Thursday, September 24, 2009

Religion and State in Israel - September 23, 2009 (Section 1)

Religion and State in Israel

September 23, 2009 (Section 1) (continues in Section 2)

If you are reading in email or RSS feed, please click here to read ONLINE

Editor – Joel Katz

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

Rabbi of Western Wall wants immigrants' welcome ceremony segregated

By Yair Ettinger September 23, 2009

The Jewish Agency is considering whether to halt ceremonies granting identity cards to new immigrants at the Western Wall plaza after the rabbi of the wall said the immigrants must be segregated by gender, Haaretz has learned.

In late July, the Western Wall administration demanded the agency separate men and women at the ceremonies. It also demanded no ceremonies be hosted by women, and that the events must take place even further from the prayer area, on the pedestrian route across the plaza.

Rabbi Rabinovitch's letter of reply suggests he sees the Jewish Agency ID ceremony as a religious ceremony.

"The permission we gave to hold the ceremony was only given because the Jewish Agency told us this was an event of joint prayer of those passing into the gates of the Land of Israel for the sake of their successful settling in the Holy Land... as such, this ceremony must be held in accordance with the relevant regulations, which demand segregation," Rabinovitch wrote.
His letter concludes that unless the agency segregates men and women, the ceremonies should be held in the Progressives' prayer location.

Conversion bill to face 1st reading

By Kobi Nahshoni September 21, 2009

The Knesset's Constitution, Law and Justice Committee debated amendments to the conversion bill Wednesday, ahead of its first reading in the coming weeks.

The conversion bill, brought before the committee by MK David Rotem (Yisrael Beiteinu), aims to simplify the current conversion process, by having the Chief Rabbinate grant regional rabbis conversion authority, on top of its conversion courts.

State-employed rabbis barred from taking money for weddings

By Tomer Zarchin September 23, 2009

State-employed rabbis will no longer be allowed to accept money for conducting weddings, and will barred from officiating at more than two such ceremonies in one night, new regulations say.

The new regulations, which are the first regulations of their kind, will prohibit such rabbis from accepting money for conducting a wedding if one or both members of the couple live in the rabbi's jurisdiction.

If the wedding takes places 15 kilometers or more from the rabbi's jurisdiction, he is allowed to accept reimbursement for travel expenses, and in some specifically defined cases, remuneration for his time as well.

Rabbinate Okays death determination

By Matthew Wagner September 23, 2009

The Chief Rabbinate's governing body approved legislation Tuesday night that could facilitate organ transplants after brain death.

However, the decision might spark a battle between more haredi rabbis and their more moderate peers.

In a unanimous vote, the Supreme rabbinical Council, which included the two chief rabbis of Israel and over a dozen city rabbis, agreed that present legislation, which provides directives for deciding when a person is official considered dead to permit disconnecting from life support and removal of organs for organ transplant, is in accordance with Halacha.

Converts' marriage still unrecognized

By Ruth Eglash September 24, 2009

A pair of Nigerian-born converts to Judaism who were married two years ago in a ceremony conducted by a rabbi recognized by the Chief Rabbinate remain unable to register themselves as a couple with the Interior Ministry, even though the husband has been an Israeli citizen since 2005, The Jerusalem Post has learned.

Rabbi Seth Farber, founder and director of Itim, a nonprofit that lobbies for improving the conversion process in Israel, told the Post that this is not the first such incident.

"We currently have a similar such case in the Supreme Court where the rabbinate recognizes the person but the Interior Ministry refuses to do so," he said.

"The absurdity is that the Interior Ministry relies on the rabbinate to deny citizenship in some cases, while when it suits them, rabbinate approval is totally disregarded."

Charedi women refuse bus gender segregation

By Anshel Pfeffer September 18, 2009

A new group has joined the fight over gender-segregated bus lines in Israel: religious women who do not want to be forced to sit at the back.

This month, four such groups boarded the “Mehadrin”, or especially stringent buses, running through Jerusalem, pointedly sitting at the front.

"Charedi women on the bus also joined us,” says Rachel Azaria, a religious member of Jerusalem City Council who is leading a coalition of local organizations against the buses.

