Tuesday, March 24, 2009

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

Religion and State in Israel

March 23, 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.

Resolving a chief marital squabble

By Matthew Wagner www.jpost.com March 20, 2009

It looks like for the first time in Israel's history, Jews not recognized by the Chief Rabbinate as halachically Jewish will be allowed to tie the knot.

The agreement obligates the new government to pass legislation immediately upon formation which would permit two Israelis who are not halachically Jewish to enter a civil union (brit zugiyut).

The Chief Rabbinate will be responsible for determining who is eligible to fit into this category. But a (non-Jewish) lawyer, not a rabbi, will perform the civil union.

Activists for the dismantling of Orthodoxy's monopoly over religious issues were disappointed.

For instance, Rabbi Andy Sacks, director of the Masorti (Conservative) Movement's Rabbinical Assembly here, called the agreement "a lost opportunity" to reform conversions and create civil marriages.

"Ridiculously, Israel Beiteinu announced a huge 'achievement' which in reality is lacking in substance, and which ultimately does not advance those who really need a solution," he said.

UTJ halts coalition talks with Likud on conversion rules

By Yair Ettinger www.haaretz.com March 24, 2009

The ultra-Orthodox United Torah Judaism party halted coalition negotiations with Likud yesterday, claiming that the Likud's coalition deal with Yisrael Beiteinu violates its monopoly over conversions. 

UTJ sources threatened to remain in the opposition if Likud insisted on including certain clauses regarding conversion in its coalition deal with UTJ. 

The leader of the ultra-Orthodox Lithuanian community, Rabbi Yosef Shalom Elyashiv, yesterday ordered Degel Hatorah, UTJ's Lithuanian faction, not to accept clauses regarding conversion reforms and civil marriage. 

Rabbi Elyashiv allows civil marriage for non-Jews

By Kobi Nahshoni www.ynetnews.com March 19, 2009

Over a month after the general elections, Rabbi Yosef Shalom Elyashiv, the spiritual leader of the Lithuanian stream of ultra-Orthodox Judaism, ruled on the hot topic of the coalition negotiations – civil marriage.

According to Rabbi Elyashiv, the Halacha allows instituting civil marriage in Israel for non-Jews only. Therefore, any couple wishing to wed through civil marriage will have to prove to a rabbinical court that both partners are not Jewish, this in order to prevent "legally sanctioned" assimilation.

The rabbi stressed that civil marriage between Jews, or a mixed couples, was out of the question.

Yisrael Beiteinu compromises on civil marriage

By Mazal Mualem and Yair Ettinger www.haaretz.com March 18, 2009

Instead of promising enactment of a civil marriage law, the agreement merely states that within 60 days of the government's establishment, the prime minister will appoint a task force comprised of representatives of every coalition party to discuss ways to solve the problem of some 300,000 people who cannot marry via the official rabbinate.

The panel will submit its conclusions within 15 months. In addition, the government will pass legislation allowing non-Jews to marry each other in a civil ceremony. 

Likud, Shas strike coalition deal

By Attila Somfalvi www.ynetnews.com March 23, 2009

The agreement with Shas further stated that "the status quo regarding issues of religion and state will be maintained" and that the next government will "work towards honoring Shabbat and the Jewish holidays, as well as prohibit any discrimination against religious employees."

As part of the agreement, Likud guaranteed Shas that the next government would uphold the status of the yeshiva students and "examine the claims of an increase in illegal missionary activity in Israel."

Shas was also assured that the status of the rabbinical courts would be preserved.

As for education, the coalition agreement states that the haredi education system will remain independent

Proposed split of education portfolio draws fire

By Or Kashti www.haaretz.com March 20, 2009

Outgoing Education Minister Yuli Tamir yesterday called the proposal to divide the ministry, by appointing an official with ministerial authority for the ultra-Orthodox school network, "profoundly wrong and separatist."

Shas, Likud reach coalition compromise on education

By Mazal Mualem www.haaretz.com March 23, 2009

One Shas MK will be appointed as a minister in the Prime Minister's Office, to administer the ultra-Orthodox education system from that post. The leading candidate for the appointment remains MK Meshulam Nahari.

UTJ says Shas should hold off on entering coalition

By Matthew Wagner www.jpost.com March 23, 2009

For the first time the yeshiva budget will be anchored in legislation. Haredi politicians have wondered if anchoring the budget in legislation served their political interests.

By making the yeshiva budget an integral part of the education budget and not an ad hoc deal that has to be renegotiated every year, the haredi politicians may be shooting themselves in the foot by making themselves superfluous.

