Religion and State in Israel – March 17, 2008 (Section 1)

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Religion and State in Israel

March 17, 2008 (Section 1) (continues in Section 2)

Editor – Joel Katz

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

Yehezkel: Converts need not stay Orthodox

Non-Jews who immigrate to Israel under the Law of Return and wish to convert to Judaism will not be required to maintain an Orthodox lifestyle after the conversion, cabinet secretary Ovad Yehezkel has told The Jerusalem Post.

“The process of conversion is strictly in accordance with Halacha,” said Yehezkel.

“But as soon as you enter the world of Judaism, the decision regarding your personal Jewish lifestyle is up to you.

Nobody is going to force you to continue to be Orthodox. There is no directive like that.”

‘We want you’

Interview: Prime Minister’s Office (PMO) cabinet secretary Ovad Yehezkel

, March 16, 2008

“I want all 350,000 to say to themselves, ‘The state wants us to go through this process; the state is interested in my being a Jew; the state wants to make it easy for me; the state wants it to be done in a friendly manner,'”

Yehezkel says in an interview he initiated to get this message across.

But make no mistake about it, Yehezkel stresses, the process for those who do convert will be 100 percent halachic.

Why? – he is asked.

“Because Halacha is the mechanism that preserved the existence of this people for 3,000 years. That is a code that is impervious to every threat. The state has no intention of annulling that code. Its intention is to preserve it, develop and sanctify it. That needs to be clear. This state is the place where a Jew will become a Jew according to Halacha.”

Yehezkel tiptoes through the minefield of whether Reform and Conservative conversions should be accepted here by saying that these are theoretical questions that – if focused upon – would detract the government from its main goal: getting as many of the immigrants interested in a conversion process as possible.

Chief Sephardi Rabbi: Conversion process to become more efficient

Chief Sephardi Rabbi Shlomo Amar said Monday that the conversion process will soon be more efficient and friendly although he did not say whether the amount of conversion would increase.

In an appearance before the Knesset Internal Affairs and Environment Committee, Amar also said that the state of Israel failed in its absorption of Ethiopians.

Conversion court packed with new haredi judges

Rabbi Shaul Farber, head of ITIM, a non-profit organization that helps potential converts navigate rabbinic bureaucracy, said in response that the appointment of the judges would probably not do much to improve the way conversions are performed in Israel.

“I don’t believe that the main pitfall is the ineffectiveness of the judges,” said Farber. “There are so many problems that potential converts encounter the second they begin the conversion and long before they ever make it to the conversion court.”

“I don’t think there is a person in Israel that can honestly say he is innocent of the crime we committed when we did not do enough to embrace Ethiopian Jewry.”

Amar said that he was taking steps to train Ethiopian rabbis to serve their communities.

Farber also rejected the idea that the authority needed to appoint haredi judges to give itself legitimacy.

“The judges that serve on the conversion courts are the cream of the religious Zionist community. They don’t need the approbation of the haredi Right.”

Eternal Jewish Family Warns Against Backing Unqualified Dayanim

By Yechiel Sever, Dei’ah veDibur , March 13, 2008

Chief Rabbi Amar has told Rav Tropper that the Chief Rabbinate has only approved seven regional RCA botei din and not 15 as has been widely reported in the press.

Also Chief Rabbi Amar has said that rabbis whose kehillas have prayer groups for women will not be approved as dayanim.

Sushi and the Jewish Problem

Here in the Jewish state, assimilation and intermarriage are the friends of the Jewish people.

Odds are, Bondi is going to settle down one day with a nice Jewish girl, and his kids are going to be Jewish, even by the toughest standards of Bnei Brak.

Unfortunately, not so his sister’s kids (yes, he’s got one) – but some of her grandchildren will be, if her male offspring marry Jewish girls too, and the result will still be more Jews.

‘Along comes a blow like this and realigns everyone’

By Nadav Shragai, Haaretz March 11, 2008

“The worst Israeli government is immeasurably better than the best diaspora. Ever since the establishment of the state, we have rejoiced in it despite its flaws.”

That is what Rabbi Haim Druckman, head of the Bnei Akiva religious youth movement, has been saying over and over again since the uprooting of the Gaza settlements.

