Religion and State in Israel – April 21, 2008 (Section 2)

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Religion and State in Israel

April 21, 2008 (Section 2) (continued from Section 1)

Editor – Joel Katz

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

Blows exchanged at Palm Sunday prayers

Click here for VIDEO April 21, 2008

Dozens of Greek and Armenian priests and worshippers exchanged blows in Christianity’s holiest shrine on Palm Sunday, and pummeled police with palm fronds when they tried to break up the brawl.

Each denomination jealously guards its share of the basilica, and fights over rights of worship at the church have intensified in recent years, particularly between the Armenians and Greek.

The Eastern Orthodox churches, including the Armenians and Greek Orthodox, follow a different calendar than Western Christians and began Easter Week observances on Sunday.

Armenian, Greek worshippers come to blows at Jesus’ tomb

AP April 20, 2008

A fist-fight broke out after Armenian clergy kicked out a Greek priest from their midst, pushed him to the ground and kicked him, according to witnesses.

Father Pakrad, an Armenian priest, said the presence of the Greek priest during the Armenian observances violated the status quo. Our priests entered the tomb. “They kicked the Greek monk out of the Edicule,” he said.

Pakrad accused the Greek Orthodox of trying to step on the Armenians’ rights. “We are the weak ones, persecuted by them for many centuries.”

Prior Conversions Now May Be Questioned

By Michele Chabin, The Jewish Week, April 16, 2008

Now it’s official.

Orthodox converts whose conversion rabbi belonged to the Rabbinical Council of America (RCA), but who did not request an ishur, or official conversion endorsement, from the Beit Din of America (BDA) may find their conversions scrutinized not only by the Chief Rabbinate in Israel, but by rabbis in the U.S. and around the world, The Jewish Week has learned.

Demanding certification on past conversions performed by RCA members “opens up a Pandora’s Box,” believes Rabbi Seth Farber, founder of ITIM, an Israeli organization that handles, among other things, numerous cases of converts needing to prove their Jewishness.

“Practically speaking, how many generations back will such an investigation need to certify? What happens when all the rabbis are dead and can’t vouch for their conversions?” Rabbi Farber asked.

Vaad HaRabbonim LeInyonei Giyur Warns Against IDF Conversions

By Yechiel Sever, Dei’ah veDibur April 17, 2008

The Vaad HaRabbonim Haolami LeInyonei Giyur founded by HaRav Chaim Kreiswirth zt”l, is warning against further decline in the conversion system in Eretz Yisroel after the mainstream media broadcast disturbing figures regarding the fictitious conversion industry under IDF auspices.

Vaad HaRabbonim holds the Sephardic Chief Rabbinate largely responsible for backing the IDF conversions and issuing a conversion certificate as well as other documents that allow them to later marry at the Rabbinate, thereby bringing non- Jews into Kerem Beis Yisroel.

The Vaad says that the Rabbinate must stop recognizing these conversions in order to put a halt to army conversions. The Vaad HaRabbonim says the IDF, which is overwhelmingly secular, is no place to set up a conversion program, which should remain solely in the hands of fixed, reputable botei din.

Letters currently being sent out to the rabbonim of major cities include a reminder to all marriage registrars that they have a legal and halachic right to reject conversions in cases where is appears that the convert did not sincerely take on Torah and mitzvas. These cases can be referred back to the regional beis din or the Chief Rabbinate’s office.

More women to check haredi buses

By Solomon Israel, April 15, 2008

The Transportation Ministry announced on Monday that it would expand a committee created to address gender-segregated mehadrin bus lines, after the High Court of Justice said that the panel’s original composition, which included only one woman, was inadequate.

The court’s decision came after a petition from the Israel Religious Action Center (IRAC). “We responded to the court by saying that there should be appropriate representation for women (based on Israeli law)”, Einat Hurvitz, director of IRAC’s legal department, wrote to The Jerusalem Post.

“We also said that there should be representation [of] other professionals and not only transportation staff, because of the public importance [of] the committee’s work and [the fact that the] conclusions will serve as a precedent on other issues where segregation is sought.”

The original seven-member committee appointed to examine the issue included only one woman, a member of the Transport Ministry’s legal department. According to IRAC’s Hurvitz, the ministry will appoint more women to the new committee, but has not yet selected any. The ministry will update the High Court on the committee’s revised membership on May 11.

