Religion and State in Israel – February 11, 2008 (Section 1)

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Religion and State in Israel

February 11, 2008 (Section 1)

Editor – Joel Katz

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

New conversion process approved by government

By Anshel Pfeffer, Haaretz February 7, 2008

Prime Minister Ehud Olmert and the Ministers’ Immigration Committee has approved the recommendations submitted by a panel set up to examine the process of conversion to Judaism and recommend ways to facilitate it.

These include setting up a new conversion authority to ensure coordination and congruity between the conversion program and the conversion tribunals.

The panel also recommended that a conversion tribunals’ representative accompany the converts in the conversion preparation process, and to add 10 new rabbinical judges to the conversion tribunals.

Since most of the obstacles encountered by the would-be converts result from the excessive strictness imposed by rabbinical judges on observing religious rules and precepts, Chief Sephardi Rabbi Shlomo Amar intends to set up a rabbinical judges’ panel to discuss the more difficult cases.

The recommendation to add dozens of volunteer rabbinical judges to the conversion tribunals to speed up their work has not been approved yet.

New conversion authority will streamline process

By Cnaan Liphshiz, Haaretz February 8, 2008

The Prime Minister’s Office is considering forming a special panel for reviewing complaints by conversion candidates, Cabinet Secretary Oved Yehezkel said this week.

The problem, the activists say, lies in the attitude of the same officials who have been allowed to retain their positions and will continue to act as “a thorn in the system’s side by protracting the process, issuing arbitrary refusals and driving aspiring converts away from Judaism,” as one conversion coach from the north told Anglo File on condition of anonymity.

Expedite conversion Editorial February 7, 2008

If Rabbi Shlomo Amar appoints more rabbis who interpret the law like those on existing courts, the numbers of conversions performed will remain extremely low, and an entire population will remain alienated from Judaism, the Jewish people, and their new homeland, the State of Israel.

It is hard to believe that this is the outcome that the rabbinate prefers.

We certainly hope that Rabbi Amar has the courage to stand for what he knows is right for the rabbinate, Israel and the Jewish people.

If he instead perpetuates the current failed approach, he will have proven once again that the rabbinate, as often as not, does more harm than good to the cause of Jewish advancement.

Digging graves for the secular

By Yair Ettinger, Haaretz February 11, 2008

About two years ago, in response to the law that required land allocation for civil burial, the mayor consulted with his own rabbi and spiritual leader, Rabbi Yosef Shalom Eliashiv, who is also known as posek hador or the one who decides on matters of Jewish law in this generation.

Rabbi Eliashiv’s answer came as a surprise. “What’s the problem,” he asked, according to one of his assistants. Why does a paramount spiritual leader of Rabbi Eliashiv’s stature support a civil cemetery?

“The rabbi said, ‘What’s the problem? If someone declares that he is not religious and never was religious, why should we bury him among Jews,'” the rabbi’s assistant quoted.

“‘On the contrary, we should be happy. According to halakha, it is forbidden to bury someone like that in a Jewish burial. What we want is to avoid mixing.'”

Rest in Peace in the Holy City: Jerusalem Municipality Agrees to Set Up Pluralistic Cemetery

New Israel Fund February 5, 2008

“I have personally met with Mayor Lupolianski four times in recent years on this topic,” Miryam Kunda, General Manager of the Association for Eternal Rest told NIF News.

“He had promised to respect the Supreme Court ruling but always had excuses. We kept the pressure on him until he ran out of excuses.”

After its victory in Jerusalem, the Association for Eternal Rest is targeting Tel Aviv, which is stubbornly refusing to allocate land for a non-Orthodox Jewish cemetery. The Supreme Court is considering a petition on the matter.

Metzger to return to key religious court position next month

By Yuval Yoaz, Haaretz February 5, 2008

Chief Rabbi Yonah Metzger intends to end his voluntary suspension and return next month to his position as a member of the Supreme Rabbinical Court and as a member of the committee that appoints religious court judges even though this appointments committee is in the midst of discussions as to whether to remove Metzger from these panels.

The Ometz non-profit organization for good government organization, which is conducting a legal battle in the High Court of Justice to remove Metzger as chief rabbi, is planning on filing another petition within a week if Metzger does not change his mind.

