Religion and State in Israel – October 15, 2007

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Religion and State in Israel
October 15, 2007
Editor: Joel Katz

Draft constitution ignores crucial question of who is a Jew
By Shahar Ilan, Haaretz

The draft constitution being prepared by the Knesset Constitution Committee will not include the Law of Return, in order to forestall an argument over the “who is a Jew” issue. Instead, it will include a general statement that “every Jew is entitled to immigrate to Israel.” However, the committee plans to submit a revised version of the Law of Return to the Knesset along with the proposed constitution.

The proposed revision would replace the “grandchild clause,” which entitles all grandchildren of Jews to immigrate, with a clause entitling anyone who belongs to a Jewish community to immigrate.

A constitution is born
By Shahar Ilan, Haaretz

Since it began its term, the Knesset Constitution, Law and Justice Committee almost has completed a draft of the preamble to the constitution.

The committee worked mostly with three versions: the constitution proposed by the Israel Democracy Institute; the right-wing proposal submitted by the Institute for Zionist Strategy; and the drafts by the Movement for Progressive Judaism’s Israel Religious Action Center.


The Chief Rabbis’ Shame
The Jewish Week Editorial

In recent years the Chief Rabbinate of Israel has become an embarrassment even to the small portion of the Jewish world that honors and respects the office, namely religious Zionists.

Bottom line, one must ask whether Israelis, the majority of whom feel alienated from and bitter toward religious life, would have a more positive attitude toward Judaism if they didn’t have to deal with a state agency that controlled matters of their personal lives, from marriage to death.

And it surely doesn’t help matters when those chosen to represent the height of spiritual character and religious leadership are perceived by most Israelis as uncaring if not downright unethical

Amar in US to resolve conversion rift
By Matthew Wagner,

Chief Rabbi Shlomo Amar is meeting this week with representatives from the Rabbinic Council of America (RCA) in an attempt to reach an agreement over Israeli Rabbinate recognition of conversions performed in the US and Canada.
Amar, who heads the rabbinic courts in Israel and is also responsible for conversions performed here, has compiled a secret list of “approved” rabbinic courts in the US and Canada.

Chief Rabbi Amar allows Shabbat work at airport
By Zohar Blumenkrantz, Haaretz

Sephardi Chief Rabbi Shlomo Amar personally confirmed the completion over the weekend of maintenance work on the main landing strip of Ben-Gurion International Airport.

Haaretz has learned that the airport was closed to incoming and outgoing international air traffic from 6 P.M. Friday to 5 A.M. yesterday, to prevent demonstrations by ultra-Orthodox Jews against the violation of the Sabbath and the coalition crisis it could have prompted.


NRP breaks ranks with chief rabbinate on shmita policy
By Yair Ettinger, Haaretz

The National Religious Party declared war against the chief rabbinate’s policy on the shmita (sabbatical) year. This is a stunning turnabout for a party that has hitherto been the rabbinate’s staunchest supporter.

In a meeting with Chief Rabbis Shlomo Amar and Yona Metzger, NRP Knesset members threatened to sponsor legislation that would end the rabbinate’s monopoly on kashrut certification if it does not reverse its policy of allowing local rabbis to ban the heter mekhira (“sale permit”) in their jurisdictions.

Ex-chief rabbi defends shmita sale

Former chief rabbi Ovadia Yosef, the spiritual leader of Israel’s Sephardi ultra-Orthodox community, issued an impassioned defense of the heter mechira, or sale permit, even as leaders of the Ashkenazi ultra-Orthodox community are trying to suppress its use.

Court hears petitions on shmita produce

The Chief Rabbinate reached one of its most controversial decisions in recent years through a telephone poll last month and without consulting or keeping a protocol, the High Court of Justice in Jerusalem heard.

Chief Rabbinate: We cannot override local shmita rulings

Chief Rabbi Yona Metzger and the Chief Rabbinic Council argue that allowing local rabbis to make their own decision constituted “pluralism in each and every community.”

Farmers warn: Hard-line stance on shmita will cost state billions
By Amiram Cohen, Haaretz

Supreme Court judges expressed great surprise over the Rabbinate’s change to a hard-line stance only days before the Jewish year started.

