Monday, December 22, 2008

Religion and State in Israel - December 22, 2008 (Section 1)

Religion and State in Israel

December 22, 2008 (Section 1) (continues in Section 2)

Click here to read ONLINE

Editor – Joel Katz

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

Kolech calls to appoint female rabbinical judges

By Matthew Wagner December 18, 2008

To mark its 10th anniversary, Kolech, the modern Orthodox women's organization, plans to begin training women to serve in the future as dayanim (rabbinical court judges).

The organization is also calling to create an independent rabbinical court system staffed by dayanim more sensitive to women's needs and more in touch with modern Orthodoxy.

"All of our successes over the past decade are a preparation for the future," said Kolech director-general Chana Pasternak. "Women need to become dayanot.

Appointing women as rabbinic judges is the right thing to do now and we should start the process of training women for this immediately."

Sensitivity and Halacha Editorial December 16, 2008

On this occasion we join Kolech in calling for the creation of independent rabbinic divorce courts that would eventually integrate female Torah scholars as rabbinical judges.

We, like Kolech, believe that women can bring to the rabbinic court system direly needed female sensitivities during the divorce process.

…Gradually, women who are the product of intensive Torah education will be coming of age. They should be given a chance to make their special contribution to Halacha in a field that directly affects them.

After all, we trust female doctors with our lives, we trust female judges with enforcing justice, and we trust female business leaders with our economy. 

Why shouldn't we trust female Torah scholars to interpret Halacha?

Kolech Celebrates Ten Years

Dr. Elana Maryles Sztokman December 19, 2008

Rivka Lubitch:

"We must change the way marriage is done in Judaism," she said. "We have to take kinyan [purchasing] out of the ritual. Without that, we will never solve the problem of agunot."

Lubitch's argument is that the issue of agunot is "not just about agunot, not just about women getting divorced, and not even just about married women. 

It's about the entire way women are viewed in halakha. It's about the status of women under the law. And that needs to change at the core."

Divorce recalcitrant to pay NIS 700,000

By Vered Lubitch December 19, 2008

The Israeli Family Court on Wednesday ordered a man to pay his wife some NIS 700,000 (about $187,484) in damages for refusing to give her a divorce for 11 years.

The woman filed a claim for punitive damages against her husband, demanding that he compensate her over his refusal to grant her a divorce.

The two, an ultra-Orthodox couple, were wed in 1997 in a matchmaker marriage and lived together for only three months before the woman fled the house pregnant due to harsh domestic violence.

Since then, the husband has refused to grant her a divorce, despite 25 discussions of the matter at the Rabbinical Court between the years 1997 and 2005. 

Oops, You’re Not Jewish

By Gershom Gorenberg Opinion November 2008 Vol. 90 No. 3

The ‘Who is a Jew’ dispute has become even more contentious since Israel’s chief rabbinate has begun questioning conversions made under Orthodox auspices.

Susan Weiss—the founder and director of the CWJ and herself an observant Jew—has petitioned the Israeli Supreme Court to overturn the rabbinic court’s decision. 

But she also states, “We should have civil marriage. It’s going to have to happen.”

One reason that issue is so controversial, according to Weiss, is that it raises questions about what it means for Israel to be a Jewish state and about the connection of religious and ethnic Jewish identity.

IAF to induct first non-Jewish pilot next week

By Yair Ettinger December 19, 2008

The Israel Air Force will receive its first non-[Halachic] Jewish pilot next week, when Andrei (whose last name is classified) receives his wings at the end of a long flight course.

The blue-eyed, 24-year-old immigrant from Ukraine arrived in Israel nine years ago, in the framework of the Jewish Agency's Na'aleh study program for youngsters with Jewish backgrounds from the former Soviet Union, arriving ahead of their parents.

His Jewish father and non-Jewish mother had planned to immigrate to Israel after him, but the plan did not work out.

His mother and father will, however, come to the ceremony to see him receive his wings and become an F-16 fighter pilot. 

It may pay to be Jewish

By Rabbi Andrew Sacks Opinion December 19, 2008

Rabbi Andrew Sacks directs the Rabbinical Assembly in Israel and is the secretary of the Masorti Movement Conversion Court

The old axiom "time is money" may apply. Let us not consider paying anyone to convert. That 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.

We are already spending many thousands of dollars to prepare each convert (if one takes the budget and divides it by the numbers who actually complete the process).

