Religion and State in Israel – April 21, 2008 (Section 1)

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Religion and State in Israel

April 21, 2008 (Section 1) (continues in Section 2)

Editor – Joel Katz

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

Knesset hearing on chametz becomes Jewish identity debate

By Haaretz Staff and Channel 10 April 15, 2008

Click here for VIDEO

District Court rejects Hametz appeal

By Ofra Edelman, Haaretz April 18, 2008

The Jerusalem District Court [April 17, 2008] rejected an appeal by MK Avraham Ravitz (United Torah Judaism) calling on the Jerusalem municipality to enforce laws against the public display and sale of leavened products during Passover.

In rejecting the appeal, the court said Ravitz had approached the municipality about the matter on Sunday and did not wait for its answer before turning to the court. The court also said Ravitz should have appended an affidavit corroborating his claims, for example that the city is insufficiently enforcing the laws.

The court also rejected Ravitz’s request that the court not publish the ruling so as not to increase public debate.

Haaretz Cartoon April 16, 2008 by Amos Biderman

By Yair Ettinger, Shahar Ilan and Tomer Zarchin, Haaretz April 15, 2008

Attorney General Menachem Mazuz on Tuesday ruled that the state will not appeal a Jerusalem court’s controversial decision to allow the sale of chametz by certain businesses during the holiday.

Mazuz’s position is that the matzot law is not designed to prohibit, and does not prohibit, the sale or consumption of those products during Passover, but only instructs the owners of businesses not to publicly present chametz products for sale or consumption.

Mazuz ruled that the legal prohibition should be interpreted as banning the presentation of chametz in the public, external area of businesses. This would preclude the sale of the food on the street and in markets, as opposed to the showcasing of the products within the closed, internal space of shops.

Much Ado about Hametz

Dr. Yishai Blank, a senior lecturer in the faculty of law at Tel Aviv University:

The Israeli criminal code distinguishes between two types of public space.

There is an area in which the public has unconditional access or right of access, known in Hebrew as tziburi. And there is a space which can easily be seen by members of the public known as pumbi.

There are offenses that are prohibited in one public space and not the other. For instance, the burning of foreign flags, and the commission of indecent acts are prohibited in public when public refers to an area in which the act can be seen by others. In a public place where people don’t see these acts, they would not be considered offenses.

The “Passover Law” prohibits the display of hametz in a public place where it can be seen (pumbi), but does not ban it from being in every place where the public has access (tziburi).

…There is no prohibition on the consumption or even the sale of hametz. There is a prohibition on the display of hametz in the public sphere.

There is a reason that the legislators chose one meaning of public (pumbi) and not the other. The idea is that when you walk down the street you shouldn’t be forced to see hametz. If it’s within a confined public sphere – such as a non-kosher restaurant – that’s a different matter.

Haredi extremists plan Jerusalem protests over chametz ruling

By Tomer Zarchin, Shahar Ilan and Yair Ettinger, Haaretz April 16, 2008

Attorney General Menachem Mazuz on Tuesday announced that the state will not appeal a Jerusalem court’s decision earlier this month to withdraw charges against local business owners who had displayed chametz on their premises during Pesach in previous years.

Mazuz said the Festival of Matzot Law was not intended to prohibit the sale or consumption of chametz, but only its public display for sale or consumption.

As such, it would preclude the display in the public space, such as a street stall, an open-air market or a display case facing the street, but not within the closed confines of a place of business.

Jerusalem eateries worried about hametz violence

“We do not want a battle, and we do not want to fight with the haredi or modern Orthodox public, but we do want to live according to our lifestyle, without hurting others,” said Shahar Levy, owner of the city’s Resto-Bar.

Last year, about 100 haredim held a violent protest outside downtown Jerusalem eateries selling leavened products, pelted police with stones, and insulted customers.

Jerusalem mayor urges business owners not to sell bread during Passover

In a letter to business owners, Lupolianski wrote: “I am no fan of coercion, but rather, of dialogue.”

…”As the mayor of Jerusalem, I turn to you and ask that this year too, during Passover, we shall continue the customary tradition in Jerusalem, which takes public sentiments into consideration,” Lupolianski concluded.

