Thursday, March 14, 2013

Religion and State in Israel - March 14, 2013 (Section 1)

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

The sides also agreed to advance legislation for equal share of the national burden. ...
Under the proposal, compulsory army service for men will be shortened from three to two years. Soldiers who continue to a third year will receive minimum wage and a grant for future academic studies.

The agreed-upon outline for equal share of the national burden also states that each year some 1,800 "diligent" yeshiva students will be eligible to receive a special grant, but yeshiva students between the ages of 21 and 26 who will discontinue their studies after receiving an exemption from army service will be fined.

Ultra-Orthodox recruits aged 21 and under will have the option of deferring their army service. They will later be divided into three categories: Those who serve in the army; those who will perform national service and those who are classified as "persistent" yeshiva students.

By Nehemia Shtrasler

Only when the ultra-Orthodox are in the opposition will Finance Minister Lapid be able to cut the huge budgets they receive, both for their yeshivas and in the stipends for married Torah learners. ...

Only when the ultra-Orthodox are in the opposition will Lapid be able to replace the criterion for receiving state-subsidized housing from “years of marriage,” the criterion outgoing Housing and Construction Minister Ariel Atias tailored for the ultra-Orthodox, to “utilization of employment potential,” which is more just and suited to secular and religious Zionist citizens. …

Only when there are no ultra-Orthodox in the government will it be possible to impose on them the core school curriculum and conscription into the Israel Defense Forces.

By Yuval Elizur

Let one thing be clear: all this political maneuvering has very little to do with the influence of religion on life in Israel. That will continue to be substantial. 

Even with the religious parties in the opposition, Israel will be still a country where most yeshiva students will not serve in the army, the Sabbath will be an officially enforced day of rest, and only kosher food will still be served in the army. There will still be rabbinical marriages although civil marriages may finally be possible through a series of interim arrangements.

But whatever the shape — and stability — of the ruling coalition that finally emerges, the veto power of the rabbis has been blunted and may finally be broken.

By Susan Hattis Rolef

It is difficult to know what will happen. Will the haredi parties undergo a metamorphosis? 

Will the traditional Ashkenazi haredi leadership give way to a more pragmatic leadership, that will also represent the interests of the so called “modern haredim,” who are trying to make their out of the haredi ghetto? 

And what will happen to Shas after Rabbi Ovadia, who will probably no longer be with us for the elections to the 20th Knesset?

Alongside the Haredi world's struggle against their inclusion in the military draft and matters of principle regarding religion and state, there is another price no less painful they will pay as the incoming government takes office: When they take their seats on the opposition benches, they will be lamenting not only the "harm" the new government will do to the Torah world but also more temporal, material losses.

The public conversation about equal sharing of the civic burden and the exclusion of the Haredi parties from the developing government coalition appears to be the start of a similar process for the Haredim. 

Their community will increasingly have to accept work, national and military service and modern education. Along the way, there will probably be a culture war, with some factions of Israeli society becoming radicalized.

Technion officials realize that Haredi students have a third-grade knowledge of math and don't know English at all. 

“They come to us with no knowledge,” said Muli Dotan, the head of the Technion’s pre-academic department, which runs the special program.
This lack of knowledge presents a tremendous obstacle.

Under the plan, only those who fully exploit their earning potential would be entitled to a range of government benefits, among them allowances. The treasury is now examining where these conditions can be applied and plans to lay out proposals for the new Finance minister and government.

The assumption is that a government without ultra-Orthodox parties provides a historic opportunity to fix Israel's allowances system and increase incentives for working by slashing payments.

Attorney General Weinstein decided that the courts that take action against community members who file a case in state courts or provide testimony to Israeli police could be found guilty for obstruction of justice, deposing testimony, or harassing witnesses.

According to Rabbi Regev, "The time has come for the ultra-Orthodox rabbinic authorities to understand that Israeli law applies to them as well. 

Their attempts to thwart legal proceedings in State courts will ultimately summon them into those same courts that they so disdain. 

