Religion and State in Israel – May 12, 2008 (Section 2)

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Religion and State in Israel

May 12, 2008 (Section 2) (continued from Section 1)

Editor – Joel Katz

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

A vision of Reform: First gov’t-funded synagogue founded

By Yair Ettinger, Haaretz May 9, 2008

“It took the State of Israel 60 years to provide us with a synagogue,” said the leader of the congregation, Rabbi Kinneret Shiryon. “In my eyes, this is the pioneering of our time. This is the new Zionism. People think we have built the Taj Mahal here.”

This Taj Mahal, a structure of 200 square meters, cost the state more than NIS 500,000. The Modi’in municipality invested tens of thousands of shekels in landscaping.

“A precedent has been set here,” said Rabbi Gilad Kariv, [Associate Director] of the Reform Movement’s Israel Religious Action Center, “in that local governments can no longer continue to ignore us.

Without purporting to declare that a taboo has been broken here, this is nevertheless the first time the state has invested money on this scale to advance the life of a Reform congregation.

It is also the first time that we moved from a legal battle to close cooperation. There was a transformation here – from a fight to the finish, to partnership by the Modi’in municipality.”

The mayor of Modi’in, Moshe Spector, who initially refused to fund the Reform synagogue, was taken on a tour of Reform congregations in the United States.

He met the president of the [Union for Reform Judaism], Rabbi Eric Yoffie, and apparently became enamored of the idea that members of the Reform Movement would flock to Israel and populate his city.

“The hills will be filled with Reform congregations,” the mayor told the crowd, and dramatized his vision by pointing toward the horizon.

Spector spoke of no fewer than “50,000 members of the Reform Movement in the United States” eventually coming to the city, and concluded his speech with a call to the assembled audience: “You must ensure, each of you, that Jews come here, to Modi’in.”

First State-Funded Reform temple

By Nissan Ratzlav-Katz, May 6, 2008

Reform movement spokespeople said that the prefab “will be the first building of many that will eventually serve as Modiin’s center for Progressive Judaism and will include a synagogue, a community center, nursery school classes and a day care center.”

…As a result of the Yozma precedent in Modiin, five other Reform and Conservative congregations nationwide are slated to receive funding and land as well.

According to Yozma Executive Director Yossi Aud, an “interesting social dynamic took place between us and the Orthodox community, which included a fruitful dialogue that contributed to the compromise solution.”

First State-funded Reform synagogue opens in Modiin May 6, 2008

“This is a major milestone for Israel’s pluralistic public,” said the Reform Movement. “This move also as bears a refreshing, welcome message to the largest Reform community – that of North America.”

See also: Kehilat Yozma and the City of Modiin Invite You to Join the Family

Download an informational brochure about the program

Organizers of Bible Quiz in Israel Get Question of Their Own: ‘Who is a Jew?’

Shlomo Ben-Tzura, who is in charge of [Bible Quiz] Israeli entries:

“We talked with lawyers, but couldn’t do anything,” he said. “Everybody wanted to say she isn’t a Jew, but nobody could do anything.”

He said that as the daughter of a Jewish woman, she meets the standard criteria to be considered a Jew under Halacha, or traditional rabbinic law.

Legally, he added, there was no room to challenge her status, since she is listed as Jewish in her state papers — which do not always follow halachic definitions.

Chief Rabbis call to cancel Bible Quiz

By Matthew Wagner, May 7, 2008

Chief Rabbis Shlomo Amar and Yona Metzger in a letter to Education Minister Yuli Tamir:

“The Chief Rabbinate of Israel vigorously protests [the participation] of this representative… Bible quiz participants have always been Jews who believed in the Torah handed down by Moses.”

Education Minister Yuli Tamir‘s representative Lital Apter:

“The point of the quiz is to check the participants’ knowledge of the Bible, not to scrutinize their faith. The legal department in the Education Ministry verified that Levi is Jewish according to the criteria of the state. That’s good enough for us.”

Prisoner of Zion Backs Out of Bible Contest over Controversy

By Baruch Gordon, May 7, 2008

When the Ministry of Education refused to disqualify the Christian contestant in Israel’s landmark event for Jewish education, Mendelevitch informed the organizers that he would not be there and forbade them to show his video.

“I refuse to support an event which is being hijacked by Christian missionaries to support their agenda,” he said. “It is not an issue of public relations, rather a matter of principle.”

