Religion and State in Israel – December 24, 2007

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Religion and State in Israel
December 24, 2007
Editor: Joel Katz

Religion and State in Israel is not affiliated with any organization or movement.

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Reform head: U.S. Jews must not oppose compromise on Jerusalem

By Shlomo Shamir, Haaretz

Rabbi Eric Yoffie, the leader of the U.S. Jewish Reform movement, lashed out at the Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations for reaffirming its support for a united Jerusalem, saying the U.S. Jewish community must not oppose Israeli compromise on the capital.

“The Jewish community in the U.S. cannot at this moment make things difficult for Israel and it mustn’t tell the Israeli government not to compromise on the issue of Jerusalem.”

“If there will be a concession at the end of the day, Israel will receive a tremendous benefit in return.”

Meretz – what is it good for?
By Shahar Ilan, Haaretz

The secular public seriously lacks proper representation in parliament.
It was no accident that the Tal Law was extended for five years with scarcely a murmur.

Nor is it any accident that civil marriage has been swept off the Knesset agenda.

The religious and right-wing parties even dominate debates on the constitution – some constitutional debates are held by a panel of six or seven religious Knesset members and not a single secular one.

Politics abhors a vacuum. If Meretz will not stand up for secular voters, then a more radical and aggressive secular party will surely emerge to fill the void.

Chief Rabbinate: Abortions are grave sin

By Neta Sela,

Israel’s Chief Rabbinate decided over the weekend that it would establish a special committee that would work to reduce the amount of abortions carried out in Israel.

The council made the decision after Dr. Eli Schussheim, director of the anti-abortion organization Efrat, presented the rabbis with facts and figures on the amount of abortions carried out in Israel yearly.

Books, Brown and the Beit Din

By Anshel Pfeffer, Haaretz

British Chief Rabbi Jonathan Sacks:

“The connection between religion and politics has always been historically disastrous, without exception.”

“You can’t run a society by legislation,” and adds that he hopes Israel drafts a constitution based on the Torah, dealing with “society, the welfare system, primacy of education, social justice and legal justice.”

He is convinced a constitution of this type already can be “sensed in the national character. The challenge is how to advance that without religious coercion.”

He hopes “sometime in the future, a rabbi or a group of rabbis will say we have to work with families. Religious leaders in Israel should focus on family, community, the education system. I’m glad that the Tzohar rabbis are doing that.”

Tensions mount as top yeshivas quit MASA programsBy Daphna Berman, Haaretz

So far, three prominent yeshivas – Kerem B’Yavne, Yeshivat Har Etzion and Yeshivat Sha’alvim – have decided to formally sever ties with the program and other religious institutions for men and women said they may follow suit.

An estimated 35 percent of MASA’s 9,000 participants are Orthodox.

Sources say one reason for the change in the way the money was allocated was due to the fact that religious institutions were getting a disproportionate chunk of the money. In the more Orthodox and ultra-Orthodox programs, the majority of students qualified for financial aid because they came from large families.

“MASA didn’t like it because MASA isn’t built for the religious, and so they changed the criteria,”

the source said.

International Fellowship of Christians and Jews will give the Jewish Agency for Israel $15 million per year for the next three years

The Jewish Agency is calling the new arrangement with the charitable fund, which is headed by Rabbi Yechiel Eckstein, a “strategic partnership.”

This year, the fellowship contributed more than $8 million to the Jewish Agency.

According to a memorandum of understanding, the fellowship will give the money to the Jewish Agency through Keren Hayesod.

The fellowship will be able to appoint a member to the Jewish Agency’s Budget and Finance Committee, and the fellowship’s president will become a member of the Jewish Agency’s Executive.

Jewish Agency to get Christian rep

By Anshel Pfeffer, Haaretz

According to the agreement between the Jewish Agency and the IFCJ, Eckstein will raise NIS 180 million among Christian communities in the next three years for immigration and absorption, and a Christian member of the IFCJ will be placed on the agency’s board.

