Tuesday, January 10, 2012

Religion and State in Israel - January 9, 2012 (Section 1)

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

By Ophir Bar-Zohar www.haaretz.com January 5, 2012

The Civil Service Commission on Wednesday banned gender segregation at all government agencies and official events, as Israel ramps up its efforts to battle the separation of the sexes by some parts of the religious community.

A Transportation Ministry official said at the meeting the ministry had opened a free, 24/7 hotline for complaints about discrimination against women on public transportation: 1-800-800-355.

By Joshua Mitnick http://online.wsj.com January 5, 2012

"The deeper question is how does a democracy deal with separatist fundamentalist communities in its midst," said Yossi Klein Halevi, a fellow at the Shalom Hartman Institute in Jerusalem. 

"Israel's great domestic challenge is to figure out the balance between allowing cultural autonomy and reinforcing its sovereign authority."

By Jeremy Sharon and Melanie Lidman www.jpost.com January 4, 2012

The MK cited a study, presented last week to the Knesset Economic Affairs Committee on which he serves, in which 1,150 checks were carried out in 2011 by inspectors from the Transportation Ministry on 55 bus lines that had been flagged as gender- segregated.

The inspections were carried out according to a High Court of Justice directive in which the male or female inspector sat in the “wrong” section of the bus.

In 56 instances, the inspector was asked to move to the “appropriate” section, and in 15 cases the inspector complied with the request due to concern that a physical confrontation might have ensued.

www.ynetnews.com January 8, 2012

The majority of the Israeli public believes that voluntary separation between men and women on public transportation in or between ultra-Orthodox areas is a legitimate thing, according to a Ynet-Gesher poll commissioned on the backdrop of the exclusion of women phenomenon.

Fifty-one percent of participants responded affirmatively to the question, "Are 'kosher' bus lines for haredim legitimate?" 

Eighteen percent of them offered no reservations, 26% said "only in haredi neighborhoods, and 7% said "only if the women agree to sit in the back."

By Miriam Kosman Opinion www.jpost.com December 28, 2011

I know I am supposed to feel like a repressed, suppressed, oppressed and perhaps depressed victim of a patriarchal leadership, relegated to the back of the bus by bushy-bearded, black-coated, wildeyed fanatics. But what if I don’t?

...It is definitely not okay to harangue a woman who chooses to sit in the front of the bus, but this is not about subjugated women waiting for a Rosa Parks to liberate them from a chauvinistic, patriarchal leadership. This is about men and women on the same team – struggling to maintain a connection with their higher selves.

By Jonathan Rosenblum Opinion www.jpost.com January 6, 2012

Rabbi Shlomo Zalman Auerbach would not jump up from his seat on the bus if a woman not dressed according to halachic standards sat down next to him, lest she feel insulted. He would simply push the button as if his stop was coming up and get off the bus.

By Nir Hasson www.haaretz.com January 5, 2012

The credit card company Isracard has launched a different advertising campaign in Jerusalem than elsewhere in the country, by leaving renowned actress Gila Almagor out of their billboards in the capital, activists against the segregation of women say.
Isracard is featuring a series of celebrities in its new ad campaign, but is showing only men in its ads in Jerusalem.

To the Editor:[...] Looking at the roster of B’nai B’rith International’s directors, which includes only one woman, as well as at this recent event, we ask, When B’nai B’rith International spun off its women’s division, did it spin off women as a whole? Sadly, the answer appears to be “Yes.”Sincerely,Susan W. Turnbull, Chair, Board of TrusteesLori Weinstein, Executive Director

By Beth Frank-Backman Opinion http://ejewishphilanthropy.com January 9, 2012

This past Chanukah, B’nei B’rith chose to hold a live global web-cast of a Chanukah candle lighting inside the Hurva synagogue. They knew women would not be able to visibly participate. 

They knew women couldn’t even be in the audience around the candles – for women are not allowed in the main sanctuary and the ezrat nashimis high up and far away. Still they proudly had the candle lighting in the Hurva sanctuary in the name of unity.

By Ari Galahar www.ynetnews.com January 3, 2012

Gender segregation has reached a store belonging to the Rami Levy supermarket chain in the ultra-Orthodox city of Beitar Illit. According to one of the shoppers, the store recently introduced two men-only and two women-only cash counters.

