Religion and State in Israel – February 18, 2008 (Section 1)

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Religion and State in Israel

February 18, 2008 (Section 1) (continues in Section 2)

Editor – Joel Katz

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

Rabbinical courts’ authority to be upgraded

By Tova Tzimuki, February 18, 2008

The Ministerial Committee on Legislation decided Monday to support a bill extending the authorities of rabbinical courts over all matters regarding marriage and divorce.

Should the bill pass its Knesset readings, it would serve to upgrade the rabbinical courts’ judicial authority over seemingly civil matters, such as property settlements; and would allow them to issue subpoenas and warrants – just like the civil courts.

According to a report in Yedioth Ahronoth, Social Affairs Minister Isaac Herzog (Labor) and Minister Ruhama Avraham-Balila (Kadima) initiated the bill contrary to Justice Minister Daniel Friedmann’s stand on the matter.

“The (committee’s) decision will change the status-quo regarding marriage and divorce,” said Friedmann. “The bill gives (rabbinical) courts absolute authority and we must make sure this change doesn’t benefit just one side.”

The Justice Ministry further said that the bill presents a radical change in the rabbinical courts’ authority, by giving them rule over issues which have nothing to do with their original mission.

Labor Knesset Members Ophir Pines-Paz and Shelly Yacimovich slammed the new bill, saying it harms women’s status. The two called for an emergency Labor session on the matter:

“It is inconceivable that one of Labor’s ministers would bring forwards a bill which goes against the coalition agreement and violates the status-quo,” they said.

Bill to expand Rabbinical Courts jurisdiction

By Tomer Zarchin, Haaretz February 18, 2008

The Ministerial Committee for Legislation approved a bill yesterday expanding the authority of rabbinical courts in property cases, over the objection of Justice Minister Daniel Friedmann.

According to the bill, a couple that signed a monetary agreement approved in a rabbinical divorce court have the right to agree to allow the rabbinical court to decide property issues after the divorce goes through.

The bill also gives rabbinical courts jurisdiction in civil matters as long as the parties approve and at least one of the parties is Jewish.

Metzger to remain chief rabbi despite Mazuz report

By Neta Sela, February 18, 2008

Chief Ashkenazi Rabbi Yona Metzger would be allowed to continue serving in his post despite a report by the attorney general that harshly criticized Metzger’s conduct and called on him to resign, the committee on appointing rabbinical judges ruled Monday.

Following the decision, Metzger would also be permitted to assume the post of president of the supreme rabbinical court in place of current president, Chief Sephardi Rabbi Moshe Amar, as required by law.

Knesset votes against civil marriage

By Amnon Meranda, February 13, 2008

The Knesset on Wednesday rejected two bills calling for the recognition of couples not wed by an Orthodox rabbi.

The bills were submitted by Knesset Members David Rotem (Yisrael Beiteinu) and Moshe Sharoni (Pensioners Party).

Fifty-nine MKs voted against Rotem’s bill while 20 opposed it, and 48 voted against MK Sharoni’s similar proposal while only 19 supported it.

Attorney Gilad Kariv of the Israel Religious Action Center (IRAC) said in response that:

“the Israeli Knesset and government continue to abandon hundreds of thousands of citizens who cannot get married in Israel, while surrendering in a disrespectable manner to the Orthodox monopoly and its emissaries in the Knesset.

“The lawmakers’ indifference will not prevent thousands of young couples from voting against this predatory monopoly, and marry overseas in foreign countries, until its fortified and corrupt walls collapse on [them].”

Civil Union legislative bill

By Amnon Meranda, February 12, 2008

“If the Knesset fails to approve this civil union, the attorney general will do so in two-three years, just like he did with the adoption by same-sex couples,” warned the bill’s initiator, Knesset Member David Rotem (Yisrael Beiteinu).

MK Rotem explained that “the bill allows interested couples to be registered as a married couple with all the implications and be eligible to all the rights and duties of a married man.

This will make life easier for many citizens forced to travel abroad to get married in a non-religious manner instead of doing it here in an organized way.”

Will new Israeli agency bring solution for would-be converts?

By Dina Kraft, JTA February 11, 2008

A senior official in the Absorption Ministry told JTA the authority would only be a success if all its recommendations were implemented.

He said he was concerned that the recommendation for the appointment of so-called “friendly rabbis” who might make the process more welcoming and accepting had not yet been approved.

“If everything we recommended will be accepted, it will be nothing short of a revolution, but if they are not implemented the situation will be worse in the future than it is today,” said the official, who insisted on anonymity.

Staunch Opposition Following Plan to Set Up Government Conversion Authority

By Yechiel Sever, Dei’ah veDibur February 14, 2008

When the Chalfon Committee was set up six months ago, the Vaad HaRabbonim LeInyonei Giyur, founded by HaRav Chaim Kreiswirth zt”l, warned against the danger underlying ties with various government ministries, which are driven solely by a desire to increase the conversion rate.