This pro-state line is not easy for everyone at Mercaz Harav, and especially not for the young people, many of whom were in Amona and Gush Katif.

But at least the rabbis are making it clear that even after the great disaster, their line will not change.

Days of awe

By Yair Sheleg, Haaretz March 14, 2008

Descriptions of Mercaz Harav – along the lines of its being “the flagship of religious Zionism” – were apt in the 1970s and ’80s, when indeed this yeshiva did shape religious Zionism.

But today, when religious Zionism is split into many streams and offshoots, and after even this yeshiva itself experienced a dramatic split about a decade ago – there is neither one single key personality, nor one single central institution that shapes the spirit of all of religious Zionism. Not even Mercaz Harav.

Dangerous fringes

Haaretz Editorial March 13, 2008

Rabbi Weiss and other rabbis emphasized the weakness of the religious Zionist leadership, which is hesitant to speak out clearly against extremism and separatism.

On the other hand, we must condemn those who are excoriating religious Zionism in general in the belief that when the test comes, loyalty to the rabbis will overcome loyalty to the law.

We must not turn the victims at Mercaz Harav into the accused because of a halakhic decision that emerged from the extreme fringes or a television spot about organizing revenge.

‘We’ve Been Attacked Personally’

By Dina Kraft, JTA March 12, 2008

“It is a central place because it is a symbol of religious Zionism, and so it feels like we have been attacked personally,” Weider said.

“It feels like everything has changed. They [the terrorists] knew the meaning of Mercaz Harav, and they wanted to show that the power is in their hands. But as one of the rabbis said, nothing will shatter us, we will not let this break us.”

Caught in the crossfire

The idea that military retaliation is reserved for state institutions, and must not be a vigilante act, has its roots in the theology taught at Mercaz Harav.

Rabbi Avraham Yitzhak Hacohen Kook, the founder of the yeshiva, saw a Jewish state as both a political and a spiritual vehicle for redemption.

In other words, Kook sanctified Israel as an expression of the Jewish nation’s will and destiny.

Fight on the Right?

Rabbi Rafi Feuerstein, a member of Tzohar, and himself a graduate of the Mercaz Harav Yeshiva:

“There is a feeling of hurt among the religious Zionists today, and it exists on three levels,” says Feuerstein.

“First, inside this society, which, although it is by no means small, is very close – everybody knows everybody, and it makes it into a kind of a large family. This makes the burden of the mourning heavier in some ways; every drama touches everyone.”

Second, “hurting Mercaz [Harav] also hurt the heart of the community. All the people who come from this world and hold the highest positions in society – whether in the army, academia, the yeshiva or the political world – they all started there.

We have learned nothing

By Shahar Ilan, Haaretz March 11, 2008

We have learned nothing from the rift in this nation after the murder of prime minister Yitzhak Rabin. The left has learned nothing, just as the religious sector. This is the main conclusion from the acrimonious public debate after last week’s terrorist attack at the Mercaz Harav yeshiva in Jerusalem.

If this attack continues to be used as a political tool, it will become a terrorist attack on religious people. That would be sad and unnecessary.

Rightist rabbis call on Jews to avenge yeshiva killings

By Nadav Shragai, Yair Ettinger and Jonathan Lis, Haaretz March 13, 2008

Among the signatories to the street notice were Rabbi Yaakov Yosef, son of Shas spiritual leader Rabbi Ovadia Yosef, Rabbi Ido Elba, who was sentenced to a two-year prison term for incitement to racism, Rabbi Gadi Ben-Zimra, the rabbi of the Orthodox high school where girls who were arrested refused to recognize the court’s authority.

Rabbi Ovadia Yosef’s son: We must repay our enemies in kind

By Kobi Nahshoni, March 12, 2008

Several right-wing rabbis, including the son of Shas party’s spiritual leader, Rabbi Ovadia Yosef, published circulars appearing in Jerusalem and West Bank settlements calling on followers to “fight the enemy tit for tat and blow for blow. They have no compassion for us, so we must feel none for them”.

