Monday, May 24, 2010

Religion and State in Israel - May 24, 2010 (Section 1)

Religion and State in Israel

May 24, 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.

Pagan Altar Exposed at Barzilai Hospital May 22, 2010

The development work for the construction of a fortified emergency room at Barzilai Hospital, which is being conducted by a contractor carefully supervised by the Israel Antiquities Authority, has unearthed a new and impressive find: a magnificent pagan altar dating to the Roman period (first-second centuries CE) made of granite and adorned with bulls’ heads and a laurel wreaths.

The altar stood in the middle of the ancient burial field.

Preserving honor

By Rabbi Shlomo Brody Opinion May 22, 2010

The author, online editor of Tradition and its blog, Text & Texture (, teaches at Yeshivat Hakotel.

In the Barzilai case, prominent haredi decisors initially declared that the life-saving benefits were not instantaneous enough to justify removing the bones. Yet based on the above sources, the Chief Rabbinate reasonably – and correctly, in my opinion – concluded that the fortified emergency room suffices as an urgent public need and warrants the dignified reburial of the ancient bones.

Burial for the "Barzilai Bones"

By Refael Ovadia / Kuvien Images May 22, 2010

Funeral procession for Barzilai bones held in Jerusalem

By Kobi Nahshoni May 21, 2010

The Atra Kadisha organization and members of the Eda Haredit, who headed the struggle against the relocation of the graves at the Barzilai Medical Center in Ashkelon, held a funeral ceremony on Thursday in Jerusalem for the bones removed from the ER construction site

Israel's ultra-Orthodox angry over bones relocation

AFB May 20, 2010

"The bones have been given to the (religious) undertaker to be buried in a Jewish cemetery, since there is a possibility they are Jewish," a spokesman for the religious affairs ministry told

Some 700 Haredim riot in Jerusalem after graves removed from Ashkelon ER site

By Liel Kyzer, Yair Ettinger and Nir Hasson May 17, 2010

The Jerusalem municipality on Sunday evening cut off services to a number of ultra-Orthodox neighborhoods, after hundreds of protesters clashed with police during demonstrations against the state's decision to relocate ancient remains buried at the site of a planned emergency room in Ashkelon.

Haredi protests in Jaffa resume; 40 arrested

By Ronen Medzini May 17, 2010

The damage from the riots carried out by members of the Eda Haharedit Sunday is valued at NIS 1 million (about $270,000).

A Ynet investigation revealed that the municipal coffers will bear the burden of the protesters' vandalism, which included damage to garbage bins, roads, vehicles, traffic lights, and street lights.

Suspicion: Haredim behind Beit Shemesh area forest fires

By Shmulik Grossman May 20, 2010

Firefighters managed to extinguish three different forest fires in the Ramat Beit Shemesh area on Thursday.

According to the firefighters, the haredim started the fires as an act of protest against the relocation of ancient graves in Ashkelon. The firefighters said they had to ward off haredim who were trying to disrupt the efforts to contain the blazes.

Mofaz: Livni was mistaken to attack haredim

By Gil Hoffman May 17, 2010

Opposition leader Tzipi Livni’s rival in Kadima, MK Shaul Mofaz, has attacked her in an interview with a chain of haredi newspapers, saying that it was wrong of her to adopt an anti-haredi line in recent weeks.

“I think that at least half of Kadima is against the anti-haredi campaign,” Mofaz told the Kav Itonut Datit chain. “I read some of Livni’s statements and I completely disagree with them.”

Haredim captive to radicals

By Kobi Nahshoni May 21, 2010

The Atra Kadisha organization and members of the Eda Haredit, who headed the struggle against the relocation of the graves at the Barzilai Medical Center in Ashkelon, held a funeral ceremony on Thursday in Jerusalem for the bones removed from the ER construction site.

Jerusalem: Haredim riot, block main road

By Shmulik Grossman May 17, 2010

Some 200 ultra-Orthodox demonstrators made their way to Sabbath Square in Jerusalem Monday, torching trash cans and blocking the main road into the city.

