Friday, December 21, 2012

Religion and State in Israel - December 20, 2012

Religion and State in Israel

Editor – Joel Katz
Religion and State in Israel is not affiliated with any organization or movement.
*Special edition on Women of the Wall coming soon

In the discussion of whether to bar haredi parties from running, Chana Kahat, chairwoman of the religious women’s organization Kolech, said that ultra-orthodox women begged her to help them.

“They are afraid and threatened. I am speaking as someone who was raised in haredi society. I think the time has come to put an end to this embarrassment, this discrimination and this silencing,” Kahat stated.

Shas representative Yehuda Avidan pointed out that only two of the 33 Central Election Committee members are women.

“I’m not going to describe the appreciation that the Torah and rabbis give to women. Some think that’s just a slogan; I invite them to see how a haredi household is run. If only all women’s husbands would respect them like we respect our wives,” Avidan said.

The haredi parties’ disqualification was unilaterally rejected.

Shas and United Torah Judaism: "The parties function, as demanded by the halacha, with clear segregation between men and women for reasons of modesty. Men have one role and women have another. This segregation does not exclude women, discriminate against them nor deem them less worthy than men." 

Shas and United Torah Judaism representatives also claimed that ultra-Orthodox females won't vote for them if there are women on the party lists. "Most of the women voting for the respondents will refuse to vote if there will be women on the party list, and that is against halachic law," they added.

The petition, brought by seven organizations — Free Israel, Kolech, Pluralist Lobby, The Feminist Lobby, Jerusalem Movement, We Power, and Uncensored — [was heard] on Thursday at 2PM Israel time.

Laura Wharton: We asked these parties to be disqualified because they violate the basic law of the Knesset that says that all citizens have the right to vote and be elected. Gender discrimination has become an issue all over Israel, on buses, etcetera, but the Knesset is the most important because it affects everything else. It’s especially egregious because these are publicly funded parties that say explicitly that women can’t be elected.

Yizhar Hess, CEO of the religious Masorti Movement, fighting for egalitarianism within Jewish communities in Israel, "Were I one of the men in the leadership of the haredi parties, I would be very careful with so patronizingly discussing the role of women versus the role of men in this world."

Hess added that he believed that in the near future haredi women, "tired of a humiliating coexistence of horse and rider… will exclude the discriminating parties in the voting polls."

Laura Wharton: The right to equal pay, freedom of movement, equal services, are all things we must continue to demand. 

We must insist on the fulfillment of our Declaration of Independence, which promises “complete equality of social and political rights to all its inhabitants irrespective of religion, race or sex.”  

I think it is right to start at the heart of our government and to prevent the representation of parties that unabashedly exclude women.

MK David Rotem: “The Reform and Conservative [movements] don’t care about those 320,000* people because they won’t become Reform or Conservative. We will not recognize non-Orthodox rabbis, conversions or marriage.” 

“I don’t want them to convert in this country because I don’t need Conservative and Reform communities in this country. In this country you can be Jewish, religious or not religious, and I don’t want to change this. I don’t want a Reform rabbi to check my dishes,” he added.

Rotem said that one of his central goals was for a national- religious rabbi to be appointed as chief rabbi when the terms of current chief rabbis Yona Metzger and Shlomo Amar end next year.
“I want to have a national religious chief rabbi,” said Rotem. 

“I grew up when the Chief Rabbinate was a national- religious institution and I’m not in favor of the fact that haredi rabbis have taken it over.”

Rabbi Gilad Kariv, director of the Reform Movement in Israel, also condemned the remarks, calling Rotem “one of the most dangerous political forces in the Knesset when it comes to democratic values and the value of pluralism ... who stands against the idea that the State of Israel should be the beating heart of all Jewish people and all its streams." 

A rabbinate in which the leaders belong to ultra-Orthodox sects that do not recognize the state and who do not eat at restaurants that they certify as kosher, he stated, undermines public support for religion in Israel. 

Citing an event in which several rabbis from the rabbinate felt the need to “kasher” a restaurant that they had certified with a rabbanut certificate so that they could feel comfortable eating there, Stav said that a change had to be made.

Rabbi David Stav discussing the Tzohar rabbinical organization, an organization looking to make reforms within the Israel Chief Rabbinate.

Yishai moves on to an interview he recently held in a Jerusalem café Nachum Rosenberg, a representative from the Tzohar organization to specifically discuss the reforms.

By Rabbi Eric H. Yoffie
Rabbi Eric H. Yoffie is the President Emeritus of the Union for Reform Judaism

The revolution is coming—the religious revolution, that is.

At some point in the relatively near future, sweeping changes will be made in the laws that govern religion in the Jewish state.  I say that because the debate about such matters, both in Israel and among American Jews, is more heated now than it has been in decades. […]

I am realistic.  Change will not come overnight. Yair Lapid, who has strong views on these matters, has downplayed religious issues in his campaign.  And Avigdor Liberman, in theory a champion of religious freedom, has betrayed his party’s principles again and again, producing virtually nothing in the religious realm. 

