Religion & State in Israel – December 31, 2007

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Religion & State in Israel
December 31, 2007
Editor – Joel Katz

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

Please send your comments or suggestions to

Reform Movement articles

Reform leader seeks return to rituals


Rabbi Eric Yoffie, head of North America’s Reform Movement:

The “heart of the matter” was explaining how Israel fit into the religious vision of the Reform Movement.

“Obviously, unlike Orthodox religious Zionism, Eretz Yisrael HaShleima [Greater Israel] is not a part of the Reform Movement’s principles.

Our religious values are not related to territories. Rather, Israel is central to the vision of building a holy community founded on justice and equality.

“I want to be able to express to a 13-year-old the importance of Israel for the Jewish people.

The best way to do that is to bring Jews here to visit, to experience for themselves, to make Israel real for them.”

A meeting (not) of movements’ minds


The fact, though, that just this week the local branch of the Reform movement petitioned the High Court of Justice against alleged discrimination by the Jerusalem Religious Council in denying access to Conservative and Reform converts, illustrates how far the non-Orthodox streams still have to go in establishing themselves in Israel.

It is now increasingly clear that this simple isolationist stance will at the very least cost [the Orthodox] – probably sooner rather than later – their current monopoly over Israel’s official religious establishment.

The more thoughtful Orthodox rabbis already know this, which is why it is encouraging that one of them, Har Adar’s Naftali Rothenberg, is taking a leading role in the Reform seminar.

Religious Strains


Conference sponsored by the Van Leer Jerusalem Institute entitled: “Contemporary Reform Judaism – Sociology, Education and Theology.”

Rabbi Eric Yoffie, who was invited to make the concluding remarks, called for a free market of religious approaches that did not discriminate against non-Orthodox Judaism.

“History has shown that every monopoly, whether in business or in religion, is doomed to failure. So the Orthodox monopoly cannot continue. Besides, Orthodoxy is not the answer for everyone.

“And without Judaism, I cannot be sure of the future of the Jewish state,” he warned. “If an Israeli is asked, ‘Why do you stay here?’ he’ll have a hard time answering if he has no roots in Judaism. I refuse to believe that this generation of Jews is the first to be born that does not need Judaism.”

Although he did not say so, Yehuda Maimaran, director of the Morasha Institute implied that Reform Judaism in Israel was a decidedly Ashkenazi phenomenon.

Anat Hoffman, executive director of the Israel Religious Action Center, the legal arm of the Reform Movement here, said so explicitly. She said that Sephardim who belonged to the Reform Movement tended to come from “certain socioeconomic strata” and from “certain neighborhoods in Israel like Ramat Aviv.”

Hoffman’s comments, which were based on a survey conducted for the movement by a professional pollster, triggered a vocal uproar from the audience.

Hoffman, Rabbi Gilad Kariv, a legal adviser for the Reform Movement, and others rebutted that the movement’s potential for growth was being hampered by decades of Orthodox monopoly.

They also disputed Dr. Asher Cohen’s (Bar-Ilan University) claim that secular Israelis rejected the God factor in Reform Judaism.

For a quiet religious dialogue

By Shlomo Shamir, Haaretz

The conference in Jerusalem was of an academic nature, and those who addressed it came from universities and research institutes in the U.S. and Israel.

But make no mistake about it – this is a conference that should serve as a warning to the Orthodox in Israel, because this academic event provided, perhaps for the first time, respectable legitimacy for the activities of the Reform movement in Israel.

It is expected to speed up the process of movement recognition, sidestepping the Orthodox establishment.

Survey: What’s the difference between Conservative and Reform Jews?

Eighty-two percent of the public is aware that there are differences between the two religious streams.

Concerning the differences, seculars are most unaware- 24% believe that there is no distinction or have not heard of the two groups.

Twenty-three percent of haredim told Dahaf that Reform Jews were “worse than gentiles” and “cause damage that will last for generations”, and an additional 15% said that their ways constitute “sleight of hand”.

‘Religious’ soldier brings Reform Movement to IAF

Only one member of the Israel Air Force’s Wing Order 155 graduating class is “religious” – and 22-year-old Lt. Amitai does not fit the image of the typical Orthodox Israeli.

Surrounded by nonreligious soldiers, most of whom were not familiar with the Reform Movement, Amitai found that “they liked it when a little Judaism came in.”