Ometz attorney Boaz Arad: “…the return of a figure with morals such as those of Rabbi Metzger to a judicial role, and even more to a judgeship on the Supreme Rabbinical Court, is unbearable from any public perspective.”

Haredi sect brands Metzger ‘Zionist stooge,’ wicked

By Saul Sadka, Haaretz February 6, 2008

The strongly anti-Zionist Neturei Karta sect of ultra-Orthodox Jews has attacked Ashkenazi Chief Rabbi Yona Metzger as a “very well-paid Zionist stooge” and a “a wicked emissary of evil” who should be expelled from Israel, following Metzger’s reported comments proposing that poor Gazans be moved to a Palestinian state established in the Sinai peninsula.

Denouncing Metzger’s Sinai proposal, the group referred to him as the “so-called chief rabbi of the so-called State of Israel” and as a “very well-paid Zionist stooge”.

Chief rabbi prohibits single women from going to mikve

By MATTHEW WAGNER, February 10, 2008

In an attempt to stem a trend of quasi-condoned premarital sex among young modern Orthodox men and women, Chief Ashkenazi Rabbi Yona Metzger has issued a prohibition against allowing single women to use mikvaot (ritual baths).

Prof. Tzvi Zohar of Bar-Ilan University wrote an article in March 2006 condoning premarital sex that aroused fervent debate in religious Zionist circles.

Zohar’s article, printed in Akdamot, an academic journal on Jewish thought published by Beit Morasha, analyzed the opinions of leading halachic authorities from the Middle Ages, such as Nachmanides, and those of the modern era, such as Rabbi Ya’acov Emden, and showed that many permitted sexual relations without marriage.

In an arrangement sanctioned by Jewish law, according to these opinions, the woman becomes a pilegesh, or concubine. Neither the man nor the woman has any obligations or rights, but both must adhere to family purity laws in accordance with Halacha.

Y.L. Peretz on the Ukrainian steppes

By Lily Galili, Haaretz February 11, 2008

Shimon Har-Shalom is an emissary of the Shorashim (Roots) organization, who visits countries of the former Soviet Union on a different kind of mission: He comes to find proof of the Jewishness of new immigrants who came as Jews, and whose Jewishness was suddenly placed in doubt. This usually happens when they come to the rabbinate to get married.

When they wanted to immigrate, the olim had no trouble getting visas for Israel on the basis of copies of documents whose originals had been lost; after all, Israel was interested in them.

They came here as Jews, and only when they come to the rabbinate are they told that their Jewish status is not at all certain, and that they need clear proof.

They find themselves illegal residents within Judaism, until proven otherwise.

Tackling the elephant

The writer is director of public affairs for Agudath Israel of America.

Then I turned to the elephant – “Jewish religious pluralism.”

Leaders of heterodox Jewish movements regularly rail about the lack of official recognition of their movement’s ceremonies in Israel, portraying it as a curtailment of religious rights.

Those who demand multiple standards on the grounds of religious freedom misstate the case.

What they are advocating is not freedom of religion – which is alive and well in Israel – but rather a redefinition of Judaism, and the radical amendment of one of Israel’s foundational charters that would result, as Ben Gurion foresaw, in the “splitting of the House of Israel into two” (or three, or four…).

Clash between IDF and Religious Values

By Hillel Fendel,

Three yeshiva student soldiers have been sentenced to 21 days in army prison for refusing to take part in a weeks-long course with female instructors and participants.

The soldiers in question were sent to a three-week course involving balloon-based observation.

Though the course is taught solely by females, and involves the active participation of female soldiers, the yeshiva student soldiers were not asked in advance whether they agreed to participate.

Even when they ultimately found out the nature of the course and registered their complaints, they were told that they must either take part or face jail time. They chose, by default, the latter.

Rabbi Eliezer Melamed, the dean of the Hesder Yeshiva (combining army service and Torah study) in the [Shomron] community of Har Brachah”

“I believe that at this rate, more and more religious soldiers will feel that they have no choice but to find ways not to serve in the army,” Rabbi Melamed said.

“There will be some who will feel they must serve no matter what, but there will be many who will not – and this is very grave from a national perspective.

The army must know that at present, half the Jewish first-graders in the country are in religious schools, and more than half of these are in hareidi-religious schools.

