbis and Chief Rabbi of Haifa invited to White House for pre-Annapolis talks to explain the Jewish connection to the Temple Mount.

Chief Rabbis Yonah Metzger and Shlomo Amar, as well as the Chief Rabbi of Haifa and Chairman of the Chief Rabbinate Communications Committee Rabbi She'ar-Yashuv Cohen departed Saturday evening for a series of meetings to clarify to US leaders that the Temple Mount is Judaism's holiest site.

Beit Shemesh residents protest Haredi violence

Some 1,500 residents of Beit Shemesh gathered last night to protest the recent wave of ultra-Orthodox violence in the city, calling on police and municipality officials to take stronger action against Haredi "zealots."

The protesters, many of them Anglo residents of the city's modern Orthodox neighborhoods, demonstrated against what they call growing religious intimidation and coercion on behalf of Haredi fringe elements.

Bratslav Hasid and Shas oust non-Hasidic incumbent mayor
By Yair Ettinger, Haaretz

In Beitar Ilit, Meir Rubinstein, a Bratslav Hasid surprised all the pundits when he unseated the incumbent non-Hasidic mayor, Yitzhak Pindros, by a huge majority (60 percent to 40 percent).
His United List, which includes Shas and most of the Hasidic groups in town, took nine out of the 15 seats on the town council.

MK Meir Porush (United Torah Judaism) is likely to reap the fruits of his success, reportedly seeing his victory in Beitar Ilit as paving the way to the mayor's office in Jerusalem in 2008, replacing the non-Hasidic present mayor, Uri Lupolianski.

Working against the clock
By Tamar Rotem, Haaretz

Citybook, a company based in Modi'in Ilit provides real-estate insurance services to the American market and Citybook exclusively employs ultra-Orthodox women.

Citybook employs 150 women at its two branches - in Modi'in Ilit and Beitar Ilit. The company was founded around four years ago by an ultra-Orthodox American entrepreneur, Joseph (Joe) Rosenbaum, the owner of Madison Title of Lakewood, New Jersey.

A Modern Marketplace for Israel's Ultra-Orthodox
By Steven Erlanger, NYTimes

But because [the ultra-Orthodox] live in tight communities like this one, and obey their rabbis, they have significant power in the marketplace, as well as in the voting booth, said Rafi Melnick, dean of the Lauder School of Government at the Interdisciplinary Center, Herzliya.

Some 60 percent of ultra-Orthodox men do not work regular jobs, preferring religious study. More than 50 percent live below the poverty line and get state allowances, compared with 15 percent of the rest of the population, and most families have six or seven children, said Momi Dahan, an economist at the School of Public Policy at Hebrew University.

Two new Orthodox girls schools push egalitarianism in Jerusalem

By Brian Blum, JTA

Two new cutting-edge schools that opened in Jerusalem this fall are pushing the envelope on modern Orthodox education in the Jewish capital - and challenging rival schools to follow suit.

The Shalom Hartman Institute, a popular pluralistic Orthodox educational institution that already has a junior high and high school for boys, opened a girls school for grades seven through nine, and educator Beverly Gribetz started a girls school called Tehilla for grades nine and 10.

With a decidedly liberal bent that includes allowing girls to study Talmud and lead prayer services, the schools are positioning themselves to challenge the status quo in girls' religious education in Jerusalem and throughout the Orthodox world.

I, too, want to help the Jews
By Fania Oz-Salzburger, Haaretz

Excuse me, but who appointed you to connect my sons to their Jewish roots?

I would be delighted to join an organization for religious-secular reconciliation that enables my colleagues and me to write and distribute, with the Education Ministry's blessings, "A Program for State-Religious Schools."

Our programs would be taught by students of history, philosophy, law and political science, and they would be aimed at "helping religious youth connect to their humanist roots and the universal tradition."

Israeli Children Immerse themselves in their First Torah Lessons
By Mordechai Nisselman, Chabad.org

In what has become a tradition, Israeli second graders again began their year of learning the book of Genesis by attending a program run by the Chabad-Lubavitch Youth Organization.

