Religion and State in Israel – February 25, 2008 (Section 1)

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Religion and State in Israel

February 25, 2008 (Section 1) (continues in Section 2)

Editor – Joel Katz

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

Cabinet cancels rabbinic courts bill deliberation

By Haaretz staff February 25, 2008

The cabinet canceled a planned deliberation of a bill calling for expanded authority for rabbinic courts because Labor ministers opposed to it asked to initiate renewed discussion on the idea.

Fearing a confrontation with coalition partner, the ultra-Orthodox Shas, a decision was made to cancel the discussion on the bill which was confirmed by the cabinet committee on legislation last week as being ready to be brought before the government.

Deliberation on rabbinical court bill delayed

By Attila Somfalvi and Neta Sela, Haaretz February 24, 2008

Herzog has acknowledged that the bill ought to be amended; mainly in order to limit the rabbinical court’s authority on matters that do not relate to spousal relations.

Senior Labor officials stated that “[Ehud] Barak must not allow the State of Israel to be run by religious halacha law.”

Legislators to check thorny parts of rabbinical court bill

Knesset Law Committee chairman Menahem Ben-Sasson: There are two problematic elements in the bill.

The first is that a couple which has drawn up a financial agreement will be able to include a provision stating that any disputes about the agreement after the divorce has been granted must be heard by a rabbinical court, on condition that both partners agree to it.

However, it is the other key element in the bill that creates a “revolution,” continued Ben-Sasson. According to it, any two people who have a dispute regarding a financial matter may, if they both agree, and if at least one is Jewish, bring the matter to a rabbinical court, which will adjudicate in accordance with halachic law.

A law contrived in secret

Haaretz Editorial February 21, 2008

Following 60 years since the historic error of not separating religion from the state, the government is now expanding the authority of religion in the judiciary.

Instead of heading the opposite way and taking away from the rabbinical courts their monopoly in matters of marriage and divorce, the state is now granting them further decision making powers in civil matters.

Labor minister appeals bill ’empowering’ rabbinical courts

By Tomer Zarchin and Yair Ettinger, Haaretz February 20, 2008

Attorney Gilad Kariv of the Reform Movement argued that not only would it greatly expand the rabbinical courts’ involvement in civil affairs, but there was no way to guarantee that litigants had in fact consented freely.

“For instance, if an employer drags his worker into a decision on a financial matter before the rabbinical court, is the worker in a position in which he can refuse his employer? We are creating a system here that threatens small claimants,” Kariv argued.

Professor Michael Corinaldi, an expert in family law … charged that it essentially creates two parallel legal systems, one religious and one secular.

Rabbinical Courts Can Hear Monetary Cases

By Hillel Fendel. February 22, 2008

“Whoever does not want to see a Halakhic state founded here had better wake up right now, before it is too late,” wrote Rivka Luvitch, of the…religious women’s movement Kolekh (Your Voice).

Others complained that the requirement that both sides must agree to be judged before a rabbinical court is insufficient.

“Given the political social situation in Israel, who can guarantee that the ‘consent’ given by the weaker side will be a true consent?” asks another Kolekh member, Atty. Batya Cohen-Dror, writing in Ynet.

An open letter to the rabbinate

By Sarah Breger, Haaretz February 22, 2008

The writer is a 2007-2008 Dorot Fellow living in Jerusalem

Dear chief rabbis:

My suggestion: If you want to retain the bureaucratic as well as legal authority you still have, you need to institute systematic changes in the rabbinate’s structure that will increase its accountability and transparency.

You must become a rabbinate that is sensitive to the people you lead.

In Shi’ite Islam, the clerics state that for their religious system to work, there must be some accountability to the people.

I never thought I would be suggesting that the Chief Rabbinate take lessons from the ayatollahs.

Metzger to resume position despite AG’s accusation of graft

By Yair Ettinger, Haaretz February 19, 2008

Chief Rabbi Yonah Metzger will end his suspension and return next month to his position as both a member of the Supreme Rabbinical Court and a member of the committee that appoints religious court judges, the Justice Ministry decided yesterday.

The Justice Ministry’s appointments committee, headed by Justice Minister Daniel Friedmann, decided to ignore Attorney General Menachem Mazuz’s advice and unanimously endorsed Metzger’s decision to end his voluntary suspension.

Metzger is expected to succeed Sephardic Chief Rabbi Shlomo Amar as president of the Supreme Rabbinical Court in six weeks.