The postmodern IDF melting pot Editorial September 23, 2009

Ten haredi young men who enlisted in the IDF a month ago, six of whom are married with children, started training this week to become electricians.

Upon completion of their course, which is funded by the Industry, Trade and Labor Ministry, they will first work in the army in their new profession and, after serving their country, will make the transition back into civilian life with the means to support themselves and their young families.

We warmly support this initiative as an ideal model for integrating the young generation of haredim into mainstream society and into the job market.

With our sights set on the heavens Editorial September 18, 2009

Shas MK Rabbi Haim Amsalem suggested in a scholarly article publicized this week that rabbinic judges should be lenient in accepting non-Jewish IDF soldiers interested in converting to Judaism because their military service demonstrates the scale of their commitment to the Jewish people.

If conversion is a process in which a non-Jew makes a conscious decision to tie his or her fate to the Jewish people, argued Amsalem, what test of loyalty could trump the willingness to give one's life if necessary for the Jews' protection?

Hareidi Farmers to Volunteer in Border Police September 16, 2009

The commander of the Border Police's rural southern division, Superintendent Chezi Naftali, met Tuesday with residents of Moshav Komemiyut, a Hareidi-religious agricultural settlement. The commander encouraged its community members to volunteer in the border patrol.

IDF Training Chareidi Soldiers to Earn a Livelihood as Electricians

By Yechiel Spira September 21, 2009

In cooperation with the Ministry of Industry & Trade, a number of chareidi soldiers are in a course training them as home electricians, providing them with a skill that will assist them following their discharge, possibility providing them with a trade that will facilitate earning a livelihood.

Cinema Paranoidiso

By David Chinitz Opinion September 21, 2009

David Chinitz, an associate professor of health policy and management at the Hebrew University-Hadassah School of Public Health, has served on a variety of citizens boards in Jerusalem.

Immigrants from North America, like me, are used to seeing things in various shades of colors. But, apparently, we are a tiny minority.

The vast majority of Israelis, including those who enjoy films in Technicolor at the Smadar, seem to have a need to see things in black and white.

So many Jews in Israel appear not to have any idea that there is a rainbow of ways of being "Jewish," and dividing the world into "religious" and "secular" is not only destructive, it has little basis in Jewish law or tradition.

I propose removing the terms from the lexicon.

Jewish "Women of the Wall" Defy Law to Pray

By Kelly Hartog September 20, 2009

“A woman at the Wall is like a pig at the Wall.”

This was the statement made by Yehuda Getz, the late Chief Rabbi of the Western Wall in Jerusalem , following one of the most shocking demonstrations of violence at one of Judaism’s holiest shrines—the Kotel (Western Wall)—on a bleak December morning in 1988.

Twenty years later, Yael Katzir’s powerful documentary, Praying in her Own Voice, takes an up-close-and-personal look at the ongoing struggles of the Women of the Wall as the group continues to seek the right to read from the Torah at the Western Wall. It’s a battle that has seen the group take their case all the way to the Israeli Supreme Court.

Katzir: “I also hope people come away from this film with an understanding that Judaism still has a lot of places where things need to change.”
Click here for VIDEO.

Circumcision and its critics

By Dan Rickman Opinion September 23, 2009

The secularization of society and the popularity of “new atheists” such as Richard Dawkins, has increased the ongoing controversy over circumcision.

…secular Israelis are evidently losing interest in this rite, I’d suggest as much due to broader secular-religious tensions as anything else.

Hadassah sells popular Jerusalem olim center Merkaz Hamagshimim for $9 million

By Ruth Eglash September 16, 2009

The Hadassah Women's Organization has sold its Jerusalem-based Merkaz Hamagshimim, an educational and communal facility that has provided a first home to hundreds of new immigrants arriving from English-speaking countries since the mid-1990s, it was reported by e-Jewish Philanthropy on the Internet Tuesday.

The center, which sold for close to $9 million, is located in the capital's trendy Emek Refaim neighborhood and houses more than 20 single-room apartments, an English-speaking theater and a community hall, used for a wide variety of events.