High Court hears final shmita arguments
By Matthew Wagner,

Attorney Ilan Bombach, who represents the Chief Rabbinate in the Supreme Court case, said that the Supreme Court had no business interfering in a religious issue that was solely the Chief Rabbinate’s purview.


Peres to meet, mend ties with U.K. Reform Jews
By Daphna Berman, Haaretz

In a bid to repair strained relations between the presidential office and Reform Judaism, President Shimon Peres is to host a delegation from Britain’s Movement for Reform Judaism at his official residence in Jerusalem [on Thursday].

The delegation will be headed by Rabbi Tony Bayfield, head of the Movement for Reform Judaism, the British branch of Reform Judaism.

The refusal last year by former president Moshe Katsav to address Rabbi Eric Yoffie, President of the Union for Reform Judaism, as “rabbi” set off an international storm.

Rabbi Uri Regev, President of the World Union for Progressive Judaism, called Peres an “old friend of the Reform movement” and said that Peres’ daughter, son-in-law and their children are all active members of a Reform congregation in Tel Aviv.

“What took place between President Moshe Katzav and the head of the American Reform Movement was completely unacceptable,” Bayfield said this week from London. “But it is in the past, and now we have a new president and I don’t want our meeting to be considered in the light of what is best forgotten.” “We are, of course, glad that Israel now has a head of state who recognizes the importance of engaging with all sides in the Jewish world, just as we recognize the importance of engaging with Israel in its 60th anniversary year,” Bayfield added.
JNF heads oppose law calling for major land swap
By Shahar Ilan, Haaretz

Most of the Jewish National Fund’s leadership is against a law that would allow it to continue leasing land only to Jews, deputy JNF chairman Menachem Leibovitz told Haaretz

Leibovitz also told Haaretz that at the last meeting, the JNF’s board of directors had decided to work toward an arrangement to give the state its lands in urban centers. The JNF would receive available rural lands in exchange.

Poll: 81% of Israelis want JNF land for Jews only

A unanimous 100% of National Union-NRP voters support JNF’s policy followed closely by 97% of Agudat Yisrael voters, 93% of Yisrael Beitenu voters, and 89% of Labor voters.

85% of Likud voters and 78% of Kadima voters expressed support of JNF’s policy.

God’s army?
By Matthew Wagner,

Rabbi Eli Sadan, head of the Bnei David Pre-Military Academy in the Samaria settlement Eli

They represent only about 3 percent of the total annual draft. However, slowly but surely these young men, who join the IDF after spending one, and often two, years studying how to use ideas found in traditional Jewish texts to build a modern army, are changing its face.

More than half of them have become combat officers and members of elite fighting units. In fact, a full 40% of graduates from officers’ training courses are religious.

Yoav Margalit, a member of Kibbutz Netzer Sereni, is a colonel and infantry division commander in reserve duty.

He heads the Kibbutz Movement’s defense committee, an educational body that encourages young kibbutzniks and those who study in the same high schools with them to excel in the IDF.

Margalit acknowledges that in recent years the religious pre-military academies have become the new IDF leadership.

“The IDF and other Zionist institutions were created without any truly Jewish influences,” Sadan says. “And our goal is to change that.
Sadan’s idea was to teach religious high-school graduates that there was no contradiction between religion and the military; rather they were one and the same. ____________________________________________________________________
Let the people decide
By Yehezkel Dror, Haaretz

The writer is founding president of the Jewish People Policy Planning Institute (established by the Jewish Agency for Israel), an Israel Prize recipient and a political science professor emeritus at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem.

The entire Jewish people should participate in making decisions for the State of Israel that bear critical significance for their future.

However, on matters concerning the security of the State of Israel, Israeli citizens should receive more weight.

It is essential that the Israeli governing bodies and the decision makers in the Diaspora accept the principle of graduated participation of the entire Jewish people in state decisions that affect the people’s future.

Nativ in Montreal persuading Russian-speaking JewsBy Amiram Barkat, Haaretz

The semi-covert immigration encouragement agency Nativ is preparing to expand its activities to North America, sources within the organization told Haaretz.