Israel-US conversion authority crisis resolved

In a move that ends a central dispute between the two largest Orthodox rabbinic organizations in the world, the Chief Rabbinate has agreed to recognize conversions performed by the Rabbinic Council of America

In a move that ends a central dispute between the two largest Orthodox rabbinic organizations in the world, the Chief Rabbinate has agreed to recognize conversions performed by the Rabbinic Council of America.

Rabbi Marc Angel, a former president of the RCA, who together with Rabbi Avi Weiss, head of the liberal Orthodox Chovevei Torah rabbinic seminary, plans to set up an alternative rabbinic organization called Rabbinic Fellowship, blamed the RCA for “capitulating” to pressure from the Chief Rabbinate.

In an e-mail message from New York, Angel said, “The Chief Rabbinate has taken narrow and extreme views on the question of conversion, and is now demanding that all rabbis comply with these ‘standards.’

“The RCA has, very unfortunately, capitulated to the demands of the Chief Rabbinate. This not only undermines the authority of individual Orthodox rabbis, but creates a climate of stringency, rabbinic bureaucracy and authoritarianism.”

Rabbi Seth Farber, head of ITIM, an organization that helps converts navigate the Israeli Rabbinate, voiced concern that American converts and their offspring would have difficulty proving their Jewishness if they were to immigrate to Israel.

“The overwhelming majority of American Orthodox converts over the years have not had their conversion certified by Schwartz. Children or grandchildren are going to wind up in Israel and their Jewishness will be questioned,” he said.

Homosexual activity cause of earthquake, Shas MK says

By Amnon Meranda, February 20, 2008

The recent earthquake that was felt across Israel was the result of the “homosexual activity practiced in the country”, Knesset Member Shlomo Benizri said Wednesday.

During a special Knesset session on Israel’s preparedness for the possibility of another earthquake hitting the region, the Shas member said “the Gemara refers to earthquakes as disasters, but you are searching only for the practical solutions how to prevent and repair.

“But I know of another way to prevent earthquakes; the Gemara mentions a number of causes of earthquakes, one of which is homosexuality, which the Knesset legitimizes,” Benizri said.

Reform Reflections: Shas – all shook up

Rabbi Michael Marmur, February 24, 2008

Behind the smokescreen of outrage, something else is going on here.

These religio-politicians are presenting a picture of Judaism and its place in the world which goes like this: the Talmud is the source of our values, and it provides us with the Truth. All we need to do is to quote it as it is – if you don’t agree with it, the problem is all yours.

So blaming homosexuals for earthquakes is really about how we want to live our lives as moral and faithful human beings.

Using the excuse that it says so in the Talmud is no excuse: it represents a denial of the notion that Judaism grows and evolves through time and in culture.

The God in whom I believe wants me to grapple and grow, not to mock and shrink.

Benizri’s gay earthquake

By Shahar Ilan, Haaretz February 21, 2008

Benizri’s defense can be described as: “It wasn’t me, it was the Gemara!”

He was referring to a discussion in the Jerusalem Talmud about the causes of earthquakes and which, in one passage, makes a link between gay sex, God’s wrath and earthquakes.

In which case, Ophir Pines-Paz (Labor) wittily replied: “Then change the Gemara.”

Reform Rabbi Gilad Kariv said that the “only organ that shook the Knesset was Benizri’s unrestrained tongue.”

A gay kid? No problem

By Shahar Ilan, Haaretz February 25, 2008

[It’s] not only in the Knesset that there’s a feeling that people can say whatever they want about gays and lesbians.

Two years ago, one of the heads of Yeshivat Har Etzion, Rabbi Yaakov Medan, published an article calling for a halt to the “abomination parade,” as he referred to the World Pride parade that was supposed to take place in Jerusalem.

Medan compared the pride parade to the idolatrous infernos in the Hinnom Valley.

Medan is also the rabbi who compiled the Gavison-Medan Covenant with Prof. Ruth Gavison, an important attempt at discussion between the religious and the secular.

In other words, Medan is convinced he can talk about fraternity with his secular brothers out of one side of his mouth while verbally abusing his gay brothers out of the other side.

Chief Rabbis Repeat Promise to End Slaughter Method

(See: an article in the Forward that detailed a controversial kosher slaughtering method)

In the letter from December 25, [Chief Rabbi] Metzger wrote that “the chief rabbinate will consult with experts and invest considerable energy in finding additional appropriate practical solutions which will reduce the claims regarding cruelty to animals.”