Shas to get Haredi-only education portfolio in coalition deal

By Or Kashti and Mazal Mualem www.haaretz.com March 23, 2009

Yossi Sarid, a former education minister and former Meretz chairman, termed the reputed deal "a fire sale of Israel's state education." 

Sarid argued that it is "impossible" to have "two education ministers and two education ministries. The day this happens, the state will have essentially conceded its authority over the Haredi systems." 

Destroying education, crushing society

Haaretz Editorial www.haaretz.com March 22, 2009

No Likud education minister, not even Netanyahu himself, could stop the avalanche that will follow the appointment of a Shas minister for ultra-Orthodox education. 

The money-loaded ultra-Orthodox education system will turn state education (and religious state education) into a dangling appendage and ultimately destroy it.

Shas to receive four portfolios in coalition deal with Likud

By Mazal Mualem www.haaretz.com March 23, 2009

Party chief Eli Yishai will become interior minister and deputy prime minister, MK Ariel Atias will become minister of housing, Yitzhak Cohen will receive the new government's religion portfolio and Meshulam Nahari will become a minister-without-portfolio in the Prime Minister's Office. 

Likud agrees to broad rabbinic court authority

By Yair Ettinger and Mazal Mualem www.haaretz.com March 20, 2009

Shas and Likud have agreed to advance legislation that would broaden rabbinic court authority to include civil issues, despite a High Court ruling denying them such jurisdiction. 

A public storm erupted in February 2008, when Welfare Minister Isaac Herzog advanced a similar proposal. Former Supreme Court Justice Dalia Dorner said at the time that she was "scared to death" of the agreements Shas made with Kadima. 

She said at a meeting of religious women's organizations that giving rabbinic judges authority to rule in civil matters would create "a parallel legal system." 

Netanyahu agrees to raise child allowances

By Zvi Zrahiya www.haaretz.com March 23, 2009

Child allowances for the second to fourth children in a family will rise in a number of stages. As part of the coalition negotiations, Prime Minister-designate Benjamin Netanyahu has agreed with the ultra-Orthodox parties, Shas and United Torah Judaism, to an increase of NIS 1.5 billion over a three-year period. 

Other budgetary agreements with the ultra-Orthodox parties include a few hundred million shekels more for the parties' educational institutions as well as increased stipends for yeshiva students. 

Bayit HaYehudi Finds a Solution to End Internal Crisis

By Yechiel Spira www.theyeshivaworld.com March 22, 2009

Bayit HaYehudi Party (Jewish Home) officials have reached a solution to end the conflict surrounding the party leader’s refusal to step down as MK if appointed as a cabinet minister.

The MKs wish to implement the Norwegian Law when party leader Rabbi Dr. Daniel Hershkowitz becomes a minister, permitting Nissan Slomianski to enter Knesset, but Slomianski will leave and Hershkowitz will receive his Knesset slot back if Hershkowitz ceases to serve as a minister in the future.

'Haredim to continue running buses segregating men, women'

www.haaretz.com March 22, 2009

Ultra-Orthodox groups announced on Sunday they would continue to run a bus route segregating men and women in Jerusalem, Israel Radio reported. 

The announcement came despite efforts by the Transportation Ministry to prevent the operation of the publicly-funded bus route that runs from the capital's Haredi (ultra-Orthodox) neighborhoods to the Western Wall. 

Transportation Ministry, haredim in row over segregated bus

By Etgar Lefkovits www.jpost.com March 23, 2009

The organization running the buses, the Rabbinic Committee for Transportation Affairs, began operating the route on Thursday, group spokesman Shimon Stern said.

He denied the buses are illegal, noting that the new line has obtained private sponsorship and passengers are not being charged for the ride.

Jerusalem: Haredim launch segregated bus line

By Kobi Nahshoni www.ynetnews.com March 22, 2009

Binyamin Mark of the "Holy Land Mehadrin Committee" said that this time a different company, "which is not deterred by idle threats" has been contracted, and that the plan now was to "go all the way" and launch several other lines soon.

Haredi Jews Urged To Avoid El Al

By Nathan Jeffay www.forward.com March 20, 2009

Orthodox Jews are being urged shun El Al, Israel’s national air carrier, over its in-flight entertainment — a push that is widely viewed as a gambit in a larger struggle with the airline.

The Rabbinical Transportation Committee, an influential body representing a cross-section of Israel’s ultra-Orthodox, or Haredi, community, has published a guide telling people how to fly “kosher” around the world — a kind of Michelin Guide for observant travelers.