No one has the right to threaten or blackmail individuals who for using the State's judicial system. Hiddush will continue to act against these criminal occurrences."

Adina Bar-Shalom, the eldest daughter of Shas spiritual leader Rabbi Ovadia Yosef, said on Tuesday that the lack of English and Mathematics education in haredi schools was a serious obstacle in increasing the numbers of haredim in higher education.

“It’s not possible to learn English or Math in a one-year pre-college preparatory course,” said Bar Shalom. “More than 50 percent of students who come to us do not succeed in English.”

She continued saying that this failure caused many students to drop out of college altogether.

A group of senior national religious rabbis led by Kiryat Arba’s chief rabbi, Dov Lior, sent a letter to Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu and the leaders of all political factions calling on them not to “harm” the ability of Torah students to continue their studies.

The warrants are the first on-the-ground consequences of the expiration last year of a law that allowed ultra-Orthodox yeshiva students to claim a de facto exemption for military or national service.

Until a replacement law is passed, which won’t happen until a new government is formed, the Israel Defense Forces has begun sending draft notices to the ultra-Orthodox under a universal draft mandate.

Many Haredi teens have said they would go to jail rather than serve in the army, which is considered verboten among certain religious sects.

By Mordechai Kremnitzer

IDI Vice President of Research Prof. Mordechai Kremnitzer critiques several aspects of many of the current proposals for integrating the ultra-Orthodox into the army and calls on the Israeli public to stand firm on its demand for an arrangement that is fair and equitable.

By Rabbi Natan Slifkin

I'd like to propose a plan. It's something that would still be seen as innately unfair by those who do not believe that charedim learning Torah contributes to Israel's national welfare, but at least they ought to see the value in reaching a mutually acceptable compromise. 

And it's something that ought to be acceptable to charedim. The reason is that it is the approach of the father of the yeshivah world, Rabbi Naftali Tzvi Yehudah Berlin of Volozhin, otherwise known as the Netziv.

By Moshe Averick

It is time for the Israeli government to confess its sins and accept the orthodox/Hareidi community for what it is. 

What could be more absurd than a group of people tripping over themselves while trying to make peace with those who have been violently trying to destroy us for the past 70 years, and yet are unable to reach out and make peace with their own brothers?!
By Anat Hoffman

Lin Dror and her fiancĂ©, members of a Reform synagogue in Mod’iin, have decided that they do not want to leave their country to marry. 

Next Thursday, March 21, 2013, they will marry on the steps of the Knesset in a ceremony officiated by Rabbi Kinneret Shiryon from Kehilat Yozma, and Rabbi Gilad Kariv, head of the Israel Movement for Progressive Judaism (IMPJ).

By Arie Hasit

At first glance, Benn's article seems to attack all rabbis and the rabbinate as a profession, but a close reading makes clear that he intended to say that there are no moderate Chief Rabbinate rabbis, and there will be no such moderate rabbis so long as the Chief Rabbinate is part of a political system with coercive power.

At the end of his editorial, Benn writes that "those who wish to observe halakha can choose their rabbis and go on their way". The Israeli public has already internalized this instruction and is choosing its rabbis, many of whom are not affiliated with the Chief Rabbinate.

By Rachel Levmore

[T]he private member’s bill to be put before the Knesset, which was initiated this week through the first cooperative legislation between the Yesh Atid and Bayit Yehudi parties. 

In their joint venture, MK Aliza Lavie (Yesh Atid) and Shuli Mualem-Rafaeli (Bayit Yehudi) related to the selection process for the State Committee for the Appointment of Dayanim (Rabbinical Court Judges). ...

The bill proposed by MKs Lavie and Mualem-Rafaeli expands the number of members of the Committee for the Appointment of Dayanim from its present 10 (which is in and of itself a problem as it is an even number) to 11 members.

By Rabbi Nathan Lopes Cardozo

Our chief rabbis have not yet realized what Benedict already understood. 

They too are sandwiched between a new religious Jewish world and the old manifestation of Judaism. 