“[The Chief Rabbinate] made a conceptual decision to do this, but the implementation is something different, something that is going to take a long time,” Rabbi Menachem Genack, CEO of the Orthodox Union’s Kashrus Division said.

The spokesman for the Chief Rabbinate told The Jerusalem Post this week, “We plan to meet soon with importers and slaughterhouse owners who use the method in an attempt to reach an agreement.”

Rabbinate: Import meat only if ‘morally slaughtered’

By Neta Sela, February 20, 2008

PETA and the Torah?

Following the lead of The Society for Prevention of Cruelty to animals, which has long protested against cruel “lift and bind” slaughter techniques practiced in many United States and South American slaughterhouses, the Israeli Chief Rabbinate has also decided to work to eliminate such techniques.

Jerusalem to Allow Secular Burials

Non-Orthodox synagogue movements will be permitted to run their own ceremonies.

“This is much needed for us,” said Anat Hoffman, who directs the Reform movement’s Israel Religious Action Center.

“In Orthodoxy there is just one way of doing things, which does not suit our members, or many other Israelis.”

“We will be able to allow people to create the funerals they want. If people want Mozart instead of El Malei Rachamim,” she said, referring to the traditional mourning prayer, “that is fine.”

“We believe that everyone who feels and acts as a Jew should be buried as a Jew, and that everyone should be buried in the manner they want,” said Ze’ev Kunda, who runs the organization [Menucha Nechona].

Yossi Beilin, recently drew a parallel with the Orthodox monopoly over marriage, which leads some citizens to travel to nearby countries to wed under civil law. But, he noted, “secular Israelis can’t just go to Cyprus to be buried.”

Local Authorities petition school funding policy

By Or Kashti, Haaretz February 24, 2008

The Union of Local Authorities petitioned the High Court of Justice on Thursday, asking it to cancel Education Ministry regulations requiring local authorities to participate in funding schools “whose status is not officially recognized.”

Most such schools belong to the ultra-Orthodox education system. Education Minister Yuli Tamir recently signed the order, titled “the Nahari Regulations.”

The petitioners say Tamir signed the regulations because of external considerations that “have to do more with coalition deals than with education.”

Supreme Court gives parties month to confer on core curriculum requirement

By Or Kashti, (Hebrew) February 25, 2008

The Education Ministry and Haredi education heads received a month extension in an attempt to reach an agreement on the requirement to teach core curriculum in Haredi secondary institutions.

According to petitioner Israel Religious Action Center Attorney Einat Hurvitz, the judges criticized the arrangement suggested by the Ministry and said that “the Ministry’s interpretation of the first ruling is not legitimate”.

Rabbis back soldiers who boycotted female teachers

The arrest last week of four hesder yeshiva soldiers who refused to participate in a lecture given by female IDF instructors has sparked a sharp reaction by a group of leading religious Zionist rabbis.

A spokesman for the soldiers’ Har Bracha Yeshiva warned that should the military insist on ignoring the religious public’s halachic needs, “many may decide to take more radical action and follow their haredi brethren in not joining the army at all.”

Delay in approval of Secular Yeshiva/IDF track

By Yair Sheleg, (Hebrew) February 25, 2008

The Tel Aviv Secular Yeshiva was established a year and half ago as a track for secular youth, combining Jewish and Zionist studies with social action and full army service.

The track was approved by the IDF Personnel head Elazar Stern, but it appears that in order to receive recognition as a “shiluv” track, they will need the approval of the Defense Minister in conjunction with the recommendation of the Hesder Yeshivot association.

Four months ago, “Bina” received a negative reply from the association. They are now asking the Defense Minister to make an independent decision; otherwise the students will not be able to return to the Yeshiva during their military service.

Mikvehs in Israel – for Orthodox women only

By Anna Borred, (Hebrew) February 21, 2008

IDF Radio “Galei Tzahal” reports that brides intending to be married in Reform or Conservative weddings and wish to immerse themselves in mikvehs before the ceremony are asked to present an authorization from the Rabbinate. Without such confirmation, they cannot enter the mikvehs.

Attorney Einat Hurvitz from the Israel Religious Action Center:

“The mikvehs are public places, financed by public funds and maintained by religious councils that are funded by the public. Each and every (Jewish) woman that wishes to is entitled to the use of the mikveh.”

Religion and State in Israel

February 25, 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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