Tuesday, February 12, 2008

Religion and State in Israel - February 11, 2008 (Section 2)

Religion and State in Israel

February 11, 2008 (Section 2)

Editor – Joel Katz

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

Jewish Agency wages battle to retain monopoly over Aliyah

By Anshel Pfeffer, Haaretz February 10, 2008

In the latest skirmish over the right of private organizations to process immigration requests and aid in the absorption process, pressure from Prime Minister Ehud Olmert has kept the anti-monopolists from pursuing their agenda.

"Ending our exclusivity in opening immigration files would deal a death blow to the agency and end our special status in our main role of bringing immigrants to Israel," a Jewish Agency official said.

Jewish Agency to emphasize non-aliyah programs

By Anshel Pfeffer, Haaretz February 5, 2008

In a major shift announced this week, the Jewish Agency plans to intensify its efforts to forge emotional ties to Israel among Diaspora Jews who have no intention of immigrating.

Speaking at a conference in Kiev of JA envoys to the Commonwealth of Independent States, director Zeev Bielski stressed that encouraging aliyah remains the agency's main objective.

But he said that as most Jews today are not interested in moving to Israel, greater emphasis will be placed on fostering a connection to the country through educational programs.

Interfaith Couples Eye Israel for Jewish Identity

JTOnline.us January 29, 2008

A new program from Israel Encounter is taking interfaith couples to Israel, with the non-Jewish partner traveling free.

Recognizing the reality that interfaith marriages are going to happen, the program introduces the Israel experience to non-Jews married to or contemplating marriage to Jews, showing them what it means to be Jewish in Israeli and American societies, helping them recognize the role Judaism can play in their family, and teaching them the joy and beauty of Jewish customs, holidays and beliefs.

Participants will explore "who is a Jew," coming to understand the concept of Jewish identity in Israel and what it's like for people not born in Israel but living there now, comparing the physical move to Israel with the spiritual move to Judaism, whether or not conversion is a part of the journey.

Goverment launches NIS 870m plan aimed at Ethiopian immigrants

By Ruth Sinai, Haaretz February 11, 2008

According to the plan, funds will be spent on professional training courses for community members so as to raise their levels of employment; on increasing the percentage of young people receiving high-school matriculation certificates; on improving the performance of Israel Defense Forces recruits by providing them with pre-military training; and on helping young couples purchase houses outside of the 15 neighborhoods where most members of the community are currently concentrated.

Gov't okays NIS 870m. plan to aid Ethiopians

By Matthew Wagner, JPost.com February 11, 2008

"Past piecemeal attempts to help Ethiopians later failed," said Gadi Yavarkon, chairman of Ethiopian Jewry's Resistance Headquarters.

Bill would allow for mandatory paternity testing

By Shahar Ilan, Haaretz February 6, 2008

The Knesset set in motion yesterday a revolution in Israeli family law when it gave initial passage to a bill that would allow the courts to order men to take paternity tests.

However, with few exceptions, the courts will only be allowed to approve the genetic tests if there is no suspicion that the child would be declared a mamzer - a ‘bastard’ according to Jewish religious law.

Children born to a married woman and a man who is not her husband fall into that category, and neither Jewish nor Israeli law allow the products of such a union to marry most other Jews. Religious courts will be allowed to make use of the information gained from a paternity test ordered by a family court, but cannot order such tests themselves.

Why I won’t wear a burka to shul

By Miriam Shaviv, TheJC.com

In the past few months, reports have emerged of more than 100 Orthodox Israelis who have taken to wearing a Muslim-style burka, in the belief this will bring about redemption.

They can be seen in Orthodox areas of Tiberias, Safed and even Jerusalem, and are mostly followers of Rabbanit Bruria Keren, a mother of 10 from Ramat Beit Shemesh.

The “frumka” (frum burka) is the logical extension of two clear trends in the frum world.

Firstly, standards of modesty are becoming increasingly stringent and require increasing effort to follow.

Secondly, tznius, or modesty, has long moved from being about modest clothing to being about keeping women, and images of women, away from men.

