Wednesday, August 5, 2009

Religion and State in Israel - August 3, 2009 (Section 1)

Religion and State in Israel

August 3, 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.

Haaretz Cartoon by Amos Biderman August 3, 2009

(rt. to left)

“They’re sick people”

“In olden days, they’d be stoned to death”

“They’ll come back as insects and rodents”

“We don’t have that problem anymore”

Journalist: Haredi public used as punching bag August 4, 2009

The gag order on any information pertaining to the deadly shooting at a gay youth center in Tel Aviv on Saturday is hurting the ultra-Orthodox public, a haredi journalist claimed this week.

Moshe Glasner, editor of the Kikar HaShabbat website, filed a petition with the Tel Aviv Magistrate Court on Monday asking that the order be lifted.

"The incitement and propaganda campaign against the ultra-orthodox public that has been raging in recent days is being carried out under the auspices of a police-issued injunction," Glasner claimed in his appeal.

Gay vs. Orthodox: A Deadly Turn in Israel's Culture War?

By Matthew Kalman August 3, 2009

"The problems in Israeli society run very deep," Saar Netanel, a gay leader and former Jerusalem city councilor who opened the city's only gay bar, tells TIME.

He explains that while Jews are united by their conflict with the Palestinians, the obsession with security comes at the expense of dealing with other social issues.

"There are more than two societies here," says Netanel.

"It's a very diverse population in Israel. There is one part of Israel, my camp, for whom the temple is the Supreme Court and we believe in democracy and we want a liberal and modern country; and there is a part of Israel that wants a more religious country — some of them even want the rule of Jewish law, not a democracy. They don't believe in the courts — they believe in the law of the Torah."

Threatening incitement

Haaretz Editorial August 4, 2009

We must hope that the clear condemnation of the murders expressed yesterday by ultra-Orthodox politicians and leaders was an expression of their understanding of the change in the social reality and the need to accept others and "respect all people as they are."

Conservative Movement organizes an evening of study and reconciliation

By Matthew Wagner August 3, 2009

The Masorti (Conservative) Movement will hold an evening of learning, song and reconciliation that will coincide with Tuesday evening's Jewish "holiday of love" - Tu Be'av - in response to the fatal shooting attack on the LGBT community in Tel Aviv.

Other organizations will also participate in the evening of study in Tel Aviv, at the city's LGBT youth center.

These groups include Beit Tefila Yehudi, a prayer group of secular Jews; the Reform Congregation Bat Ayin; Chavurat Tel Aviv, a Conservative minyan; and Bat Kol, a group of Lesbian Orthodox women.

A liberal Orthodox rabbi will also take part. However, he requested that his name not be publicized out of concern that his participation would arouse controversy.

Haredi media skirt homophobia issue

By Nir Hasson August 4, 2009

The ultra-Orthodox media moved yesterday from attempting to push the shooting at the gay and lesbian center in Tel Aviv from the top of the news to an offensive against the gay and lesbian community.

Surfers on Haredi Web sites would have found it difficult from the sites alone to understand the nature of the "club," as it is called, where the attack took place.

Most of the sites refrained from using the words "gay" or "lesbian." Other Haredi sites described the center as a "deviants' club" or as "the Tel Aviv club."

Reports of the murders and the investigation were quickly supplanted by bitter accusations against the gay community, indicating that they had exploited the event to attack the Haredi community.

Haredim lament blame for TA attack

By Matthew Wagner August 3, 2009

The Internet site 'Hadarei Haredim', which has a chat forum and reports internal haredi news, led Sunday morning with the headline "The Anti-Haredi Incitement Club: the police are still investigating but the club's community is already accusing - the murder is a result of haredi incitement."

Kikar Hashabbat, another online haredi news site, led with an editorializing piece entitled, "Our blood has been cheapened: the incitement parade against the haredim has begun."

Rabbis condemn anti-gay shooting

By Kobi Nahshoni August 2, 2009

The Chief Rabbinate expressed shock and outrage at the Tel Aviv shooting at a gay youth center Saturday evening, calling it "an unthinkable, vile crime."

