Religion and State in Israel – April 7, 2008 (Section 2)

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Religion and State in Israel

April 7, 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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Hagee answers Yoffie

By Ami Eden, JTA April 7, 2008

Pastor Hagee, responding to questions that were submitted ahead of time, defended himself against Rabbi Eric Yoffie of the Reform movement and other critics who accuse the mega-church leader of being anti-Catholic and bent on stopping Israeli peace moves.

Evangelist to Yoffie: ‘I’m not trying to undermine peace’

By Shmuel Rosner, Haaretz April 8, 2008

Hagee [added] that the Reform leader “failed to exhibit the very sensitivity of which he spoke.” The San Antonio church leader said Yoffie demonstrated “a lack of respect for me [and] a troubling lack of respect for the truth.”

Hagee: We don’t tell Israelis what to do

By Michal Lando, April 7, 2008

“We do not seek to tell Israelis what to do,” Pastor John Hagee told a group of reporters Monday, following claims made last week by the president of the Union for Reform Judaism suggesting that he and his organization, Christians United for Israel, were a threat to the country’s security.

Asked to define Christian Zionism, Hagee said it is “the belief that every Jewish person has the right of return to Israel, and the right to live in peace and security within the recognized borders.”

Yoffie told The Jerusalem Post that he “tried to be very careful in checking [his] sources.”

Yoffie said Hagee had suggested meeting when he returned from Israel, which he would be happy to do.

The full text of Rabbi Yoffie’s speech is available here.

Reform leader calls on Jews to skip Hagee’s pro-Israel events

By Ron Kampeas, JTA March 4, 2008

“We should refrain from participating in the ‘Night to Honor Israel’ road shows that Pastor Hagee sponsors,” Yoffie said Wednesday at a convention of Reform rabbis in Cincinnati.

Bibi: Christian Zionists our top friends

By Etgar Lefkovits, April 7, 2008

The head of the Knesset’s increasingly influential Christian Allies Caucus MK Benny Elon (National Union-National Religious Party), who has spearheaded Israel’s relations with the evangelical Christian world, called Yoffie’s politically based remarks “shameful,” and called Hagee a “visionary man of courage” and an “outstanding spiritual leader.”

“You are the right man in the right place in the right time,” Elon said Friday at a book launch of Hagee’s book In Defense of Israel, which has now been translated into Hebrew.

Efrat Chief Rabbi Shlomo Riskin called the burgeoning ties between Israel and the evangelical Christian world “one of the most important things,” after close to 2,000 years of enmity persecution and pogroms.

“What we have to understand is that the Christianity of persecution and intolerance and Jew-hatred is not the Christianity of Pastor Hagee and most evangelists today,” Riskin said.

U.S. evangelist pledges $6 million in contributions to Israel

AP, Haaretz April 6, 2008

American evangelist John Hagee on Sunday announced donations of $6 million to a number of Israeli causes and declared that Israel must remain in control of all of Jerusalem.

Reform leader: ‘Christians for Israel’ hurt country

“The notion that Hagee represents the future of American evangelicalism is a misreading of the political map,” Yoffie told the Post.

With friends like these

Haaretz Editorial April 4, 2008

Yoffie represents a movement that supports Israel for very different reasons from those of the Christian Zionists, who identify largely with the most right-wing sectors of Israeli society.

Shas MK Shlomo Benizri convicted in major corruption scandal

Click here for Haaretz and Channel 10 VIDEO

Shas MK, former labor minister Shlomo Benizri found guilty of taking bribes and breach of trust

By Tomer Zarchin, Haaretz April 2, 2008

…To get the information he needed, Sela promised Elbaz’s yeshiva a part of his profits.

The court also found that Benizri ordered Buchris to make sure that Sela won a tender run by the Employment Service in 2001, after Sela “excited Benizri and Elbaz with the large sums of money expected for whoever wins the tender and promised to give the yeshiva half, as long as he won the tender.”

