Tuesday, April 8, 2008

Religion and State in Israel - April 7, 2008 (Section 1)

Religion and State in Israel

April 7, 2008 (Section 1) (continues in Section 2)

Editor – Joel Katz

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

Religious politicians are furious after a Jerusalem court permits the sale of hametz during Passover

By Haaretz Staff and Channel 10 April 3, 2008

Click here for VIDEO

Ravitz appeals to amend Hametz Law

By JPost.com April 7, 2008

Following last week's court decision to allow stores and restaurants to sell hametz (leavened products) on Pessah, MK Avraham Ravitz (UTJ) on Monday submitted an appeal to amend Hametz Law.

According to the proposal, the word "public" would be removed from the law, leading to a comprehensive prohibition against selling hametz on Passover.

In the written appeal Ravitz submitted to Knesset Speaker Dalia Itzik, he asked that the Knesset convene during its recess to approve the amendment, so that it can be done before Passover commences.

Ruling: Stores allowed to sell bread on Passover

By Aviram Zino, Ynetnews.com April 3, 2008

In her verdict, the judge ruled that, by law, a store or restaurant is not deemed a ‘public place’ because, unlike an open market, it is a closed off arena that cannot be seen by passersby.

Furthermore, noted Bar Asher, “the law deals mainly with the prohibition on displaying leavened goods during Passover, rather than eating or possessing such products. In other words, its intent is to prevent the display of leavened goods in public during the holiday rather than their sale.”

Judge okays sale of leavened products during Passover

By Ofra Edelman, Haaretz April 4. 2008

Judge Tamar Bar-Asher Zaban ruled Wednesday that groceries, pizzerias and restaurants are permitted to sell chametz (leavened products, not eaten during Pesach) because they are not "public" places in which chametz is prohibited for sale by law.

Thanks to Lupolianski

By Shahar Ilan, Haaretz Opinion April 4, 2008

This year we can expect chametz displays in stores and restaurants throughout Israel as never before.

And it's all thanks to Uri Lupolianski's municipal government.

Whoever said a Haredi mayor was bad for secular Israelis?

The sin of hubris

By Nehemia Shtrasler, Haaretz Opinion April 8, 2008

…to see the chametz, [a] passersby must enter the business, but they don't have to if they don't want to. This is like someone eating chametz at home - it certainly does not bother anyone else. Everyone has a right to follow his own religious practices, but in exactly the same way we need to protect the right of others not to keep the same practices.

Shas minister: We must get rid of court like chametz

By Ofra Edelman, Haaretz April 4, 2008

Minister of Religious Services Yitzhak Cohen (Shas) announced yesterday that he plans to appeal a Jerusalem court decision allowing grocery stores, restaurants and pizzerias to sell chametz (leavened bread) on Passover.

"The court must rule on what it knows, and not halakha (Jewish religious law).

Jerusalem Municipal Affairs Court OKs Sale of Hametz on Passover

By Nissan Ratzlav-Katz, IsraelNationalNews.com April 3, 2008

Israel's Ashkenazi Chief Rabbi Yona Metzger said of Judge Tsabar's ruling, "To our sorrow, the court has 'passed over' Jewish law." The rabbi explained that the proscription of hametz on Passover "is not open to legal interpretation."

Yishai: Chametz sale is 'stain on Jewish identity'

By Barak Ravid, Haaretz April 7, 2008

Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni blamed the tensions caused by this for detracting from the larger aim, which she said was "preserving Jewish identity as something that concerns all of us, with no connection to the Haredi sector's interests."

Livni: Hametz ruling harms identity of Israel

By Gil Hoffman, JPost.com April 7, 2008

"Unfortunately, since the religious parties took a monopoly on Jewish issues in a way that expresses only their religious aspects it has created anger and tension that has damaged the Jewish identity of the country."

Shas appeals to Friedmann to intervene in battle against court's hametz decision

By Gil Hoffman, JPost.com April 7, 2008

Interior Minister Meir Sheetrit:

"I think it's a mistake to interfere with legislation, and it's impossible to enforce such a law anyway," Sheetrit told The Jerusalem Post.

"Most Israelis don't eat hametz anyway, and the rest will be able to get it no matter what the government does."


From chametz to Baruch Goldstein

By Yair Sheleg, Haaretz Opinion April 6, 2008

Judge Tamar Bar-Asher Zaban's distinction between public and private space with regard to the sale of chametz during Passover may sound reasonable in a legal sense, but the main issue here is not the legal one but rather the public one:

Is it appropriate for Israel's lawbook to include a law prohibiting the sale of chametz on Pesach?

My very unliberal response to that question is: Yes.

Reform Rabbi Gilad Kariv: We can’t force religious norms

By Neta Sela, Ynet.co.il April 3, 2008 (Hebrew)

Reform Rabbi Gilad Kariv, Israel Religious Action Center: “The attempt to shape the Jewish character of the State of Israel through legislation that forces religious norms on individuals who are not observant is destined to fail.

Because of my concern for the place of Judaism within our public life, one would hope that this verdict leads to the removal of this inappropriate law…”

70% of Israeli Jews Ban Bread on Passover

By IsraelNationalNews.com April 7, 2008

People with higher incomes tend to be less interested in observing the commandment not to eat leavened bread during Passover, when Jews celebrate their freedom from bondage in Egypt.

The survey also showed that university graduates were less observant, with only 57 percent saying they would not eat bread during Passover.

Poll - Ynetnews.com

By Yehudit Yahav, Ynetnews.com April 7, 2008

Some 69% of Jewish Israelis will not eat leavened goods this coming Passover, a new poll conducted by Market Watch for Mazot Aviv food company recently revealed.

According to the survey, only 18% of Israelis eat both leavened goods and matzahs during the holiday. Six percent said they eat bread and other leavened goods throughout Pesach and 5% stated they only plan to eat matzahs on Passover eve.

Click here for VIDEO

Ultra-Orthodox target supermarket chain open on Sabbath

By Haaretz Staff and Channel 10 April 6, 2008

The battle that pits Israel's ultra-Orthodox population against secular businesses has resumed.

This time, the battleground is AM:PM, a supermarket chain that is open 24 hours a day - including the Sabbath.