In a statement published Sunday the Rabbinate said that, "When Moses saw a Jew beating another Jew he called him evil. This is all the more true when a Jew murders a Jew."

Meanwhile, the Hod organization for Orthodox gay men strongly condemned "the horrible massacre committed against the gay and lesbian community in Tel Aviv," conveyed its condolences to the victims' families and wished speedy recovery to those who were injured.

Shas condemns attack on gay center

By Amnon Meranda August 2, 2009

Referring to the signs pointing a finger at him and his party, Zeev said, "This is a blood libel. They are taking advantage of the blood in order to murder a human being's character.

According to the Shas MK,

"It is our duty in any case to warn against this lifestyle. As far as we are concerned, we must not authorize or recognize it, but this has nothing to do with murder. Murder is the most serious and shocking thing. It's madness, and the murder must face trial. There are no doubts whatsoever."

Prosecution to indict mother suspected of starving her son

Blood Libel and Axis of Evil against the Devoted Mother and her Sick Child

The Axis of Evil: Israel Police, Ministry Social Workers, Hadassah Hospital.

[photo] the "Starved" child in his parent's home before the "treatment" at Hadassah.


Haredi protests in Jerusalem highlight difference with Diaspora

By Gil Shefler July 29, 2009

Professor Menachem Friedman, an expert on haredim in Israel, says the sheer number and political clout of the haredim in Israel have emboldened the community.

"In Israel they feel they have backing," Friedman said. "Even when they are arrested they know everyone -- all the Agudath Israel Knesset members -- would rush to free them.

"Say what happened in New Jersey would have happened in Israel," he said, referring to last week's arrest of a number of noted rabbis in New Jersey and Brooklyn on suspicion of money laundering and corruption.

"In Israel they would say it's all lies and libels and they would throw stones and what-not.” But in America, Friedman noted, “They reacted to the news with profound silence."

Bradley Burston, a columnist for Israel’s daily Ha’aretz, says the violence of the protests was a sign that haredi youth are becoming more Israeli.

"With the passing of generations," Burston said, "haredi youth are taking on more of the language and outlook of sabras."

The return of the blood libel

By Yossi Sarid Opinion August 2, 2009

The blood libel is returning in an updated Jerusalem version: It is not evil goyim who are falsely accusing unfortunate Jews, but Jews falsely accusing Jews.

Haaretz Cartoon by Amos Biderman June 26, 2009

"The Full Cart"

The story is told that the Chazon Ish argued that the secular community's needs should defer to those of the religious community. He used the Talmudic discussion (Sanhedrin 32b) of two camels which meet on a narrow mountain pass as a metaphor. A camel without goods was expected to defer to a camel laden with goods; similarly, the Chazon Ish contended secular society should defer to religious society, which bore the "goods" of tradition.

To this Ben-Gurion is said to have responded that the "secular" camel was not in fact "without goods", since secular Zionism had led to the establishment of a state and the physical protection of Israelis. The Chazon Ish is said to have replied that this was unimportant, when combined with widespread rejection of Jewish tradition. The story is often misquoted to be about two wagons not two camels; however, the Talmud mentions camels, and witnesses at the meeting have said that the Chazon Ish quoted the Talmud correctly.

Unity in tough times Editorial July 30, 2009

Jewish unity is a rare commodity. This is doubly true when times are tough.

A recent spate of criminal allegations directed against members of the haredi community has made it particularly hard for some non-haredi Jews to respect their haredi brothers and sisters. The result, sadly, has been the undermining of Jewish unity.

End of the Third Temple (part II)

By Nehemia Shtrasler Opinion August 4, 2009

The state must revoke all Shas and Agudat Yisrael's independent education systems and see to it that all children are taught the same general studies. In the afternoon each child may study whatever he likes.

All ultra-Orthodox men must be drafted to military service - none of that national service malarkey.

The state must rescind its support of yeshivas and kollels so all ultra-Orthodox men go to work.

This will offer a chance to save the Third Temple. Not by groveling and suicidal liberalism but by fighting for the principles of democracy, humanism and equality.