Matchmaker, find me an affordable 3-room apartment

By Ranit Nahum-Halevy, Haaretz February 11, 2008

Threats. Blacklists, bans.

It's all part of the day's work in the Haredi real estate market, mainly in secular neighborhoods marked as "migration" targets by the ultra-Orthodox community.

In a market characterized by an extreme paucity of land for development and soaring prices, struggle was inevitable. But the rabbis hope to end the bad feeling with the establishment of rabbinical councils that set maximum prices for selling, buying and renting apartments.

The rabbis' power lies in intimidation: threatening sanctions against sellers, or buyers, who fail to heed the limits they set.

In fact anybody wanting to settle in a haredi neighborhood and integrate into the community must heed the real estate council, explains another Jerusalem council chairman.

Newcomers must not be allowed to rock the boat. If they insist, they are declared outcasts, denied community services from schooling for the kids, membership in women's organizations for the wife and no Torah readings for the outcast husband.

Ten-Year-Old Hareidi-Religious Community of Elad Named a City

By Hillel Fendel, IsraelNationalNews.com

Ten-year-old Elad, with well over 30,000 hareidi and religious residents, was named a full-fledged city.

Interior Minister Meir Sheetrit [turned] to Shas Party leader Eli Yeshai, the Minister of Industry and Trade, and asked him to "open a new trend in the hareidi public in Israel, along the lines of our rabbis and fathers of old, involving work and army service together with the study of sacred texts and wisdom."

He also told the residents themselves that it is of "utmost importance for people in the city to find jobs and support, and not to live in poverty or from government allocations."

Sheetrit to haredim: Stop segregating genders

YNetnews.com February 8, 2008

[Interior] Minister Meir Sheetrit caused some embarrassment this week when during a ceremony in the ultra-Orthodox city of Elad he called on the audience to stop the separation between men and women and urged the ultra-Orthodox public to enlist in the army.

At the opening of his speech Tuesday, Sheetrit called on the crowd, made up of rabbis, prominent public figures and haredi MKs, among others, to lift the partition separating between the men and the women in the audience.

"I think that in an event of this nature, screens are unnecessary. We're not dancing; we're just holding a ceremony. This screen should be removed," he stated.

The minister then went on to deliver his own interpretation to the Talmudic saying which states that "The world stands on three things: Torah, service and acts of kindness." According to Sheetrit, "Our forefathers combined everything. Torah should be combined with work and military service, as well as with scripture studies.

"My interpretation says that a person shouldn't claim he cannot work only because he studies Torah. Ministers Eli Yishai and Yitzhak Cohen served in the army, most of Shas' ministers served in the army. We should all carry the load together."

Arkia asks to fly twice a week to Kiev to meet needs of Breslav Hasidim

By Zohar Blumenkrantz, Haaretz (print edition) February 8, 2008

Arkia has officially asked the Transportation Ministry for approval of two weekly charter flights on the Tel Aviv-Kiev route.

The Kiev line will mostly serve Breslav Hasidim making a pilgrimage to the grave of Rabbi Nahman of Breslav.

Religious homosexuals seek acceptance

By Kobi Nahshoni, YNetnews.com February 10, 2008

[Only] 10 days after its inception, the HOD website, catering to the religious gay community, has broadened its operations. In a letter distributed to Orthodox community leaders Saturday night, site operators appealed to the Orthodox community to recognize them as “a living, viable part of its rank and file.”

“Orthodox culture cannot unceremoniously excise us from its ranks,” Itai further stated. “There are other groups that are similarly subjugated, and we would like to be a test case for acceptance of the ‘other’ in Orthodox community.”

In summing up the site’s mission, Itai said that “the way gays are treated in the Orthodox world today violates many of the commandments between man and his fellow man. We appealed to individuals that can give us a semblance of acceptance in the Orthodox world, and we hope that other rabbis and leaders will be willing to talk to us as well.”

