Religion and State in Israel – November 12, 2007

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Religion and State in Israel
November 12, 2007
Editor: Joel Katz


Aren’t kibbutzniks Jewish?
By Zevulun Orlev,

The writer is chairman of the National Religious Party

The State Prosecutor’s Office decision to exempt kibbutz communities from keeping the Shabbat in accordance with the Labor and Rest Times law is yet another link in the legal system’s move – headed by the Supreme Court – to empty the Shabbat of any Jewish meaning.

In fact, the legal system is declaring that kibbutz communities are not part of the Jewish people, just because they are organized as a cooperative society.

*December 2006 National Labor Court ruling*
Court rules Jews may not work in kibbutz stores on Saturday
By Haaretz Service

The National Labor Court on Tuesday [December 2006, jk] ruled unanimously that the labor laws prohibiting Jews from working on Saturday applies to stores in kibbutzim as well.

The judges overruled the Regional Labor Court’s decision to rescind the charges against Kibbutz Tzora and six of its members that had been working in the kibbutz-run stores ‘Kna’an Fashion’ and ‘Kna’an and Crafts’ on Saturdays.

The Regional Labor Court had ruled that “the facts of the indictment don’t point to any wrongdoing.” This is because it is impossible to determine what the religion of a communal organization such as a kibbutz is, and therefore it is impossible to determine what its legal day of rest should be, and because the legal clause prohibiting working on Saturday doesn’t apply to trade.

Austrian bishops barred from Western Wall for wearing crosses
By AP,

Thirteen Austrian bishops were barred from praying at Jerusalem’s Western Wall last week by Jewish religious authorities when they refused to take off their crosses, according to Austrian officials.

On a planned visit on Thursday to the wall the bishops were given an ultimatum by the rabbi of the site: Either remove the crosses or stand behind a fence several meters (yards) from the site.

The bishops refused the request and watched people praying from behind the fence, according to an Austrian official.

“They were a bit disappointed they were not let into the wall,” said Arad Benko, spokesman for the Austrian embassy. He said the bishops were not informed before the visit that wearing the crosses would be a problem.

Shmuel Rabinowitz, the rabbi of the Western Wall, said that while the site is open to all religions, worshippers are expected not to offend the sensitivities of Jews.

“Appearing like that at the wall plaza and at a meeting with me is insulting and provocative,” Rabinowitz told the Israeli daily Maariv. “I told them that the pope didn’t show up at the wall with a cross, but hid it.”


‘Diaspora not giving enough to Reform’
By Matthew Wagner,

“I am disappointed with people in the movement for not giving more to building up Progressive Judaism in Israel,” said Gerald Daniel, who practically single-handedly built both North Tel Aviv’s Temple Beit Daniel and Jaffa’s Mishkenot Ruth Daniel center – named after Daniel’s wife, who died last June – for a total of $12 million.

Rabbi Meir Azari, who heads the Beit Daniel community center and congregation, pointed out that the Reform Movement in Israel has 26 congregations across the nation, but only six of them own a building. The rest rent or make temporary arrangements for prayer due to a lack of funds.

“If there were just one or two more people like Mr. Daniel, we would be able to transform Reform Judaism into a real force in Israel,” said Azari. “As a community leader, one is severely limited without a permanent building.”


Lunch in Jewish Disneyland
By Rabbi Michael Marmur,

All over the city of Jerusalem on Shabbat, Jews are sitting down to lunch in unlikely configurations.

… In Jerusalem there are also encounters and contacts going on which reach out beyond the stereotypes and the boundaries.

… Over Shabbat, my family and I were fortunate enough to sit at the table of an eminent Orthodox rabbi and his family. Also present were a highly impressive couple, also at the forefront of Zionist Orthodoxy in Israel.

I learned a great deal over lunch (and the moussaka was delicious).

I learned that many of the great challenges faced by the Modern Orthodox world are highly similar to those we in the Liberal camp are grappling with.

… It’s almost impossible to come up with a workable recipe for pluralism within the Jewish people. It’s fiendishly hard to know where the division runs between being open-minded and empty-headed.


Mayoral candidate: J’lem needs a Zionist chief rabbi
By Neta Sela,

Jerusalem mayoral candidate Nir Barkat is trying to lead a move for the election of a Zionist chief rabbi alongside an ultra-Orthodox rabbi in the capital. The National Religious Party and the Meretz and Shinui factions have already announced their support for the initiative.

According to Barkat, the Jerusalem opposition leader and a council member, “A chief Zionist rabbi is a necessity in a city where 70% of the Jewish population is not haredi and has its own unique needs.

According to David Hadari, an NRP faction member, “It is unthinkable that haredi elements who do not accept the Chief Rabbinate’s rulings will be the ones elected as the city’s rabbis”.

About two years ago, Barkat petitioned the High Court of Justice, demanding that new rabbis be appointed for Jerusalem, as the city has had no chief rabbis for about five years since the deaths of former Chief Rabbis Shalom Mashash and Yitzhal Kolitz.


Beit Shemesh Anglos protest rising violence by Haredim
By Daphna Berman

Long-time resident Eliyahu Shiffman said at the protest” [The Haredim] talk about ‘our neighborhood,’ but that’s chutzpa. It doesn’t belong to them. It belongs to all of us.”

The demonstration this week was organized by a number of Anglo activists, including Deputy Mayor Shalom Lerner, who is reportedly planning to run for mayor next year. Among the speakers were leading rabbis and other members of the city council, which included religious music and concluded with the singing of “Hatikvah,” the Israeli national anthem – a seemingly innocuous gesture that only highlighted the tensions.

“Beit Shemesh is an open place and we don’t want to change its character,” Lerner (National Union-National Religious Party) told AngloFile this week.