They have not yet recognized the fact that a vast new horizon has opened up, which demands a new and bold religious Judaism that will inspire and make itself and halacha (Jewish law) desirable to the Israeli mainstream.

Rabbi Stav told Arutz Sheva that he is hoping "to release" the position of chief rabbi "from the political powers that held that position for the past few decades."

He was referring to the fact that hareidi rabbis held the post for the last two terms of ten years each.

Bennett is different from his predecessors at the top of the National Religious Party.

On the one hand, he was the first to shake off the deeply-rooted Haredi patronizing attitude toward the national-religious community and is also playing a central role in what is viewed as an anti-Haredi move. 

On the other hand, he never studied in yeshiva and does not speak with the basic Torah vocabulary of his NRP predecessors, even those who were no great scholars.

By David M. Weinberg

Ultra-Orthodox leaders are in an uproar because religious Zionists got the upper hand in the recent elections, and will probably be part of the next government while haredi representatives won’t. They’re yelling about the destruction of the “world of Torah” that will result from the societal reforms that Bayit Yehudi insists upon.

So here’s a news flash for my haredi brethren: You do not possess exclusivity on “the world of Torah,” and in historic perspective, you may yet come to thank Bayit Yehudi for nudging you to a better place.

“This incident shows how difficult it is for many women to obtain a halakhic divorce, allowing them to remarry,” said Ben-Dahan. “The culprit in this case is actually considered a solid member of the community, who preferred to sit in jail for years rather than give a divorce to his wife!”

“I believe that if we make things harder for them they will be more amenable to granting the get. I intend to introduce legislations in the coming days that will prescribe much harder conditions for such prisoners. I believe that with proper legislation we can solve many of these cases,” he added.

By Rina Ne'eman

Apart from being morally repugnant, Israel’s obstinate failure to embrace Jewish religious pluralism must be seen as foolhardy and a strategic liability....

It is time for Israel to recognize that Reform and Conservative Jews are not a watered-down form of the real thing. We are not “lesser than.” We are as passionate about and committed to our practices as the Orthodox are to theirs.

The relationship between Israel and the overwhelming majority of world Jewry that does not identify as Orthodox cannot continue to be one of unrequited love. It is time to fully recognize us and to accept us as a real, vibrant and equally genuine part of the Jewish State.

The Hiddush plan posits a new Basic Law: Freedom of Religion and Conscience, to be added to the 14 existing basic laws. 

This law would stipulate that any school that does not teach a full core curriculum in compliance with Education Ministry rules would be denied public funding. 

The law would also categorize the exclusion of women as a criminal offense, provide equal stipends for each child rather than discriminating in favor of large families, and cancel subsidies for nonworking young men studying in yeshivas.

By Rachel Azaria

How will we justify this vast gap between their lives in the secular, day-today world and their lives in the place dearest to us – our traditions, the synagogue, and our community? 

These are the questions that as religious feminists we are asking ourselves on International Women’s Day. 

But it is clear that these questions should also concern the entire religious community, including the rabbis who lead it. The challenge can and should be dealt with, and there is no doubt this will happen sooner or later.
And the sooner the better!

“Maybe Ruth was Boaz’s wife, but that’s not enough of a reason to have a street named after her. Also Rachel – she didn’t do what he father wanted her to do, she had a mind of her own.” 

The same goes for a number of other streets in the capital. That is, on the few streets that are actually named for women, says Rachel Azaria, a Jerusalem City Councilwoman who joined the students on their protest campaign.

By Vered Noam

The segregation of women from synagogue activities does not only hurt women but also hurts the place itself, which loses its authenticity and lives in a gone reality. A call for integrity and softness.

Our spiritual lives are divided by a partition, just like a synagogue. We push to the other side of that internal partition all the vital foundations of healthy critical thinking, compassion, and common sense.
Spiritual experience demands openness and listening, both inward and outward. How can we sing Lord’s song with a clenched fist?

