Monday, March 15, 2010

Religion and State in Israel - March 15, 2010 (Section 1)

March 15, 2010 (Section 1) (see also 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.

Why nobody's happy with conversion bill

By Dan Izenberg March 9, 2010

Today, in accordance with a High Court ruling, a person who converts to Judaism abroad and moves to Israel will be granted automatic citizenship according to the Law of Return.

But what if such a convert had visited Israel before his conversion? Would he retroactively lose his status as an Israeli citizen if the law were passed?

And, looking toward the future, what if a non-Jew visited Israel as a tourist, returned to his home country and then decided to convert and return to Israel after his conversion? Would he still be eligible for citizenship according to the Law of Return?

What’s Wrong with Israel’s Proposed Conversion Bill

By Rabbi Seth Farber Opinion March 9, 2010

Rabbi Seth Farber is the director of ITIM: The Jewish Life Information Center and rabbi of Kehilat Netivot in Ra’anana

Even if the conversion law passes with some modifications, there is serious need for conversion reform in Israel and around the world.

There needs to be more consensus, greater access, and less politics, money and influence regarding this issue.

In Israel, expanding the number and type of rabbis who can convert is an important first step in changing what has become a conversion process characterized by chaos.

But serious improvements need to be made in the registration process, the courses of study, the rabbinical courts and the issuance of certificates.

Greater accountability and transparency should be put in place in our conversion courts, and there ought to be increased responsiveness to the “needs of the hour,” particularly reaching out to couples who may otherwise intermarry.

Only in Israel can conversion bring down a government. But only in Israel can these issues be resolved for now, for the future, for ourselves and for our children.

A mess no ritual bath could cleanse

By Anshel Pfeffer Opinion March 12, 2010

But after reading the new conversion law proposed by Yisrael Beiteinu MK David Rotem and seeing the bickering between his party and the ultra-Orthodox parties, now joined by the Reform movement and its allies, the only sensible conclusion is to wish a plague on all their houses.

...The conversion issue is a godawful mess because it is not just about the religious definition of "who is a Jew?" New laws may alleviate the sufferings of a few individuals or even of an entire group, they will not solve the most fundamental flaw, which is a total lack of any clear description, even a vision, of what Israeli citizenship means.

Peres asks leading rabbi to compromise on conversion bill

By Gil Hoffman, Ron Friedman and Rebecca Anna Stoil March 11, 2010

President Shimon Peres visited 98-year-old Rabbi Aharon Leib Shteinman at the Ponovezh Yeshiva in Bnei Brak Wednesday in an effort to resolve the crisis over proposed conversion legislation.

United Torah Judaism MK Moshe Gafni had asked Peres to intervene after Shteinman had pressed UTJ to resign from the coalition to protest attempts by Israel Beiteinu to enable municipal rabbis to authorize conversions, which currently must go through the Chief Rabbinate.

Bill Making Many Converts Ineligible under ‘Law of Return’ Faces Backlash

By Gal Beckerman March 12, 2010

What has offended American Jews, however, is a paragraph that would invalidate the citizenship of people who arrived in Israel as non-Jews and then converted. Meant ostensibly to keep non-Jewish immigrants to Israel from taking advantage of the Law of Return, it would also effectively bar a group of legitimate converts already in Israel from gaining full citizenship.

Conversion does need to be changed. But not like this

By Rabbi Seth Farber Opinion March 11, 2010

Rabbi Seth Farber is the director of ITIM: The Jewish Life Information Center and rabbi of Kehilat Netivot in Ra’anana

There is a genuine need to upgrade the conversion process in Israel.

Conversion needs to be transparent, accessible and meaningful. There needs to be clarity and coherence. And, ultimately, there needs to be an embracing environment which welcomes converts who seek to tie their fate to that of our people.

Gulf remains between parties on proposed Knesset conversion bill

By Yair Ettinger and Mazal Mualem March 11, 2010

The efforts to end the coalition crisis over proposed conversion regulation reforms continued yesterday, as attorney Jacob Weinroth introduced an initial document containing amendments to the proposed bill.

The document was passed on to Shas, United Torah Judaism, Yisrael Beiteinu, and the Prime Minister's Bureau. Sources involved in the negotiations confined their comments on the document to saying there were still considerable gaps between the parties.

Sharansky blasts ‘sneaky’ additions to conversion bill

By Haviv Rettig Gur March 10, 2010

Jewish Agency chairman Natan Sharansky on Tuesday joined the chorus of concern and criticism over an Israel Beiteinu conversion bill currently before the Knesset Law Committee.

“The fact that changes entered [the bill] through the back door is worrying, especially since there’s no doubt someone did this on purpose. We’re invited to talk about the role of municipal rabbis [on conversion courts], and suddenly we find [the right to] citizenship up for discussion,” Sharansky complained.