So why not help the person who gives up 350 hours to study. Israel subsidizes some 75% of the actual cost of study for university students. We make generous government grants available to those who wish to learn in Yeshivot.

Why not make grants available to non-Jewish Israelis who wish to study Judaism.

I believe we would see a mega increase in the numbers of people registering for these predatory courses.

"For the Sake of Heaven": Modern Orthodox Writings on Conversion

By Rabbi David Ellenson December 2008

The writer is HUC-JIR President

"In a world where Jewish identity and status is frequently the object of debate, the range of opinions expressed by the Orthodox rabbinate on the issue of conversion has never been monolithic.

Their diverse pronouncements and rulings demonstrate the range of lenient as well as stringent policy positions available to Jewish leaders as they struggle to grapple with the challenges the reality of intermarriage has presented to our community in modern settings."

Converts: Power and Consequences

By Jess Olson Opinion November 2008

Jess Olson is an assistant professor of modern Jewish history at Yeshiva University in New York.

Regardless of the principles at stake, whether to streamline entrance of immigrants into Israeli society, or preserve an ideal of religious purity, there is something gratuitously cruel about the use of converts in service of any agenda, regardless of the side of the combatants.

No converts ask to be fodder for Jewish culture wars; indeed, few ask for more than to simply live their lives as Jews, accepted as full members of their communities.

All power struggles have their victims; it is a dark time in the Jewish world that those victims are the ones least able to defend themselves.

Jewish Film Festival winner named December 22, 2008

And Thou Shalt Love is the First Prize winner of The Jerusalem Jewish Film Festival's short film competition.

The movie, which deals with homosexuality in religious society, was cited for "impressive directing" on the part of Chaim Elbaum.

Elbaum's film is based on his life story; 10 years ago, when he realized that he was homosexual, Elbaum felt he had no place in the yeshiva world and wanted to commit suicide.

But with this film - and this win - Elbaum said God had answered him.

This School Makes Film a Kosher Career Choice

By David D’Arcy December 16, 2008

Ma'ale School of Film and Television

An Orthodox Jewish film school was an improbable notion at Ma'ale's founding 19 years ago by four modern Orthodox "film fanatics," says one founder, Udi Lion, who disputes the view held widely among secular Israeli filmmakers that the school was established as a front for the National Religious movement.

Israel's religious Jews, about 20% of the population, were unrepresented in film and television, despite their growing political power, Mr. Lion said. 

Their rare depiction was exotic or hostile, noted Moti Shklar, another founder: "Settlers were always either praying or dancing. They weren't human."

Like a family, Ma'ale is pulled in different directions, with its students crossing Orthodox boundaries, its founders heading large and powerful institutions, and its films enabling Israelis to look inside religious life as religious people put it on the screen.

The Marc and Henia Liebhaber Prize for the Promotion of Religious Tolerance and Cultural Pluralism in Israel 4, 2008

Click here to view press release

The Marc and Henia Liebhaber Prize for the Promotion of Religious Tolerance and Cultural Pluralism in Israel, established against the backdrop of the assassination of Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin in 1996, has so far distributed more than half a million shekels to twelve spiritual leaders in Israel.

On December 4, 2008, the Liebhaber Prize for Religious Tolerance and Cultural Pluralism of 100,000 NIS was awarded in Jerusalem to Muki Tsur, member of Kibbutz Ein Gev, who is a teacher and philosopher, student of Gershom Scholem and Nathan Rotenstreich, and an outstanding example of a personal commitment to openness, tolerance and the values of democracy as reflected in the fundamental values of Judaism.

Court: Tiv Taam branch may operate on Shabbat

By Adi Dovrat December 17, 2008

The Ramat Hahayal outlet of Tiv Taam grocery chain may continue operating in its current format, including opening for business on Saturday, the Tel Aviv District Court has ruled.

The decision came in response to a request for an injunction against the chain filed by Tel Aviv residents, who argued that the business operates in breach of municipal ordinances, including limits on the sale of pork, operating on the Sabbath, and operation without a business license.

The residents asked the court to either order the grocery to shut down altogether or close on Saturdays, and also to block the sale of pork at the branch.

The Magistrate's Court rejected the request about a month ago, and the applicants have now been denied their request for appeal.