'Starving mother' charged with abuse

15 arrested at fresh Haredi protest in Jerusalem

Officer hurt in Haredi rally against opening of parking lot on Shabbat

Jerusalem: Haredim attack municipal cleaning crew

Hebrew U. Cancelled Tender for Two Buildings in Kiryat Yovel After Chareidi Group was Poised to Win

By Yechiel Sever July 30, 2009

The Hebrew University of Jerusalem has cancelled for the second time a tender issued for the sale of two buildings it owns on Rechov Stern in Jerusalem's Kiryat Yovel neighborhood, apparently to prevent chareidim from moving into the buildings. Secular figures called the move a "victory."

The chareidi group that submitted a bid for an enormous sum plans to file a claim against the university and request a court order to prevent the university from canceling the tender.

Ashdod beach may be restricted for Haredim only

By Ofer Petersburg August 4, 2009

Will a significant part of Ashdod's beach be open to the ultra-Orthodox community only?

"Following our discussion with haredi entrepreneurs and several meetings in your office, it is clear that they are interested in building a haredi resort village, but a precondition is a municipal arrangement for restricting bathing to the haredi public in the piece of shore adjacent to their plot."

Haredi businessman to hold stakes in Shabbat-active company

By Navit Zomer July 30, 2009

Haredi businessman and Shufersal Co-Chairman Shulem Fisher, who had previously voiced strong objections to businesses being open on Shabbat, is due to partner up in British Israel Investments Ltd. whose shopping centers are open on Saturdays.

Attorney General urged to enforce Tisha B'Av ban on restaurants

By Kobi Nahshoni July 29, 2009

The Legal Forum for the Land of Israel sent an urgent letter to Attorney General Menachem Mazuz urging him to strictly enforce the law prohibiting restaurants and places of entertainment from operating on the day, and levying a NIS 2,600 ($690) fine on those who break the law.

"In previous years we have repeatedly witnessed public violations of Tisha B'Av… people sitting in restaurants and cafes, showing contempt for the national day of mourning and undermining the State of Israel's Jewish character and deep religious sentiments," said the letter.

Is it permissible to wear Crocs on Tisha Be-Av? July 15, 2009

Rabbi Shlomo Aviner:

Q: Is it permissible to wear Crocs on Tisha Be-Av?

A: It is a dispute.

Some rule that it is permissible since one must not wear leather shoes and they are not leather.

Others rule that it is forbidden since even if one wears non-leather shoes, they cannot be comfortable and Crocs are comfortable. May a blessing come to one who is strict. One who is lenient has on whom to rely.

Survey: 64% want Temple rebuilt July 30, 2009

Initially, the respondents were asked what happened on Tisha B'Av (Ninth of Av), and showed impressive knowledge. Ninety-seven percent responded that the Temple was destroyed, while only 2% said they did not know.

The second question was whether respondents wanted to see the Temple rebuilt. Sixty-four percent responded favorably, while 36% said no.

An analysis of the answers showed that not only the ultra-Orthodox and the religious look forward to the rebuilding of the Temple (100% and 97% respectively), but also the traditional public (91%) and many seculars – 47%.

When asked whether it was at all justified to mark something that had happened 2,000 years ago, 80% said that it was, while 13% said only events related to the State of Israel should be commemorated.

Another 7% categorically replied with a "no."

Ashkenazi school in Netivot rejects sons of 'X-ray rabbi'

By Yanir Yagna July 30, 2009

Rabbi Yaakov Yisrael Ifergan, known as the "X-Ray Rabbi" for his supposed ability to diagnose medical ailments, is considering leaving Netivot after the city's Ashkenazi ultra-Orthodox school rejected his 6-year-old twin sons.

Tensions between ultra-Orthodox circles in the western Negev city have escalated following last year's municipal elections.

Many of the city's leading rabbis - including Isaschar Meir, the head of Hanegev Yeshiva - signed a petition accusing Ifergan of "idol worship."

Nearly all of Netivot's top rabbis signed the petition, with the exception of Shas spiritual leader Ovadia Yosef.

Tu B'Av: Reclaiming old traditions August 4, 2009

Click here for Music Video

By Yoav Friedman

A special event that will be held Wednesday evening at Bar Ilan University will focus on Tu B'Av as a day of Jewish-Israeli love. The evening will include a performance by musician Shlomo Bar with Rabbi Menachem Fruman, and a performance of the Bein Hashmashot band, with Meir Banai as special guest.