Because of AM:PM's business hours, the Rabbinical Committee for the Sanctity of the Sabbath has called on Israel's ultra-Orthodox to avoid businesses owned by David Weissman, who owns both AM:PM and Shefa Shuk, the Haredi supermarket chain.

Chain Closes Stores on Sabbath as Hareidi Boycott Looms

Several stores belonging to the AM:PM chain of convenience stores were closed last Saturday, leading to speculation that the chain may be folding in the face of hareidi-religious pressure.

The chain is owned by Dor-Alon, which also operates Shefa-Shuk, a chain that caters to the hareidi market.

Dor-Alon told Ynet that five out of the chain's 15 branches were closed on Sabbath. Three of these are closed regularly and two decided to close also, due to "economic considerations."

The tension between the hareidim and Dor-Alon's owner, Dudi Weisman, began one month ago when Weisman was summoned to a meeting with Tel Aviv's Chief Rabbi Meir Lau, who asked him to stop operating the AM:PM branch opposite the Belz Yeshiva on Sheinkin Street in Tel Aviv on the Sabbath. Weisman refused, and the hareidim responded with a boycott on Shefa Shuk.

A meeting of leading rabbis is scheduled for this evening, and the closing of several branches is seen as a signal by Weisman that he is willing to compromise.

Rabbis threaten to boycott Dor Alon

By Adi Dovrat, Haaretz April 3, 2008

Two leading ultra-Orthodox rabbis called on the religious Jewish community to boycott stores that fail to observe the Sabbath. The rabbis in question are the Admor of Gur and Yosef Shalom Elyashiv.

This is not the first time the two rabbis have taken part in the ultra-Orthodox community's battles against the desecration of the Sabbath.

The most recent, widely publicized battle was in late 2006, when the two rabbis signed an agreement ordering the religious community not to fly with El Al because it operated on the Sabbath after the company assisted passengers stuck overseas because of a strike at Ben-Gurion Airport.

Shefa Shuk manager quits as rabbis intensify pressure

By Ilanit Hayut, Globes.co.il March 31, 2008

Shefa Shuk chain manager Uri Kaminsky has resigned, as the dispute between the Alon Israel Oil Company Ltd. and rabbis from haredi sects widens

Ultra-Orthodox boycott hits Shefa Shuk hard in March

By Adi Dovrat and Nati Tuker, Haaretz April 6, 2008

The ultra-Orthodox boycott of the David Weissman Alon group is starting to take its toll:

Sales at the Shefa Shuk supermarket chain dropped 42% in March. Some of the fall has to do with the dates of the Passover holiday shopping period, which came earlier last year; but the boycott protesting the opening of Alon's AM:PM markets on the Sabbath is showing clearly.

However, it seems there are some successes for Weissman, as a number of important Bnei Brak rabbis have refused to sign the letter calling for the boycott.

The sin of hubris

By Nehemia Shtrasler, Haaretz Opinion April 8, 2008

The non-religious public must fight back and do their Passover shopping at Shefa Shuk. Prices are reasonable there, too.

Just as the public staged a shopping campaign in Sderot to help the city, it is only right that it do so again now, in its own interest. If we do not stop religious coercion today, it will control us tomorrow.

Mitzvah, not murder

By Shahar Ilan, Haaretz April 4, 2008

Why did the sheep have to be decapitated?

The experiment was one of the local medical establishment's desperate attempts to persuade two ultra- Orthodox rabbinical authorities, Rabbi Yosef Shalom Elyashiv and Rabbi Shlomo Zalman Auerbach, to recognize brain death as the moment of death, to pave the way for ultra-Orthodox Jews to donate organs for transplants.

Revised transplant ruling

By Michael Feldstein, Haaretz Letters to the Editor April 7, 2008

Rabbi Auerbach, with the help of Dr. Rabbi Avraham Steinberg, published an article in ASSIA - A Journal of Jewish Medical Ethics and Halacha, confirming that he accepted brain-stem death as halakhic death.

In an attempt to mislead the public, Yated Ne'eman dishonestly chose not to publish the later modified version of the rabbis' ruling.

Michal Feldstein

Board Member, Halachic Organ Donor Society

Click here for VIDEO on Sheep Experiment

Encourage organ donation

Haaretz Editorial April 3, 2008

The proof of the brain and respiratory death law, which takes effect in 14 months, will be in the number of rabbis who endorse the ruling, which states that death can be declared when the brain stem dies.

The law will allow organ donation in individual cases. The question is whether the rabbis will speak out clearly and declare organ donation to be a religious and human duty.

Rabbinic court blocks civil court intervention in aguna cases

By Matthew Wagner, JPost.com April 2, 2008

The supreme rabbinic court ruled that it was unlawful for a woman in the middle of divorce proceedings in a rabbinic court to appeal to a civil court to speed up the divorce's conclusion.

In the decision, Rabbi Hagai Izirer, Rabbi Menahem Hashai and Rabbi Zion Algrably ruled that if the civil court intervened, the writ of divorce (get) that the husband issued as a result would be null and void.

The rabbis, quoting Talmudic and other early rabbinic literature, said that civil courts were considered "a gentile entity," even if the judges were Jewish, and were therefore disqualified from coercing the husband in any way to give a get.

Attorney Susan Weiss, Center for Women's Justice:

"If a man intentionally abuses his religious right to withhold a get from his wife, he causes her a civil wrong. He is intentionally inflicting emotional distress. He is infringing on his wife's life, liberties, rights and freedoms. That's why wives have the right to sue recalcitrant husbands for damages."

Knesset c'tee passes bill blocking Metzger from rabbinic court

By Shahar Ilan, Haaretz April 1, 2008

The Knesset Internal Affairs Committee yesterday approved for second and third readings Justice Minister Daniel Friedmann's bill to prevent the appointment of Ashkenazi Chief Rabbi Yona Metzger as president of the supreme rabbinic appellate court. Metzger has been the subject of bribery investigations in recent years.

The intention is to pass the legislation in plenum votes before the Knesset shuts down for winter recess tomorrow.