By Michael Freund

So no more excuses! The call of Jewish destiny and the cry of previous generations must no longer be ignored. It is time for American, Canadian, Australian, British and other Orthodox Jews to set an example for their brethren, leave behind the exile and finally come home.

“Most Jews in the world now live in developed western democracies, where there is little pressure to emigrate,” said DellaPergola, an expert on Jewish demography. “Economic crises or anti-Semitism do enhance Jewish migration, but not to the point that we have witnessed so many times in the past.”

By Rabbi Jill Jacobs

We are increasingly unwilling to give the Israeli government a pass on the standards to which we hold the rest of the world. And we believe that the relationship between Israel and Diaspora Jews should be a two-way street, in which we each acknowledge that we have much to learn from the other.

Nefesh B’Nefesh conducted a week of aliyah mega events and fairs in six major cities across North America together with the Jewish Agency for Israel, Keren Kayemeth LeIsrael, JNF-USA, and Israel’s Ministry of Immigrant Absorption.

Olympic gold medalist Aly Raisman will compete at the Maccabiah Games in Israel this summer.

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

Religion and State in Israel - March 14, 2013 (Section 2)

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

After coming to terms with the fact that they won’t sit in the next government, ultra-Orthodox politicians reportedly threatened Sunday to establish separate institutions for Jewish conversion if regulations become too lenient and no longer conform to the Chief Rabbinate’s standards.

State-religious elementary schools will introduce separate classrooms for boys and girls from the fourth grade, the Education Ministry's Religious Education Administration decided this week.

The Ne'emanei Torah Va'Avodah religious Zionist movement, which has been fighting to reduce segregation for years, said in response to the Education Ministry's intervention: "We believe that the halachic assumption encouraging segregation, which the document implies to, stems from perceptions that do not match halachic and ideological stances which exist at this time."

As first reported Monday by Army Radio, the new rules provide for mixed classrooms through the 3rd grade, but from 4th through 6th grade, boys and girls will study separately in state religious schools.

The directive also allows each school to vary that policy and impose gender separation in earlier grades or dispense with it in later grades with the support of two-thirds of the pupils’ parents. Any vote by the parents will apply to the school for a period of six years.

As is basically the case already, in state religious junior highs and high schools, all classes will be separated by gender unless a special exception is made with the approval of the ministry’s state religious education council.

By Renee Ghert-Zand

I am glad that the court decided in favor of the teacher, but I am saddened by the fact that she had to sue in order to get justice. 

The situation should not have ended up a legal battle. It should have been turned into a teachable moment for the school’s students. Not only did the school fail to give the teacher credit for aspiring to motherhood, it didn’t give the teenage girls due credit either.

The school’s administration was clearly afraid of change.

By Dr. Samuel Lebens

Today, we have two sets of religious parties in the Knesset. One set, the ultra-Orthodox parties (Degel Hatorah and Shas), serve as a subsection of the People of Israel, the only subsection that they deem to be truly legitimate heirs of our ancestors—their own community.

The other set, the National-Religious party (Habayit Hayehudi), serves the land of Israel. Both parties will sacrifice anything upon the altar of their respective causes, and neither of them is serving the cause of the Torah. Therefore, they are both guilty of a form of idolatry.

Ben Sheetrit—at 17, one of the youngest of the show’s more than 50 contestants—is a student at an Orthodox yeshiva for girls in Ashdod and the only Orthodox young woman in the competition.

By Arie Hasit

At the heart of Ben-Shetreet's suspension seems to be the idea of the personal example that she set for other religious young women; If her school or community celebrated her performance, as opposed to condemning it, her singing might encourage other religious young women to sing in front of men, too.

Instead of coining such a message abhorrent, religious educators should be promoting it.

By Anat Hoffman

Representing several of these women, last week we filed a lawsuit against the city of Beit Shemesh, claiming that city authorities have allowed a small but extreme sect of ultra-Orthodox Jews to act as a “modesty police” against the city’s residents. 