Ahead of the holiday Bein Hashmashot recorded for Ynet a special version of Naomi Shemer's old song "Od Lo Ahavti Dai" ("I haven't loved enough").

'Troops presence at Kotel is sacrilege'

By Matthew Wagner July 31, 2009

The presence of IDF soldiers at the Western Wall is a sign of destruction and desolation, a Shas functionary wrote in a newspaper column for Tisha Be'av.

"We are in sorrow for the desolate Mount Zion and for the Kotel square which is sometimes desecrated and soldiers who walk there," wrote Shas Knesset faction director Tzvi Ya'acobson in his weekly column in the Bakehila newspaper.

Ya'acobson was paraphrasing a verse in Lamentations (4:17, 18): "For this our heart is faint for these things our eyes are dim because of the Mountain of Zion which is desolate foxes prowl over it."

Israel Plays Key Role in N.J. Corruption Case, But Holds Off on Own Probe

By Nathan Jeffay July 29, 2009

Israel plays a prominent role in the charges of money laundering and human organ black marketing that have swept five rabbis into a New Jersey federal corruption investigation.

Among other things, Israeli banks were allegedly key transit points for the money laundering operation. The rabbis accused of laundering money were allegedly told that it came from sales of knockoff products labeled as legitimate brands and from other illicit activities.

Ahead of prison, Benizri teaches Torah laced with self-justification

By Nir Hasson July 30, 2009

Photo: Interview at time of investigation

On the eve of his four-year prison term for corruption offenses, former minister Rabbi Shlomo Benizri (Shas) used a dramatic allegory to explain his situation to the audience who had come to hear him give a Torah class.

"What was my crime?" he demanded. "They took dubious characters and bought testimony for millions [of shekels] ... They said workers cleaned my garden, but I live in an apartment building and don't even have a garden.

They said I received hundreds of thousands [of shekels]. Check my accounts; you'll see there's nothing there. My house has broken tiles and ancient cupboards. For eight years they pursued me. I don't want to say it was the Dreyfuss trial ... but how long will the wicked rejoice?"

To Benizri, the reason for his "persecution" is simple: He is viewed as a threat, "because I studied in their schools and speak 'sabra' [Israeli Hebrew]," but then decided to become ultra-Orthodox. "There has never in the world been a case of shutting someone's mouth like this," he declared.

Shas MK proposes currency motto

By Rebecca Anna Stoil, Sharon Wrobel and Carrie Sheffield July 29, 2009

Wishing to take the American currency standard of 'trusting' in God one step further, Shas MK Nissim Ze'ev would like Israeli currency to affirm that God created the world.

Ze'ev has submitted a private member's bill that would require Israel to print on its currency the phrase "We believe in the creator of the world" in the hopes of promoting Israelis' faith.

Video interview on the Temple

Shalom Hartman Research Fellow Channa Pincasi July 30, 2009

Click here for VIDEO

Temple Altar Construction Begins on Day of Destruction

By Yehudah Lev Kay July 30, 2009

Click here for VIDEO

The Temple Institute has already built several of the Temple vessels such as the Ark and the Menorah, and has now embarked on an ambitious project to build the Altar, which will ultimately measure 3 meters wide by 3 meters long and 2 meters tall.

Temple Mount – Jewish Prayer August 3, 2009

Click here for VIDEO

A day after he was detained by the police for bowing on the Temple Mount, Yekutiel Ben Yaakov speaks with IsraelNN TV about the event and his feelings following the incident.

Religion and State in Israel

August 3, 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 - August 3, 2009 (Section 2)

Religion and State in Israel

August 3, 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.

Convert's marriage retroactively nixed

By Matthew Wagner July 31, 2009

A newly married convert to Judaism whose marriage was not recognized by a local rabbi has been advised by the Religious Affairs Ministry to travel over 100 kilometers and pay an additional NIS 600 to sort out the issue.

Rabbi Shaul Farber, head of ITIM, said it was unacceptable that a rabbi who received a state salary was unwilling to recognize a conversion conducted by state institutions.