Allowing same-sex couples to adopt will strengthen Jewish families

By Rabbi Gilad Kariv,
The writer is Associate Director, Israel Religious Action Center

Removing the obstacles faced by same-sex couples who wish to adopt an Israeli child constitutes a clear and unequivocal expression of the State’s recognition that the child’s good would not be undermined because he or she have same-sex parents, and that this good hinges on, first and foremost, the quality of family life and the relationships within it.

This recognition by the State is another layer en route to pushing back bias, which is the only thing that could affect the good of a child of same-sex parents.

Gay adoption not for Jews

By Minister Yitzhak Cohen (Shas),
Minister Yitzhak Cohen is in charge of religious services

The Welfare Ministry seeks to create a public breach that would undermine the nature of the Jewish people: Indirectly, the Ministry seeks to redefine the meaning of a Jewish family.

What would be next? Would the Justice Ministry seek to redefine who’s a Jew?

Funds raise money for Orthodox soldiers

By Kobi Nahshoni,

Now orthodox soldiers can boast another quiet achievement, as the Libi Fund for Strengthening Israel’s Defense holds a special fundraiser for orthodox soldiers.

The fundraiser is set to be held later on this week, and its chief goal is to raise funds for a new synagogue on IDF Training Base One (Bahad Echad), as well as to purchase 13 new Torah scrolls for various IDF units.

IDF: Rabbi who placed mezuzah on Casbah wall ‘did not understand ramifications’
By Efrat Weiss,

Military officials told Ynet that the investigation’s initial findings “indicate that the rabbi had unintentionally affixed the mezuzah and that immediately after the incident began to make waves, the offending mezuzah was removed.”

See also article IDF rabbi affixes mezuzah at entrance to Hebron’s Casbah

Hebron mezuzah incident investigated

An Israeli army rabbi is under investigation for putting a mezuzah up in an off-limits area of Hebron.

The rabbi of the military’s Judea Brigade was photographed this week putting up a mezuzah in the casbah, or old city of Hebron, accompanied by Chabad supporters.

Where’s the reform?
By Nehemia Shtrasler, Haaretz

We must end the separate state, state-religious and ultra-Orthodox systems.

We belong to one nation; we must attend the same school system and learn from the same books. That will reduce alienation, and Israel’s fragmented society will be a real melting pot.

When ultra-Orthodox Jewish children begin learning mathematics, English, science, history and civics – like their counterparts in Brooklyn and Antwerp – the achievement level in Israel’s schools will rise.

Religious studies will be taught in the afternoon, as an addition for interested students.

The shmita fiasco
By Rabbi Ed Rettig,
The writer is Associate Director of the Israel/Middle East Office of American Jewish Committee.

The sad state of Judaism in the Jewish State will not know improvement, unless religion can be disestablished and freed from the Israeli State’s politics.

Perhaps it is time for Israeli society, and for those who care deeply about the future of Judaism in the Jewish state, to take steps to rethink and restructure according to the alternative model of separation of church and state.

The shmita fiasco shines a harsh light on the current failed system.

Over time, this may be its major impact.

Concerted Efforts to Prevent Planting along Trans-Israel Highway
By Yechiel Sever, Dei’ah veDibur

Concerted efforts are now underway to prevent the planting of ground cover along the new section of the Trans-Israel Highway leading to Kiryat Gat, because such planting is prohibited during the Shmittah year.

Trans-Israel Co. President Mr. Yehuda Cohen said the planting is not primarily decorative but to strengthen the highway infrastructure by spreading out on the ground.

But since even under such circumstances this type of landscape work is forbidden, broad efforts are now being made to prevent the planting.

Lod’s religious council suspends burial services
By Tani Goldstein,

Religious Council workers have so far refused to bury three of the city’s dead.

Dina Cohen, head of the Religious Council workers’ union, told Ynet that Lod Mayor Ilan Harari has assured her the workers will be paid by after the delayed burials were conducted, but has not kept his word.

Religious Zionist leader: We’ll be far stronger if we stop making idle threats
By Kobi Nahshoni,

Rabbi Shlomo Aviner, senior rabbi of the Religious Zionist Movement (and chief Rabbi of the settlement of Beit El):

“We need to take the advice of a prominent professor, an expert on social processes, who admonishes our movement to stand united and stop laying blame on one another.”

