Monday, March 2, 2009

Religion and State in Israel - March 2, 2009 (Section 1)

Religion and State in Israel

March 2, 2009 (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.

Lieberman, religious parties optimistic

By Ronen Medzini March 3, 2009

On the issue of civil marriage a compromise offered by Shas would allow non-Jewish couples to wed in Israel. 

Lieberman accepted the proposal and, according to a participant in the meeting, said he was pro-halacha as long as it is not interpreted in an extreme way that discriminates against whole sectors of the population.

Ultra-Orthodox MKs said in response that a proper court would have to be appointed to handle such cases, and stressed that they would not agree to officially legitimize the marriage of Jews to non-Jews.

Regarding Lieberman's demand to ease the conversion process, the religious party leaders said they would agree to the easing of "bureaucratic restrictions", but nothing more.

Lieberman voters 'feel cheated'

By Daniel Edelson February 24, 2009

Yisrael Beitenu voters have voiced mixed feelings following the report that party chairman, Avigdor Lieberman, is willing to compromise on civil marriage to join a coalition with Shas.

Victoria, a 25-year-old Israeli who has a Jewish father and Christian mother, says she feels betrayed. 

"I voted for Lieberman because this was one of his cornerstone promises. Now I really feel cheated," she told Ynet.

Irit Rosenblum, founder of the 'New Family' organization, called on Lieberman not to compromise. 

"We're talking about hundreds of thousands of people who live in the State of Israel and who cannot wed, not to mention hundreds of thousands of others who would prefer alternate ways to marry..."

UTJ meets Likud for 'difficult' talks

By Gil Hoffman February 25, 2009

“There are problems with the issues of civil unions and conversions that we cannot accept," said UTJ chairman Ya'acov Litzman after the meeting at Ramat Gan's Kfar Maccabia Hotel. "We will consult with out rabbis and see what we can do."

'Elyashiv digging in over civil unions'

By Rebecca Anna Stoil March 1, 2009

Hours before Likud Chairman Binyamin Netanyahu's coalition negotiations were to resume, haredi party representatives late Saturday night denied any knowledge that Degel Hatorah mentor Rabbi Yosef Shalom Elyashiv had expressed opposition to any compromise on the issue of civil unions.

Likud, Nat'l Union: Public voted for a change in direction

By Attila Somfalvi February 26, 2009

Habayit Hayehudi will also demand that any change in the existing status quo agreements on the topic of religion and state be conditional on the agreement of coalition members.

The party also intends to advance MK Zevulun Orlev's proposal to shift the weekend to Saturday and Sunday, so that Shabbat can be reserved for spiritual and cultural issues and shopping centers can be open on Sunday for people to run errands.

Regarding the contentious issue of civil marriage, Habayit Hayehudi will demand that all legislation on the issue be coordinated with the Chief Rabbinate and conform to Halacha.

Religious women's groups ask Netanyahu to limit power of country's rabbinical courts

By Shelly Paz February 26, 2009

The directors of two religious women's organizations sent a letter to Likud leader Binyamin Netanyahu on Wednesday, ahead of the coalition talks with Shas and United Torah Judaism, asking him to restrict the jurisdiction of rabbinical courts to divorce cases only.

Attorney Batya Kahana-Dror, director of Mavoi Satum (Dead End), and attorney Ricki Shapira, director of Kolech (Your Voice), sent copies of the letter to Netanyahu, the heads of the Knesset factions, the coalition negotiators and every member of the new Knesset.

Kahana-Dror and Shapira wrote that expanding the rabbinical courts' authority as part of the negotiations to forge the next government would harm the status of women and increase the number of agunot - "chained women" - whose husbands refuse to grant them a divorce.

The two NGO heads also appealed to Netanyahu to appoint women to the committee responsible for choosing rabbinical judges.

In praise of civil marriage

By Zvi Triger Opinion February 26, 2009

Introducing civil marriage ceremonies that are equal and open to all is the only way to resolve the discrimination…

…Meanwhile, the “national split” that those who object to civil marriages warn us of should not deter us: After all, the “nation” has been split for a long time now; in any case, the daughter of a Hassidic leader cannot marry a secular man, even if both of them are unquestionably Jewish.