"I don't think the rabbi should be forced to approve of a conversion which he thinks is not legitimate. That's his prerogative," Farber said.
"But he should not be receiving a salary from the state if he does not want to listen to the state."

Op-Ed: Proposed civil marriage bill in Israel misses mark

By Gilad Kariv August 2, 2009

Rabbi Gilad Kariv is the executive director of the Israeli Reform movement.

The promoters of Israel’s new bill for civil marriage for those without religion are hurrying to present it as a significant and historical legal breakthrough, but actually it’s nothing other than political trickery.

…According to the proposal, the couples who will benefit from the law also will have to request permission from the Chief Rabbinate to affirm that they indeed are not Jewish. As if we haven’t heard enough horrific stories of new immigrants having to jump through hoops to prove they are Jewish, this proposal will create another set of hurdles.

Olim without an official religious status now will have to prove they are not Jewish. It will be the first time that Israeli legislation will give rabbinic courts power over Israel’s non-Jewish citizens.

This law will be the tombstone on the grave of the government’s obligation to solve the problem of non-Orthodox marriage in Israel.

It creates a dangerous illusion of progress at a time when we should be speaking about more creative ways to solve this urgent issue.

Every person should have the right to marry as they choose and in a way that fits with their conscience.

Advocates for secular marriage use Tu Be'Av to highlight their struggle

By Ruth Eglash August 4, 2009

Tarosyan, 34, who emigrated from Moscow in 1995, does not have sufficient proof that he is Jewish.

He is one of more than 300,000 Israelis, mostly immigrants from the Former Soviet Union (FSU), who cannot get married here because the Orthodox Rabbinate has the final say in such matters, allowing only those considered halachically Jewish to marry other Jews.

However, thanks to the efforts of non-profit New Israel Fund and the secular Jewish organization Havaya, which represents several other movements fighting the Orthodox Jewish monopoly on marriage, Samosvatov and Tarosyan will officially tie the knot on Tuesday evening in a public ceremony in Tel Aviv's Dizengoff Square.

Diti Degani-Peleg, director of Havaya:

"We also help couples who want a Jewish experience but feel that the orthodox ceremony is not for them," added Degani-Peleg.

"We need a different law that will allow any Israeli to marry any other Israeli," she said.

Get took five desperate years, now I'll be shunned

By Leon Symons July 30, 2009

“There will be peace in the Middle East before I get a [Orthodox] get,” said Ms Saleh, who obtained a civil divorce two years ago.

“I have obtained a non-Orthodox get out of sheer frustration and desperation after five years of waiting. But I must stress that I am still an Orthodox woman. I have always lived an Orthodox life, and it gives me strength.

Ms Saleh is one of a number of women from Britain and Israel featured in the programme. Another is British-born and Israeli-based Susan Zinkin, who has been waiting 47 years for her get, and a second woman, also called Susan, who did not wait for her get before starting a new relationship and having a baby.

The programme also features the Israeli government department which deals with errant husbands, including an interview with Rabbi Osher Ehrentreu, son of Dayan Chanoch Ehrentreu, former head of the London Beth Din.

Divorce: Jewish Style July 30, 2009

With rare access to the Orthodox Jewish community, both here in the UK and also in Israel, this film explores the controversial world of Jewish divorce to find out why these apparently outmoded laws still hold sway.

How chained women can be freed

By Bernard Jackson July 30, 2009

Over the past five years, my team at Manchester University has been working towards a “roadmap” that could resolve the 2,000-year-old problems endured by Orthodox Jewish women whose husbands refuse to grant them a get — a religious divorce.

The plight of “chained wives” — in Hebrew, agunot — causes much suffering to a very substantial number of Jewish women across the world.

…In earlier decades, it was natural to look to Israel for such a lead. Today, it would be opportune for diaspora rabbinic leaders to cast off any self-imposed reticence.

Out of consensus

By Carl Hoffman Opinion July 25, 2009

New Family is a nonprofit organization established in 1998 to advance the legal rights of all forms of "alternative" and "nontraditional" families.