The Benizri conviction / The Israeli Godfather

By Gidi Weitz, Haaretz April 2, 2008

“[Shlomo Benizri] told me: ‘Moshe, you must run to the rabbi right now. He is weeping for sorrow, because he lacks money to pay salaries to his yeshiva students.’ I asked Shlomo, ‘how much does he need?’ He told me about half a million dollars. I told him, ‘I have $400,000 here, I’m going now.'”

‘I won’t resign,’ Benizri insists

By Zvi Zrahiya, Haaretz April 2, 2008

Benizri said he would speak to Shas spiritual leader Rabbi Ovadia Yosef about the matter later in the week and complained he had been persecuted for eight years through no fault of his own.

The patron and his right-hand man

By Yair Ettinger, Haaretz April 2, 2008

“No one in Shas today will go out into the streets for Benizri,” said one activist.

“But Rabbi Elbaz has a real following – thousands of people who would go through fire and water for him … Even if Benizri goes to jail, there will be no significant protest. But if Rabbi Elbaz is sent to jail, there will be a huge storm.”

This time a conviction won’t rattle Shas

By Yair Ettinger, Haaretz April 1, 2008

Benizri was born in Haifa 48 years ago and became religious after completing his army service. As a rabbi in the back-to-religion movement who taught at Rabbi Reuven Elbaz’s Or Hahaim yeshiva, he was placed on the Shas Knesset list at the age of 31.

Since then, he has been a media star, a provocateur, a regular presenter on Shas radio stations and a frequent guest on television news shows to explain the comments of Rabbi Ovadia Yosef. There were those who pinpointed him as Deri’s successor – until he followed in Deri’s path a bit too closely and was investigated on corruption charges.

No immediate suspension for Benizri, rules Knesset legal adviser Nurit Elstein

By Shahar Ilan, Haaretz April 2, 2008

The end of the road for the clown

Haaretz Editorial April 2, 2008

MK Benizri’s remarks about homosexuals and secular people, which bordered on incitement and were his major contribution to the current Knesset, turned him from a potential leader of the Shas party into the Knesset clown. His non-appearance in the parliament will be a blessing.

The Lysistrata option

By Yair Ettinger, Haaretz April 3, 2008

Attorney Batya Kahana-Dror of Kolech (Your Voice), a religious women’s organization, has called on women to declare a rebellion on behalf of the mikveh attendants.

A consumers’ rebellion that is aimed at the proprietors, the decision makers, the men – a Lysistrata rebellion in which no one can immerse herself in the mikveh, and that means no sex until the crisis is resolved.

“Let’s shake things up,” Kahana-Dror wrote on Kolech‘s Web site.

“Let’s drive those who are impatiently waiting for the day of immersion [in the mikveh] crazy, those who are the complete majority on the religious councils, in the treasury, in the Religious Services Ministry, in the government and in the Knesset, the leaders and the rabbis….Let us stop – no immersing, no sexual relations.”

Murky waters

By Matthew Wagner, April 4, 2008

Kahana-Dror is hopeful that Cohen will stand behind his promise to pay salaries before Pessah.

“But if attendants don’t get paid, I’m not going to the mikve. And don’t ask me what my husband thinks about that.”

First J’lem forum for Diaspora, local philanthropists

By Anshel Pfeffer, Haaretz April 3, 2008

“There is a feeling that despite the increasing affluence of Israeli society, the local businesspeople aren’t doing there share and Israelis still look to America for much of their funding. This is going to have to change,” said a participant at the Jewish Funders Network conference this week.

Jewish Funders Network announces plan to open Israel office

By April 7, 2008

The Jewish Funders Network (JFN) announced Sunday its plan to open an Israel branch of its office.

The decision, made as a result of a request made by a group of Israel-based funders, will allow JFN to better meet the needs of its growing membership in Israel, the organization said in a statement.

Jewish values can fight world poverty

By Anshel Pfeffer, Haaretz April 2, 2008

The leaders of the aid organizations gathered this week at a conference in Neveh Ilan on “Religion and International Aid,” sponsored by Tel Aviv University’s Hartog School of Government and Policy.