“For this reason, it’s important to have an open discussion. As of now, I don’t know where this stands, because there’s a new version of the bill every few hours. We must not let such important issues be decided in such sneaky ways.”

Deal sought on conversion law as ultra-Orthodox dig in heels

By Mazal Mualem and Yair Ettinger March 10, 2010

The emerging deal will apparently preserve the Chief Rabbinate's authority over conversions.

However, the parties are still at odds over who will be empowered to perform them: Yisrael Beiteinu wants all municipal rabbis so empowered, while Shas wants restrictions on which rabbis can do so

Controversial clause holds up conversion bill in Law C'tee

By Rebecca Anna Stoil March 9, 2010

“This is a legislative terror attack that is trying to hide serious damage behind the cover of dissembling verbiage,” said Rabbi Uri Regev, the head of Hiddush, an organization that supports religious freedom and equality.

“The bill emasculates the Law of Return, harms the courts’ authority, harms non-Orthodox converts and does not help other converts.

The only way to solve the challenge of conversion is to eliminate the rabbinic monopoly. It would have been better for Rotem’s bill never to have been written.”

'A precedent for discrimination'

By Haviv Rettig Gur March 9, 2010

“American Jews ought to be concerned, but they shouldn’t be panicked. The bigger panic should be around how the state is still impinging on the authority of overseas communities to perform conversions,”
[Rabbi Seth] Farber added, a reference to Sephardi Chief Rabbi Shlomo Amar’s efforts to limit the number of overseas Orthodox rabbis permitted to perform conversions.

Sephardi chief rabbi feels 'deceived' over amendment to change conversion rules

By Yair Ettinger March 10, 2010

"The rabbi was asked to sign a document that had undergone changes from what was agreed on in the negotiations," one of Rabbi Amar's associates said.

"The rabbi didn't notice that Rotem had altered the language, and he feels deeply hurt. He is in great pain, but he doesn't want to sever ties with Yisrael Beiteinu," he said.

Shas: Conversion bill crisis solvable

By Gil Hoffman and Rebecca Ann Stoil March 8, 2010

Shas officials emphasized that they are still working to reach an agreement that will better “prevent allowing Reform conversion under the law” and advocated that municipal rabbis who want to be permitted to oversee conversions get special authority to do so from the Chief Rabbinate.

Reform Jewish Movement Calls on Knesset to Reject Conversion Legislation March 9, 2010

This legislation will certainly reopen one of the most divisive battles in the Jewish community. The proposed legislation will lead to a situation in which Jews-by-choice would be treated differently and denied recognition as Jews under the Law of Return, in direct contradiction of Israeli Supreme Court rulings. Additionally, it may lead to the delegitimization of all non-orthodox conversions performed outside of the State of Israel.

WUPJ on Proposed Amendment to the Chief Rabbinate Law March 7, 2010 [pdf]

This amendment would not only affect those who chose to convert to Judaism in the State of Israel, but also those who convert outside of Israel, who either studied in Israel before their conversion or even visited Israel in order to strengthen their knowledge of Judaism and the Jewish people.

US Jewish leaders concerned over conversion bill

By Haviv Rettig Gur March 14, 2010

The bill is problematic not only because of its third paragraph on citizenship rights for converts, but because “it grants legal authority to the Chief Rabbinate for conversions... and would possibly make it impossible for conversions to be performed by Conservative and Masorti rabbis, by some Orthodox rabbis, and by Reform rabbis,” Rabbi Julie Schonfeld said in a statement released Thursday.

Jewish Federations of North America urges Government of Israel to dialogue with Diaspora Jews before Law of Return changes March 10, 2010

We implore the Israeli government to seriously consider the concerns and sensitivities of Diaspora Jews before acting on such proposals.

Changes to the Law of Return could adversely affect many members of our community by preventing them from making aliyah and becoming Israeli citizens. Any action of this type would be an affront to world Jewry.

Rav Ovadia Yosef: A Masorti/Conservative Jew?

By Rabbi Andrew Sacks Opinion March 14, 2010

Rabbi Sacks is Director of the Masorti [Conservative] Movement's Rabbinical Assembly in Israel

So why ask if the learned but eccentric rabbi is a Masorti Jew?

Well it seems that just last week a rabbinic responsum was published where Rav Ovadia determined that the daughter born to a convert of a Conservative Beit Din was to be considered fully Jewish.

He heaped praise of the standards of the Beit Din and the demands they made of the convert. He pointed out that these Conservative rabbis were as serious as the Orthodox rabbis in the standards they held.

Well, too often Rav Ovadia has gone over the edge in degrading the other. For that he ought be condemned. But when he shows insight, as he has done here, he must be praised.