The Action Committee Against Violence in Beit Shemesh – Petition

Support the Peaceful Citizens of Beit Shemesh


Religious girls’ school teachers strike in their own special way

By Tamar Rotem, Haaretz

Pelech High School, of course, knew how to protest in its own special way. But joining the protests was not necessarily natural or to be taken for granted.

Only a week ago, three weeks after the start of the strike, Pelech decided to join the group of militant Jerusalem teachers, and even suggest to pupils to participate more actively in the protests.


70% of ultra-Orthodox men, 50% of women do not participate in workforce
By Haim Bior, Haaretz

More than 70 percent of ultra-Orthodox men and about 50 percent of women are not employed, and most of their families live below the poverty line, according to a survey conducted by the Trade, Industry and Labor Ministry, the Koret Fund and the Milken Institute.

The authors of the survey recommend changing the law that allows yeshiva students to postpone their army service (the Tal Law).

They would like the law to allow community service too, which would allow the ultra-Orthodox to enter the job market.

Changing the law would add 1.4 percent to Israel’s GDP, say the authors, Koret’s Sharon Azrieli and Shimon Yifrah, an economic adviser to the trade and industry minister.

50% of haredim involved in job market
By Matthew Wagner,

“Haredi society has arrived at several multilevel junctions,” said Dr. Kimy Caplan, a lecturer at Bar-Ilan University in Ramat Gan.

“The common denominator of the junctions at all levels is the ongoing struggle with Zionism, Israeli secularism and daily life in Israel.” Caplan is the author of The Internal Popular Discourse in Israeli Haredi Society.

Dr. Avi Kay: “Haredim were never encouraged to choose a profession. So you have situation where men aged 30 or more want to work, but they haven’t the slightest clue what they want to do.”


Ethiopians want Sigd to be recognized as Jewish holiday
By Ruth Eglash,

Hundreds of members of the Ethiopian community signed their names to a petition Thursday calling for Israel’s religious leaders to incorporate the annual Sigd festival in the calendar of religious Jewish holidays.

The drive to have the holiday made part of the Jewish calendar was initiated earlier this week by the Israel Association of Ethiopian Jews, which sent its request to Sephardi Rabbi Shlomo Amar and Ashkenazi Rabbi Yona Metzger.


A first: 40 haredim join Air Force
By Yossi Yehoshua,

The first ever group of Orthodox Jews was recruited into the Israel Air Force (IAF) last week as part of project “Blue Dawn”.

In the framework of the project, 40 haredi men who had dropped out of their yeshiva studies, received training in areas such as aircraft maintenance, mechanics and the arming of fighter jets and helicopters. The recruits all have a low medical profile and cannot serve in combat positions.

The project was launched due to the depleted supply of human resources in the Air Force and in an attempt to provide Orthodox men with professional experience that would later help integrate them into the private market.

However, rabbis of the Netzah Yehuda organization, which founded the IDF’s Nahal Haredi battalion, have expressed their objection to the project.

“We and our families paid a heavy personal price so that the Nahal Haredi would gain its legitimacy, and we were shocked to hear of another program for the recruitment of haredim that is famous for its permissiveness. This can hurt the Nahal Haredi.”

The IAF rejected the claim, saying the program was set up in accordance with “all of the IDF Rabbinate’s demands”.


Symposium on immigration policy confounds mixed religion families
By Ruth Englash,

The Association for the Rights of Mixed Families is holding a one-day symposium on “The Challenges of Immigration: Naturalization and Integration in Israel.”

Dr. Ludmilla Oigenblick, executive director: The association, she said, was not asking that the country change the Law of Return, which states only those with a Jewish parent or grandparent are entitled to aliya, but just that the state show leniency for those caught in such a predicament.


Plight of the great-grandchildren
By Yael Branovsky,

Though he has lived most of his life in Israel and completed his military service like the rest of his peers, 22-year-old Alex cannot marry the love of his life – simply because he is one of the thousands of ‘fourth generation’ youths, descendants of Jewish great-.grandparents who are ineligible for automatic citizenship under the Law of Return.


Police rabbi suspected of corruption
By Rebecca Anna Stoil,

Allegations of corruption in the police have already reached high levels, with top corruption-busters and even the country’s former top cop among the suspects.

On Sunday a new name was added when it was revealed that the Justice Department’s Police Investigative Department (PID) is investigating the Israel Police’s chief rabbi, Dep.-Cmdr. Rabbi Eliyahu Mugrabi, under suspicion of receiving illegal kickbacks for presiding over family events.

Mugrabi, who was questioned at least once by investigators, has been for several weeks the subject of a PID probe into numerous incidents in which he allegedly received money to preside over circumcisions and weddings.

He is also suspected of acting as a go-between in deals between owners of ritual objects shops and police officers, receiving valuable gifts from shop owners, and for accepting “repentance money” before the High Holy Days under the claim that he was donating the money to charity.


Rabbis warn Bush: Annapolis will bring destruction to US
By Neta Sela,

A fringe group of prominent ultranationalist rabbis issued a harshly-worded letter to United States President George W. Bush earlier this week, warning him that the upcoming Annapolis peace conference would bring destruction upon America.

“We wrote to President Bush, a man who believes in the Bible, to warn him against the terrible danger to which he is exposing his country by hosting such a conference,” said Rabbi Meir Druckman, one of signatories to the letter.

Among the rabbis who signed the letter are several leading religious figures, including Rabbis Dov Wolfa, Yekutiel Rap, Gedalia Axelrod as well as the chief rabbi of Kiryat Arba and Hebron, Dov Lior and the son of former Chief Rabbi Ovadia Yosef, Yaakov Yosef.


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