61% of Israeli Jewish couples are dual-earners May 17, 2010

71% of secular Jewish couples have two breadwinners, compared with 19% of haredi (ultra-orthodox) couples. 25% of haredi have no breadwinners.

Intel insider

By Guy Grimland May 20, 2010

Five months ago, controversy erupted in Jerusalem over Intel's decision to start running its production line on Shabbat. Thousands of ultra-Orthodox demonstrated in front of the factory. Ultimately, the sides reached a compromise whereby Jews would not work there on Saturday.

What is your opinion of the ultra-Orthodox protest? Is there any way to explain this to Intel's global leaders?

"You can explain it, but it is undoubtedly harder to explain to someone who is not Jewish. Maxine Fassberg, the general manager of Intel Israel, handled the affair well. The explanation given was that this was an internal political problem in Israel. Intel's leaders have placed their faith in Intel Israel's executives, who have proven that they know how to defuse local problems.

Israel faces threat from ultra-Orthodox

By Tobias Buck (free registration may be required) May 21, 2010

The ultra-orthodox are coming to be seen as a heavy burden. Calls for reform of their schools are growing, as are demands to draft yeshiva students into the army. Ron Huldai, the mayor of Tel Aviv, declared this month that the state must act against “insulated and ignorant sectors which are increasing at a frightening speed and are jeopardising our political and financial strength”.

According to Mr Ilan, the tensions will increase. The next Israeli election, he argues, “will be fought on the subject of religion and the state”.

Mixing Torah and flour

By Judy Siegel-Itzkovich May 23, 2010

Interview with Dana-Picard, the new 55-year-old president of the Jerusalem College of Technology (JCT)

A decade ago, JCT developed a special framework – Machon Naveh – for haredi yeshiva students who could spend evenings studying for a degree.

Today, JCT schools have more experience teaching haredi men (and women) engineering and other hi-tech professions than any other institution of higher learning in the country, says Dana-Picard.

Dana-Picard says there are 300 haredi men at JCT, most of them – with black kippot or long sidecurls – studying in the same classrooms with national-religious male students in their modern dress and crocheted skullcaps.

Poll: 83% of haredim suffer ethnic discrimination May 23, 2010

Participants were asked whether they, or anyone they know, have been victims of ethnic discrimination when applying their children to an educational institution.

Fifty five percent of respondents replied negatively, 34% said they knew someone who was subject to discrimination and 11% testified of having experienced such discrimination themselves.

The survey analysis found that 63% of seculars said they have not experienced discrimination, while 51% of traditional, 59% religious and 83% haredi respondents were exposed to it either personally or through an acquaintance.

Liberating the Hurva

By Peggy Cidor May 21, 2010

“The Hurva belongs to Jerusalem and all the Jewish people,” said City council member Rachel Azaria.

“There is no way we are going to give up and leave it to haredi hegemony. As with the gender-segregated buses, there is no other way than a unified struggle by secular and religious – all the Zionists factions – to have it be open to the general public. We have proven in the past that when we are determined to fight back, we get results,” she asserts.

Report: Rabbis order 'pirate' school to obey high court May 23, 2010

High ranking rabbis on Sunday ordered the management of the haredi girls' school in Emmanuel to create a single stream for all students in compliance with a High Court order.

Court rules on 'pirate' Ashkenazi school May 17, 2010

The Supreme Court issued a ruling Monday fining Ashkenazi parents in Emmanuel, unless they resume sending their children to the local Beit Ya'acov Girls' School with Sephardi pupils.

Starting May 25, each parent will be fined NIS 200 per day that their children do not attend the school.

How not to teach core subjects

By Yedidia Stern and Shay Piron Opinion May 23, 2010

Prof. Yedidia Stern is vice president of the Israel Democracy Institute. Rabbi Shay Piron is executive director of Hakol Hinuch, the Movement for the Advancement of Education in Israel.

The right of every Israeli student to receive an education that helps him realize his talents and pursue a life that is meaningful and integrated into society must be protected.