According to the Vaad, one of the committee members, who wears a knitted kippah, tried in the past to set up a conversion system together with Reform and Conservative entities, claiming it was in accordance with halochoh, though gedolei Yisroel shlita have unanimously opposed it in clear-cut terms.

With the recent government decision, the Vaad reiterates that conversion cannot be used as a solution to deal with problems caused by bringing in hundreds of thousands of non-Jews in the last wave of immigration.

“People severed from any trace of Judaism cannot be expected to change their way of life and observe mitzvas fully, which is an unequivocal prerequisite for conversion and the lack of which invalidates conversions under all circumstances,” says the Vaad Spokesman.

“The Chief Rabbinate must make this clear to government officials once and for all. No rabbi may agree to sit with any government official to discuss the issue of conversion, which is a purely halachic matter, with no room for outside interference.”

Merely participating in committees whose sole intention is to introduce conversion leniencies is liable to create major stumbling blocks in the present and future, inundating Eretz Yisroel with hundreds of thousands of non-Jews possessing conversion certificates that are not worth the paper they’re printed on, notes the Vaad.

At most there are only a few hundred non-Jews genuinely prepared to undergo conversions that are valid according to halochoh, i.e. by accepting all mitzvas in full. Therefore, says the Vaad, not only should the conversion system not be expanded, but it should even by reduced to a handful of fixed, reputable botei din.

The Vaad is calling on the Chief Rabbinate to openly sever all ties with various officials whose declared intent is solely to increase the number of highly questionable converts in Israel.

JA envoy to Venezuela charged over fake conversions

By Ruth Sinai and Anshel Pfeffer, Haaretz February 14, 2008

Police said the rabbi was not recognized by the Israeli Rabbinate, and they have expanded inquiries to find out how officials from the Absorption and Interior ministries did not realize that the immigrants’ conversions were fake.

Yair Redl, acting director of the Jewish Agency’s Immigration and Absorption division, said the allegations against Architecter were unclear.

“The Interior Ministry officials are the ones who decide who can authorize a potential immigrant’s conversion,” he said. “Jewish Agency envoys act according to their instructions and all the permits are brought to Israel anyway.”

Family in every respect

Haaretz Editorial, February 12, 2008

Attorney General Menachem Mazuz’ decision to allow homosexuals to adopt children

Shas is not pleased, predictably, by the attorney general’s decision, but it is hard to understand the conditioning that causes them to react with slander and curses every time homosexuals and lesbians are mentioned.

The chairman of Shas, Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Industry, Trade and Labor Eli Yishai, has been quoted as having said that Mazuz’s decision is “nauseating.”

However, the only nauseating thing in the public discussion of homosexuals and lesbians is the remarks by religious public figures.

Taking on Halacha

Attorney-General Menahem Mazuz’s decision this week to recognize same-sex couples as legitimate, normative families that are eligible to serve as adoptive parents sparked the requisite ranting from haredi and religious politicians.

Rabbi Yuval Cherlow, a senior member of Tzohar, an association of liberal Orthodox rabbis, said that he and other rabbis who field halachic questions via the Internet are beginning to grapple with a myriad of issues relating to homosexuality

According to Rabbi “Ron” – perhaps Israel’s only outwardly gay Orthodox rabbi – gay Orthodox men are nowhere near the stage of setting up same-sex families and adopting children.

“Our battles are at a much more elementary level,” he said. “We are trying to convince rabbis, educators, lay leaders and even the general public that homosexuality is not a mental illness.”

Rabbi Ron said that one of the goals of the Internet site is to break down stereotypes and foster dialogue. “We want religious people to know that we want to adhere to Halacha. But we also want them to understand that a homosexual is born the way he is and has no choice.”

He differentiates between the homosexual’s identity and his or her actions.

“Judaism’s main emphasis is on actions. We understand that, and we are not asking rabbis to permit anal sex or to make any changes in Halacha. We just want basic understanding.”

Gay Orthodox group emerges on Web

Hod issued a 10-point letter to rabbis and educators in the Orthodox community asking for understanding and recognition of homosexuals’ plight.

Some of the points include refraining from forcing homosexuals to marry the opposite sex, instead permitting homosexuals to be “married to the community” by devoting themselves to social activism; and differentiating between the prohibited act of anal sex and the permitted feelings of love that one man has for his male partner.

Reform Jews discuss aliya

At the recent biennial meeting of Reform Jews in San Diego, Rabbi Eric Yoffie, president of the Union for Reform Judaism, told more than 5,000 attendees that “Israel is the only place where a Jew can be a Jew in a completely unselfconscious manner.”

But for panelists who spoke at this week’s conference, including two female rabbis, Yoffie’s remark wasn’t persuasive.

After four years in Israel, one rabbi contemplated making aliya, but decided against it.

“Why, when I can live a full Jewish existence here, [the US] would I move to a place that doesn’t recognize me as a rabbi?” she asked. “My congregants don’t have an ethnic connection, and say: ‘Why should I go somewhere where I can’t practice?'”

