Monday, December 27, 2010

Religion and State in Israel - December 27, 2010 (Section 1)

Editor – Joel Katz
Religion and State in Israel is not affiliated with any organization or movement.

By Jonathan Lis December 24, 2010
Yisrael Beiteinu is planning on conditioning its support for the budget on the progress of a draft bill recognizing conversions in the Israel Defense Forces, Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman has reportedly told associates recently.

By Stewart Ain December 21, 2010
Despite assurances that there would be no backroom deal to allow passage of a conversion bill giving the Orthodox Chief Rabbinate veto power over all Israeli conversions, the leader of the Reform movement is worried.
“[Natan] Sharansky has spoken with the prime minister and has been assured this will not happen,” said Rabbi Eric Yoffie, president of the Union for Reform Judaism. “But in the turmoil now in Israel, we are concerned that ultimately we could be the victims here. Therefore, we feel a need to be exceedingly vigilant.”
...“We’re seeing a process in Israel that will culminate in the not too distant future in the collapse of the Orthodox religious structure — the collapse of the Chief Rabbinate,” he said.

By Susan Hattis Rolef December 22, 2010
The writer, a former Jerusalem Post columnist, was a Knesset employee for the past 16 years.
From any angle that one looks at the military conversion bill, introduced in the Knesset by Israel Beiteinu, and passed last Wednesday on preliminary reading, one confronts an anomaly.
The first concerns the fact that in a modern democracy, it is felt that there is a need for a law on what constitutes a legally acceptable religious conversion. Why this came about is simpler to explain than to suggest how one gets out of the entanglement.

By Yossi Yehoshua December 20, 2010
Data published by the IDF Personnel Directorate reveals that the rate of ultra-Orthodox who obtain psychiatric exemptions is five times higher than among secular people, although they have another "escape route" out of military service.
Recruitment data from the past year indicated that 12% of total recruits were haredim who were exempt from military service based on religious reasons.
Another 6.5% of recruits were released due to medical problems, 4.5% of which were given psychiatric exemptions (profile 21), and 2% were haredim that could have also obtained an exemption based on religious reasons.
The implication is that some 45% of those who receive psychiatric exemptions from the IDF are haredim, although they only constitute 14% of the total number of annual recruits.

By Merav Michaeli December 21, 2010
If anyone still had any doubt about the advisability and necessity of exempting ultra-Orthodox men from army service, statistics were released yesterday showing 45 percent of those getting psychological exemptions are Haredi.
It turns out that being psychological unfit enables ultra-Orthodox youths to not only avoid army service, but also not to study in a yeshiva.
That is the reason that young ultra-Orthodox men have taken the trouble to go to army psychologists and get the exemption, and not make do with the "Torah as profession" exemption.

By Aviel Magnezi December 21, 2010
How hard is it to get out of military service in Israel? Not that hard - If you are ultra-Orthodox. When God won't help you get an exemption, the mental health officer will. Over the past year alone, a third of those who received a military exemption for mental health reasons were haredim.
"In my yeshiva, many students were released one after the other, but it isn't a regular yeshiva, since most have the 'Torah is his profession' rule. Students that use the mental health clause are usually just tired of having to go sign in at the unemployment line to get their assurance of income, or they want to work or go abroad."

By Rebecca Anna Stoil December 21, 2010
In the shadow of the government decision to limit funding for yeshiva students to five years, the Knesset’s State Control Committee met Monday to discuss national service and other options for those with draft exemptions or deferrals.
According to Hiddush, an organization that tracks matters of religion and state, there are approximately 62,500 haredi men of draft age who currently receive IDF deferments, as opposed to 45,500 five years ago.

By Jonathan Lis December 21, 2010
Israel Defense Forces Chief of Staff Gabi Ashkenazi on Tuesday said that all Israelis, including Arabs and the ultra-Orthodox, should be obligated to do civilian service.
He added that he believes the government should revoke the exemption given to the ultra-Orthodox at the age of 22, and raise it to the age of 24.

By Jonah Mandel December 21, 2010
Head of the Civilian and National Service Authority Sar-Shalom Jerbi has managed to secure the same mortgage benefits that released soldiers and graduates of the national service get, for those who have completed civilian service.
Jerbi praised Attias’s decision, which will “reward those who choose to contribute to the state and community, and I believe that it will encourage more haredim to join the civilian service.”
There are currently 1,552 haredim and 1,459 Arabs serving in the civilian service for the year 2010-2011.