“We welcome the formation of the committee,” explained Hurvitz about IRAC’s position. IRAC further hopes that the Transportation Ministry will “decide that any segregated bus will have an alternative that is not segregated”, wrote Hurvitz.

Peres to declare reconciliation between secular and Haredim

By Yair Ettinger, Haaretz April 17, 2008

Peres told the rabbis that he would address “first secular people, before complaining about the ultra-Orthodox and others.

I’ll say: Let’s examine ourselves before preaching to others. After all, we’re the majority. This is no way to behave, with disrespect, with lack of restraint. I hope this voice will be heard in all the communities. This issue must become part of the public discourse.”

“Let’s return to our roots,” he said.

“There is no dispute that Israeli youth must learn the Torah. You cannot be an Israeli without being Jewish. Why should we give up the great treasure of Jewish literature? What have our Jewish fathers left us? Neither houses nor pyramids. What is the people of the book? A nation that has books, so why shouldn’t this people study them?” Peres said.

Reconciling conscription

By Shahar Ilan, Haaretz April 21, 2008

Above all, his excellency the president should remember that the ultra-Orthodox lifestyle, which he expects secular people to respect, is no theoretical matter for the secular community.

When the ultra-Orthodox avoid studying math, English and civics, they sabotage Israeli democracy and economy.

When the ultra-Orthodox dodge army service, they create severe discrimination and hurt Israel’s security.

When the ultra-Orthodox shirk work, they contribute to Israel’s decline to employment patterns typical of the developing world.

The damage caused by these phenomena is worsening. The draft rate is constantly falling, and Israeli society can no longer bear the outcome.

His excellency President Peres is right: There is an urgent need for reconciliation, because otherwise we can expect confrontation, forced draft and a terrible rift that will make disengagement pale in comparison.

However, this reconciliation should be achieved by persuading the ultra-Orthodox to agree to a quota of yeshiva students who will not be drafted, to accept the core curriculum and to recognize that at least some of them should work.

This is not a matter of multiculturalism that can be solved only by tolerance.

This is about exploitation and discrimination, and they are real. There can be no reconciliation without drafting at least some of the ultra-Orthodox.

The president, and especially the ultra-Orthodox, should understand this before it is too late for all of us.

Bravo to Michael Melchior

By Isi Leibler, April 15, 2008

The new “mixed” educational stream proposed by Melchior would permit those who either are not observant or are merely traditional (probably the bulk of the nation) to provide their children with a broad Jewish education encompassing an appreciation of Jewish civilization.

It would also provide bridges to enable youngsters from religious and nonreligious backgrounds to indulge in dialogue and learn to respect and even appreciate one another.

We can only hope that Melchior will succeed in transforming into law his bill, which has already been approved by the Knesset in its first reading.

If such a new system is created, it will have wide appeal – even the potential for ultimately becoming the dominant stream – as well as paving the way for wider reforms.

Jewish Agency, Nefesh B’Nefesh near deal

By Haviv Rettig, April 17, 2008

North American aliya, the source of acrimony between the Jewish Agency and the private Nefesh B’Nefesh organization, may soon get a boost from a cooperation agreement being developed between the two, The Jerusalem Post has learned.

The reported agreement has not yet been finalized, and the sides are forbidden to speak about the matter. But sources familiar with the discussions told the Post that the agreement will likely see the New York-based Nefesh B’Nefesh integrated closely into Jewish Agency aliya operations in North America.

Fame in U.S. doesn’t translate well

By Anshel Pfeffer, Haaretz April 18, 2008

Newsweek has published its second annual list of the 50 most influential rabbis in the U.S.

Number two on the list (up from 12 last year), Eric Yoffie, president of the Union for Reform Judaism, might have been interviewed twice over the last few months in Haaretz, but his influence on anything that happens in Israel is less than negligible.

Even within the small Israeli Reform community, his power is limited due to the independent positions taken by the Israeli Reform movement and the uneasy relationship it has with its American “parent organization”.

A list of the most influential rabbis in Israel would read like this: Yosef Elyashiv, Ovadia Yosef, the Gerrer Rebbe, Mordechai Eliyahu, and so on; aged ultra-Orthodox leaders of Hasidic sects, Litvaker yeshivas or their Sephardi counterparts and groups of radical young settlers.