The partnership covenant proposed by Yisrael Beiteinu will merely serve to perpetuate the exiting problems, and therefore it would be best if such law is not passed in its current format. 

Civil marriage for all

Haaretz Editorial March 1, 2009

The bill to be presented this week by new MK Nitzan Horowitz of New Movement-Meretz is a worthy response to the coalition agreement apparently being drafted and which deals with "civil partnership."

Such partnerships, which have been proposed by Avigdor Lieberman and on which Shas and Likud have yet to form an opinion, are couched under the guise of a civil arrangement.

But in practice, they are nothing but a shrewdly crafted maneuver within the narrow boundaries of Orthodox hegemony, one that enhances the control of the rabbinate over marital unions in Israel. 

It's all about the money

By Yair Lapid Opinion March 2, 2009

…it isn't Jewish Law that our rabbis are concerned with, but rather, they are concerned for their business.

The Chief Rabbinate's offices cost us NIS 20 million (roughly $5 million) a year, and we spend NIS 350 million (approximately $90 million) on religious services (not including the funding granted to synagogues, religious councils, and rabbinical courts which are budgeted separately.)

To this, add the NIS 600 (roughly $150) marriage license fee, and the giant and flourishing kosher-certificate industry at banquet halls – someone may even ask what exactly they're doing with all this money.

This money is the only reason why they continue to abuse hundreds of thousands of people while showing rudeness and indifference, and without showing even a hint of the mercy that is the essence of Judaism.

IDF unlikely to shorten army service due to drop in eligible conscripts

By Anshel Pfeffer March 2, 2009

Last year, despite the army's efforts to increase enlistment rates, 25.8 percent of 18-year-old men and 44 percent of women did not enlist, and the army expects these rates to rise in the coming years.

The main factor fueling this growth has been the increase in men who obtain draft deferments to study in yeshiva and women who declare that their religious principles bar them from serving.

The former figure has more than doubled, from 4.9 percent of all 18-year-old boys in 1991 to 10.9 percent in 2008, while the latter has soared from 21.3 percent of all 18-year-old girls in 1991 to 34.6 percent in 2008. 

…Zamir said the army estimates that about 8 percent of all 18-year-old girls falsely declare themselves religiously observant to evade army service.

He noted that even at secular girls' high schools, 11 percent of all graduates sign such declarations. 

To put a stop to this phenomenon, the army has begun hiring private investigators to check out girls who sign the declaration.

Last year, Zamir said, 527 girls retracted their declarations after being confronted with photographic evidence of them violating the Sabbath, kissing men or otherwise demonstrating that they are not religiously observant. 

In an effort to increase draft rates among religious men, the army has started a new program to recruit drop-outs from ultra-Orthodox high schools.

Military won't let the facts get in the way of ideology

By Amos Harel March 2, 2009

[T]he army hired private investigators to tail girls suspected of falsifying their declarations. That has nabbed a few hundred draft-dodgers, but they are a drop in the ocean.

And the chances of actually changing the rules for obtaining religious exemptions anytime soon are near zero - especially if, as seems likely, a government dependent on the ultra-Orthodox parties is formed. 

IDF Intelligence and Navy Look to Hareidi-Religious

By Hillel Fendel March 1, 2009

Following in the footsteps of the Israel Air Force, the Navy and the Intelligence Corps have decided to run special recruitment programs for the hareidi-religious sector.

The service in the Navy will be a two-year stint, including technological training, an all-male environment and mehadrin kosher food. At the end of the two years, the hareidi soldiers will be offered the choice of continuing in the army as a career. reports that several hareidi soldiers who served in the Navy have been asked in recent weeks if they would enlist as career officers, in order to serve as counselors and guides for the expected new young hareidi soldiers.

Qualifying soldiers must have at least two children and will serve in naval bases in the Haifa area. Their basic training period will be a shortened version, and they will then undergo professional technological training.

A similar program is being planned for the Intelligence Corps: The soldiers will be trained in computer science and hi-tech professions, and will work with classified information in bases in central Israel.  

