Tuesday, May 19, 2009

Religion and State in Israel - May 18, 2009 (Section 1)

Religion and State in Israel

May 18, 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.

High Court rules state must fund Reform conversion institutions

www.jpost.com May 19, 2009

In a landmark ruling, the High Court of Justice on Tuesday decided that the Immigration Absorption Ministry must set criteria that will allow equal funding to Reform institutions that prepare prospective converts to Judaism.

In addition, the court ruled that the government must retroactively fund the Reform institutions for the past three years.

Justices Dorit Beinisch - the president of the Supreme Court - Miriam Naor and Edna Arbel accepted an appeal by the Israeli Movement for Progressive Judaism, agreeing that all streams of Judaism that are involved in preparing converts should be supported by the state.

The ruling accepted the claim that the criteria for the receipt of funding unlawfully discriminates against non-Orthodox institutions.

Beinisch said that if the government decided to keep funding the private conversion institutions it should instate a mechanism that will allow all streams to receive equal funding.

Supreme Court Orders Equal Funding for Reform “Conversions”

By Hillel Fendel www.israelnationalnews.com May 19, 2009

In reality,” the ruling states, “the State does not see fit to support the Reform movement because its religious perception is different than that which the State wishes to promote.

This is, on the face of it, a not-pertinent consideration for the purposes of granting support.  Beyond this, by doing this, the State gives an advantage to one religious conception over another, causing harm that has no place in the ‘free market’ that should be maintained for various religious conceptions.”

The judges write that the State has no obligation to support conversion institutes, but that if it chooses to do so, “the principle of pluralism requires that it support the institutes of other streams of Judaism as well.”

The judges elaborate on their view of the State’s obligation to the principle of pluralism: “The State’s obligation to pluralism is not merely a passive one. It has an active aspect to it as well, obligating the State, wherever it decides to support one stream, to support the other as well.”

Court: Justify conversion annulments

By Dan Izenberg www.jpost.com May 19, 2009

The High Court of Justice took a dramatic decision on Monday, giving the dayanim of the Higher Rabbinical Court and the Ashdod District Rabbinical Court 90 days to explain why they had revoked the conversions made by the special conversion court of Rabbi Haim Druckman.

The court also asked the attorney-general for his opinion on whether the rabbinical courts were empowered to revoke the decisions of the NationalConversion Authority, headed until recently by Druckman.

Court: Justify conversion annulments made by Rabbi Haim Druckman

Click here for VIDEO

www.jpost.com May 19, 2009 IBA TV

Rabbinical Court ordered to explain conversion annulments

By Aviad Glickman www.ynetnews.com May 19, 2009

"This is a very simple case," said Attorney Susan Weiss of the Center for Women's Justice, who represented the women. "Once there is a certificate of conversion, it cannot be questioned. I hope the court debates this on a broader scale and that justice will be served."

The Ne'emanei Torah Va'Avodah group – a religious-Zionist movement – welcomed the ruling as well and urged Justice Minister Yaakov Ne'eman and the chief rabbis to demand the resignation of the religious judges involved in the case.

High Court praised for helping to stop Beit Din's 'inquisition' of converts to Judaism

By Ruth Eglash www.jpost.com May 19, 2009

Women's groups and those working with converts welcomed the ground-breaking decision of the country's secular High Court of Justice Monday, which called on the Beth Din (Rabbinic Court) to justify its annulment of several Jewish conversions made by the government-appointed National Conversion Authority, headed by Rabbi Haim Druckman.

"This is a very positive and important step to stop the ongoing inquisition by the Beth Din of converts to Judaism," 

said attorney Susan Weiss, founder and executive director of the Center for Women's Justice, which brought together some 15 organizations and individuals in a High Court petition questioning the authority of the Rabbinic Courts to cancel conversions.

"[The behavior of the Beth Din] means that converts are never quite sure if their status as a Jew is final," she said.

The rabbis vs. the jurists

By Matthew Wagner www.jpost.com May 19, 2009

The old tension between religion and state is rearing its head once again. The battle has begun.

On one side are rabbis, products of the world's best yeshivot and institutes of Talmudic studies, informed by an ancient Jewish tradition set down in the Talmud and the vast rabbinical literature that spans centuries.