By Alexander Yakobson Opinion December 23, 2010

Chief Rabbi Yonah Metzger
A separation of religion from state in this country is not a politically realistic option. But the link between religious establishments and state institutions is not just a privilege; it also comes at a price.
Whoever receives official power from the state becomes subject to the mechanism which scrutinizes the actions of officials. This mechanism in Israel enjoys considerable power and has already removed officeholders from their positions.

By Dov Halbertal Opinion December 22, 2010
The writer is a lecturer on Jewish law and served in the past as the head of the office of Israel's chief rabbi.
As an ultra-Orthodox man, I'm about to write some very strong things. I can't help but write them, though, having reached the conclusion that it's time for radical change.
...The only possible solution, for the benefit of religion and for the benefit of the state, is to adopt the First Amendment to the U.S. Constitution and separate church from state. December 20, 2010
Seventy-three percent said a rabbi who receives his salary from the State must not voice a controversial political opinion, while 23% said that as public leaders they should express their opinion on any matter. The rest of the respondents did not answer the question.
A segmentation according to religious affiliation revealed that secular (91%) and traditional (66%) Israelis believe rabbis who are civil servants must not voice their opinions on such matters, while the religious (75%) and haredim (72%) object to any restriction on rabbis' freedom of speech.

By Uri Avnery Opinion December 20, 2010
The simple and decisive answer to this whole mess is complete separation between religion and nationality and between religion and state. No other solution, and certainly not another Lieberman law at the Knesset, would solve the problem. As long as the basic assumption doesn’t change we’ll be facing more problems.
...The secular majority would no longer fear that rabbis may take over the state and put an end to democracy. The religious will no longer have to fear secular institutional attempts to dictate to rabbis what to do. It would be good for the State, good for religion, and resolve the problem.

By Dror Zeevi Opinion December 23, 2010
So when are we finally going to understand that the problem here is not whether to ease Orthodox conversions or make them more strict, but rather, define Judaism in a more pluralistic manner, take away the monopoly from the Rabbinate, Shas and their ilk, and join the 21st Century world.
If a soldier wishes to convert, the army should offer him several options – Orthodox, Conservative or Reform conversion, or even a secular ceremony, and at the end of this process register him as a Jew in his Israeli ID card.

By Gershom Schocken August 29, 1985
The writer was Haaretz chief editor, 1939-1990
This article, written by Gershom Schocken, is being republished on the 20th anniversary of his death.
Ever since the state was founded, the religious establishment has undergone a process of radicalization, as it attempts to impose on the sovereign Jewish nation those prohibitions and bans that applied when they existed solely as an ethno-religious group.
Although it won't be able to succeed, the more it tries, the more it prevents the formation of normal relations among the different ethnic groups in the country.

By Rabbi Reuven Hammer Opinion December 24, 2010
Indeed, the greatest conflict in religious Judaism here today is not between Orthodoxy and Masorti or Reform Judaism, or even between religion and secularism, but between two contrasting views of Judaism:
the one that seeks to cut it off from the world and create here an isolated ghetto in which the only criteria of Jewishness is the scrupulous observance of every detail ever added to Jewish law, a Judaism concerned only with itself, and the other view that sees in Judaism as a constantly evolving way of life, keeping its own identity but incorporating the best of human knowledge with the intent of bringing all humanity to a higher stage of moral and ethical living.

By Peggy Cidor Opinion December 23, 2010
“These last days and weeks, we have been facing, wave after wave of hatred, racism, and many other disgracing phenomenon in the name of Judaism” says Roni Yavin, Executive Director of Elul, the pioneer pluralistic Beit Midrash, created 21 years ago. “I feel that it just can’t go on like this without any response on our part,” continues Yavin.

By Rabbi Brad Hirschfield Opinion December 21, 2010
Israel's Jewish majority overwhelmingly defines itself as either "secular" or "traditional", and without a long explanation of these terms, that translates into a population which does not live according the dictates of rabbinate.
Despite that fact, this majority refuses to take itself seriously enough to proclaim that it's Jewishness is every bit as real and authentic as is that of the Rabbinate. And because of that, the majority gives real power to those they deem the "real Jews" i.e. the rabbinate.

