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

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Religion and State in Israel

July 7, 2008 (Section 2) (continued from Section 1)

Editor – Joel Katz

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

Israeli Prime Minister Turns Tables, Asks Diaspora: What Can We Do for You?

“Ben-Gurion and other Israeli prime ministers would scold American Jews for many years for not making aliyah,” said Rabbi David Ellenson, president of Hebrew Union College-Jewish Institute of Religion. “Even a decade ago, President [Ezer] Weizman would routinely lecture Diaspora Jews on aliyah.”

…Observers say that, important though the speech may be, the ultimate test will be whether Olmert’s words translate into new programs with money behind them.

“It’s a good speech. But it’s just the start,” [Jewish People Policy Planning Institute director-general, Avinoam] Bar-Yosef said. “It points the direction, and we need to translate it into a plan with a budget.”

PM: FSU Jewry could disappear in a generation

According to figures presented at the meeting by the Jewish Agency and the Absorption Ministry, there are between 900,000 to a million people in the FSU eligible to immigrate to Israel under the Law of Return, of whom 470,000 are not Jewish according to Halacha.

Olmert: Jewish communities in ex-Soviet Union could disappear

By Anshel Pfeffer, July 7, 2008

The government decided to set up a special body to increase immigration from those countries and strengthen Jewish identity there.

The cabinet meanwhile resolved to put extra emphasis on and increase funding for Nativ and Agency activity in the states in question. In addition, it has been agreed that immigration-assistance organizations, including Nativ, will focus on Russian-speaking Jews living in Germany, who constitute a sizable minority there.

Poll: Israelis reject Diaspora Jews’ opinions

Israeli Jews firmly stand with the Diaspora in the fight against global anti-Semitism, but according to a recent survey, when it comes to issues of national security, they feel Diaspora Jews should stay out of the discussion.

These findings were among the results of the recent third annual Survey of Contemporary Israeli Attitudes Toward World Jewry commissioned by the B’nai B’rith World Center in Jerusalem.

See also article

On Israel-Diaspora relations, Israelis are quite clueless

By Shmuel Rosner, Opinion July 3, 2008

How can 75 percent say they don’t want the government to take Diaspora opinion into account on borders, while 40 percent still say they want Diaspora money to influence Israeli politics is an anathema.

I see it as another proof that Israelis are mostly clueless when it comes to Israel-Diaspora relations.

Their answers often don’t make sense because it’s a subject they rarely think about seriously.

Hadassah: WUJS Israel program won’t close, just moving to Center

By Haviv Rettig, July 2, 2008

“It’s a shame we won’t be in Arad, because there is something to be said for the desert life, but it’s also an amazing opportunity to get plugged in [to Jerusalem]. And we’re still going to hike the desert and study the desert subcultures.”

WUJS closes Arad center, moves to TA

By Cnaan Liphshiz, July 2, 2008

After 40 years of operation, the World Union of Jewish Students Institute in Arad will be closed and its activity transferred from the small Negev town to the country’s center, said a spokeswoman for Hadassah, the Women’s Zionist Organization of America, which operates WUJS.

Give my regards to Arad (and Amos Oz)

By Calev Ben-David, Opinion July 7, 2008

I was there courtesy of the WUJS (World Union of Jewish Students) Institute-Arad, a program originally established by the Jewish Agency for young Diaspora Jews thinking about making aliya, but not quite ready to leap into it.

Still, if WUJS-Arad has become as anachronistic as the equally declining kibbutz volunteer program, I’m glad to be old enough to have done both, and can’t help thinking that the current generation of young Jews spending time in Israel are missing out by not having the chance for these experiences.

Overseas IDF volunteers to be called back for service if they make aliya

By Yaakov Katz, July 2, 2008

Beginning this month the IDF will require Mahal volunteers who make aliya to complete three years of service following their participation in the program.

Mahal volunteers serve for 14 months meaning that for those who do make aliya, they would be required to serve another 14 months in the IDF as a regular soldier.