“Most people don’t know Reform, and it’s been interesting to meet people who are very religious or not in the army and challenge their values and mine,” Amitai said. “Hopefully, they know it better after they know me.”

See also Hebrew article:

See also Hebrew article: The Reform Movement – it’s not what you thought

Reform Reflections: Impressionists and Realists

By Rabbi Michael Marmur,

Discussing the condition of Reform Judaism in Israel, the sociologists grappled with the potential for our kind of Judaism to make significant inroads here.

Again, for some present at the conference this is a fond dream, and for others something of a nightmare (or at least an undesirable outcome).

But that did not stop us talking, researching, learning, and thinking together.

The conference this week was a great start: now we need to continue to explore the good, the bad, and the ugly of Reform Judaism. Criticism and self-criticism, after all, are usually the best guarantee of Great Art.

Yozma’s Synagogue “landing”

CLICK link for VIDEO

Reform synagogue in Modi’in – First non-Orthodox structure supported by State funding

Canadian Study bodes well for Israel’s Progressive Congregations

A soon-to-be-published Canadian study titled “A Tale of Two Congregations: The Founding Processes of Kehilat Mevasseret Zion and Kehilat Succat Shalom, Canada” offers surprising findings as to why the former, a Progressive congregation in Israel, is thriving while the latter has failed.

Comic relief


Anat Hoffman’s, executive director of the Israel Religious Action Center and former Jerusalem councilwoman:

“…there is a comic element in dealing with government offices and systems on a daily basis.”

She gives as an example an encounter with a government minister in her capacity as a member of Women of the Wall (a group campaigning for the right to pray out loud on the women’s side of the Western Wall).

“The minister told me that we couldn’t pray at the Wall because it could hear us,” she laughs. “Imagine a government minister in 21st-century Israel saying that walls have ears.”

Religion & State in Israel
December 31, 2007
Editor – Joel Katz

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

Please send your comments or suggestions to

Aliyah, Law of Return, Israel-Diaspora, Jewish Agency articles

Evangelicals’ New Reach in Jewish Agency Criticized

By Joshua Mitnick, The Jewish Week

Rabbi Eckstein said the pro-Israeli enthusiasm of Christian Zionists fills a “void” among the American Jewish public, which surveys suggest is less and less connected to Israel.

“The Fellowship and the Christians around the world literally have a seat around the table of a historic change between the Jewish Agency: now we sit with the UJC and Keren Hayesod as a full fledged partner,” he said, referring to the North American federation umbrella and umbrella group for World Jewry.

“All these years it’s been the Jewish people alone, and we’ve talked about relying only on the Jewish people,” he added, referring to the IFCJ as “trusty reliable support” for Israel.

“Just as Israel couldn’t make it alone without the United States, I think this is an acknowledgment that the Jewish people can’t do it alone.”

Jewish Agency Gives Boardroom Clout to Ally of Evangelicals
By Anthony Weiss, The Forward

“It’s not like all of a sudden you’re going to have Pat Robertson on the committee,” Rabbi Eckstein joked.

“I think we accept, with reservations, the political involvement of the evangelical community on behalf of Israel,” said Jewish Agency board member Richard Wexler, chairman of the United Israel Appeal.

“It would be rather cynical, having accepted the political help, to reject the financial assistance which has become more and more vital given the reduction in allocations and financial distributions from the federation system in America.”

Jesus For Jews
The Jewish Week Editorial

Rather than bemoan this development as the harbinger of some dark Christian infiltration into Israeli affairs, we should applaud the fact that Christian supporters of Israel have been recognized as full partners in the Zionist enterprise. Lord knows, we need all the help we can get.

Jewish Agency gives evangelical Christians powerful seat at table
By Jacob Berkman, JTA

This elevates” the fellowship and “thereby Christians around the world to strategic partner with the worldwide agency of the UJC and Keren Hayesod,” Eckstein told JTA.

“The Jewish Agency is essentially saying that pro-Israel Christians are joining with the Jewish community worldwide in helping aliyah and in strengthening the security and welfare of the State of Israel. That has never happened before.”

Evangelicals Step Up
Jewish Exponent Editorial

In a world where the Jewish people and Israel have few friends, can we really afford to snub those who — without much of a welcome or even a thank you from the organized Jewish world — are prepared to help do what is supposed to be our job: caring for Jews around the world and in Israel who are in need?