Doctor: Closed clinic may mean future olim will die

By Ruth Eglash September 18, 2009

Dr. Arthur I. Eidelman, former head of pediatrics at Shaare Zedek Medical Center in Jerusalem:

"It does not make any sense. These people have already been recognized as Jews by a rabbinic authority, and the Israeli government has agreed to consider them for aliya, but there are no medical services to protect them from basic health problems," he said. Their medical issues could end up following them to Israel, he said.

Religion and State in Israel

September 23, 2009 (Section 1) (continues in Section 2)

If you are reading in email or RSS feed, please click here to read ONLINE

Editor – Joel Katz

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

All rights reserved.

Religion and State in Israel - September 23, 2009 (Section 2)

Religion and State in Israel

September 23, 2009 (Section 2) (continued from Section 1)

If you are reading in email or RSS feed, please click here to read ONLINE

Editor – Joel Katz

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

Time to tell the truth

By Rachel Azaria Opinion September 21, 2009

Rachel Azaria is a member of the Jerusalem City Council from Jerusalemites Movement.

The time has come for us to look directly into the eyes of the ultra-Orthodox who live in this country and say to them: Dear Brothers and Sisters, it's just not working anymore. Not for us and not for you.

After nearly a year on the Jerusalem City Council, and the more I become involved in the day-to-day running of municipal affairs, I am only more convinced of just how true this is. And the situation is getting harder all the time.

…So, the time has really come to tell ourselves, and the Haredim, the truth: It can't go on like this.

In Jerusalem the situation is the most palpable, because of the critical mass of 30 percent of the Jewish public that is ultra-Orthodox.

But keep in mind that nationally, 25 percent of all the children who entered first grade this month are Haredim. And in time, what has happened in Jerusalem will happen in the rest of the country.

…I can see the growing anger and bitterness the non-Haredi public is feeling toward its ultra-Orthodox brethren, because of being forced to shoulder the burden of an entire public that can't cover its own needs.

The same will happen nationwide in time. And if the ultra-Orthodox public doesn't take the lead in changing this situation, then the non-Haredi majority will do so. Because we're all very tired. And the system no longer works.

Involved and evolved – Interview with Jerusalem Mayor Nir Barkat

By Peggy Cidor September 21, 2009

Q: How would you assess your relationship with haredi society today?

Mayor Barkat: I think the Haredim understand today that this violence, this breaking of the law is not serving their interests.

And I know, as everybody knows, that these agitators are barely five percent of the haredi community, which drags down the other 95% who are law-abiding residents.

I think they understand now that I am not caving in to the violence, and very soon they will have to realize that having a dialogue is much more effective than all their attempts to impose their laws on us.

Activists dress as chickens to protest the 'Kapparot' atonement ceremony September 23, 2009

Click here for VIDEO

Masorti movement joins fight against 'kapparot'

By Matthew Wagner September 22, 2009

The Masorti (Conservative) Movement will join forces with the Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals - Tel Aviv to fight against the Jewish custom known as Kapparot that involves slaughtering chickens as a way of atonement for sin.

Rabbi Jeff Cymet of Congregation Adat Shalom Imanuel in Rehovot said that he would accompany the society on Tuesday when it visits the Carmel Market in Tel Aviv, where the custom is observed publicly.

Chief Rabbis urged not to harm animals in Kapparot custom

By Kobi Nahshoni September 23, 2009

The animal rights organization Let the Animals Live petitioned Chief Rabbi Yona Metzger and Chief Rabbi Shlomo Amar to instruct their followers to prevent the suffering of chickens used in the Yom Kippur holiday's Kapparot custom and to give money to charity as a replacement for slaughtering the animals.

Let the Animals Live attached a halachic opinion written by Rabbi Ovadia Yosef to their petition.

The opinion, sent by the Shas movement, claimed that Kapporot is only a custom, and, as such, harm to the chickens must be limited or charity should be given in place of slaughtering the fowl.

Veterinary Services to Crack Down on Kaporos in Yerushalayim

By Yechiel Spira September 17, 2009

Jerusalem's business license, inspection and Veterinary Services bureau are making preparations to operate the local kapporos markets.

