Religion and State in Israel – December 17, 2007

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Religion and State in Israel
December 17, 2007
Editor: Joel Katz


If there’s no Reform movement in Israel, there’s no Reform movement
By Shmuel Rosner, Haaretz

Rabbi Eric Yoffie:

“If we fail to create a significant presence in Israel, this failure casts doubt on our authenticity as a religious movement. In other words, if we do not become a force in Israel in the next generation, we will have consigned ourselves to the margins of Jewish history.”

In short, this is the message: If there’s no Reform movement in Israel, there’s no Reform movement.

Click here for sermon by Rabbi Eric H. Yoffie at San Diego Biennial (Section IV on Israel)


Avoiding a head-on collision
By Yedidia Stern and Avi Sagi, Haaretz

Two worldviews grapple in the center of the Israeli arena: religious and liberal.
Depicting either the religious system or the liberal one as truth systems leads to a head-on collision between them.

The tension between the religious and the secular and between religion and state is among the greatest challenges facing Israeli society.

It affects politics – about one-third of the members of the previous Knesset were elected on the basis of their position on this matter;

it affects culture – we are descending into a culture war between religious and secular; it affects law – disputes damage people’s confidence in the courts and lead to the paralysis of the procedures necessary for adoption of a constitution;

and it affects the national ability to function – when individuals assume a stance of refusal in the name of the religious truth or the liberal truth.


Fraud charges could topple Ashkenazi chief rabbi at January 3 meeting
By Yuval Yoaz, Haaretz

The Rabbinical Court of Appeals will discuss removing Metzger in wake of a recommendation by Justice Minister Daniel Friedmann that the chief rabbi be impeached for alleged breach of trust and fraud.

Metzger’s lawyers are expected to argue that the court is not authorized to discuss the removal of chief rabbis because it does not appoint them.

In addition, they will claim that Mazuz’s decision not to open a criminal investigation into the affair proves that Metzger need not resign.


Knesset c’tee to probe delays in approving conversions
By Matthew Wagner,

The Knesset State Control Committee will discuss on Monday a bureaucratic bottleneck in the Conversion Authority that is holding up 300 potential conversions.

State Comptroller Micha Lindenstrauss may be called upon to investigate the delays, which have forced some potential converts to wait for years to join the Jewish people.

Most of the prospective converts are the spouses of Israelis who met non-Jews abroad, got married in civil ceremonies and returned to Israel, where the spouses showed interest in converting to Judaism.


IDF’s Chief Rabbi Opposes Women in Combat Units
By Gil Ronen,

Brig.-Gen. Avichai Ronsky, the IDF’s Chief Rabbi, said that women serving in the IDF should not be put in combat roles.

“The idea of girls going into tanks or into paratrooper battalions is an impracticable one in my opinion and could hurt the combat array,”

he told Voice of Israel government radio.

Ronsky said the subject of women’s service in combat was currently under debate and that the Military Rabbinate’s position on the subject was certainly negative.

He added that practically speaking,

“there will be very few girls who want to serve three years as fighters in the paratroops or tanks; it seems a little imaginary to me.”


IDF Rabbinate to include female Religion Officer

By Gil Ronen,

Brig.-Gen. Avichai Ronsky, the IDF’s Chief Rabbi revealed that for the first time ever, a female Religion Officer will join the ranks of the Military Rabbinate, and will deal with religious questions, problems and needs faced by female soldiers.

One out of three girls from the religious Zionist stream joins the army, he said: “This is quite a lot [of women] and we have never dealt with this matter in the Rabbinate.”


Three top yeshivas cut ties with Jewish Agency program MASA
By Daphna Berman, Haaretz

Yeshiva representatives, speaking on condition of anonymity, cite MASA’s failure to respect their religious sensitivities in mandatory events, as well as an abundance of paperwork that they said made the partnership no longer tenable.

The signatories on the letter included rabbis and administrators from Yeshivat Kerem B’Yavne, Yeshivat Har Etzion and Yeshivat Sha’alvim.