El Al’s generous provision of in-flight movies — a welcome amenity for most passengers — drew fire from the rabbinic inspectors. They accuse El Al of placing religious passengers under the influence of secular culture and “immodest” images.

Body parts exhibit has rabbi up in arms

Click here for VIDEO

By David Brinn www.jpost.com March 20, 2009

Haifa Chief Rabbi She'ar-Yashuv Cohen is not quite saying "over my dead body," but he is calling on the public to boycott an upcoming science exhibit that provides an inside look at the human body by using real body parts.

"Even if the bodies aren't Jewish, there's kavod adam [human dignity] which we're obliged to follow. We can't discriminate because they're not Jewish - it's against the spirit of Judaism," he told The Jerusalem Post on Wednesday.

Interior Ministry Targets Chareidi Schools

By Yechiel Spira www.theyeshivaworld.com March 19, 2009

The Interior Ministry has instructed local government not to pay utility costs for chareidi schools, including Chinuch Atzmai and Shas-affiliated Mayan Hachinuch, in addition to halting garbage collection services.

They do not represent us

By Yakov Horowitz www.jpost.com Opinion March 18, 2009

The writer is the dean of a yeshiva in the New York area and has authored books on parenting and Torah thoughts. He recently received the 2008 Covenant Award for excellence in Jewish education.

We must clearly and unequivocally condemn the violence each time it happens in the strongest language.

Halachic rulings ought to be issued that those who commit violence against innocent people are rodfim (individuals who present a real and present danger to others), and one is obligated by our Torah to defend the victim and report the criminals to the police.

I am posting this column on my Web site www.rabbihorowitz.com and I respectfully call upon haredim worldwide to post a comment at the bottom with your name and the city where you live supporting the sentiments expressed here.

If enough Torah-observant individuals stand up, distance ourselves from these criminals and demand action from our elected officials, we might affect changes which will restore honor to God's name and end these acts of terror that plague us.

Belzer Chassidim and Litvish Rabbonim Launch Wedding Plans

www.vosizneias.com March 20, 2009

After working on the plan for close to a year, Belzer askanim have announced that they are launching their "Chassaneh Plan" which is calculated to save each family up to $9,000 in wedding expenses for their child.

First-Ever Halacha-Compliant Approval for Investment Firm

www.vosizneias.com March 22, 2009

The Aida Hachareidis's Supervisory Committee for Investments and Finance gave its seal of approval to the Hadas Malchus Investment Firm, the first-ever "kosher certificate" awarded by a Beis Din to an investment house.

Ultra-Orthodox buy real estate in groups, as financial crisis hits home

By Raz Smolsky www.haaretz.com March 23, 2009

As the economic crisis hits home, the popularity of purchasing groups has grown, including in the ultra-Orthodox community. There, gigantic groups numbering 150 members or more congregate in a matter of weeks, and not always with some real estate entrepreneur in the center of the action. 

"The Haredim are more organized, they know each other. A rabbi leads the project and gives it his approval, which makes it easier to win the trust of buyers. It's very easy to persuade a Haredi to buy an apartment together with a purchasing group." 

Haredim launch battle against human body exhibit

By Kobi Nahshoni www.ynetnews.com March 22, 2009

"Body Worlds", a travelling exhibition of preserved human bodies and body parts will be arriving at MadaTech, the Israel National Museum of Science in Haifa next month, unless a planned wave of public protest manages to have the show cancelled.

The controversial exhibition will be on display at the museum for three months. Two petitions against the exhibit are already making their way to the High Court of Justice, and ultra-Orthodox leaders in the country vowed to stage mass rallies against it.

About a year ago, the Israeli organizers approached Chief Rabbi Yona Metzger and asked that he formulate an opinion regarding the exhibit, based on Jewish law. Metzger unequivocally ruled that "such an exhibit has no place in the Holy Land, and I therefore recommend that you don't get involved in this."

Eida Chareidis Appeals to Stores – Don’t Sell Chametz on Pesach

By Yechiel Spira www.theyeshivaworld.com March 23, 2009

The Jerusalem-based Eida Chareidis has begun sending letters to store owners.

Rabbi Yosef Rosenfeld, who is affiliated with the Eida as well as the overall Shabbos effort in Yerushalayim, explained that the effort is done in a cordial fashion in the hope of persuading store owners to comply. He did state however that there would be a response to those “who chas v’sholom refuse to comply”.

