Thursday, October 2, 2014

Religion and State in Israel - September 25 and October 2, 2014

Religion and State in Israel            
Editor – Joel Katz            
Religion and State in Israelis not affiliated with any organization or movement.
*Special edition on Shmita coming soon


Elana Sztokman: Last week I traveled to the United States for the publication of my book, The War on Women in Israel: A Story of Religious Radicalism and the Women Fighting for Freedom.

It was a whirlwind week—I traveled to events and book signings across five cities in four states in 10 days. I signed lots of books, met some fabulous people, and heard from many people—men and women—who were deeply grateful for a moderate voice calling for an end to the religious extremism that is hurting women.

That’s why what happened to me on the flight home to Israel was so shocking, and so upsetting. 

Passengers aboard an El Al flight from New York's JKF airport to Israel claim that hundreds of ultra-Orthodox passengers demanded that they trade places with them before takeoff, saying they cannot sit next to women. 
"It was an 11-hour long nightmare," one of the passengers summed up her experience. 

In the wake of a petition urging El Al airlines to protect female passengers from what it says is harassment by ultra-Orthodox male passengers, a New York Conservative rabbi and attorney is calling on unhappy customers to put pressure on airlines by using a U.S. federal law that prohibits discrimination on flights to and from the United States. 

Most agreed, that as El Al seems to be the airline of choice for many orthodox travelers, the airline is afraid to be labelled as anti-Semitic or unaccommodating to their religious passenger’s needs. They are afraid to lose customers and money.

Therefore they allow aggressive orthodox men to hijack their flights, refusing to be seated and allow take-off until their demands have been met by other passengers who paid for their flights and were assigned seating fair and square.  

Elana Sztokman, former head of JOFA (Jewish Orthodox Feminist Alliance) was flying back to Israel after a tour promoting her new book, “The War on Women in Israel: A Story of Religious Radicalism and the Women Fighting for Freedom”, when an Ultra Orthodox man refused to be seated next to her because she was a woman. Mottle is joined in the studio by Voice of Israel show host Eve Harrow to discuss this incident and the larger implications of religious freedom in public spaces. 

See also additional articles on El Al story here:

By Anat Hoffman

 The Israel Religious Action Center (IRAC), representing the religious women of Kolech, brought a class action suit against the ultra-Orthodox Kol Barama station for its discriminatory practices against women.  

... Our victory in this case — the first class action suit dealing with gender exclusion in Israel — signifies the final breakdown of the approach that gender segregation and exclusion of women is acceptable because “they want it.” 

“The War on Women in Israel: How Religious Radicalism Is Smothering the Voice of a Nation” (Sourcebooks) 

Interview with Elana Sztokman  

Book Review: The War on Women in Israel: A Story of Religious Radicalism and the Women Fighting for Freedom 

By Stanley Gold and Uri Regev 

This is not a clash between Orthodox and non-Orthodox, but rather between those who desire a Jewish and democratic Israel, embracing Jewish diversity and respecting civil liberties and religious freedom, and those rejecting democracy, shunning religious diversity, and attempting to use their political clout to enforce their religious monopoly over all Jews.

It is no wonder that more and more Orthodox rabbis, intellectuals and groups in Israel and in America are joining in support of religious freedom. They understand that religion by coercion is not religion, but political coercion. And they know that with realization of religious freedom, Israel would be more democratic, inclusive, just … and more Jewish.

As we enter the New Year, should we settle for anything less?  

See Hiddush article here: Hiddush Index here 

Rabbi Stav of the Tzohar organization tells Arutz Sheva about weighty religious bills and thirst for Jewish identity in Israel. 


Last-minute efforts to strike a deal on creating a new egalitarian space at the Western Wall before the Jewish New Year have failed, Haaretz has learned. 

After a deadlock that has lasted almost one and a half years, leaders of the Conservative and Reform movements in the United States were summoned to Jerusalem to participate in talks last week aimed at resolving a controversial proposal to designate a new area of the holy site for mixed prayer services. 