New Missionary Campaign in Shadow of Bible Contest Controversy

By Nissan Ratzlav-Katz May 5, 2008

Even as the Bible Contest controversy is reaching its apex, in a letter to supporters, the Jews for Jesus organization announced a series of new campaigns in Israel.

“The campaigns are scheduled to begin in 2008 and continue through 2013,” the missionary organization announced. “These campaigns could be the most important thing we in Jews for Jesus have ever done….”

Claiming that “only one tenth of one percent (.001)” of the Jews in Israel “believe in Jesus,” the missionaries see a positive side in that Israel “is the only place in the world where – when we do street evangelism – we don’t need to wonder who is Jewish. All we have to do is walk outside and talk to everyone we meet!”

Faking it when the siren sounds

By Tamar Rotem, Haaretz Opinion May 7, 2008

Perhaps because I was educated in the ultra-Orthodox Beit Ya’akov system, and have lived for years now in secular Zionist society, I am not at peace, to put it mildly, with the siren as a sign of mourning.

[T]he objection to the signal of collective mourning has caused the ultra-Orthodox to become foreign and psychologically distant, and has created the differentiation in which the ultra-Orthodox leaders strived to prevent assimilation into Israeliness and secularness.

Interview with Jonathan Rosenblum – Israel at 60: A Haredi perpective

By Tim Franks, BBC News May 2008

Click here for AUDIO interview of Jonathan Rosenblum [3 min. 39 sec.]

“The aggression towards the Haredi community here is a feeling on the part of the Jewish secular community that they’ve lost their way of identifying themselves.

We have to understand that the fundamental values of this community are antithetical to the largely hedonistic, secular culture. And that, by the way, is a major reason why I don’t believe you will ever find 18-year-old Haredi boys going into the army.

I find that there’s a tremendous search for reconnecting to Jewish roots. Many Israelis are now understanding that Zionism itself is inadequate. It created a state. But now that project has been done, what will it do next? And for that, we’re going to have to return to some more traditional understanding of ourselves as a people.

We have to show that the Torah is a guide for every aspect of life, not just something for the study halls. Whether it be for child-rearing, for the environment, the Torah has something to say about every pressing, modern issue.”

[Neturei Karta] Ultra-Orthodox attack man carrying Israeli flag in Jerusalem

By Efrat Weiss, May 7, 2008

A Jewish man carrying an Israel flag was attacked Wednesday morning by members of the Neturei Karta group in Jerusalem. The man was rescued unharmed by plainclothes police officers.

Several minutes before the siren honoring Israel’s fallen soldiers was sounded, a man in his 50s arrived at the Shabbat Square near the Meah Shearim neighborhood.

He was wearing a skullcap and carrying a flag of Israel. Shortly afterwards, dozens of haredim gathered around him and tried to assault him, chanting slogans against Zionism.

Rabbi Shmuel Eliyahu: Israel needs religious PM

By Efrat Weiss, May 10, 2008

The State of Israel needs a kippa-wearing prime minister, Safed’s Chief Rabbi Shmuel Eliyahu wrote in an article titled “A religious prime minister – it’s possible” distributed at synagogues over the weekend.

Leave kippa out of it

By Elad Kaplan, Opinion May 12, 2008

This prime minister can be either religious or secular, as long as he respects all parts of the nation and maintains the country’s Jewish and democratic character, on all this entails.

New Torah Study Program in Law School

By Hillel Fendel, May 12, 2008

The Shaarei Mishpat (Gates of Justice) Law School in Hod HaSharon is opening its doors to Torah study – and will provide financial incentives to those who wish to take part. The goal is to increase the proportion of Torah-observant lawyers into Israel’s legal system.

The 11-year-old Shaarei Mishpat law school has decided to integrate high-level Torah studies into its law curriculum, and has charged Rabbi Avichai Katzin of Raanana with heading the new program. Shaarei Mishpat announced that it wishes to “jump a level” and integrate “top level lawyers into Israel’s justice system who are also Torah Jews specializing in Jewish Law.”

Dr. Aviad Cohen, Dean of the College:

“We wish to raise a generation of jurists for whom the Torah and the values of Jewish tradition are the center of their lives, and who excel academically, and who will be the front line of the jurists in Israel.”

Friedmann: Keep Supreme Court out of immigration, citizenship laws

Click here for VIDEO

By Tomer Zarchin, Haaretz May 7, 2008

Justice Minister Daniel Friedmann has proposed an amendment to the Basic Law on Human Dignity and Freedom that would exempt laws relating to immigration and citizenship from judicial review.