Rav Ovadia may not be a member of the Masorti Movement, but we welcome his recognition of our converts.

Special section set aside for burial of boy killed in crash

By Yanir Yagna, Jack Khoury, Yaniv Kubovich and Chaim Levinson March 12, 2010

A 12-year-old boy who was run over by a taxi this week will be buried today in a section of the Ofakim cemetery that the city's religious authorities have set aside for him and any others who are not officially recognized as Jewish.

...The religious authorities asked the principal of Arik's school about his Jewish status, and the family was asked the name of the mohel who circumcised him.

Ofer's adoptive father, Eitan, insisted that the boy be buried in the city.

Closure order against school for Ashkenazi girls only

By Yaheli Moran Zelikovich March 14, 2010

Ministry of Education Director-General Shimshon Shoshani issued a closure order Sunday against a temporary institution used as a school for Ashkenazi girls who have refused to study together with Sephardi girls.

The decision to act against the temporary "school" was welcomed by Yoav Laloum, chairman of Noar C'Halacha, an organization fighting discrimination against Mizrahim in haredi institutions.

"I am happy that the Education Ministry is acting against those who do not respect the law," he said.

Teaching Civics the Jewish Way

By Hillel Fendel March 14, 2010

The Orot College, together with Yeshivat Hesder Petach Tikvah, has come up with a new teachers-training civics program, based on Torah sources and the full legitimacy of the religious-national camp.

The teachers will study the current Education Ministry program, but at the same time will also receive tools to deal with conflicts that arise between the religious public and the state institutions.

Peres shows religious side in rare visit to ultra-Orthodox heartland

By Yair Ettinger March 12, 2010

President Shimon Peres said yesterday that if it were up to him, all Jews would observe the Sabbath and work only six days a week - "as the Torah commands."

Speaking on an official visit to the predominantly ultra-Orthodox city of Bnei Brak, Peres said he was proud that the state and the IDF released yeshiva students from military service so they could devote their life to Torah study.

President makes official visit to Bnei Brak

By Ron Friedman March 11, 2010

The next stop was a visit to I-Rox, a hi-tech outsourcing company managed and staffed completely by haredi women from Bnei Brak. Peres toured the office and spoke to the employees, asking them about their experience at the job and the difficulty of balancing a career with a traditional haredi lifestyle.

“The secular society in Israel must create the conditions to enable more haredim to work, both women and men, that means the ability to have men and women work separately and during reasonable hours that will allow them to continue their traditional lifestyle.
We must put a stop to the isolation. It is necessary for the future of the nation and the economy,” said Peres.

If they ask the president

By Nehemia Shtrasler Opinion March 12, 2010

Despite the disgraceful self-disparagement, we should remember that the State of Israel was established by secular Jews, contrary to the propaganda of the Haredim who wanted to wait for the Messiah.

The economy was built by secular Israelis contrary to Ponovezh wheeler-dealers, who sanctified idleness. Our culture and literature were also promoted by the secular community, as was the IDF that protects everyone, including the draft-dodging Haredim.

Getting Charedim to work

By Nathan Jeffay March 11, 2010

Israel's fast-growing Charedi community is traditionally characterised by low employment, high poverty and dependence on charity and benefits. How to change this has become a perennial question of Israeli politics.

Israel's leading sociologist on the Charedi community, Menachem Friedman of Bar Ilan University, described rising employment in Modiin Illit as a "very optimistic development".

But he said there is a glass ceiling on what the Modiin Illit approach can achieve without the Charedi community reconsidering its reluctance to teach secular subjects in schools. Many Modiin Illit workers have unskilled and low-paid jobs.

"Without a change in attitudes towards education the main problem remains - they can't access the mainstream Israeli job market," said Dr Friedman.

Arabs are too young - but ultra-Orthodox are just right

By Jack Khoury March 10, 2010

"The program in question, which was initiated at the request of the Planning and Budgeting Committee of the Council for Higher Education, is intended for the ultra-Orthodox community and is a unique program that offers students homogeneous classes (the classes are held at the university extension in Bnai Brak). Therefore only this program could be suited to students who are 19."

Haifa City Hall Wins Appeal against Local Belzer Chassidic Community

By Yechiel Spira March 10, 2010

Haifa City Hall appealed the decision of the city’s magistrate’s court, and emerged from the district court with a victory, overturning the lower court’s decision granting the local Belz community rights to the shul in question.

VIDEO: First Ever "Kosher" Mobile Internet in Israel

By Yoni Kempinski March 10, 2010

Cellcom-Israel, one of Israel's biggest mobile providers and Internet-Rimon, a company which provides "clean" internet, have released a new development in the field of mobile-internet.