Mother of Mercaz Harav victim backs ‘political use’ of son’s murder

By Cnaan Liphshiz, Haaretz March 14, 2008

Rivkah Moriah, the U.S.-born bereaved mother of Avraham David Moses:

“This was an attack on Torah, and yet because of how the nation is relating to the attack and how most of the media is presenting it, it’s showing what the Torah really means to religious people and what it could possibly mean to someone who is not religious,” she says.

The Kookian Vision

By Hillel Halkin, March 11, 2008

The writer is a contributing editor of The New York Sun

But what the leaders of the religious settlement movement failed to realize at the time was that the same state power that could be put to use by them had a will of its own that also could turn against them.

This was what happened in the disengagement from Gaza in 2006, bitterly opposed by the “national religious” community, and it is what is threatening to happen on a much larger scale in the West Bank.

Today, this community, particularly its youth, feels betrayed and abandoned by the secular state it once championed, and increasingly alienated from it.

Two steps backward

By Hila Raz and Efrat Neuman, Haaretz March 14, 2008

Dr. Ruth Halperin-Kaddari, 41, an expert on family law and head of Bar-Ilan University’s Ruth and Emanuel Rackman Center for the Advancement of the Status of Women, and Israel’s delegate to the UN Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination Against Women.

Halperin-Kaddari is a religious woman who has spent more than a decade fighting the religious establishment over women’s rights.

Where family law is concerned, she claims, not only has there been no progress on behalf of women in the last few years, matters have actually taken a turn for the worse.

“I am more pessimistic than I used to be. In the last two to three years, the bills submitted to the Knesset have been more radical in terms of religion.

My doctoral dissertation dealt with legal pluralism, but here in Israel there is absolute coercion.”

MKs asked to ‘stop apartheid on kosher bus lines’

By Kobi Nahshoni, March 11, 2008

The Israel Religious Action Center, which petitioned the High Court over this issue, demanded that a special committee be appointed to discuss the arrangements regarding the “kosher lines.” Keren clarifies that Kolech’s stance is different and that she strongly opposes such an arrangement.

“A public company like Egged is forbidden, in principle, to lend its hand to this discrimination, which constitutes a kind of ‘apartheid’ behavior within the State of Israel. Every person is entitled to use the public transportation freely as he or she sees fit,” she said.

According to Keren, this phenomenon could lead to incidents in which non-Jews would be forced to sit in segregated seats, and would even be banned from traveling on the buses altogether.

“Those historic affairs have yet to be forgotten. Israel must not serve as a platform for similar discrimination, this time on a gender basis,” she concluded.

Herzl is turning in his grave

By Nehemia Shtrasler, Haaretz March 14, 2008

Shas once understood that it was undesirable to impose its worldview on the majority, that it was preferable to use friendly persuasion.

Today Shas wants to change the country’s image. Yishai has become an expert at extortion, and Olmert is willing to pay.

He is buying Shas with money and benefits, as well as laws and regulations that are changing the country’s character.

We are gradually and systematically losing the modern Western country in which we were educated.

Olmert is selling the principles of humanism, tolerance, freedom and civil rights to Yishai in a liquidation sale.

The creations of the founding fathers are drowning in the sea, and we are celebrating.

Democracy, according to Shas

By Avner Bernheimer, Haarez March 14, 2008

In the last few years, I’ve declined to react to the nonsense spewed by various Shas representatives regarding matters of current interest.

The reason I decided to deviate from my practice and to respond this time stems from legislation involving the screening of Internet sites that has passed its first reading in the Knesset.

Submitted by MK Amnon Cohen of Shas, the bill will not prevent Internet access to those who desire hard-core pornography, but it will definitely give the communications minister, who at the moment also happens to be from Shas, the power to order Web providers to make accessing such content more difficult.

A ‘moderna’ yeshiva, but still a yeshiva

By Yair Ettinger,Haaretz March 12, 2008

You don’t have to go as far as Satmar to notice the changes in the official internal discourse – as opposed to the ultra-Orthodox public, which reacted with profound shock – to the attack in Jerusalem and the identity of its victims.

The official ultra-Orthodox hashkafa (religious perspective) has been conducting a longstanding debate with what the “Mercaz” represents, and always considered it a “half-baked yeshiva.”