Chilul Shabbos will continue in Sde Dov Airport

By Yechiel Spira December 18, 2008

This coming Shabbos was to be first without chilul Shabbos in Sde Dov Airport pertaining to civilian flights but the move seems to be on hold and once again, IDF soldiers working in the airport will be compelled to work on Shabbos again.

The chilul Shabbos is not for military flights, but for civilian flights to Eilat and other close destinations. The control tower and other operational tasks in the airport fall under the jurisdiction of the IDF.

It just doesn't cut it

By Tali Farkash Opinion December 19, 2008

Honestly? It's about time. Just like any other Jewish act – namely a mitzvah, and what’s more a mitzvah that involves inflicting pain on a helpless eight-day-old baby - the brit milah has also arrived at a crossroads.

And against all criticism and warnings, the decision to give it a pass is becoming increasingly trendy in Israel.

Brit not just for haredim

By Ariana Melamed Opinion December 20, 2008

[Written in response to It just doesn't cut it by Tali Farkash]

This is an invitation to Tali Farkash to get out of the conceptual box in which she's locked up, and realize how wrong she is to claim that for seculars the brit milah is a purely social act, and since this is the case – it's just the same to her that they remain uncircumcised.

Employees at Israeli Hospital in Dispute over Graves Found December 18, 2008

Doctors, nurses and other workers at Barzilai Hospital in Ashkelon have declared a labor dispute in connection with ancient graves discovered at the construction site of a new inpatient wing.

The Office of Religious Affairs says the graves are Jewish, and the construction cannot continue. The workers are afraid that an $11-million donation for the new wing will be swallowed up by the delay.

Gearing up for change

By Sybil Ehrich December 21, 2008

Starting on January 5, a public transport revolution will take place in Beit Shemesh. Egged, which now runs all the buses in the area, will hand over the steering wheel to Superbus, a private company that is currently responsible primarily for bus services in and around Ramle.

Superbus will take over all the routes between Beit Shemesh and Jerusalem with the exception of the "mehadrin" 418 route to and from Ramat Beit Shemesh and the non-mehadrin 417, which also serves Ramat Beit Shemesh.

When news of the proposed change was announced, many Beit Shemesh residents, the majority of whom are not haredi, were worried that Superbus would be a "mehadrin" operation, with women - conforming to a haredi dress code - forced to sit at the back of the bus.

This view probably arose from the fact that Superbus does indeed run mehadrin buses to the haredi town of Modi'in Illit. However, the bulk of the company's operations are in the Shoham and Ramle-Lod areas, where it has been running standard "secular" buses since 2002.

The Superbus routes serving the Beit Shemesh area (with the exception of the existing mehadrin route from Ramat Beit Shemesh to Modi'in Illit) will not be mehadrin.

The Lubavitcher Rebbe Official Medallion

Israel Coins and Medals Corporation December 2008

Rabbi Menahem Mendel Schneerson, known as the Lubavitcher Rebbe, was one of the most important Jewish spiritual leaders in modern times.

While he was the leader of the Lubavitcher (Chabad) Hasidic Movement, his influence was, and still is, felt far beyond the limits of "Lubavitch" alone.

The medallion face bears a portrait of the Rebbe. The reverse design, which will be common to all the medals in the "Jewish Sages" series, represents the wisdom and holiness that have emanated from the works of our Jewish Sages, throughout the generations.

According to there will be only 770 sold.

Chabad's straight approach to Hanukkiah faces rounded objection

By Nadav Shragai December 17, 2008

If you asked a Chabad Lubavitch Hassid, they would tell you the shape of the gold seven-branched candelabra that stood in the Second Temple, and which gave its form to the nine-branched Hanukkiah used today, was not rounded, as it appears on the emblem of the State of Israel and on the Arch of Titus.

However, that theory is now facing a challenge in the form of a new book published by the Temple Institute in Jerusalem's Old City. 

The elegantly designed book, titled "A Menorah of Pure Gold," pulls the scholarly rug out from under Chabad's differently shaped candelabra. 

Poll: Haredim want to go to college

By Matthew Wagner December 21, 2008

Haredim want secular higher education, but are hampered by a lack of basic math and English skills, according to a new study.

Fifty-seven percent of 148 haredi men surveyed in a study conducted by researchers at the Jerusalem Institute of Israel Studies said that they had looked into attaining a college degree, and another 15% said they had received advice about the possibility of pursuing studies in a college or some other institute of higher education.