These rabbis command the allegiance of tens, if not hundreds, of thousands of followers, control political parties and whole government coalitions, who with one word can launch huge demonstrations, block the entrance to Jerusalem, ruin businesses, build or dismantle settlements and decide the fate of peace treaties between Israel and its Arab neighbors.

That’s the difference between Jerusalem and Babylon; in the U.S., an influential rabbi can get on “Oprah,” in Israel he can launch World War III.

Rabbi Walks the Walk – Home to Israel

By Ezra HaLevi, April 18, 2008

An American Jewish rabbi is making Aliyah (immigrating to Israel), inviting not only his congregation, but all of American Jewry, to follow suit.

Rabbi Shalom Rosner, rabbi of Congregation Bais Ephraim Yitzchak in Woodmere NY (known as “The Island Shul”) announced his decision last month. He will help establish a new community in the Beit Shemesh region called Nofei HaShemesh.

Nofei HaShemesh will take some of the hallmarks of American Jewish life – community rabbis and synagogue-centric communal life – and bring it to a region already populated by a large number of olim (immigrants to Israel). Located between the existing Anglo-rich neighborhoods of Scheinfeld and Nofei Aviv, 30 families have already purchased homes in the 400-unit neighborhood now being built.

Dr. Tamar Rosner, the rabbi’s wife, is taking part in the Nefesh b’Nefesh Aliyah organization’s special promotion seeking to bring doctors on Aliyah.

Following Rabbi Rosner’s announcement, an ad was taken out in Jewish papers and magazines both in Israel and the US by leading rabbis of his various communities.

Leader of American Hasidic Dynasty Leaves the States [for Israel]

By Michael Casper, April 17, 2008

…the Bostoner rebbe, as Levi Yitzchak is commonly known, has relocated to Israel, leaving members of the community to speculate over the future of the group.

The Bostoner Hasidic sect is composed of about 200 families in Brookline; 300 in Har Nof, outside Jerusalem; 100 in the settlement town of Beitar, and scattered smaller communities in Brooklyn, making up a grand total of about 1,000 families worldwide.

Although sources close to the rebbe insist that he will remain in Israel because of health reasons, the New York-based Jewish Press newspaper has reported that “he is moving to Beitar, where land, homes, and living conditions are cheaper and more affordable, so that more of his Hasidim will follow him to Israel.”

Special Haaretz Series

From Gondar to Mevasseret, for perhaps the last time

By Anshel Pfeffer, Haaretz April 15, 2008

Kasa’s family is one of the last to leave Ethiopia for Israel. Only 474 Falashmura with permits to immigrate to Israel remain in Gondar – eight more flights.

The Jewish Agency office in Addis Ababa is to be shut at the beginning of June. More immigrants to Israel have passed through this office in recent years than through any other Jewish Agency office in the world – 300 a month, 4,600 a year.

Digging deeper in Ethiopia

By Anshel Pfeffer, Haaretz April 12, 2008

The government now wants to stop them from arriving, in two months.

But if they are eligible according to previously-agreed criteria, why can’t the thousands of Falashmura in the Gondar compounds come to Zion?

And if this is not enough for them to eventually become Israeli citizens, then why has Israel allowed at least 26,000 of them in so far, at a huge financial and social cost?

Shouldn’t someone be called to account? It is about time reality intruded on the romantic dream.

Falashmura dream of aliyah fades as deadline approaches

By Anshel Pfeffer, Haaretz April 11, 2008

The Jewish Agency has already begun dismantling the Gondar compound. Unlike in other places, the Jewish Agency did not deal in Jewish education or strengthening the local community. In addition, it is at the center of the controversy between the state and Falashmura representatives and Jewish organizations demanding the immigration continue.

Falashmura and NACOEJ representatives claim that the Israeli government was guilty of smoke and mirrors in deciding to bring the Falashmura to Israel and then limiting their numbers.

They demand Israel examine the applications of the remaining 8,700 Falashmura in Gondar.

But the state fears that each additional immigrant will demand to bring his relatives in an endless cycle…”

Compound’s requirement – skullcaps and prayer

By Anshel Pfeffer, Haaretz April 13, 2008

To a large extent, the religious activities in the Gondar compound are aimed at influencing Israeli and worldwide Jewish public opinion to pressure the Israeli government.