Under current law, chief rabbis serve for 10 years - five years chairing the Chief Rabbinic Council, and five years presiding over the appeals court. Metzger was supposed to replace Sephardic Chief Rabbi Shlomo Amar as court president on Sunday.

Judge Rules Paschal Sacrifice Practice "Proper," Appeal Filed

Following are excerpts from the ruling of Judge Hagit Mac-Kalmanovich, handed down in the case of Tnoo Lachayot Lichyot (animal rights group) vs. the Temple Movements' intention to ritually slaughter a lamb as part of a daylong symposium concerning the Passover offering.

"The law in the state of Israel sees ritual slaughter (shechitah) of an animal by an experienced ritual slaughterer (shochet) in accordance with Jewish law is not an act of abusing an animal..."

"In light of the fact that the ritual slaughter (shechitah) [of the lamb] is to be performed by an experienced ritual slaughterer (shochet) I see no reason to accept the plaintiff's claim that what is being discussed is an experiment using live animals."

"The defendants' desire to hold the event (symposium) as part of the [historic process marking the] return of the nation of Israel to the land of Israel, and their goal, in the words of Rabbi Ysrael Ariel [founder of the Temple Institute] to build the Holy Temple and the perform there the [relevant] commandments, including the commandment to prerform the Passover offering."

"The desire to study and increase knowledge of the laws concerning Passover and the Passover offering is most certainly legitimate and admirable. Including in this educational effort the study of practical aspects [of the Passover offering] does not make the study undesirable.

To be sure, the vast majority of the public will choose not to participate in the viewing of the ritual slaughter of the lamb, or in the planned symposium, but that does not render the event illegitimate for all those who do [wish] to participate. As known, freedom of religion and freedom of worship are basic rights [guaranteed by] the state of Israel."

"[It is worth noting] as well, that the ritual slaughter of animals for the sake of observing a [religious] festival or ritual practice is an accepted act in the state of Israel. Suffice it to note that the slaughter of lambs as part of the Moslem observance of the Chag haKorban, and the Samaritan practice of slaughtering a Passover offering are likewise deemed acceptable by law. As none of these practices are forbidden, I do not see fit to forbid the particular event being discussed here."

28 Adar II, 5768 (April 4, 2008)
Judge Hagit Mac-Kalmanovich

Mock Passover Sacrifice Slammed by Pro-Animal Group

By Gil Ronen, IsraelNationalNews.com April 2, 2008

Animal rights group “תנו לחיות לחיות"(Let the Animals Live) is threatening to take legal action to prevent the Jewish Temple movement from carrying out an educational demonstration of the Pesach (Passover) sacrifice next week.

The group's chairman, Attorney Reuven Ladiansky, sent a letter to Jerusalem Mayor Uri Lupolianski and to Temple Institute Director Yehuda Glick, urging them to cancel the planned event or face legal action. The group sees the planned sacrifice as an act of illegal cruelty to an animal.

According to the chairman, the "demonstration sacrifice" would violate the Israeli law which makes it illegal to torture animals or to kill them in a cruel way.

Any use of animals for educational purposes requires prior approval by the Council for Experiments on Animals.

"Carrying out a 'general rehearsal' in which a live animal is sacrificed for demonstrational purposes only, while a substitute – like a model of a sheep – can be used, is unjustified and unnecessary," he claimed.

Response of the Temple Institute

…As you know, the prohibition against "tzar l'ba'alai chaim" cruelty to animals is a Torah based principle. Torah strictly forbids both causing physical pain and/or psychological or emotional anguish to animals.

Anyone who transgresses this prohibition is in violation of the trust and responsibility placed in him by G-d.

The Holy Temple and the Approach of Passover

TempleInstitute.org Symposim

Messianic Jews stir controversy in Jerusalem

By Danny Adino-Ababa, Ynetnews.com April 8, 2008

The request was submitted by Netivyah, an organization of Messianic Jews…

Joseph Shulam, Netivyah chairman and one of the Jewish Messianic community's leaders in Israel:

"We have never concealed out faith. Throughout the years we have operated in the neighborhood, everybody knew what we were doing.

We don't preach or convert Jews to Christianity. All we do is help Jews by opening soup kitchens, giving alms, nothing more."

Court permits mother to cremate daughter's body

By Ahiya Raved, Ynetnews.com April 7, 2008

The Haifa District Court on Monday permitted a family from Zichron Yaacov to cremate the body of their 14-year old daughter, who committed suicide during the weekend.

The issue came to the court's attention due to an appeal from ZAKA Rescue Services and Chevra Kadisha, who demanded to prohibit the cremation. The court's decision has raised objections from the religious community.

Judge Ginat determined that the court had no right to interfere in the issue, as the family of the deceased supported the mother's cause, but delayed the cremation in order to allow ZAKA time to appeal to the Supreme Court.

In Israel, make it pay to study Judaism

By Rabbi Andrew Sacks

Rabbi Andrew Sacks is the director of the Rabbinical Assembly in Israel and director of the Masorti Bureau of Religious Affairs.

So how do we get the masses to take an interest in becoming Jewish?

Israel should create an incentive system. Pay to convert? Not exactly.

Such an approach would be immoral and illegal. But let us consider payment, or tax credits, for those who take the basic Judaism courses that can serve as preparation for conversion.

The easiest demographic problem we’ve ever had

[a response to In Israel, make it pay to study Judaism]

Altneuland Advocating a secure & just Israel...April 4, 2008

My opinion is that, rather than get even further enmeshed in religious issues, the state needs to take a step back. Israel needs to walk the talk and really become the Jewish AND democratic state it claims to be.

The way to do this is to stop backing the claim of Orthodoxy to be the only authentic Judaism. All the major Jewish denominations (including and especially Masorti/Conservative, Reform and Reconstructionist) should enjoy equal status, and all should be allowed to perform conversions recognized by the state.

Conversion - or genocide?

By Lily Galili, Haaretz April 8, 2008

Meet Rabbi Naftali Schreiber, an activist from Rabbis Against Conversion. He is a fairly familiar figure among the Russian-speaking public; to veteran Israelis, he is a foreigner.