Interview with founder and directer attorney Irit Rosenblum:

Right now we're moving more and more directly to common-law marriages. As a matter of fact, we're coming back to 2,000 years ago, when family issues were private. This is happening both among the secular and the haredi groups.

Why do I say this? Because both groups are, in their own way, doing what they want - dealing with family issues privately, and ignoring the services of the state. We, the Jewish people, created the idea of the private contract between partners. I don't know why here it has become the state's property and the state's power to interfere.

The [only] kind of family the system understands is a man and a woman, Jewish, married according to Halacha and registered in a rabbinical court. If so much as a single part of this formula is different, you're out of consensus. Out of consensus means that you lose civil and human rights.

How do you say pluralism in Hebrew?

By Rabbi Michael Marmur Opinion July 30, 2009

Michael Marmur is the Vice-President for Academic Affairs of the Hebrew Union College - Jewish Institute of Religion and is based in Jerusalem.

One Orthodox rabbi present at our conference noted that there can hardly be a more pressing question on Israel's social agenda than that of pluralism.

After all, the essence of the question is whether we will be able to live together in this country - Jews of different stripes…

Fifteen years ago there was hardly a way of talking about pluralism in this country. There are still many pockets of society in which this word is either dirty or invisible. But slowly, inexorably, under the radar and far from the headlines, a new voice is emerging.

Diplomats Don’t Eat Treyf, and Other Issues

By Lisa Goldman Opinion July 29, 2009

It was during a midnight repast of shrimp couscous at a gay bar in Tel Aviv that I discovered Israel’s Foreign Ministry does not reimburse diplomatic staff for non-kosher, work-related meals in Israel.

But that was just the beginning of my problems.

A spokesman for the ministry informed me of the non-reimbursement policy as we were enjoying our meal, served by a gay Arab waiter wearing a muscle shirt.

Women reservists given the runaround because of religious soldiers

By Gil Ronen July 31, 2009

Photo: no connection to article

Ten female combat soldiers packed their bags and moved to another outpost. It was then that they found out the true reason for their relocation, one of them said.

“One of the commanders in the second outpost explained to us that we are not wanted in this outpost as well, because there are yeshiva-boy soldiers serving there who refuse to have girls serve in the outpost."

“We reached the Metzokei Deragot outpost,” a female soldier said, “and we couldn’t believe it… it turned out that we couldn’t stay because there were religious soldiers there as well.

They even entered the clubhouse where we were waiting so that they could tell us that we are a problem for the IDF."

Only after Maariv-NRG intervened, the women soldiers said, did the commanders decide to transfer the religious soldiers out of the third outpost, and let the female soldiers stay there.

Haredim will account for 25% of IDF exemptions within decade

By Mazal Mualem and Anshel Pfeffer July 31, 2009

The ultra-Orthodox will make up one-quarter of people who are exempted from the Israel Defense Forces draft within a decade, an IDF human-resources report released Wednesday found.

At the start of the 1990s, it said, just 5 percent of military-age youth not inducted to the army went to study at yeshivas. Today that figure is up to 13 percent.

Ongoing conflict between the IDF Education Corps and IDF Rabbinate

By Anshel Pfeffer July 30, 2009

With regard to the ongoing conflict between the Education Corps and the IDF Rabbinate, Shermeister said that "responsibility for education and Jewish identity is officially conferred on the Education Corps, and that's how it has to be."

He extended an olive branch to the rabbinate in saying "it has great educational capacities and we must not fail to use them."

IDF Cuts Budget for Rabbinate Activities

By Yechiel Spira July 29, 2009

The intensity of the long-waging battle between the IDF’s Education Branch and the Chief Rabbinate will most likely not diminish in the near future, but it appears in at least one area, the secular-leaning Education Branch has scored a victory, as the military has cut the Rabbinate’s budget in a number of areas.

"Mehadrin" Bus Lines July 28, 2009

Q: What is Ha-Rav's opinion about "Mehadrin" bus lines where men and women sit in different sections?

A: It is a personal choice. "Mehadrin" buses where men and women are separate is obviously more modest. This is particularly true since sometimes women on the bus are not dressed modestly. Also buses are sometimes crowded; people are standing on one another, pushing against one another, etc.

