Monday, December 13, 2010

Religion and State in Israel - December 13, 2010 (Section 1)

Religion and State in Israel

December 13, 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.

Rotem threatens to bring IDF conversion bill to Knesset

By Rebecca Anna Stoil and Jonah Mandel December 13, 2010

After the cabinet delayed a decision on a bill to confirm the status of conversions carried out by the IDF, Israel Beiteinu struck back on Sunday evening, threatening to put the coalition-splitting measure up for vote on the Knesset floor.

If action is not taken to ensure the status of IDF conversions by Wednesday morning, the bill that has pitted Israel Beiteinu against Shas will be placed before the Knesset.

Converting conversions Editorial December 12, 2010

The State of Israel should promote conversions among non-Jewish Israelis who are interested as a means of fighting intermarriage.

But it should do so by authorizing a diverse group of recognized and responsible rabbinical organizations – Orthodox, Conservative and Reform – to perform conversions. These organizations would also be empowered to register converts for marriage.

...the only logical solution is to reduce the state's direct involvement in the inherently religious question of “who is a Jew?” or “who is a rabbi?” by privatizing the conversion process and opening it up to a wider range of rabbinical organizations.

Cabinet fails to vote on IDF conversions

By Attila Somfalvi December 12, 2010

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu decided Sunday not to hold a government vote on the military conversions bill.

Netanyahu discussed the matter with Shas Ministers Eli Yishai and Ariel Atias for two hours, and the three agreed that Chief Sephardic Rabbi Shlomo Amar would make a decision on the matter.

MK Margi defends Shas position on military conversions December 12, 2010

Shas MK Ya'acov Margi responded to Israel Beiteinu MK David Rotem's criticism to Shas's opposition to a bill proposed by Israel Beiteinu to recognize the autonomous and legitimate state of military conversions, effectively detaching them from the supervision of the Chief Rabbinate.

Deal could head off coalition crisis over conversions

By Mazal Mualem December 12, 2010

A compromise is in the works that would head off the crisis over the bill mandating state recognition for conversions performed during military service.

Under the arrangement, Shas would not oppose putting the bill to a preliminary vote in the Knesset on Wednesday.

Israel Beiteinu, Shas lock horns over IDF conversion bill

By Rebecca Anna Stoil and Jonah Mandel December 12, 2010

With two key coalition parties going head-to-head in Sunday’s government meeting over IDF conversions, Israel Beiteinu threatened that government acquiescence in Shas’s opposition to an Israel Beiteinu-sponsored bill would constitute a violation of their coalition agreement.

MK Rotem: Shas trying to divide military, civil converts December 12, 2010

MK David Rotem (Israel Beiteinu) announced his opposition to the creation of two separated conversion tracks to Judaism in Israel on Sunday during an interview on Army Radio.

"Two types of conversion is not good from a legal standpoint," Rotem said during the interview. "Now they [Shas] are creating a division between civil conversions and army conversions."

Shas: PM to 'bury' IDF conversion law

By Attila Somfalvi December 12, 2010

Knesset Member David Rotem of Yisrael Beiteinu said Shas' ministers were "trying to distort reality by claiming that the bill harms the status quo, but it's clear to all that the real damage to the status quo was caused when Rabbi Amar failed to voice a firm stand against the conversions' validity and did not speak out against those who questioned them. In the past, and more than once, Amar was the one who praised and glorified this conversion process."

Israel Beiteinu demands gov’t back IDF conversion bill

By Rebecca Anna Stoil and Jonah Mandel December 8, 2010

According to reports, Amar is seeking to convene a new council from within the Chief Rabbinate to help reach a decision on the halachic standing of the IDF conversions, after a previous committee to that effect dissolved at the end of October.

Rabbi Yosef: Yishai's critics jealous

By Kobi Nahshoni December 12, 2010

Shas Chairman Eli Yishai said last week that the harsh criticism thrown in his direction following the Carmel fire disaster was due to his Sephardic origins.

On Saturday night, Shas' spiritual leader Rabbi Ovadia Yosef came out in his support, attacking Yishai's critics and claiming that they were operating out of foreign and irrelevant considerations.

If God sent the fire, he owes us firemen

By Geoffrey Paul Opinion December 9, 2010

Geoffrey Paul is a former editor of the Jewish Chronicle

What should not be beyond the Interior Ministry is to devise compulsory service as firefighters for a proportion of those yeshivah students the government would otherwise be asked
to bankroll.

Immediately, a potential force of thousands becomes available and, with Shas backing "their boys", the funds should also be there for the kind of firefighting equipment that will give Israel a better chance should another potentially murderous fire break out. Surely there is something in the halachah which would allow this to receive the rabbi's blessing.