40 Iranian Jews arrive in Israel, largest group since 1979 revolution
By Anshel Pfeffer, Haaretz and AP

The operation was sponsored by the International Fellowship of Christians and Jews, whose founder, Rabbi Yehiel Eckstein, warned in a telephone interview from Chicago that the situation facing Iranian Jews is critical.

“Our feeling is that this is very similar to the situation of Jews in Germany in the 1930s,” Eckstein said. “All it needs is a U.S. or Israeli strike against Iran’s nuclear program for them to come down strong on the local Jewish population.”

Despite benefits, few Iranian Jews want to live here
By Anshel Pfeffer, Haaretz

The dirty secret is, that, given the choice, many of those prepared to consider leaving wouldn’t come to Israel since the thriving Iranian community in Los Angeles is much more attractive.

Dozens of Iranian Jews are currently waiting in Vienna for green cards, or better than that, official UN refugee status, allowing them to live wherever they wish in the West.

As Iranian immigration booms, Telfed assists new residents
By Cnaan Liphshiz, Haaretz

The project is a joint venture of the organization, Telfed and the Merage Foundations Israel – a charity owned by the Iranian-born American-Jewish philanthropist David Merage of Denver, Colorado.

Endangering the Jews of Iran
By Yossi Melman, Haaretz

It may perhaps be understood why Eckstein wants to aggrandize himself;

it is much more difficult to understand why the Jewish Agency and government officials are cooperating with him when they know that hanging in the balance is the fate of an entire Jewish community in a Muslim country hostile to Israel.

Jewish Agency: We’ll try to bring all Iranian Jews

An estimated 25,000 Jews remain in Iran, most of them living in Teheran, Isfahan and Shiraz. Teheran has the largest Jewish community, comprising some 15,000 people.

Program allows Jews to give immigration a chance
By Daphna Berman, Haaretz

As part of the program, Jewish Agency officials will now also be encouraging what they call “partial immigration” so that Diaspora Jews can work and spend several months a year here, without necessarily taking on Israeli citizenship.

“We see partial immigration and immigration in stages as very positive things,” said Moshe Vigdor, director general of JAFI.

“People are buying apartments, bringing their children for the summer and spending a few months a year in Israel. This encourages people to think about immigration and it makes it less threatening.”

191 new Israelis in time for 2008
Chartered aliyah flight brings nearly 200 olim from North America including 82 singles, a former ballerina for the Zurich Ballet and 30 future IDF soldiers

Forty Iranian Jews arrive

CLICK above link for VIDEO

Forty Iranian Jews arrived in Israel on Tuesday night, a successful ending to a complex operation in which many of the details were barred for publication. met with the families waiting their loved ones and the new immigrants who arrived.

Figures don’t add up for three official immigration bodies
By Anshel Pfeffer, Haaretz

The Jewish Agency is fighting the government and private Jewish organizations, which are interested in ending the Agency’s monopoly over aliya.

The Absorption is now talking about a further erosion of the Agency’s standing, by allowing the other groups to open official aliya files – a job that until now was exclusively granted to Agency representatives.

People who celebrate Christmas should not be moving to Israel under Law of Return
By Yossi Paritzky,

A person who views himself as Christian and who follows Christian ritual which has no cultural connection to Jewish heritage or the Israeli existence has nothing to do with us.

Do we wish to bring to Israel people who go to church regularly?

Nativ reaches agreement in Germany
By Anshel Pfeffer, Haaretz

Germany’s Jewish community and Nativ have reached an understanding regarding the organization’s activities among Russian-speaking members of the community.

Several Israeli culture centers, to be run jointly by Nativ and the Jewish Agency, are planned for the coming year in Germany.

‘Diaspora must have say on J’lem future’

“In my opinion, nixing the participation of the Jewish People as an advisory opinion in Israeli decisions that have major significance for the Jewish People was one of the few serious mistakes made by [Israel’s first prime minister] David Ben-Gurion,” Dror said in an address at the Jerusalem Institute for Israel Studies.

Religion & State in Israel
December 31, 2007
Editor – Joel Katz

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

Please send your comments or suggestions to

Conservative Movement, Masorti Movement articles

Conservative Movement: The Rabbinate failed

By Neta Sela,

“The Chief Rabbinate in Israel is the most flawed in the Jewish people’s history.”
Prof. Alexander also addressed the Reform [Movement]:

“Theirs is not a pluralistic approach. They say that members can choose their individual path, but in reality they require people adhere to a single set of predetermined principles.”