This year enforcement will be boosted to an unprecedented level at a limited number of sites.

Is this Sukka Kosher?

By Yechiel Spira September 23, 2009

Jerusalem Kosher News spoke with representatives of a number of kashrut agencies in the capital, seeking to determine if they accept responsibility for the kashrut integrity of a sukka in a restaurant or eatery, or is this outside the jurisdiction of the certifying agency.

Shofar blowers raise the roof at first-of-a-kind conference

Click here for VIDEO

By Yair Ettinger and Zafrir Rinat September 18, 2009

Over 100 shofar blowers gathered Wednesday at a first-of-its-kind and somewhat ear-splitting conference for men who desperately needed to practice and receive their colleagues' encouragement before the moment of truth - Sunday, when they will put the traditional ram's horn to their lips and coax from it the plaintive calls that form one of the most moving moments of the Rosh Hashanah holiday.

The shofar blowers had another special reason to gather: They are graduates of the first shofar-blowing course ever organized by the Chief Rabbinate.

The course included a meticulous study of the laws pertaining to the shofar and a lesson by Chief Rabbi Yona Metzger, as well as several useful tips from experienced blowers of the ceremonial horn.

Charedi Israeli Paper Recalled After Misquoting HaRav Elyashiv

By Benjamin Slobodkin September 17, 2009

A Hebrew-language weekly halted distribution after mistakenly printing a front-page lead saying HaRav Elyashiv shlita had permitted heads of Vaad HaRabbonim LeInyonei Tzedokoh to print stories that have little truth to them in order to persuade the public to donate generously for the sake of poor families supported by the fund.

Thousands of Viznitz Hassidim expected in Bnei Brak for holidays

By Matthew Wagner September 18, 2009

A humongous hangar that will serve as a house of prayer for the holidays has been constructed in Bnei Brak to accommodate between 6,000 and 7,000 members of the Viznitz Hassidic movement.

The event was organized by Rabbi Israel Hager, Hager's oldest son, and it is considered a demonstration of his dominance within the Viznitz hierarchy of leadership.

J'lem teen arrested on suspicion of attacking cab driver in haredi riots September 22, 2009

Jerusalem police said Tuesday that a 17-year-old haredi Jewish youth was arrested on suspicion of attacking an Arab cab driver three weeks ago in the Mea She'arim neighborhood of the capital.

Communications Concerns & Kosher Public Telephones

By Yechiel Spira September 16, 2009

Israel’s Rabbinical Communications Committee is calling on the tzibur not to use the services of Hot, Netvision or Kavei Zahav, explaining they are cable and internet services that do not comply with regulations set forth by the Vaad.

The rabbonim fear that having the infrastructure of the above-mentioned firms in one’s home, it may lead to internet connections and this must be avoided.

Taxman uncovers Netivot Ponzi scam

By Nati Toker and Amit Benaroia September 23, 2009

Another Ponzi scheme has reportedly been uncovered in Israel: Tamir Feigelbaum, 36, of the ultra-Orthodox community of Rechasim in Jerusalem, managed millions of shekels for investors, promising monthly returns of 15%.

But Feigelbaum's business fell into difficulties, and the Tax Authority launched an extensive investigation after one of Feigelbaum's agents was unable to explain the presence of large sums of money in his bank account.

Feigelbaum's clients - primarily Haredim and residents of outlying areas - lost their entire investment

Immodest Attire Prompts Attack against a Woman

By Yechiel Spira September 22, 2009

Last week, pashkavilim were seen in Beit Shemesh addressing an incident in which a woman appearing in immodest attire was attacked.

The notices were a condemnatory message against the attackers, who assaulted the woman in the name of tznius.

It stated the attack was perpetrated by youths and children, including throwing a stone at her.

Ministry to Appoint Agents to Evaluate Yeshiva Students’ Stay in Israel

By Yechiel Spira September 22, 2009

Special representatives of the Interior Ministry will be assigned to determine the legal status of foreign yeshiva students wishing to remain in the country.

