Religion and State in Israel – April 14, 2008 (Section 1) (continues in Section 2)

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Religion and State in Israel

April 14, 2008 (Section 1) (continues in Section 2)

Editor – Joel Katz

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

Cartoon by Yaakov Kirschen “Slippery Slope”

Knesset discusses Passover bread sale ruling

By Amnon Meranda, April 14, 2008

Labor MK Ophir Pines-Paz:

“The judge who rendered the ruling is a religious woman. The problem lies with the wording of the law. It is unenforceable and everyone knows it… we have to have a serious discussion on the proper way to maintain heritage and tradition not through coercion.”

‘Allowing hametz harms Jewish identity’

By Elie Leshem, April 14, 2008

Meretz MK Zehava Gal-On asked whether Israel’s Jewish identity hinged upon pita bread.

“We don’t have to make amendments to the Hametz Law [in order to annul the judge’s decision], rather we must cancel [the Hametz Law]. Your attempt to coerce people and decide what, how and where to eat is not at the center of Jewish identity.”

Shas angry as cabinet fails to mull chametz

By Yair Ettinger and Mazal Mualem, Haaretz April 14, 2008

Shas ministers were fuming yesterday over the cabinet’s failure, ostensibly due to a technical glitch preventing the proposal from being delivered on time, to discuss the party’s amendment barring the sale of chametz (leavened products) during Passover.

The proposal was meant to circumvent a recent ruling by a Jerusalem court allowing stores and restaurants to sell chametz on Passover but not to display it in public.


No prohibition against selling chametz

By Asher Maoz, Haaretz April 9, 2008

The writer teaches at the Tel Aviv University Faculty of Law.

[Torah and mitzvot observant Jews] will in any case not enter a store or restaurant where nonkosher products are sold and served, and as such they will not be exposed to chametz and their sensibilities will not be offended.

On the other hand, as long as there is no law prohibiting selling and serving leavened products to those who want them, why prohibit their display inside a place of business that is permitted to sell them?

Itzik clears out the chametz

By Shahar Ilan, Haaaretz April 10, 2008

Knesset secretary Eyal Yanun, until recently the deputy attorney general, revealed two unknown details about the affair in his letter.

The first is based on the fact that the ruling was made by a municipal court, and may not apply to other courts.

Yanun writes that:

“following my inquiries with the attorney general and the Jerusalem municipality’s legal adviser, it transpires that the method of enforcing the law this Pesach has yet to be determined.

It is unclear what implications the ruling has or whether it will influence the status quo concerning chametz.”

Should Jewishness in Israel be legislated or a choice?

By Rabbi David Hartman, April 10, 2008

One is caught in this dilemma.

I can appreciate the aversion people have for legislating religious principles. I appreciate the feeling of some that the government should not enter into your own private spiritual domain and dictate to you what you can and cannot eat on Pesach. Freedom of religion or non-religion is an option that should be decided by the individual and not by the legislative power of the Knesset.

On the other hand, if we are interested in some shared, collective space that mediates some flavor of Jewishness and gives a Jewish quality to our public life, then it is the role of the Knesset to establish the minimum conditions that would give expression to our Jewish historical heritage.

Should Jewishness be legislated or should it be the result of a personal freedom of choice?

Shas: We’ll defy gov’t on ‘Passover Law’

By Roni Sofer, April 13, 2008

Interior Minister Meir Sheetrit said in response that “there is no point in amending the law,” since the court has already ruled on the matter.

According to him, “the idea of backing up ‘the Passover Law’ by another one is inappropriate. We’re no officers of God; nobody has ever actually enforced this law. Now that the Jerusalem Municipal Court acquitted those who have sold leavened goods, there’s no point in delving into the matter.”

Removing hametz from the heart

By Rabbi Reuven Hammer, April 9, 2008

The writer is a former president of the International Rabbinical Assembly and the head of the Rabbinical Court of the Masorti Movement.

Rather than spending their energy in trying to enforce unenforceable laws of dubious value, true religious leaders – as opposed to political leaders wrapped in the cloak of religion – would spend their time teaching and demonstrating the beauties of Judaism. Instead they are busy demonstrating the exact opposite.