At the conclusion of the panel, Chair of the Masorti (Conservative) Movement, Moshe Cohen said “it is time the Masorti Movement’s voice be heard –in the local arena and as a rising political force. We ask the government and the Knesset to recognize us.”

Top Masorti rabbi: We’re allies of modern Orthodox

“We have more things in common with modern Orthodoxy than things that divide us,” he continues. “

For instance, the shmita issue: We both believe in the Israeli economy, we are both Zionists. Tzohar, like the Reform and Conservative movements, used the Supreme Court to effect a change in the rabbinate’s decision.”

Survey: 54%: Women discriminated against in Jewish tradition
By Kobi Nahshoni,

Although 54% believe that Jewish tradition discriminates against women, 39% are of the opinion that discrimination doesn’t exist, and another 4% claim that Judaism holds women above men.

71% of secular Israeli Jews said that mixed seating in synagogue would not influence their decision whether to attend.

Meanwhile, 24% of seculars and 18% of ‘traditional’ Israelis said that eliminating the gender barrier in places of worship would in fact make them more likely to attend prayer services.

President of the Israeli Conservative Rabbinate Rabbi Barry Schlesinger told Ynet that the Masorti Movement has great prospects for succeeding in Israel:

“The public finds in us a group of people committed both to preserving the halachic tradition and working to adapt it to reality.”

Tradition also needs a budget
By Yizhar Hess, Haaretz
The writer is the director of the Masorti movement in Israel.

If it only enjoyed equal funding and did not suffer from the Orthodox monopoly in Israel, the Masorti-Conservative synagogue could also restore a sense of communal solidarity, which has been so sadly diminished, to Israeli society.

Religion & State in Israel
December 31, 2007
Editor – Joel Katz

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

Please send your comments or suggestions to

Conversion articles

Gov’t to speed up conversion for thousands of immigrants
By Barak Ravid and Anshel Pfeffer, Haaretz

Some officials who favor streamlining the conversion process were unenthusiastic about Yehezkel’s letter.

“Why do we need additional discussions about the issue?” demanded one.

“The [Halfon] committee met for five months until it drafted this report; one could simply adopt its conclusions and be done. It’s clear that Olmert is trying to buy time because he is afraid of pressure from the ultra-Orthodox.”

The official also noted that the Halfon Committee’s report was submitted to Olmert more than four months ago – yet since then, nothing has happened.

Officials skeptical of PM’s conversion push
By Anshel Pfeffer, Haaretz

Senior officials involved in the conversion process of new immigrants are skeptical about the recent push by PM Olmert to expedite conversions to Judaism, calling it mere “lip service.

If they really intend to expedite the process, they need to alter the entire way the rabbinical courts operate.”

Critics say that Olmert is in no rush to adopt the recommendations because of concerns that Haredi parties, especially coalition partner Shas, will challenge his government.

The barrier to conversion
Haaretz Editorial

But despite all that has been said here, the prime minister’s intentions should be welcomed, and hopefully the barrier blocking a wave of conversions can be lifted.

For those among the immigrants who are interested in conversion, this is good news.

For all the rest – those who do not wish to convert and those who are unable to do so – the government must find an appropriate solution outside the parameters dictated by religion.

Conversion Institute Head Raps Chief Rabbinate
By Tamar Snyder, The Jewish Week

Professor Benjamin Ish-Shalom is head of the Joint Conversion Institute:

Q: It seems unlikely that Rabbi Amar will heed the recommendations and appoint volunteer religious judges to replace the haredi rabbis currently serving in the conversion courts.
What’s the timetable for establishing independent conversion courts?

A: We would prefer not to have any confrontation with the official rabbinic establishment. But we have no choice. We’re losing time and we’re losing the people.

Professor Benjamin Ish-Shalom:
Currently the rabbis are paid for every time they meet with the convert. Therefore, they have no reason not to invite them for another meeting. We recommend that they get paid on a monthly basis.

Months after Committee Report, PM to Address Conversion Issue
By Nissan Ratzlav-Katz,

Reform Movement Petitions Court over Mikveh use for Converts

The Reform Movement in Israel has filed a court petition against the Jerusalem Religious Council, saying the council discriminates against those who wish to convert according to Reform and Conservative standards.