Haredi Lithuanian community heads back cult leader Chen March 12, 2010

Leaders of the haredi Lithuanian community have expressed their support for cult leader Elior Chen, who has been charged with ordering his followers to beat and abuse eight siblings whose mother belonged to his sect.

Channel 10 documentary shows X-ray rabbi's influence radiating to business sector

By Ophir Bar-Zohar March 14, 2010

Rabbi Yaakov Yisrael Ifergan, who has been nicknamed the X-ray rabbi, is the subject of a documentary to be aired on Channel 10 this evening, which will report the rabbi is an adviser to numerous Israeli business people.

Secular locals protest planned building of city for up to 150,000 haredim March 14, 2010

Dozens of secular residents of the community of Harish were demonstrating on Highway 65 (Wadi Ara) on Sunday in protest of a government plan to build a large haredi city in the area.

Katzir-Harish is a municipality near Haifa bordering on the mostly Arab Wadi Ara area.

Its residents claim a recently drafted plan to build the new city does not take into account a decision by the National Building and Planning Committee to build a city for only 50,000-60,000 inhabitants, as opposed to 150,000 as is specified in the draft.

Jews and Arabs protest against planned Haredi city

By Ben Hartman March 14, 2010

The plan to build the large haredi community in Harish has received heavy support from Interior Minister Eli Yishai and Housing Minister Ariel Atias.

In December, following similar protests, the National Building and Planning Council approved the haredi development in Harish, but clarified that it must be limited to only 50,000 residents.

In early December, the Menashe Regional Council held a partial strike to protest the Harish construction plans, out of fears that a city of 150,000 would change the rural nature of their area, whose Jewish communities are largely secular, while Wadi Ara region in general is heavily Arab.

H&M hysteria, Haredi style

By Ofer Petersburg March 14, 2010

Photo courtesy of Miriam Wolke

A commotion broke out when Neturei Karta members arrived with loudspeakers and called out to the crowd: "Modesty, gentlemen, modesty. We don't want any mix up here. Women must not be with men."

The ice cream chain's owner, Yaakov Halperin, immediately organized two queues, one for men and one for women. Iron barriers were dispatched to the area and the men and women were separated. Each time, eight men were allowed to enter the store, followed by eight women.

Shas spiritual leader: Don't mourn Jews who give bodies to science

By Yair Ettinger March 14, 2010

The spiritual leader of the Shas party, Rabbi Ovadia Yosef, has declared in latest set of religious rulings that Jews who donate their bodies to science or commit suicide do not deserve to be mourned in the traditional Jewish way.

From Israel, a radical way to boost organ donation

By Aron Heller, The Associated Press March 14, 2010

Israel is launching a potentially trailblazing experiment in organ donation: Sign a donor card, and you and your family move up in line for a transplant if one is needed.

The new law is the first of its kind in the world, and international medical authorities are eager to see if it boosts organ supply. But it has also raised resistance from within Israel's ultra-Orthodox Jewish minority.

Litzman: I'll Resign Before I Move Graves March 14, 2010

Deputy Health Minister Yaakov Litzman said Sunday he would rather resign than move graves located on a lot where a missile-proof emergency room is set to be built for Barzilai Hospital in Ashkelon.

Health Ministry staffers, MK Adatto oppose threat to D-G

By Judy Siegel March 14, 2010

[The Israel Antiquities Authority] said that the site is comprised of “two burial systems,” including a central room with graves emanating in three directions. They have colored plaster and stucco, and the site was the victim of grave robbers, the authority added.

…The authority added that the style of the Barzilai graves is similar to that of 70 other graves dug up in the Coastal Plain, including elsewhere in Ashkelon, and in none of them was any sign of a Jewish connection found. Some of these graves had frescoes, which “testify to those buried being pagans or Christians.”

A 'baba' is born

By Tamar Rotem March 12, 2010

Anthropologist Yoram Bilu’s new book "Shoshvinei hakdoshim" ("The Saints' Impresarios: Dreamers, Healers and Holy Men in Israel's Urban Periphery," the University of Haifa; in Hebrew)

Dr. Boaz Huss of the Jewish philosophy department at Ben-Gurion University of the Negev, who studies new kabbalistic groups, proposes that these new tzaddikim not be regarded as tricksters or as suppliers of opium to the masses, but rather as a type of agents of the New Age, who faithfully reflect culture in the post-modern era.

"The mass following of tzaddikim today is not a matter of turning to tradition," explains Huss, "but a new creation with elements of traditional culture.

Rabbinate Meat Supervisors to be Investigated March 14, 2010

The Comptroller's Office has informed the Ometz Good Government organization that it intends to investigate meat production abroad conducted under the supervision of the Chief Rabbinate.