The [researchers’] main recommendation was that haredim receive economic support college education, as some 70% of the haredi men surveyed said that they would be willing to pursue a college degree if they received such support.

Gedolei Yisroel Oppose Merkaz Rabbanei Eretz Yisroel Founded by Chief Rabbi Amar

By Yated Ne'eman Staff December 18, 2008

Gedolei Yisroel shlita voiced their staunch opposition to Merkaz Rabbanei Eretz Yisroel, noting it poses a dire threat to the conceptual and halachic independence of rabbonim in Israel and could herald a takeover attempt that would foist certain opinions on all rabbonim and the entire public in Israel.

A short time ago Sephardic Chief Rabbi Shlomo Amar founded and became president of an organization called Merkaz Rabbanei Eretz Yisroel, which seeks to unite all rabbis in Israel. 

The aim of the organization is to serve as a supreme rabbinical body in the State of Israel and it threatens to place itself in a position to determine Halacha and hashkofoh in every area for the entire public, including kashrus, mikvehs, conversion, etc.

Haredi, religious residents clash in Beit Shemesh

By Kobi Nahshoni December 21, 2008

Growing tensions between ultra-Orthodox and religious residents in the town of Beit Shemesh, near Jerusalem, have recently escalated into violence as three teen girls were beaten up by haredim who claimed they were "immodestly" dressed.

The incident was the last in a series of reported attacks by members of the Haredi Community faction on their religious neighbors, prompted by the latter's' alleged "promiscuity" and negative influence on haredi children.

Modesty Committee: Separate Shopping in Ramat Daled, Jerusalem

By Yechiel Spira December 21, 2008

It appears the Eida Chareidis Modesty Committee is seeking to set new rules for shopping in Ramot Daled [Jerusalem], whose rav, HaGaon HaRav Fuchs Shlita also serves on the Eida and is tied to Vishnitz.

Rav Fuchs is calling for two checkout lines at the neighborhood grocery store, one for men and women.

The Rav is also calling on residents to do their “big shopping” towards the beginning of the week and not towards Shabbos as is the case today in the hope of limiting the crowd at in the isles at any one time

Religion and State in Israel

December 22, 2008 (Section 1) (continues in Section 2)

Click here to read ONLINE

Editor – Joel Katz

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

Religion and State in Israel - December 22, 2008 (Section 2)

Religion and State in Israel

December 22, 2008 (Section 2) (continued from Section 1)

Click here to read ONLINE

Editor – Joel Katz

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

The Shas version of Obama's 'yes we can'

By Alex Sinclair Opinion December 15, 2008

There can be no clearer illustration of the gap between American and Israeli political culture than the slogan "Yes We Can."

...There will be no place in those policies for anyone who is not part of Shas' "we". 

There is no place for my Judaism in Shas' "we". There is no place for my worldview. 

There is no place for non-Orthodox Judaism, whether Israeli or Diaspora-based.

Most Jewish people outside of Israel are not part of Shas' "we". Shas' policies in the past have been daggers in the back of American Jews who have supported Israel and care for its people - all of its people.

While American Conservative and Reform rabbis rally their communities around support for Israel, Shas insults their converts and ignores their teachings. 

While American Jewish leaders talk of peoplehood and unity, Shas makes it clear that they are not part of its "we". 

Court blasts Holon rabbi for firing man for not backing Shas

By Tomer Zarchin December 17, 2008

The Tel Aviv Labor Court yesterday blasted Holon's chief rabbi, Avraham Yosef, for having fired an employee solely because he supported a party other than Shas in Holon's municipal elections, and ordered the worker's immediate reinstatement. 

…In a ruling handed down yesterday, deputy court president Lea Glicksman Kocavi agreed that neither Yosef nor the Holon Religious Council had offered any convincing explanation for Hayon's dismissal, and other evidence supported the conclusion that his firing indeed stemmed from his political activity on behalf of Aguda.

Inter alia, she noted that Yosef himself had told the court that Hayon's campaigning "was a blatant expression of contempt for my father's personage, and therefore, I could no longer have faith [in him]."

A little learning

By Tamar Rotem December 21, 2008

The conflict and the search for meaning that shaped Adina Bar-Shalom's life and character are vividly reflected in a documentary by Yohai Hakak and Ron Ofer, "Haredot" (English title: "The Rabbi's Daughter and the Midwife"). 

