Religion and State in Israel – March 10, 2008 (Section 2)

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Religion and State in Israel

March 10, 2008 (Section 2) (continued from Section 1)

Editor – Joel Katz

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

Reform Judaism puts immigration front and center

By Shlomo Shamir, Haaretz March 6, 2008

“I do not paint them a picture of a land flowing with milk and honey,” says [immigration emissary in San Francisco, Adi] Farjoun.

“Anyone who lived here and was part of the Reform community has to hear from me that it won’t be possible to get married in Israel according to the marriage ceremonies that are accepted in the United States, and that the conversion to Reform Judaism of a partner is not possible in Israel.”

Nevertheless, she says, “as part of those who belong to the Reform movement, the discrimination against the movement in Israel has a negative effect on them.

But at the individual level, they are not disturbed by the fact that in Israel the Reform movement is not recognized.”

Parallel to the growth in the number of immigrants from the U.S. who identify as Reform Jews, the movement’s branch in Israel, “Progressive Judaism,” has adapted itself to the change in the sphere of immigration that is now gaining momentum.

Absorption committees have been formed in some 25 Reform communities active in Israel, which assist the Reform immigrants with their first steps in Israel.

“One should not expect masses of Reform Jews to immigrate to Israel,” explains Rabbi Andrew Davids, the director of ARZA.

“We must remember that we are talking about immigration from a wealthy country.”

But, he says, “at this stage, more important than the numbers is that the message gets across inside the movement and filters down into the consciousness of the members.”

The cynicism of Shas

Haaretz Editorial March 4, 2008

Shas is playing a cynical game.

On the one hand, it is assuring its uninterrupted presence in the coalition by means of benefits and budgets.

These range from reestablishing the dispensable Religious Affairs Ministry to projects such as “livelihood with dignity,” intended as job training for yeshiva students but which have yet to produce impressive results.

…It is strange to hear these calls for an all-out war from someone whose rabbis are increasingly preaching the values of the separatist, ultra-Orthodox Lithuanian Jewish stream that prefers the yeshiva to army service and a working life.

Shas swayed by Mammon over billboards, Greens say

By Guy Leshem, Haaretz March 5, 2008

“Like any topic, be it economic or environmental, our vote was substantive and based on the rabbis’ directives,” [Yakov Margi, Shas Knesset faction chairman] says.

“The Greens can fume all they want, but they should learn the facts first. We have an agreement with two big advertisers, that the ads along the Ayalon will be modest and the achievement from my perspective is that these advertisers committed to taking down content that offends our constituents from billboards in other areas.”

“Keep things in proportion,” he advises. “This isn’t religion and the state, though they’re important issues. Generally speaking we support environmental issues and preventing pollution. But we will not have it turned it into idol worship.”

Kibbutzim can now open their own businesses on Saturday

By Amiram Cohen, Haaretz March 7, 2008

After 10 years of legal proceedings, the Supreme Court ruled yesterday that kibbutzim may open their own stores and businesses on Saturday, the legal Jewish day of rest. However, the condition is that the stores are owned by the kibbutz and operated only by kibbutz members.

The Supreme Court ruling overturned a National Labor Court decision saying the allowing kibbutzim to open businesses on the Sabbath violated the law.

The new ruling, however, does not apply to such stores and businesses operating outside the kibbutz but on kibbutz-owned land, such as the huge shopping centers at Shefayim, Ga’ash or Gan Shmuel; but only to kibbutz-owned and operated businesses.

Shabbat buses reach the end of the line

The Dan bus company has announced that it has stopped running nine central lines that until now operated on Saturdays, reports ‘’. The company will now run those lines only after the end of the Sabbath.

According to the report, the affected lines run through Gush Dan and the central Tel Aviv area, and include lines traveling to Tel Aviv’s Ichilov Hospital and Ramat Gan’s Sheba (Tel Hashomer) Hospital.