Schreiber, 30, immigrated to Israel 16 years ago and studied at Chabad yeshivas here. He no longer is a Chabad member, nor is he employed by the rabbinic establishment. A lot of his time is devoted to missionary activity - saving souls from conversion.

The IDF's first 'glatt kosher' commandos

By Yaakov Katz, JPost.com April 6, 2008

They are trained by the IDF's best instructors and are expert marksmen, scouts and urban warfare fighters.

In contrast to their counterparts in the elite units belonging to the Golani or Paratrooper Brigades, these soldiers sport large black velvet yarmulkes and sidelocks, making up the first glatt kosher Sayeret - elite reconnaissance squad - in IDF history.

The IDF is pleased with the performance of Netzah Yehuda and recently announced plans to try and enlist enough haredi soldiers to be able to establish a second battalion in a similar framework - two years of military service as a combat soldiers and one year completing matriculation exams and preparing for university.

Rabbi Zvi Klebanow, director of the Nahal Haredi Organization, said that the elite fighters "are a pride for Israel by demonstrating their ability to maintain a haredi lifestyle while at the same time serving their country."

A minimum degree of fairness

By Nehemia Shtrassler, Haaretz Opinion April 3, 2008

The Israel Defense Forces recently announced it is worried by the high number of ultra-Orthodox who are evading the draft.

Ten years ago only 4.5 percent of the annual crop of conscripts were released from their obligation on the grounds that the Torah is their profession.

Now that figure has risen to 11 percent; in 2020, the numbers will climb to an estimated 25 percent.

This is particularly annoying because these young ultra-Orthodox men receive "yeshiva payments" from the state that exceed the salary of a conscript.

Of course, there are also secular and Arab citizens who are evading the draft.

New Israeli Advertising Campaign Encourages Military Service

By Nathan Jeffay, The Forward April 03, 2008

The Defense Ministry figures released last fall show that Haredi refusal, while growing rapidly as a share of the draft-age cohort, accounts for less than half of the males who do not serve.

Advertising executive Rami Yehoshua’s campaign is targeting that second group that has long been overlooked: the growing numbers of Israelis who simply choose to ignore their draft.

Betzedek Starts Legal Claims Against Bus Companies

By Yechiel Sever, Dei’ah veDibur April 3, 2008

Legal suits against transportation companies that fail to meet their obligations to passengers are now underway.

Recently Betzedek has received hundreds of written complaints regarding public transportation, including precise details and recommendations to improve bus service.

The Betzedek public complaints center was set up two months ago and the many complaints received since then have been reviewed by lawyers conversant in transportation law.

According to the attorneys' recommendation, a portion of the complaints will be compiled for a class-action suit or a common suit. Other individual complaints will be directed to small-claims court.

Click here for VIDEO on Mehadrin Bus issue

Bank of Israel: More haredim go back to work

By JJ Levine, JPost.com April 7, 2008

As the community grows, the exposure to secular living standards also increases, especially via the computer and Internet, and people are not content to live a bare standard of existence, Pinchas said. But that standard of living needs to be financed, and the stipends and subsidies that traditionally served as the financial backbone of the community can hardly provide for basic needs.

The men who left the yeshiva world in his native Bnei Brak, Pinchas said, were once looked down upon, but now it is accepted that a haredi Jew can avidly keep the mitzvot while maintaining a secular profession.

Haredim are worried about their children

By Raz Smalsky, Haaretz April 2008

"In Haredi families, the decision to purchase an apartment preoccupies the parents from the moment the children are born, and there is a constant effort to find sources of funding…”

The gamach (a free loan fund) is a common source of funding whose advantage lies in the fact that the loan is interest-free

"In the Haredi sector there is a gamach for every purpose: diapers, pacifiers, weddings and apartments.

The main problem is that the owner of the gamach can demand immediate payment of the loan, and then begins the phenomenon of using several gamachs - taking from the second in order to cover the first.

There are people who have loans in 20 gamachim for sums of $70,000. They run around all day long trying to raise money to cover the loans," explains Sharett.

Settling for less-than-pure principles

By Matthew Wagner, JPost.com April 4, 2008

Haredim who opposed the Zionist enterprise from the outset as a dangerous antagonizing of the gentiles of the world are now spearheading the expansion of settlements in the West Bank, arguably the most controversial endeavor ever undertaken by the modern Jewish nation.

…the change in the haredi approach to settlement activity is primarily a product of circumstances and convenience.

As dependence on cheap housing beyond the Green Line has grown, the purist haredi apprehension about inciting the gentiles has been replaced by various rationalizations.

Settlements are their religion

By Uzi Benziman, Haaretz Opinion April 2, 2008

This is a crazy reality:

The force currently pushing forward the demand to beef up Jewish settlements in the territories belongs to a segment of the population that is not prepared to bear the burden involved in this, and whose basic attitude toward the state is one of alienation and differentiation.

How long will the general public stand for this?

Unsettling times

By Michael Green, JPost.com April 7, 2008

Last month [the] government announceme[d] that a new 700-home neighborhood would be built to the west of the main settlement of Givat Ze'ev…

Givat Ze'ev residents are also worried about the new development, albeit for entirely different reasons.

Agan Ha'ayalot, designed as a neighborhood for haredim from outside the Givat Ze'ev bloc, will not serve the housing needs of current residents, who are experiencing rocketing property prices. It also threatens to upset the present sense of balance between the community's religious and secular residents.

While the recent media furor over Agan Ha'ayalot has largely fallen on deaf ears in Givat Ze'ev, some fear that a new haredi neighborhood could unsettle the equilibrium among Givat Ze'ev's diverse populous.

The new development is geographically separate from the main town of Givat Ze'ev, over three km. along a winding road, and will effectively become a new satellite settlement that will significantly expand the western border of the overall settlement bloc.

Haredim riot to try to stop in-flight movie

By Zohar Blumenkrantz, Haaretz April 7, 2008

Ultra-Orthodox Jewish passengers yesterday rioted during a Kiev-bound El Al flight, trying to prevent the screening of an in-flight movie, according to eye-witnesses.

The passengers, who allegedly started to shout and forcibly prevented the screens from opening, claimed they had been promised that no in-flight movies would be shown.