…Therefore, if there is the option of a separate bus, it is preferable. If it is not possible, however, it is permissible to ride on a regular bus just as it is permissible to walk in the street and one must exert effort not to look at immodest things.

Heated Debate on sex-segregated bus lines on “Rusty Mike” radio station

By Elana Sztokman August 2, 2009

Listen to the July 23 schmooze on gender-segregated (mehadrin) buses here.

For many Americans in Israel, “Women to the back of the bus” echoes of Rosa Parks and the racially segregated American south.

For others, Jerusalem’s “holiness” requires special considerations.

Still for others, the violence that women face when they get onto the bus — tired, hard-working women, who just want to sit down and are often harassed by haredi men — is its own, new brand of an Israeli social ill that needs to be seriously redressed.

Bat Yam looking to hire 'Shabbat goy'

By Naama Friedman July 31, 2009

A group of senior rabbis in the central city of Bat Yam, including the city's chief Ashkenazi rabbi, Rabbi Shaul Yosef Weingerten, recently convened to discuss an increasing demand from the local religious public to hire a "Shabbat goy."

In their meeting, the rabbis focused on the question of funding such a person, and – no less important, in which cases should a "Shabbat got" be asked to help.

Bid: Psychometric exam tailored for Haredim

By Kobi Nahshoni July 29 ,2009

Education Committee Chairman MK Zevulun Orlev (Habayit Hayehudi) announced a new initiative to be discussed by the committee which will require the Council for Higher Education to adjust the Psychometric Entrance Test to the haredi community.

MK Orlev joined Shai Cohen, director of the Hakima school in supporting the bid and told Ynet:

"The psychometric test is culture-dependant. Its questions reflect the Israeli culture's mainstream, thereby discriminating new immigrants, Arabs, as well as Haredim."

Jerusalem seculars accuse Mayor of selling out to Haredim

By Nir Hasson July 30, 2009

Secular residents of the Jerusalem neighborhood Kiryat Yovel harshly criticized Mayor Nir Barkat yesterday for "selling them out" in allowing ultra-Orthodox groups to open a synagogue in an abandoned building there. They said Barkat was trying to ingratiate himself with his ultra-Orthodox coalition partners.

The secular residents lost a key battle over the character of their community, this time over the conversion of an abandoned kiosk into an ultra-Orthodox synagogue

Secular representatives said that allowing the operation of a synagogue could lead to permits to open Haredi educational institutions, encouraging more ultra-Orthodox families to move in.

Members of the ultra-Orthodox community agree that the neighborhood's "Haredization" is virtually inevitable, given the city's lack of housing.

Poll: 57% of seculars prefer secular judge July 28, 2009

The poll found that 53% of respondents would prefer to stand before a secular judge, while 18% prefer a religious judge. Some 25% of respondents said it did not make a difference to them. Less than 1% responded that they would prefer an Arab judge.

An analysis of the results shows that the secular public has the most parochial outlook of all the Israeli sectors, preferring by a 71% majority to stand before a judge of a similar religious outlook as themselves.

Sixty-eight percent of the religious public prefers a religious judge, and 48% of the haredim prefer an ultra-Orthodox judge.

Judaism poll points to 'lost generation'

By Sarah Sechan July 29, 2009

The survey revealed that 80% of secular Israelis and 59% of Israelis overall define their level of Judaic knowledge and Jewish heritage as mediocre or lower.

The percentage claiming a low level of knowledge was relatively high among adults over age 55 (21%), among Jews of Ashkenazi descent (22%), and among those with above-average incomes (20%).

Among the secular public, children's level of Judaic knowledge and Jewish sources was perceived as equal as or slightly higher than that of their parents, while people without children over the age of 12 perceived their parents' Judaic knowledge as much higher than their own.

Among secular Israelis who define their level of knowledge as low, only 25% want to expand their Judaic knowledge.

But nearly half (43%) of all secular Israelis want to increase their knowledge of Judaism and Jewish sources, with many citing such options as a secular beit midrash (Torah study center) (15%) or Jewish academic institutions (14%).

In addition, 70% of the "traditional" religious public wants to expand their knowledge, while the vast majority of haredim want to expand theirs as well.