Would-be Reform converts who identify themselves as such are turned away from public mikvaot (ritual baths), which are used in the final stage of the conversion process according to Jewish Law.

The Israel Religious Action Committee (IRAC), the Reform movement’s legal wing, filed a suit in 2006 with the High Court of Justice over the policy at the nation’s mikvaot.

The Supreme Court told the group to petition against individual religious councils.

IRAC officials said the lawsuit against the Jerusalem council would be the first in a series of similar petitions.

Rabbi Menachem Blumenthal, the head of public mikvaot in Jerusalem, confirmed that the religious council only grants access to converts approved by the Chief Rabbinate.

Mikvah employees do not check for identification at the buildings’ entrance, he said, and only those who identify themselves as planning a Reform or Conservative conversion are denied access.

IRAC lamented that the intense “involvement of the Chief Rabbinate and rabbinical courts in the conversion process.”

Israel’s chief rabbi calls Rahel del Conte Jewish, but Israel does not
By Tamar Rotem, Haaretz

If she wanted, Conte could have been accepted into any other Jewish community in the world:
Her conversion ceremony in 2006 was before an Orthodox religious court, and even Israel’s Chief Rabbi Shlomo Amar approved it. But that did not help her get Israeli citizenship.

Those responsible for this absurdity are Interior Ministry officials, who refuse to recognize her conversion, register her as Jewish on her identity card and grant her immigrant status.

The officials say that del Conte did not meet one of the ministry’s criteria for those undergoing conversion abroad: remaining for a year in the community in which the conversion was carried out.

Is the Ministry holier than the Rabbinate?

“For more than two years, the Interior Ministry has acted in bad faith, causing deep anguish to genuine converts who have made enormous sacrifices to join the Jewish people,” said Rabbi Seth (Shaul) Farber, director of ITIM.

“Not only is their policy illegal, but it is fundamentally anti-Jewish.”

See also Hebrew article: בית דין רבני לגיור סירב לגייר חבדניק משיחיסט
אבישי בן חיים
בית דין רבני סירב לגייר בחור שעלה מרוסיה, ולמד לאחרונה בישיבה חב”דית משיחיסטית. הבחור נפסל ככל הנראה, בשל בעיות באמונתו בעיקרי היהדות, שכן הוא מאמין כי הרבי מלובביץ’ חי וכי הוא המלך המשיח
עמיחי אתאלי

חה”כ יולי אדלשטיין, יו”ר השדולה להסדרת נושא הגיור, “אם הרכבי בתי הדין לגיור לא ישתנו, בג”צ ייטול לעצמו את הסמכות לגייר, בסוף נמצא עצמנו במצב בו יוכשרו גיורים לא אורתודוקסיים”

Religion & State in Israel
December 31, 2007
Editor – Joel Katz

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

Please send your comments or suggestions to

Municipal Elections articles

Haaretz cartoon, Biderman – Gaydamak

Jerusalem of Gold: City hall in the capital is for multi-millionaires
By Jonathan Lis, Haaretz

“Olmert gave Jerusalem to the ultra-Orthodox,” Pines-Paz said.

“He broke up the wall-to-wall coalition Teddy Kollek had and built a front based on Likud and the ultra-Orthodox. Now that Likud has crashed, only the ultra-Orthodox are left.”

United Torah Judaism, which fielded Mayor Uri Lupolianski last time, has not decided who its candidate will be.

Lupolianski has not yet decided whether he will give up his candidacy, as stipulated in the rotation deal he signed, to Agudat Israel MK Meir Porush.

Tycoon Gaydamak launches bid for local power with new party
By Lily Galili, Haaretz

During his visit to the Shas yeshiva in Or Akiva, Gaydamak contributed NIS 1 million to rebuild its playground. Social Justice’s candidate in Or Akiva is Sinai Amir, who used to be a supporter of Aryeh Deri, the former Shas leader.

Religion & State in Israel
December 31, 2007
Editor – Joel Katz

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

Please send your comments or suggestions to

Ethiopian Jewry, Falashmura articles

Group: Ethiopian Jewish life will continue

Former NACOEJ president Joseph Feit told the Post that the purpose of the new school is to continue to educate Ethiopian children that have maternal links to the Beta Israel community.

“According to the current Chief Rabbi of Israel, Shlomo Amar, and former Chief Rabbis Mordechai Eliyahu and Ovadia Yosef, such children are Jewish,” said Feit.