On the other side are judges, among the brightest scholars of Western jurisprudence, who are influenced by liberal, humanistic and decidedly secular modern thought.

In the middle are thousands of converts, most of whom are immigrants from the former Soviet Union. 

Long-standing problems in rabbinical establishment surface over conversions

By Dan Izenberg www.jpost.com May 18, 2009

The cases of the two women whose conversions by the National Conversion Authority were revoked by the Higher Rabbinical Court have brought to public attention a severe dispute between two government institutions allegedly having the same authority to convert non-Jews.

In truth, the problem has been festering for several years, but was hushed up until now by the Orthodox establishment.

Internet-trained conversion hopefuls less likely to pass

By Matthew Wagner www.jpost.com May 19, 2009

Rabbinic Conversion Court judges are more likely to reject prospective converts who were partially trained via the Internet, a senior source in the Conversion Authority said Sunday.

According to the source, about 70% of prospective converts who are interviewed by the conversion court are accepted. However, among prospective converts who were trained in part via the Internet, only about half are accepted, said the source.

The use of the Internet is one example of tension between the joint institute - whose teachers include members of the Orthodox, Reform and Conservative streams of Judaism - and the Orthodox conversion courts that set the acceptance standards.

Bill to expand rabbinical court powers meets with varied critics

By Yair Ettinger www.haaretz.com May 19, 2009

A bill that would expand the authority of rabbinical courts to civilian matters was criticized yesterday by lawmakers, women's rights groups and several religious organizations, following Haaretz's expose of Justice Minister Yaakov Neeman's support of the initiative. 

ICAR, a coalition of organizations promoting the rights of women bound in marriage by husbands refusing to grant a divorce, will stage a protest tomorrow opposite Neeman's home. 

The bill "would bolster the extortive power of the husband and deal a hard blow to women refused a get," said Robyn Shames, the coalition's director, referring to the Jewish halakhic term for a bill of divorce. 

Rabbi Gilad Kariv, of the Reform Movement's Israel Religious Action Center, said the bill is tantamount to "granting a prize to a failed justice system," and that "it would be fitting for the justice minister to invest his energy in finding a solution to the struggle of those prevented from remarrying, as the government has committed to doing." 

The Conservative Movement also called on Neeman to retract his support for the initiative. 

"The step will bring tremendous damage to Israeli society in general, and the female population in particular," Rabbi Diana Villa of the Conservative Movement said. 

Batia Kahane-Dror of the women's organization Mavoi Satum sent an open letter to Neeman reminding him of his past condemnation of expanded rabbinical court authority. 

"Now that you are on the other side, will your conscience allow you to give them additional powers?" she wrote.

Justice Minister pushes bill to extend rabbinical courts' authority

By Yair Ettinger www.haaretz.com May 19, 2009

Justice Minister Yaakov Neeman is moving forward with a government bill that would significantly expand the rabbinical courts' authority. 

Under the bill, the rabbinical courts would have sole authority to hear any suit stemming from divorce agreements signed in a rabbinical court, including both financial and custody disputes. Currently, suits stemming from a divorce agreement must be filed in civil court, so the bill would essentially transfer this power from the civil to the rabbinical courts. 

The Justice Ministry is also considering giving rabbinical courts sole authority to hear suits against husbands who refuse to grant their wives a divorce, thus depriving these women of their current right to file such suits in civil court. 

Neeman bids to empower rabbinic courts

www.jpost.com May 18, 2009

Knesset Law Committee chairman David Rotem on Monday blasted Justice Minister Yaakov Neeman's proposal to let rabbinic courts rule on matters relating to money and children in divorce cases.

Rotem called the suggestion a violation of the status quo and said it would harm an entire sector of women and children.

Rotem told Israel Radio he would tell Neeman that his plan was contrary to coalition agreements, which stipulated that the status quo on matters of religion and state would be preserved.

AG orders probe of rabbis who divorced mentally disabled woman

By Tomer Zarchin www.haaretz.com May 13, 2009

Attorney General Menachem Mazuz has ordered a rare criminal investigation of four rabbinical court judges suspected of giving a divorce to a mentally disabled woman without her knowledge or consent. 