...The goal of offering Haredi children a future which involves integration into a productive life is likely to be interpreted within that community as an effort to tear down their sacred walls.

Ex-Charedim challenge school system

By Anshel Pfeffer May 21, 2010

Professor Amnon Rubinstein, a former education minister; Elazar Stern, who served as the chief of the IDF's Education and Personnel Corps; Professor Uriel Reichmann, president of the Interdisciplinary Centre at Herzliya; and a group of young men who were raised in the Charedi community, but are now secular, have joined together to try to end this situation.

The formerly Charedi petitioners are currently students who had to spend years learning basic English and mathematics before they could take up their places at university.

Furthering Pluralistic Jewish Education in Israel: An Evaluation of the Meitarim School Network

By Ezra Kopelowitz, Stephen Markowitz Research Success Technologies March 2010

This report offers an evaluation of Meitarim, an educational network which promotes pluralistic Jewish education in Israel. Meitarim seeks to address the increasing social divide between secular and religious Jews, with Israeli schools serving as a major source of the problem.

Nahal Haredi Comes of Age

By Jonathan Rosenblum Opinion May 17, 2010

Jonathan Rosenblum is a columnist for the Jerusalem Post and Israeli director of Am Echad.

The issue of the Chareidi community’s failure to share in the burden of army service is poised to explode.

So long as Chareidim were a small percentage of the country, their non-service did not undermine the IDF’s ability to serve as a source of social cohesion.

From NCSY to Nahal Haredi

By Bayla Sheva Brenner May 17, 2010

Bayla Sheva Brenner is senior writer in the OU Communications and Marketing Department.

Josh Tresser, nineteen, of Cleveland, Ohio, had plans to graduate public high school, go off to college in Colorado and snowboard to his heart’s delight. Becoming a Torah-observant Jew and a soldier in the Israeli army was definitely not on his itinerary. As the saying goes, God laughed.

Rav Ronsky Preparing to Step Down

By Yechiel Spira May 23, 2010

In another week IDF Chief Rabbi Brigadier-General Avichai Ronsky will step down and return to civilian life, perhaps to his yeshiva.

The next frontier

By Jonah Mandel May 18, 2010

Last November, the Union of Hesder Yeshivot and the military launched a new four-year hesder track composed, all-in-all, of two years of study and two years of service, in what is at once a beckon to draftees seeking meaningful army time, and a means for the IDF to counter its dwindling enlistment figures.

Probing Kashrut Pitfalls in Jerusalem: An Interview with Investigative Journalist Yechiel Spira

By Steve K. Walz May 18, 2010

What are the biggest scandals or problems associated with kashrut you've found in Jerusalem?

The most common, and perhaps the most serious, involve stores advertising themselves as "kosher" or "kosher-mehadrin" while lacking legitimate kosher certification. Even more disturbing is the fact that some members of the religious community continue to patronize these establishments. Some people are unaware and some are unable to navigate thekashrut scene in Hebrew - and that includes tourists and new immigrants alike.

Religion and State in Israel

May 24, 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 - May 24, 2010 (Section 2)

Religion and State in Israel

May 24, 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.

Religious rifts continue to plague Israel May 24, 2010

Anat Hoffman, founding member of “Women of the Wall”, has had enough – just last week a friend of hers was rushed to hospital after being hit with chair while she was praying.

Rabbi Uri Regev has set up an organization to challenge the growing power of the ultra Orthodox parties who sit in the Israeli government.

He says while most Israelis still favor freedom, equality and pluralism – it’s only a small majority.

“That percentage is going to change if we wait much longer – at this point if we assert the interests of the state, the public, democracy and Israel’s own founding vision we can still reverse that tide.”

Noa Raz, Beaten for Wearing Tefillin, Speaks to The Sisterhood

By Debra Nussbaum Cohen May 17, 2010

Noa Raz was raised a Masorti Jew in the Israeli town Rishon LeTzion. She said that she’s hoping that Jews in the U.S. will feel moved to get more involved with Israel as a result of the Haredi man’s attack on her.