We're all (not) to blame

By Yossi Verter December 10, 2010

Aryeh Deri, interviewed on Channel 10, condemned the attacks on Yishai, saying the problems with the fire services didn't start today, and he proposed training yeshiva students to serve as firemen.

A typically brilliant move on his part: On the one hand, he portrays himself as a sympathetic patron working for the benefit of the Shas electorate, but in the same breath, he nods in the direction of the secular public with his proposal that yeshiva boys be integrated into the labor market.

Yishai should be ashamed

By Amnon Lorch Opinion December 7, 2010

Amnon Lorch is a partner in the law firm of Yigal Arnon and Co.

The political link between religion and state is among the reasons that brought this grave disaster upon us; a disaster produced by politicians who care about sectarian rather than national affairs.

These people are by definition not allowed to exercise judgment as they operate in line with the orders of rabbis who did not engage in core studies, thereby connecting the 21st Century Israel to Jewish tradition in line with their own interpretations.

Former Shas chairman Aryeh Deri: Train yeshiva students as firefighters

By Akiva Novick December 7, 2010

As the flames in the north died down, former Shas chairman Aryeh Deri came up with a surprising proposal to counter the storm surrounding the yeshiva student law: Recruit yeshiva students into the firefighting services by way of national service.

"They will bring blessings," Deri said during an interview with Channel 10. "Just as there are organizations like ZAKA, there could also be an ultra-Orthodox organization of firefighters.

Yishai: I'm being lynched because I am ultra-Orthodox, right-wing and Mizrahi

By Yair Ettinger December 6, 2010

What's the reason for the "lynch atmosphere"?

"Someone wrote in an article online today saying the answer might lie in a minister who is Sephardi-Mizrahi, right-wing and Haredi. It's a combination everyone likes to attack, it doesn't matter whether it is justified or not. If it weren't Eli Yishai, a cabinet minister who acted this way would be a star, he would be praised for warning in time."

Shas Minister Yishai refused fire truck donations from Christian group

By Gil Shefler and Gil Hoffman December 6, 2010

Israeli firefighters could have received a shipment of brand new fire trucks that would have helped quell the fires that raged over the weekend on Mount Carmel, killing 41 people and turning tens of thousands of dunams into an ashen wasteland.

Instead, a charity group charged Sunday, Interior Minister Eli Yishai refused to accept donations from pro- Israel Christians and thus denied the underfunded Fire and Rescue Service much-needed equipment.

Be a scholar, not a prophet

By Morey Schwartz Opinion December 6, 2010

The writer is the author of Where’s My Miracle, Exploring Jewish Traditions for Dealing with Tragedy.

Why is it that when faced with catastrophe many Torah scholars set aside their knowledge and study of halakhah, which I would assume fills up the majority of their study time, and resort to feigning some sort of pseudo-prophetic knowledge based on Talmudic or midrashic homiletics (often cited completely out of context!)?

Ovadia Yosef: Fires Only Happen Where Shabbat is Desecrated

By Dan Brown Opinion December 9, 2010

And where are our Jewish leaders – the same ones who spoke forcefully and often about the proposed changes to the conversion law this summer?

Don’t they realize the damage to both individuals facing devastating loss and the Jewish people being created by statements such as this?

Don’t they realize the influence Ovadia Yosef carries among a not insignificant portion of the Israeli public? Don’t they realize the power Shas has to tip almost any piece of legislation?

Through the eyes of Israel's secular white male

By Merav Michaeli Opinion December 7, 2010

Eli Yishai complains that he is being "lynched" for being "Mizrahi" (of Middle Eastern descent) and "Haredi" (ultra-Orthodox). He is right, but he cannot wash his hands of his part in this.

[Shas] achieved sweeping success in its first goal - bringing the masses back to religious observance and vastly expanding the religious education system, from nursery schools to yeshivas.

But the condition for this success is seclusion and separatism, segregation from Israeli society, avoiding military service, shunning a general education and staying out of the labor market. In other words, increasing ignorance, poverty and social gaps.

Shas Eli Yishai ranks lowest on ministerial performance poll

By Gil Hoffman December 7, 2010

Israelis view Communications Minister Moshe Kahlon, Environmental Protection Minister Gilad Erdan and Finance Minister Yuval Steinitz as the best-performing ministers in the government, according to a poll for The Jerusalem Post.

They considered Interior Minister Eli Yishai the worst-performing minister, the poll shows, even before acute criticism was directed at him as the minister in charge of the firefighters who struggled to extinguish the conflagration in the Carmel.