See also: New website launched for religious gay community

The new religious family

By Yael Mishali, YNetnews.com February 7, 2008

With a delay customary for the religious world, slowly but surely the religious family is also turning into a new, different, and alternative family.

We can show our displeasure, make a face at the synagogue, or turn a cold shoulder at school, but they are here:

The new religious families, and particularly the special-different-alternative families; the debate over their legitimacy or definition has been irrelevant for a while now.

Israeli author sheds Light in Shadowy Corners

By Stephanie L. Freid, Israel21c.net February 09, 2008

"Coming out" in any culture can be fraught with controversy, internal conflict and emotion.

And within religious environs, announcing one's homosexual preferences increases the complications exponentially.

So when Evan Fallenberg began penning his debut novel Light Fell, the story of a devoutly orthodox Israeli man who pursues his male rabbi love interest, he was stirring up the contents of an already bubbling stew.

Jurisdiction over Joseph's Tomb disputed

By Efrat Weiss, YNetnews.com February 6, 2008

The IDF's Judea and Samaria Division is furious at what they call "Israel's inability to enforce the law due to judicial ping-pong," referring to the circular arrests of Breslov hassidim who enter Joseph's Tomb and their release by the courts, which cite they have no jurisdiction over the matter.

IDF forces arrest those who enter the tomb and the police ask the Israeli civilian courts to remand them to custody. The courts usually decline, citing such cases should be heard by their military counterparts – but those have no jurisdiction over civilians.

Sources in the judicial system told Ynet that the Israeli courts "have the jurisdiction to try Israeli citizens who committed criminal acts in Judea and Samaria," and have done so in the past.

Tel Aviv Court to Judge Jews who Entered Joseph’s Tomb

By IsraelNationalNews.com February 10, 2008

The Tel Aviv District Court will hold a hearing on Sunday morning regarding two young men from Havat Gilad in Samaria who are accused of entering Joseph’s Tomb (Kever Yosef) to pray last week without permission from the IDF.

One of the two is accused of attempting to prevent a soldier from doing his duty, while the other has refused to cooperate with the secular court system.

Supreme Court rules on transfer of Moslem cemetery to Jewish ownership

By Ruti Avraham, NFC.co.il (Hebrew) February 4, 2008

The court decision determines that a sale agreement for 40 dunams of land in Abu-Kabir, Jaffa to Jewish ownership is valid. The second half of the parcel served as a Muslim cemetery.

The Wakf must reinter all the graves from the Muslim cemetery to an alternative location to enable building at the site.

The original sale took place in 1973 and the case continued until the February 2008 decision.

The prayer business

In 2004 Jewish Quarter resident Batya Burd, 33, established Western Wall Prayers to say proxy prayers at the Wall for those unable to do so themselves.

"Once I was told I was selling snake oil. But that's okay," she says. "I'm not doing this for public approval. You have to believe in God to actually believe this works. Otherwise it's just superstition."

Court rejects state's bid to take partial control of Meron pilgrimage site

By Eli Ashkenazi, Haaretz February 6, 2008

The Nazareth District Court recently rejected the state's request to temporarily take over running a major Jewish pilgrimage site, the grave of Rabbi Shimon Bar Yohai in Meron.

Currently, the site is run by a conglomeration of 11 different organizations and rabbis, each responsible for a different part of the site.

Judge Gabriell (De-Leeuw) Levy noted the site is being run under an interim arrangement negotiated among the warring parties and approved by the High Court of Justice.

While this arrangement is not optimal, she said, there is no justification for scrapping it before a permanent agreement on managing the site is reached.

New guide for the halachic and egalitarian minyan

By Kobi Nahshoni, YNetnews.com February 10, 2008

Can women receive the maftir aliya? Lead the Hallel? Recite the half Kadish? Select the tune for Lecha Dodi? Women can now do all of the above—with appropriate halachic sanction.

For three years Michal and Elitzur Bar-Asher, an Israeli couple living abroad, have studied the halacha’s approach to including women in public prayer services, and have recently published a detailed guide on this rather tricky subject.