All four dayanim continue to serve on the Tel Aviv Rabbinical Court, where they handle thousands of divorce cases every year. The four - Dov Domb, Avidan Yitzhak Halevy, Yitzhak Almaliah and Zvi Ben Yaakov - are all senior members of the court. 

Time to rebel against Rabbinate

By Prof. Dror Ze'evi www.ynetnews.com Opinion May 13, 2009

Dror Ze'evi, Department for Middle Eastern Studies, Ben-Gurion University

Anyone who has the wellbeing of the State and its citizens in mind must rebel against the Rabbinate and refuse to conduct his or her family affairs via its registrar until it recognizes the right of every citizen in the country to marry any way he or she see fit – in an Orthodox, Conservative, Reform, Buddhist, or wholly secular ceremony.

Only then, once the religious establishment realizes it may lose its control over the entire system managing our personal lives, including the people who are interested in the Rabbinate’s blessing, things would change.

Let’s deviate this time from our obedient manner and rebel. We are not talking about a violet move, but rather, about a peaceful rebellion: We shall not cooperate and won’t approach the Rabbinate until the situation changes.

Interior Ministry refuses to recognize marriage of Nigerian converts

By Dana Weiler-Polak www.haaretz.com May 18, 2009

A Nigerian couple that wed under rabbinate supervision in Israel last year is continuing to push for official recognition after being told by the Interior Ministry that the wife underwent a private conversion to Judaism that cannot be recognized. 

"I stood there, with a marriage certificate in my hand, and they told me that the certificate is worth nothing and that neither is our marriage," Daniel said.

So what if the rabbi said you can marry?

By Rivkah Lubitch www.ynetnews.com May 17, 2009

Rivkah Lubitch is a rabbinical advocate, working at The Center for Women’s Justice

Translated by Susan Weiss

The widow of an IDF soldier who was killed in battle received permission from the IDF chief rabbi to remarry. But when her daughter sought a wedding permit, the register questioned the permit and hinted she was a mamzer.

Messianic Jews petition High Court to immigrate under Law of Return

By Cnaan Liphshiz www.haaretz.com May 15, 2009

The petitioners, John Christopher from California and Nina and Kevin Ayres, a husband and wife from the U.K., identify themselves as Christians. They base their petition on the assertion that they have documents showing their grandparents were Jewish.

In their petition, submitted by attorney Michael Decker, they claim this makes them eligible to immigrate to Israel (or make aliyah) according to the Law of Return - regardless of their current religious denomination. Barring them from realizing this right, they say, is illegal and discriminatory. 

Christopher and the Ayres couple maintain that since their grandparents were Jewish and seeing as they themselves had never been part of the Jewish religion in the first place, they cannot be seen as having changed their religion and are therefore eligible to make aliyah. 

Haredim clash with Messianic Jews in Rehovot

By Matan Melekh www.ynetnews.com May 15, 2009

Ultra-Orthodox residents spot Messianic Jews handing out New Testament pamphlets on streets of central city, violent fight breaks out, and secular passersby join in clashes.

High Court Rejects Reform Petition to Halt Mehadrin Service

By Yechiel Spira www.theyeshivaworld.com May 18, 2009

The High Court of Justice has rejected a petition submitted from the Reform Movement seeking to block mehadrin bus service.

The petition sited that despite a court ruling on the matter, new mehadrin lines were established, the 284 from Elad to Nachal Sorek and the 251 from Elad to Ashdod. The Reform Movement called on the court to dissolve the lines and to take action against the Ministry of Transportation for contempt of court, acting contrary to the court’s ruling.

Funeral rights

By Rabbi Seth Farber www.jpost.com May 12, 2009

The writer is the director of ITIM: The Jewish Life Information Center www.itim.org.il and rabbi of Kehillat Netivot in Ra'anana.

State Comptroller's Report for 2009

According to the report, hundreds of burial societies are unlicensed, there is no strategic plan for the lack of proper burial facilities (and the Gush Dan region will have no more space to bury beginning in a few months), there is no governmental oversight on burial practices and price gouging for a service that National Insurance is supposed to subsidize 100% is common and generally goes unchecked. 

It appears from the report that, simply said, you are better off not dying here.