Groups seek to protect Falashmura Aliyah
By Anshel Pfeffer, Haaretz

The petitioners asked the court to defer Interior Minister Meir Sheetrit’s decision to recall the officials pending the High Court’s decision on a separate petition calling for Israel to issue another 8,000 immigration permits to the Falashmura, Ethiopians who claim Jewish ancestry.

The organization Struggle to Save Ethiopian Jewry and relatives of would-be immigrants from Ethiopia.

UJC builds school in Ethopia as Israel winds down aliyah
By Uriel Heilman, JTA

Even as the Israeli government and the American Jewish Joint Distribution Committee wind down their operations in Ethiopia, one major Jewish group is ramping up its efforts there.

For their part, UJC and NACOEJ officials appear not to have made up their minds about what they’ll do if Israel, as expected, declares its aliyah operations over in 2008 without including the additional 8,500 people advocacy groups say have Jewish links.

Religion & State in Israel
December 31, 2007
Editor – Joel Katz

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

Please send your comments or suggestions to

Christianity articles

Let there be peace
By Michel Sabbah, Haaretz
The writer is Jerusalem’s Latin Patriarch

In recent times, there has been some talk about creating “religious” states in this land.

But in this land, which is holy for three religions and for two peoples, religious states cannot be established because they would exclude or place in an inferior position the believers of the other religions.

A state that would exclude or discriminate against the other religions is not suitable for this land made holy by God for all of humanity.

Christians make up 2.1% of Israel’s population
By Moti Bassok, Haaretz

There are 152,000 Christians living in Israel, about 2.1 percent of the population, the Central Bureau of Statistics announced yesterday in honor of Christmas.

Just over 80 percent of them are Arabs; most of the rest immigrated here together with a Jewish relative. Of the latter category, most came from the former Soviet Union. [approx. 30,400, jk]

Religion & State in Israel
December 31, 2007
Editor – Joel Katz

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

Please send your comments or suggestions to

Education articles

Tamir tries to delay core curriculum in Haredi schools
By Or Kashti, Haaretz

Education Minister Yuli Tamir also proposed making every child in Israel eligible for 12 years of school, even after age 18.

That would enable a pupil who has dropped out of the regular school system, or who has attended a Haredi institution that teaches the core curriculum only partially, to complete his studies by age 30.

Tamir’s plan was intended to provide a response to a petition filed several months ago by the Israel Religious Action Center and Secondary School Teachers Association, seeking to compel the Education Ministry to implement the previous court ruling.

Under an interim ruling on that petition, the “small yeshivas” will be funded at a rate of 55 percent until January 1.

Lawyers for the petitioners countered that Tamir is proposing that an unlawful situation be sanctioned by the High Court.

Ethnic discrimination in ultra-Orthodox education
By Yair Ettinger, Haaretz

A non-profit organization fighting ethnic discrimination in ultra-Orthodox educational institutions has threatened the Education Ministry with a petition to the High Court of Justice if it does not end separate classes in a school in Emmanuel.

The girls school, part of the Bais Yaakov system, has separate classes for girls of Ashkenazi and Mizrahi backgrounds.

The school is divided into two different wings on two separate floors, and the schoolyard is divided in half.

After Channel 2 exposed this state of affairs, the ministry sent inspectors and ordered the school’s administration to “correct the problems” by January 6.

הופסקה אפליית ילדי החינוך המיוחד החרדי

ירוחם שמואלביץ
משרד החינוך יממן את הסעות ילדי החינוך המיוחד החרדי ללא הגבלת מרחק בין בית הילד לבית הספר בו הוא לומד, וזאת בעקבות פעילות ארגון “שתיל” למען החינוך המיוחד וחברי הכנסת החרדים.

Unique school struggles for space, as its founder struggles for life

Jerusalem’s Reut School

At the end of last year Rabbi Arye Geiger notified the students, teachers and parents that he had been diagnosed with terminal cancer.
Religion & State in Israel
December 31, 2007
Editor – Joel Katz

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

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Greek Orthodox Patriarch articles

Greek Orthodox patriarch
By Yuval Yoaz, Haaretz

Israel does not have to revoke its decision to recognize the Greek Orthodox patriarch of Jerusalem, Theofilos III, the High Court of Justice decided yesterday, dismissing the petition by the previous patriarch, Irineos.

“We accept the prosecution’s position that giving a letter of recognition to Theofilos constitutes in practice a cancellation of the letter of recognition of Irineos,” the court ruled.