By Jonah Mandel December 21, 2010
Nearly 50 Conservative (Masorti) rabbis have signed a halachic statement allowing home rentals or sales to non- Jews in Israel, in a move to counter the statement recently signed by nearly 50 city rabbis that prohibited just that.
Rabbi Aharon Lichtenstein, head of the Har Etzion Yeshiva, bemoaned [the letter's] tactlessness and failure to address the halachic question at hand with the complexity befitting learned rabbis.

By Rabbi Ben Greenberg Opinion December 20, 2010
Rabbi Ben Greenberg is the Orthodox Jewish chaplain of Harvard University, Orthodox rabbi of Harvard Hillel and Director of the Orthodox Union's Seif Jewish Learning Initiative on Campus at Harvard.
I pray that the addition of my signature to the collective voice of more than a thousand rabbis from every corner of the globe, representing the broad diversity of the Jewish people, along with the support of the overwhelming majority of the Israeli rabbinate, will be a source of strength and encouragement to Israel's political leadership to swiftly and decisively respond to this disturbing edict.
Then we will all stand and affirm the statement in the Talmud that “the whole Torah is for the sake of the ways of peace.”

By Prof. Kremnitzer, Amir Fuchs December 20, 2010
Prof. Kremnitzer is vice president for research at the Israeli Democracy Institute. Attorney Fuchs is a researcher in the institute.
[I]f the legislation concerning community admission committees' right to accept or reject potential members passes its upcoming second and third readings - the message promoted by those rabbis will receive additional validation from the Knesset.
If they don't vigorously oppose that bill and try to prevent its passage, the Knesset, the government and the prime minister will in essence be saying that words are one thing, but deeds are another.

By Chaim Levinson and Haaretz Service December 21, 2010
Shin Bet officials earlier this month summoned the rabbi leading right-wing protests in Bat Yam against Arab residents, and warned him not to draw his students into any criminal action.

By Rabbi Gil Student Opinion December 22, 2010
Rabbi Gil Student is the managing editor of OU Press and blogs at
I write this with trembling and tears because I revere the rabbis I am discussing. I am not contradicting or belittling them, but imploring them to take greater account of perspectives across the ocean.
The problems they identify are real but Judaism offers other options that are not discriminatory and are therefore more attractive to the general public.

By Yossi Sarid Opinion December 24, 2010
If more young couples had decided to get married according to their own wishes, a revolution would have taken place - religion would have been separated from the state.
...This is all a matter of choice.
If the majority of a minyan holds a festivity or an event of mourning according to its own way of thought, if it lives and dies according to its own beliefs and not according to their dictates, then no force on earth will trample on us as happens at a threshold, not even force majeure. And we will have been set free.

Haaretz Editorial December 23, 2010
The message out of Jerusalem in the delicate language of legislation is translated into wild incitement in the offices of the rabbis.

By Sayed Kashua Opinion December 24, 2010
Rabbi Haim Druckman & Sayed Kashua
What could they possibly add to what Rabbi Druckman said, in a discussion I heard on Army Radio during the short drive to the clinic? This rabbi, who is considered a moderate, declared that every Arab who purchases an apartment in a Jewish neighborhood is funded by hostile forces.

By Gili Cohen December 23, 2010
Residents of Ramot Hashavim lashed out at neighbors yesterday after a report surfaced of a campaign against ultra-Orthodox moving into the community, saying the self-appointed action committee's tactics reminded them too much of the letter of the municipal rabbis banning renting property to Arabs.

By Tali Heruti-Sover December 24, 2010
The fear of labor migrants is greater among observant and right-wing people than among secular and left-wing people: Whereas ultra-Orthodox Jews are highly anxious (5.2 ) - even though jobs in areas where they live are not necessarily threatened by the foreign workers - and the modern Orthodox are anxious (5.06 ) - the average level of anxiety among secular people is 3.3.

By Yair Altman December 23, 2010
"(The leftists) call us racists, but they say haredim should live separately. This is hypocrisy. They attack the rabbis (who signed the letter calling to ban the sale of apartments to non-Jews) who are fighting for this land's identity," he said.
The guest of honor at the rally was Safed chief Rabbi Shmuel Eliyahu, one of the initiators of the rabbis' letter.