A Dan spokesman said the decision was based on economic reasons, as there were too few passengers on Saturdays for the lines to be viable. But Meretz Knesset member Ran Cohen has asked Transport Minister Shaul Mofaz to act against the decision, saying it is problematic for those needing to travel by public transport on Saturdays.

Dan Bus Company wants to run Mehadrin bus lines in Bnei Brak

By Idan Yosef, (Hebrew) March 4, 2008

Pending review

By Shahar Ilan, Haaretz March 6, 2008

The religious Knesset members can’t understand why Shas refuses to quit the government because Dan buses operate on Shabbat.

Public transportation in the Dan region on Shabbat afternoons is the sort of thing that the religious public preferred to repress. The Dan company’s decision forced them to look the buses straight in the windshield wiper.

MK Nissan Slomiansky of the National Union-National Religious Party explained that “only when Dan became newly religious did I learn that they had sinned.”

Demand to MKs: Stop the Apartheid on Mehadrin Bus Lines

By Kobi Nahshoni, (Hebrew) March 10, 2008

The Israel Religious Action Center, who petitioned the Supreme Court on the issue, insisted on the establishment of a committee to discuss arrangements for Mehadrin bus lines.

However, Kolech is firmly opposed to any such arrangement.

Chairperson Rachel Keren:

“…Egged is a public company and in principle, cannot lend a hand to discrimination that is a type of “apartheid” within the State of Israel. Every person is entitled to travel on public transportation freely as he or she wishes…”

Chief rabbi urges more humane slaughter methods

Ashkenazi Chief Rabbi Yona Metzger met Monday evening with importers of South American kosher meat to encourage them to phase out the “shackle and hoist” slaughter method and adopt the more humane “rotating pen” method.

During the meeting, Metzger told the importers that the shackle and hoist method was “primitive” and instructed the importers “to exert major pressure on the slaughterhouses they work with to make them adopt the rotating pen method.”

Jewish slaughter in danger, chief rabbi tells importers

By Neta Sela, March 4, 2008

The meeting was held in a bid to recruit the importers to fight “the international attack initiated by organizations for the prevention of cruelty to animals against the kosher slaughtering,” Metzger explained.

Brain-Death Definition Bill on Way to Passage

By Hillel Fendel, March 3, 2008

A bill submitted by MK Otniel Schneller (Kadima) regulating when a person can be declared brain-dead has passed its first Knesset reading.

The bill is a historic one, as it may finally put to rest a decades-long dispute between the rabbinical and medical establishments – a dispute based on mutual mistrust that has prevented many would-be organ donors from willing their post-death organs to others.

His proposed legislation states that brain-death will be determined not merely by the doctors who happen to be on the scene, but rather by two doctors who have been authorized and trained to do so by a special Health Ministry committee.

The committee is to comprise three doctors; three rabbis recommended by the Chief Rabbinate, one of whom is a doctor; and representatives of the ethics, philosophy, and legal disciplines, including a religious non-Jew.

Where myth and reality meet

Click here for VIDEO

EYES WIDE Open‘s aim is to take a “hard look at long standing beliefs and myths about Israel, demythologize them and then remythologize them for a new generation of American Jews for whom the old myths ring false,” continued Stuart Schoffman.

Knesset lobby to promote Western aliya

A new lobby in the Knesset to improve the absorption of immigrants from Western countries will be founded by MKs Gilad Erdan (Likud) and Yoel Hasson (Kadima) on Tuesday.

Tuesday’s meeting at the Knesset will be attended by representatives of the Jewish Agency and independent aliya organizations Nefesh B’Nefesh and AMI, as well as Immigrant Absorption Minister Ya’acov Edri (Kadima) and individuals interested in increasing aliya.

Between 40 percent and 45% of the world’s Jews reside in the United States, and together the US, France and Britain contain around 90% of Diaspora Jewry.

This demographic reality has led the government to seek new ways to encourage so-called “aliya by choice.”