Rav Pinto Elected as Sephardi Chief Rabbi of Ashdod

By Yechiel Spira March 10, 2010

HaGaon HaRav Chaim Pinto Shlita has been elected as the Sephardi chief rabbi of Ashdod after the city has had only an Ashkenazi rav for about nine years. Rav Pinto received 46 of the 48 votes.

Rising from the ruins

By Gil Zohar March 12, 2010

Turning to discuss the operation of the rebuilt Hurva, Arazi explains that though built by the JQDC in accordance with the decision of the government, the synagogue will be jointly operated by the company and the Western Wall Heritage Foundation.

Rehovot’s Chief Rabbi Simcha Hacohen Kook has been appointed as rabbi for the 200-seat synagogue.

The Hurva’s symbolism Editorial March 14, 2010

Twice destroyed and twice rebuilt, the Hurva synagogue is a symbol of the Jewish people’s tenacious insistence on returning to its rightful land against all odds.

VIDEO: First Visit to the Rebuilt Hurva Synagogue

By Yoni Kempinski March 18, 2010

The restoration and construction of the Hurva Synagogue in the Old City of Jerusalem nears completion, with the dedication of the synagogue scheduled for Monday, March 15.

The Hurva Synagogue will be dedicated on the eve of Rosh Chodesh (first day of the Hebrew month) Nissan, 5770 (the day construction of the Biblical Tabernacle was completed), in the presence of ministers, Members of Knesset, rabbis and other dignitaries.

The synagogue will host regular prayer services, visitors and tours. During the opening week, the Company for the Reconstruction and Development of the Jewish Quarter will conduct free tours during the day and will show a sound and light presentation during evening hours.

Religion and State in Israel

March 15, 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.

Religion and State in Israel - March 15, 2010 (Section 2)

Religion and State in Israel

March 15, 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.

[People with no religion] "There's a special offer for new members"

Haaretz Cartoon by Eran Wolkowski March 10, 2010

MK David Rotem, have you forgotten the promise you made to your voters about civil marriage?

By Yair Ettinger March 12, 2010

The chairman of the Knesset Constitution, Law and Justice Committee, MK David Rotem (Yisrael Beiteinu) works on matters of religion and state affecting the country.

Rotem, who is an Orthodox Jew, has been conducting negotiations for over a year with Chief Rabbi Shlomo Amar and with Shas over formulating the conversion and civil partnership bills - the two laws the party promised its electorate in the last campaign season, mainly for those who immigrated from the former Soviet Union.

The conversion bill has been met with criticism from both the Orthodox and the Reform streams, whereas the proposal civil partnership bill is coming under attack from those in favor of civil marriage in Israel, who say that it will not be able to solve the problems of those "with no religion."

Knesset c'tee approves civil marriage bill for final reading

By Dan Izenberg March 9, 2010

The Knesset Law Committee on Tuesday approved for second and final readings a bill paving the way for civil marriages for Israeli couples if both members are registered in the Population Registry as not having any religion.

The Association for Civil Rights in Israel issued an opinion on the bill saying it would provide a solution for only about 170 couples, or 3.8 percent of all the couples who marry each year.

“The bill does not give a suitable solution to those registered as not having a religion,” ACRI wrote. “It continues the discrimination and unfair treatment of this sector.”

Controversial civil union bill up for discussion

By Tomer Zarchin March 10, 2010

The bill would enable two such people to be recognized as a couple by signing a contract that would be notarized by a "couplehood registrar" - a new office that the bill would establish.

Meretz MK: Pared down civil marriage bill 'political bluff'

Amnon Meranda March 9, 2010

MK Shlomo Molla from Kadima said to Rotem:

"I still don't know how we will vote on the bill. However, we must say honestly to the public: This is a civil marriage between Shas and Yisrael Beiteinu."

Turning into theocracy

By Yair Rotkovich Opinion March 9, 2010

Yair Rotkovich is one of the founders of the Tkasim website, the Portal of Jewish Secular Rites

What we have here is a cynical move created by the Haredi sect: The Jewish State will be absurdly asking some of its citizens – who view themselves as Jewish and who moved to Israel based on this – to deny their personal Jewish identity only in order to allow them to be recorded in the marriage registry.

Hundreds cry 'Jerusalem is not Tehran' in protest over gender segregation on buses

By Nir Hasson March 14, 2010

"Segregated bus lines coming your way soon!"

One of the protesters read out a letter from Kadima chief and opposition leader Tzipi Livni.

"Those who push women to the back of the bus seek to push women away from taking an equal and central place. Those who agree to see women pushed to the back allows them to be pushed back from any other position of influence in Israeli society," Livni wrote.