By Tovah Lazaroff and Jonah Mandel December 24, 2010
There will be a civil war and the creation of a new, autonomous entity, the Authority of Judea and Samaria, should the government evacuate even the smallest West Bank settlement, Rabbi Shalom Dov Wolpe warned at a Jerusalem rally on Thursday night.

By Dan Brown Opinion December 20, 2010
What if the Diaspora demanded something in return for the financial aid they deliver each and every year to Israeli society?

By Gil Shefler December 21, 2010
The Jewish education system in the former Soviet Union is on the verge of collapse and needs immediate financial assistance, a charity warned at a conference dedicated to Jewish education in the region, held in Jerusalem on Monday.
Rabbi Yechiel Eckstein of the Fellowship of Christians and Jews said at the event that unless the Israeli government helped come up with a plan for the cash-strapped Jewish schools across the former Soviet Union, many will have to close. December 21, 2010
Immediately upon landing, the new immigrants will participate in the Jewish Agency’s “Aliyah on a Red Carpet” fair and will receive their Israeli ID cards. This is an innovative model of absorption providing under one roof a wide variety of services essential to the initial integration of olim in Israel.

By Yaron Sasson December 26, 2010
The life story of Mauricio Glucksman could easily become a plot for a Hollywood action movie, or at the very least a tear-jerking telenovela. In his 19 years on the planet, the young Venezuelan has endured experiences that would make field exercises and shooting ranges seem like a walk in the park.
In a ceremony at David Ben-Gurion's grave site, Glucksman stood proud in his IDF uniform, and sang Hatikva out loud along with his fellow course members.

By Ron Friedman December 21, 2010
Forty-five new immigrants from Russia and Kazakhstan are the first olim ever to receive an Israeli identification card issued at Ben-Gurion Airport.
The new immigrants arrived in Israel on Tuesday afternoon. They took part in a ceremony to mark a pilot project aimed at improving the service granted new immigrants upon their arrival.

By Matthew Kalman December 26, 2010
Ronald L. Gallatin is a retired attorney, a CPA and a former managing director at Lehman Brothers credited with creating some of Wall Street’s most ingenious investment instruments. His wife, Meryl, is a prominent philanthropist in Florida charity circles.
But when they visit Israel, they prefer hanging around soup kitchens and drug addict drop-in centers rather than fancy restaurants.

By Sharon Udasin December 24, 2010
The new models are just a small part of the changes that the Tel Aviv-based Beit Hatfutsot, known since its 1978 establishment as the Nahum Goldmann Museum of the Jewish Diaspora, is about to undergo in the next few years.
A massive overhaul has already included an English name change to the Museum of the Jewish People and, in the future, will bring a transformation in historical scope and desired audience, in attempt to become more inclusive to the diverse world Jewish populations. December 21, 2010
Haifa, Israel's third largest city, will celebrate this Christmas in an eco-friendly fashion with the unveiling of a new 38-foot Christmas tree made entirely of recycled water bottles and other plastic objects donated by its residents and on display in the city's center. December 15, 2010
Statistics released by the Jerusalem Institute for Israel Studies indicate that only 15,400 Christians live today in the Holy City, divided into 13 different communities and other institutions. The JIIS calls on the Israeli government to adopt a more proactive approach towards the churches and Christian communities in the city. December 23, 2010
President Shimon Peres on Wednesday wished the Christian world a merry Christmas and a peaceful new year, as a children's choir from the Latin Patriarchal School in Nazareth sang carols in honor of the upcoming Christmas holiday

By Thore Schroeder December 24, 2010
Today some of the refugees from the war-torn Darfur region will celebrate their first Christmas ever as they recently converted from Islam to Cush, the South-Sudanese variation of Christian faith. The baptism was celebrated by Pastor Matthew in the Jordan River.

By Jonah Mandel December 16, 2010
Rabbi Dr. Ron Kronish, director of the Interreligious Coordinating Council in Israel, spoke of the need to better educate Israelis about Christians and Christianity, while stressing the crucial role of the media in setting the public tone on such topics.
“The heads of the Catholic Church here feel that the synod’s messages were misunderstood,” Dr. Amnon Ramon, a researcher at the Jerusalem Institute for Israel Studies, said ahead of the event.