It was screened this week at the Jerusalem Cinematheque's annual Jewish Film Festival. 

[Bar-Shalom's father is Rabbi Ovadia Yosef, the spiritual mentor of the Shas Party]

Her whole life story seems to have been arranged to culminate in poetic justice. She, who was not allowed to study, opened the gates of education to Haredi women and men.

The college, which has now been operating in Jerusalem for eight years, has 700 Haredi students, 500 of them women. There is total gender separation.

Philanthropists and foundations such as the Avi Chai Foundation and the Friendship Fund assist with scholarships. 

Three classes of social workers have graduated already. The other fields open to women at the school are computers, communications disorders and medical laboratory sciences.

Recently Bar-Shalom overcame a major obstacle; in cooperation with Ben-Gurion University of the Negev she introduced studies in the field the Haredim feared above all others: clinical psychology for women students.

Dispelling an 'optical illusion'

By Yair Sheleg Opinion December 22, 2008

This event reflects two significant processes in two significant processes in religious Zionism.

On one hand, it underlines the "optical illusion" that a move toward extremism characterizes the entire public in question.

At least with respect to religious observance, it is completely clear that the silent majority is far from adopting an increasingly ultra-Orthodox approach.

…the second significant process that religious Zionism is undergoing:

The liberals have also launched an offensive of their own. They, too, have begun to establish schools that have seceded from the standard religious educational network.

Religious-Zionist HaTzofeh Newspaper to Close

By Hillel Fendel December 16, 2008

HaTzofeh, Israel’s 3rd-oldest newspaper and the long-time mouthpiece of the religious Mizrachi movement, is closing down. Its Dec. 26th issue will be its last.

Of the paper’s remaining 15 employees, 12 have been laid off outright, including the editor and senior correspondents, and three others have been transferred to Makor Rishon, another newspaper owned by the same management.

HaTzofeh owner Hirsh Media Ltd., established by Ronald Lauder and Shlomo Ben-Tzvi, was termed less than a year ago a “rapidly developing Israeli media conglomerate.”

It still owns Makor Rishon and the Nekudah monthly Judea and Samaria magazine, but its Techelet TV station on Judaism, bi-weekly BusinessWeek Israel magazine, daily freebie Yisraeli newspaper, and now HaTzofeh have all been forced to close for financial reasons.

Why Moshe Feiglin matters

By Amotz Asa-El December 18, 2008

According to [Feiglin’s] Hebrew Web site, he believes in loyalty to the Torah, itself an inclination alien to the Likud's original inspiration, Vladimir Jabotinsky.

Moreover, even within the narrow confines of Orthodoxy, Feiglin addresses what he calls the emuni public as his hard-core constituency, which is code language for a theology that believes in the Jewish state's divinity, and yearns for the day when it is led either by rabbis or people agreeable to them.

Green Movement, Meimad run together

By Ehud Zion Waldoks December 18, 2008

Meimad and the new Green Movement Party announced Wednesday night that they will run on a joint list for the 18th Knesset. Meimad chairman MK Michael Melchior and Green Movement head Eran Ben-Yemini will lead the candidates list.

Agudat Israel splits from Degel HaTorah

By Ronen Medzini December 18, 2008

The Knesset's House committee approved Thursday morning the split between the Hasidic Agudat Israel group and the Lithuanian Degel HaTorah group that make up the United Torah Judaism party.

The two groups have a long history of [splitting] and uniting. The main source of the current conflict revolves around the sixth spot on the united roster that traditionally goes to an Agudat Israel representative.

Calls to the Gerrer Rebbe to Replace MK Litzman

By Yechiel Spira December 21, 2008

According to a Chadrei Charedim report, two prominent Gerrer askanim, who are close to the Rebbe Shlita, have already met with the Rebbe, asking that MK Litzman be replaced before the general elections for the 18th Knesset as a result of his actions, which they blame for the loss in the capital mayoral race.

Jerusalem’s Rabbinate Race Long from Over

By Yechiel Spira December 17, 2008

The pressure is on for Jerusalem’s new mayor, Nir Barkat, who is now expected to make good on campaign and coalition promises regarding the appointment of a new chief rabbi of the capital.

