Monday, December 6, 2010

Religion and State in Israel - December 6, 2010 (Section 1)

Religion and State in Israel

December 6, 2010 (Section 1) (see also Section 2)

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Editor – Joel Katz

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

Carmel wildfire punishment from God?

By Kobi Nahshoni December 5, 2010

Shas' spiritual leader Rabbi Ovadia Yosef implied on Saturday night that the fire raging on Mount Carmel in northern Israel was a punishment from God for religious offenses committed by the area's residents.

During his weekly sermon, the rabbi read a section from the Babylonian Talmud, which states that "the fire only exists in a place where Shabbat is desecrated."

Haredi press: Yishai critics like anti-Semites

By Kobi Nahshoni December 5, 2010

"The anti-Semites worldwide always looked for the guilty Jew for every trouble they experienced, and the Judaism-haters in the State of Israel are looking for the guilty haredi," an editorial published by haredi newspaper Yated Ne'eman claimed on Sunday, following the criticism pointed at Interior Minister Eli Yishai (Shas) over the poor state of Israel's Fire and Rescue Services.

Fire victim buried in non-Jewish plot

By Shmulik Hadad December 5, 2010

Tania Lansky, 23, from Ashkelon was laid to rest on Sunday at the city's military cemetery.

Tania was on board the trapped bus that caught fire on Thursday while making its way to Damon Prison in order to help evacuate prisoners. She died along with 41 of her friends.

However, even in her death Tania had to struggle – The rabbinate refused to bury her in the cemetery's main plot, because her mom is not Jewish

Shas Interior Minister Eli Yishai must take responsibility for Carmel fire

By Yossi Verter Opinion December 5, 2010

Interior Minister Eli Yishai is one of the cabinet's most combative members. He knows how to fight for what is dear to him: one pro-Haredi law after another, more religious coercion, more allocations for yeshiva students, more stringent conversion procedures and minimum fuss over women who shirk army service.

...When it came to the needs of Israel's fire and rescues service, he was hardly going to precipitate a government crisis - he issued no threats, nor did he race over to the home of Rabbi Ovadia Yosef to pressure him into issuing a ruling of religious law.

Chief Rabbi Metzger: Give charity for success of rescue forces

By Jonah Mandel December 5, 2010

Chief Ashkenazi Rabbi Yona Metzger has called on the public to give charity and read Psalms for the success of the rescue forces fighting the fire in the Carmel.

“This is a day of mourning for all of the People of Israel, “Metzger said in a statement.

Shas Interior Minister Yishai: Rabbi Ovadia Yosef is 'in tears' about Carmel fire

By Jonah Mandel and staff December 5, 2010

Interior Minister Eli Yishai on Sunday defended remarks made Saturday by Shas Spirtual leader Rabbi Ovadia Yosef. "The rabbi preaches morals to all of us in order to gain strength, to do good deeds, and to repent."

Yishai added, that whoever hears the rabbi understands that "he is in tears and speaks with pain" about the tragedy in the Carmel.

Masorti Movement: Shas blackmailing gov’t over conversions

By Jonah Mandel December 2, 2010

According to reports, Rabbi Ovadia Yosef expressed extreme discontent over the possibility that the IDF conversions would be detached from the Chief Rabbinate.

Speaking on Israel Radio, Nahari said that such legislation would change the status quo on religious issues, and therefore breach the coalition agreement.

Rotem countered by telling the radio station that the breach to the status quo was created when certain elements decided to cast doubt on the validity of the military conversions, and that his legislation was meant to stop this from happening again.

Shas urges Netanyahu to squash IDF-sponsored conversion bill

By Yair Ettinger December 2, 2010

Tzohar, a group of modern Orthodox rabbis, said it supported the conversion bill because the Chief Rabbinate had not done enough against rabbis and rabbinic judges who did not recognize conversions and had "caused converts to suffer."

Prof. Yedidia Stern, vice president of research of the Israel Democracy Institute, called the threat to stop conversions "a strategic opportunity to change the state's rules of conduct and place the entire conversion process in the hands of the state conversion system."

Why won't the ultra-Orthodox accept IDF conversions?

By Yair Ettinger December 2, 2010

Interview with former IDF Chief Rabbi Yisrael Weiss

Q: You serve now as a judge of the civilian religious court headed by Rabbi Haim Druckman. Are you approving conversions today that tomorrow, it may reasonably be assumed, will be disqualified by the chief rabbinate? Isn't this cheating the convert?

Rabbi Yisrael Weiss:

Our conversions will not be disqualified. There are solutions. If there is an ultra-Orthodox rabbi who does not recognize our converts, there are alternatives. There are four rabbinical judges who are authorized to register marriages. In the end everyone who wants to register will be able to. No one will stop take away their right to register at the rabbinate, if and when they want to marry.

Shas urges PM to oppose IDF conversion bill

By Kobi Nahshoni December 1, 2010

[Shas Minister Meshulam Nahari] explained that it was unacceptable to remove the authority of conversions from the chief rabbi.