“We also need to stop speaking in a vague and threatening manner that alienates others.”

Solving the ‘aguna’ problem
By Rabbi Reuven Hammer,
The writer is an author and lecturer who serves as the head of the Rabbinical Court of the Masorti Movement

The establishment of a Jewish state has presented Jewish law with many challenges (shmita is only one of them).

Perhaps divorce is the most pressing because of the suffering and the injustice it causes.

We must strive for the time when injustice and Jewish law will be an oxymoron because we will have found the way within halachic bounds to completely eliminate the problem of agunot.

Beyond aliya Editorial

Support for aliya, however, should be considered part of a broader Israeli approach to the Diaspora.

There can be no aliya strategy, in other words, that does not work to ensure that the number of Diaspora Jews, their Jewish identity, and their connection to Israel are all increasing.

Birthright israel’s collateral damage

“Students who have shown their interest by participating in an Israel educational experience while in high school should not be penalized by being excluded from a college Birthright experience.”

Chief Rabbi Metzger: Only centralized lineage records can prevent forbidden marriages
By Kobi Nahshoni,

“There is a need for a computerized center to gather information on all Jews who marry according to Jewish law,”

Chief Rabbi Yona Metzger said on Monday at the ‘World Conference on Jewish Civil Law’ in Jerusalem.

In his speech, the rabbi stressed the importance of marriage witnesses’ testimony to prevent legal errors.

The great awakening
By Anshel Pfeffer, Haaretz

Israel is in the throes of a major religious awakening, reaching deep into all parts of society, but no one has been told about it yet.

This renaissance of Jewish learning is going unreported and largely unremarked upon because it has not resulted in a perceptible shift toward one religious stream or denomination.

There is no new mass movement, and none of the charismatic rabbis or teachers has turned into a guru with a following of thousands.

On the surface, the old fault lines between Haredi (ultra-Orthodox), dati (modern Orthodox), traditional and secular Israelis are still in place, but just beneath, these boundaries are becoming increasingly blurred.

World Conference on Jewish Civil Law held in Jerusalem
By Kobi Nahshoni,

In his opening remarks, organizer Rabbi Arusi called on the ministers and MK’s in attendance to approve of legislation aiming to transfer more powers to rabbinical courts and to bestow the courts with legal authority rather than simply view them as arbiters.

Lupolianski backs plan to provide ‘kosher’ electricity

Jerusalem’s Ramat Shlomo (Shuafat) was chosen as the first pilot neighborhood to be hooked up to “kosher” electricity.

Local Council member Uri Maklev (Degel Hatorah) has met with neighborhood’s chief rabbi and in the coming week the residents will be surveyed to find out if they are willing to pay the additional costs.

In addition to Jerusalem, Israel Electric Co. has begun negotiations to put generators in the predominantly haredi cities Betar Illit, Kiryat Sefer and El-Ad. The local residents have not yet agreed to pay for the costs.

Israel Electric Co. intends to fund the costs by charging a fixed monthly fee to all residents who use the generator-produced electricity, but all residents will have to agree to foot the bill.

Who controls the Temple Mount?

Click for VIDEO – The Society for Establishment of the Temple – video footage documenting ascents to Temple Mount

Barring the door to Falashmura raises difficult questions
By Anshel Pfeffer, Haaretz

Fundamental issues of Israel’s national identity are at stake here.

What are the limits of Jewish identity and eligibility for citizenship?

Does Israel have a special obligation to assist the poor and downtrodden of the world, no matter how tenuous their connection to the Jewish people, or even if they have no connection whatsoever?

With the Falashmura we are talking tens, potentially hundreds, of thousands of people.

There simply doesn’t seem to be a morally acceptable solution either way, save for falling back on the Law of Return, with all its faults, as our guideline.

Israel’s Reform lobby for food gifts

Israel’s Reform movement successfully lobbied for a new law promoting food donations.
The Israel Religious Action Center, the public advocacy and legal arm of the Reform movement in Israel, was among those pushing strongly for the passage of the so-called Israeli Good Samaritan Law.