In any event, the Falashmura who are allowed to immigrate will receive full Israeli citizenship only after completing conversion.

They are deemed eligible for aliyah by virtue of having a relative in Israel who submitted an application for them and by proof of Jewish matrilineal descent. Attending synagogue and baking matzot does not affect that.

Falashmura group vows to close camp if Israel okays aliyah

By Anshel Pfeffer, Gondar, Ethiopia, Haaretz April 14, 2008

The North American Conference on Ethiopian Jewry (NACOEJ) says that if Israel will process the 8,700 residents of the camp and bring them to Israel, it will not ask for any more to be brought in and will cease its activities in Ethiopia.

The government representatives say they do not believe NACOEJ will do so, pointing out that construction of the school is a long-term project.

NACOEJ has been accused of creating international pressure on Israel to allow in more Falashmura. Dani Adamesu, head of the Israeli Association for Ethiopian Jews says “there is a conspiracy of silence in the community. NACOEJ is pushing more and more people into the compounds although there are those who continue their relationship with the church. They are creating an almost irreversible situation.”

Yosef Aneo, an Ethiopian Jew with Canadian citizenship who represents foreign companies in Ethiopia says that “it’s easy to go to the villages and say there’s a possibility to come to Israel, and bring in another 50,000.”

Israel is losing its sovereignty

Haaretz Editorial April 14, 2008

The Jewish Agency is now winding up its activity in Ethiopia, and this should be welcomed. But the Falashmura and their supporters in Israel and the Jewish world refuse to recognize the decision.

Some of the Ethiopian immigrant organizations are threatening an international struggle, angry demonstrations and hunger strikes. Shas leader Eli Yishai plans a highly publicized visit to Ethiopia next month, and has even submitted a draft bill to the government calling to examine the right to aliyah of another 8,700 Falashmura.

We can only hope that now, as opposed to the past, the government will succeed in withstanding this pressure and will implement the present decision in full.

What is needed now is a clear statement by the prime minister that the State of Israel retains its right to decide who will receive its citizenship.

Smacks of discrimination

By Tom Segev, Haaretz April 18, 2008

The one million immigrants from the former Soviet Union who have settled in Israel over the past decade and a half include hundreds of thousands of non-Jews whose connection with Judaism is nothing more than a Jewish grandfather.

Many did not convert. No one asks about their parents, and no one demands proof that they uphold even one of the 613 Jewish commandments.

The Falashmura community, in contrast, even includes some people whose parents converted to Christianity, but who did not convert to Christianity themselves.

Difficult Donations

By Netty C. Gross, The Jerusalem Report, April 16, 2008

Halleli’s donations and the late-March events coincided with the passage of the new law on brain and respiratory death, initiated by Knesset Member Otniel Schneller (Kadima), which may help overcome the shortage of organs.

Leading the opposition was Ashkenazi ultra-Orthodox United Torah Judaism (UTJ), which voted against the legislation.

That camp’s decision-makers and interpreters of Jewish religious law have argued (and continue to do so) that brain death is not death. MK Moshe Gafni (UTJ) told the Knesset on the day the law was passed: “A brain dead person is a living being.”

There were disagreements within UTJ. Knesset Member Avraham Ravitz, a colleague of Gafni’s, who suffered from kidney disease for many years and received a kidney donation from a son in recent years, supports the new law.

But the ultra-Orthodox are split along the Sephardi-Ashkenazi divide. Shas Knesset Member Haim Amsallem told reporters that the new law was “historic” because it issues “a clear statement of the rabbis that the end of brain activity is death,” and with that determination confirmed, transplanting the deceased’s organs becomes a positive religious commandment.

Mazuz declines case against Waqf

By Nadav Shragai, Haaretz April 17, 2008

Attorney General Menachem Mazuz decided to suspend criminal proceedings against the Jerusalem Waqf, in the wake of a complaint lodged by some 150 people.

The complainants accused the Waqf of causing repeated damage to the antiquities on the Temple Mount, and to the nation’s heritage.

Mazuz ruled that the offenses listed by the complainants were “forced,” and that they tried to define them “artificially” as criminal offenses. He cited former chief justices who advised caution in enforcing the law on Temple Mount.

See also: Halting Work on the Temple Mount? August 2007

Some of Israel’s leading archeologists have called for a halt to work by the Wakf Authority on the Temple Mount. In an exclusive interview, Dr. Gabriel Barkai discusses why he believes the damage done by the recent work to Temple Mount is irreparable.