Carmel Fire Victim: Rabbi Uriel Malka

By Hillel Fendel December 6, 2010

Prison Rabbi Uriel Malka, father of five from Karnei Shomron, was one of the 36 prison cadets to be consumed by the Carmel fire.

Rabbi Malka grew up in the city of Yavneh, studied in the Karnei Shomron hesder yeshiva, and became an IDF rabbi. He spent two years teaching in Winnipeg and Denver, building ties to many dozens of students who contributed photos, videos and memories to the special Uriel Malka memorial website in both Hebrew and English.

Does God Cause Natural Disasters?

By Rabbi Brad Hirschfield Opinion December 8, 2010

So what's the problem with Rabbi Ovadia, or any other religious leader who makes such proclamations about the relationship between global events and divine justice?

It's not that they are necessarily wrong, though I believe with all my heart that they are. The problem with them is their arrogance and their insensitivity.

Chief of Staff: Yeshiva students significant force in IDF

By Hanan Greenberg December 12, 2010

Chief of Staff Lt. - Gen. Gabi Ashkenazi responded to criticism of the IDF hesder yeshivas program, saying "yeshiva students come to the IDF armed with faith and a strong desire to contribute."

IDF chief: Hesder yeshivas important to Israel's defense

By Anshel Pfeffer December 12, 2010

"This is one of the most beautiful expressions of Zionism, of Judaism, of the unity of the nation," Ashkenazi said.

Paratroops OC’s views over hesder spark dismissal calls

By Yaakov Katz and Jonah Mandel December 13, 2010

Calls are mounting for disciplinary action to be taken against Paratroopers Brigade commander Col. Aharon Haliva, who reportedly said that he hates the hesder yeshiva military track, under which soldiers do only 16 months of active military service.

Several yeshivas are reportedly considering canceling their students’ planned enlistment in the Paratroopers Brigade after Haliva, who previously served as commander of the IDF’s Officer Training School, known as Bahad 1, told a group of soldiers that he cannot stand the hesder program.

The Surreal Treatment of the Women of the Wall in Israel: Where is the Outrage?

By Dr. Moses L. Pava, Yeshiva University Opinion December 7, 2010

Photo: Women of the Wall

These kinds of prayer groups, while controversial among the right wing of Orthodoxy have become relatively commonplace in Modern Orthodox circles.

In fact, in my own hometown of Springfield, MA, best known as the birthplace of basketball and almost never mentioned for its avant-garde and cutting-edge behavior, a women’s prayer group is scheduled for this coming Shabbat, at our own Modern Orthodox synagogue.

But religious women prayer groups that are ho-hum and business as usual in Orthodox circles in Springfield, MA provoke intense, visceral, and primitive reactions among the fervently religious in Jerusalem.

Women of the Wall: Rosh Chodesh Tevet December 8, 2010

A noteworthy escalation took place today when security guards stopped Women of the Wall board member Danielle Bernstein at the entrance to the Western Wall plaza upon discovering a volume of the Talmud, Tractate Ta’anit, in her bag.

Rabbi of the Western Wall: "We are brothers, are we not?"

By Rabbi Shmuel Rabinowitz Opinion December 8, 2010

The foolish attempt to present an “alternative historical narrative” for Israel’s sacred sites harms not only the credibility of the speakers and the honor of history, but also – and perhaps mostly – the real efforts being made at reconciliation between the two sons of Abraham.

PA journalists support author of Western Wall report

By Khaled Abu Toameh December 8, 2010

The Palestinian Journalists Syndicate in the West Bank on Monday expressed its solidarity with Al-Mutawakel Taha, the senior Palestinian Authority Ministry of Information official who recently published a “study” denying Jews’ rights to the Western Wall.

The five-page document, which first appeared on the official website of the ministry, has been strongly condemned by Israel and the US.

Leading rabbi pounds Schechter for 'non-kosher' response to labor dispute

By Raphael Ahren December 10, 2010

A prominent American Conservative rabbi sharply condemned one of the movement's flagship institutions in Israel over the way it has been conducting a labor dispute.

Rabbi Jill Jacobs accuses the Jerusalem-based Schechter Institute of Jewish Studies of breaking Jewish law and acting against the spirit of the Conservative movement in trying to keep some 30 faculty members from striking.

Peace group denied permission to operate Chabad-like stand at Ben-Gurion airport

By Zohar Blumenkrantz December 8, 2010

Heller said that on his frequent trips abroad he has noticed the presence of the Chabad stand, where passersby are asked to put on phylacteries.