Minister of Strategic Affairs Avigdor Lieberman is seeking to involve Nativ in persuading Russian-speaking Jews around Montreal, Canada to immigrate to Israel, they said.

God is watching over Israel, new oleh says
Dan Bentsur,

Click here for VIDEO

Sculptors, doctors, professors, art therapists and future IDF soldiers among more than 200 new Jewish immigrants who arrived in Israel on flight sponsored by Nefesh B’Nefesh

According to Ayalon, Nefesh B’Nefesh has brought about 11,000 new immigrants to Israel over the past five years, and over 99% of them have stayed in the country.

The organization said some 2,200 more North American and British Jews are expected to immigrate to Israel over the course of the summer on seven specially chartered planes and eight group flights on El Al.

Jury still out on Nefesh b’Nefesh
By Yoav Fisher,

While largely religious, the Anglos are not haredi, but rather represent a religious mix from Reform to modern Orthodox. Religious pluralism is something desperately needed in Israel. And their presence is already being positively felt;

Ultimately, how things play out for the Anglos, and for Nefesh b’Nefesh, depends largely not on the newcomers but on what happens in the larger Israeli society. __________________________________________________________________

By Anat Hoffman,

The writer is the Executive Director, Israel Religious Action Center
There are daily battles in courts, parliament, on the street and in the media about religious pluralism.

In the “formal” Israel there is only one way to be Jewish and it is the Orthodox way. The young Israeli palate knows only one flavor and it doesn’t appeal to many Israelis, causing them to turn away from Judaism. The result is degeneration of the palate and degeneration of the religion.

The struggle for freedom of religion in Israel demands that there will be more than one way to be Jewish and religious in Israel. ____________________________________________________________________

Mughrabi Gate area dig on hold pending cabinet approval
By Akiva Eldar, Jack Khoury and Yair Ettinger, Haaretz

A salvage dig near the Temple Mount’s Mughrabi Gate will not be resumed just yet, after Culture Minister Ghaleb Majadele appealed to the cabinet yesterday against a ministerial committee’s decision to restart the work.

Rabbi Shmuel Rabinowitz, chief rabbi of the Western Wall, retorted that the planned construction is vital to the safety of people visiting the Wall, and urged that it be completed as soon as possible. ____________________________________________________________________

Taglit-style Haredi program scores funding
By Anshel Pfeffer, Haaretz

Ultra-Orthodox politicians have recently allocated NIS 10 million in public funds to encourage young Haredis to visit Israel.

The funds would build a Haredi alternative to the largely secular Taglit-birthright Israel trips.

The money is earmarked for ultra-Orthodox programs within the Education Ministry. Among other politicians, Shas Minister for education and welfare matters in the Finance Ministry Meshulam Nahari aided in securing the funding. ____________________________________________________________________

De-Hartog to stand trial for slapping MK
By Efrat Weiss,

Police decide to indict Justice Ministry attorney who assaulted religious MK who compared him to the Nazis. The indictment will be served pending a hearing into the incident.


Running for mayor
By Peggy Cidor,

Jerusalem Deputy Mayor Yehoshua Pollack holds one of the most important portfolios in the city council, that of the Planning and Construction Committee. For the past three years, he has also served as treasurer of the local council of Betar Illit

Q: Are you running for mayor in the next elections?

Of course I am. There’s an agreement between Agudat Yisrael and Degel Hatorah. Degel had the first candidate, now it’s our turn, a candidate from Aguda, and as far as I know, I am that candidate. There’s no doubt about it.


Religious Pluralism: Obstacles, Challenges, Achievements

Imagine a country with no legal separation between religion and state, no civil marriage or divorce, and significant funding for only one stream of the majority religion.

That country is Israel.

Learn about the state of religious pluralism and freedom in Israel today – what has been achieved and what does the future hold.

With Naomi Chazan, former Member of Knesset, and Head of the School of Government and Society at the Academic College of Tel-Aviv-Yaffo; and Rabbi Rachel Cowan, Executive Director of the Institute for Jewish Spirituality.

Moderated by Steven Mazie, author of Israel’s Higher Law: Religion and Liberal Democracy in the Jewish State.

New Israel Fund NIForum NYC Symposium
October 21, 2007


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