Religion and State in Israel – March 31, 2008 (Section 2)

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Religion and State in Israel

March 31, 2008 (Section 2) (continued from Section 1)

Editor – Joel Katz

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

Rabbi Eric Yoffie on Orthodox monopoly

Click here for VIDEO

Rabbi Eric Yoffie, President, Union for Reform Judaism,

Rabbi Eric Yoffie is against religious monopolies, and feels that Jewish life in Israel suffers with the government coerced by Orthodox policies.

The challenge and crisis of conversion in Israel

By Rabbi Donniel Hartman, Shalom Hartman Institute March 31, 2008

I don’t expect the Rabbinate to accept conversions not in accordance with its understanding of Orthodox law.

I do expect the State of Israel not to give to one single rabbinate the sole authority of determining the Jewish identity for the whole state.

If we choose to have a government-sponsored Rabbinate, we must have multiple rabbinates.

If we want to solve the problem of the integration of non-Jews from the former Soviet Union into Israeli society, as well as the injustice facing non-Orthodox Jews in Israel on daily basis, Israel must adopt the model of world Jewry, where Jews of different beliefs have multiple access points into their tradition.

Religious tolerance must not be limited to Diaspora Jewish life, but must be the foundation of our national homeland.

In Christian Defense of Israel

By Daphna Berman, Haaretz March 28, 2008

Click here for John Hagee VIDEO

John Hagee will be in Jerusalem next week for the launch of the Hebrew translation of his book, In Defense of Israel.

Hagee, an American evangelical pastor and one of the leaders of the Christian Zionist movement, will be joined by David Brog, whose book, Standing with Israel: Why Christians Support the Jewish State, is also due out in Hebrew translation.

The book launch, which is sponsored by both Gefen and Modan publishers, will take place next Friday at the Menachem Begin Heritage Foundation in the capital.

MK Benny Elon and Chief Rabbi of Efrat Shlomo Riskin are also expected to speak about the “importance of the Jewish-Christian relationship.”

Knesset Members to Meet With Mainline Protestants

By Rebecca Spence, March 27, 2008

In the wake of recent strains between Jewish leaders and the leaders of America’s mainline Protestant churches, the Board of Rabbis of Southern California is convening a luncheon with top interfaith leaders and three Israeli Knesset members.

The Israeli politicians at the event include the only Arab Christian Knesset member, Nadia Hilou, as well as Shlomo Molla, the only Ethiopian member, and Sephardic Kadima party member Yoel Hasson.

Jehovah’s Witnesses grow by ‘devious’ methods, charge anti-missionaries

By Daphna Berman, Haaretz March 28, 2008

The Witnesses, as they are known, have had a presence here since the state’s founding but say their active missionary work – an obligation for members – has gained traction in recent years, bringing in several hundred additional members. They now number an estimated 2,500 in Israel.

The Witnesses, as they are known, have had a presence here since the state’s founding but say their active missionary work – an obligation for members – has gained traction in recent years, bringing in several hundred additional members. They now number an estimated 2,500 in Israel.

Shunned by her own family

By Daphna Berman, Haaretz March 28, 2008

Ruth Cohen’s two children have not spoken to her since 2002, the year she left the Jehovah’s Witnesses. An Israeli-born South African, Cohen became active in the Jehovah’s Witnesses in Johannesburg as a teenager. She married an Israeli member of the group and spent most of her life as an active Jehovah’s Witness, often going door to door – in Israel, South Africa and the United States.

But at a certain point, she became interested in her Jewish roots and “things started to not make sense anymore – I had a vague, uneasy feeling that things weren’t right.”

Judaism’s golden mean Editorial March 31, 2008

…we’d like to hear leading rabbis in the haredi and national religious community explicitly denounce all anti-missionary violence – not just the Ortiz attack, but also the ongoing harassment in Arad and Beersheba.

Let them say what we all know: that in a sovereign Jewish state such violence is immoral, illegal and contemptible. Further, and more broadly, let our spiritual leaders declare that fanaticism – whether that embodied in the Taliban of Beit Shemesh, or in blanket prohibitions on all Arab labor – goes beyond the bounds of Judaism.