Heller said he has nothing against Chabad, which does good work around the world. "But I cannot understand why a specific religious group has its own stand in an open area in an international air terminal," he said. "This is a phenomenon I have not experienced anywhere else in the world."

Meet, pray, love ... eventually

By Jonathan Lis December 9, 2010

In a city like Jerusalem, it's not easy to be a religious male who stays single past his early 20s. His parents fret; matchmakers lose their patience; and worshippers in synagogues give him pointed looks. Katamon and Nahlaot, two neighborhoods filled with Orthodox singles, constitute the "big swamp" and the "little swamp."

National-religious group to counterbid for Jerusalem project

By Avi Shauly December 9, 2010

"Globes" disclosure of the Palestinian identity of the expected buyer of Digal Investment and Holdings Ltd. (TASE: DIGL), through a debt settlement, has aroused a storm Israeli national-religious groups. Bemuna Ltd., owned by Israel Zeira, which develops neighborhoods for this community around the country, plans to submit an offer to purchase Digal's flagship residential project, Nof Zion, in eastern Jerusalem.

New exhibit tells story of Bnei Menashe December 12, 2010

In recognition of the Bnei Menashe’s successful absorption in Israel, the Minister of Immigrant Absorption Sofa Landver, will unveil a new exhibition depicting the story of this unique community.

The exhibition will be launched on Wednesday at the Ministry of Immigrant Absorption in Jerusalem. A ceremony will be held in the presence of Minister Landver; Shavei Israel founder and Chairman Michael Freund; Kiryat Arab Municipality head Malachi Levinger and Bnei Menashe community Leaders.

Hundreds march for "freedom of religion" in Jaffa

By Yoav Zitun December 10, 2010

Hundreds of Muslim and Christian residents of Jaffa took to the streets Friday in protest against a complaint filed by residents of a luxury apartment complex, who say the noise emitted by mosques and the nearby St. George's Cathedral is too loud.

Jaffa: Neighborly noise dispute turns nasty

By Yoav Zitun December 9, 2010

Over the last few weeks, the heads of mosques were summoned to the 'Green Police' offices of the Ministry of Environmental Protection. There it was claimed that the muezzin's calls to prayer, which can be heard from the Siksik mosque and the Jebalya mosque in the Ajami neighborhood, disturb the other residents in the area and make too much noise.

St. George Church on Louis Pasteur Street also came under scrutiny.

Night of Poetry and Music in Tel Aviv December 8, 2010

On December 22, Hillel Israel will sponsor "Erev Piyut," a night of poetry and music featuring some of Israel's most renowned rock stars. It is a celebration of Israel's modern cultural achievements balanced with the traditions and heritage of the Jewish faith.

The Andelusit orchestra will accompany such artists as Kobi Oz, Din Din Aviv, David D'or, Etti Ankri and Eran Zur. The event will be held at Tel Aviv's prestigious Heichal Hatarbut Hall.

PHOTO Essay: The secret world of Christian Jerusalem

By Gali Tibbon — Special to GlobalPost November 24, 2010

Click here for PHOTO Essay (Click "Full Screen" logo)

It's a secret world through a labyrinth of chapels and altars, a kaleidoscope of colors and textures, a unique fusion of people and cultures.

Tucked away, deep in the maze of winding, narrow streets in Jerusalem’s Old City, stands the Church of the Holy Sepulcher, one of the most famous religious sites in the world.

Religion and State in Israel

December 13, 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 - December 13, 2010 (Section 2)

Religion and State in Israel

December 13, 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.

Special comprehensive coverage on Rabbis Letter

Let the rabbis go Editorial December 9, 2010

City rabbis’ public declaration against Arab Israelis illustrates the difficulty of balancing Israel’s Jewish and democratic dimensions. To protect religious freedom as well as Israeli democracy, city rabbis should stop receiving a salary from the state’s coffers.

If rabbis wish to express their opinions, let them do so as individuals, not as representatives of the State of Israel.

Report: Rabbi Ovadia Yosef refused to sign no-rent letter

By Jonah Mandel December 12, 2010

A group of Right-wing activists recently approached head of Shas' Council of Torah Sages Rabbi Ovadia Yosef in an attempt to convince him to add his signature to the letter against renting or selling land in Israel to non-Jews, Channel 2 reported Sunday night.

Likud MK Benny Begin: Measures needed against no-rent rabbis

By Jonah Mandel December 12, 2010

“From a moral-public point of view, the city rabbis should not be able to continue to proceed carrying on their public responsibilities, if they do not retract their letter, as some have already done,” Begin pointed out.