IsraAid: The Israel Forum for International Humanitarian Aid

Needed: A new deal for our rich uncles overseas

By Anshel Pfeffer, Haaretz April 4, 2008

Israel has to act like a country on its way to self-sufficiency and is rich enough today to take a look around and join in the Western world’s efforts to fight poverty in the Third world.

It’s not nearly enough to be spending a miserly 0.06 percent of its GDP for international development, and half of that for absorbing new immigrants from poor countries. And the best way of boosting that contribution can only be a partnership with world Jewry.

Partnership, and not just check-writing, will have to be the way forward in any philanthropic venture.

The rich Jews from overseas don’t need the Israelis pitching in to save themselves money. They need it because that’s the only way they can truly feel they are helping Israel to to grow up and be a nation capable of standing on its own two feet.

How to reverse the decline in aliya

By Michael Freund, Opinion April 3, 2008

The writer is chairman of Shavei Israel, a Jerusalem-based group that assists ‘lost Jews’ seeking to return to the Jewish people.

Practically, there is a simple and immediate step the government could take to boost the number of new immigrants: open the door to communities of “lost Jews” seeking to return to the Jewish people.

There are thousands of them, from the 8,000 Falash Mura still in Ethiopia hoping to come here, to the 15,000 Subbotnik Jews of the former Soviet Union, to the 7,000 Bnei Menashe of northeastern India.

Our own agents of intolerance

The disproportionate influence of the religious establishment is an important element in the growing rift between the Diaspora and Israel, according to Prof. Yehezkel Dror of the Jewish People Policy Planning Institute. A recent study by the group found Diaspora Jewry’s sense of identification with Israel weakening among the non-Orthodox.

The Jerusalem Post noted this week that “these are manifestations of religious extremism seemingly tolerated by the community in which they took place.”

They are also wedges that threaten to widen the rift between the Diaspora and an Israel that appears increasingly dominated by the religious establishment.

We rightly demand Palestinian leaders halt their anti-Israel incitement and some are repelled by Obama’s continuing relationship with his former pastor – but when it comes to our own haters, too often mum’s the word.

Aliya policy lacking imagination

An American Jew cannot be convinced to make aliya by removing financial obstacles, or even by handing him or her hard cash. Israel will be relevant to them only if they sense a cultural attachment to Israeli society, a bond worth pursuing because Israel represents a meaningful reality for them.

So while the government thinks in utterly institutional terms, and the Absorption Ministry, seeking new avenues for relevance as aliya trickles to a halt, focuses on expats, perhaps it is time for the government to pause to consider the problem of aliya – and Israel-Diaspora relations more generally – not from the institutional or financial perspective, but from the cultural one.

A ‘birthright’ for non-Jews?

Of all the presents we can give Israel on its illustrious “3000 + 60 birthday,” none would be more helpful than to inaugurate a Birthright for Non-Jewish Youth program that would seek to bring 50,000 non-Jewish students from around the world to Israel every year.

Campuses are the places where Israel is most attacked in the West today.

Why not expose non-Jewish students to how stirring Israel is and give them a stake in its future?

Let My Parents Go – Video Contest Voting

Peres To Convene Confab on Israeli and Jewish Future

By Nathan Guttman, The Forward April 03, 2008

“It is time to change the nature of the partnership between the various parts of the Jewish people,” Peres told the Forward.

“It needs to be less materialistic and more intellectual.” Israel, he argued, should aspire to become a “leading world laboratory” for thought, technology and science.

Israel-Diaspora Gay Rift

By Michele Chabin, The Jewish Week April 2, 2008

Though last week’s unpleasantness has reportedly passed, advocates for the gay community are worried about how JTS’s first class of openly gay and lesbians students will cope with Schechter’s halachic stand on their lifestyle.

Yonatan Gher, executive director of the Jerusalem Open House:

“…I would hope that the Conservative institutions in the U.S. will allow anyone who has a conflict of conscience with Schechter’s policy to choose to spend their year studying at an alternative institution.”