Religious and Secular Leaders Hold Panel on Coexistence

By Benjamin Slobodkin September 23, 2009

Charedi, secular and national-religious figures in Jerusalem came together Tuesday night for a panel discussion on how Shabbos should be observed publicly in the capital, according to a report in Kikar HaShabbat.

Tnuva’s New Mehadrin

By Yechiel Spira September 23, 2009

Tnuva has united most of its mehadrin hechsherim under one new symbol, bringing Tnuva rav, Rabbi Ze’ev Whitman, HaGaon HaRav Mordechai Gross, Badatz Belz-Machzikei Hadas and Badatz Chug Chatam Sofer Bnei Brak under one umbrella logo.

The new entity unites the mehadrin effort under the Tnuva logo, with the exception of the Badatz Eida Chareidit, which remains independent, offering its own separate line of Tnuva mehadrin.

Maran R’ Elyashiv Shlita Permits Distribution of Shefa Shuk Vouchers

By Yechiel Spira September 21, 2009

According to the Chareidim report, R’ Elyashiv expressed words of praise for David Weissman, who owns AM:PM and Shefa Shuk, for deciding to begin closing down AM:PM branches on shabbos.

Of charity and chickpeas

By Peggy Cidor September 21, 2009

A ‘gemah’ (an acronym of gemilut hassadim, good deeds) is a local charity organization that helps those in financial difficulties.

Gemahim can also provide necessities of daily life, such as food and clothes for babies, chairs for mourners or ritual items for bar mitzvas.

The gemahim that provide interest-free loans are developing a kind of alternative financial system due to the increase in their numbers (over 3,000 registered in the country) and the huge sums of money they deal with (there are only unofficial figures, but most speak of millions of shekels).

For many Israelis they have become an additional factor in their steady income, although they may often deepen a financial entanglement.

Religion and State in Israel

September 23, 2009 (Section 2) (continued from Section 1)

If you are reading in email or RSS feed, please click here to read ONLINE

Editor – Joel Katz

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

All rights reserved.

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

Religion and State in Israel - September 16, 2009 (Section 1)

Religion and State in Israel

September 16, 2009 (Section 1) (continues in Section 2)

If you are reading in email or RSS feed, please click here to read ONLINE

Editor – Joel Katz

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

Campaign to break Orthodox monopoly

By Ron Friedman and Matthew Wagner September 15, 2009

Hiddush, a trans-denominational organization aimed at promoting religious freedom in Israel, was launched at a press conference in Tel Aviv on Monday.

The new group, a partnership between Israeli Jews and World Jewry headed by Rabbi Uri Regev and American businessman and Jewish philanthropic and communal leader Stanley P. Gold, challenges the status quo of the religious power structure in Israel and aims to build up grassroots momentum for change.

Some of Hiddush's goals include instituting civil marriages as well as ensuring recognition for Reform, Conservative and Reconstructionist marriages and conversions, and providing equal funding for non-Orthodox religious services, said Regev, CEO of Hiddush, in a telephone interview with The Jerusalem Post.

He spoke out against the social ills facing the country that in his opinion were caused by the religious involvement in the state, including inequality in education, employment and army service, discrimination against women, refusal of ultra-Orthodox schools to implement the legal requirement for teaching mathematics, English, sciences and civics and the limitations on use of public transportation.

Survey: Israelis support religious pluralism September 16, 2009

In conjunction with their launch, Hiddush commissioned a large-scale public opinion survey by well-known Israeli pollster Rafi Smith where time and again, a majority of Israelis were found to be against the status quo.