"It was a scary sight," a passenger said. El Al's flights to the Ukrainian capital mostly serve religious Jews en route to the grave of Rabbi Nachman of Bratslav, located in the town of Uman.

Yeshiva students enroll in investment consultancy course

By David Regev, Ynetnews.com April 6, 2008

Minister of Industry, Trade and Labor launches project aimed at incorporating ultra-Orthodox into workforce. 'Not everyone is suited for the yeshiva way of life,' student says.

Religion and State in Israel

April 7, 2008 (Section 1) (continues in Section 2)

Editor – Joel Katz

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

Religion and State in Israel - April 7, 2008 (Section 2)

Religion and State in Israel

April 7, 2008 (Section 2) (continued from Section 1)

Editor – Joel Katz

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

Click here to listen to AUDIO

Hagee answers Yoffie

By Ami Eden, JTA April 7, 2008

Pastor Hagee, responding to questions that were submitted ahead of time, defended himself against Rabbi Eric Yoffie of the Reform movement and other critics who accuse the mega-church leader of being anti-Catholic and bent on stopping Israeli peace moves.

Evangelist to Yoffie: 'I'm not trying to undermine peace'

By Shmuel Rosner, Haaretz April 8, 2008

Hagee [added] that the Reform leader "failed to exhibit the very sensitivity of which he spoke." The San Antonio church leader said Yoffie demonstrated "a lack of respect for me [and] a troubling lack of respect for the truth."

Hagee: We don't tell Israelis what to do

By Michal Lando, JPost.com April 7, 2008

"We do not seek to tell Israelis what to do," Pastor John Hagee told a group of reporters Monday, following claims made last week by the president of the Union for Reform Judaism suggesting that he and his organization, Christians United for Israel, were a threat to the country's security.

Asked to define Christian Zionism, Hagee said it is "the belief that every Jewish person has the right of return to Israel, and the right to live in peace and security within the recognized borders."

Yoffie told The Jerusalem Post that he "tried to be very careful in checking [his] sources."

Yoffie said Hagee had suggested meeting when he returned from Israel, which he would be happy to do.

The full text of Rabbi Yoffie’s speech is available here.

Reform leader calls on Jews to skip Hagee's pro-Israel events

By Ron Kampeas, JTA March 4, 2008

"We should refrain from participating in the 'Night to Honor Israel' road shows that Pastor Hagee sponsors," Yoffie said Wednesday at a convention of Reform rabbis in Cincinnati.

Bibi: Christian Zionists our top friends

By Etgar Lefkovits, JPost.com April 7, 2008

The head of the Knesset's increasingly influential Christian Allies Caucus MK Benny Elon (National Union-National Religious Party), who has spearheaded Israel's relations with the evangelical Christian world, called Yoffie's politically based remarks "shameful," and called Hagee a "visionary man of courage" and an "outstanding spiritual leader."

"You are the right man in the right place in the right time," Elon said Friday at a book launch of Hagee's book In Defense of Israel, which has now been translated into Hebrew.

Efrat Chief Rabbi Shlomo Riskin called the burgeoning ties between Israel and the evangelical Christian world "one of the most important things," after close to 2,000 years of enmity persecution and pogroms.

"What we have to understand is that the Christianity of persecution and intolerance and Jew-hatred is not the Christianity of Pastor Hagee and most evangelists today," Riskin said.

U.S. evangelist pledges $6 million in contributions to Israel

AP, Haaretz April 6, 2008

American evangelist John Hagee on Sunday announced donations of $6 million to a number of Israeli causes and declared that Israel must remain in control of all of Jerusalem.

Reform leader: 'Christians for Israel' hurt country

"The notion that Hagee represents the future of American evangelicalism is a misreading of the political map," Yoffie told the Post.

With friends like these

Haaretz Editorial April 4, 2008

Yoffie represents a movement that supports Israel for very different reasons from those of the Christian Zionists, who identify largely with the most right-wing sectors of Israeli society.

Shas MK Shlomo Benizri convicted in major corruption scandal

Click here for Haaretz and Channel 10 VIDEO

Shas MK, former labor minister Shlomo Benizri found guilty of taking bribes and breach of trust

By Tomer Zarchin, Haaretz April 2, 2008

…To get the information he needed, Sela promised Elbaz's yeshiva a part of his profits.

The court also found that Benizri ordered Buchris to make sure that Sela won a tender run by the Employment Service in 2001, after Sela "excited Benizri and Elbaz with the large sums of money expected for whoever wins the tender and promised to give the yeshiva half, as long as he won the tender."

The Benizri conviction / The Israeli Godfather

By Gidi Weitz, Haaretz April 2, 2008

"[Shlomo Benizri] told me: 'Moshe, you must run to the rabbi right now. He is weeping for sorrow, because he lacks money to pay salaries to his yeshiva students.' I asked Shlomo, 'how much does he need?' He told me about half a million dollars. I told him, 'I have $400,000 here, I'm going now.'"

'I won't resign,' Benizri insists

By Zvi Zrahiya, Haaretz April 2, 2008

Benizri said he would speak to Shas spiritual leader Rabbi Ovadia Yosef about the matter later in the week and complained he had been persecuted for eight years through no fault of his own.

The patron and his right-hand man

By Yair Ettinger, Haaretz April 2, 2008

"No one in Shas today will go out into the streets for Benizri," said one activist.

"But Rabbi Elbaz has a real following - thousands of people who would go through fire and water for him ... Even if Benizri goes to jail, there will be no significant protest. But if Rabbi Elbaz is sent to jail, there will be a huge storm."

This time a conviction won't rattle Shas

By Yair Ettinger, Haaretz April 1, 2008

Benizri was born in Haifa 48 years ago and became religious after completing his army service. As a rabbi in the back-to-religion movement who taught at Rabbi Reuven Elbaz's Or Hahaim yeshiva, he was placed on the Shas Knesset list at the age of 31.

Since then, he has been a media star, a provocateur, a regular presenter on Shas radio stations and a frequent guest on television news shows to explain the comments of Rabbi Ovadia Yosef. There were those who pinpointed him as Deri's successor - until he followed in Deri's path a bit too closely and was investigated on corruption charges.