Secular and religious under the same roof

By Yisrael Moshkovitz www.ynetnews.com May 17, 2009

A neighborhood intended for both secular and religious residents will be built in northern Israel, between religious Kibbutz Shluchot and secular Kibbutz Reshafim in the Emek Hama'ayanot region near Beit Shean.

"In recent years we've encountered dozens of mixed families in which one of the spouses is secular and the other is religious," said Yoram Krin, head of the Emek Hama'ayanot Regional Council. 

"These families were looking for a solution in the form of a mixed community, but such communities are not easily found in Israel," he added.

Jewish life in a secular city

By Ron Friedman www.jpost.com May 14, 2009 

But religious life in Tel Aviv is not restricted to upholding the city's rich Jewish history. Today, Tel Aviv is bustling with religious and spiritual activity. 

From the 600-strong Hassidei Gur Yeshiva in the north to the large Progressive educational center in Jaffa, people from all across the religious spectrum are finding ways to incorporate Judaism into their lives.

One of the most successful endeavors of the past 20 years is the establishment of the Reform movement in the city.

…Another stream of Judaism that for years has been nearly invisible in the city is about to raise its profile with a new building scheduled to break ground in a week. Currently operating out of a small building on Rehov Bograshov, Conservative rabbi Roberto Arbib has big plans for the future. 

…Part of what's going on in Tel Aviv is the reclaiming of the Jewish bookshelf by secular Israelis. Situated in what was once an old medical clinic in one of the worst neighborhoods in the city, an organization called Bina (wisdom) founded what has to be the world's first secular yeshiva. 

…Bina is not alone in this effort. Across the city, secular Israelis, who for most of their lives felt alienated from the religion for a variety of reasons, are coming together to study the Jewish sources.

In places like Alma, an adult education facility in North Tel Aviv, people draw inspiration from religious texts and channel it toward artistic endeavors.

At Beit Tefilla Yisraeli, secular young people try to fuse their Israeli identity with a Jewish identity. In coffee shops and private homes small groups of people gather to study, gleaning current meaning from the ancient texts.

New program to train Orthodox women as non-rabbis

By Ben Harris www.jta.org May 18, 2009

Rabbi Avi Weiss announced last week he was creating Yeshivat Maharat, "an Orthodox Yeshiva of Higher Learning ... [to] train women to become Orthodox Spiritual Leaders – full members of the Rabbinic Clergy – in Synagogues, Schools, and on University Campuses." 

The products of said yeshiva won't be rabbis, though, they'll be Maharats.

More Info on Yeshivat Mahara”t

By Rebecca Honig Friedman http://jewess.canonist.com May 19, 2009

Yeshivat Mahara”t is being founded by Hurwitz and Rabbi Avi Weiss, and will be housed at Weiss’ synagogue, The Hebrew Institute of Riverdale, but the program is an independent entity, officially unrelated to the synagogue or to Yeshivat Chovevei Torah, Weiss’ rabbinic yeshiva for men.

Careful not to step on anyone else’s toes, Hurwitz has been speaking to the Drisha Institute and Stern College for Women about her plans for the yeshiva, and stressed that her goal is not to steal students away from these other learning programs for women.

Rather, Yeshivat Mahara”t is filling a role that other programs for Orthodox women do not — training students to be working clergywomen, rather than learning for its own sake.

Religion and State in Israel

May 18, 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 - May 18, 2009 (Section 2)

Religion and State in Israel

May 18, 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.

Ramat Aviv gears up for unholy battle between residents

By Miriam Bulwar David-Hay www.jpost.com May 17, 2009

Residents of upmarket Ramat Aviv are gearing up for a fight against what they say is an attempted haredi "takeover" of their neighborhood, reports www.mynet.co.il 

About 100 residents met last week to protest, and say that one of the ways they will fight haredi activities to encourage greater religious practice is by trying to entice them into the secular world.

According to the report, Ramat Aviv's residents have been angered by the opening of several haredi institutions in the neighborhood recently, including a kollel (Torah study center) and kindergartens, as well as by activities to increase religious practice among the general population.

"The takeover by the haredim is targeted, systematic and comes by direct instruction," a spokesman said at the meeting. 