Van Leer Institute International Conference on “Contemporary Reform Judaism: Sociology, Education and Theology”

Van Leer Institute, December 24-25, 2007, Jerusalem

The aim of the conference is to share new research studies which will contribute to a fuller understanding of contemporary Reform Judaism and the internal processes which it is undergoing from the perspectives of sociologists, theologians, historians and educators.


Shas says will oppose plan to let gay couples adopt kids
By Yuval Yoaz, Haaretz

The Shas Party plans to prevent Welfare Minister Isaac Herzog from implementing a planned revolution that would allow same-sex couples to adopt children.

This is a crazy idea,”

Shas Chairman Eli Yishai told Haaretz.

“It is part of a series of ideas by deluded parties whose sole goal is to blur the Jewish core of the Jewish people. This initiative contradicts the coalition agreements, and therefore, it will not be realized.”

See also “Adapting adoption”


Conservative Movement ordain 3 female rabbis in Jerusalem
By Neta Sela,

Four new conservative rabbis, Chaya Rowel-Baker, Judith Rubin, Roni Boaz-Klein and Gali Snir were ordained Sunday in Jerusalem by the Schechter Rabbinical Seminary.


Alternative shmita kashrut supervision dismantled
By Matthew Wagner,

Tzohar Rabbis and the Religious Kibbutz Movement announced Monday that they have dismantled their alternative kosher supervision apparatus that was set up for the shmita (Sabbatical) year.

Tzohar rabbis, many of whom are employed by the Chief Rabbinate, began issuing alternative kashrut certificates two months ago.

Rabbi Moshe Rauchverger, a senior member of the chief rabbinate’s governing body, said that as a result of the Supreme Court decision, three rabbis were given authorization to provide kashrut certificates in cities where the local rabbis refused to.

Kiryat Arba-Hebron Chief Rabbi Dov Lior is responsible for central and southern Israel, including Judea and Samaria. Haifa Chief Rabbi Shear Yishuv Cohen is responsible for the North. Yosef Harel, the rabbi responsible for the Judea region, provides kashrut certificates to businesses in Jerusalem.


Israel denies encouraging Jews to leave Germany

“The main purpose of Nativ is to bring to those communities a sense of the Jewish culture, the Israeli culture and to help with education. The agenda is not to become movers of the communities to Israel.”

However, Been-Zeev said Israel was the natural home for Jews and anyone wanting to move to Israel was “more than welcome”.


Gaydamak: “Secular Couch-Potatoes Have Nothing to Give Religious”
By Hillel Fendel,

Arcadi Gaydamak is emphatic that the religious have an important role in teaching others about Judaism and thus keeping the nation’s traditions alive:

“We are a people, because we have this knowledge that we are Jews. We should transmit this knowledge to future generations.

We must maintain and provide support for those who are transmitting this knowledge, i.e., the religious people.

They do not have to come closer to the non-religious, because they [the non-religious] have nothing to offer the religious; what, they can teach them how to sit on the sofa and watch TV? Or how to make a barbecue?

But the non-religious people should try to be closer to the religious so that they can learn at least a little about our history and tradition, and then to transmit it to the next generation. If not, we will disappear. I try to help the religious by giving them support. “


HOT refuses to provide Haredi communities telephone service
By Amitai Ziv, Haaretz

The national cable company HOT is refusing to provide landline telephone infrastructure in ultra-Orthodox neighborhoods.

According to an exchange of correspondence between MK Moshe Gafni (United Torah Judaism) and the Ministry of Communications, the many complaints received are not necessarily from residents of outlying villages, but from centrally located towns like Bnei Brak, Petah Tikva and Beit Shemesh, where Hot infrastructure exists in secular neighborhoods.


If we’re going by the numbers, it doesn’t add up
By Anshel Pfeffer, Haaretz

Zionism is not dead. There are always those who will come for purely
ideological reasons, but for the rest of potential immigrants, it has become increasingly a matter of convenience and lifestyle.

The numbers game is obsolete, and those hoping the Jews of the world will arrive in droves and save Israel from demographic catastrophe are deluding themselves.