Restrictions threaten Bratslav Pesach in Uman

By Zohar Blumenkrantz www.haaretz.com March 23, 2009

The Bratslav Hasidic community's traditional Pesach pilgrimage to the tomb of Rabbi Nachman in Uman, Ukraine is scheduled to begin today, but restrictions imposed by the Ukrainian embassy in Israel could lead to the trip's being canceled entirely. 

New GPS device makes schlepping around Eretz Yisroel easy

By Mel Bezalel www.jpost.com March 23, 2009

The machers at iGO, a subsidiary of Nav N Go, have designed the new [Jewish GPS] for the Orthodox market in Israel. Now Yiddish-speakers in areas such as Jerusalem, Bnei Brak, Modi'in Illit and Ashdod can use the product to locate more than 10,000 unique Jewish interest points - including the addresses and telephone numbers of thousands of synagogues, mikves and kosher restaurants.

Carmiel rabbi enraged by erotic show

By Galit Perry www.ynetnews.com March 20, 2009

"Forbidden Territory", a performance by the Moscow Theater dancers, which is scheduled to take place Monday in Carmiel's cultural center has led to angry responses.

The city's Sephardic rabbi, Eliyahu Malka, slammed the show. "This is a shame and disgrace to the city of Carmiel. I strongly protest it," he said.

Rabbi Malka said that he was weighing his options against the show and that Mayor Adi Eldar had promised him in the past, verbally and in writing, that such a performance would not be displayed in Carmiel.

Rabbi Tendler Ascends Temple Mount

By Hana Levi Julian www.israelnationalnews.com March 20, 2009

Click here for VIDEO

A new 17-minute video has been released an ascent to the Temple Mount led by Rabbi Moshe Dovid Tendler, son-in-law of the famed late Torah sage, Rabbi Moshe Feinstein.

Rabbi Tendler, who leads the Community Synagogue of Monsey and is a professor of Jewish Medical Ethics and biology at New York's Yeshiva College, led a small group of Jews up to the Temple Mount together with Temple Institute Director Yehudah Glick on January 19, 2009. 

The small gathering, which ascended the Mount after first making the appropriate preparations as prescribed in Jewish law, recited special prayers during their visit to the site. 

The video shows Rabbi Tendler walking around the mount and speaking words of Torah throughout.

Religion and State in Israel

March 23, 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.

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

Religion and State in Israel

March 23, 2009 (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.

Israeli Foreign Ministry says pope can wear cross at Western Wall

By Judith Sudilovsky www.catholicnews.com March 18, 2009

"In accordance with rules of hospitality and dignity," Israel will not prevent Pope Benedict XVI from wearing his pectoral cross when he visits the Western Wall, the Israeli Foreign Ministry said.

Jerusalem Rabbi Insists the Pope Must Hide His Cross

By Tim McGirk www.time.com March 19, 2009

Explaining his demand that Benedict hide the very symbol of the Catholicism he represents, Rabbi Shmuel Rabinovitch, the spiritual authority responsible for overseeing Judaism's most sacred site, told TIME, "I wouldn't go into a church wearing Jewish symbols, out of respect for the place, and I would expect that the Pope would act the same here."

Explaining the intensity of feeling over the quintessential symbol of Christianity, Rabbi Ron Kronish, director of the Interreligious Coordinating Council in Israel, a Jerusalem group promoting religious dialogue, says there exists among ultra-Orthodox Jews a "certain allergy toward the cross."

Asking the Pope to remove his cross, he says, is "part of the ongoing paranoia of Jewish history. But it doesn't show respect for the leader of another major religion."

Western Wall rabbi says pope should not wear cross at site

By Matthew Wagner www.jpost.com March 17, 2009

"My position is that it is not fitting to enter the Western Wall area with religious symbols, including a cross,"
said Rabbi Rabinovitch in a telephone interview with The Jerusalem Post Monday.

Pope orders a kosher meal?

By Shelly Paz www.jpost.com March 23, 2009

El Al will be flying Pope Benedict XVI and his entourage from the Holy Land back to Rome on May 15, when his historic visit to Jordan, the Palestinian-controlled areas and Israel ends.

The special flight from Ben-Gurion Airport to Rome will be on a Boeing 777 that will bear the Vatican logo.

Jewish-Christian crew to accompany Pope on flight home

By Zohar Blumenkrantz www.haaretz.com March 23, 2009

A special crew comprised of both Jews and Christians will serve Pope Benedict XVI and his entourage on their El Al flight home from Israel on May 15.

According to El Al, the entourage will include 30 church officials and 70 journalists.