“There are a lot of voices in America that talk about leaving Israel behind. We still live here and fight for our right to pray as we want, and to love whoever we want to love,” Raz said.

“That’s something we need your help with, so please don’t leave us alone. The best thing that the Jewish diaspora can do is to keep supporting Israel, the Conservative movement and the Reform movement, all the hard work we do to try to create a better society here.”

Woman assaulted for tefillin imprint

By Dan Verbin May 22, 2010

A Jewish woman was assaulted in Beersheba after an ultra-Orthodox man spotted imprint lines from a tefillin on her arms.

According to a release from the Israel Religious Action Center, Noa Raz was accosted last week by the man in Beersheba’s bus station while waiting to board a bus that she takes to her job in Tel Aviv.

Anat Hoffman:

"Too often these acts of violence are tolerated. The fact that this man thought it acceptable to attack a woman for performing a religious act in private is an example of the escalation of violence targeted against women and against religious pluralists in Israel."

Women sent to the back of the bus in Jerusalem

By Anne Barker May 19, 2010

Click here for PODCAST

On an increasing number of buses women are expected to sit at the back - and those who refuse might be spat on, sworn at or even assaulted.

It's a sign of the growing influence of Orthodox Judaism.

Middle East correspondent Anne Barker caught a bus in Jerusalem to see for herself.

Rabbi from Gezer Region visits park, synagogue

By Rick Hellman May 21, 2010

Rabbi Gold also discussed the status of her long-running legal effort to be recognized — and paid — as an official rabbi for the Gezer Region. Her case is now before the Israeli Supreme Court.

“I’ve been to the Supreme Court three times,” Rabbi Gold explained. Her appeal at having been denied recognition by the regional, Orthodox-controlled religious council went directly to the Supreme Court.

...“The court is being more affirmative about saying in a democracy, there must be a place for more than one way of expressing Judaism; that the non-Orthodox streams are legitimate.”

The patience of Job

Kansas City Jewish Chronicle Editorial Opinion May 21, 2010

Rabbi Miri Gold has exhibited the patience of Job in her quest for recognition from the state of Israel and, if not recognition, then accommodation by its Orthodox religious establishment.

Vandals hit Reform and Masorti synagogues in Ra'anana

By Noah Kosharek May 24, 2010

Two non-Orthodox synagogues in Ra'anana have been vandalized in the space of one week.

On Thursday vandals threw bricks at the Ra'anana Masorti Congregation, breaking two of the Conservative synagogue's windows, and the week before, vandals broke six windows in the Reform synagogue Kehilat Ra'anan, according to police reports filed by members of both congregations.

Our Judaism Editorial May 17, 2010

Just as the desert does not belong to anyone, so, too, the Torah is not the personal property of anyone – not the Chief Rabbinate, not the Eda Haredit, not any other group.

More and more Israelis are realizing that while some adherents to “Judaism” choose to express their loyalty in distorted ways – including by preferring the dead to the living – there are other aspects of Judaism that are positive, relevant and meaningful.

Battle heat up over prayers in Jerusalem

By Anne Barker May 17, 2010

Click here for PODCAST

Anat Hoffman:

"There should be room in that place for every Jew, regardless of their practice. What we're doing is according to halacha, according to Jewish Law. It's just changing the custom a little bit."

Are you religious or secular?

By Rabbi Marc D. Angel Opinion May 15, 2010

Instead of imposing two categories on the Jewish public, students of Jewish life should be trying to elicit the vast diversity within the Jewish community.

They should be sensitive to the fact that a large majority of Israeli Jews have a religious dimension to their lives that is important to them.

Instead of blithely writing people into the category of "secular/hiloni", they should try to evaluate the nature of the Jewish religious, spiritual life of the people.

Moreover, they should seek to understand that even religious Jews have "secular" qualities e.g. integrate modern secular values into their lives.

Livni organizes Jewish identity mega-conference

By Gil Hoffman May 23, 2010

At a time of deepening tension on matters of religion and state, who can bring top Israeli ultra-Orthodox, religious Zionist and Reform rabbis together at one conference, under one roof, in Jerusalem?