By Jonah Mandel December 21, 2010
A Muslim prayer room was dedicated at the Mount Scopus campus of the Hebrew University last week, after months of efforts of an inter-denomination student group.
The room, located in the humanities faculty not far from the campus' synagogue, will provide the estimated two thousand Muslim students and university staff with a fitting site for worship. Till now, the quiet libraries and other isolated spots on campus served that end.

Editor – Joel Katz
Religion and State in Israel is not affiliated with any organization or movement.
All rights reserved.

Religion and State in Israel - December 27, 2010 (Section 2)

Religion and State in Israel

December 27, 2010 (Section 2) (see also 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.

Yeshiva students stipends: PM Netanyahu & Shas Yishai vs. Likud MK's Sa'ar, Livnat, Erdan

No laughing matter

By Yossi Verter December 24, 2010

In dealing with the issue of income guarantees for ultra-Orthodox men, Netanyahu defied economic and social logic this week, and was opposed by a majority of the public - and of Likud members: Once again, he served the needs of Shas, and he defied a High Court of Justice ruling calling the income guarantees for yeshiva students illegal.

[Three Likud ministers, Gideon Sa'ar, Gilad Erdan and Limor Livnat, voted against...]

Inspection misdirection

By Ofer Matan December 24, 2010

State-funded yeshivas have well-oiled mechanisms for passing inspections and defrauding the government, by inflating the numbers of students enrolled in them. A former student explains how it works.

"The Haredi leadership's desire that the avrekhim not work is motivated by ideology, not finances," says Shahar Ilan, vice president of the organization Hiddush: For Religious Freedom and Equality, who used to cover the Haredi sector for Haaretz.

"They believe that study is the Jews' mission. They want as many avrekhim as possible to stay in the kollel.

"The Haredi politicians, as opposed to the rabbis, have a clear interest, not an ideological one, to keep the avrekhim from working. Avrekhim are a poor, obedient and dominated group, and the politicians find them to be much more easy to deal with than a working, independent public."

Knesset panel approves budget; ups funds for yeshiva students, but no extra funding for fire services

By Zvi Zrahiya December 23, 2010

Kadima issued a statement accusing Netanyahu of "favoring yeshiva students while abandoning the firefighters," because the committee did approve an extra NIS 19 million for yeshivas and yeshiva students yesterday.

An anti-Zionist government

By Nehemia Shtrasler Opinion December 21, 2010

What do you call a secular person in Yiddish? Freier (sucker), the yeshiva students answer, and burst out laughing.

For really, it's so easy to pull a fast one on the secular public and extract boundless government funding and special benefits from it - and all while complaining of discrimination.

...This will be the first government ever to place a legal seal of approval on the Israel Defense Forces' demise as the people's army. It's a government that plans to give a kashrut certificate to the Haredi community's cynical and cowardly evasion of military service.

The nation will thereby be divided in two: those who risk life and limb to defend the homeland, and those who sit at home and laugh at the freiers.

The State, the Rabbinate and the Prying

By Yitzhak Laor Opinion December 21, 2010

Religious Jews in Israel have no need for the Chief Rabbinate. Moreover, some of the Rabbinate's staunchest followers have rabbis who are not connected to it, as well as their own kashrut inspectors.

The Rabbinate's existence is so absurd we can only admit that its power relies, among other things, on the ignorance of the secular, at least in matters of halakha.

Netanyahu's unacceptable deal with the ultra-Orthodox

Haaretz Editorial December 20, 2010

As finance minister he did not shrink from cutting allowances to Haredim, so that the overly generous system of entitlements would stop being an incentive for idleness. But now Netanyahu is willing to do anything so that he and his government can survive.

What do Gideon Sa'ar from Likud, Isaac Herzog from Labor, and journalist Yair Lapid have in common?

(The Tel Aviv Likudniks who stole Livni's political positions)

By Aluf Benn December 22, 2010

Photo: Yair Lapid

All three oppose special allocations to the religious and want the ultra-Orthodox to find jobs, but they are wary of antagonism toward the religious.

Lapid: "The law for allocations to the Orthodox is a manifest fraud, but a discourse based on hatred of the Haredim will not move us forward."