A disturbing desecration of Jewish values

By Rabbi David Rosen Opinion December 12, 2010

The writer is the Jerusalem-based international director of interreligious affairs of the American Jewish Committee.

Rabbi Eliahu and his colleagues represent not only a halachic regression and a capitulation to scaremongering, but they are guilty of nothing less than chilul hashem, a desecration of the Divine Name, and an embarrassment to our Jewish heritage.

Rabbis Against Religious Discrimination December 11, 2010

To our rabbinic colleagues in Israel,

We, rabbis serving in congregations and communities across the world, are turning to you for your assistance and leadership at a time of crisis. The recent halakhic ruling from community rabbis in Israel that forbids leasing apartments to non-Jews has caused great shock and pain to our communities.

Public invited to inform on those renting to Arabs

By Yair Altman December 12, 2010

The Lehava organization issued a notice Sunday evening, inviting the public to call a voicemail service and record the names of Jewish Israelis renting apartments to Arabs.

Rabbis summoned over anti-Arab ruling

By Yair Altman December 12, 2010

Three prominent Judea and Samaria rabbis have been questioned by the Jerusalem District Police on suspicion of calling on their followers not to hire minorities.

According to the police, the three were summoned about two weeks ago as part of an investigation against a leaflet issued by some 20 rabbis after the terror attack at the Mercaz Harav Yeshiva in Jerusalem.

We Must Help Save Israel from Itself

Rabbi Gary S. Creditor Opinion December 10, 2010

For many reasons, we, the Jews of Klal Yisrael, the totality of the Jewish people must condemn, denounce and repudiate this letter, action and ideology. It does not represent us or our Judaism.

It violates the democratic charter of the State of Israel. It undermines the rule of law. It is racist. It propagates a distorted vision of Jews verses the world and the purpose of a Jewish state.

Keeping Israel Jewish and pure - and democractic if there's time

By Zvi Bar'el Opinion December 12, 2010

This is not a face-off between the state and criminals who understand the risks of violating the law.

This is a face-off over the monopoly on ethics, between the state and those it has granted authority to determine the boundaries of ethics. The war of a state which has comprehended too late that religion has no boundaries.

Hanukkah: No miracle flames this time

By Rabbi Andrew Sacks Opinion December 6, 2010

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

As I see it we have two options. We can actually prepare for the next emergency (the option I would select) or we can check our Mezzuzot (which while I would suggest this be done I do not for a moment think this will keep tragedy at bay).

And shame on those rabbis who denied a dignified burial to one of the victims owing to doubts about her Jewish identity. The Judaism I know demands respect for all people.

Democracy and Religion Clash in Israel…Again

By Niv Elis and Sophie Taylor Opinion December 9, 2010

While the negative repercussions have by no means been halted, it is comforting to know that Israel is using the weapons of democracy–laws, public dialogue, and the force of liberal ideas–against its anti-democratic voices. Indeed, these are the most powerful weapons a democracy has.

Racism, Zionism or Halacha?

By Jonah Mandel December 10, 2010

The fact that more than 250 prominent rabbis could sign the letter is only due to the legal system’s inaction in Eliahu’s case, Einat Horowitz, an attorney for IRAC, said on Thursday.

“They have a deep fear of dealing with the rabbinic and religious establishment, and that fear is the downfall of us all,” she said of the legal establishment headed by Weinstein and Neeman.

Former MK presses charges against 'racist' rabbis December 10, 2010

Former Labor MK Nadia Hilu pressed charges against the rabbis who signed a petition saying Jews shouldn't sell or rent homes to gentiles, Israel Radio reported.

Hilu, a Christian Arab, said that "the letter is a criminal offence, inciting violence and violating democracy." She reportedly filed an official complaint with the police.

Joint Ban by 300 Israeli Rabbis on Renting Homes to Arabs Draws Several Press Releases in Protest

By J.J. Goldberg Opinion December 10, 2010

Of course, the prime minister could take a stand and demand action. That is, if he cared. So far there’s no evidence that he does. One might hope that the minister of justice would speak out, but the minister, Yaakov Ne’eman, is on the record as advocating that rabbinic law be given greater standing within Israeli law.

It’s also hard to see the government, especially a government of the right and religious parties, going toe to toe with the country’s spiritual leadership on what the holy men view as a fundamentally religious obligation, a matter over which a secular government should have no authority.

Where to draw the line?

By Nati Tucker Opinion December 10, 2010

So why are the second-tier local rabbis more willing to sign a letter with an extremist political view: Jews in, Arabs out?