This marks the beginning of an ongoing Religion and State Index that Hiddush will conduct. Among the key findings:

84% of secular Jewish Israelis think the state should grant equal status to all 3 major streams of Judaism (Orthodox; Reform; Conservative);

84% object to the current system of mass exemption from army service for men who study in yeshivas;

92% of secular Israelis support ending the ultra-orthodox monopoly on marriage; 95% of new immigrants from the Former Soviet Union;

64% of all Israeli Jews support introducing civil marriage and/or Reform/Conservative;

72% of Jewish Israelis object to the current policy of making conversion to Judaism contingent on observing the Sabbath and Kashrut (ritual dietary laws) and retroactively revoking conversions for not fully observing Sabbath/kashrut;

66% of Jewish Israelis believe that Israel should take into consideration the opinions of world Jewry on matters of law of return, conversion, marriage and matters of religion & state;

80% of Jewish Israelis object to the gender-segregated Mehadrin bus lines, public bus lines that segregate women and requiring that they sit in the back;

Tension between secular and ultra-orthodox is second in importance, after Arab-Jewish tensions, and double that of the tension between left and right or between poor and rich;

71% support reducing financial support given to yeshivas and large families (5+ children) in order to increase participation in the workforce;

60% of Jewish Israelis support the separation of religion and state in Israel.

Rosh Hashanah - A time for dreaming

By Rabbi Andrew Sacks Opinion September 13, 2009

The writer is Director of the Masorti [Conservative] Movement's Rabbinical Assembly in Israel

I dream of the day when all parking lots will be open on Shabbat in Jerusalem - but nobody will want to use them.

I dream of a day when there will be no protests if drivers do decide to use them.

I dream of the day when we have a Chief Rabbi of Jerusalem who comes from the religious Zionist world - and she is able to serve all of the city's residents.

I dream of the day when religion will not be used as an excuse to avoid paying taxes or serving our country…

There must be a middle ground

By Eliezer Whartman Opinion September 13, 2009

There should be no state support for religious institutions or functionaries. They should be funded privately, as they are in the US.

Religious issues should be brought before an impartial commission made up of rabbis of the three denominations: Orthodox, Conservative and Reform. The Knesset and municipal councils are not proper places for debating religious matters.

There should be no compulsory religious court jurisdictions over family matters. If both sides wish to bring their case before a religious court, that is their right, but they should not be compelled to do so.

No institution should receive public funds if its members do not serve in the IDF and do not pledge allegiance to the flag.

Reform and Conservative rabbis must be given the same rights as Orthodox rabbis

The offices of the chief rabbis, established under Turkish rule, should be abolished. They are superfluous and often harmful. The same holds true for municipal religious councils.

All men and women of military age should be compelled to serve in the armed forces. Those who cannot serve for "religious reasons" should spend an equivalent amount of time in public service.

The teaching of Jewish consciousness and Zionism should be reinstituted into all school systems.

Schools which do not meet the minimum state curricular requirements should be shut down.

Equal time should be allowed to all denominations of Judaism on publicly-owned media.

Don't convert

By Avirama Golan Opinion September 10, 2009

Those primarily to blame for the growing power of the Orthodox establishment are not the religious or the ultra-Orthodox, but the secular.

In a capitulation born of a mixture of fear and ignorance, most of them have allowed the rabbis, ever since the state was established, to dictate the manner of their births, marriages and deaths.

…In light of the unrestrained lunacy of the Hardal (Zionist ultra-Orthodox) rabbis and their war against those rabbis who have sought to make conversion easier, young Ethiopian leaders have been left with no choice: They must ignore the pressure and, like Kehat, issue an emancipation declaration to their community.

Don't give in, they must say. Don't convert.

…The Rabbinate will surely not declare them kosher, but don't be afraid. You are Israelis and your children are Israelis, and it makes no difference what the Rabbinate writes - or what the state shamelessly copies from it.

Looking Past the Cry of Racism

By Jonathan Degani Opinion September 9, 2009

Part of a genuine conversion is the guarantee that the one converting will keep the mitzvot. This means that all Ethiopian "converts" must go to religious schools.

…In 10 years, when all Ethiopian Jews will be considered full-fledged Jews without a problem and Jewish law is maintained, we will look back and thank the Chief Rabbinate for holding its ground at a time when they could have satisfied everyone and pushed the problem down the line.

Secret no more

By Cnaan Liphshiz September 13, 2009

The reemergence of the Bnei Anusim phenomenon has created challenges for Portugal's mainstream Jewish community, for the Chief Rabbinate in Israel and for the Bnei Anusim themselves - many of whom seem to share a deep sense of exclusion and frustration alongside a profound desire to belong to the rest of the Jewish people.