"The next thing will be a decision that the army can marry couples and issue kosher certificates independently. We are one people and there is no reason for this," he said, adding that conversion applicants rejected by the Rabbinate could begin to use the IDF as a bypass.

'Rabbi Yosef strongly opposes IDF conversions bill'

By Jonah Mandel December 1, 2010

The Masorti (Conservative) Movement in Israel said in a Wednesday announcement that “Shas is extorting the government, at the expense of the IDF converts. The objections of Amar and Shas show once again how they are driven by narrow political considerations rather than Halacha.”

Chief Rabbi: Torpedo IDF Conversions Law

By Kobi Nahshoni November 30, 2010

Chief Sephardic Rabbi Shlomo Amar has called on Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to torpedo a bill stating that Israel will automatically approve conversions carried out by the Israel Defense Forces without necessitating the chief rabbi's signature, which was approved on Sunday by the Ministerial Committee on Legislative Affairs.

Conversion Bill ‘Something We Can’t Win’

By Stewart Ain November 30, 2010

Interview: Diaspora Affairs Minister Yuli Edelstein

Q: Do you foresee a resolution to the stalemate between diaspora Jews who oppose a proposed Israel conversion bill — which would for the first time give the Orthodox Chief Rabbinate sole authority over conversions in Israel — and those in Israel who support it?

A: Obviously there has to be a compromise. [...] The issue was to be resolved by the end of December, but I don’t see a solution. I hope that as long there is none, no one will start with unilateral steps.

...What I try to explain to my Israeli colleagues and to [MK David] Rotem is that this is something we can’t win.

Who Is A Jew and Who Decides

By Rabbi Brad Hirschfield Opinion November 29, 2010

The writer is President of CLAL-The National Jewish Center for Learning and Leadership

Instead of addressing the bigger challenges of state-sponsored religion, most Jews simply want to make sure that their kind of Judaism is protected under a system which entangles synagogue and state in ways to which they would object, were it happening anywhere other than in Israel.

Watching the seemingly endless cycle of "who is a Jew" debates is like watching people fight to receive a portion of food which will only make them sick when they eat it. Very sad.

Tzohar Rabbi Yaakov Arieli: Violent husbands should be ostracized

By Kobi Nahshoni December 3, 2010

On the same day that the Jerusalem District Court convicted self-proclaimed rabbi Elior Chen for a long list of abuse charges, Ramat Gan Chief Rabbi Yaakov Ariel published a ruling asserting that a man who abuses his wife should be barred from participating in a prayer or any other Jewish activity.

Israel's Divorce Ruling Leaves Matter Unsettled

By Michele Chabin November 30, 2010

An Israeli women's rights organization is deciding whether to ask the High Court here to reconsider its ruling on a divorce practice it says allows men to blackmail estranged wives seeking to remarry.

"The court did not completely ban the practice of paying off recalcitrant husbands," said Susan Weiss, director of the Jerusalem-based Center for Women's Justice.

VIDEO: TV interview with Attorney Irit Rosenblum (New Family) on 'Civil Marriage' law

Click here for VIDEO (Hebrew)

November 29, 2010

Science and Religion: Fighting for Physics in the Holy Land

By Noah Efron Opinion December 4, 2010

Noah Efron is member of the Tel Aviv-Jaffa City Council, fellow of Shaharit, a think tank for new Israeli Politics, and teaches history and sociology of science at Bar Ilan University.

[T]he battles over school curricula in Israel concern practice. No ultra-orthodox leader has attacked scientific ideas, nor have any even suggested that science is not valuable. None have said that science courses teach heresies.

Their point is not that they refuse to teach sciences because they are not true; their point is that they should not be forced to teach sciences, even though they are true.

MKs mull bill to recognize, fund pluralistic Jewish studies

By Jonah Mandel December 1, 2010

The topic of women in the Jewish scholarly world is especially relevant to Zevulun Orlev (Habayit Hayehudi), who, along with five other secular and religious MKs, is sponsoring a bill to make the state recognize and fund pluralistic institutions for Torah study.

Secular yeshiva in J’lem launched at ‘learning party’

By Jonah Mandel November 30, 2010

Talpiyot’s Ha’uman 17 club was the setting for the capital’s first “learning party” on Sunday night, when the Secular Yeshiva in Jerusalem nonprofit group held two scholastic sessions and one ensuing dance party deejayed by none other than rock star Berry Sakharof.

Experiments in Judaism

By Yair Ettinger November 30, 2010

The yeshiva does not yet exist, but is due to open next September. Its goal is to enable Israel Defense Forces veterans to study both secular and holy scriptures.

The evening opened with a class conducted by one of the yeshiva's sponsors, Ariel Levinson, who drew a line connecting Hanukkah, Zionist thinker Ahad Ha'am and secularist Hebrew writer Micha Berdichevsky.

Israel Absorption Ministry denies funding bias toward Russian immigrants

By Raphael Ahren December 3, 2010

Professionals who work with Western immigrants are charging that the Absorption Ministry has begun giving preferential treatment to Russian speakers through extra funding and special programs.