The suit centers on street signs that were put up in public places telling women they can only enter wearing “proper dress” and a description of the kind of dress that is considered proper. 

City officials, including the ultra-Orthodox mayor of Beit Shemesh, have so far refused to intervene and act against the radical group behind these signs, thereby giving the signs tacit approval.

They are also bracing for reduced clout at the municipal level; this would be mainly felt at haredi institutions, which would lose financial support of anywhere between 500 million shekels ($134 million) and 1 billion shekels ($268 million) ,..

Independent haredi schools that are not supervised by the Education Ministry, and whose curriculum does not include core subjects, might also lose funding. These schools, whose student population stands at about 50,000, get about 300 shekels ($80) per student (55% of the budgeting for a secular pupil).

Some 9,000 yeshiva students might lose their eligibility for income support, which currently stands at a monthly allowance of 1,100 shekels ($295).

By Oudeh Basharat

Israel's Eastern Jewry deserves an enlightened leadership enhanced with universal humanistic values.

MK Rabbi Shai Piron, who is number two on the Yesh Atid list, and has been mentioned as a possible candidate for education minister, was put on the defensive today for advising someone on a religious internet forum in 2002 during the second intifada not to sell his house to an Arab, Army Radio reported Tuesday.

In 1986, bus stops in Israel were torched one after the other. The culprits, young ultra-Orthodox men, explained that they had set fire to the bus stops because of "posters of abomination" hung on them, which showed models in revealing swimsuits.

Now, 27 years later, the Chabad Center is demanding 10% of the inheritance of Gottex founder Lea Gottlieb, who was considered Israel's "swimsuit queen." According to estimates, Gottlieb's estate is worth tens of millions of shekels.

Several prominent American Jewish organizations representing the Orthodox community have signed a letter calling on Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu to “secure” the Mount of Olives and its 3,000-year-old Jewish graveyard from what they described as “continuous violence against visitors, rampant grave desecrations, dumping of refuse and gross defilement of the cemetery by local Arab youths.”

“If suicide bombers are holy, if people are growing up to hate, how can we believe in peace for the future?” the chief rabbi asked.

The 130-year old Ottoman era Jerusalem train station will reopen this spring as a cultural and entertainment center, which will be open on the Sabbath. The project includes landmark buildings, a park, restaurants and fashion stores.

Today, only a handful the niggunim of Rabbi Levi Yitzchak, one of the greatest Hasidic rabbis of previous generations, are still familiar even to Jewish listeners. 

Among them is “Dudeleh” − also known as “The Flute” − one of the best-known tunes of the Bratslav Hasidic movement, to which Burstein and Frank belong.

An arson attack was carried out on a Tiv Taam store, part of a nationwide chain that operates on Shabbos and sells non-kosher merchandise. 

Police investigators are certain the blaze that caused heavy damage to the store was the result of arson, with the store owner and chain management calling the scene “one similar to a suicide bombing attack”.

“Every Jew that goes to the Temple Mount puts another stone in the building of the Temple, and is making another step to fulfill Jewish sovereignty on the Temple Mount,” MK Feiglin told viewers. That is precisely what makes Muslims nervous.

Feiglin, for his part, told Army Radio on Tuesday that he supports the Women of the Wall’s fight to pray as they wish at the Western Wall.

By Sinem Tezyapar

As a devout Muslim, I take pleasure in seeing Jews pray to God, anywhere in the world. It would please me very much if they would be able to pray at the Temple Mount as well.

For Jews, the entire area of the Temple Mount is holy and cannot be used for secular purposes. Nowadays, observant Jews who do go up enter only those parts that are outside the area where the Holy Temple once stood. 

Before going up, they go to amikve (ritual bath) and they do not wear leather shoes on the mount. While on the Temple Mount they are constantly aware that they are standing on the holiest spot of Judaism. ...

Muslims also hold that the entire area of the Temple Mount (or, as they call it, Haram al-Sharif) is sacred and inviolable; nevertheless, they also permit all kinds of secular activities on the mount.

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