It was not only Aristotle who preached the desirability of the golden mean. Authentic Judaism, too, has always sought a balance between “too much and too little.” Clearly, the lesson needs to be taught anew; and it is up to those we turn to for spiritual succor to teach it.

Conservative students split on gay ordination anniversary

By Matthew Wagner, March 27, 2008

In an incident that underlines the tension between the US and Israeli branches of the Conservative Movement over ordination of gay and lesbian rabbis, the Schechter Rabbinical Seminary in Jerusalem clashed this week with a group of visiting American rabbinic students.

A proud position

By Ruth Eglash, March 27, 2008

For Yonatan Gher, “coming out of the closet” will likely pale in comparison to the challenges he is about to face over the next six months.

Next week, he will also take on a job that would have most people shaking in their boots – Executive Director of the Jerusalem Open House.

“I come from Greenpeace,” quips Gher, who also served as a spokesman for the Masorti Movement in Israel for four years.

“I believe that the ultra-Orthodox leadership has a tendency to go from issue to issue, looking for something that they can take a position against,” he explains. “Before us, it was immodest dress codes or businesses that opened on Shabbat. Then they turned onto the parade. My hope is that they will move onto another issue and leave us alone.”

Besides, says Gher, “I think some of the ultra-Orthodox leadership is beginning to realize the disadvantages of the approach they have taken. They’ve drawn attention to us, and now they have to deal with questions in their own community, like: ‘What exactly is gay?’ and ‘What does it mean to be gay?'”

MKs Demand that Gov’t Authority Operate Mt. Meron Holy Site

By Hillel Fendel, March 25, 2008

MKs Azulai, Litzman (United Torah Judaism) and others say that the problem stems from a lack of clear authority over the site. “Many bodies have a claim there,” Azulai said, “including the police, the Regional Council, the Ashkenazi and Sephardi hekdeshim (bodies that have been unofficially running the place for decades), the Tourism Ministry, the Holy Sites Authority, etc.”

…The issue is of critical importance with the impending approach of the minor holiday of Lag BaOmer – when each year over 100,000 people descend onto the site, many of them days in advance, to mark Rabbi Bar-Yochai’s date of death. Lag BaOmer is now less than two months away.

…Following the police report, it is likely that an authority – such as the Western Wall Heritage Foundation that runs the Western Wall – will be established to operate and oversee the holy site of Mt. Meron.

Rest of Falashmura must be brought to Israel, protests group

By Anshel Pfeffer, Haaretz March 28, 2008

The Public Council for Ethiopia’s Jews held an emergency meeting in Jerusalem yesterday, announcing it would fight the government’s intention to stop bringing Ethiopian Jews to Israel.

Meir Shamgar is the council’s honorary head and former Supreme Court president.

The meeting was also attended by former Canadian justice minister Irwin Kotler, Harvard law professor and author Alan Dershowitz, and the chief rabbi of Haifa, Rabbi Shear-Yashuv HaCohen.

The council decided, among other things, to organize protests against ending the Falashmura immigration to Israel, to petition the High Court of Justice on behalf of the Falashmura awaiting aliyah, and enlisting the aid of Jewish communities around the world in pressuring the government over the issue.

50% losses for supermarket chain under ultra-Orthodox boycott

By Shoshana Chen, March 31, 2008

Despite the fact that no official boycott has been announced, ultra-Orthodox consumers have already begun to impose informal sanctions on the Shefa Shuk supermarket chain.

According to estimates provided by concerned advertisers and suppliers, the chain’s eight stores catering to the ultra-Orthodox sector have already suffered a 50% drop in revenue.

Education Ministry ditches Limor Livnat’s ‘100 Zionist concepts’ program

By Or Kashti, Haaretz March 26, 2008

One of the curricular cornerstones of the previous minister of education, aimed at teaching Zionism, democracy and cultural heritage to the country’s junior-high students, is to be scrapped from next year in favor of a program based on primary texts.

…With regard to the texts used to teach the topics, the report states: “The committee adopts the principle of giving equal value to the source material: No specific canon, such as the Bible or the Talmud, shall be accorded a superior status.

Students in state schools must come into contact with the totality of Jewish culture in order to shape their own attitude toward the entirety of the sources.”