Religion & State in Israel
December 31, 2007
Editor – Joel Katz

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

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IDF articles

A survey conducted among graduates of the Nahal Haredi military track found that over 90 percent are currently working in a wide range of jobs in both the private and public sectors.
The Nahal Haredi statistics contrast sharply with those revealed in a Van Leer Center study published in November, which showed that among the haredi population not serving in the IDF, some 40% of women were employed, and less than 40% of haredi men were.

“The statistics are a great success,” Rabbi Zvi Klebanow said Tuesday. “This is what the third year in Nahal Haredi is about – preparing soldiers to enter the workforce, get jobs and become productive citizens.”

The results of the survey, Klebanow said, showed that Nahal Haredi was not only beneficial for the IDF, which gained additional soldiers, but also for the economy.
Had the haredi youth not enlisted in the IDF, they would currently, by law, not be allowed to work and contribute to the national economy.
“Besides giving the boys an opportunity to build themselves up in the army, we’re also becoming a real key [in] the workforce,” he said.
“We are taking haredi boys and putting them to work, and this will help the economy.”
The army draws many of its best combat soldiers and officers from the “national religious.”
Here, they make up about 10 percent of the staff officers, 15 percent of the combat support officers and up to 40 percent of the combat officers, the colonel said.
The “hesder yeshivas,” which combine military service and Torah study for some of the most religious candidates, also raise concerns.
The hesder yeshivas now turn out 1,200 recruits a year, Colonel Sela said, a 40 percent increase in five years.

רדיו ‘קול חי’ קיים ערב שידורים מיוחד למען חיילי צה”ל ‘השירותרום החרדי’ והצליח לאסוף מליון ו-350 אלף ש”ח
וגם מקרן לה”ב (לחיזוק יהדות בצה”ל) המוכרת פחות
הכסף שנאסף במשדר, מיועד גם לקניית ספרי תורה לבסיסי צה”ל ולשיפוץ בית הכנסת בבה”ד 1.
Religion & State in Israel
December 31, 2007
Editor – Joel Katz

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

Please send your comments or suggestions to

Immigration, Citizenship articles

Seeking citizenship in Israel, non-Jews face uncertain path
By Dina Kraft, JTA

Mankov is among some 11,000 non-Jewish relatives of Israeli citizens who are seeking citizenship or residency status in Israel. They say they are caught in a system that does not want them or know what to do with them.

Reut Michali, a lawyer for the Israel Religious Action Center, the political wing of Israel’s Reform movement, said the result is unnecessary hardships.

“The policy is not transparent and it changes frequently.

And because there is no policy on immigration, there is no way to deal with people,” Michali said at a recent conference on immigration in Israel sponsored by the Association for the Rights of Mixed Families, which promotes the rights of families with non-Jewish members.

Interior Ministry to form tribunal for applicants denied permanent residency
By Shahar Ilan, Haaretz

The Interior Ministry will form a tribunal presided over by a judge to hear petitions by applicants who have been denied permanent residency status.

Israel’s “non-Jewish Jews” struggle with identity, exclusion
By Dina Kraft, JTA
Maxim, 25, who served in an IDF combat unit and twice was injured in fighting in Gaza, said he does not understand why, if he spilled blood for his country, he had to go to abroad on the most important day of his life.

“It was especially hard because although I am not Jewish according to halachah, I do feel Jewish in my heart,” he said.

“In my opinion, state and religion simply do not go together. Israel needs to be democratic and Jewish, and we need to protect our traditions because this is what unites us.

But we live in the 21st century and we need to be going forward.”

Religion & State in Israel
December 31, 2007
Editor – Joel Katz

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

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Islam articles

Bill would create body to preserve Muslim holy sites
By Yoav Stern, Haaretz

The bill’s sponsor, MK Michael Melchior (Labor), told Haaretz yesterday that in his opinion, this is the state’s duty, as a Jewish state must care for the holy sites of Muslims.

“As an Israeli rabbi, and one who often deals with the standing of Jews abroad, I cannot tolerate what is happening here,” Melchior said.

“We must correct this, as is right for a democracy and in line with Jewish values.”

Religion & State in Israel
December 31, 2007
Editor – Joel Katz

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

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Mikveh articles

Petition: Access to J’lem mikvaot is unequal

“The mikvaot are operated with tax-payers’ money,” Erez-Likhovski (from the Reform Movement in Israel’s legal arm, the Israel Religious Action Center, IRAC), said.