Damage control

By Noam Dvir July 30, 2009

The High Court eventually rejected the environmentalists' claims, while ugly, curved retaining walls that do not match the landscaping treatment of the other parts of the road, were built around the graves. "

The government spent NIS 70 million for the ultra-Orthodox. There was no political force willing to confront them," Levon said.

When ritual becomes obsession

By Judy Siegel-Itzkovich August 2, 2009

Ritual complements ethics in Jewish law, but Orthodoxy and ultra-Orthodoxy seem in recent years to have put greater stress on ritual and on praising those who observe it pedantically.

Thus it may be difficult to distinguish a simply devout person who is meticulous in his observances from one who suffers from obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD).

While experts say OCD is not more common among observant Jews than in any other group, when the observant do suffer from OCD, the symptoms usually relate to ritual observance, causing them to carry out practices compulsively in prayer, ritual hand washing, milk/meat separation, family purity or personal hygiene.

The Torah is for all

By Berel Wein Opinion July 25, 2009

Feeling threatened and constantly on the defensive, much of religious society has wrapped the Torah about itself, unwilling and unable to share it intelligently with others.

Walling out the outside world to the best of its ability, this grouping allows its societal norms not to be seen as that but rather as Halacha from Moses on Sinai. This only serves to further the frictions and deepen the differences between Jews.

Thinking that one's societal norms are those that are best for everyone smacks of arrogance and weakness at one and the same time.

Israel faces grave outlook for burial space

By Ari Rabinovitch August 3, 2009

A government-appointed committee is looking to the past for a solution for the future -- proposing, in its words, "high-density burials".

Back in Biblical times, it was common for the dead to be laid to rest on top of each other in underground crypts.

The Rabbinate liked the idea, as long as strict religious guidelines were followed.

"This system was used in the days of the Sanhedrin and the Jewish authority. We are just renewing something that existed in the past," said Israeli Chief Rabbi Yona Metzger.

Trip organizer opts out of Birthright, citing ideological constraints

By Cnaan Liphshiz July 31 ,2009

A rift involving the directors of Israel's leading program for Diaspora Jews has caused one of the project's main figures to quit this month. Instead of working with Birthright Israel, travel organizer Shlomo Lifshitz will join Masa.

"I was told I could no longer tell participants to make aliyah or marry Jewish partners," said Lifshitz.

A major friction point, according to Lifshitz, was his "honeymoon plan" offering a free nuptial trip to newlyweds who had met on their Oranim Birthright trips. He says he received a written letter from Taglit's Israel office telling him he was required to stop.

Poll: Many FSU olim unsure whether their future lies in Israel

By Lily Galili August 4, 2009

Only 28 percent of immigrants from the former Soviet Union between the ages of 31 and 40 are certain they want to raise their children here, compared to 80 percent of native Israelis in that age group.

Is there a doctor in the country?

By Raphael Ahren July 31, 2009

A year and a half after Nefesh B'Nefesh announced a new program to attract Western physicians to Israel by offering grants of up to $60,000, immigrant doctors still argue about the program's merits.

238 olim from US land in Israel

By Yael Branovsky August 4, 2009

The second flight this summer organized by Nefesh B'Nefesh, an organization that encourages and coordinates the aliyah of Jews from around the world, and the Jewish Agency carried 238 new olim from North America.

Some 55 of the immigrants are young people scheduled to enlist in the IDF in the coming months.

The organization said that more than 430 young adults will immigrate to Israel this year from the United States with the express purpose of enlisting in the Israel Defense Forces.

Uganda's Abayudaya bring a Jewish response to the famine

By Haviv Rettig Gur August 2, 2009

The Abayudaya embraced Judaism during British colonial rule in the 1920s, surviving the country's political turmoil, persecution by the Idi Amin dictatorship and pressure to convert to Christianity and Islam.

Some 1,100 members of the Abayudaya ("people of Judah") live in Uganda, many of them having undergone Conservative conversion. Some are preparing for Orthodox conversion and hope to make aliya.

Religion and State in Israel

August 3, 2009 (Section 2) (continued from Section 1)

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Editor – Joel Katz

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