Israeli government officials had hoped the leaders would reach a breakthrough in the longstanding stalemate on the controversial proposal. 

Women of the Wall leader Anat Hoffman talks about what needs to happen for a true compromise to materialize, and a new WOW campaign on Jerusalem buses that will promote girls having their bat mitzvah at the Wall. 
AUDIO File:  


Two Jerusalem restaurateurs asked the High Court of Justice on Monday to strike down a law prohibiting restaurants from describing themselves in writing as kosher establishments unless they are certified kosher by the local rabbinate. 

The two restaurants, Carousela and Topolino, are among the leaders of a trend in Jerusalem of restaurants that say they keep kosher but do not have an official kashrut certificate. 


By Anshel Pfeffer 

When a long list of government programs, including long-heralded
plans to combat poverty and reduce classroom sizes, are being cut back or even put on hold, should these twoprograms for Diaspora Jews remain immune? 

Jewish Agency chairman Natan Sharansky forecasts a 400 percent increase in immigration from Ukraine for the coming year, citing worsening economic conditions and the ongoing civil war in the country’s east as contributing factors. 

Jews in Ukraine took part in two vastly different celebrations of Rosh Hashana this weekend.

While tens of thousands of mostly Israeli and American pilgrims thronged to the small central Ukrainian town of Uman, refugees fleeing the civil war raging in the country’s east held their own smaller services as guests of the various Jewish communities with which they have found refuge. 

Eight friends in France decided to make aliyah two years ago on Rosh Hashana. Last November, they fulfilled a childhood dream and enlisted in the Israel Defense Forces.

The group of friends has since remained together, and serve in the same company in the Kfir Infantry Brigade's Nahal Haredi battalion. 

See also:[pdf]

“Times have changed,” he said. “Israeli officials used to come to France and elsewhere asking Jews to donate money and make aliyah, but I’m not doing that. There’s a historic change of approach. Israel doesn’t need your money. Our economy is doing well. French Jews and Israel can be partners, cooperate on various levels like education, business.” 

Bennett said the number of French Jewish youths coming to Israel on Birthright programs would multiply by nine this year, to 700. 

By Rabbi Dov Fischer 

It needs to be said by someone.  May as well be me.  I condemn the misleading of tens of thousands of Jews into thinking that there is something holy, religiously righteous, and blessed in Heaven in the phenomenon of 30,000 Jewish men abandoning their wives and children annually for the Days of Awe to gather in Uman, Ukraine.  

It is not blessed.  It is simply wrong.  

When a woman who is in the middle of divorce proceedings comes to Yad L’isha and says her husband wants to go to Uman, we tell her, “If he wants to go to Uman so badly, and wants the freedom to do so, let him first grant you freedom.” Once he grants her the get, then he can go pray at Rebbe Nachman’s grave as much as he likes.  

The Breslov Hasidic group has asked women not to visit Rabbi Nachman of Breslov's grave in Uman, Ukraine, claiming that their presence may damage the sacredness of the prayers said by male worshippers at the site. 



The chief rabbinate published on Monday an open letter written on September 16 by Chief Rabbis David Lau and Yitzhak Yosef in which they called on relevant authorities to prevent a Christian prayer service from being conducted at the Southern Wall of the Temple Mount. 

Their letter was denounced by the Hiddush religious freedom lobbying group which called on Attorney General Yehuda Weinstein to open an investigation into the chief rabbis for possible infractions of the Law of Freedom for Worship and Public Order. 


"It was not part of the plan," the 26-year-old Tyus said before the team departed on an American tour that will also see them face the Brooklyn Nets.

"When I first converted, some of my family members were like, 'Why?' They were really interested to know how did this come about." 


The High Court of Justice voted seven to two on Wednesday to uphold the constitutionality of a law permitting certain haredi schools to opt out of teaching core studies as long as they simultaneously took a hit in public funding. 

Prof. Aviad Hacohen, dean of Sha’arei Mishpat Academic Center, who represented the ultra-Orthodox defendants in the case, praised the decision taken by the court in a statement made to the media. 