Educational institute refuses to hold event for gay students

By Neta Sela, April 2, 2008

Schechter Institute of Jewish Studies put out a press release stating that “the institute decided to grant equal forum to the perspectives prevalent within the Conservative movement in the true spirit of the school, and our Jewish sages who respected each other’s rulings and opinions in spite of conflicts and disagreements.

“The Schechter Institute wants to provide a warm and welcoming environment for all of its students, but also adheres to the moral-halachic principle of ‘a person should not deviate from the set ways of a place because of argument’ (Mishna Pesachim 4:1).

This means that one is obligated to respect the religious customs of a place that hosts him in order to preserve peace and harmony.”

Ra’anana wins struggle to open TALI school

TALI is nominally affiliated with the Conservative Schechter Institute, but Oren said each school’s parents association decides upon its own affiliation.

“We decided not to affiliate with any movement. Eighty-five percent of the parents do not affiliate at all. But they believe it’s important to give their children a Jewish education.

“We are Israelis and Jews, not just Israelis,” she emphasized.

Asked why they didn’t send their children to state religious schools for a Jewish education, Oren replied, “State religious is Orthodox. In TALI, we teach Judaism as culture and pluralistic Judaism. We don’t just teach them what is permitted and forbidden.

The Knesset’s best bill in years

There is a critical mass of nominally secular Israelis who care for a Shabbat of some sort, circumcise their baby boys, keep kosher in their own way, cherish the prophets’ quest for social justice and national restoration, care very much for Jewish marriage, burial and divorce and generally live by the Jewish calendar.

The current system ignores this critical mass and damages Israel’s spirituality.

The bill that passed a first reading last week seeks to create a new, “religious-secular” educational network.

Revealing God’s female voice

By Yair Sheleg, Haaretz April 1, 2008

Last week “The Torah: A Women’s Commentary” was launched in Israel and in the near future it will be translated into Hebrew.

During her visit to Israel, Person has begun to make the first contacts toward the translation of the book into Hebrew:

There is already a donor, but there isn’t a publisher yet and the women of the editorial board are still debating whether to translate the book as is or to re-commission a large number of the texts from Israeli women – not to mention the need to translate the poetry from various languages.

Gerald Cromer, religious peace camp leader and professor, 63

By Daphna Berman, Haaretz April 4, 2008

“He believed in religious freedom while preserving his roots in Judaism,” said Eliezer Yaari, NIF Israel’s executive director.

“But more than anything else, he embodied tikkun olam,” referring to the Jewish value of repairing the world.

Prof. Gerald Cromer (1944-2008): Transforming Innovative Ideas into Meaningful Deeds

New Israel Fund April 1, 2008

“Pluralism is not the same thing as tolerance,” Prof. Gerald Cromer said on a recent visit to Canada.

“Tolerance implies a willingness to put up with the other side, but pluralism suggests that everyone has something to offer.”

The Burg speaks: Zionism is futile

Click here for AUDIO

By Ben Harris, JTA April 3, 2008

Since Burg won’t do it himself, here — briefly — are the salient points:

Aliyah has effectively ended, thinking of Israel as a refuge for the Jewish oppressed is no longer meaningful, and Israeli society has therefore lost any sense of grand ideological purpose.

Israel cannot find a new purpose because the quality of political intellectualizing is so low — a pathology Burg no doubt believes he stands in stark exception to — which is itself a consequence of Israel’s obsession with the Holocaust.

The Holocaust has become a religion in Israel, traumatizing the society and making it fearful and untrusting. But fear not, for there is something more powerful than trauma — love. (For the record, I checked and that is not a lyric from a Barry Manilow song.)

Israel should separate church and state, America-style, and move away from the Judaism of parochial concerns towards a universal, humanist Judaism.

Avram Burg in First N.Y. Appearance since Controversial Book

By Doug Chandler, The Jewish Week April 2, 2008

While he once thought of himself only as an Israeli, Burg said, he now identifies himself as a Jew and a human being, as well as an Israeli. “My love is for the entire human race,” he said – especially for “good people” with values that match his own.