The Intelligence program has been code-named Binah Yerukah (Green Insight), and will begin after the Passover holiday, some two months from now.

After Haaretz probe, IDF limits rabbinate activities

By Amos Harel March 2, 2009

The Israel Defense Forces Personnel Directorate released a document limiting the military rabbinate's involvement in educational activities, after a Haaretz report exposed the right-wing political content mixed with religious material the rabbinate was distributing to soldiers. 

The official said the army would be monitoring whether the rabbinate follows the new guidelines. 

Embrace commandment of war, Hesder students told

By Yaakov Lappin February 26, 2009

A small number of young men soon to be drafted into the IDF from Hesder yeshivot around the country gathered at the Jerusalem Theater on Monday evening to hear speakers from the national-religious camp espouse the virtues of fulfilling "the commandment of war."

The event, the first of its kind, was organized to salute young religious men about to be inducted and attracted just over 100 youths.

IDF Chief Rabbi Brig.-Gen. Avichai Ronsky told the youths it was a privilege to be able to take part "in the commandment of war and the preparations for fulfilling it."

IDF launches offensive on beards

By Hanan Greenberg March 2, 2009

Army regulations require male soldiers to be clean-shaven at all times. Growing a mustache or a beard is allowed for medical or religious reasons only, but it requires special authorization.

…Medical-based authorizations will be limited to a certain period of time, while religious authorizations will have to be endorsed by the respective units' rabbi.

Rabbi Ovadia rules women may chant Scroll of Esther for men

By Yair Ettinger March 2, 2009

Click here for VIDEO – Rabbi Ovadia Yosef [Hebrew]

Yosef said women should not read for men if there are men capable of doing the reading. But in a "small community" where there are no men capable of chanting the text properly, it is permissible to bring a woman to read, he ruled. 

Yosef also said that women could write a kosher Scroll of Esther - another task that most rabbis say can be done only by men. 

He said that ancient megillahs written by women have been found in Yemen, and it would be permissible for women to do so today as well, "to earn a living for their household," since women "were part of the miracle" that the megillah describes. 

However, he admitted wryly, it is an open question "whether anyone would buy it." 

In both cases, Yosef's rulings were specific to Megillat Esther and do not necessarily apply to other sacred texts, such as the Torah.

Maran Rav Ovadia Shlita: When a Woman May Read Megilla

By Yechiel Spira March 2, 2009

The Rav used an example of a small community which lacks men who might know how to read megilla. 

In such a case he stated if a woman knows how to read, she should do so, but without using the melody explains Rav Aaron Butbul Shlita, who heads Rav Ovadia’s Yabia Omer Institute, but she should be meticulous in her pronunciation without the melody and thereby permit all to fulfill their obligation of megilla on Purim.

By not using the cantellation explains Rav Butbul, the erva problem is avoided. 

Rav Butbul stressed this is not an “ideal situation” but a solution to a problematic situation where the men are unable to read the Hebrew or unfamiliar with the megilla text and the woman is capable of providing the solution.

7,400 Units in Phase 1 of Charish

By Yechiel Spira February 26, 2009

It is now being reported by the daily HaMevaser that Education Minister Prof. Yuli Tami has approved land allocations for kindergartens and schools for the new community. 

HaMevaser reports the community will contain 15,000 housing units, and the first phase will be 7,400.

Background article: Natural expansion

By Avi Bar-Eli February 7, 2007

The growing demand for housing of Israel's rapidly expanding ultra-Orthodox population, coupled with special features of this community, creates unique challenges for urban planners and the real estate industry. 

The Haredi community will need 100,000 new housing units by 2025, according to a study commissioned by the Housing Ministry. 

Two weeks ago, TheMarker reported a ministry plan to transform Harish, in Wadi Ara, into an ultra-Orthodox community with 30,000 residential units. 

The same article said the ministry is also considering the creation of a new, ultra-Orthodox city in the northern Negev, near Kiryat Gat. 