The couple’s newly published guide, the Guide for the Halachic Minyan, not only highlights the halacha’s perspective on female participation in prayer services, it also offers a detailed account of specific prayers that women may, or may not lead.

Click here for the “Guide for the Halachic Minyan [pdf file]

Prominent rabbi: Celebrating Pesach abroad a distorted custom

By Kobi Nahshoni, YNetnews.com February 7, 2008

"There is nothing more distorted than celebrating Pesach (Passover) overseas," prominent Zionist Rabbi Zalman Melamed said in a weekly op-ed published in the Komemuyot Movement's pamphlet.

The holiday is still two-and-a-half months away, but the religious press is already filled with ads offering attractive travel deals to numerous destinations abroad.

"During the holiday, we call on people to be close to the (Jewish) holy sites, to the Land of Israel and to Jerusalem, and not drift away from holiness, God forbid," the rabbi wrote.

Melamed praised the organizers of the "Pesach Operation," which is aimed at filling the capital with worshipers during the holiday.

First Israeli Progressive Congregation Celebrates Jubilee

Kehilat Har-El of Jerusalem, Israel’s pioneer Progressive congregation, has begun a year-long celebration of its golden jubilee.

Founded in 1958 as the 'Association for the Renewal of Religious Life in Israel, it is the forerunner of the Israel Movement for Progressive Judaism.

Shemittah Potatoes Escape Frost

By Hillel Fendel, IsraelNationalNews.com February 11, 2008

Thousands of dunams of potato-crop land were saved from the severe damages of the recent frost - precisely because they were grown in accordance with Shemittah rules.

The Otzar HaAretz enterprise announces that despite the loss of some 80% of this year's potato crop due to frost, tens of thousands of its potato-growing dunams in the western Negev were saved.

Shas and ZAKA avert autopsies

By Yeruham Shuelvitch, Ladaat.net (Hebrew) February 9, 2008

ZAKA has succeeded in obtaining a contribution to purchase a MRI machine that enables examination of corpses without the need for an autopsy.

The machine will be placed in Assaf Harofeh Hospital and will also be used for patients at the hospital.

Kolech sets up first Beit Midrash for Women’s Studies

By NRG.co.il (Hebrew) February 6, 2008

Miss the funeral? Now you can download it

As part of a push to improve religious services, and another example of how technology is being used to bridge geographic barriers and time constraints, the Tel Aviv Hevra Kadisha will provide online videos of funerals.

The (former) state of Jewish studies

By Anshel Pfeffer, Haaretz February 6, 2008

If there was once a time when it was said that the Hebrew University was the University of the Jewish People, Prof. Sergio DellaPergola says, today, it's no longer clear that the Hebrew University is superior in the area of Jewish studies, when compared with Bar-Ilan University here, or with such American institutions as Brandeis or the University of Michigan.

Nonetheless, DellaPergola still believes, as do many of his colleagues, that the best researchers in Jewsh studies can still be found in Israel.

Compare and contrast

The Women's Institute of Judaic Studies in Ein Hanatziv, located in the pastoral setting of the Beit Shean Valley, was founded in 1986 by the Religious Kibbutz Movement as an intellectually open institute for post-high school and post-army young women seeking to build their religious identities with a commitment to halacha and to expanding their knowledge of Jewish texts.

This type of interfaith meeting is unusual in Israeli Modern Orthodox circles. Kahn, who heads the institute and who is on sabbatical this year, arranged this "bizarre" weekend as part of his involvement with an organization called KEDEM, an acronym for Kol Dati Mefayes, or Voices for Religious Reconciliation.

Greek Orthodox Church sued in feud over Jewish hold on Old City property

Three foreign investment companies which claim to have leased property from the Greek Orthodox Patriarchate have sued the church and the current holders of the properties for NIS 5 million and asked the Jerusalem District Court to evict them.

Further investigation revealed that behind the leasing deals was Ateret Cohanim, a yeshiva and development company whose aim is to establish as many Jewish holdings as possible in the Old City.

Religion and State in Israel

February 11, 2008 (Section 2)

Editor – Joel Katz

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