"For every person they bring into religious practice (hazara betshuva) they get $500. They have nothing in their minds except to create a state ruled by Halacha (Jewish law)."

The battle for democracy

By The Ramat Aviv Action Committee www.ynetnews.com Opinion May 14, 2009

So to set the record straight, the neighborhood in question is not the upscale Ramat Aviv Gimmel (not that they should be stigmatized either.) 

It is a neighborhood of small apartments populated by middle class resident. You will not find jeeps, Filipino nannies, or luxurious penthouses here.

Ramat Aviv faces the advanced phases of a planned and deliberate takeover by the Chabad-Lubavitch Hasidic movement. Only a blind person would fail to see that. Many apartments are being rented on the orders of rabbis, Orthodox families move in, post a “Chabad House” sign on their door…

Anti-Semitism is rearing its head in Tel Aviv

By Gideon Levy www.haaretz.com Opinion May 14, 2009

One is not compelled to love them, identify with their odd leaders or admire the political power of their wheeler-dealers. 

One is compelled to oppose their violence when it occurs, but also to accept them as they are, as long as they obey the law. 

Campaign of hatred

By Yael Mishali www.ynetnews.com Opinion May 13, 2009

So what can secular Jews who wish, just like religious and Orthodox communities and neighborhoods, to live their lives alongside people who are similar to them, without confrontations, disagreements, or fears of slippery slopes? 

How can they protect their tranquility and lifestyle without using some kind of anti-Semitic or racist propaganda?

Kindergarten Parents Call Parade “Religious Coercion”

http://shmais.com Source: www.col.org.il May 18, 2009

Parents of children at the city-run Elroy kindergarten in Katamon, Jerusalem, complained about a substitute teacher who allowed Chabad volunteers to distribute flyers about last week’s Lag B’Omer parade.

The flyers advertised a fun event with prizes and stated that the children would recite the Twelve Pesukim.

The incident occurred on the Friday before the parade when Chabad volunteers walked into the kindergarten undisturbed and handed out flyers to the children in front of the substitute teacher.

The flyer advertised a program for Lag B’Omer that included a circus, a juggler, a lottery offering big prizes, and a gift for each participant. 

It stated that all the children needed to do was recite the Twelve Pesukim. “Yechi” appeared at the bottom of the flyer.

When the Chabad volunteers asked the substitute teacher to explain what was written on the flyer, she did so. The children brought the flyers home to their parents, many of whom have since complained about the incident.

Kashrut Supervisor Suspended over Mannequins

www.israelnationalnews.com May 15, 2009

(photo not connected to article)

The kashrut supervisor of Tiberias's religious council has been suspended over his demand Wednesday that scantily-clad mannequins and immodest pictures be removed from clothing stores in the city.

In demanding Rabbi Cohen's suspension, Mayor Zohar Oved said on Thursday that Tiberias was as an international tourist site, where tourism areas operate right next to areas of a more religious nature, and he was not going to let the rabbi disrupt the "unique balance between the different sectors in the city".

Rabbi protests against scantily clad mannequins

http://uk.news.yahoo.com May 13, 2009

Rabbi Rafael Cohen, chief of the northern city's kosher division, said the stores would face the wrath of the religious community and lose their kosher certification if they failed to comply, according to the Ma’ariv daily on Wednesday.

Cohen said the mannequins and "obscene photographs" showing models in swimsuits or underwear "elicit sorrow among the passers-by on the road."

He has threatened to publish a list of stores that continue such displays, saying "residents of Tiberias should not set foot in stores of that kind, and that will cause them irreversible damage."

"Modest" mannequins, he said, are all right. "But there are mannequins that are really revolting, mannequins in bathing suits that damage our souls."

IDF Looking for Chareidim for Intelligence Units

www.theyeshivaworld.com May 19, 2009

About 30 new chareidi recruits are undergoing the appropriate training after which they will become part of the IDF’s intelligence community, primarily serving in the computer and technology aspect of the operation.

IDF officials explain the demands of the job are in line with one wishing to maintain a chareidi lifestyle, including an all male work environment.

The “Bina Yeruka” program also include three minyanim daily, mehadrin food, and members of the military Rabbinate oversee the program to ensure it complies with the religious needs of soldiers.