Reactions to chametz ruling

By Tomer Zarchin, Shahar Ilan and Yair Ettinger, Haaretz April 16, 2008

Anat Hoffman, executive director of the Reform movement’s Israel Religious Action Center in Jerusalem, described Mazuz’s decision as “balanced and sane,” adding:

“When will the religious MKs realize already that the Jewish identity of the State of Israel lies not on our plates but rather in our hearts.”

Rabbis from the Tzohar Forum of Rabbis, on the liberal side of religious Zionism, said that Mazuz’ decision

“reinforces the sense that the legal system has become a focus of democratic thought that has forgotten its role in shaping the face of the state as Jewish, not just democratic.

However, Tzohar also said in a statement,

“religious legislation on one hand and interference in the legal system on the other, are not a substitute for a probing discussion by Israeli society of common identity and symbols that is so necessary to reinforcing the Jewish identity of the State of Israel.”

Is this Pessah different?

By Peggy Cidor, April 21, 2008

Jerusalem Deputy Mayor Yehoshua Pollack disagrees.

“I think it’s a real case of hypocrisy,” he says. “The religiously observant public began to ask questions and apply pressure. They asked us – and not only haredim – why we apply the law when a resident in a religious quarter closes a balcony without a permit, while we do not apply the Hametz Law.

“We were asked hard questions, we had to provide answers. No one can expect us to apply the law to the haredi residents, and close our eyes to lawbreakers if they are secular.

“Imagine what would have happened if an attorney from the haredi community would have sued us for not applying the law against those who openly sell hametz?” he says. “So we had to act and the mayor was right; he had to send the inspectors and file indictments. That’s the law, what should we do differently?”

Law and order

By Peggy Cidor, April 17, 2008

“The original idea was that the state doesn’t look into your private [life], but the public space should respect the Jewish traditions,” explains an attorney from the [Jerusalem] municipal Legal Office.

Attorney Gilad Barnea, who represented Restobar owner Shahar Levy, one of the five indicted, says that for years, the laissez-faire attitude toward the enforcement of the 1986 Hametz Law was well known among business owners.

Why does the Chametz law matter?

By Jonathan Rosenblum, Jerusalem Post April 18, 2008

The chametz Law, which forbids the public display of chametz (leavened products) for the purpose of sale during Pesach, benefits the secular Jewish state not religious citizens.

…the law serves to remind Israeli Jews that they are members of a people with a very long history and distinctive practices that set it apart from all other peoples of the world.

Strengthening national identity, as many secular Israelis have come to recognize, is the key to Israel’s long-term survival.

And symbols that have their origin in traditional religious practice – e.g., bans on the sale of pork, Shabbat closure laws, the closing of restaurants on Tisha B’Av – play a role in instilling Jewish national identity.

Chametz law makes sense

By Ze’ev Segal, Haaretz April 16, 2008

The interpretative approach and the enforcement policy, according to which the prohibition against the display of chametz applies to the public space of a business – as opposed to the closed, internal space – covers not only streets, markets and sidewalks, but also open public spaces within closed shopping malls.

This differentiates from the closed, internal space of places of business within shopping malls.

Religious parties picking the wrong Pessah fight

By Haviv Rettig, Opinion April 15, 2008

What these haredi MKs did not say – perhaps because they did not notice it – was that the judge also affirmed the legal prohibition of displaying hametz in public during the Pessah holiday.

The right of the Israeli Jewish majority to have its moral or religious prohibitions reflected in the public sphere, similar to the “blue laws” of the United States, is upheld regularly by Israel’s judiciary, often when it is hardly necessary to do so.

…In politicizing the question, they have strengthened those who say that their goal is not social or religious, but political. When Israeli life is increasingly religious (and even, to a growing extent, Orthodox) how can they perceive themselves under siege of “liberal terrorism?”

In confusing religious affiliation with religious political victories, they send the message that parliamentary politicking has shifted their focus from the former to the latter.

Reform Reflections: Inspiration from the Haredi community

By Rabbi Michael Marmur, April 16, 2008

…Following the decision of the court, representatives of the edah charedit have sent letters to some sixty businesses and outlets pleading with them not to sell leavened products during Pessach in the City of Gold.

I like this response. By turning to these fellow Jerusalemites and asking them to reconsider their decision, these Haredi representatives are playing according to the rules of a modern liberal democracy.