By Kobi Nahshoni www.ynetnews.com January 9, 2012

Rabbi Eliezer Melamed, one of Religious Zionism's most prominent leaders, is calling on IDF soldiers to walk out of any military events – both formal and informal – featuring women performers, thus violating new instructions approved by the General Staff forum.

Melamed is the head of the Har Bracha Yeshiva which was removed from the hesder arrangement with the IDF due to his refusal to condemn soldiers refusing orders.

He accused the Chief Rabbinate and Chief Military Rabbi Rafi Peretz of giving into the General Staff's dictations and subjecting mitzvot to the state law.

www.jpost.com January 5, 2012

Israel Air Force Chief Rabbi Lt.-Col. Moshe Ravad apologized Thursday for publicly criticizing the army protocol obligating religious soldiers to attend ceremonies that feature women’s singing.

Ravad, who resigned from the “Shahar” program which aims to integrate haredi men into the army, sent a letter to his commanders and Head of the IDF ManpowerDirectorate Maj.-Gen. Orna Barbivai asking that he be allowed to return to his role.

By Amir Oren Opinion www.haaretz.com January 8, 2012

A soldier that does not want to be exposed to women singing is permitted to leave and do his own thing, as long as it is not an official ceremony.

If a secular soldier were to dare to boycott the missionary preaching of a rabbi or a brainwashing tour of a religious site, he would be punished. The excessive rights of the religious have not merely penetrated the army, they have gained control of it.

By Carlo Strenger Opinion www.haaretz.com January 9, 2012

Let the ultra-Orthodox argue among themselves about whether they want to keep men and women apart on the bus. Let them have kosher cell phones and teach their children nothing but Jewish subjects. Let them also figure out how they will fund their state.

By Simon Rocker www.thejc.com January 6, 2012
Rabbi Herzl Hefter:
In my mind, two things need to happen, one political and the other educational. 
We need to rethink and redefine the marriage of religion and state in Israel in a manner which preserves the Jewish character of the state while eliminating the morally numbing influence of political power on religious groups. 
Political power and fervent religious obscurantism are the father and mother of the noxious fruit which we must all now ingest.

By Chaim Levinson www.haaretz.com January 8, 2012

Israeli democracy must be dismantled and in its place a halakhic state, based on Jewish law, should be established, says settler leader Benny Katzover in an interview to a a messianic journal of Chabad.
"I think that Israeli democracy, under its current structure, is in constant conflict with its Jewish identity, and in recent years, every time it bends its Jewish identity backwards. This structure of democracy has only one mission: to dismantle," he told Haaretz.

By Kobi Nahshoni www.ynetnews.com January 4, 2012

"We'll find a way to get out of the IDF, because it has betrayed us," an ultra-Orthodox soldier warned Wednesday after IAF Chief Rabbi Moshe Raved resigned from his post as head a program which recruits haredim.

By Anshel Pfeffer www.haaretz.com January 4, 2012

[IAF Rabbi Ram Moshe Ravad] may have served as an officer and rabbi in the IDF for nearly thirty years, but he is part of the ultra-Orthodox community, that is where he returns home every night and where his children and grandchildren are educated and find their shidduch.

...Rabbi Ravad's personal dilemma will be a constant reminder of how far the army, the Haredi leadership and Israeli society still have to go build frameworks in which these tensions can be resolved.

By Yair Ettinger www.haaretz.com January 5, 2012

Former IDF Chief Rabbi Israel Weiss told Haaretz: "I would have released Rabbi Ravad from the IDF years ago. His loyalty to the system is almost nil."

By Jeremy Sharon and Yaakov Katz www.jpost.com January 4, 2012

MK Yohanan Plesner (Kadima) spoke out against Ravad, rejecting his claims and saying his actions would ultimately harm the program.

Plesner – chairman of the Knesset working group for implementation of the Tal Law that is designed to increase the proportion of ultra-Orthodox soldiers – earlier criticized Ravad’s actions as “irresponsible” and denied that any changes to program terms of service were being considered.
“I have not found any reference at all to Rabbi Ravad’s claims regarding any changes to the terms of the Shahar program,” Plesner said. 
“Experience shows us that haredim who enlist in the Shahar program are still haredi when they leave the program, and this controversy which Rabbi Ravad has instigated is unnecessary.”