The airline also plans to paint the Pope's plane with the Vatican logo. Tens of thousands of pilgrims are expected to accompany the Pope on his visit here, and El Al is hoping for a piece of that action as well:

It will inaugurate direct flights between Tel Aviv and Sao Paulo, Brazil, on May 2, and is planning an aggressive advertising campaign in other South American countries too.

Israel, Holy See may be near deal on tax dispute

By Etgar Lefkovits www.jpost.com March 17, 2009

After more than a decade of negotiations, Israel and the Vatican are nearing an agreement on a longstanding tax dispute over Church properties in the Holy Land, senior Foreign Ministry officials said Monday.

At the core of the tax dispute is hundreds of millions of shekels owed to the city by the Vatican and an array of Christian churches, Jerusalem municipal officials said.

According to law, properties that are used as houses of prayer are exempt from property taxes, but the churches, which own vast tracts in Jerusalem, are required to pay for buildings they own that are not used for worship - including hostels, guest houses and schools.

The total amount of unpaid property tax amounts to roughly NIS 300 million, with the Latin Patriarchate the biggest offender, a city spokesman said.

The debt collection was frozen pending ongoing negotiations between Israel and the Vatican.

Any agreement reached between the Prime Minister's Office and the Vatican will be precedent-setting, since it will apply to all church properties in Jerusalem.

Secret emigration effort for Yemenite Jews imperiled

By Uriel Heilman www.jta.org March 18, 2009

…after Israel's daily Ma'ariv published an account this week of the UJC's effort, Jewish organizational officials involved in the emigration effort said they were worried the Yemeni government would clamp down on Jewish emigration -- especially to Israel -- possibly to placate Arab critics.

For its part, the Jewish Agency, which was the first group to go public with its effort to spirit Yemenite Jews out of the country, issued a harsh condemnation of the operation to bring the Yemenites to the United States.

"We vehemently oppose the immigration of Jews, wherever they are, to the United States, including the group of Jews from Yemen that is not going to the State of Israel," the Jewish Agency said in a statement. 

"The place of all Jews from the entire Diaspora -- and included in this are the Jews of Yemen -- is in their homeland, Israel."

U.S. Jewish organizational officials said they simply were following the wishes of Jews in Yemen who had expressed a preference to immigrate to America.

Secret Yemen Rescue Imperiled by Communal Turf Battles

By Anthony Weiss http://forward.com March 19, 2009

The Jewish Agency, which has historically rescued Jews threatened by anti-Semitism and brought them to Israel, is locked in an apparent battle with a coalition of American Jewish organizations over the coalition’s operation to bring Yemeni Jews to the United States.

The American coalition includes United Jewish Communities — one of the Jewish Agency’s main funders — and a leading figure in the Brooklyn-based Satmar Hasidic sect, Rabbi David Niederman.

“When there are Jews who are in distress, there is one exit for them — going to the State of Israel,” a senior Jewish Agency source told the Forward.

“That is the fight that the Jewish Agency has with UJC.” 

The Jewish Agency source also accused UJC and Satmar’s operation to bring Jews to the United States of putting the Jewish Agency efforts to bring Jews to Israel in danger — and thus endangering the lives of Yemeni Jews who wish to leave.

UJC to pull 110 Jews out of Yemen

By Haviv Rettig Gur www.jpost.com March 19, 2009

The United Jewish Communities is working with the US State Department, local federations and the Hebrew Immigrant Aid Society to implement the evacuation and help finance the $800,000 expense of absorbing the 110 Yemenite Jews, who represent more than a third of the roughly 280-strong community.

The Jewish Agency is particularly upset because the extraction of the Yemenite Jews comes at the behest of New York's Satmar hassidic community, which opposes political Zionism and funds Jewish education institutions in Yemen.

Uzi Dayan - the next Jewish Agency chairman?

By Haviv Rettig Gur www.jpost.com March 18, 2009

Uzi Dayan, the former deputy chief of General Staff and Likud candidate, is the frontrunner in the race for the upcoming chairman of the Jewish Agency, The Jerusalem Post has learned.

That is, unless some of the Jewish Agency's largest donors succeed in wresting the chairmanship away from the Israeli politicians for the first time in the agency's history

To revitalize Jerusalem, new mayor looks to Diaspora

By Dina Kraft www.jta.org March 16, 2009

Barkat’s plan is to create special economic zones in Jerusalem that are focused on two clusters -- one called culture-tourism, the other health and life sciences. 