…Jerusalem should be pure this Passover. It should be purged of poverty, and garbage, and corruption, and prejudice, and hate.

The price of freedom Editorial April 18, 2008

In the renascent Jewish homeland, which marks its 60th independence day next month, Israelis are grappling with how to cherish tradition while respecting the individual’s right to freely disregard (sometimes foolishly) what should be treasured.

Consider the latest quarrel in Jerusalem over the sale of hametz during Pessah. A very few stores sell bread, which the law allows so as long as they don’t ostentatiously display it in public. This strikes us as a reasonable compromise. So why interfere with it?

When issues of personal freedom, religion and collective values are at stake, coercion is not only counterproductive, it is often also unnecessary. Seventy percent of Israelis won’t go near bread during the festival; 60% would like to see stores closed on Shabbat. That’s because the values and mores of Jewish civilization appeal to traditional and secular Jews even when the motivation is not necessarily halachic.

And yet this age of great personal freedom will not have achieved its full potential until non-Orthodox and secular Jews – to paraphrase popular theologian Dennis Prager – start taking Judaism as seriously as do the Orthodox.

The pita principle

By Shahar Ilan, Haaretz April 15, 2008

The cabinet sent Minister Ruhama Avraham Balila into the debate. At first she tried to make do with: “The judge’s decision is a challenge for the cabinet. We must study the matter thoroughly and deeply.”

This did not seem to satisfy Shas, as later she tried again, announcing: “The cabinet does not object to the appropriate aims of the law being preserved,” or in other words the passage of a law to reinstitute the law. She then said she would support Yishai’s bill, which is bad news for the opponents of a new chametz law.

Man strips in protest of bread sales during Passover

By Avi Cohen, April 21, 2008

The man, dressed as a haredi, arrived Monday afternoon at a store belonging to the non-kosher Tiv Taam supermarket chain in the city of Bat Yam, just south of Tel Aviv. Upon his arrival, he undressed and remained with only a sock covering his private parts.

The man explained that he could not be prosecuted for an indecent act in public, because according to the court’s interpretation of the leavened food law, a supermarket is not considered a public place. He even wrote on his stomach, “This is not public.”

Poll: 81% won’t buy bread on Passover

By Kobi Nahshoni, April 17, 2008

Fifty-two percent of the participants said they will make sure not to buy at a store using the permit, 31% neither on Passover nor afterwards, and 21% during Passover only. An additional 29% will not buy leavened goods but other groceries. Oppositely, 15% expressed satisfaction with the ruling, making it easier for them to find bread during the holiday.

A result analysis shows that only 29% of the seculars are happy with the option of buying leavened goods more easily. The rest will only buy other goods in these stores (48%), will not enter stores at all during holiday (12%) or prefer other stores even after Passover (6%).

Thirty-nine percent of the traditionalists will prefer not to enter these stores at all during the holiday, 33% will do the same after the holiday and 20% will only purchase unleavened goods during Passover as well.

It’s Pesach. . . so make sure you kosher your water

By Anshel Pfeffer, Jerusalem April 18, 2008

Jerusalemites will spend next week drinking, washing and flushing their toilets with Kosher le’Pesach water.

Why? Because a week before the holiday, the Israeli national water company, Mekorot, disconnected Jerusalem from the national pipeline that pumps water all the way from the Kinneret lake down to the Negev.

Throughout the Pesach week, households will have to rely on water drawn by the municipal water company, Hagihon, from local reservoirs and wells.

This annual tradition stems from the concerns of strictly Orthodox Jews that the bread thrown in to the lake by fishermen on the Kinneret and the remains of shore-side picnics might cause traces of chametz to reach their drinking water.

Hesder Yeshiva Boys to Run Passover Seders

By Hillel Fendel, April 17, 2008

In a joint, first-time initiative of the IDF Chief Rabbinate and the Union of Hesder Yeshivot, hundreds of army soldiers currently studying in yeshivot have been recruited to make army kitchens Kosher for Passover and to run Seder meals.

The hesder students, together with soldiers of the Chief Rabbinate, spent the days before the Passover holiday cleaning army base kitchens – no easy feat – and making them suitable for Passover use.

The hesder students will also take part in running traditional liturgical Passover Seders in various bases.