Kindergarten plan causes religious storm

By Miriam Bulwar David-Hay, March 30, 2008

A municipal plan to build a secular kindergarten on the grounds of a state religious school in central Tel Aviv has sparked outrage from religious parents, reports Yediot Tel Aviv.

The parents say they will fight with “every legal means” to prevent a secular kindergarten from being placed in the yard of the Moriah religious school near Kikar Rabin.

A municipal spokeswoman urged the religious parents to remember that, “We are all Jews,” and that secular and religious residents of Tel Aviv could, and do, live in harmony.

But the committee was unmoved, saying it could only imagine the “riot” that would break out if religious parents wanted to put a religious kindergarten in a secular school.

“High-tech in the service of the rabbis”

Letters to the Editor, Haaretz March 25, 2008

By Rabbi Avi Shafran, Director of Public Affairs Agudath Israel of America

Curiously missing from Avirama Golan’s article, about the “oppression” of ultra-Orthodox Israeli women working in the high-tech industry, are any comments whatsoever from the women themselves.

That might be because the vast majority of them consider it a high honor to work to support their families and husbands studying Torah full-time.

Two Cases for Decentralization

By Jonathan Rosenblum, Mishpacha, March 26, 2008

In Eretz Yisrael too there is a great centralization of the learning community. The dream of every yeshiva bochur is an apartment in Jerusalem or Bnei Brak, or, failing that, in one of the new all-chareidi communities within commuting distance – Beitar, Elad, or Kiryat Sefer.

Yet that dream is increasingly beyond realization for many young couples. In outlying Jerusalem neighborhoods in the process of “chareidization,” the price of a small apartment that the couple will likely outgrow in a few years is rapidly climbing towards $200,000.

Recent government-imposed housing freezes in Beitar and elsewhere have sent housing prices skyrocketing, if one can even find an apartment to buy.

Language wars – round two

By Yair Ettinger, Haaretz March 27, 2008

While Israeli state schools are busy marking the 150th anniversary of the birth of Eliezer Ben-Yehuda, who revived the modern Hebrew language, he is presented in the ultra-Orthodox pamphlet as “a wicked man who spent his life fighting with hatred against religion and wanted to uproot it totally.”

“The publication of the pamphlet at this particular time reflects a reality in which Hebrew is growing stronger at the expense of Yiddish,” says Dr. Dalit Asulin, a researcher into the Yiddish of the ultra-Orthodox and a research fellow at Ben-Gurion University of the Negev.

“There are no Haredim in Israel who do not know Hebrew, and preserving Yiddish requires a constant effort on the part of the rabbis and the educational personnel, particularly with regard to children.”

Like the previous pamphlet, it will be funded by members of the Satmar Hasidic court from the United States “who very much like this anti-Zionist propaganda,” as the yeshiva student phrased it, incidentally revealing a peep into an important branch of the Haredi economy.

UTJ joins Yesha Council, seeks expansion of Haredi settlement

By Yair Ettinger, Haaretz March 31, 2008

The ultra-Orthodox United Torah Judaism party joined hands for the first time Sunday with the Yesha Council of settlements, to promote a cause that both hold dear: expanding the population of the Haredi settlement of Beitar Ilit, located between Jerusalem and Gush Etzion.

…Some of the MKs were careful to avoid larger questions about the future of the territories, focusing instead on the Haredi community’s severe housing shortage.

‘Haredi code of silence must be broken in abuse cases’

By Ruth Eglash, March 28, 2008

The code of silence that exists in ultra-Orthodox communities regarding physical and sexual abuse against children must be broken, and ordinary citizens as well as professionals should be prosecuted for not reporting such cases to the authorities, Welfare and Social Services Ministry officials and child activists told The Jerusalem Post on Wednesday.

Orthodox treatment

By Esti Keller, March 31, 2008

Beit Avraham is Jerusalem’s only religious halfway house catering to this population. The therapy session demonstrates the dual role religion and therapy play in the center’s rehabilitation process.

Keren Hateshuva is a religious organization that assists former convicts in reintegrating into society. Beit Avraham, which opened a year ago, is the organization’s current flagship project. It receives partial government funding but relies heavily on donations.