But American Jews are aroused on these issues as never before, and Israelis are as well.

Rabbi Cherlow deserves admiration, a blessing and support for being a man when there are almost no men. 

But he cannot succeed alone. We need good people who will follow him fearlessly. And the Israeli government, which is not owned by the Orthodox and the Haredim despite their importance, must lend the innovators a hand and recognize the other Jewish denominations in stages.

By Anshel Pfeffer

The next Knesset is to be the most religious in Israel's history. It will be the first Knesset ever without a kibbutz member but over a quarter of its members can be realistically predicted to be of various shades of Orthodoxy or ultra-Orthodoxy.

...A natural reflection of demographic trends and the increasing willingness of Israelis to embrace their religious traditions as part of their daily lives, the preponderance of observant parliamentarians does not necessarily herald major changes in the political landscape. 

By Avraham (Avrum) Burg

On the one hand, American Jewish leaders constantly seek approval from Israeli authorities, the more official and Zionist the better. But time after time they encounter condemnation, disregard, humiliation and exclusion. 

On the other hand, most of the Israeli leadership understands that American Jewry, most of which is not Orthodox at all, is the rear guard of the State of Israel. Without them, the entire Israeli strategy could collapse. But still, not one of them is making any real effort to bridge the gaps. The opposite is true.

"The lecturer informed the class that everyone must wear a yarmulke, because we've agreed to that when signing the university guidelines. When one of the students complained, the professor sent him to the administration office. 

The next time that the student tried to talk to the professor about it, the professor didn’t cooperate and asked him to put on a yarmulke or leave the classroom. So he got up and left."

Bar Ilan University later on released an official statement saying that: “According to university rules, male students are obligated to wear a kippa in all Jewish studies classes. The obligation to wear a kippa in classes where religious texts are taught is made to honor the Jewish tradition and values of the institution.”

By Prof. Jeffrey Woolf

There is something terribly disingenuous (and, perhaps, hypocritical) about the attacks on my colleague. The same people who scream 'Religious Coercion' would not hesitate to remove their hats if so requested, when entering a lecture hall at Gregorian University in Rome.

By Nathan Jeffay

Without addressing the halakhic propriety of the wife’s decision to fi le a civil claim for  nezikin (damages) in civil court, we will address whether such a nezikin claim for get recalcitrance, had it been advanced in a beit din setting, would fi nd reception amongst dayyanim?

Irit Rosenblum: Exclusion of women from the public sphere is illegal and wrong. It is criminal discrimination and a crude infringement on women’s rights to freedom of conscience, expression and movement. It must be called by its true name-- a hate crime. Those promoting hate crimes must be tried and punished by law. 

Rabbi Ya'akov Yosefy l, son of Rabbi Ovadia Yosef, has issued a ruling which prohibits taking private lessons with gay teachers.

In the run-up to the January 22 election, what's happening among Haredim - Sephardi and Ashkenazi alike - is that the once-holy has lost some of its sanctity, and authority figures have become less authoritative.

Hiddush points out that Satmar gives funding to a number of schools in Israel and while it is the prerogative of the chassidus to boycott the elections in Israel, offering payments to others is unacceptable and Hiddush calls on the election committee to inform Satmar that local law applies to the chassidus as well.

By Alon Idan

"Only a strong Shas can take care of the weak," it is written on buses and bridges throughout the land. That's almost accurate: Only a strong Shas can take care that the weak stay weak.

Veteran Israeli educator and Education Prize awardee Sarah Eliash was arrested this week on the Temple Mount on charges of praying at the site, activists in organizations advocating open Jewish prayer at the site said.

Eliash was released shortly after her arrest, but activists demanded that her arrest be expunged altogether. In addition, they demanded that the government arrange for official prayer times on areas of the Mount permissible to Jews, similar to the arrangements made at the Machpelah Cave in Hevron. 

“It is unacceptable that Jews will not be able to visit and celebrate at the site where the Hanukkah miracle actuallytook place,” the groups said.

The challenge posed by the intersection of religious traditions that mandate these forms of sex segregation with civic norms of gender equality can be seen around the world and across religious traditions. 

Recent developments in Israel pose a particularly challenging example as women are subjected to demands for segregation on public buses, trains, supermarkets, doctor's waiting rooms and merely walking in the street. 

This conference seeks to explore the historical and theoretical underpinnings of these developments and to identify effective and appropriate responses.

The complex has drawn the ire of the haredi community because some of the restaurants and cafes will be open on Shabbat.

“We are not expecting any pressure [about being open on Shabbat],” said Murdoch, who also lives in the neighborhood. “This was built at the request of the people.”

Mayor Barkat said the train station will not change the Jerusalem status quo of public areas and buildings remaining closed on Shabbat.

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