Poll: 51% of Israelis want separate secular, religious neighborhoods

By March 6, 2008

29% of respondents indicated that religious families ought to live in their own specially designated communities, where as 22% supported the establishment of segregated or religious neighborhoods within “religiously diverse” cities.

Only 33% of respondents indicated that they favored the establishment of joint communities containing both secular and religious residents.

When breaking down this survey data according to religious affiliation, it appears that haredi respondents favored segregation most, with 61% of haredi respondents indicating that they preferred to live in separate communities and neighborhoods.

A majority of traditional and ultra-Orthodox respondent (53%) as well as secular respondents (49%) were also in favor of separate depending on religious affiliation.

Study: Young American Jews are not detached from Israel

By Shmuel Rosner, Haaretz March 9, 2008

The study released last Wednesday by the Steinhardt Social Research Institute at Brandeis University maintains that there has been no decline, nor will there be one.

Click here for study (pdf file)

“Jewish attachment to Israel has largely held steady for the period 1994-2007,” the study says, adding that there are “strong reasons for rejecting the prevailing pessimism regarding the future relationship of American Jews to Israel.”

New Study says American Jews feel as close to Israel as ever

By Jacob Berkman, JTA March 5, 2008

Are Jews Less Attached to Israel? Maybe Not

, The Forward March 05, 2008

‘We need Judaization’ – Interview with Lev Leviev

By Anshel Pfeffer, Haaretz March 7, 2008

Q: Don’t 300,000 Jews who are not Jews according to halakha [Jewish law] deserve to have a solution found for them?

“Prime Minister Sharon asked us at the time to set up conversion institutes. I told him, what are we, a factory?

Go to the rabbis. If you need a donation I’m here. But to decide who is a Jew and who isn’t a Jew – I’m not qualified for that. Just as I’m not qualified to fly the plane to Russia, even if I think I may have the ability.

Who is a Jew? Neither a prime minister nor a president can determine that; for that there are experts in the rabbinate.”

Q: But the ultra-Orthodox rabbis are opposed to letting the yeshiva students go out to work.

“It’s not all the rabbis, it’s a certain segment; these are not mainly Hasidim, they’re Lithuanians.

If a Jew thinks that a good Jew can only be an ultra-Orthodox Jew, then he has to repent: He has wasted his time all his life in vain if he hasn’t understood that.

If a Jew who calls himself ultra-Orthodox thinks that a Jew who is not ultra-Orthodox is not a Jew, then he has to be reborn, because in my opinion he is a damaged Jew.”

Amazing grace

By Ari Shavit, Haaretz March 7, 2008

Conversation with historian Prof. Ze’ev Sternhell

“But there is another dimension here. I have no religion. I do not have the security of religion or the prop of religion. Therefore, without the nation-state framework, I remain a person detached, lacking.

There is a paradox here.

Today the religious elements are those who speak in the name of a nationalism I do not accept because it does not respect the other – Palestinian – nationalism.

But the truth is that our need, that of the secular Israelis, for the nation-state framework is far greater than that of the religious. If you take Israel from me, I am left with nothing. I am stark naked.

That is why Israel is so important to me.

And I cannot treat it as a fait accompli, as regular and normal. I treat it as something that must be constantly safeguarded, something we have to ensure will not fall apart in our hands.

Because things fall apart easily – that we have already learned. And sometimes fast: from one day to the next.”

Ultra-Orthodox get their own free daily

By Yair Ettinger, Haaretz March 6, 2008

The first edition of Yom Hadash, a free daily newspaper for the ultra-Orthodox community, appeared yesterday. The 16-page publication reflects a leadership crisis in the ultra-Orthodox community.

It will be distributed from Sunday to Thursday to compete with the existing daily ultra-Orthodox papers Yated Ne’eman and Hamodia.

Nahum Bernstein, Yom Hadash’s marketing manager…does not conceal the paper’s intention to challenge Yated Neeman and Hamodia’s policy. Both these partisan newspapers “don’t give certain rabbis their stage, while others receive exposure or elevated titles and photos, due to internal disputes,” he says.