Herzog: "The allocations law is self-defeating and reverses the laudable, evolving trend by which the Orthodox are becoming integrated in the workplace.”

Vice PM Silvan Shalom, why shouldn't we give yeshiva students stipends for another five years?

By Mazal Mualem December 21, 2010

Q: What was problematic about the plan, in your opinion?

A: Inequality. The government decided to give ultra-Orthodox men over the age of 29 a complete exemption from the stipend limitations. I told the prime minister: 'I opposed the Wisconsin Plan and you are the one who implemented it. Why does the Wisconsin Plan obligate people over 50 to go out and work in order to receive a stipend, but a 29-year-old yeshiva student can't work?

Cabinet okays limit to funding of yeshiva students

By Zvi Zrahiya, Mazal Mualem, Barak Ravid and Yair Ettinger December 20, 2010

The cabinet decided on Sunday to limit payments of stipends to married yeshiva students to five years. The decision will only be fully implemented, however, in another five years.

Under the proposal approved on Sunday, the government will provide a total of NIS 127 million a year in stipends to married yeshiva students, amounting to NIS 1,040 a month per student for four years. In the fifth year, the amount will be reduced to prepare the student for entry into the labor market.

Interview with Shahar Ilan, Hiddush on Israel Channel 2 TV (in Hebrew)

Click here for VIDEO (Hebrew)

Shas: We'll pass mortgage subsidies even if gov't objects

By Zvi Zrahiya December 20, 2010

Shas is pressing for the approval of a new law that would grant mortgage subsidies to young couples who buy their first home in peripheral parts of the country.

The Ministerial Committee for Legislation will vote on the bill this morning and thus decide whether the government will back it. Finance Minister Yuval Steinitz opposes the legislation. Eyal Gabai, the director general of the Prime Minister's Office, also said recently he objects to it.

United Torah Judaism MK Gafni: Probe those who keep Haredim from moving in

By Jonah Mandel December 20, 2010

United Torah Judaism MK Moshe Gafni is asking the legal establishment to take action against what he calls widespread discrimination against haredim from secular Israelis who don’t want to let them live in their midst.

In a letter to Attorney-General Yehuda Weinstein on Sunday, Gafni noted the “severe phenomenon of preventing haredim make their home in various locales” that has prevailed in the past years.

Tax advisers won't need (bagrut) matriculation under bill favoring Haredim

By Zvi Zrahiya December 22, 2010

Tax advisers won't be required to have a high school matriculation certificate (bagrut), under a change the Knesset Finance Committee made to the Economic Arrangements Bill.

The Finance Ministry relented to the amendment, which committee chairman Moshe Gafni pushed in an effort to ease requirements for ultra-Orthodox women looking to work as tax advisers. This includes graduates of the Beit Yaakov network of schools, which are aligned with Gafni's United Torah Judaism party.

Protestors scatter cow dung outside PM's Caesarea home

By Raanan Ben-Zur December 25, 2010

About 15 members of the National Left social movement protested near Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's Caesarea home on Saturday against the haredi stipend bill, which is meant to bypass a High Court of Justice ruling and allow the government to allocate funds to yeshiva students.

The wonders of statistics

Pointless posturing over home prices and imaginary radio shows

By Nehemia Shtrasler December 24, 2010

Why do you oppose it?" Shochat asked. "You're dirt poor. You shouldn't have any problem with these taxes."

The delegates looked at him and said, "You know that all our young couples that get married receive an apartment from their parents?"

But, Shochat said, Haredi families are huge. How could parents buy apartments for all their kids?

"Ask not about things beyond your understanding," the delegates said mysteriously, and left.

Jerusalem hassidic leader was held ‘captive for years’

By Jonah Mandel December 20, 2010

A scandal that is rocking the Breslov community of Shuvu Banim has taken another twist, with its spiritual leader Rabbi Eliezer Berland’s return to his Jerusalem home from his hiding place in the North on Saturday night, after breaking away from 10 years of captivity, during which he says he was little more than a marionette controlled by his son and grandson.

Residents of small central town fear ultra-Orthodox 'takeover'

By Gili Cohen December 22, 2010

Some 150 residents of a small town between Hod Hasharon and Ra'anana are waging a battle against a feared Hasidic takeover of Ramot Hashavim.