No immediate suspension for Benizri, rules Knesset legal adviser Nurit Elstein

By Shahar Ilan, Haaretz April 2, 2008

The end of the road for the clown

Haaretz Editorial April 2, 2008

MK Benizri's remarks about homosexuals and secular people, which bordered on incitement and were his major contribution to the current Knesset, turned him from a potential leader of the Shas party into the Knesset clown. His non-appearance in the parliament will be a blessing.

The Lysistrata option

By Yair Ettinger, Haaretz April 3, 2008

Attorney Batya Kahana-Dror of Kolech (Your Voice), a religious women's organization, has called on women to declare a rebellion on behalf of the mikveh attendants.

A consumers' rebellion that is aimed at the proprietors, the decision makers, the men - a Lysistrata rebellion in which no one can immerse herself in the mikveh, and that means no sex until the crisis is resolved.

"Let's shake things up," Kahana-Dror wrote on Kolech's Web site.

"Let's drive those who are impatiently waiting for the day of immersion [in the mikveh] crazy, those who are the complete majority on the religious councils, in the treasury, in the Religious Services Ministry, in the government and in the Knesset, the leaders and the rabbis....Let us stop - no immersing, no sexual relations."

Murky waters

By Matthew Wagner, JPost.com April 4, 2008

Kahana-Dror is hopeful that Cohen will stand behind his promise to pay salaries before Pessah.

"But if attendants don't get paid, I'm not going to the mikve. And don't ask me what my husband thinks about that."

First J'lem forum for Diaspora, local philanthropists

By Anshel Pfeffer, Haaretz April 3, 2008

"There is a feeling that despite the increasing affluence of Israeli society, the local businesspeople aren't doing there share and Israelis still look to America for much of their funding. This is going to have to change," said a participant at the Jewish Funders Network conference this week.

Jewish Funders Network announces plan to open Israel office

By Ynetnews.com April 7, 2008

The Jewish Funders Network (JFN) announced Sunday its plan to open an Israel branch of its office.

The decision, made as a result of a request made by a group of Israel-based funders, will allow JFN to better meet the needs of its growing membership in Israel, the organization said in a statement.

Jewish values can fight world poverty

By Anshel Pfeffer, Haaretz April 2, 2008

The leaders of the aid organizations gathered this week at a conference in Neveh Ilan on "Religion and International Aid," sponsored by Tel Aviv University's Hartog School of Government and Policy.

IsraAid: The Israel Forum for International Humanitarian Aid

Needed: A new deal for our rich uncles overseas

By Anshel Pfeffer, Haaretz April 4, 2008

Israel has to act like a country on its way to self-sufficiency and is rich enough today to take a look around and join in the Western world's efforts to fight poverty in the Third world.

It's not nearly enough to be spending a miserly 0.06 percent of its GDP for international development, and half of that for absorbing new immigrants from poor countries. And the best way of boosting that contribution can only be a partnership with world Jewry.

Partnership, and not just check-writing, will have to be the way forward in any philanthropic venture.

The rich Jews from overseas don't need the Israelis pitching in to save themselves money. They need it because that's the only way they can truly feel they are helping Israel to to grow up and be a nation capable of standing on its own two feet.

How to reverse the decline in aliya

By Michael Freund, JPost.com Opinion April 3, 2008

The writer is chairman of Shavei Israel, a Jerusalem-based group that assists 'lost Jews' seeking to return to the Jewish people. www.shavei.org

Practically, there is a simple and immediate step the government could take to boost the number of new immigrants: open the door to communities of "lost Jews" seeking to return to the Jewish people.

There are thousands of them, from the 8,000 Falash Mura still in Ethiopia hoping to come here, to the 15,000 Subbotnik Jews of the former Soviet Union, to the 7,000 Bnei Menashe of northeastern India.

Our own agents of intolerance

The disproportionate influence of the religious establishment is an important element in the growing rift between the Diaspora and Israel, according to Prof. Yehezkel Dror of the Jewish People Policy Planning Institute. A recent study by the group found Diaspora Jewry's sense of identification with Israel weakening among the non-Orthodox.

The Jerusalem Post noted this week that "these are manifestations of religious extremism seemingly tolerated by the community in which they took place."

They are also wedges that threaten to widen the rift between the Diaspora and an Israel that appears increasingly dominated by the religious establishment.

We rightly demand Palestinian leaders halt their anti-Israel incitement and some are repelled by Obama's continuing relationship with his former pastor - but when it comes to our own haters, too often mum's the word.

Aliya policy lacking imagination

An American Jew cannot be convinced to make aliya by removing financial obstacles, or even by handing him or her hard cash. Israel will be relevant to them only if they sense a cultural attachment to Israeli society, a bond worth pursuing because Israel represents a meaningful reality for them.

So while the government thinks in utterly institutional terms, and the Absorption Ministry, seeking new avenues for relevance as aliya trickles to a halt, focuses on expats, perhaps it is time for the government to pause to consider the problem of aliya - and Israel-Diaspora relations more generally - not from the institutional or financial perspective, but from the cultural one.

A 'birthright' for non-Jews?

Of all the presents we can give Israel on its illustrious "3000 + 60 birthday," none would be more helpful than to inaugurate a Birthright for Non-Jewish Youth program that would seek to bring 50,000 non-Jewish students from around the world to Israel every year.

Campuses are the places where Israel is most attacked in the West today.

Why not expose non-Jewish students to how stirring Israel is and give them a stake in its future?

Let My Parents Go - Video Contest Voting

Peres To Convene Confab on Israeli and Jewish Future

By Nathan Guttman, The Forward April 03, 2008

“It is time to change the nature of the partnership between the various parts of the Jewish people,” Peres told the Forward.

“It needs to be less materialistic and more intellectual.” Israel, he argued, should aspire to become a “leading world laboratory” for thought, technology and science.

Israel-Diaspora Gay Rift

By Michele Chabin, The Jewish Week April 2, 2008

Though last week’s unpleasantness has reportedly passed, advocates for the gay community are worried about how JTS’s first class of openly gay and lesbians students will cope with Schechter’s halachic stand on their lifestyle.