This summer, hundreds of Bnei Anusim convened in Barcelona for a conference focusing on Israel advocacy.

…Other Bnei Anusim, however, seek formal recognition as Jews, including conversion.

They are aided by Shavei Israel (formerly Amishav), a Jerusalem-based organization that seeks to strengthen the connection between the Jewish people and "lost Jews" from around the world. The group, which maintains a permanent emissary in Portugal, has assisted dozens of Bnei Anusim converts in the country.

"We don't need to become Jewish, we are and have always been Jewish," he says.

Vitorino, his wife and five children underwent Orthodox conversion in 2004, with help from Shavei Israel.

The Chief Rabbinate has not yet recognized the 2004 conversion, which was approved by Lisbon's chief rabbi.

Michael Oren, 31: from Holland to Betar Illit

By Gloria Deutsch September 10, 2009

With an Israeli father and a Dutch mother, Michael Oren and his siblings assumed they were Jewish and Israeli when growing up in Amsterdam.

His father, an artist who moved to Holland in the 1970s and married Michael's Christian mother, always brought them up to love Israel and to be strongly Zionist.

Shlomi residents say forced to send kids to religious school

By Aviad Glickman September 15, 2009

Fifteen residents of the northern border town of Shlomi in northern Israel filed a High Court petition on Tuesday against Education Minister Gideon Sa'ar and Shlomi Local Council head Gabi Na'aman demanding they be allowed to transfer their children to a secular school in the Western Galilee region.

They forgot quickly

By Yair Lapid Opinion September 8, 2009

Just like in the previous round, the Haredim are going too far because they believe no reaction will be forthcoming.

The seculars appear to them as too weak, too indifferent, and too spoiled; the haredim think the seculars don’t really care. Just like in the previous round, they’re wrong.

The letters I didn’t send

By Yair Lapid Opinion September 16, 2009 - Part 2

There is no secret conspiracy to bring them over to the Zionist side, but rather, merely an attempt to provide them with tools that one of these days will allow them to turn into productive citizens.

I fail to understand what is so wrong about that. All over the world, we see religious Jews working and making a living for themselves and their families; why shouldn’t your children do that too?

We’re not scared to die

By Tali Farkash Opinion September 9, 2009

Part 1 - In response to: They forgot quickly by Yair Lapid Opinion

Special military arrangements for the benefit of the haredi community in the Intelligence Corps, Air Force, Education Corps, and Nahal Brigade are the first steps in a bid to allay very real fears and anxieties.

This is a slow process that cannot be expected to end in one day, after more than 50 years of reclusive haredi life.

Any attempt to accelerate the process through threats and boycotts will prompt the opposite reaction than desired.

We are also fed up

By Tali Farkash Opinion September 11, 2009

Part 2 - In response to: They forgot quickly by Yair Lapid Opinion

I am outraged by the fact that the haredim in Israel are forced “back into the closet”.

They are asked to sit quietly, in the dark, while studying the Talmud as not to disturb secular Israelis with their unwanted presence.

Religious resident row ends in libel suit

By Cnaan Liphshiz September 11, 2009

A heated fight over the potential arrival of ultra-Orthodox families to a predominantly secular town near Jerusalem has resulted in an unusual court case, involving an employee of the Joint Distribution Committee and an American born Holocaust scholar who called him an anti-Semite.

‘Tznius’ (Modesty) Home Visit Campaign in Secular Beit Hakerem

By Ezra Reichman September 14, 2009

The pink flyer, which was titled "Daughter of the King", was distributed to many homes during the home visits made by the callers.

The flyer adheres women,

"Honor yourself by covering yourself. Tznius will give you peace of mind. Remember that you are a daughter of the king, a princess.
Princesses don't roam the streets... tznius is highly praiseworthy and one should try to fulfill it to the utmost."

On the second part of the flyer is a prayer to the Master of the Universe to help a woman achieve her desire to be modest.

"Help me be a kosher, modest and truthful woman as You desire."

Haredi web surfers to learn Mishna in Ramon’ memory

By Yair Ettinger September 15, 2009

A Haredi web site dedicated to studying Mishna in memory of Capt. Asaf Ramon was set up on Sunday.