He will make his pitch in visits to New York, Boston, Los Angeles, Washington, San Francisco and Florida.

Barkat is hoping Diaspora Jews will be investment partners in joint business ventures. 

For example, he says, Jews in Los Angeles might invest in Jerusalem’s fledgling film industry, and biotech engineers in Boston might invest in biotech in a city that hosts Hadassah Hospital and the prestigious Hebrew University.

Wernick Promises Sweeping Change For United Synagogue

By Stewart Ain www.thejewishweek.com March 18, 2009

In addition, Rabbi Wernick said he would like to “enhance and enrich” the membership’s connection to the State of Israel.

“People should not only learn about it but should experience it as a living, breathing state,” he said.

“Aliyah needs to be on the table again as a legitimate and desired option for Conservative Jews. Our relationships have to be strengthened because our futures are connected to one another. 

If we want to have an identity as Conservative Jews there, we have to build the Conservative community there.”

Advocacy groups: Financial crisis leading to immigration surge from West

By Raphael Ahren www.haaretz.com March 20, 2009

Danny Oberman, NBN's executive vice president of Israeli operations, speaks of three population groups driven by the current economic climate to consider aliyah: 

College graduates and young couples who cannot find a job and are no longer able to keep up with the cost of living, as well as finance, marketing and high tech professionals who are either laid off or perceive dim financial prospects. 

JNF taxed on forest

By Shmuel Dekalo www.globes.co.il March 17, 2009

For the first time in Israel, a regional authority has demanded arnona (local property tax) from the Jewish National Fund (JNF) for a forest. 

The JNF has petitioned the Jerusalem Court for Administrative Affairs against the levy.

The JNF argues in its petition that it does not pay arnona on the forests, because local authorities do not consider the agency as the "owner and user of the forest" in the sense of municipal ordnances. 

Lieberman the Diaspora czar

By Anshel Pfeffer www.haaretz.com March 20, 2009

The [Yisrael Beiteinu] manifesto makes clear that [Lieberman] has little use for the Jewish Agency and its tradition of partnership and compromise with the Diaspora.

Tellingly, his deputy at the Foreign Ministry will be Yisrael Beiteinu MK and former Washington Ambassador Danny Ayalon.

Until a few months ago, Ayalon was president of Nefesh B'Nefesh, the independent Aliyah organization that has all but usurped the Jewish Agency's historical role of promoting North American immigration. 

Jewish leaders who previously shunned Lieberman for his strident political views will now have to face him, not just as Israel's premier representative to foreign governments, but also as the man who believes their duty is to Make Aliyah, Support Israel and Shut Up.

A chance to rediscover aliya

By Haviv Rettig Gur www.jpost.com March 17, 2009

But the greatest barrier to aliya today is not financial, it's cultural. Two-thirds of the Diaspora - American Jewry - lives in a world of personal choices, belonging simultaneously to a myriad of real and virtual communities, with the ability to move between them.

Israel needs to learn how to speak to these Jews in ways in which they can understand and identify. 

An American Jew cannot be convinced to make aliya merely by removing financial or bureaucratic obstacles from the move.

He or she must possess a cultural identification with Israeli society, a personal and meaningful reason to cross the cultural divide into Israel

Art of Gay Religious Jews Bridges Worlds

By Joshua Mitnick www.thejewishweek.com March 18, 2009

Out of the Sacred Closet: Beauty, Belief, Identity” is a joint exhibition at the Hadassah Art Gallery in the German Colony here of 14 gay and lesbian artists from the Orthodox world whose creativity is driven by an effort to somehow reconcile the seeming clash in their identities. 

“You have a gay problem here and you have Jewish identity,” said exhibition curator Ofra Zucker, referring to the dilemmas faced by gay couples who want to have families but their marriages are not recognized in the Orthodox community.

Artistic, religious, and proud

By Yoav Friedman www.ynetnews.com March 18, 2009

“The discussion of sexual and gender identities in the framework of the modern Orthodox discourse in Israel may be the most subversive, refreshing and challenging expression of modern-day Judaism,” art researcher David Sperber told Ynet.

A Religious War in Israel’s Army

By Ethan Bronner www.nytimes.com March 21, 2009

The publication late last week of eyewitness accounts by Israeli soldiers alleging acute mistreatment of Palestiniancivilians in the recent Gaza fighting highlights a debate here about the rules of war.

But it also exposes something else: the clash between secular liberals and religious nationalists for control over the army and society.

…Mr. Halbertal, the Jewish philosopher who opposes the attitude of Rabbi Rontzki, said the divide that is growing in Israel is not only between religious and secular Jews but among the religious themselves.