If the army does not find the way to make it easier for religious soldiers to serve, the result will simply be that there will be fewer soldiers in the army. This must be prevented.”

See also: Religious soldiers refuse to be trained by female soldiers

By Yossi Yehoshua, February 6, 2008

Magna Torah

By Yair Sheleg, Haaretz February 8, 2008

A few months ago, Naftali Bar-Ilan, a rabbi from Rehovot who is totally unknown to the general public, quietly published a four-volume work entitled, “Mishtar ve’medina beyisrael al-pi hatorah” (“Regime and State in Israel According to the Torah”).

Rabbi Naftali Bar-Ilan might be unknown to the general public, but he enjoys a privileged lineage in the religious world.

In his opus – published by the partially state-funded Ariel Institute for Torah research, headed by the chief rabbi of Haifa, Shaar Yashuv Cohen – Bar-Ilan tries to summarize halakhic perceptions of the state, ranging from the system of the regime to the quality of the environment.

The work’s 1,700 pages cite 1,300 references and contain 16,000 footnotes and comparisons to more than 50 existing constitutions worldwide.

Working alone, the author, an autodidact with no scientific or academic training, devoted 20 years of his life to the project without any public funding (other than from one prize for Torah study). It was all done in his spare time.

Bar-Ilan decided to embark on this undertaking after serving as the rabbi of a religious kibbutz, Be’erot Yitzhak, following the Yom Kippur War.

Bar-Ilan asserts that the laws of the state carry no power if they conflict with the approach of halakha.

However, he is very careful about drawing practical conclusions from this principle: “The work portrays the ideal halakha, for messianic times; it is clear that in the present situation I recognize the limits of the power I possess.”

“It is clear to me that the way to reach the Torah state is not by revolutions and force, but calmly and patiently, and mainly by means of education and information efforts. I am not against religious legislation, but only in those cases in which the public at large can live with it.”

Reviving an old idea

By Yair Sheleg, Haaretz February 8, 2008

Naftali Bar-Ilan’s propositions are undoubtedly the most detailed ever written in this vein, but hardly the first.

Several efforts, most of them in the early years of Israel’s existence, were aimed at inducing the fledgling state to accept from the outset a constitution that would be based on the “law of the Torah.”

After the failure of the attempts to persuade the Knesset and the public to accept a constitution of this kind, the religious politicians, including Warhaftig, became critics of the idea of a constitution in principle.

Flogging yes, gentiles no

By Yair Sheleg, Haaretz February 8, 2008

“Regime and State in Israel According to the Torah” includes the following subjects:

Type of regime; Separation of powers; Checks and balances; Choosing judges; Going to war; Punishment and torture; Equal rights; Status of women; Status of non-Jews; Right of association and strike; Attitude toward secular population; Homosexuality; Attitude toward criminals; Slavery.

Splintering into tribes in the name of unity

By Avirama Golan, Haaretz February 6, 2008

Growing segments of the religious community are abandoning the idea of a democratic state. Young settlement residents despise the idea, rabbis split hairs to explain that western democracy is a flawed product, and political leaders declare that a state that has betrayed its citizens does not deserve their loyalty.

The historic covenant between religious Zionism and the Labor movement, a leading rabbi wrote in the newspaper Hatzofeh this week, was a fraudulent bubble that has burst. Jews recognize only one covenant: with the Torah.

Home Center convicted of Shabbat offense

By Haim Bior, Haaretz February 8, 2008

The District Labor Court of Tel Aviv recently convicted the do-it-yourself Home Center chain of violating the labor law – which defines limitations on work hours and rest hours labor – in the case of six of its employees.

The judge rejected the respondent’s argument that the law does not define weekly rest, nor which day is to be provided as a rest day.

Judge Varda Samet described Home Center’s argument that it could not be proven that an inspection by the Ministry of Industry, Trade and Tourism had indeed been conducted, as “pestering, and better not to have been raised”.

NIS 30,000 for every soccer player who doesn’t play on Shabbat

By Reuven Leib, (Hebrew) February 9. 2008

A special fund of NIS 3 million has been established that will distribute NIS 30,000 to every National league soccer player who commits to not playing on Shabbat and holidays.

Religion and State in Israel

February 11, 2008

Editor – Joel Katz

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

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