"Anyone being silent when women are pushed to a marginal and invisible place lends a hand to a process that will see women pushed from leadership in academia, business, the army and politics."

Protestors: Israel is not Tehran

By Ronen Medzini March 13, 2010

Speaking at the protest, Jerusalem City Councilor Rachel Azaria said that Jewish law provides no justification for forcing women to the back of buses.

"A man who is unable to sit next to a woman must go back home and work on his urges," she said.

Nir Pereg, a member of the Forum for a Free Jerusalem, said that he was saddened to see the current Israeli government "blinding the public with matters of terror and security, while failing to cope with social issues and with the country's future image."

Click here for Photos from demonstration: 1, 2, 3, and 4

Apartheid City?

By Rabbi Dow Marmur Opinion March 14, 2010

We've been wondering when ordinary citizens of Israel will say to the fanatics that enough is enough.

The single demonstration has, alas, not turned the tide, but the support it got from Tzipi Livni, the Leader of the Opposition, suggests that there're at last some stirrings. Perhaps one day even politicians in power will say No to the haredim.

Local Jews divided over treatment of women at Wall

By Justin Jacobs March 11, 2010

Women of the Wall - Anat Hoffman

“I don’t think pressure from Americans will have an impact,” said [Marne] Rochester, who made aliya in 1990.

“It may also strengthen the case that this is about American Reform Jews, not about Israelis.
When I don’t agree with the American Jewish community [view on Israel], I say they shouldn’t have a say because they live there and not here. It would be hypocritical to say that they should now, just because we agree.”

Off the wall politics

By Akiva Eldar Opinion March 12, 2010

In the coming days the State is required to deposit at the Jerusalem District Court its position concerning renovations of the Mugrabi Gate at the entrance to the Temple Mount (Haram al-Sharif).

[Rabbi Shmuel Rabinowitz] has already informed Judge Moussia Arad that he objects to her proposal to build the new bridge on one of the batteries on which the bridge that collapsed three years ago stood.

He is insisting on his request to install a suspended bridge on the Mugrabi slope in order to enlarge the women's section and ease the crowding in the Western Wall plaza.

Nearly Half of Israeli Bar Mitzvahs Celebrated at Western Wall

By Hillel Fendel March 9, 2010

Over 40 percent of Israeli families who had the choice celebrated their sons’ Bar Mitzvah at the Western Wall in 2009, the Western Wall Legacy Foundation reports. Many families from abroad did the same.

Put an end to monopoly

By Michael Graetz Opinion March 9, 2010

Rabbi Michael Graetz is one of the founders of the Masorti Movement in Israel

If Israel is to be able to claim that it is a “Jewish State” it must return to that original mentality and conception.

In practice that would mean disestablishing the “religious establishment” that is the Chief Rabbinate and its court system, and in its place create a “Religious authority” that would fairly and justly support and grant authority and State legitimacy to all streams of Judaism.

Yes, there are issues on the boundaries, but there would be almost unanimous agreement on those boundaries. Indeed, the existence of established movements with members, institutions, history etc. would be a major factor in deciding who is included and who is not.

U.S. State Dept. 2009 Human Rights Report: Israel March 11, 2010

c. Freedom of Religion

The government implemented policies including marriage, divorce, education, burial, and observance of the Sabbath based on Orthodox Jewish interpretation of religious law, and allocations of state resources favored Orthodox Jewish institutions.

According to government figures, during the year the budget for religious services and religious institutions for the Jewish population was 96 percent of total funding.

Religious education amounted to more than 1.1 billion NIS ($263 million) of the approximately 1.5 billion NIS ($405 million) of the overall budget.

Religious minorities, comprising slightly more than 20 percent of the population, received approximately 55 million NIS ($14.5 million).

See also International Religious Freedom Report 2009

'Jews for Jesus baker not kosher'

By Dan Izenberg March 10, 2010

The High Court of Justice on Tuesday ordered the Ashdod Rabbinical Council to provide documents proving that the kashrut terms demanded of a Jews for Jesus baker were identical to those demanded of the Jewish bakers in the city.

The decision came at the end of a hearing on a contempt-of-court petition filed on behalf of Pnina Conforty, a Jews for Jesus follower whose kosher certification had been revoked in 2006 because of her religious affiliation.

“Court rulings must be obeyed,” Justice Ayala Procaccia told the state’s representative, attorney Hani Ofek, at Tuesday’s hearing.

Ofek asked the court for more time, explaining that the rabbinate and the State Attorney’s Office were conducting an “institutional dialogue” and looking for a “practical solution” to the High Court’s order.

“There is a problem here,” replied Procaccia. “The High Court handed down a ruling. I have never heard of a case in which the court handed down a clear ruling and the rabbinate is looking for a ‘practical solution.’ We specified the solution.”