'The Head of the Rabbinate is a Field Commander'

By Gil Ronen www.israelnationalnews.com May 12, 2009

Col. Yonatan Berensky carries out an unlikely combination of two very different jobs in the IDF. Job number one is Commander of the reserve Negev Regiment. Job number two is Head of Staff of the Military Rabbinate.

Israeli Army Frowns on Beards

By Stanley Siegelman http://forward.com May 14, 2009

In Israel, they’ve long adhered

To admiration of the beard.

The army chieftains now declare

Their opposition to such hair.

On beards they have declared a war,

Result: furor, uproar galore!

A soldier yearning for a growth

Must get permission, swear an oath

That as an Orthodox recruit

He is obliged to be hirsute.

(click above for complete poem)

Liberation from lust

By Judy Siegel-Itzkovich www.jpost.com May 18, 2009

The recent item in a Jerusalem Hebrew weekly that a downtown Internet cafĂ© had opened a whole floor for young haredi men offering private booths for viewing pornographic videos was a titillating item for the average reader.

The free English-language project, called Guard Your Eyes www.guardureyes.com and www.guardyoureyes.org , has already helped thousands.

The site with the .com ending provided information such as how to filter out pornographic Web sites and Frequently Asked Questions, but the newer site is more dynamic and includes blogs and new articles.

The Day That Satmar Became Mainstream

By Rabbi Dovid Landesman www.cross-currents.com Opinion May 17, 2009

"We draw ourselves further and further into isolation - ostensibly because the external world has become more dangerous.

But is that the real reason? Or is it possible that we subconsciously realize that we are incapable of offering practical solutions to the inevitable dilemmas and challenges of self-government and therefore prefer to retreat into a ghetto and wait for mashiach."

Most Vacation Spots Have No Eruv

By Yated Ne'eman Staff http://chareidi.shemayisrael.com May 14, 2009

Many vacationers carry on Shabbos at hotels and other vacation spots that lack an eruv simply because they are unaware of the problem, revealed an investigative report published in Yated Ne'eman.

The problem is not just in places where kashrus and modesty standards are below par, but even at places of lodging that meet most of the expectations of the chareidi vacationer. 

Rabbonim involved in eruv matters say if guests insist on a kosher eruv the management can generally arrange for one with relatively little effort.

Yeshiva offers students life coaching

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

Beginning next school year, students at the Orot Aviv yeshiva in Tel Aviv will be offered personal life coaching sessions to help them "better connect with their Torah studies."

The lessons will be offered by the yeshiva's rabbis, who are currently undergoing training.

5 arrested on suspicion of holding rabbi captive for 3 years

By Tova Dadon www.ynetnews.com May 18, 2009

Five residents of the Tlamim community in southern Israel were arrested Monday on suspicion of kidnapping and extorting Rabbi Nir Ben-Artzi, head of the "Talmei Geula" non-profit organization.

The men are accused of holding the rabbi against his will in Tiberias for three years.

Secular Tel Aviv high school wins award for Jewish studies

http://hartman.org.il May 18, 2009

Tichon Hadash Tel Aviv, a high school in the Israeli secular school system with 1,200 students that is participating in the Shalom Hartman Institute Be'eri program of Jewish education enrichment has won an award for Jewish education from Tel Aviv University.

Israel needs time off

By Rabbi Daniel Landes and Sheryl Robbin www.jpost.com Opinion May 13, 2009

Rabbi Daniel Landes is director of the Pardes Institute of Jewish Studies. Sheryl Robbin is a writer and social worker. They are married and live with their family in Jerusalem.

There is little downtime in this country. For the religious community, Friday is filled with preparations and Shabbat is for sacred commitments. Solitude on Shabbat means opting out of communal prayer.

…A public Israeli Rosh Hodesh, including the joy of God's nature in His land, travel, music and a day off from work, is a relevant contemporary expansion of the day's mix of spirit and relaxation.

The 11 Roshei Hodesh (Tishrei is of course Rosh Hashana) could be implemented in stages. Priority could be given to months far from official holidays such as Kislev or Shevat, or summer Tammuz, or in a given year a Rosh Hodesh falling on a Thursday or Sunday, producing the prized "long weekend."