Opposition leader Tzipi Livni, apparently.

On panels moderated by professors from the capital’s Shalom Hartman Institute, the rabbis will discuss conversion, civil marriage, education, haredi-secular relations, and the Jewish character of the state.

Kadima activists slam Livni's conduct on Haredim

By Yuval Karni May 23, 2010

The activists protested Livni's attitude towards the haredim as well.

"The members feel that Kadima should position itself in the center and right of the political map, and one of its main missions is to serve as a bridge between different parts of the people.

This bridge will allow to head together towards painful compromises – not just on political issues, but also on issues of society, religion and state."

Report reveals stagnation in country’s conversion mechanisms

By Jonah Mandel May 18, 2010

Of an estimated 313,000 potential converts in Israel in 2009, a mere 5,507 completed the conversion process, according to a report issued by ITIM, a non-profit organization “dedicated to making Jewish life accessible to all.”

Citing data from the Central Bureau of Statistics, the report revealed that about 60 percent of the converts were of Ethiopian origin, and 29% were from FSU states.

Rabbi Gilad Kariv, head of the Reform Movement in Israel:

“The endless chain of decisions on conversion reached by Israel’s governments is useless in face of the ongoing helplessness in dealing with the crisis,” Kariv said.

“A committee of inquiry should focus on the government’s powerlessness, and point to the possible solutions to promote this important and fateful Zionist mission.”

See also: Conversion report issued by ITIM (Hebrew)

The cost of politics-as-usual to Am Yisrael

By Natan Sharansky Opinion May 17, 2010

The writer is chairman of the Executive of the Jewish Agency for Israel.

With the original proposal, we have an opportunity to improve the conversion status quo. With the amended version, we risk undoing whatever unity of purpose currently exists in the conversion system, and undermining the existing symbiotic relationship between our varied Jewish communities.

As chairman of the Jewish Agency, I strongly support the original Rotem proposal – and strongly oppose the onerous proposed amendments.

S. African beauty queen's conversion mirrors Ruth's story

By Ruth Eglash May 18, 2010

The Shavuot story of Ruth might retell the journey of the most famous convert to Judaism, but South African-born Ilana Skolnik, who became a Jew more than 20 years ago and has lived in Israel ever since, has no less of an amazing story.

Keep Dreaming: Jessica doesn't live here anymore

By David Breakstone Opinion May 21, 2010

The writer is a member of the World Zionist Organization and Jewish Agency Executives.

Jessica is real. Her story appeared in Yediot Aharonot on April 30, in a piece by Smadar Shir. The other characters in this commentary are not.

But the dilemmas they evoke are, and so are the hundreds of thousands here, and the millions more around the world who are becoming increasingly disenfranchised from the Jewish state as it leans increasingly toward a definition of “Jewish” that would exclude them.

We have enough problems today with those who would delegitimize Israel altogether. We cannot afford to delegitimize those who would passionately support us. Better that we begin conversing with them instead.

Shavuot and The Book of Ruth

Rebecca Caspi May 17, 2010

Rebecca Caspi is Director General, Israel Office/Senior Vice President, Israel and Overseas - The Jewish Federations of North America

It is our strong belief that this bill would not only fail to achieve his forecast result, but would dangerously alter the Law of Return by consolidating conversion power in the hands of the Chief Rabbinate in ways that would be disastrous to the unity of the Jewish people.

By voicing our belief in an inclusive, diverse Israel, we hope to promote greater unity and a stronger bond between Israel and Diaspora Jewish communities.

Converts pay homage to Ruth at her Hebron tomb

By Tovah Lazaroff May 18, 2010

On Monday, ahead of Shavuot, the two men came to Hebron to sit for a moment by the tomb of Ruth of Moab, a biblical convert to Judaism whose story of devotion to her mother-in-law, Naomi, and through her to the Jewish people and their faith, is central to the ancient harvest festival.