Called Chagigat HaChumash, or Torah festival, the now 25-year-old program will welcome over the course of a month some 20,000 seven-year-olds from across the country at Chabad centers and in the village of Kfar Chabad.

IDF: 1 in 4 don't enlist in army

By Yael Branovsky, YNetnews.com

11.2% said they could not enlist because they were engaged in Torah study.
This is compared with 4.9 who opted out of IDF service for the same reason in 1991.

Land deal would have state, JNF swap 60,000 dunams
By Shahar Ilan, Haaretz

The JNF will transfer 60,000 dunams of developed land to the ILA in exchange for 60,000 dunams of open space. The deal is designed to render redundant the controversial JNF bill, which would allow the organization to continue leasing its lands only to Jews.

A Knesset research paper indicates that the JNF paid the state full price for absentee Arab land in the 1950s, in contradiction to claims by Arab parties that the state transferred the lands for symbolic fees.

No 'Israelis' in Israel?
By Aviram Zino, YNetnews.com

The Jerusalem Administrative Court on Wednesday ordered the State to justify its refusal to include the term 'Israeli' on the list of possible nationalities inscribed in Israeli identification cards.

"In its response, we ask the State to address, among other things, the manner in which the list of nationalities is set and through which legal means a nationality can be added or removed from that list," wrote Judge Noam Solberg.

Landmark Criminal Suit Against Waqf for Temple Mount Destruction
By Hillel Fendel, IsraelNationalNews.com

A group of 150 Israeli citizens have filed a class action suit against the Moslems who run the Temple Mount site for having destroyed Jewish antiquities there.

The suit, brought by the Shurat HaDin Israel Law Center charges that Islamic officials have engaged in the deliberate destruction of ancient Jewish relics on the Temple Mount. The indictment was filed in the Jerusalem District Court last week, and Shurat Hadin sources say it is the first of its kind in Israeli legal history.

"We are utilizing a seldom-applied section of the penal code," Shurat Hadin director Attorney Nitsana Darshan-Leitner explained, "that allows private citizens to bring a criminal complaint in certain areas. If we win, the Waqf officials could face years in prison."

Trouble in the Jewish Quarter
By Gil Zohar, JPost.com

The Old City's rebuilt Jewish Quarter stands as one of Zionism's proudest accomplishments - a showpiece of history and spirituality that attracts millions of Israelis and foreign visitors annually to the Western Wall and the neighborhood's myriad tourist attractions.

But the 600 families living in the picturesque quarter have a different perspective on life there. Many are fed up with the arbitrary quasi-bylaws imposed upon them by the Jewish Quarter Development Company (JQDC) - the government corporation established after the Six Day War to restore the then-ruined, historic neighborhood.

Group plans direct access to refurbished synagogue in J'lem's Muslim Quarter
By Nadav Shragai, Haaretz

The passageway, which is being planned by the Western Wall Heritage Foundation, will utilize existing spaces created by archaeological excavations beneath the Muslim Quarter.

Court convicts conmen who defrauded Greek Church in Jerusalem
By Aviram Zino, YNetnews.com

The investigation, led by the National Fraud Unit and the Jerusalem District Prosecutor's Office, revealed that Rabinowitz and Morgenstern, two real-estate businessmen, claimed to have signed three contracts in 2000 with then-Greek Patriarch Diodoros while falsely saying they were representing the State and the JNF.

Showdown over holy objects in Jerusalem
By Neta Sela, YNetnews.com

Greek Orthodox patriarch turns to court to instruct his predecessor to return collection of holy items valued at millions of dollars. Judge allows church representatives to enter home of former patriarch to photograph items, but they are refused entry

Religious leaders: Protect holy sites

The Archbishop of Canterbury and Israel's chief rabbis issued a joint declaration Tuesday calling on religious communities worldwide to take responsibility for protecting all holy sites.


About Us

Religion and State in Israel is not affiliated with any organization or movement.

Please send your comments or suggestions to ReligionandStateinIsrael@gmail.com