Yonatan Gher, executive director of the Jerusalem Open House:

“…I would hope that the Conservative institutions in the U.S. will allow anyone who has a conflict of conscience with Schechter’s policy to choose to spend their year studying at an alternative institution.”

Educational institute refuses to hold event for gay students

By Neta Sela, Ynetnews.com April 2, 2008

Schechter Institute of Jewish Studies put out a press release stating that “the institute decided to grant equal forum to the perspectives prevalent within the Conservative movement in the true spirit of the school, and our Jewish sages who respected each other’s rulings and opinions in spite of conflicts and disagreements.

"The Schechter Institute wants to provide a warm and welcoming environment for all of its students, but also adheres to the moral-halachic principle of 'a person should not deviate from the set ways of a place because of argument' (Mishna Pesachim 4:1).

This means that one is obligated to respect the religious customs of a place that hosts him in order to preserve peace and harmony.”

Ra'anana wins struggle to open TALI school

TALI is nominally affiliated with the Conservative Schechter Institute, but Oren said each school's parents association decides upon its own affiliation.

"We decided not to affiliate with any movement. Eighty-five percent of the parents do not affiliate at all. But they believe it's important to give their children a Jewish education.

"We are Israelis and Jews, not just Israelis," she emphasized.

Asked why they didn't send their children to state religious schools for a Jewish education, Oren replied, "State religious is Orthodox. In TALI, we teach Judaism as culture and pluralistic Judaism. We don't just teach them what is permitted and forbidden.

The Knesset's best bill in years

There is a critical mass of nominally secular Israelis who care for a Shabbat of some sort, circumcise their baby boys, keep kosher in their own way, cherish the prophets' quest for social justice and national restoration, care very much for Jewish marriage, burial and divorce and generally live by the Jewish calendar.

The current system ignores this critical mass and damages Israel's spirituality.

The bill that passed a first reading last week seeks to create a new, "religious-secular" educational network.

Revealing God's female voice

By Yair Sheleg, Haaretz April 1, 2008

Last week "The Torah: A Women's Commentary" was launched in Israel and in the near future it will be translated into Hebrew.

During her visit to Israel, Person has begun to make the first contacts toward the translation of the book into Hebrew:

There is already a donor, but there isn't a publisher yet and the women of the editorial board are still debating whether to translate the book as is or to re-commission a large number of the texts from Israeli women - not to mention the need to translate the poetry from various languages.

Gerald Cromer, religious peace camp leader and professor, 63

By Daphna Berman, Haaretz April 4, 2008

"He believed in religious freedom while preserving his roots in Judaism," said Eliezer Yaari, NIF Israel's executive director.

"But more than anything else, he embodied tikkun olam," referring to the Jewish value of repairing the world.

Prof. Gerald Cromer (1944-2008): Transforming Innovative Ideas into Meaningful Deeds

New Israel Fund April 1, 2008

"Pluralism is not the same thing as tolerance,” Prof. Gerald Cromer said on a recent visit to Canada.

“Tolerance implies a willingness to put up with the other side, but pluralism suggests that everyone has something to offer."

The Burg speaks: Zionism is futile

Click here for AUDIO

By Ben Harris, JTA April 3, 2008

Since Burg won’t do it himself, here — briefly — are the salient points:

Aliyah has effectively ended, thinking of Israel as a refuge for the Jewish oppressed is no longer meaningful, and Israeli society has therefore lost any sense of grand ideological purpose.

Israel cannot find a new purpose because the quality of political intellectualizing is so low — a pathology Burg no doubt believes he stands in stark exception to — which is itself a consequence of Israel’s obsession with the Holocaust.

The Holocaust has become a religion in Israel, traumatizing the society and making it fearful and untrusting. But fear not, for there is something more powerful than trauma — love. (For the record, I checked and that is not a lyric from a Barry Manilow song.)

Israel should separate church and state, America-style, and move away from the Judaism of parochial concerns towards a universal, humanist Judaism.

Avram Burg in First N.Y. Appearance since Controversial Book

By Doug Chandler, The Jewish Week April 2, 2008

While he once thought of himself only as an Israeli, Burg said, he now identifies himself as a Jew and a human being, as well as an Israeli. "My love is for the entire human race," he said - especially for "good people" with values that match his own.

Israel, like any nation, should reflect those values, Burg said. He also believes Israel should be defined not as a Jewish state, but as a state of the Jewish people, and that the role of religious leaders should follow what he calls "the biblical model."

That model involves defending the helpless and opposing "the maliciousness of the system … rather than being the system itself," Burg said.

In Memoriam: Chana Safrai (1946–2008), Friend and Colleague

By Naomi Cohen, Kolech.org, Nashim: A Journal of Jewish Women's Studies and Gender Issues, No. 15 (Spring 2008) issue.

The writer is a Ph.D. (Heb. U.); taught for many years at Tel-Aviv and Haifa Universities. A founding member of the Israel Women's Network (Shedulat Hanashim), Kolech-The Religious Women's Forum, and The Judith Lieberman Institute. She has been teaching a regular Talmud Class for women at her home in Haifa since 1978.

Chana Safrai (1946-2008) was a friend, a colleague and a kindred soul. At a time when it was a matter of consensus that feminism, by any name, was politically incorrect in the Orthodox world, we stood together.

For us, Chana was first and foremost a militant feminist. She was an active and innovative member of Kolech: The Religious Women's Forum from its inception. From the very beginning, Chana was there fighting for what she believed in.

She made her mark particularly in the area of women's empowerment, and what, for her, was an integral part of this: Talmud study by women.

It is thanks to her that at the last biennial conference of Kolech, a continuous Talmud study session was inaugurated: "Limud Kolech."

Social worker: Most ultra-Orthodox children who were sexually abused not treated

By Tamar Rotem, Haaretz April 2, 2008

"Among the ultra-Orthodox, children are more independent. In a family of 10 children, it's impossible to escort every child. But the parents don't even take this issue into consideration. It's not considered abuse in their world.

They aren't aware of the dangers. Abuse of boys is more common in our community. It is possible that men have more opportunities to assault because of the separation of the sexes. Assaults at the mikveh are rare today.