35% of Factories in Israel to Close for Chol Hamoed

By Yated Ne’eman Staff, Dei’ah veDibur April 18, 2008

Some 35 percent of all industrial factories in Israel will be closed for Pesach and all workers will be on vacation according to a survey conducted by the Manufacturers’ Association.

Eighty-eight percent of food manufacturers that participated in the survey will be closed during Chol Hamoed, along with 32 percent of metal plants, 17 percent of textile factories and 10 percent of construction and consumer goods factories.

The Manufacturers’ Association reports that 42 percent of industrial plants will work as usual during Chol Hamoed and 23 percent will curtail operations. Even of those factories with curtailed operations 44 percent will leave only a few departments running, 33 percent will operate with a limited number of workers and 22 percent will reduce the length of the workday.

Kibbutzim seek to revive declining community tradition – Passover seders

By Eli Ashkenazi, Haaretz April 18, 2008

Fein is not the only one determined to rekindle the kibbutz tradition of communal seders.

In the Lower Galilee kibbutz of Beit Keshet, Moshe Sadovsky is hard at work organizing the community’s annual seder, which he helped revive a few years ago. Sadovsky, a graduate of an ultra-Orthodox yeshiva in Jerusalem, moved with his wife to the kibbutz four years ago after finding work there as a kashrut supervisor.

“I wanted to get to know secular Jews, and I wanted them to get to know me,” Sadovsky explains.

Welcoming the stranger to the Seder table

By Solomon Israel, April 14, 2008

The Seder is a joint effort by Beit Daniel, Keren B’Kavod – the social action branch of the Israeli Reform Movement’s Israel Religious Action Center – and the Mesila Aid and Information Center for the Foreign Community, a Tel Aviv municipal organization dedicated to providing social services and information to Tel Aviv’s large population of foreign workers.

“We felt that we needed to do more,” explained Rabbi Meir Azari of Beit Daniel. “If you are in Tel Aviv, you can’t ignore the presence of the foreign workers… This is an opportunity to meet them, to show them that we care.”

“I don’t think that you will be able to see a lot of synagogues in Israel hosting non-Jews for the Seder,” he said.

But he added, “For most of them, probably this is the first time that they are sitting and not serving. This is an opportunity for them to feel welcome.”

Haredi boycott sparks secular protests in Bnei Brak

By David Wainer, April 15, 2008

Last week, in response to Weissman’s decision to close down some of his AM:PM outlets, Sari Rozner Glazer and Anat Confortes announced a “counter-boycott” through a Facebook event entitled “We will buy at Shefa Shuk and we will keep AM:PM open 24/7.”

The announcement called on anyone who cared about the issue to “come shop for your Pessah needs” in the Shefa Shuk outlet in Bnei Brak, where many haredim have been refraining from shopping.

In their Facebook group, Glazer wrote: “The battle that was started by leaders in the haredi community against the group Dor Alon, owned by Dudi Weissman, is a battle against the people’s freedom of choice. Last week, the pressure applied by the haredi community succeeded in closing outlets of AM: PM (owned by Weissman) on Shabbat.”

“We will shop in Bnei Brak as if it were a routine,” she added. “We will express our will as ‘Tel Avivim,’ secular Israelis, and as people who care to safeguard the liberal identity of freedom in Israel. We have buying power and the power to influence.”

It’s not really about Shabbat

By Avirama Golan, Haaretz April 16, 2008

Israeli society should relate seriously to the Sabbath law and show national responsibility for the worker’s right to rest on the day that Hebrew tradition gave the world.

This cultural and social fight should be waged with political and public tools by those with society’s good in mind.

However, the people who initiated the ultra-Orthodox boycott do not fit this definition.

In the worst-case scenario, they wish to coerce Israeli society into their way of life. In another bad-case scenario, they are seeking to profit.

Survey: Public wants stores to close on Shabbat

By Adi Dovrat, Haaretz April 16, 2008

Just one-third of the public thinks that the chain stores should open for work on Saturday, and about 60% believe that they should remain closed, according to a survey in ‘TheMarker,’ which included 500 respondents.

Of the 30% of respondents who were of the opinion that chain stores should be open on Saturday, two-thirds defined themselves as secular. None of the religious and ultra-Orthodox respondents believe that the stores should remain open on Shabbat, but about 8%, said that didn’t know, or refused to answer the question.