"The [demand] is actually much larger because, in every decade, the number of units required to meet the needs of families in the ultra-Orthodox sector doubles," said Rabbi Pinhas Salzman…

Rabbi's death brings rare moment of unity for Lithuanian Haredim

By Yair Ettinger February 26, 2009

Although the death of a revered religious leader can often spark squabbling over his successor, the funeral Tuesday of Rabbi Avraham Kahaneman, president of the renowned Ponovezh Yeshiva in Bnei Brak, actually served as a high point of unity amid a long-standing power struggle. 

…In an unusual move for the ultra-Orthodox world, Kahaneman went to a civil court, hoping it would reach a different conclusion; that proceeding is still underway. 

In the meantime, Markovitz has been taking on authority beyond that granted him by the arbitration panel. 

Bezeq Launches Kosher Revolution Campaign

By R. Gil February 26, 2009

One year after launching its kosher line, Bezeq has decided the public is ready for the next phase.

The “Kav Venaki” campaign directed by ad firm Afikim is off and running, announcing a kosher revolution by Bezeq that can reach every home.

The move was fully coordinated with Vaadas HaRabbonim LeInyonei Tikshores and the technological platform was provided by Bezeq.

Compounded problems

By Peggy Cidor March 1, 2009

Jerusalem’s Schneller Compound

The process of turning the compound into a much-needed residential project for local haredim began 10 years ago, but it seems that despite the fact that a tender will soon be released for the construction plan, the haredi community, or at least its leaders, are far from satisfied.

The NIS 50 million it cost to move the army out of the compound will have to be paid for somehow - most likely by building luxury housing instead of affordable residential buildings.

Jerusalem: Haredi riots prompt switch to metal trash cans

By Ronen Medzini February 26, 2009

The Jerusalem Municipality has replaced dozens of plastic garbage bins with noncombustible metal ones, this after recurring ultra-Orthodox riots in protest of the annual Gay Pride Parade have cost the city more than a million shekels over the past five years.

City Council Member Sa'ar Netanel (Meretz) found that the riots of 2008, which erupted in protest of the arrest of three "modesty patrol" members, cost the city NIS 150,000 ($36,000).

According to Netanel, the June 2007 protests against the gay parade, during which some 300 trash cans were damaged, cost the city NIS 200,000 ($48,000), and the damages caused during haredi protesters in 2005 were estimated at NIS 100,000 ($24,000)

The “Jewish” GPS March 2, 2009

New navigating device finds kosher restaurants, synagogues and other Jewish facilities.

Click here for VIDEO

Judaic studies from a vending machine

By Elan Lubliner February 26, 2009

You won't find cola, cigarettes or packs of gum in the lonely vending machine on the third floor of the capital's central bus station. Instead, you'll find siddurim, machzorim and other religious books on sale for just NIS 10-15.

The vending machine is there because of Meoros HaDaf HaYomi, an organization dedicated to spreading the study of Judaism in general and Gemara in particular. 

HaDaf HaYomi has more than 500 classes around the country and publishes books, videos and audio clips on the Internet.

Lehem Erez wants to go kosher

By Navit Zomer February 26, 2009

The Lehem Erez bakery and café chain is looking to go kosher, Yedioth Ahronoth newspaper reported on Wednesday.

According to the report, the chain's owner Giora Naftali has been working vigorously towards received a kosher certificate for its baked goods.

The report said the chain will no longer operate its bread and cakes factory in Poleg, Netanya on Shabbat. Some of the chain's branches already close on Shabbat, including shops in Kfar Saba, Jerusalem, and Tivon.

Once Again, Prayers in Ancient Jericho Synagogue

By Hillel Fendel February 25, 2009

For the first time in nearly nine years, Jews prayed at the centuries-old Shalom Al Yisrael synagogue in Jericho. Israeli soldiers and PA police guarded.

This past Thursday, Rabbi Shmuel Rabinovitch, the Rabbi of the Holy Sites, and Oded Viner of the Chief Rabbinate, together with army officials, paid an emotional visit to Shalom Al Yisrael. 

The visit was facilitated by Civil Administration head Brig.-Gen. Yoav Mordechai, and was coordinated fully with the Palestinian Authority and top PA officers.

Religion and State in Israel

March 2, 2009 (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.