…Under Friedmann’s proposal, however, it would not be able to declare laws relating to citizenship unconstitutional. The proposal would cover laws such as the Law of Return, the Citizenship Law and the Law of Entry, as well as any other law the Knesset might enact on this subject in the future.

400 olim arrive in Israel ahead of Independence Day

By Yael Branovsky, May 6, 2008

Four hundred new immigrants from all over the world arrived in Israel on Monday as part of “Aliyah Day”, which was marked by the Jewish Agency and the Absorption Ministry.

The new immigrants, who hail from Honduras, Australia the US, Russia, France and other countries were greeted at Ben-Gurion Airport in a lavish ceremony attended by Absorption Minister Jacob Edery and Israel’s Chief Rabbi Shlomo Amar.

Some 2,500 emigrants return to Israel

By Itamar Eichner, May 6, 2008

The Absorption Ministry campaign to return emigrants to Israel ahead of the country’s 60th anniversary has been a great success so far. Since the campaign’s onset, 2,500 people have returned to Israel, the highest number to date. Another 4,500 people are in the process of returning.

…Seventy percent of them are between the ages of 20-44, 66% are families and 64% are from North America. Forty-four percent of them are academics, 38% left as a result of professional advancement and 27% are returning after living outside of Israel for less than 10 years.

Poll: Most Israelis see themselves as Jewish first, Israeli second

By Kobi Nahshoni, May 8, 2008

A closer look at the religious community showed that the more devout the sector – the stronger the Jewish definition:

  • Some 78% of those identifying themselves as haredim and 73% of their religious counterparts chose the Jewish identity over the Israeli one, with 0% and 16% (respectively) choosing to define themselves as Israelis.
  • Among those who said they were traditionalist, 55% saw themselves as Jewish and 35% as Israelis.
  • Within the secular community, 49% said they saw themselves as Israeli first and 34% said they were Jewish first and Israeli second.

Comics project aims to bridge gap between secular, religious kids

The joint initiative between Tzav Pius – an NGO that encourages dialogue programs, founded after the assassination of former Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin – and the Center for Educational Technology (CET) encourages the acquisition of dialogue tools and finding ways to interact with and understand those who are different.

The project, entitled “Getting Out of the Bubble, Talking through Comics,” was built around a new Web site where students could build the comics themselves.

Let’s be done with all the Talanskys

By Gideon Levy, Haaretz Opinion May 11, 2008

It is time to say to the American Jews directly, as is customary among relatives: Leave us alone. Take your hands off Israel. Stop using your money to buy influence in Israel. Stop “contributing” to advance your interests and views, some of which are at times delusionary and extremely dangerous to the future of the country you’re supposedly trying to protect.

…The contribution of American Jewry to Israel may on balance be positive. They financed and built for us quite heavily; we in turn offered them a safe haven and a source of pride.

Neither side of this equation is relevant any longer. We no longer need their money, certainly not at the price of their interference, and it is doubtful we can still offer them that haven or pride.

Let’s part as friends, then. Let American Jews attend to their own business, and us to ours. And let’s be done with any more Talanskys.

Hebrew Union College-JIR/Jerusalem Celebrates Israel’s 60th Anniversary

Israel’s 60th anniversary was celebrated on the HUC-JIR/Jerusalem campus with two memorable events on May 5, 2008.

Some 900 Israeli youths in pre-Army and Army programs took over the HUC-JIR-Beit Shmuel-Mercaz Shimshon campus on May 5 for a full day of presentations, study, reflection, and celebration of Israel’s 60th anniversary in light of the challenge of “Tzedek and Tzedakah: Justice and Social Responsibility.”

On borrowed time

By Meron Rapoport, Haaretz May 9, 2008

The idea that the fate of the land on which the Knesset stands rests in the hands of priests who sit in the stone courtyards of the Greek Orthodox Church compound, in the Christian Quarter, causes many members of the Israeli administration to break out in a cold sweat.

…Last week the transaction being arranged with the JNF was presented to a committee established by the Holy Synod, a kind of board of directors of the patriarchate. And then the storm erupted. The synod’s members discovered that the patriarchate had agreed to turn over these hundreds of dunams in the center of Jerusalem for a payment of a mere $9 million from the State of Israel.

Religion and State in Israel

May 12, 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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