The debate is over three issues — the sanctity of land versus life; the relationship between messianism and Zionism; and the place of non-Jews in a sovereign Jewish state.

Israeli army uses PIs to spy on suspect dodgers

By Diaa Hadid, AP http://news.yahoo.com March 18, 2009

With more 18-year-old females claiming religious modesty as grounds for exemption from male-dominated military life, Israel's army is hiring investigators to spy on suspected draft evaders, catching them doing decidedly unreligious things.

In 1991, 21 percent of women avoided service on religious grounds, according to army figures; last year the figure was 36 percent, even though overall only around 20 percent of Israelis classify themselves as religious.

IDF Reviews Soldiers’ Refusal to View Female Singers

By Gil Ronen www.israelnationalnews.com March 20, 2009

The Military Rabbinate said, however, that there is no justification for forcing religious soldiers and officers to be present at these parts of the ceremonies and for coercing them into something that contradicts their religious worldview.

“The organizers should be aware of this problem,” explained Rabbi Captain Menachem Perl, who heads the Halacha Section in the Military Rabbinate.

He calls for a “creative solution” to be found, “either by releasing the religious soldiers from the entire event, or by letting them exit discreetly during parts of the event, or by changing the contents of the event itself.”

Top IDF brass sign organ-donation cards

www.jpost.com March 23, 2009

The IDF's Chief Rabbi, OC Chaplaincy Brig. -Gen. Avichai Ronzki and OC Medical Corps Brig. -Gen. Nachman Ash both signed up for an organ donation card during a ceremony in the Kirya Military Headquarters in Tel Aviv on Sunday.

Ronzki said that "The Torah itself consecrates the preservation of life and we are happy to push this subject forward."

Tzohar, YU aim to create 200 independent congregations here within 10 years

By Haviv Rettig Gur www.jpost.com March 19, 2009

New York's Yeshiva University and the Israeli rabbinic group Tzohar are teaming up to create a network of independent Orthodox communities in Israel focused on outreach and education for Jews from all walks of life.

Tzohar is an Orthodox rabbinic organization seeking to bridge the religious-secular divide in Israeli society.

"If Tzohar can create 20 new communities a year over the next 10 years - that is their goal - you can change the face of Israel."

Jewish TV network launched in Mideast

www.jpost.com www.jta.org March 23, 2009

A Middle East-based television network delivering Jewish and Israeli-themed programming has been launched. 

It is the first 24/7 Jewish television channel operating in the region and it will take its place alongside dozens of Muslim and Christian stations.

Jewish Live TV International is a satellite channel of Los Angeles-based Jewish Life TV, broadcast on Time Warner Cable. JLTVI will localize JLTV's existing programming and will also create original content including live telecasts of major Jewish and Israeli events.

The pendulum of justice – Interview with MK David Rotem

By Shahar Ilan www.haaretz.com March 18, 2009

Likud MK David Rotem's father, Shachna, was a leader of the now defunct Poalei Agudat Yisrael party and was a close associate of the Hazon Ish, one of the most important ultra-Orthodox rabbis in the early days of the state.

But nevertheless, Rotem has a surprise up his sleeve. The law, he says, will apply also to the ultra-Orthodox population.

…Are you are in effect proposing that the arrangement which defers military service for the ultra-Orthodox be canceled? 

"That's right." 

Is that what you grew up with? 

"I grew up in an ultra-Orthodox and Zionist home. We celebrated Independence Day. We all did military service or national service.

Israel Democracy Institute 'excluding non-Orthodox streams'

By Kobi Nahshoni www.ynetnews.com March 17, 2009

The Israel Democracy Institute (IDI) hosted a Roundtable Forum on Sunday to discuss issues of religion and state in Israel, focusing on the Shabbat, conversions and marriage.

Although the institute maintains that it 'seeks to involve all sectors within Israeli society in dialogue concerning these all-important national dilemmas," the Masorti movement in Israel, which is affiliated with Conservative Judaism, claims that the institute systematically excludes representatives of the Masorti and Reform movements in Israel from such forums.

"Is it even conceivable that on such matters as conversions or civil marriages the opinion of the non-Orthodox streams of Judaism will not be heard?," they asked in the letter, stating that the two movements "have converted and married off thousands of people in Israel, they deal with the complex reality of the relations between state and religion on a daily basis, and represent a wide public in Israel and a huge public across the world."