Cash crunch hits FSU Jewish learning programs

By Haviv Rettig Gur December 21, 2008

Jewish education programs in the former Soviet Union are in danger of collapse as Israel government funding dries up and the global economic crisis threatens its main donors.

The most at-risk institution is the Heftsiba project, an Israeli government-funded program in 45 schools that provides funds, curricula and teachers from Israel for Jewish and Zionist education.

Another program feeling the pressure of massive Jewish Agency budget cuts is Na'aleh, which brings some 1,200 young FSU Jews to Israel each year, a majority of whom end up making aliya.

Financial woes could force cuts in Birthright Israel trips

By Anthony Weiss December 16, 2008

Birthright Israel, the popular initiative offering young Jews free trips to Israel, may be unable to pay for thousands of such trips in the summer of 2009, due to the financial meltdown of its largest donor.

A $20-million pledge to the group from casino mogul Sheldon Adelson is now in question. Two sources close to the organization say that, as a result, Birthright is planning its summer trips on the assumption that that pledge will not materialize. 

Taglit is for Israelis, too

By Theodore Sasson, David Mittelberg and Leonard Saxe December 17, 2008

Theodore Sasson teaches at Middlebury College and Brandeis University, David Mittelberg at Oranim Academic College of Education and Leonard Saxe at Brandeis University.

During the past year, more than 40,000 Diaspora young adults spent 10 days or more in Israel on Taglit-birthright israel educational trips. 

Perhaps more than any other single effort, Taglit is changing how Diaspora Jews relate to Israel and their Jewish identities. 

But even more unexpected, the program's impact on Israelis who participate seems to be nearly as profound.

Click here for the full report "Encountering the Other - Finding Oneself: A Study of the Taglit-Birthright Israel Mifgash" Cohen Center for Modern Jewish Studies, Brandeis University

Israel focuses on yordim

By Matthew Wagner December 22, 2008

Aliya in 2008 dropped by some 20 percent, but the number of returning expats increased by almost 100%, according to figures released by the Immigrant Absorption Ministry over the weekend.

Nearly 8,800 Israeli expats returned home, a jump of 94% from 2007's 4,535.

Of some 14,000 expats who returned to Israel between 2004 and 2007, 30% were academics, scientists, researchers, engineers or technicians, 40% had academic degrees and 54% were between the ages of 20 and 44.

European Council of Jewish Communities to open offices in Israel

By Shalhevet Zohar December 22, 2008

The non-governmental non-profit European Council of Jewish Communities (ECJC) organization announced on Sunday night it will soon be opening offices in Israel.

The ECJC is a non governmental non-profit organization which has existed for 40 years and is active in dozens of Jewish communities in 40 countries across Europe, working to connect millions of young Jews to their Jewish identity and to the Jewish lifestyle, through educational, economic and cultural projects.

HUC-JIR in Jerusalem Graduates First Ever Class of ‘Chaplains’ December 18, 2008

Hebrew Union College-Jewish Institute of Religion graduated its first class of mezorim (pastoral care givers, or chaplains), who will work in hospitals, hospices, rehabilitation centers and community educational settings – a role that is relatively new in Israeli society.

The mezorim program operates as part of HUC-JIR’s Blaustein Center for Pastoral Counseling and is directed by Dr. Michael Muszkat-Barkan, director of the Jerusalem campus’ Department of Education and Professional Development.

‘Source of Inspiration’

By Steve Lipman December 10, 2008

Rabbi David Ellenson, HUC-JIR president:

“Richard Scheuer’s mission to advance liberal Judaism in a pluralistic, Jewish State of Israel — a mission grounded in his passion for biblical history and archaeological research and publication — shaped his vision for the expansion of our Jerusalem campus, the growth of our Israeli rabbinical and education programs, and the launching of the Tali school system for pluralistic education in Israel.”

Not all US olim are extremists

By Rabbi David Forman Opinion December 20, 2008

There are thankfully other American Jews, who are respectful of Jewish religious values and came to Israel to build a society that is not chauvinistically inclined, but rather a reflection of the best of the social ideology of the prophets who spoke of justice and equality.

Rabbi Levi Lauer founded ATZUM…Rabbi Bruce Cohen initiated Interns for Peace (IFP)…Rabbi Ronald Kronish established the Interreligious Coordinating Council in Israel (ICCI)…Rabbi Arik Ascherman heads Rabbis for Human Rights (RHR)…Rabbi Robert Samuels served as the headmaster of the Leo Baeck High School in Haifa…

Israel must expose to the world media those American Jewish immigrants who have enhanced the democratic nature of the Jewish state, with respect for all peoples. 