Bielski to Rabbinate: Ease restrictions on Ethiopians
By Ruth Eglash and Matthew Wagner,

Jewish Agency for Israel director general Ze’ev Bielski has called on Sephardi Chief Rabbi Shlomo Amar to consider easing the stipulation that children of Ethiopian immigrants must attend national religious schools during the period that their parents convert to Judaism.

“To my dismay, in most of these cases, the central issue is that the children of Ethiopian immigrants are made to learn in the religious school system,” wrote Bielski, arguing that because of this requirement a disproportionately large concentration of Ethiopian pupils end up in a small number of schools.”


Tiberias eateries turn kosher to draw tourists
By Eli Ashkenazi, Haaretz

Over the past 20 years, tourism in the lakeside city of Tiberias has been in a long and steady decline.

The city was dealt a serious blow in 2000 with the outbreak of the second intifada, when foreign tourism to Tiberias came to an almost immediate halt. Religious tourists, however, continued to visit and locals began to vie for their business.

Within a short period, cafes and restaurants began to display prominent kosher signs, and the city’s religious council became more stringent in its demands for granting kashrut certificates.

Only two eateries, Avi’s Restaurant and Little Tiberias stayed open on Shabbat.

Last month, Avi Betham of Avi’s Restaurant gave up and took out a kosher certificate for his establishment.


Tiv Taam launching chain of Mizra brand delicatessens
By Sivan Klingbail, TheMarker

Tiv Taam is to open a new branch in central Tel Aviv operating under the Mizra brand name.

Tiv Taam in the City operates eight branches, six in Tel Aviv, and it has plans for four more there, and another in Givatayim. (Tiv Taam branches are not kosher, jk)


Interior Ministry closes down Ethiopian aliyah operation
By Anshel Pfeffer, Haaretz

The Interior Ministry will close down its operation in Ethiopia in another two weeks, after signing the last aliyah permit for Falash Mura who are eligible to immigrate to Israel.

According to the ministry, some 1,500 eligible Falash Mura are still in Ethiopia, and all are expected to arrive here by next June. But Ethiopian immigrant associations claim that there are at least 8,500 others who are eligible to immigrate under the government’s criteria.
The North American Conference on Ethiopian Jewry (NACOEJ):

“We don’t make decisions for the Israeli government,” said Joseph Feit, one of its leaders, “but according to the halakhic rulings of Israel’s chief rabbis, and according to opinions by the three religious streams here in the U.S.[Orthodox, Conservative and Reform], the Jewishness of the 8,500 Falash Mura remaining in Gondar should be recognized.

Nor would it surprise me if there are more Jews in the villages of Ethiopia.”


As Ethiopian aliyah nears end, advocates push for 8,500 more
By Uriel Heilman, JTA

For now it seems nothing short of a court order will force the Interior Ministry to screen the additional Ethiopians for aliyah eligibility under the special terms granted to the Falash Mura — Ethiopians who claim links to Jewish progenitors.


They’re not Jewish
By Danny Adino Ababa,

The writer is an Ethiopian-born journalist

“…Members of the Falash Mura have become hostages thanks to some American Jews who want reconciliation with Afro-Americans over the injustices done to them.

The estimates that 20,000 Falash Mura members are waiting to move to Israel are false.

In fact, we are talking about an endless number, particularly if we consider their kinship to those who already made it to Israel.


U.S. real estate tycoon, Bar-Ilan U., plan new medical school – and town – near Safed
By Tamara Traubmann, Haaretz

An estimated $500 million in donations is required to improve the hospitals and build the medical school, a medical research center and student dormitories.

The money will be supplied by donors recruited by Kaveh and Stark, the president and chief executive officer of the Ohio-based real-estate developer Stark Enterprises, and an observant Jew.

The 3,400-dunam university town is slated to include residential buildings for faculty, cultural institutions, two shopping centers and a hesder yeshiva, which combines military service with Torah study.


Haredi Rabbis approve internet use for business
By Neta Sela,

The Rabbinical Commission for Media Affairs, established by leading Haredi rabbis, published in the Monday’s Haredi press an announcement permitting the use of the internet “solely for business purposes, through kosher means.”