Is anyone out there listening to the Supreme Court?

By Dan Izenberg Opinion March 10, 2010

During the hearings, the state and the Ashdod Rabbinate argued that because she was not Jewish, Conforty could not be fully trusted to observe the kashrut strictures and therefore must hire a “trustee,” a concept based on religious law (Halacha), from among her employees, to supervise the baking procedures throughout the day and make sure kashrut was observed.

...During the three years of hearings up until the court’s ruling last June, the state never raised this argument.

On the contrary, it maintained that because Conforty was not Jewish, her level of trustworthiness was lower and therefore she was required to have a trustee.

Marranos in Reverse? March 9, 2010

In Jewish eyes they are apostates, but a group of "Messianic Jews" living in Israel say they follow authentic Jewish lives in the footsteps of Jesus.

Spiritually akin to the Jews for Jesus movement, they differ in one salient respect: they tend not to engage in overt proselytizing. They are also much more informally organized, consisting mostly of local leaders and followers who maintain their faith through personal relationships and e-mail lists. a country where identity, citizenship, and religious affiliation are intertwined with still-vivid historical memories, the presence of these Messianic Jews poses a unique challenge to the broadmindedness of Israeli society.

Haredi service now

By Shahar Ilan Opinion March 11, 2010

The author is vice president of research and information at Hiddush, an association promoting religious freedom and equality.

It is now clear to all: Yeshiva students can serve, both in the army and in civilian frameworks. But to ensure that this happens in ever-growing numbers, more programs with suitable conditions must be created.

Another Haredi battalion should be established, but most of the programs should integrate the Haredim into the rest of the army, as the Shahar programs do, while taking their special needs into account.

…At the same time, massive allocations to the ultra-Orthodox parties must stop.

Parents of combat soldiers enraged over Peres' exemption remarks

By Yoav Zitun March 11, 2010

Statements made by President Shimon Peres Wednesday in favor of exempting yeshiva students from IDF service sparked furor among anti-draft-dodging activists. The Israeli Forum for the Promotion of Equal Share in the Burden sent a harsh protest letter to the president on Thursday.

During his visit in the Ponevezh yeshiva Peres said,

"I am very proud that the State and the IDF have agreed to release the young people who are dedicating their lives to their studies."

Click here for VIDEOS of President Peres visit (Hebrew): 1 and 2

March sees record rate in hesder students' recruitment March 13, 2010

The annulment of the settlement between the IDF and the Har Bracha yeshiva hasn't affected hesder students' motivation to serve in the IDF.

Many yeshiva students joined the Givati Brigade on Monday and were assigned to a separate and integrated company.

Some 850 yeshiva students are slated to enlist in the army during the month of March, 73.5% of whom will serve as combatants in Golani, Givati and Kfir Brigades as well as in Combat Engineering, Field Intelligence and Armored Corps units.

The Hesder Yeshivot Union stated that the March 2010 enlistment round has seen a record in the number of hesder yeshivot recruits.

Religious: We are more moral March 9, 2010

An overwhelming majority of the religious sector believes that members of the national religious community uphold family values better than the general public (96%), invests more in children's education than the general public (91%), and is more moral than the general public (74%).

The study also revealed that a vast majority of respondents prefer that religious families live in mixed secular-religious neighborhoods and towns without segregating themselves from the general public.

A vast majority of the religious public (83%) is opposed to full equality between men and women in religious functions within the family, such as making Kiddush, blessing the challah, etc.

Engaging Israel: Beyond Advocacy

By Rabbi Donniel Hartman Opinion March 9, 2010

It is time for us to recognize that the Jewish community in general and Israel in particular have failed to develop a new Jewish narrative for the Jewish people around the world on which to base their relationship with Israel.

...The Jewish community is not in need of an Israel advocacy campaign of facts and figures alone, but also of a new Jewish narrative based on Jewish ideas and values for engaging Israel in a way that will help integrate Israel into a modern Jewish identity.

Alan Hoffman: Immigration in the future will be out of 'choice'

By Raphael Ahren March 12, 2010

The Jewish Agency's recently publicized shift in priorities - putting Jewish identity building ahead of immigration to Israel - does not mean the agency is abandoning its traditional role, according to incoming director-general Alan Hoffmann.

While slowly revising its agenda toward a stronger focus on educational programs and initiatives connecting world Jewry with Israel, the organization's final goal ultimately remains to promote aliyah, he asserted.

U.S. rabbi backtracks on Negev settlement pledge

By Raphael Ahren March 12, 2010

A prominent U.S. rabbi is backtracking on his widely touted commitment to establish a utopia-like community made up of Anglo immigrants and native Israelis in the planned Negev town of Carmit.