By Gili Cohen www.haaretz.com January 3, 2012

Rabbi Moshe Ravad, Chief Rabbi of Israel Air Force, who also heads a program which recruits Haredim into the air force, has asked on Tuesday to leave the program following the controversy of women singing in IDF events.

www.ynetnews.com January 4, 2012

During a meeting convened Monday by IDF Chief of Staff Benny Gantz to examine the combined service of men and women, it was decided that any rabbi's visit to a base or military post must be approved in advance by the chief military rabbi, and that a representative on his behalf would be present at the rabbi's meeting with his students.

Heads of hesder yeshivot and military preparatory courses were outraged at the decision.

By Gili Cohen www.haaretz.com January 5, 2012

Israel’s military rabbinate released an educational document ahead of the holiday of Hanukkah last month, featuring a photo of Jerusalem’s Temple Mount without the Dome of the Rock, Haaretz learned on Thursday.

“As was explained to the reporter, the Dome of the Rock did not exist at that time, so there was no need for it to appear in the picture,” the IDF said.

By Shira Herzog www.theglobeandmail.com January 6, 2012

One thing is clear: In the choice between gender equality and religious accommodation in the army, the public at large will support the former over the latter.

By Chava Forman-Horovitz www.ynetnews.com January 9, 2012

As tensions roil between religious male soldiers and the Israeli military establishment, a small but growing group of female religious soldiers believes it may be able to build bridges of understanding and religious tolerance within the IDF.

Some, like Gerber-Aran, say that the well publicized tensions between the army and its religious combat soldiers don’t affect religious women.

“I don’t see the great importance of women singing at ceremonies,” she said “but I also don’t think it’s important enough for religious men to fight about.”

Others, like Meged, take a more active approach to the controversy over the more stringent modesty requests from religious soldiers.

By Rabbi Eliezer Melamed Opinion www.israelnationalnews.com January 6, 2012

The dispute is over opposing worldviews: one where Judaism is paramount and the other, which promotes post-modern assimilation. 

There are some Jews who find it difficult to come to terms with the fact that they belong to a small nation, with a special vision of 'tikkun olam' (perfecting the world) in line with Torah values, and attempt to embrace the prevailing world culture.

By Dr. Haim Shine Opinion www.israelhayom.com January 8, 2012

[P]eople engaged in petty politics are trying to drag the army into an unnecessary and futile fight. If it continues, the final outcome will be that the wonderful Zionist enterprise to conscript yeshiva students goes to pot.

It makes one's heart ache: For the sake of a few lousy Knesset seats, won on the basis of hatred for Haredim, a beautiful and worthwhile enterprise may come to a halt. Sometimes we citizens of this wonderful country shoot ourselves in the foot. It's a shame.

By Yael Bir-Katz www.haaretz.com January 5, 2012

Two prominent Israeli doctors canceled their participating in a conference on fertility and Jewish law organized by a religious medical advocacy group over the apparent exclusion of women speakers from the event, Haaretz learned on Thursday.

In a letter to the session’s organizers, Yaron said that “the assertion that women cannot be invited as lecturers in a conference on women’s medicine is both professionally absurd and represents an exclusion of women in the full sense of the word.”

By Elana Sztokman Opinion http://blogs.forward.com January 5, 2012

Imagine a medical conference dedicated to women’s bodies in which no women are allowed to speak or even sit in the audience. No, this is not a Victorian novel or the back room of an old-fashioned gentlemen’s club. This is Israel 2012.

… There is of course a sick irony to this thinking: Somehow it is okay to talk about women’s intimate parts in a company of all men, but it is not okay to hear a woman, even an expert woman, educate by describing her research, knowledge and experience.

By Rabbi Shaul Farber Opinion www.jpost.com January 5, 2012

If I understand them correctly, they are willing to pay the price of excluding women, in an effort to expose the ultra-orthodox community to some of their issues relating to women’s fertility.

...When presented like that, the argument almost sounds plausible.
Of course, it isn’t.
Would you pay this price?

By Rachel Sylvetsky Opinion www.israelnationalnews.com January 9, 2012
The writer is managing editor of Arutz Sheva's English site

Puah helps more women than Kolech, the women’s organization fighting the conference, does. It doesn’t help them with screaming media headlines, it helps them with the real issues of rights that affect most women’s lives, the ones that don’t reach the newspapers, the ones about which they cry and pray.

...Do not let the strident voices of Kolech – an apt name, if there ever was one – and other NGO’s confuse you. 

Women have equal rights in Israel, they serve in every possible capacity, but not everyone has to interpret equal rights the way some women’s organizations do. There are even women who consider being “excluded” by sitting on separate buses a right to which they are entitled. It is not a good idea to decide for other people what they are supposed to want.