It is these American Jewish immigrants, and many more like them, who reflect genuine Jewish moral values.

Both Jews and Evangelicals are Israel's strategic partners

By Rabbi Yechiel Eckstein, International Fellowship of Christians and Jews December 2008

Click here for VIDEO interviews: Part1, Part 2, Part 3, Part 4.

International Fellowship of Christians and Jews Founder Yechiel Eckstein sees both Jews and Evangelicals as Israel's strategic partners.

"I will not work with groups that target Jews for conversion," says Eckstein, believing that Christian support for Israel is based on values.

Rabbi Eckstein relays his journey that led him from a possible career in the rabbinate to founding this Christian/Jewish organization.

Liberal Israelis don't like Evangelical support because they tend to take a right-wing position when it comes to the land, per Eckstein.

Holy See-Israeli negotiations get underway, ahead of possible Papal visit to the Holy Land

By Arieh Cohen December 17, 2008

HAT TIP to Prof. Howard M. Friedman

Two days of negotiations begin today between the Holy See and the State of Israel, on the tax status and properties of the Catholic Church in the Jewish state.

The negotiating sessions, in a round that began on the 11th March 1999, is being held against the background of persistent rumours of a possible pilgrimage to the Holy Land in May next year of pope Benedict XVI, and therefore of a papal visit to Israel, something for which the Israeli government has been pressing very hard.

There are many who hope that the prospect of a papal visit will serve as a powerful catalyst in the negotiations.

Franciscan custos calls for protection of Holy Land's religious sites December 19, 2008

Religious sites in the Holy Land must be protected from commercial development, said the head of the Franciscan Custody of the Holy Land.

Speaking at a conference on holy sites and the ownership of religious property in Jerusalem Dec. 18, Franciscan Father Pierbattista Pizzaballa said that while church property would not be infringed upon by several planned Israeli projects, such as a pedestrian boardwalk around the Sea of Galilee and hotels on Mount Tabor, the projects could damage "the holiness of the site."

Small Places, Large Issues

By Scott Copeland November 26, 2008

Our contemporary ambivalences regarding the Western Wall are not new.

Since the advent of modernity, the internal Jewish debate over the significance of the Western Wall encapsulates the simple fact that, as Gershom Scholem was fond of pointing out, that there is no Judaism - there are Judaisms. "Judaism cannot be defined according to its essence, since it has no essence."

The contested space of the Western Wall between Jews may not be only a source of dismay and hurt; the contest itself may be a potent symbol of the ongoing internal debate about who the Jews want to be.

Only through the continuation of that vigorous debate, even over the meanings of our most basic symbols, with all of the pain entailed will Jewish creativity and meaning be forged by a struggling, living community.

Government mulling proposal to repair Muslim holy sites

By Yoav Stern December 18, 2008

For the first time since Israel declared its independence in 1948, the government is considering renovating sites holy to Muslims that have lain abandoned and neglected for 60 years.

For the past few months, a ministerial committee on the Arab community in Israel has been debating the issue, considered by many to be of tremendous importance and sensitivity. 

Court: Ramban’s Cave Belongs to the Muslim Waqf

By Yechiel Spira December 21, 2008

The Vice President of the Jerusalem District Court, Justice Carmi Musak handed down a verdict that the Ramban’s Cave near Kever Shimon HaTzaddik in Yerushalayim belongs to the Muslim Waqf Authority and he prohibits Jews from entering to the site.

Shalom, and welcome to al-Quds

By Ksenia Svetlova December 21, 2008

The statistics for 2008 are not available yet, but there is a high probability that this year will be a record year in tourism from Muslim countries of South-East Asia.

Boaz Yuval, a certified tour guide who often accompanies groups from Indonesia and Malaysia, says that most of the visitors are Christians, but there are some Muslim groups from Indonesia, in addition to Muslim pilgrims from India.

There are 15 million to 18 million devoted Christians in Indonesia and almost 2.5 million Christians in Malaysia.

Religion and State in Israel

December 22, 2008 (Section 2) (continued from Section 1)

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Editor – Joel Katz

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