The measure allows restaurants, hotels and catering halls to donate to organizations that distribute food to the needy without the fear of being subjected to lawsuits with regard to the quality and freshness of the products.

Some 25 percent of food prepared by these institutions is being thrown out, while a growing number of Israelis are struggling financially and must find ways to feed their families.

The center, which has been a leader in lobbying on the issue of food shortages in Israel, recently brought a group of Knesset members to the United States to see successful models of food projects.

New bill set to rein in Knesset lobbyists

Long-time lobbyist Lauren Poris said she welcomed Sa’ar’s bill, since it would distinguish between various lobbying bodies.

“It will clarify that some of us are here representing human rights issues, while others are representing the [airport] duty-free shop,”

said Poris, who first began lobbying 20 years ago and currently works for the Israel Religious Action Center, the public and legal advocacy arm of the Reform Movement in Israel.

Knesset Education Committee Discusses Funding for Yeshivos Ketanos
By Eliezer Rauchberger, Dei’ah veDibur

The Knesset Education Committee held a meeting to discuss the budget for yeshivos ketanos whose students do not participate in the Core Curriculum Program and do not study secular subjects.

A Reform representative who participated in the meeting said that she objected to the legislation, but MK Rabbi Avrohom Ravitz replied irately, “Who do you represent at this meeting? Who invited you here? You’re a tiny minority and your stance is of no interest to anyone and does not represent anyone. What are you doing here in the first place?”

MK Rabbi Gafni also protested her involvement, calling out, “Why are you interfering in this issue? I’m against hypocrisy and evil.”

Both Rabbi Ravitz and Rabbi Gafni left the committee hall until she had finished speaking.

Ra’anana parents fume over failure to open TALI school
By Cnaan Liphshiz, Haaretz

AllisonKaplan Sommer says it was former mayor Ze’ev Bielski who made the original promise to open a TALI school, before he resigned his post to head the Jewish Agency.

Bielski, who was seen as immensely popular, supported Hofri’s candidacy.
“Now both Bielski and the TALI school are nowhere to be seen,” says Kaplan Sommer.

Feminist Orthodox organization receives humanitarian award
By Kobi Nahshoni,

“Women’s public contributions are, unfortunately, oftentimes spurned in the Orthodox world, unintentionally debasing Orthodox women and relegating them to a subordinate status,”

said Rachel Keren, chairwoman of the feminist Orthodox organization ‘Koelch’ Sunday, at an awards ceremony recognizing the group for its human rights achievements.

At the heart of Jewish thought there is equality between the sexes, explained Keren, but various halachic rulings “intentionally silence women and make mute their voice,” she said.

Dim light
By Ariel Hirschfeld, Haaretz

The Chabad hanukkiot, like all the Chabad initiatives, are a combination of good intentions and great fanfare.

In the display of hanukkiot, Chabad reveals the heavy-handedness inside the good intentions, in a most blatant form.

Because here they have touched a tangible symbol and done something to it: they take the delicate Jewish symbol, whose entire raison d’etre is light and beauty, and place it “everywhere” as a pile of electrical wires and iron pipes.

Abomination, oy vey!
By Yedidyah Meir, Haaretz

*YES promotes HDTV(High Definition TV)

I was offended that they took this charming *commercial off the air because they thought I was offended.

That’s the most insulting thing. That and the speed with which the commercial disappeared, without any discussion or argument whatsoever, because it had to be taken off right away; it was a matter of life and death, these religious folks would never be able to withstand the offense to their feelings.

And another thing that offended me: Finally there’s one completely kosher commercial – with no violence, no cursing, no models – and that’s the one they take off the air? Gevald!

Three years from launch, 60% of Haredim using kosher cellphones
By Amitai Ziv, TheMarker

About 150,000 “kosher” cell phones have been sold in Israel since sales began, three years ago.

According to data from one cellular provider, the ultra-Orthodox (Haredi) Jewish community now uses about 250,000 cellular phones.

That means 60 percent of this religious community is using “kosher” devices, and conversely, that 40 percent of the community are using “non-kosher” ones.