There isn't a single normal family that allows its child to go out alone. Parents also don't send their children to yeshivas with a dormitory…”

Behind the veil

By Tamar Rotem, Haaretz April 4, 2008

The woman who is under arrest is 54 years old, the mother of 12 children, four of whom are under the age of 18.

She was raised in a remote moshav in the South, in a national religious family. After she and her husband, who was in the air force, married, the couple's religious faith strengthened. They became ultra-Orthodox and moved to Bnei Brak.

About seven years ago they moved to Beit Shemesh, west of Jerusalem, where she began to wage a stubborn fight, in the form of lectures and assemblies, against the norm of ultra-Orthodox women wearing wigs in public.

In the wake of her move toward religious extremism, she married off her four older children - the ones who are now being spoken about in the context of incest - to spouses from the most hermetic and extreme stream of ultra- Orthodoxy. The matches of three out of the four did not work out well, and they divorced a short while later.

State helpless in face of skeletons in haredi closet

By Yael Branovsky, Ynetnews.com April 3, 2008

Doron Aggasi, director of the Shlom Banecha foundation, which aids victims of sexual abuse and violence in the haredi community, stated that the recent public cases of child abuse within the haredi community indicate that the haredi world is changing for the better when it comes to reporting such crimes

Preempt domestic violence

By MK Colette Avital, JPost.com Opinion April 7, 2008

The silence of Israel's chief Rabbis Metzger and Ammar in light of these horrifying occurrences, especially those perpetrated within religious families and often in the name of religion, is deafening.

I have recently issued an appeal to the Chief Rabbis calling on them to show responsibility as spiritual leaders and publicly denounce domestic violence.

The trouble with King David

By Shiri Lev-Ari, Haaretz April 2, 2008

Author Yochi Brandes, who frequently takes a light approach to writing about the ultra-Orthodox world, Zionism, Jewish sources and Jewish identity, has now gained entry into a highly-respected group of local writers.

She was born in Haifa and raised in Petah Tikva in an ultra-Orhodox family. She attended ultra-Orthodox schools affiliated with the Beit Yaakov education network.

But unlike most of her peers, she continued on to university and completed a master's degree in Jewish Studies at the Conservative Movement's Shechter Institute of Jewish Studies in Jerusalem. She taught Bible in schools, colleges and cultural institutions for many years.

"I do not follow halakha," she says. "I know halakha and continue to study it, but I am not committed to it. I enjoy observing certain mitzvot, and Jewish culture is my only culture. I am truly ignorant and illiterate when it comes to other cultures."

The ultra-Orthodox world then was very different than it is today," she notes…"Most of my siblings are ultra-Orthodox, and their children are even more extreme.”

See also: My good God, let me be free

By Yochi Brandes, Haaretz May 3, 2006

Two questions are always raised at every meeting with the audience:

When exactly did I decide to leave the ultra-Orthodox world, and how did my parents react to this decision?

Soaked in Bible

By Shiri Lev-Ari, Haaretz April 6, 2008

The Bible has come back into fashion. Recently, several fiction and non-fiction books have been published that deal with biblical figures and provide new, contemporary interpretations of their behavior and character.

Secular Israel's preoccupation with its Jewish bookshelf appears to satisfy a need for spiritual and cultural significance.

Meir Shalev:

"This could indicate a great thirst for the Bible. No matter what anyone says, the Bible contains wonderful stories, incredible writers, and the secret of reduction, which we have nearly forgotten.

People are interested in Jewish content that does not come from preachers, the religious establishment, religious parties or political rabbis, but from someone like them."

Druze threaten religious boycott of homeowners who lend roofs to cellular antennas

By Eli Ashkenazi, Haaretz April 1, 2008

Residents of the Druze community of Majdal Shams are considering calling for a religious boycott of those whose roofs are used by cellular telephone companies to set up antennas.

"At a meeting Sunday at the hilweh [prayer hall], religious leaders and elders called for calm, but the young were fed up, and many went out and burned down the antennas," [a Masadeh] resident added.

Rabbinic council: Arms to PA is ‘collaboration with the enemy’

By Nadav Shragai, Haaretz April 2, 2008

The Land of Israel Council of Rabbis has issued a halakhic ruling stating that anyone who transfers weapons to Arabs, or who is party to such decisions, "is collaborating with the enemy and is in violation of the laws of the Torah."

The council's ruling will be published in a pamphlet called Eretz Israel Shelanu.

High School Seniors Meet With Religious MKs

By Hillel Fendel, IsraelNationalNews.com March 31, 2008

Thirty yeshiva high school seniors met in the Knesset with the religious-Zionist Knesset faction, the National Union-National Religious Party, on Monday afternoon, demanding unity for the next elections.

"It was frustrating that no major decisions were reached," one of the students, Michal Tabib from Herzliya, told Arutz-7 afterwards, "but in actuality, we feel that something big has started. We plan to continue to be in touch with the MKs."

Rocket fire gives town of Sderot new stature

By Ethan Bronner, NYT, IHT, April 4, 2008

But for Rabbi David Fendel, who has raised millions of dollars for an entirely rebuilt 500-student yeshiva that he has run here for years, the rockets are proof that withdrawing Israeli settlers and soldiers from Gaza was foolish. The point of his project is to make a statement to those who wish Israel ill.

"The Palestinians are trying to turn this into a ghost town," he said as he stepped through the construction site of his school. "We're not going to let them. We're going to make it a dynamic center of Zionism, Torah and building."

Hurva Synagogue to be Rebuilt

By Hillel Fendel, IsraelNationalNews.com April 7, 2008

The Cabinet has upgraded the status of the Hurva Synagogue in the Jewish Quarter of the Old City of Jerusalem, including it in the purview of the Western Wall Heritage Foundation.

More refurbishing work is presently underway there, and the plan is to rebuild the synagogue altogether.

The work is being carried out by the government-owned East Jerusalem Development Company, which has full rights to the property. The government decision stipulated that the Heritage Foundation will work together with the company in the future.

See also: Hurva Synagogue restoration nears completion

By Etgar Lefkovits, JPost.com March 28, 2008

Religion and State in Israel

April 7, 2008 (Section 2) (continued from Section 1)

Editor – Joel Katz

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