The "Behadrei Haredim" Web portal devoted its headline to the initiative, which represents a small breach in the official Haredi policy of distance from Israeli national tragedies in general and in the army in particular.

People who respond to the memorial effort will commit to study all six books of the Mishna, as is customary in times of mourning.

Jewish-American businessman Guma Aguiar 'not interested in politics'

By Izzy Ein Dor September 15, 2009

Click here for VIDEO

For more videos of Guma Aguiar click here

Jewish-American businessman Guma Aguiar, who recently took over the ownership of soccer powerhouse Beitar Jerusalem after donating $4 million to the team, said he has no political aspirations, unlike previous owner Arcadi Gaydamak.

Speaking to Ynet at the Hadar Yosef Tennis Center in Tel Aviv, said he chose to support Jerusalem's team because the city "is the center of the universe."

Florida court: Aguiar can’t come within 20 meters of witnesses

By Yuval Goren September 10, 2009

A Florida district court banned industrialist and Beitar Jerusalem soccer club patron Guma Aguiar from coming within 20 meters of prosecution witnesses in a trial between himself and his Uncle Tom Kaplan.

The ban follows a complaint by Rabbi Leib Tropper, who claimed this week that Aguiar assaulted him and threatened to throw him from the window of a Jerusalem hotel last April.

Israel police were not able to explain why the assault investigation against Aguiar was closed two weeks later.

The Jerusalem district prosecution decided to reopen the investigation following an appeal filed Tropper's lawyer.

Diaspora Minister to Swedish Jews: Anti-Zionism is anti-Semitism

By Cnaan Liphshiz September 16, 2009

Tuesday's videoconference is part of a project initiated by European Jewish Congress President Moshe Kantor, which aims to foster stronger ties between Diaspora communities and Israel.

The project will allow representatives from one Jewish community every month to hold a video-recorded discussion with an Israeli official or opinion-shaper. The videos will be posted online at

The next videoconference will be held in October with Hungarian Jews, and the one following with representatives from the Jewish community in Milan.

IFCJ initiates largest food drive ahead of New Year

By Ruth Eglash September 10, 2009

In an effort to reach as many needy people in the State of Israel as possible, the International Fellowship of Christians and Jews (IFCJ) initiated this week its largest food drive to date.

In addition to the gift cards, the IFCJ will also assist in distributing food baskets through humanitarian aid organization Latet and Kollel Chabad to an additional 75,000 Israelis in need.

Bringing religion back to the frontlines

By Rabbi Michael Melchior Opinion September 16, 2009

A former Knesset member, the writer leads several civil society movements.

The way to narrow the gap between the mess we are in and the place we would like to go could be through religious peace and interreligious dialogue.

…The Mosaica Center, which I head, deals with the core questions of coexistence and endeavors to create cooperation particularly among people with religious beliefs, who have been totally excluded from the process until now.

The two very intensive spiritual months of Ramadan and Tishrei create a double period of spirituality, an opportunity for finding God and for God to find us.

As both Judaism and Islam express it, it is a time for us to recognize where the human limitation is and where we need to leave it to the Him to assist us and direct us. May it be God's will that we utilize this unique opportunity to build hope in a world which desperately it.

A fast of thousands

By Noreen Sadik September 15, 2009

The faithful go year-round to the Temple Mount to pray, contemplate or just take a break. The Dome of the Rock and al-Aksa Mosque fill during the prayers, which are five times a day.

During Ramadan, female worshipers fill the Dome of the Rock, while males pray in al-Aksa. Every Friday, Islam's holy day, the sanctuary is crowded with some 150,000 worshipers.

According to manager Farid Haj Yahya, the project, which is sponsored by the United Arab Emirates, provides meals to 3,000 people every day, numbering approximately 100,000 people during Ramadan.

The total amount consumed is 36 tons of meat, in addition to rice, vegetables, yogurt, juice, bottled water - and, to emulate the prophet's example, dates.

Religion and State in Israel

September 16, 2009 (Section 1) (continues in Section 2)

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