"The problem is that Ramot Hashavim has become a Bratslav center," one resident said. "They shout 'Shabbes, Shabbes,'" he said, referring to the Yiddish pronunciation of Shabbat, which ultra-Orthodox Jews sometimes shout at anyone they consider to be violating the Sabbath.

Haaretz Cartoon by Eran Wolkowski December 22, 2010 - "Harmony"

Shas MK Atias; Rabbi Ovadia Yosef; Shas Minister Yishai

Shas infighting reaches as far as spiritual leader's family

By Yair Ettinger December 24, 2010

The crisis in Shas is deepening and reaching the innermost circle of the party's spiritual leader, Rabbi Ovadia Yosef. A sharp argument erupted Tuesday at the synagogue adjacent to Yosef's home between the rabbi's personal secretary, Zvi Hakak, and his son, Rabbi David Yosef.

The latter is a close friend of Aryeh Deri, former chairman of Shas, whose name has recently been casting a shadow over the leadership of the party's chairman, Interior Minister Eli Yishai.

Deri working to form new socioeconomic party

By Gil Hoffman December 24, 2010

Haaretz cartoon by Amos Biderman - December 26, 2010

Former Shas Minister Aryeh Deri vs. Shas Minister Eli Yishai & Rabbi Ovadia Yosef

Former Shas chairman Arye Deri is working on establishing a new socioeconomic party that will be neither haredi nor Sephardi.

In an interview with Ma’ariv political analyst Shalom Yerushalmi to be published on Friday, Deri said he wants the party to act as a bridge across the many divides in Israeli society – between religious and secular, Right and Left, Ashkenazi and Sephardi and rich and poor. To that end, he said, he intends to draft well-known and respected people from all sectors.

Shas slammed for refunds to Haredim in housing bill

By Jonathan Lis December 26, 2010

Tens of thousands of housing units for ultra-Orthodox Jews will be built in the next few years in peripheral areas of the country, with significant discounts offered under the Shas party's new housing bill, the Hiddush organization for religious freedom and equality said.

Rabbi Uri Regev, director of Hiddush:

"The new ultra-Orthodox invention is a mortgage for every voter. [Housing and Construction Minister Ariel] Atias is simply bringing back the income support for yeshiva students through these apartments," he added.

Housing aid should be linked to earning ability, Regev continued, separating those who can't work for a living from those who prefer not to work for a living.

Shas Housing Minister Atias' call for mortgage subsidies draws cheers, jeers

By Zvi Zrahiya December 26, 2010

Housing Minister Ariel Atias' call to subsidize mortgages for young couples in the country's outskirts drew a mix of support and fire over the weekend, as proponents said the idea would indeed help its target audience.

Nostalgia Sunday – Arye Deri is back

By Rachel Neiman December 26, 2010

Click here for Photoshop cartoons

To mark the return of Deri, we’ve gone back to the archives of Yom HaShishi, a now-defunct weekly newspaper for the religious sector. Yom HaShishi made waves back in the 1990s for its bold use of photo-illustrated political cartoons on its covers — something that hadn’t been seen before.

The artworks were executed by Jonathan Sierra of Icons, a studio that pioneered the use of Photoshop and photo-montage in Israel.

Ariel Attias, Arye Deri gang up on Eli Yishai

By Gil Hoffman December 20, 2010

Shas chairman Eli Yishai faced criticism from a central figure inside his own party for the first time on Monday when his No. 2, Construction and Housing Minister Ariel Attias, delivered a scathing attack on him in the presence of Shas MKs.

Yishai has recently been criticized by Haim Amsalem, an unknown freshman MK in Shas, but until now, Attias has been careful not to attack Yishai publicly.

Shas has become scapegoat for Likud, charges party head Yishai

By Zvi Zrahiya, Mazal Mualem and Jonathan Lis December 21, 2010

Interior Minister Eli Yishai accused his coalition partners yesterday of inciting the public against Shas to make political gains.

"Likud is wary of Yair Lapid, Kadima and Yisrael Beiteinu, so what's most important for them now is to bring out of the closet anything that has to do with religion and state, and get a headline," the Shas leader said at a press conference held in the Knesset.