…Hametz will disappear from the streets when it and all it stands for disappears from our hearts. Another law will not accomplish that.

Just don’t force us

By Amnon Rubinstein, April 10, 2008

The writer is a professor of law at the Interdisciplinary Center (IDC) Herzliya, a former minister of education and MK as well as the recipient of the 2006 Israel Prize in Law.

But if the majority in the Knesset submit to pressure and pass a law which actually forbids the sale of hametz, even when the public square and therefore religious sensibilities are not involved, that law won’t be kosher.

It would exacerbate quiet rebellion on the part of many secular Israelis. It justly would be declared null and void by the Supreme Court as being incompatible with the Basic Law on Personal Dignity and Liberty, the very law initiated by this writer which introduced the concept of Israel as both Jewish and democratic.

Passover Law Roils Israel’s Orthodox

By Nathan Jeffay, April 10, 2008

Shahar Levy, who owns Restobar, a restaurant in Jerusalem’s Rehavia neighborhood that was in the dock before Asher-Zaban, said he is “very happy” with the judge’s ruling.

“However,” he added, “there is a part of this that upsets me. While it is good for us that we won, it makes me sad that it hurts relationships between the secular and the religious.”

Shas’ Rabbi Yosef to Sabbath council: Stay mum on AM:PM row

By Nati Toker, Haaretz April 14, 2008

In the latest move in a debate among ultra-Orthodox sages, Shas party spiritual leader Ovadia Yosef has ordered the rabbinical council for Sabbath observance affairs to maintain media silence over an ongoing dispute with the AM:PM convenience stores, whose policy of keeping stores open on the Shabbat has sparked a campaign for a broad ultra-Orthodox consumer boycott.

Bnei Brak: Dozens of Secular Jews arrive to ‘Shefa Shuk’ for Shabbat groceries as a protest against the Haredi boycott

Click here for photos from

Rabbis say AM:PM to close on Shabbat

By Nati Toker and Nurit Roth, Haaretz April 10, 2008

David Wiessman, the controlling shareholder of Dor Alon, has agreed to keep all new outlets of the company’s AM:PM convenience-store chain closed on Shabbat.

That’s the claim of the Rabbinical Committee for the Sanctity of the Sabbath, which had threatened to call a boycott of Dor Alon’s Blue Square and Shefa Shuk supermarket chains as well as its network of gas stations, because of AP:PM stores being open on Saturdays.

AM:PM by Tzahi Farber, The Marker April 14, 2008

[sign] “Closed on Shabbat”

“Now you can tell him about the Mezuzot”

Who stands to profit from the AM:PM boycott?

By Sami Peretz, Haaretz April 13, 2008

The food business, more than any other business, needs rabbis and other religious officials.

David Wiessman learned this the hard way. Supermarket and retailing chains give the owners influence and power over suppliers, manufacturers, customers and consumer patterns. And when we talk about the largest supermarket chain in Israel, with a 38% market share, the power and influence are even stronger.

…The third lesson is about the hypocrisy of the ultra-Orthodox. Often the sector draws praise for its ability to organize as consumers. This time, however, they don’t deserve any such praise.

True, there is a split within the rabbinical establishment in the ultra-Orthodox community over the boycott of Wiessman’s businesses, but no one from the ultra-Orthodox world has yet been able to explain why they are boycotting Wiessman.

The rabbis have never declared a boycott against ultra-Orthodox tycoons Lev Leviev or Moti Zisser, who also operate some of their businesses on Shabbat.

Rabbi Ovadia Yosef declines to sign boycott letter

By Ilanit Hayut, Globes April 7, 2008

Shas spiritual leader Rabbi Ovadia Yosef as well as top Lithuanian rabbis have decided to withdraw from the threat of a boycott of retail chain Shefa Shuk, a unit of Alon Israel Oil Company Ltd., owned by chairman David Weissman.