Citizen Ben-David

By Calev Ben-David, April 14, 2008

“His parents were able to come under the Law of Return because each has a Jewish grandparent, but because Nikolai isn’t halachically Jewish, he doesn’t qualify and has had to go through a citizenship process which has taken years,” Benita explains later. “We have many such cases nowadays.”

After we entered Benita’s office, it quickly became clear that Eva’s case – that is, the ease of it – was exceptional. The majority of applicants who go through this procedure are hopeful immigrants who do not qualify for citizenship under the Law of Return. Most want to live here on grounds of family reunification – mainly Arabs, foreign workers, non-Jewish Ethiopians and Russians.

“I know for many of you this morning is the end of a long, hard road,” says Benita.

Rights groups: Population Admin. in contempt of court

By Shahar Ilan, Haaretz April 16, 2008

Five civil rights groups yesterday initiated contempt of court proceedings against the Population Administration for non-compliance with a December court ruling to make public its procedures and regulations.

The Association of Civil Rights in Israel (ACRI), the Israel Religious Action Center (IRAC), Moked – Hotline for Foreign Workers, Kav La’oved (Worker’s Hotline for the Protection of Workers’ Rights) and Hamoked Center for the Defense of the Individual have asked the Administrative Court in Jerusalem to compel the Population Administration, a branch of the Interior Ministry, to comply with the court verdict requiring it to publish all its procedures and instructions.

Among other things, these procedures pertain to the awarding of citizenship to spouses of Israelis, the annulment of citizenship and the granting of refugee status. The non-publication of these procedures are said to be preventing thousands of non-Jews from obtaining citizenship, residency permits and work permits.

Partitioning the past

By Neil Asher Silberman, Haaretz April 18, 2008

All too often in archaeology – especially in the archaeology of Israel – things are not what they seem.

…Indeed the very concept of “heritage” is almost necessarily exclusionary, delimiting “our” heritage from “theirs.” Israelis tend to see stones, pots and ancient coins as materialized illustrations of a meaningful national narrative that runs from the beginnings of Jewish history to the rise of the State of Israel.

An Interview with Alice and Moshe Shalvi

By Elana Maryles Sztokman, April 16, 2008

Jewish Women: A Comprehensive Historical Encyclopedia was edited by Paula Hyman, the Lucy Moses Professor of Jewish history at Yale University and Dalia Ofer, academic head of Hebrew University’s Avraham Hartman Institute of Contemporary Jewry.

Rabbi clears out thousands of prayer notes from Jerusalem’s Western Wall for burial nearby

AP April 2008

[Western Wall Rabbi] Rabinowitz and a squad of helpers coaxed the pieces of paper from the crevices with sticks. The notes fell to the ground and were scooped in handfuls into plastic-lined garbage bins for later transfer to the ancient Jewish cemetery.

“We treat these notes as holy, as something that people wrote to the creator,” Rabinowitz said. “We treat them according to Jewish law and inter them along with all holy writings.”

He said neither he nor his staff read the notes. “It’s like a prayer, it’s an expression of a person’s request from the heart to the Creator,” he added.

For those unable to reach the wall in person, religious and postal authorities deliver notes that arrive by mail, e-mail or SMS message.

Postal authorities say letters, some addressed simply to God, come from all corners of the globe, including a few from predominantly Muslim nations like Indonesia.

Like us, like him

By Nadav Shragai, Haaretz April 16, 2008

Inbar Kawanstock, director of the Lehi Museum, believes that national-religious youth are attracted to Yair and his ideology because Lehi was a minority group that fought the majority.

Kawanstock notes that 15 of the 17 schools who are sending contestants to the Yair and Lehi quiz, slated to take place in the Aner Center in Tel Aviv in late May, are religious schools, and that most of the 100 students who independently registered to participate in the quiz are also religious.

Samaria Youth Leave Towns, Take to Wilderness

Click here for VIDEO

By Maayana Miskin, April 17, 2008

Dozens of young men and women hiked through Samaria recently, walking in areas that Jews usually avoid. One group walked through the hostile Arab village of Huwarra on its way to Tapuach Junction. Soldiers arrested 30 of the hikers.

Religion and State in Israel

April 21, 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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