Under Israel's Divorce Laws, Men Get The Final Word

By Lourdes Garcia-Navarro April 7, 2010

Click here for PODCAST

According to Jewish law, a man has to agree to grant the divorce of his own free will before the legal separation can proceed. Rights groups say the system unfairly discriminates against women.

"If he's incapacitated, if he's abusive, if he committed adultery, it really doesn't matter," says Susan Weiss, who runs the Center for Women's Justice in Israel. "If he doesn't say yes, you're stuck."

Ramit Elon Receives her 'Get' May 18, 2010

Ramit, a mother of three, a poet and an artist, received a get today in the Haifa Rabbinical Court. This came after a bitter five year struggle in which Ramit insisted she deserved her freedom without having to make concessions or compromises.

A pregnant agunah May 18, 2010

A 'mesorevet get', who has been living apart from her husband for seven years, arrived at the Beit Din Hagadol, in her eighth month of pregnancy.

Israel 2010: 42% of Jews are secular May 18, 2010

The Central Bureau of Statistics report published Sunday reveals that 8% of Israel's Jewish population defines itself as haredi, 12% as religious, 13% as traditional-religious, 25% as traditional and 42% as secular, on a descending scale of religiosity.

After the debates regarding the percentage of haredim who are employed, the CBS report shows that most haredi men (52%) work. Among Jews of working age (25-54), some 93% of secular men participate in the labor force, 91% of those defining themselves as traditional, 94% of the religious, and 52% of the Haredim.

A Shavuot white night, in the style of the White City

By Yair Ettinger May 18, 2010

The "Torah" has always been a fluid matter that even our sages liked to take out of context. Until a few years ago the "Torah" was seen by some teachers as "text" (and yet the study session leaders have always taken a conservative approach to the famous Talmudic text "Achnai's Oven," without which no Shavuot night-study session is complete).

Today the definitions are even more fluid, and "Torah" could be a performance, a play, a movie or even a coffee corner. Everything is "Torah," including the panels in the tikkun offered by Alma College, focusing on texts about sex and sexuality.

Israeli Gay Orthodox Rabbi Seeks Recognition

By Yermi Brenner May 20, 2010

Rabbi Ron Yosef defines himself as an orthodox Jew, which means he believes in a strict interpretation of the laws and ethics that are mentioned in the Hebrew Bible.

When he was in his early twenties Yosef started becoming aware of his sexual identity.

JFNA, JAFI, JDC agree to continue cooperating May 20, 2010

The Jewish Federations of North America and its two overseas partners have agreed to continue working together to try to raise more money for overseas needs and to find a better way to split what they raise.

Absorption Ministry closes popular program for settling immigrants in cities

By Raphael Ahren May 21, 2010

The Absorption Ministry will close its popular Communal Aliyah program at the end of the year and replace it with a drastically scaled-down version.

Apartsev said North Americans were excluded from "Promoting Aliyah 2010" because they receive "significant services" from NBN, which for the first time this year received NIS 30 million from the government.

An Ethiopian Shulchan Aruch

By Stewart Ain April 7, 2010

I understand you are writing a new Shulchan Aruch or code of Jewish law to reconcile Jewish practice that was followed in Ethiopia with that which is followed in the rest of the traditional Jewish community.

I’m writing it with professor Daniel Sperber of Bar-Ilan University.

Interview with Danny Ayalon

By Rabbi Shraga Simmons May 17, 2010

Israel has a lot of Christian Zionist friends and we should harness all that goodwill.

Actually, my wife is from a Christian Zionist background. As a child, her parents would take her to synagogue on the High Holidays to show her “their roots.”

In the late 1970s, she was studying hotel management and tourism, and as part of her training could select one place in the world to get hands-on experience. Most of the students chose places like Hawaii, Paris and Tokyo. But she chose Israel.

To become married to me, she was willing to leave her family and her religion, and convert. Now years later, she is serving as a sort of an ambassador of her own, meeting with Christian groups and explaining to them exactly why it is important to support the State of Israel.

Religion and State in Israel

May 24, 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.