The reason is simple: The ties between religion and the state are the strongest for them - both ideologically and financially. Neighborhood and city rabbis receive their salaries from the government, and the leaders of the religious Zionist movement totally identify with the state and its values - as opposed to the Haredim.

Halakhic Guidance for New Realities

By Rabbi Marc D. Angel Opinion December 11, 2010

The rabbis--in their concern for strengthening the Jewish population in Israel (especially in the North)--ignore the democratic principles upon which Israel was founded; foster discriminatory policies against non-Jewish Israeli citizens; shame Israel in the eyes of the democratic world; justify anti-Jewish policies in territories and countries under non-Jewish control.

These rabbis demonstrate a pre-modern mindset that does not factor in the real needs and responsibilities of a sovereign democratic Jewish State.

Renting Apartments to Gentiles

By Rabbi Gil Student December 9, 2010

This is part of the struggle to create a halakhic model for the modern State of Israel. How do we adapt halakhah to the reality in which we find ourselves today?

Gentiles living in a Jewish society is a new development and the application of halakhah to this new situation is debated.

Leading rabbi denounces colleagues' edict against renting homes to non-Jews

By Yair Ettinger and Tomer Zarchin December 10, 2010

Rabbi Yosef Shlomo Elyashiv, who has criticized the letter in private conversations over the past few days, said yesterday: "I've said for some time that there are rabbis who must have their pens taken away from them."

Amid uproar, two rabbis pull their names from letter forbidding rental of homes to Arabs

By Yair Ettinger December 9, 2010

Rabbi Simcha HaCohen Kook and Rabbi Yaakov Edelstein said they decided to remove their names from the letter because they did not agree with its content.

What No Rabbi in the World Outside Israel Would Ever Say

(Or What Israel Can Learn from World Jewry)

By Rabbi Donniel Hartman Opinion December 9, 2010

Why is this happening again? Why are rabbis in Israel continually susceptible to these types of moral, ideological lapses, which never seem to plague their colleagues, Orthodox and liberal alike, who live around the world?

Attorney General to check if rabbis' statements were legal

By Jonah Mandel December 9, 2010

With a view toward possible prosecutions, Attorney-General Yehuda Weinstein has instructed his office to examine whether “criminal and disciplinary aspects allegedly exist” in the letter signed by nearly 50 municipal rabbis that prohibits renting or selling a house or plot of land to a non-Jew in Israel.

Fire the Rabbis

By Liel Leibovitz Opinion December 9, 2010

If Netanyahu is sincere in his condemnations, he should instruct his attorney general, Yehuda Weinstein, to take immediate actions against the rabbis and make sure they no longer enjoy the prestige and the public funding that comes with their posts. Anything short of such direct action is shameful.

Yad Vashem: Forbidding rental to Arabs is a blow to Jewish values

By Nir Hasson December 9, 2010

The Yad Vashem Holocaust Memorial on Thursday decried a religious ruling signed by dozens of prominent Israeli rabbis forbidding Jews from renting homes to gentiles, deeming it a "severe blow to the values of our lives as Jews and human beings in a democratic state."

Racism at the expense of Israeli citizens

Haaretz Editorial December 9, 2010

Religious Services Minister Yaakov Margi must now bring disciplinary measures against the instigating rabbis as the first step in their dismissal.

Only firing them from public office will deter other rabbis from such callous racism. It's highly doubtful that the minister, who belongs to the ultra-Orthodox Shas party, will do so; the attorney general must therefore instruct him to act in this spirit.

Knesset Speaker: Racist rabbi's letter shames the Jewish people

By Merav Michaeli December 9, 2010

Knesset Speaker Reuven Rivlin:

My view is unequivocal: The attorney general must determine if this is considered incitement; and the interpretation that something is permissible according to Jewish law does not stand in the way of putting people on trial for incitement.

Public figures ask attorney general to take action against 'racist' rabbis

By Tomer Zarchin and Yair Ettinger December 9, 2010

A group of public figures, intellectuals and academics asked Attorney General Yehuda Weinstein Tuesday to take action against the rabbis who signed a religious ruling calling for people not to rent homes to non-Jews.

Israel's legal establishment silent amid uproar over 'racist' rabbis

By Yair Ettinger and Tomer Zarchin December 9, 2010

Neither Justice Minister Ya'akov Ne'eman nor Attorney General Yehuda Weinstein has responded to a petition calling for legal action, and while aides have indicated that the matter will be dealt with, their stance on the matter remains unclear.

Peres criticizes petition banning sale of land to non-Jews

By Greer Fay Cashman December 8, 2010

President Shimon Peres on Wednesday issued a sharp rebuke against those rabbis who published an edict forbidding the rental or sale of housing to Arabs.