State program to tackle problem of polygamy in Bedouin community

By Ruth Sinai, Haaretz March 27, 2008

Together with leading figures in the Bedouin community, the state will initiate a program to address the problem of polygamy, which Social Affairs Minister Isaac Herzog described as an “epidemic.”

Though there is no clear data on the numbers of polygamous families in Israel, Karinawi estimates that a quarter of Bedouin men have more than one wife.

‘We have more women than men’

By Mijal Grinberg, Haaretz March 27, 2008

Mona Al-Habanin, of Rahat, director of the Desert Princess association for Bedouin women’s rights, says polygamy lowers women’s status, and that the use of religion to defend the practice was a “distortion” of religious interpretation.

“It says it can be done if there is equality, but there cannot be equality.”

“Mostly men don’t take women who are older, divorced or widowed as their second wife . They take young women, for their pleasure.” Many such women are for all intents and purposes single parents, but the state does not recognize them as such, she says.

Galon calls for Knesset discussion of pending Jaffa Muslim cemetery sale

By Yigal Hai, Haaretz March 26, 2008

Following yesterday’s report in Haaretz concerning the protest of Arab leaders over the approval of the sale of half a Muslim cemetery in Jaffa to developers, MK Zahava Galon (Meretz) asked the Knesset Interior Committee to discuss the matter.

“The sale is causing unrest in Jaffa,” that could, wrote Galon, be avoided through dialogue about exchanges of land and financial compensation.

The land was sold in 1973 by Jaffa’s Muslim religious trust, before it became part of the cemetery which has been in use since 1943.

However Jaffa’s Muslims viewed it as land necessary for the cemetery’s expansion and used it for burials despite the sale. The community now wants the buyers compensated and the land returned.

A little break in the wall

By Nissan Straukler, March 31, 2008

In honor of Israel’s 60th anniversary, German company Ravensberger, making high-end puzzles and other toys, has manufactured a 1,000 piece puzzle depicting the Western Wall.

The Israeli company Sacheck-Na placed 400 puzzle pieces inside the Western Wall, wrapped within blue notes emblazoned with the company’s logo and containing various wishes such as “I want a united Jerusalem”, or “I want peace”.

The company urged Israelis to go on a treasure hunt to retrieve the missing puzzle pieces. Whoever finds the missing pieces will have their very own puzzle sent to their home.

Western Wall Rabbi Shmuel Rabinowitz, said in reaction to this marketing scheme that “I see this course of action as an affront to the Western Wall and the holiness that it represents.

“The sacred stones of this wall are meant to be a site for prayer, not games. Even if this is a worthy cause, one must separate the sacred from the secular, and marketing is definitely a secular endeavor. “

After 2,000 Years: “Chumash with the Daughters of Rashi’s Commentary”

Event Launches Groundbreaking Women’s Torah Commentary in Tel

A unique, first-time event between HUC-JIR and Beit Daniel, the center for Progressive Judaism in Tel Aviv, celebrate[d] and launch[ed] the new anthology, The Torah: A Women’s Commentary in Israel on March 27, 2008.

For the past fourteen years, more than 100 theologians, historians, sociologists, scholars, anthropologists, poets, rabbis, and cantors from the United States, Canada, Israel and South America – all of them women – took a fresh look at the Torah. The Torah: A Women’s Commentary is the result of their exhaustive research, thought, and discussion.

Shabbes in the capital

By Neri Livneh, Haaretz March 28, 2008

Sane religious people are also leaving Jerusalem. Journalist Kobi Arieli, who was invited together with me last week to take part in a televised discussion about Jerusalem, announced that he would only return to the city when his dead body was covered with a tallit and 10 of his friends were escorting him to the grave. Even columnist Uri Orbach has left the city with his family.

A religious pet can only flourish in a secular environment. Soon, perhaps, we will be seeing the rise of a new class in Jerusalem: the secular-pet class. But they’ll have nothing but a dog’s life to look forward to.

The President’s Conference: Facing Tomorrow

Israel at 60 -May 13-15, 2008 Jerusalem

Facing Tomorrow will be a conference of focused exploration, a synergistic gathering of major world leaders, Jews and non-Jews, thinkers and doers, poets and physicists, rabbis and entrepreneurs, including the next generation of leadership — young men and women of exceptional promise and originality.

Religion and State in Israel

March 31, 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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