While acknowledging his ministry pays "special attention" to some groups of Russian-speaking newcomers, ministry Director General Dmitry Apartsev says the Absorption Ministry is not biased toward immigrants from the Former Soviet Union at the expense of other immigrants.

Author seeks to understand Israel in debut novel

AP December 4, 2010

Sarah Glidden's first graphic novel — "How to Understand Israel in 60 Days or Less" — is not just her debut, but a travelogue with a decidedly personal bent that invokes a deft blend of history, skepticism and, ultimately, acceptance.

South African Zionist Federation (Telfed) launches database to record accomplishments of over 20,000 immigrants

By Raphael Ahren December 3, 2010

Two new projects are seeking to highlight the contributions of southern African immigrants in Israel, one a massive online database with aspirations to count every oleh and the other a book that provides an in-depth look at the South African immigrant experience.

Returning citizens conference calls Israeli minds home November 27, 2010

A special conference to encourage Israeli academics living and working in the prestige universities in the US to return to their homeland was held Wednesday night in Boston.

The delegation is planning to visit other North American and European cities including New York, Toronto, Atlanta, Huston, Los Angeles, San Francisco and London.

New learning website pays homage to a teacher's teacher: Avraham Infeld

By Raphael Ahren December 3, 2010

A new educational website honoring and discussing the teachings of veteran Jewish educator Avraham Infeld was launched Tuesday in Jerusalem.

Named "The five-legged table," after one of Avraham Infeld's key lectures, the site features clips of Infeld teaching and invites educators around the world to discuss the issues raised.

Merchavim Receives U.S. Gov’t Grants December 1, 2010

The U.S. Department of State has awarded two grants, totaling $770,000, to Merchavim, The Institute for the Advancement of Shared Citizenship in Israel, an NGO that works to help all of Israel’s 7.6 million citizens become more comfortable with the diversity that characterizes Israeli society.

Bnei Menashe celebrate Hanukkah December 5, 2010

The 7,200 members of the Bnei Menashe community of northeastern India ushered in the first night of Hanukkah on Wednesday with joy and ceremony, as they continue to nourish the hope of making aliyah in the near future.

Masorti Movement Bar/Bat Mitzvah Program for Children with Special Needs wins Shalem Foundation Excellence Prize November 30, 2010

Masorti's Bar/Bat Mitzvah Program for Children with Special Needs has been recognized by one of Israel’s foremost national social service organizations working to support and highlight the needs of individuals with disabilities. The Masorti program – unique in Israel – has won the coveted 2010 Shalem Foundation Excellence Prize, awarded each year to a project, program or staff benefiting this population.

With Jewish groups skittish about settlement, Ariel looks to evangelical Christians for salvation

By Tamar Morad December 3, 2010

Jews make up the overwhelming majority of Ariel's population, but many of the large settlement's landmarks might not exist were it not for American evangelicals opening up their wallets.

The new $2 million National Youth Leadership Development Park that opened last spring was funded by a group of U.S. evangelical Christians. It is one of the biggest projects in a city increasingly buoyed by money from evangelical groups.

Learning about religion and state in Israel

By Rachel Barton December 1, 2010

At the Religion and State seminar held in Jerusalem on November 18, Career Israel participants were met with a series of stimulating and thought-provoking speakers which left everyone pondering questions of Jewish identity and what it means to have a Jewish state.

The final speaker of the day, Anat Hoffman, brought the seminar back to the opposite end of the spectrum with an equally engaging and controversial stance.

Hoffman is a founding member of Women of the Wall, an activist group which fights for equal religious rights for women, and is the Executive Director of the Israel Religious Action Center, an organization which promotes Jewish pluralism, tolerance, and equality.

Israel Democracy Institute poll

By Greer Fay Cashman December 1, 2010

51.5% of the Jewish sample agrees that only immigrants who are Jews as defined by the rabbinate should be entitled to receive automatic citizenship; only 34.5% of immigrants from the former USSR agree.

Forty-one percent of secular Jews and 88% of haredim agree, while traditional Jews and modern Orthodox Jews fall in the middle at 63% and 79%, respectively.

Ecology activism and Jewish world November 30, 2010

What happens when you mix young innovative Jews with ecology?! This transformational web portal, which was launched Monday, promotes and advances Jewish environmental awareness and action to the international Jewish community.

The Right to be Israeli: Race in Israel

By Karen Paul-Stern December 4, 2010

Karen Paul-Stern is the Washington regional director of the New Israel Fund, as well as a development and fundraising consultant to progressive nonprofit organizations.

A new generation of Ethiopian children is already reaching adulthood in Israel. They did not grow up in refugee camps in the desert; they are modern and engaged, and they want to live their lives well and proudly in the country that claimed it wanted them.

They are forcing Israel to face questions of immigration that it has never before encountered. Who should be allowed to immigrate?

Who is Israeli? And what is a country’s responsibility to a population that was brought to its shores because of a decades-old contract with its conscience, but for whom the questions of absorption and assimilation involve intractable questions of identity and skin color?

Religion and State in Israel

December 6, 2010 (Section 1) (see also Section 2)

Editor – Joel Katz

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

All rights reserved.