In a strongly worded statement Peres said that the rabbis are generating a moral crisis that runs counter to the essence of a Jewish and democratic state, and are thereby doing great harm to the State of Israel.

Peres: Rabbis' ban 'an ethical crisis'

By Roni Sofer December 8, 2010

Minister Avishay Braverman called on Attorney General Yehuda Weinstein to launch a criminal investigation against the rabbis, saying that "as a minister and a proud Jew – any refusal to rent apartments is wrong. I am ashamed."

Leading Haredi rabbi refuses to endorse letter forbidding the rental of homes to Arabs

By Yair Ettinger December 8, 2010

Although the authors of the rabbinical edict forbidding the sale or rental of homes to non-Jews managed to collect the signatures of 39 leading rabbis around the country, they failed to enlist a leading Haredi rabbi, chair of the Degel Hatorah Council of Sages, Aaron Leib Steinman.

Hundreds protest against rabbis' letter

By Ronen Medzini December 8, 2010

The national outcry against the rabbis' letter urging citizens not to sell or rent apartments to non-Jews continues: Around 150 people protested on Wednesday in front of the Jerusalem Great Synagogue.

The protestors carried signs reading, "Rabbis' letter – public blasphemy". Violent arguments between protesters and a few far-right activists occurred at the scene.

Top Israel Rabbis: Don't Sell Property To Non-Jews

By Amy Teibel December 7, 2010

Rabbi David Rosen, the interfaith adviser to Israel's chief rabbinate, described the rabbis' action as "disturbing" but said he did not think that the majority of the country's rabbis would agree and called it a product of the lingering conflict between Israelis and Palestinians.

"The rabbinate as a whole isn't xenophobic or hostile to Arabs," Rosen said. "As long as the conflict goes on here, it's logical to assume that the attitudes of all sides will harden, which is deeply regrettable."

Op-Ed: Fight the fire of racism

By Yael Gvirtz Opinion December 8, 2010

Indeed, we were presented with Judaism that withdraws into itself, ignorant and intoxicated with power. The kind of Judaism that is wholly blind to the wisdom of the Talmud and of Maimonides.

This fire is still burning: Racism is spreading

By Rabbi Michael Marmur Opinion December 7, 2010

The writer is vice president for academic affairs of the Hebrew Union College-Jewish Institute of Religion.

The questions then become: How do you understand the essence of Judaism, and how long are you prepared to stay silent as the soul of Judaism is kidnapped?

The declaration by these rabbis is shameful, harmful and wrong. Its argumentation may be sound, but its core is putrid. It demonstrates a breathtaking lack of understanding for the basic currency of life in a liberal democracy.

MKs, rights activists protest rabbinic prohibition

By Lahav Harkov December 7, 2010

The Association for Civil Rights in Israel said on Tuesday that Netanyahu should "firmly denounce" these rabbis, and Justice Minister Ya'acov Neeman should order an investigation.

Rabbis' 'racist ruling' slammed

By Kobi Nahshoni December 8, 2010

Rabbi Yehuda Gilad, who heads the Ma’aleh Gilboa yeshiva, characterized the ruling as a "grave twisting of the Torah, in a manner that contradicts basic moral and human values."

39 municipal rabbis issue ruling against renting homes to non-Jews; PM, ministers up in arms

By Jack Khoury and Yair Ettinger December 8, 2010

The president of Tzohar, Rabbi Ya'akov Ariel, yesterday issued a response to the rabbis' letter, which interprets certain biblical injunctions as prohibiting the sale of land to non-Jews.

PM blasts rabbis' calls not to sell apartments to non-Jews

By Herb Keinon and Lahav Arkov December 7, 2010

Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu roundly condemned on Tuesday the call by dozens of rabbis not to rent apartments to non-Jews, saying that the Torah teaches to "love the stranger."

Top rabbis move to forbid renting homes to Arabs, say 'racism originated in the Torah'

By Chaim Levinson December 7, 2010

"Racism originated in the Torah," said Rabbi Yosef Scheinen, who heads the Ashdod Yeshiva. "The land of Israel is designated for the people of Israel. This is what the Holy One Blessed Be He intended and that is what the [sage] Rashi interpreted."

He added that he did not see the move as racist so much as segregationist.

40 rabbis: Jews shouldn't rent, sell homes to gentiles December 7, 2010

One of the best-known National-Religious rabbis, Rabbi Shlomo Aviner, signed the letter, as did Yosef's son, Rabbi Yaakov Yosef. Haredi leader Rabbi Yosef Shalom Elyashiv and Rabbi Avigdor Neventzal of Jerusalem's Old City also signed the letter.