Aides of Rabbi Ovadia Yosef said today that he refuses to sign the boycott letter on which other leading rabbis have signed. The aides added that Yosef supports negotiations with Alon Group. They said that Rabbi Ovadia Yosef has never signed any boycott letter of any kind.

Shefa Shuk adopts an old Haredi tradition

By Adi Dovrat, Haaretz April 9, 2008

The chain of supermarkets Shefa Shuk found itself banned by the Haredi newspapers, after the ultra-Orthodox community rabbis called for a boycott of the Alon Group because its chain of groceries AM:PM desecrates the Sabbath.

Shefa Shuk is considered one of most well known in the Haredi community, with a 2007 advertising budget estimated at $525,000.

Nor was the chain cowed by the Haredi community’s newspapers cold shoulder: it used the community’s own methods to reach the community: posters, known as pashkevilim, to advertise its wares.

Secular-Hareidi Alliance on Behalf of the Sabbath

By Hillel Fendel, April 10, 2008

Several secular elements have also joined in the battle for Sabbath. Left-wing MK Shelly Yechimovitch of Labor, for instance, feels that it is unfair to force employees to work seven days a week. warns that supporting open-on-Saturday businesses “endangers our children’s future. It is already hard today to find work in some areas that do not require work on Sabbath.

Even some of the most prestigious hi-tech companies demand 24/7 availability. But it is also happening in pharmacy chains, support personnel, and others – and soon it could happen to your own child.”

Precedent: Rabbinical court to hear divorce case of non-Israelis

By Dan Izenberg, April 13, 2008

In a precedent-setting decision, the long arm of the rabbinical courts has extended itself all the way to the Guadalupe Islands and France, the rabbinical courts spokeswoman said Sunday.

A few days ago, the Higher Rabbinical Court agreed to consider a divorce lodged by a woman against her husband, even though neither of them is an Israeli citizen. Both are French citizens who have lived for the past 20 years in the French protectorate of the Guadalupe Islands.

Organ Donation: Legal, But Still Controversial

By Michelle Chabin, The Jewish Week April 9, 2008

Click here for Rabbi Shlomo Riskin VIDEO

Observers familiar with the issue say the rabbis are reluctant to give a general “heter” (or, approval) and want to be consulted on each potential case of organ donation, continuing the turf control issue between the Chief Rabbinate and the Ministry of Health.

Robby Berman, founder of the Halachic Organ Donor Society in New York, said he is “skeptical” it will have “any significant impact” on organ donation in Israel.

“The bottleneck to donation is not the law but people’s misunderstanding of the medical and halachic issues surrounding brain-stem death. The solution is education, not legislation. And the government did not allocate significant funds to educate the public on this issue,” Berman said.

Malaysian convert denied citizenship since he was born in ‘enemy state’

By Shahar Ilan and Daphna Berman, Haaretz April 13, 2008

At the beginning of March, attorney Reut Michaeli of the Israel Religious Action Center asked Mazal Cohen, the Interior Ministry’s director of visas to non-citizens, to have Soong issued Israeli citizenship and immigrant status.

“The Law of Return gives every Jew the right to immigrate to Israel. One cannot deprive a person of his right merely because he was born in one country or another,” she wrote.

Soong was born to a Christian family in Kuala Lumpur. He left Malaysia for Singapore at the age of 19, gave up his Malaysian citizenship and has not been there for 15 years.

In 2000, Soong moved to the United States, where he joined a Reform Jewish community in Maine. A year later he converted to Judaism and in 2003 he received American citizenship.

Civil cemetery plans spark controversy

By Miriam Bulwar David-Hay, April 13, 2008

Hod Hasharon has approved a special budget of NIS 1 million for the construction of a civil burial ground adjoining the existing Jewish cemetery, and the decision is arousing a storm among the city’s religious residents, reports

Religious councilors say they were misled into voting for the budget, and say they will vote against Mayor Hai Adiv at the coming municipal elections if the plans for a civil cemetery go ahead.