“They are public places that must be open to all without discrimination. The fact that non-Orthodox rabbis are prevented from accompanying the convert… is a blatant blow to freedom of religion.”

Religion & State in Israel
December 31, 2007
Editor – Joel Katz

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

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Orthodox Judaism articles

Conference of Orthodox Rabbis opens amidst grave concerns about Jewish assimilation in Diaspora.
By Kobi Nahshoni,

Assimilation amongst world Jewry was also a hotly-debated topic. Rabbi Yuval Sherlow noted that he “is gravely concerned about this expanding ‘silent Holocaust’”, and proposed strengthening ties between world Jewry and Israel as a possible solution.

“If a child from the Diaspora spends even a week in Israel, he is far less likely to assimilate,” asserted the rabbi.

“We must bring as many Jews as possible, of all denominations and backgrounds, to Israel, especially as part of a Religious-Zionist initiative,” he said.

Rabbi slams use of hyphenated last names
By Kobi Nahshoni,

“A hyphenated last name for women undermines family values,” says head of the Zomet institute Rabbi Yisrael Rozen.

“The tradition and heritage of a family unit includes the role of head of the family. Those who give up this component take part in the trend of shattering family values.”

The right thing, Rozen concludes, would be to “return to family tradition in which each woman has her first name and each family has its one, and only, name.”

צעירי הקיבוץ הדתי רוצים לחזק את אורח החיים הדתי

מחקר שערכה תנועת הקיבוץ הדתי מגלה כי הצעירים בתנועת הקיבוץ הדתי רוצים לחזק את אורח החיים הדתי בקיבוץ.
עמי שרון

Religion & State in Israel
December 31, 2007
Editor – Joel Katz

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

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Jewish and Democatic State articles

D stands for democracy
By Yair Sheleg, Haaretz

Yesodot – The Center for Torah and Democracy
The aim is to openly confront the tension that exists between Jewish values and democratic values, and to show how all democratic values also find expression in Jewish values,” Nevo says.

“We use the desire of the religious Zionist school system to be part of Israeli society and explain that it is impossible to become seriously integrated in society without understanding democratic discourse.”

Interview with Avraham Burg
By Rachel Fletcher, The Jewish Chronicle

Q: Does it happen often that, in the course of five months, you change your fundamental beliefs?
A: “Did I compromise or did I change my inner place? Definitely no.

If the question is do I participate in the shallow, hollow rhetorical debate, my answer is no.

Israel tries to contain an oxymoron. It tries to define itself as a Jewish democratic state.

When you say Jewish, part of that is cultural, but most of it is actually, and was actually, religious.

“So when we say a Jewish state, and you have a massive ingredient which is religious, the source of authority of the religious process is different. It is theological rather than democratic. The formula of Jewish-democratic is contradictory.”

Mr Burg, a one-time Speaker of the Knesset, who lives in Nataf in Israel, added that the “inevitable clash of theological and democratic” was “doomed to erupt”.

He said: “I do not want to see the State of Israel being defined in any way by religious definitions.

“If people are part of the culture of disagreement, they are part of creation, never mind which side of the argument they take.”

Religion & State in Israel
December 31, 2007
Editor – Joel Katz

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

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Religious Councils articles

No Pay for Religious Council Workers Once Again
By Hillel Fendel,

MK Yitzchak Levy (National Union) was essentially Israel’s last minister of religious affairs; he was a Deputy Minister in the above government, with responsibility for what has been in the purview of the Religious Affairs Ministry.

Levy said, “The government must convene for a special session and make decisions.
I prepared a comprehensive solution and presented it to Ariel Sharon and his government, but it was not adopted.

It stipulates basically a cutback in the number of religious councils from over 100 to about 30 or 32; there’s no reason to have one in every little town.

In addition, the funding must come from the national government, with only a little participation on the local level.”

Religion & State in Israel
December 31, 2007
Editor – Joel Katz

Religion and State in Israel is not affiliated with any organization or movement.
Please send your comments or suggestions to

JNF rejects Orthodox applicant for failure to work on Saturday
By Tani Goldstein,

The Orthodox applicant said that she was “stunned” by this entire situation.

“I can’t believe that this happened in a government institution that strives to represent the Jewish people,” she lamented.

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