High Court: Fencing nationals open to religious

By Kobi Nahshoni www.ynetnews.com March 17, 2009

The High Court of Justice ruled Monday that the national fencing championships to be held next month must not discriminate against athletes who observe Shabbat.

The decision was handed down when the court convened again to discuss the issue of religious national youth fencing champion Yuval Freilich.

World Union for Progressive Judaism Connections

By Raphael Ahren www.haaretz.com March 20, 2009

More than 300 Reform leaders from 26 countries are currently in Israel for the 34th international convention of the World Union for Progressive Judaism, called Connections, which opened Wednesday night in attendance of Jerusalem Mayor Nir Barkat and several foreign ambassadors to Israel.

During the five-day conference, the first part of which took place in the capital before moving Friday today to Tel Aviv, deals with the politics of conversion in Israel, religious pluralism in Israel and interfaith relations.

The delegates Wednesday adopted two resolutions: one condemning rising anti-Semitism and one calling on the Israeli government to "immediately recognize Miri Gold as an official rabbi of the Gezer Community."

Rabbi Gold, who moved to Israel in 1977 from Detroit, is one of 16 rabbis serving the Gezer area, yet is the only one who receives neither recognition nor a salary from the government. 

The way they were – Beit Hakerem, Jerusalem

By Peggy Cidor www.jpost.com March 22, 2009

Regarding the "secular stronghold," not all its residents agree on the definition.

"I would rather say that it is the last stronghold of secular tolerance," suggests former city council member Anat Hoffman, head of the Israel Religious Action Center, who recently moved there from Baka. 

"Above all, I would say it is the only place where the secular are not ashamed or apologetic for being so."

…Beit Hakerem has remained a middle- and upper-middle-class mostly secular neighborhood, with just a few religious Zionist families.

Over the years, a few more synagogues were added (including one Conservative and one Reform), but the general atmosphere of a strong secular neighborhood had always been preserved. 

Africa Israel parking lot to remain closed on Shabbat

By Dotan Levi, Calcalist www.ynetnews.com March 18, 2009

The Tel Aviv District Appeal Committee ruled recently that the Africa Israel parking lot on Tel Aviv's Ahad Ha'am Street would be closed on Shabbat and on Jewish holidays, despite a demand by the Tel Aviv Local Committee that the property would remain open on those days.

The Africa Israel company, which is owned by ultra-Orthodox businessman Lev Leviev, appealed to the Local Committee several months ago, asking for a permit to add 10 more floors to its 18-story tower.

350 Hours of Oppression

By Aliza Hausman www.alizahausman.net Opinion March 20, 2009

…I spent only 6 months in the community that performed my conversion. It was too expensive to live there so after those 6 months, I loved to a more affordable one. 

And once those six months were over, I moved yet again to live in a community that was still more affordable. I don’t have timesheets to prove my 350 hours.

I’m not sure if any of these communities were “recognized.” It doesn’t matter. I haven’t clocked in 18 months in any community and I didn’t put in 9 months after my conversion.

Does this mean that while the Israeli rabbinate approves of my conversion the Interior Ministry will not allow me to immigrate?

Good question. It is just one of many questions converts will be asking themselves soon.

Once Reviled, Black Hebrews Now FĂȘted

By Andrew Esensten http://forward.com March 18, 2009

Last month, the 62-year-old Ben Yehuda — father of 10 children and husband of 3 women — became the first member of his community to gain full Israeli citizenship.

Looking back on the hurdles he overcame since his 1971 arrival, Ben Yehuda mused, “I can only describe this journey in relationship to my forefathers,” referring to Abraham, Isaac and Jacob.

“They were able to endure. As long as we put fulfilling the will of the God of Israel first, there’s no challenge that we can’t overcome.”

Paganism returns to the Holy Land

By Ofri Ilani www.haaretz.com March 22, 2009

Due to Jewish sensitivity to idol worship, which is perceived as a sin, most Israeli pagans reveal their beliefs only to those who share them.

Alon Kobets, 29, a neo-paganist from Rehovot, is one of the few who decided "to come out of the closet." 

"Some people live in fear, but I'm past hiding my faith," he said. "Some guys live with religious families. They can't tell their parents, 'I don't believe in Judaism, I'm a pagan.' They'd chop off their heads." 

Rinat Korbet, a Bar-Ilan University researcher who wrote her thesis on the pagan community in Israel based on its online presence.

Korbet will present her research at the First Israeli Conference for the Study of Contemporary Spiritualities which opens [March 23, 2008] at the University of Haifa.

Religion and State in Israel

March 23, 2009 (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.