According to articles, many appealed to the community’s Rabbis to find a solution for the problem of the internet as anyone required to use it to provide himself with a livelihood felt like he was “living on the edge.”


Haredi lottery comes to town
By Neta Sela,

In this new project, known as “Goralot,” participants whose numbers match are not the only ones who win; the profits from ticket sales will go for charity purposes to the “Tiferet Rechesim” fund, which provides aid for families in need and young haredi dropouts.


MK Melchior awarded Liebhaber Prize for Religious Tolerance
By Neta Sela,

The Marc and Henia Liebhaber Prize for Promotion of Religious Tolerance and Cultural Pluralism in Israel was first given 13 years ago following the murder of Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin.

The prize was awarded to Knesset Member Michael Melchior (Labor-Meimad) for his role in “nurturing religious and secular dialogue and the nurturing of the relationship between the leaders of the three monotheistic religions”.


Jerusalem Earmarks NIS 100 Million for Construction of Religious and Educational Facilities
By Yechiel Sever, Dei’ah veDibur

As the Jerusalem City Council prepares for budget talks, the municipality submitted data on projects soon to be carried out.

The compiled data shows during the coming year the municipality will build mikvo’os, botei knesses and botei medrash throughout the city at an unprecedented level of NIS 100 million ($25 million).


Cabinet okays renewing controversial Temple Mount Mugrabi excavation
By Akiva Eldar, Haaretz

The Israel Antiquities Authority (IAA) has been instructed by the cabinet to continue its work at the Mugrabi walkway near the Western Wall in Jerusalem.

The cabinet recently instructed the IAA to complete the work “as soon as possible, with full transparency and with the cooperation of the relevant bodies.”


Kolech wins Human Rights award
By Yair Ettinger, Haaretz

The Association for Civil Rights in Israel (ACRI) said the Kolech organization had won its 2007 award for upholding human rights.

Founded in 1998, Kolech promotes equal rights for women in Israel’s Jewish Orthodox community.

The group, for example, helps women whose husbands deny them a divorce.

Kolech chairwoman Rachel Keren said the award showed that the organization had boosted women’s rights in Israel in general, not just in the religious sector.


Support Sought for Temple Mount Synagogue
By Hillel Fendel,

The golden Menorah – suitable for use in the Holy Temple, and familiar to visitors to the Cardo section of the Old City of Jerusalem – was relocated to the landing of the wide staircase that leads down from the Jewish Quarter to the Western Wall.

Click here to see photos of the procession.

The $3-million, one-half ton Menorah is protected inside the same type of glass structure that has housed it until now.


Israel confirms appointment of Greek Orthodox Patriarch
By AP/

More than two years after he was sworn in as the Greek Orthodox Patriarch in the Holy Land, Theofilos III on Sunday finally won the approval of the Israeli government, putting an end to a lengthy international saga with religious, political and financial elements.

On Sunday, the government finally approved Theofilos by a vote of 10 to 3. The opponents all belonged to the ultra-Orthodox Jewish Shas Party, who raised reservations about Theofilos’ reported commitment to blocking any future sale of lands to Jews.

Theofilos, 55, has said he will not recognize any land deals signed by Irineos. He has accused Israel of not recognizing him in an effort to extort his support for the lease of the property, which includes two hotels and several shops.


Teach Israeli Children Value of Democracy
By Dori Spivak and Melanie Takefman, The Forward

Though important advances have been made to expand the reach of human
rights education to all sectors of Israeli society, neither human rights nor education are on the top of the government’s agenda.

The American Jewish community, and all of Diaspora Jewry, should keep this in mind in their support of Israel.

Without an educated and tolerant population, Israel will only weaken from within, regardless of any political settlement.


Sderot yeshiva fights despair with faith
By Matthew Wagner,

Over the past several years the Sderot Hesder Yeshiva has grown 15 percent annually, said administrative head Michael Siman-Tov. There about 550 students enrolled, 80 of whom currently serve in the army.

Around 50 young religious Zionist families have moved to town, with most of the men graduates of the Sderot Hesder Yeshiva.


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