Asked whether the Dor Alon Group should agree to the demands of the ultra-Orthodox community to close AM:PM retail branches on Saturday, 44% of the respondents said yes – but a similar percentage said that the Group should refuse, an dthe stores should stay open on weekends.

Answers to the survey varied according to the degree of respondents’ religious observance: nearly all ultra-Orthodox respondents said that Dor Alon should close down the stores on Saturday, compared to 70% of the religious respondents, and about 20% of the secular respondents.

Among the secular population, 70% said that the Group should not close down AM:PM branches on Saturday, compared to 16.5% who said that they should.

Among respondents who described themselves as ‘traditional,’ about 53% said that the branches should be closed, and 34% said that the Group should keep them open.

By virtue of her sex

By Ruthie Blum, April 17, 2008

Attorney Batya Kahana-Dror, 43-year-old Jerusalemite mother-of-four is the legal affairs adviser for Mavoi Satum (Dead End)

She is also a leading member of the Orthodox-feminist Kolech [Your Voice], through which she made “sexy” headlines earlier this month, due to an opinion piece she wrote that was posted on the organization’s Web site.

Taking her cue from the ancient Greek comedy Lysistrata, in which the play’s female characters withhold sex from their husbands, Kahana-Dror called upon her fellow women to refrain from going to the mikve [ritual bath, following menstruation, required before conjugal relations can take place] – amounting to the same thing.

See also: The Lysistrata option

“…What I want is for the Orthodox rabbinate here to confront such questions. I also want to see women Orthodox rabbis and women rabbinical court judges. This is possible from a halachic perspective. The fact that the rabbinical court is devoid of women is unthinkable in a democratic society.

…Not long from now, we’ll be establishing alternative Orthodox rabbinical courts. I am about to start a forum for women who want to make this happen.

…Today, our rabbinical court sees its function as exactly the opposite of this. It isn’t there to solve the problem, but rather to guard the Halacha, so that there should be no divorces extracted from men by force – to ensure that it’s kosher.”

Rabbinical court forces woman to divorce over medical condition

By Yoram Yarkoni, April 17, 2008

The Great Rabbinical Court in Jerusalem rendered a rare ruling Thursday, forcing a woman to agree to a divorce because she was diagnosed with epilepsy.

According to a report in Yedioth Ahronoth, the court further ruled the woman will not be eligible for alimony. The husband was, however, obligated to pay her the full amount mentioned in her ketubah – NIS 18,000 (approx $5,000).

“…The rabbis are going by a religious ruling rendered centuries ago. People with epilepsy live full lives just like everybody else,” said the woman’s attorney, Avraham Stern, adding his client intends to file a petition with the High Court to have the ruling overturned.

Court hunts ‘wanton husband’

By Ruth Eglash, April 18, 2008

For the first time ever the rabbinic court system in Israel has turned to the secular media in an attempt to track down a wanton husband who is refusing to grant his wife a divorce.

“Agunot are one of our main concerns, and we are making every effort to find those husbands who have deserted them,” said Ben-Dahan, noting that the court currently runs a page on its web site entitled “Wanted,” which features the names and faces of runaway husbands.

Robyn Shames, director of the International Coalition of Agunah Rights, said she welcomed the move.

“I think it’s fantastic – any move by the rabbinic courts to find men in an unwanted marriage should be applauded. Efforts need to be made to encourage society to change how they relate to men who refuse to give divorces – they should be treated just like men who violently abuse their wives, because it is a form of abuse.”

For Chief Rabbinate, click here

By Itamar Eichner, April 16, 2008

The Prime Minister’s Office is exploring several reforms in the National Authority for Religious Services – the Chief Rabbinate, Yedioth Ahronoth reported Monday.

The PMO’s move came after several surveys conducted in the matter, indicated that the Israeli public has lost its faith in the services provided by local religious councils.

Cabinet Secretary Oved Yehezkel, who initiated the move, will be heading the team. Yehezkel was reportedly appalled by the surveys, which indicated over 70% of the secular sector wants nothing to do with the Chief Rabbinate; and that 61% of them believe it is obsolete – a sentiment shared by 40% of the general public.

Religion and State in Israel

April 21, 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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