Israel, like any nation, should reflect those values, Burg said. He also believes Israel should be defined not as a Jewish state, but as a state of the Jewish people, and that the role of religious leaders should follow what he calls “the biblical model.”

That model involves defending the helpless and opposing “the maliciousness of the system … rather than being the system itself,” Burg said.

In Memoriam: Chana Safrai (1946–2008), Friend and Colleague

By Naomi Cohen,, Nashim: A Journal of Jewish Women’s Studies and Gender Issues, No. 15 (Spring 2008) issue.

The writer is a Ph.D. (Heb. U.); taught for many years at Tel-Aviv and Haifa Universities. A founding member of the Israel Women’s Network (Shedulat Hanashim), Kolech-The Religious Women’s Forum, and The Judith Lieberman Institute. She has been teaching a regular Talmud Class for women at her home in Haifa since 1978.

Chana Safrai (1946-2008) was a friend, a colleague and a kindred soul. At a time when it was a matter of consensus that feminism, by any name, was politically incorrect in the Orthodox world, we stood together.

For us, Chana was first and foremost a militant feminist. She was an active and innovative member of Kolech: The Religious Women’s Forum from its inception. From the very beginning, Chana was there fighting for what she believed in.

She made her mark particularly in the area of women’s empowerment, and what, for her, was an integral part of this: Talmud study by women.

It is thanks to her that at the last biennial conference of Kolech, a continuous Talmud study session was inaugurated: “Limud Kolech.”

Social worker: Most ultra-Orthodox children who were sexually abused not treated

By Tamar Rotem, Haaretz April 2, 2008

“Among the ultra-Orthodox, children are more independent. In a family of 10 children, it’s impossible to escort every child. But the parents don’t even take this issue into consideration. It’s not considered abuse in their world.

They aren’t aware of the dangers. Abuse of boys is more common in our community. It is possible that men have more opportunities to assault because of the separation of the sexes. Assaults at the mikveh are rare today.

There isn’t a single normal family that allows its child to go out alone. Parents also don’t send their children to yeshivas with a dormitory…”

Behind the veil

By Tamar Rotem, Haaretz April 4, 2008

The woman who is under arrest is 54 years old, the mother of 12 children, four of whom are under the age of 18.

She was raised in a remote moshav in the South, in a national religious family. After she and her husband, who was in the air force, married, the couple’s religious faith strengthened. They became ultra-Orthodox and moved to Bnei Brak.

About seven years ago they moved to Beit Shemesh, west of Jerusalem, where she began to wage a stubborn fight, in the form of lectures and assemblies, against the norm of ultra-Orthodox women wearing wigs in public.

In the wake of her move toward religious extremism, she married off her four older children – the ones who are now being spoken about in the context of incest – to spouses from the most hermetic and extreme stream of ultra- Orthodoxy. The matches of three out of the four did not work out well, and they divorced a short while later.

State helpless in face of skeletons in haredi closet

By Yael Branovsky, April 3, 2008

Doron Aggasi, director of the Shlom Banecha foundation, which aids victims of sexual abuse and violence in the haredi community, stated that the recent public cases of child abuse within the haredi community indicate that the haredi world is changing for the better when it comes to reporting such crimes

Preempt domestic violence

By MK Colette Avital, Opinion April 7, 2008

The silence of Israel’s chief Rabbis Metzger and Ammar in light of these horrifying occurrences, especially those perpetrated within religious families and often in the name of religion, is deafening.

I have recently issued an appeal to the Chief Rabbis calling on them to show responsibility as spiritual leaders and publicly denounce domestic violence.

The trouble with King David

By Shiri Lev-Ari, Haaretz April 2, 2008

Author Yochi Brandes, who frequently takes a light approach to writing about the ultra-Orthodox world, Zionism, Jewish sources and Jewish identity, has now gained entry into a highly-respected group of local writers.

She was born in Haifa and raised in Petah Tikva in an ultra-Orhodox family. She attended ultra-Orthodox schools affiliated with the Beit Yaakov education network.