Handing the Haredim a noose

By Meirav Arlosoroff, Haaretz April 10, 2008

“There is no precedent in Israel, or to the best of our knowledge in the western world, for the state to finance institutions of education without setting minimum standards for the study program,” wrote the [Israel Religious Action Center of the Israel Movement for Progressive Judaism] in its response to the High Court.

What would the Ministry do if another sector were to make the same demand, the Progressive Judaism movement wrote.

Could it reject the petition without falling into the trap of discrimination?

The Education Ministry’s behavior seems to have doomed solidarity in Israel. The glue holding together the various, divided segments of society would dry out and flake, it wrote.

After U-turn, Arabic back at middle schools

By Or Kashti, Haaretz April 15, 2008

The Education Ministry has backtracked on a decision not to include Arabic language studies in the required secondary school core curriculum. Thus, Arabic will continue to be taught for three hours a week in grades 7 to 9.

Education Ministry officials said the ministry had taken Arabic out of the core curriculum in an attempt to create a core curriculum the ultra-Orthodox system would support, but the latter rejected any compromise.

The need to create the core curriculum arose following a Supreme Court ruling that secondary schools must teach a core curriculum to receive state funding.

Studying with the other

Haaretz Editorial April 13, 2008

One of the big questions that will determine the future of the mixed school system is whether the national religious public will meet the challenge and send their children to school with non-observant children.

This is an opportunity for religious Zionists to try to win people over from a place of equality rather than with a patronizing attitude.

Chief rabbis against dodging IDF reserve duty

By Kobi Nahshoni, April 8, 2008

Israel’s chief rabbis are expected to declare the Shabbat before Passover “Shabbat of the reserves” and instruct Israel’s Jewish leaders to stress the importance of reserve duty to their congregations.

Personnel Directorate Head Major-General Elazar Stern told the rabbis that the integration of ‘Hesder’ yeshiva students (program that combines advanced Talmudic studies with military service) into regular army units “would bring religious and secular people closer together.”

The fighters of the 106 municipal hotline

By Yair Ettinger, Haaretz April 9, 2008

The nine people drafted into the Beitar Ilit security department are the first group ever of ultra-Orthodox to join the national service program.

Only around 60 yeshiva students are taking part in a national service program, the majority of them as individuals in frameworks such as the Magen David Adom emergency medical service and the Jerusalem municipality.

The group in Beitar Ilit is the first instance of an organized group that also received the approval of the city’s rabbis, Rabbi Yaakov Tewfik and Rabbi David Tzvi Ordentlich.

So far 2,300 yeshiva students and kollel students have finished the deciding year and to date, there are some 600 in the middle of it. Of the 50,000 yeshiva students registered with the IDF, as of January, the percentage in the middle of a deciding year is 1.2 percent. That is not a lot, but it is also not an amount that can be ignored.

A separate peace

By Meron Rapoport, Haaretz April 11, 2008

The IAA takes an unequivocal position with regard to the return of finds, above all the scrolls. “The Dead Sea Scrolls are the property of the Jewish people across the generations and they will remain in our hands,” says Uzi Dahari, the Authority’s deputy director. “There are things we will not agree to take on loan. They are ours, and the international convention is not relevant to them.”

Prof. Hanan Eshel, from Bar-Ilan University, a researcher of the scrolls and a longtime adversary of the IAA, said, “I am one of the only two religiously observant Jews here,” and added that he “is in fact not opposed to ownership of the scrolls being transferred to an international body instead of Israel. The most important thing is that it not remain in the hands of the Antiquities Authority.”

US archaeologists bridge Israeli-Arab gap

By Tom Tugend, April 10, 2008

The art of authentic forgery

By Nadav Shragai, Haaretz April 14, 2008

Criminal case 482/04, the State of Israel v. Oded Golan and others, lays out the details of one of the biggest forgery scandals ever in the history of archaeology.

According to the indictment, those misled by Golan, a well-known Tel Aviv antiquities collector, included renowned experts who were ready to confirm the authenticity of the many and controversial findings he supposedly discovered, such as the Jehoash Tablet inscription and an ossuary that supposedly held the bones of James, the brother of Jesus.

Religion and State in Israel

April 14, 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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