“We are pleased that the court accepted our position and that the core curriculum, which we see as a blessing in itself, should be studied by choice and desire and not by force of law,” he said.

“In the ultra-Orthodox society in recent years there has been a welcome change and many of its sons and daughters turn, after studying many years in yeshivot and seminaries, to academic studies. The attempt to force upon them a core curriculum could stop this welcome trend and bring about the opposite effect.” 

Days after a separation wall was torn down at a Beit Shemesh school, a female guard was positioned in order to ensure separation between the secular girls and ultra-Orthodox girls. 

Data from the Programme for International Student Assessment (PISA) 2000 study were analyzed to compare educational achievement of Jewish students from public religious and public secular secondary schools in Israel. Public religious school students achieved higher scores in a standardized test of reading than students at public secular schools. 



For the first time, the party’s constitution allows the election of Jewish Home leaders who are not explicitly devoted to the Orthodox religious observance that is part of the party’s defining ideology. 

Taken together, these new stipulations reorient the traditionally religious party dramatically, from a home for a narrow ideological subset of Israeli society to one that openly courts larger audiences in the Israeli mainstream. 


In the context of an increasingly religious society dominated by religious institutions, Israeli seculars must claim that the empty cart belongs to those who use tradition in a mechanical way, those who are afraid of their own ability to probe their creativity, those who use the fear of others as a way to shape their identity.

Secularity’s cart is as full as that of the religious, precisely because, over the static order of tradition, it prefers the energetic and chaotic movements of reason and human creativity. 



[T]he selection of Rabbi Shalom Cohen as the heir to the spiritual leadership of the Shas movement has probably done lasting damage to the political party’s chances of retaining voters from outside the haredi core. 

Officially, the gathering was organized not by Shas, but by El Hama’ayan, the association that runs the party’s network of schools. That made it possible to invite government officials such as the Sephardi chief rabbi to the memorial. Nevertheless, the ceremony was clearly a Shas event. 



A new photographic exhibition of Israeli synagogues can be an opportunity to examine the architecture of segregation. 

Though she is not addressed by the title, Pelech’s Hana Godinger (Dreyfuss) is the first woman to be appointed ‘rabbi’ of a state-religious school. 


On July 9, 2014, as Israel prepared for a ground incursion in Gaza, Col. Ofer Winter, commander of the Givati Brigade, sent a letter to his subordinate officers, which was criticized for its religious content. Prof. Mordechai Kremnitzer discusses the appropriateness of the content of the letter. 

Several Israeli Arab communities are enraged over a plan by a Christian-Jewish charity to distribute food vouchers to needy families at Christmastime via a controversial organization that encourages Christians to join the Israeli army.  
See also:  


May our daily prayer for “matir asurim” –  the “freeing of the chained” – be augmented as we enter into this Sabbatical (shmitta) year, marked by the dictum: “you shall proclaim liberty throughout the land.” 
May this liberty also be extended to women like Anat. 

On August 17, 2014, hundreds of people protested outside the wedding of Morel Malka, a Jewish woman who converted to Islam, and Mahmoud Mansour, an Israeli Arab, following calls by the Lehava NGO to oppose the marriage. The next morning, Rabbi Dr. Benjamin Lau shared the following thoughts on the tension between Judaism and democracy in this case. 


Until we eliminate the Chief Rabbinate’s monopolistic status as the determiner of personal status issues in Israel, our democracy will be flawed and incomplete. 
But being a Jewish state should have a positive meaning. It should mean more than simply a state in which Jews can find refuge and have automatic citizenship. 


A closer look at their High Holy Day messages reveals how the various streams of Judaism in Israel are trying to brand themselves, and whom they see as target audiences. 

A Jerusalem Municipality decision recently angered Hareidi representatives of the city, according to a report by Tzipi Malcob. 
The municipality decided to name a street “HaBetula meLudmir”, or in English, “The Virgin from Ludmir”. 

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