But unlike most of her peers, she continued on to university and completed a master’s degree in Jewish Studies at the Conservative Movement’s Shechter Institute of Jewish Studies in Jerusalem. She taught Bible in schools, colleges and cultural institutions for many years.

“I do not follow halakha,” she says. “I know halakha and continue to study it, but I am not committed to it. I enjoy observing certain mitzvot, and Jewish culture is my only culture. I am truly ignorant and illiterate when it comes to other cultures.”

The ultra-Orthodox world then was very different than it is today,” she notes…”Most of my siblings are ultra-Orthodox, and their children are even more extreme.”

See also: My good God, let me be free

By Yochi Brandes, Haaretz May 3, 2006

Two questions are always raised at every meeting with the audience:

When exactly did I decide to leave the ultra-Orthodox world, and how did my parents react to this decision?

Soaked in Bible

By Shiri Lev-Ari, Haaretz April 6, 2008

The Bible has come back into fashion. Recently, several fiction and non-fiction books have been published that deal with biblical figures and provide new, contemporary interpretations of their behavior and character.

Secular Israel’s preoccupation with its Jewish bookshelf appears to satisfy a need for spiritual and cultural significance.

Meir Shalev:

“This could indicate a great thirst for the Bible. No matter what anyone says, the Bible contains wonderful stories, incredible writers, and the secret of reduction, which we have nearly forgotten.

People are interested in Jewish content that does not come from preachers, the religious establishment, religious parties or political rabbis, but from someone like them.”

Druze threaten religious boycott of homeowners who lend roofs to cellular antennas

By Eli Ashkenazi, Haaretz April 1, 2008

Residents of the Druze community of Majdal Shams are considering calling for a religious boycott of those whose roofs are used by cellular telephone companies to set up antennas.

“At a meeting Sunday at the hilweh [prayer hall], religious leaders and elders called for calm, but the young were fed up, and many went out and burned down the antennas,” [a Masadeh] resident added.

Rabbinic council: Arms to PA is ‘collaboration with the enemy’

By Nadav Shragai, Haaretz April 2, 2008

The Land of Israel Council of Rabbis has issued a halakhic ruling stating that anyone who transfers weapons to Arabs, or who is party to such decisions, “is collaborating with the enemy and is in violation of the laws of the Torah.”

The council’s ruling will be published in a pamphlet called Eretz Israel Shelanu.

High School Seniors Meet With Religious MKs

By Hillel Fendel, March 31, 2008

Thirty yeshiva high school seniors met in the Knesset with the religious-Zionist Knesset faction, the National Union-National Religious Party, on Monday afternoon, demanding unity for the next elections.

“It was frustrating that no major decisions were reached,” one of the students, Michal Tabib from Herzliya, told Arutz-7 afterwards, “but in actuality, we feel that something big has started. We plan to continue to be in touch with the MKs.”

Rocket fire gives town of Sderot new stature

By Ethan Bronner, NYT, IHT, April 4, 2008

But for Rabbi David Fendel, who has raised millions of dollars for an entirely rebuilt 500-student yeshiva that he has run here for years, the rockets are proof that withdrawing Israeli settlers and soldiers from Gaza was foolish. The point of his project is to make a statement to those who wish Israel ill.

“The Palestinians are trying to turn this into a ghost town,” he said as he stepped through the construction site of his school. “We’re not going to let them. We’re going to make it a dynamic center of Zionism, Torah and building.”

Hurva Synagogue to be Rebuilt

By Hillel Fendel, April 7, 2008

The Cabinet has upgraded the status of the Hurva Synagogue in the Jewish Quarter of the Old City of Jerusalem, including it in the purview of the Western Wall Heritage Foundation.

More refurbishing work is presently underway there, and the plan is to rebuild the synagogue altogether.

The work is being carried out by the government-owned East Jerusalem Development Company, which has full rights to the property. The government decision stipulated that the Heritage Foundation will work together with the company in the future.

See also: Hurva Synagogue restoration nears completion

By Etgar Lefkovits, March 28, 2008

Religion and State in Israel

April 7, 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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