In show of modesty, Haredi women make up in private

By Tamar Rotem, Haaretz March 10, 2008

…the paradox involved in the desire of ultra-Orthodox women to meet the norms of beauty in secular society, in spite of the instructions to practice tzniut (modesty) that are practiced in their society.

Eighteen Weddings of B’nei Menashe New Immigrant Couples

By Nissan Ratzlav-Katz, March 3, 2008

Eighteen new immigrant couples from the B’nei Menashe clan of northeastern India, who claim descent from a “lost tribe” of Israel, were married Sunday in simultaneous ceremonies in Jerusalem’s Great Synagogue. Several hundred guests, including friends, family and loved ones, attended the festive affair.

The 18 couples are among a group of 230 B’nei Menashe who came on Aliyah (immigrated to Israel) from India in August of last year.

Their immigration was organized and facilitated by the Shavei Israel organization, which reaches out and assists “lost Jews” seeking to return to the Jewish people.

Shavei Israel founder Michael Freund organized the multiple weddings on Sunday, which were supervised by Rabbi Eliahu Birnbaum, the rabbi of Shavei Israel.

Nearly seven decades after its demise, Rabbinical Association of Poland re-established in the presence of the Chief Rabbi of Israel

Israeli Chief Rabbi Yona Metzger [signed] a special scroll together with Polish Chief Rabbi Michael Schudrich and all of the community rabbis currently serving in Poland (in Warsaw, Krakow, Lodz and Wroclaw) declaring the formal re-establishment of the group.

The Rabbinical Association of Poland existed up until the outbreak of World War Two and included all of the country’s rabbis.

Next-Generation Religious Kibbutzniks Want More Religion

By Hillel Fendel, March 4, 2008

The survey was carried out by Professors Miriam Billig of Ariel University Center and Yossi Katz of Bar Ilan University.

The Kibbutz HaDati movement includes three moshavim (Masuot Yitzchak, Bnei Darom, and Nir Etzion), as well as 16 kibbutzim.

The young generation wishes to become more religiously observant, and even to send their children to more religious schools.

In addition, they believe that a religious lifestyle should be a clear condition for acceptance into a kibbutz of the movement.

However, at the same time, they are not interested in extremism in terms of religious observance.

The little Torah that could

, March 6, 2008

What was missing, says lawyer David Schapiro, who lives in Beit Shemesh and works in Tel Aviv, was a Torah scroll.

After consulting the Beit Shemesh Rabbinate, he was given permission to buy an easily portable Torah scroll, namely one that is only 15 cm. high, which was put to use for the first time this week.

Schapiro described it as “a historic occasion.” It certainly gives a new fillip to the journey.

The Torah Reading Choo Choo

By Daphna Berman, Haaretz March 7, 2008

Click here to watch video

Anglo commuters aboard the 8:27 train from Beit Shemesh to Tel Aviv made history this week, after they became the first moving minyan aboard an Israel Railways train car to read the Torah as part of their daily prayer services.

The train has long had a minyan in the last carriage, but this week, David Shapiro brought aboard a miniature, but nevertheless kosher, Torah that had been commissioned for the unusual service – now set to take place every Monday and Thursday morning during prayers.

Local Beit Shemesh rabbis offered their blessings and support, and the festive celebrations even included candy throwing.

Shapiro carried the Torah in a back-pack that doubled as an ark, while other Beit Shemesh Anglos also pitched in.

Jan Wimpfheimer, a partner at the law firm Herzog, Fox and Neeman who immigrated from New Jersey in 2001, read from the Torah – an experience he described in a widely circulated email as particularly “unique” given the combination of the Torah’s small writing and the constant moving of the train car.

Religion and State in Israel

March 10, 2008 (Section 2) (continued from Section 1)

Editor – Joel Katz

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

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