By Gil Ronen www.israelnationalnews.com January 9, 2012

The Israel Medical Association (IMA) has joined the controversy around a conference that is to be held by the Puah Institute Wednesday, effectively declaring a boycott on the event.

"A doctor will not take part in phenomena of women's exclusion in themedical system," a statement by the IMA Ethics Bureau said.

By Jeremy Sharon www.jpost.com January 9, 2012

Rabbi Ya’akov Ariel, president of the Tzohar national-religious rabbinical association, expressed opposition on Friday to the so-called “Tzohar Bill” that his own organization lobbied for and which passed its preliminary reading in the Knesset two weeks ago.

...a Tzohar official agreed that legislation should be a last resort, but said that it had only been advanced following “a year and a half” of efforts to get political officials who were able to prevent the closure of Tzohar’s wedding initiative to intervene.

By Jeremy Sharon www.jpost.com January 7, 2012

In a rare move, Ashkenazi Chief Rabbi Yona Metzger lobbied all 120 members of Knesset on Thursday in a letter calling on them to oppose the so-called “Tzohar Bill” introduced by MK Faina Kirschenbaum (Israel Beiteinu), which seeks to liberalize the marriage-registration process.

Metzger argued that Kirschenbaum’s bill would make it difficult to rely on the rabbinate’sregistration process, which is currently accepted by everyone in Israel.

“The Knesset is still the legislative body in the State of Israel and not the Chief Rabbinate,” said Kirschenbaum in response. “The bill is good news for couples wanting to marry who will finally be able to chose the manner of registering for marriage.”

By Ophir Bar-Zohar www.haaretz.com January 5, 2012

The Civil Service Commission on Wednesday banned gender segregation at all government agencies and official events, as Israel ramps up its efforts to battle the separation of the sexes by some parts of the religious community.

The commission instructs all ministries and government agencies to treat all employees equally, as well as members of the public, regardless of their gender. The commission warned that it would take measures against anyone who breaks the rules.

By Yair Ettinger www.haaretz.com January 5, 2012

The Religious Services Ministry instructed hundreds of burial societies across Israel Tuesday to refuse the exclusion of women from eulogizing at funerals.

The decision was made after numerous women complained that burial staff had prevented them from eulogizing at funerals of loved ones.

By Kobi Nahshoni www.ynetnews.com January 4, 2012

Minister Margi said he was waiting for a halachic ruling on the matter from Sephardic Chief Rabbi Shlomo Amar, and would then issue a proper instruction.

But following the public pressure, the Religious Services Ministry decided not to wait, and rely instead on an existing ruling by Ashkenazi Chief Rabbi Yona Metzger.

By Revital Hovel www.haaretz.com January 4, 2012

A Ramat Yishai family won the right to bury their son's ashes in a nearby secular cemetery even though it was not within their municipality. 

But the Hameiri family ultimately buried their son Noam at a private burial site after the cemetery repeatedly flouted the court's orders, they said.

By Raphael Ahren www.haaretz.com January 6, 2012

Immigration officials are criticizing a proposed law that would allow Jews to live in Israel indefinitely without ever having to formally immigrate.

This provision would grant Jewish non-citizens many of the benefits of living in Israel without any of the burdens that taxpaying citizens carry, critics of the proposal argue.

Jewish Agency chairman Natan Sharansky: "Israel has to give all the opportunities to the Jews of the world to feel that it's their home, that they're part of the family, even before they make the decision to make aliyah."

By Ruth Eglash www.jpost.com January 3, 2012

It is time for the Israeli government to take full financial responsibility for long-term immigrant absorption programs, Jewish Agency chairman Natan Sharansky said Monday in an interview with The Jerusalem Post.

Sharansky stated that while the agency’s natural role should be connecting Israel and the Diaspora, encouraging aliya and addressing the immediate needs of new immigrants, it is up to the government to provide services once full citizenship is granted.

As a religious leader in the non-Orthodox community, I openly admit to a long-running frustration with Israel over issues of religious pluralism, and how religion and state interact there.  

Like so many of my colleagues engaged in this issue, I firmly believe- as a true lover of Israel- that challenging Israel to find a healthier and more diverse to celebrate Judaism is not as much a criticism as it is a desperate effort to help Israel surmount one of her biggest problems.  

And yet there are those who would admonish me, and my colleagues, to be still, because of the aforementioned threats is Israel’s security…

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