Fierce competition for Haredi business over the past three years has reportedly resulted in a drop of about 30 percent in the average monthly bill of Haredi users, to about $25, while the general population has enjoyed a discount of just 6 percent.

How to be religious – and enjoy a Shabbat espresso
By Barr Hayoun, Haaretz

Use of these [“kosher”] cellphones in the ultra-Orthodox community has become the norm: these days 60% of cellularly enabled Haredim use them.

Moreover, the cellular companies are wooing the ultra-Orthodox community with special package deals tailored to the religious.

The companies can easily make sure that secular Israelis don’t take advantage of the “Haredi packages” – by charging an arm and a leg for calls made on Shabbat.

Rabbis give Haredim dispensation for limited use of censored Internet
By Maayan Cohen, Haaretz

Rabbinical committee on communications published an announcement in the ultra-Orthodox newspapers Hamodia and Yeded Ne’eman yesterday, giving dispensation to “those who need the Internet to earn their livelihood” to use it under supervision.

According to the ordinance, a small number of specially censored sites will be permitted for use by the business sector only. The current ordinance applies to a pilot service provided by Bezeq International, but additional censored Internet site suppliers are likely to develop in the future.

See: notice issued by “Vaadas HaRabbonim LeInyonei Tikshoret”

Poll: Haredim read papers more than secular public

Some 28% said they read Hamodia, a daily controlled by the Gerrer Hassidim;

21% said they read Yated Ne’eman, a daily identified with the Lithuanian haredi community.

Mishpacha, an apolitical weekly, garnered 16% of the haredi readership.

PM’s Office: Mughrabi Gate construction never stopped
By Jonathan Lis, Haaretz

The Prime Minister’s Office and the Israel Antiquities Authority claimed yesterday that the construction being carried out near the Mughrabi Gate, in an effort to prepare the ground for the construction of a pedestrian bridge, was never stopped – and therefore never resumed.

Jerusalem’s Latin Patriarch rejects Israel’s Jewish identity
By Agencies

Israel’s identity as a Jewish state discriminates against non-Jews, the Holy Land’s top Roman Catholic clergyman said yesterday in a pre-Christmas address.

“If there’s a state of one religion, other religions are naturally discriminated against,” Latin Patriarch Michel Sabbah told reporters, at the annual news conference held in Jerusalem before the Christian holiday.

In his address, which he read in Arabic and English, Sabbah said Israel should abandon its Jewish character in favor of a political, normal state for Christians, Muslims and Jews.

Sabbah slammed for challenging ‘Jewish state’

Both the Union of Orthodox Jewish Congregations of America (UOJC) and the Anti-Defamation League (ADL) attacked Latin Patriarch Michel Sabbah for commenting last Wednesday during his annual pre-Christmas address that Israel should abandon its Jewish character in favor of a political, normal state for Christians Muslims and Jews.

Education Ministry seeks to shed ulpans
By Anshel Pfeffer, Haaretz

The Education Ministry wants to stop being responsible for teaching Hebrew to new immigrants because it is busy with school reform, ministry director general Shlomit Amichai said.

Gov’t planning to close most ulpans, privatize immigrant Hebrew studies
By Anshel Pfeffer, Haaretz

Less than 60 percent of olim complete their ulpan studies, compared with 24 percent who never attend ulpan and 17 percent who drop out early on.

Another change the Immigrant Absorption Ministry is promoting is to establish study centers for children of olim, where they would learn Hebrew for several months before being integrated into local schools.

The most nurturing experience an oleh could have wanted
By Ariel Zilber, Haaretz

Where else could the Ghanaian son of a Russian Jewish mother meet a Colombian girl who would later become his bride?

Pioneer ethic lives on in ulpans amid charges they need a shake-up
By Anshel Pfeffer, Haaretz

Dr. Michael Yedovitsky, the director of the Jewish Agency’s education division for the former Soviet Union:

“The writing has been on the wall for a long time.”

“A very significant group of people, after a year in Israel, displays a poor ability, especially regarding Hebrew language skills, daily communication, expressing themselves in writing, and reading comprehension.

And there is extraordinary bitterness because this messes up a person’s life in communication with his Israeli surroundings, his children and workplace.”


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