50 municipal rabbis: Don't rent flats to Arabs

By Kobi Nahshoni December 7, 2010

Most rabbis are public servants working in municipalities and cities across Israel including Eilat, Ashdod, Herzliya, Jerusalem, Kfar Saba, Naharia, and Holon.

End: Special comprehensive coverage on Rabbis Letter

J'lem chief rabbi criteria to change after Barkat petition

By Jonah Mandel December 9, 2010

The committee for selecting Jerusalem’s chief rabbis will have to change the criteria it was using, following a High Court of Justice hearing on Wednesday during which the justices accepted the claims of Jerusalem Mayor Nir Barkat that the current selection process is faulty.

...According to the petition, the selection of the committee’s members violated the rules of proper conduct, and aimed to promote the selection of haredi rabbis.

Israel Chief Rabbi Shlomo Amar Visits Yeshiva U.

By Maayana Miskin December 12, 2010

Rabbi Shlomo Amar, the Chief Sephardic Rabbi of Israel, recently paid a visit to Yeshiva University in the United States.

He gave a Torah lecture to students at the Rabbi Isaac Elchanan Theological Seminary (RIETS) and met with several rabbis and teachers at the school.

Laloum to Yishai: Act against segregation in Haredi schools

By Jonah Mandel December 6, 2010

The driving force behind the Emmanuel school High Court of Justice petition is threatening Shas chair Interior Minister Eli Yishai with another legal intervention if he does not keep his word and take concrete actions to put an end to racial discrimination at haredi schools.

In a letter last week, Yoav Laloum reminded Yishai of his recent commitment to form a rabbinical committee that would oversee and regulate the acceptance of girls to high schools, one of the resolutions following the Emmanuel affair.

Orthodox Jews Donating Organs to General Public

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'Chain of living donors' proposed to cut wait for organ recipients

By Dan Even December 10, 2010

Work is underway on a major initiative to increase organ transplants in Israel. This response follows the May 2008 law that formally outlawed organ trafficking and virtually closed the door on funding of transplants abroad by the health maintenance organizations.

Fiddling while the candles burn

By Tamar Rotem December 6, 2010

According to Menachem Friedman, professor emeritus of sociology at Bar-Ilan University and an expert on ultra-Orthodox society, Hanukkah is a time when lighthearted behavior is permitted.

No work may be done while the candles are lit, but the time must still be filled with content. Many of the admors amuse themselves by engaging in the holiday customs: playing with the traditional spinning top, or dreidel; doling out Hanukkah gelt to the Hasidim; and, perhaps, playing the violin.

Tapping into Haredi ad market

By Meirav Crystal December 8, 2010

The ultra-Orthodox market is a unique commercial micro-cosmos that has been growing right under our noses.

But who are the publicists and consumers of this special sector, a sector that is very hard to advertise for since its people buy out of necessity and not out of pleasure.

Desires of the Flesh and Spirit

By Steven Philp December 6, 2010

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Following a handful of screenings in the United States and Canada, the critically acclaimed Israeli film Eyes Wide Open was released on DVD for North American consumers this past month.

The debut of director Haim Tabakman is a nuanced examination of the conflict between the desires of the flesh and the spirit; it finds its particular power in the recognition that these two spheres are often closer than we care to acknowledge.

Written by Merav Doster, the film is set in an ultra-Orthodox neighborhood of Jerusalem where the daily rhythm is defined by the obligations of work, family, and fulfilling mitzvot.

Soulmate Wanted

By Yehudah Mirsky Opinion December 8, 2010

Slowly but surely, the divide between Ashkenazim and Sephardim in Israeli society is ebbing.

But in one sector it continues to stand fast. This is the community of the ultra-Orthodox, or Haredim, obsessed with issues of purity and boundaries—to the point of not only separating from other Israelis, religious and non-religious alike, but, on the part of Ashkenazi Haredim, enforcing strict internal divisions between themselves and their ethnically suspect and allegedly less rigorous Sephardi brethren.

Israeli Chabad emissary nabbed in Madrid with 4kg of cocaine

By Eli Ashkenazi December 7, 2010

A Chabad emissary from Safed was arrested in the Madrid airport late last week after being found in possession of four kilograms of cocaine.

57, a father of six who works for the global charity organization Kollel Chabad, was returning to Israel from Costa Rica, where he was fund-raising for a soup kitchen operated by Kollel Chabad in Safed.

Religion and State in Israel

December 13, 2010 (Section 2) (see also Section 1)

Editor – Joel Katz

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

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