"We haven't closed the door on Carmit but we are a definitely looking at other possibilities in the Be'er Sheva area," the liberal Orthodox Rabbi Asher Lopatin, of Chicago, told Anglo File last week.

"We are still committed to building a new pluralistic and diverse and environmentally sound community. Everything is on the table, everything that's in the Northern Negev."

Peoplehood and Jewish Culture

By Bob Goldfarb Opinion March 14, 2010

Bob Goldfarb, a regular contributor to eJewishPhilanthropy, is the president of the Center for Jewish Culture and Creativity in Jerusalem and Los Angeles.

As the Jewish Agency formulates its plans for the future, it also should recognize the unparalleled power of culture to make individual Jews feel a strong, personal connection to one another.

Jewish culture offers many pleasures, but it is much more than a form of entertainment. It’s the enduring expression of our lives as part the Jewish people.

Reform Judaism in Israel: The Anatomy of Weakness

By Asher Cohen and Bernard Susser

Modern Judaism - Volume 30, Number 1, February 2010, pp. 23-45

Under the striking title "Searching for a Synagogue," a well-known Israeli journalist and television personality described his failing quest for a house of worship that would suit his purposes.

The article is worthy of attention because its conspicuous author could easily be taken as the very image of the secular Israeli sabra.

With no little bitterness, the author tells of his reservations with Orthodox synagogues-reservations that are standard for many liberal secular Israeli Jews.

He tells his readers that he occasionally frequents the central Reform synagogue in Tel Aviv (Beit Daniel) but that there too he feels alienated and out of place.

"I will probably continue going there," he writes, "but I am not Reform and I don't exactly know what Progressive [Reform] Judaism is." He continues: "Reform Judaism is essentially an American movement."

Moreover, the author finds the attempt to Israelize the American movement artificial and unappealing.

Managing Global Migration: A Strategy for Immigration Policy in Israel

By Prof. Shlomo Avineri, Liav Orgad and Prof. Amnon Rubinstein

Editor: Ruth Gavison / Translated from Hebrew

The Metzilah Center for Zionist, Jewish, Liberal and Humanist Thought

Jerusalem, 2010 [pdf]

Israel needs a policy on immigration and a policy on immigrants. This document proposes, for the first time in Israel’s history, a comprehensive outline for such a policy.

Yishai: Falash Mura aliya to be resolved within a year

By Ruth Eglash March 8, 2010

Interior Minister Eli Yishai pledged Monday to bring the aliya of the Falash Mura to its final phase within a year, and said that after Pessah ministry representatives would head to Ethiopia to check the eligibility of some 8700 descendants of Ethiopian Jews waiting to immigrate.

Ethiopian Jews Push Israel on Immigration Right

By Peter Heinlein, Addis Ababa March 9, 2010

But the Falash Mura pose an awkward question for Israel. Public opinion is said to be divided between those who favor allowing them to immigrate, either because they were Jews by ancestry, or for humanitarian reasons, and others who argue they are simply claiming to be Jewish to escape Ethiopia's grinding poverty.

Ethiopian Jewry gets its first Haggada

By Ruth Eglash March 12, 2010

The historic saga of Ethiopian Jewry, with its unique traditions and customs, will be incorporated into the mainstream Pessah story for the first time in a new Haggada written by Ethiopian-Jewish history expert Rabbi Menachem Waldman.

Shas MK: Naked exhibition is prostitution

By Amnon Meranda March 11, 2010

Shas MK Nissim Zeev claimed the idea of "taking mass naked photos in the holy land" was crazy.

"I understand that he has an artistic task, but it's interesting how any form of prostitution has become art. That's the way it is lately," Zeev said.

Israeli officials divided over mass nude photo initiative

By Merav Yudilovitch March 11, 2010

A report published by the Yedioth Ahronoth daily Monday regarding the possible arrival of American controversial photographer Spencer Tunick to Israel sparked both excitement and harsh objection in the Jewish state.

Let us pray on Mount

By Yitzchak Reuven Opinion March 12, 2010

The author, Yitzchak Reuven, is the Director of Multimedia at the international department of The Temple Institute in Jerusalem

The Temple Institute has declared this coming Tuesday, March 16, the first of the month of Nisan, to be International Temple Mount Awareness Day.

We call upon our supporters to petition the government of Israel for change, and are inviting all who feel a connection to the place of the Holy Temple to join us as we ascend the Mount.

The gathering is intended to be one of religious expression and is not political in nature. Our intentions are only peaceful.

In the likely case that we are denied our democratic right to be seen and to be heard on the Mount, we will disperse peacefully.

Religion and State in Israel

March 15, 2010 (Section 2) (see also Section 1)

Editor – Joel Katz

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

All rights reserved.