In light of this, the wording of Friday’s main headline in the ultra-Orthodox daily Yated Neeman: “8 yeshiva boys were murdered in a shooting attack at the Mercaz Harav yeshiva in Jerusalem” was significant. The word “yeshiva” appeared. Twice.

However, the ultra-Orthodox reactions should also be understood in light of what is happening in the street: the “Israelization” of the ultra-Orthodox community, and the tendency among the religious public to become more ultra-Orthodox.

In a Jerusalem Suburb, Jewish Cultures Clash

By Eric Westervelt, March 10, 2008

A small group of ultra-Orthodox extremists has been intimidating fellow Jews who they deem to be not kosher or modest enough, or who don’t keep the Sabbath the way they want them to.

Last summer, community members started a group that’s trying to narrow the religious and cultural divide through dialogue. Organizers say they have made some progress, but both sides acknowledge the goal of the dialogue, in the end, is not wider integration but a kind of peaceful segregation.

“If they want to be the way they want [and] we want to be the way we want, we can’t put them together,” says David, a 25-year-old ultra-Orthodox who studies Torah full time, “because it’s two different things — it’s two different worlds.”

Prominent rabbi to yeshiva heads: Don’t hire Arabs

By Neta Sela, March 17, 2008

“According to Jewish law, it is completely forbidden to hire Arabs, especially in yeshivas; there is a concern of endangering lives,” Rabbi Chaim Kanievsky, considered a top Torah sage of the generation in the haredi-religious community, said Sunday.

IDF officers on mission to woo Haredi recruits

By Yuval Azoulay, Haaretz March 13, 2008

Israel Defense Force officers are in contact with representatives of the ultra-Orthodox public to raise the number of religious youths serving in the army and to lower the number of those deferring service for yeshiva study.

A senior officer in the IDF Human Resources Branch said yesterday the goal is to reduce the number of those not serving to only 5 percent.

Today over 11 percent of those eligible for military service do not enlist for such reasons, though this percentage represents almost all of the draft-age ultra-Orthodox youth.

The IDF reports it is inducting 800 soldiers in the special hesder yeshiva program, where they alternate between periods of army service and religious studies;

According to the Human Resources officer, there is also a trend of growing numbers of enlistees joining ultra-Orthodox Nahal Haredi battalion, and the IDF is considering establishing another battalion in a similar framework…

Recruiting more religious women is another goal, and the matter is under discussion with various sectors of the religious Zionist streams to bring more religious women into the IDF.

Religious, Meretz member and proud

, March 14, 2008

“Right-wing religious people think that parties with progressive, non-fundamentalist views are anti-religious,” Waimann said. “But Meretz views religious practice as completely integral to the State of Israel.

The fact that they put a haredi woman, Tzvia Greenfield, at No. 6 on their list shows that they are pluralistic and comfortable with people of a religious bent.”

Thus spake the ‘lion’ of Jew-dah

By Michael Handelzalts, Haaretz March 14, 2008

Re: ‘We need Judaization’ – Interview with Lev Leviev by Anshel Pfeffer, Haaretz March 7, 2008

All told, this is yet another very wealthy Jew, who is preaching about how to be Jewish.

But unlike religious Jewish politicians who use the religion as interpreted by their rebbes to extract monies from state coffers, Leviev invests his own capital in projects aimed at ensuring that his view of Judaism prevails.

What Leviev sees as Judaism is the Jewish religion – pure, and not simple. But freedom of religion, even for Jews, is also the freedom not to be religious.

The Zionist Pyramid

By Yair Sheleg, Haaretz March 13, 2008

Re: ‘We need Judaization’ – Interview with Lev Leviev by Anshel Pfeffer, Haaretz March 7, 2008

We should answer Leviev in this spirit: indeed, the severance from Judaism is painful and steps must be taken to repair it. Jewish identity has two floors.

The cultural-spiritual floor must not be neglected, but the struggle for repairing the spiritual aspect must not damage the national ground floor.

This floor is already under attack from so many directions that it is in danger of collapse. If this happens then Jewish survival will really be in danger.

Religion and State in Israel

March 17, 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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