Preview the Faces of Reform Aliyah

By Resa Davids. When Rabbi Stanely and Resa Davids retired, they bought a second home in Jerusalem and spend 6 months of the year there.

By Debra Sagan Massey. Debra, Oren and their two children live in the Reform community of Har Halutz in the Galilee.

By Gili Kirschen. Gili Kirschen lives in Jerusalem with her parents, Rich and Cara, sister Liron (10), brother Ayal (7) and her dog Michigan. She is an Eighth Grade student at the Beit Chinuch School.

By Aaron Press Taylor. Aaron is a student at Brandies University, a former Meitav Fellow, and an alumnus of the Reform Movement’s long-term Israel programs.

U.S. Reform leader says supports concessions on Jerusalem

By Anshel Pfeffer, Haaretz February 17, 2008

The president of the Union for Reform Judaism, Rabbi Eric Yoffie, promised Prime Minister Ehud Olmert last week that his movement would support the government if a peace treaty with the Palestinians is reached, including concessions in Jerusalem.

Rabbi Yoffie told Haaretz that if the Israeli right wing mobilizes its supporters in the United States against such an agreement, the Reform Movement would respond in kind.

Israel needs a more idealistic society

By Chief Rabbi of the British Commonwealth, Jonathan Sacks, February 8, 2008

What if the leaders of the Charedi community were to rule that every yeshiva student must spend 10 per cent of his time working with secular Israelis among the poor, or in hospitals?

What if secular universities required their students to do social work within the Charedi community?

What if a new secular-religious synthesis were to emerge, built on shared humanitarian principles and a strong sense of Jewish heritage?

What if rabbis were to lead the way in promoting citizenship, parenthood, neighbourliness, civility, community service and our responsibilities to the vulnerable and disadvantaged?

What if secularists were to insist that familiarity with our religious classics is an essential part of Jewish literacy?

What if the focus of Zionism was to turn from statehood to society-building, from contract to covenant?

“Ramat Gan school forbids prayer”

Click here for Arutz 7 Video

Interview with Dr. Yitzhak Klein, Director of the Israel Policy Center

See also:

Education Ministry Allows Students at Government Schools to Pray

Hard talk – A. B. Yehoshua

By Gidi Weitz and Dror Mishani, Haaretz February 15, 2008

Writer A. B. Yehoshua:

“The Jew in the disapora is essentially a free Jew, he’s free from another Jew, while here we are ruled by Jews.

Jews can send us to prison, and Jews send us to war, impose taxes on us, Jews evict us from our homes. All of these things that are completely new elements in the 2,000 years since the destruction of the Temple.

I’m just saying: You are partial Jews on this level in which I contend with the totality of the reality and I am in a binding relationship among Jews, while you – no Jew can touch you, no Jew can impose anything on you, can compel you to do anything. It’s all basically up to you. That’s the point.”

Aliyah is no longer main focus of Jewish Agency

By Anshel Pfeffer, Haaretz February 13, 2008

“They sent me here to bring Jews to Israel, and now the agency chairman comes along and talks to us about the need to work on preserving existing communities. And what about Zionism?

JAFI Chairman Zeev Bielski said that the agency would continue to view encouraging immigration as its “primary mission,” but that a shaliach should also see himself as “an emissary of Jewish identity.”

Have Stethoscope, Will Travel

By Stewart Ain, The Jewish Week February 13, 2008

Rosner, 34, is one of several dozen doctors to show interest in the fellowship, being offered by the Legacy Heritage Foundation through Nefesh B’Nefesh, an organization dedicated to revitalizing aliyah from North America and the United Kingdom.

The grant, in the form of an initial fellowship upon arrival in Israel and monthly supplemental income for the first two years, totals about $60,000. It is available to doctors under the age of 45 who are willing to practice at least nine months a year in Israel.

Bans are not Chinuch

By Jonathan Rosenblum, Mishpacha February 13, 2008

Separate seating for men and women on buses serving chareidi neighborhoods is a fine thing, especially during the early afternoon hours when the buses are full both of avreichim and seminary students finishing their school day.

But I wonder whether one yeshiva bochur ever went off-the-derech because of the absence of such a separation or will be saved by their existence.

Given the proliferation of temptations all around, such separations cannot substitute for learning to keep our eyes in our Gemara and our thoughts where they should be.

Beitar Illit Introduces Mehadrin Bus Arrangement

By Yechiel Sever, Dei’ah veDibur February 14, 2008

Beitar Illit’s new bus company, Illit, recently began operating 12 of the interurban lines with a total of some 400 runs per day according to arrangements to have women board and step off the bus using the back door.

Known as the Mehadrin arrangement, it has the backing of gedolei Yisroel shlita as well as the local rabbonim, who encouraged the move to reinforce the bounds of modesty and holiness in the city.

Last week the city’s Mehadrin Committee met with local rabbonim and leaders to make final arrangements for the change.

February 18, 2008 (Section 1) (Continues in Section 2)

Editor – Joel Katz

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

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