A million people in the national forests are telling us that nature and family are to be appreciated and enjoyed. We should listen and devise ways to make our private and national life less tense and more enjoyable.

Knesset aliya panel refuses to give up on absorption centers

By Abe Selig www.jpost.com May 18, 2009

The Knesset Committee for Immigration, Absorption, and Diaspora Affairs will prioritize the status of absorption centers throughout the country, despite funding hardships brought on by the global financial crisis, committee head Lea Shemtov (Israel Beiteinu) told The Jerusalem Post on Sunday.

Bring Falash Mura here, Shas minister Margi urges

By Matthew Wagner and Etgar Lefkovits www.jpost.com May 18, 2009

In a letter to Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu, Religious Affairs Minister Ya'acov Margi (Shas) called Sunday to bring to Israel the remaining Falash Mura still residing in Ethiopia.

"Sadly, the previous government decided to annul a previous decision regarding bringing the Falash Mura to Israel," wrote Margi, who replaced Ya'acov Cohen as religious affairs minister in the incoming government. 

"I ask to reconsider that decision. The State of Israel belongs to the entire Jewish people. Every Jew in every place has a right to come to the Land of Israel and receive citizenship in accordance with the Law of Return.

Gov't rejects proposal to stop checking Falash Mura for aliya

By Ruth Eglash www.jpost.com May 14, 2009

The Interior Ministry will continue examining the eligibility for immigration of some 3,000 Falash Mura after the cabinet agreed Wednesday night to revise a section of the 2009 Economic Arrangements Bill aimed at canceling a previous decision on the matter because the Treasury believes the process to be too costly.

However, while the current government also added a specific timeline for the controversial community aliya from Ethiopia, advocates for Falash Mura immigration stopped short of calling the turnaround a victory because there are still thousands of people waiting anxiously in Gondar for permission to come to Israel.

'Vatican to stop missionizing Jews'

By Abe Selig www.jpost.com May 12, 2009

After meeting the grand mufti of Jerusalem, Muhammad Ahmad Hussein, and praying at the Western Wall on Tuesday, Pope Benedict XVI arrived for a historic meeting with the chief rabbis at Heichal Shlomo, next to the capital's Great Synagogue, and agreed that the Catholic Church will cease all missionary activity among Jews.

Haaretz Cartoon by Amos Biderman May 15, 2009 - Pope at Airport

“Should I tell him: ‘Last chance to apologize’?”

For Israel and Vatican, A Taxing Issue

By Michele Chabin www.thejewishweek.com May 13, 2009

But as the world media was focused on those high-profile issues, a less prominent, but no less thorny, issue is roiling relations between Israel and the Holy See: taxation. Millions of shekels are at stake, as is the position of the Catholic Church in Israel.

Whether or how much to tax property owned by the Catholic Church is the thornier of the two outstanding matters because it means a loss of tax revenues (millions of shekels) and second, because it could set a precedent for other denominations and religions, according to an official who requested anonymity. 

The painful path to contrition

By Lior Kodner www.haaretz.com May 14, 2009

The hope of resolving the dispute over Vatican property holdings in Israel before the visit was shattered. Despite a great effort, the agreement was not signed. 

Still, the Israeli side believes that 95 percent of the outstanding issues have been settled. According to Ronen Gil-Or, the director of the Foreign Ministry's general law department, the agreement will be signed within a year at the most. 

Getting it wrong with the pope

By Isi Leibler www.ynetnews.com Opinion May 17, 2009

Any discussion amongst Jews relating to the Catholic Church invariably triggers off emotional responses. But even taking this into account, the rage displayed by some Israelis against the conduct of Pope Benedict XVI during his visit to Israel was unwarranted.

Jesus' baptism site now open to public

www.ynetnews.com May 14, 2009

The Israel Nature and Parks Authority and the Civil Administration are working to open the site believed to be the spot where Jesus was baptized in the Jordan River to the general public.

The baptism site on the banks of the Jordan River carries a unique significance in both Jewish and Christian tradition. Located some 10 km (6.2 miles) east of the city of Jericho, it spans an area of 329 (81 acres) of land owned by the Christian churches.

Religion and State in Israel

May 18, 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.