Haredim Rally for Judea and Samaria

By Tzvi Ben Gedalyahu December 22, 2010

Thousands of hareidi religious Jews are expected to turn out at a Jerusalem rally Thursday in support of Judea and Samaria.

Support for nationalists by the hareidi religious community, which was less common several years ago, provides an additional and strong ally for Land of Israel activists.

Rabbis Ban Online News Site '' December 22, 2010

See article for English translation of proclamation.

Click here for English translation by Rabbi Gordon Tucker

"Torah that is not accompanied by a worldly trade will in the end amount to nothing and will lead one into sin."

(Mishnah Avot, chapter 2; Rulings on this basis are found in Maimonides, Mishneh Torah, “Laws Concerning Torah Study”, chapter 10, and in Shulhan Arukh, Orah Hayyim #157)

VIDEO: Rabbis and Doctors Meet at Special Medicine and Halacha Conference in Jerusalem

Click here for VIDEO

Rabbis and Doctors Meet at Special Medicine and Halacha Conference in Jerusalem

Chief rabbis: Fight 'abortion epidemic' December 22, 2010

Firstly, the chief rabbis asked that with the help of their sermons and channels of information, the local rabbis encourage birth within the Jewish people and prevent unnecessary abortions.

Secondly, they asked that the rabbis hand out pamphlets "in preparation of a happy marriage" to any couple who is to be wed.

And thirdly, consult with a doctor regarding such activity.

Religious Zionist Rabbi Aviner: Don't read talkbacks

By Kobi Nahshoni December 23, 2010

Shlomo Aviner, one of Religious Zionism's leading rabbis, has stated that responses to articles on websites should not be read due to fears that doing so would lead to religious and moral transgressions.

A schedule fixed by the angel of death

By Abigail Klein Leichman December 21, 2010

In a special Knesset gathering in November, Israeli Transportation Minister Yisrael Katz presented an award to ZAKA Rescue and Recovery Organization founder Yehuda Meshi-Zahav for raising awareness and promoting road safety.

The moment was noteworthy not just because it acknowledged ZAKA's role in responding to thousands of car accidents and encouraging safer driving, but also because it underlined the warm relationship between Israel's secular officials and Meshi-Zahav, an ultra-Orthodox (haredi) former anti-Zionist agitator.

Two arrested for allegedly stealing 30 Torah scrolls

By Yaakov Lappin December 23, 2010

Two suspects from Jerusalem and Hadera are set to be indicted Friday on charges of stealing 30 Torah scrolls from synagogues across the South and the Central region.

U.S. rabbi gets rare permission to visit Yitzhak Hall at Tomb of Patriarchs

By Chaim Levinson December 23, 2010

There was an uncommon sight Saturday night at the Tomb of the Patriarchs in the West Bank city of Hebron, when the religious site's Yitzhak Hall, which is usually only open to Muslim worshippers, was also opened to Jews.

Rabbis: Don't desecrate Shabbat in Mahane Yehuda market

By Ari Galahar December 21, 2010

The Committee for the Sanctity of Shabbat launched a new battle recently, focusing on Jerusalem's Mahane Yehuda market.

Ads published in ultra-Orthodox newspapers called on the haredi public not to visit the market on Fridays an hour before the beginning of Shabbat so as not to cause the merchants to desecrate the holy day.

Shabbat, easy style

By Shoshana Chen December 24, 2010

The "kosher lamp" is the kind of invention that is genius in its simplicity that makes you say "why didn't they think of that sooner?" The lamp which has sold hundreds of thousands of units in the Jewish world, mostly in North America, but 20,000 units sold in Israel alone, has recently flourished and is considered an ideal gift in observant homes as it allows control over the strength of light.

Censoring of Temple Mount Report Causes Anger

By Hillel Fendel December 22, 2010

The State Comptroller has prepared a report on the wanton destruction caused by the Waqf on the Temple Mount, and on Israel’s response. The Committee to Prevent Destruction of Temple Mount Antiquities is up in arms that the lion’s share of the report will not be publicized.

Haredi Kollel on the Temple Mount (Hebrew)

By Avraham Levi December 21, 2010

Religion and State in Israel

December 27, 2010 (Section 2) (see also Section 1)

Editor – Joel Katz

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