IDF sources claimed that this obligation always existed although it was never implemented. The decision to enforce the rule was made after the IDF became aware of growing numbers of Mahal graduates remaining in Israel for university studies and eventually making aliya. The program was initially setup for Jews who would return to the Diaspora following their service.

Just 8,700 more people and that’s it

Haaretz Editorial July 2, 2008

It appears that a stronger prime minister than Ehud Olmert is needed to declare the Ethiopian Jewish immigration over.

In order to set a sane immigration policy, we need a political leadership that can plan ahead. The Law of Return is already less relevant, because the pool of Jews who want to immigrate to Israel is almost dry.

There is no need to revoke the Law of Return, because it is the basis of the Jewish state, but nevertheless it cannot be upheld through mass conversion.

An immigration policy for non-Jews must be established based on criteria that suit the needs of a modern state, not in accordance with pressure exerted on prime ministers.

Jewish Agency: All Falashmura eligible for aliyah already here

By Anshel Pfeffer, July 1. 2008

The Jewish Agency presented the Prime Minister’s Office with a report a few days ago showing that all the Falashmura deemed eligible for aliyah in 1999 have either arrived in Israel or have been declared ineligible by the Interior Ministry.

About 2,000 people on the 1999 list were never checked for eligibility because no request was ever made to bring them to Israel.

Falashmura advocates say the Jewish Agency and Interior Ministry ignored another list of 11,376 Falashmura in villages. They also say the 8,700 in Gondar meet Chief Rabbi Shlomo Amar’s criteria for aliyah, but the Interior Ministry refuses to examine their eligibility.

Ongoing battle over the ‘lost Jews’

By Steven Klein, Opinion July 4, 2008

Steven Klein is an editor at the Haaretz English edition.

Photograph by Ilan Ossendryver

While I agree with Futterman that Israel should bring over the Falashmura, who now refer to themselves as “Beta Israel” just as other Ethiopian Jews do, I am not worried about Sheetrit being the ultimate gatekeeper.

He is just the latest in a long list of interior ministers who have tried to stem the tide of Falashmura/Beta Israel and, like them, he is destined ultimately to fail.

My bet would be that once Sheetrit is gone, another minister will arise to tell us Israel is taking them in after all.

A few years down the line, his or her successor will declare the end of Ethiopian Jewish immigration.

And then the battle over the next 11,000 “lost Jews” in Ethiopia will commence.

Ethiopian Sigd made official State holiday July 2, 2008

The Knesset plenum decided to formally add the Ethiopian Sigd holiday to the list of State holidays, and will be holding an annual state ceremony for it during the Hebrew month of Heshvan, which usually falls on October or November.

Sigd is a traditional Ethiopian day of fast, dedicated to prayers for the rebuilding of the Temple and giving thanks for the right to return to the Holy Land. The fasting ends in mid-day, in a Seder of sorts.

The holiday’s history, traditions and ceremonies will be included in the educational system’s curriculum and going to work during the holiday will be optional.

How to reply when the doorbell rings

The writer, a rabbi in Atlanta for 40 years, is the former editor of Tradition magazine. The author of nine books, he presently serves on the editorial committee of the Encyclopedia of Mitzvot.

The State of Israel is a crucial target for such missionaries, and many so-called messianic Jews are actually born Christians who have given themselves Jewish names and moved to Israel for one reason: to proselytize Jews.

What we see here, in effect, is a renewed assault on the fundamentals of Judaism – not the traditional frontal assault, but, in a shift in tactics, one that attempts to infiltrate through indirect means by blurring the Jesus-as-God aspect of Christianity and stressing the Jesus-as-messiah aspect.

Many missionaries feel this roundabout approach is less threatening to Jews, more “Jewish-friendly.”

Arrivals: Nico Bauth

Bauth broke the news of his pending conversion to Judaism to his German Catholic family over Christmas dinner.

Saudis invite Israeli to Madrid parley

By Matthew Wagner and AP, July 4, 2008

Saudi Arabia invited an Israeli rabbi on Thursday to attend an interfaith conference to be held in Madrid.

Rabbi David Rosen, president of the International Jewish Committee for Interreligious Consultations, is the only rabbi who lives in Israel who was invited by King Abdullah of Saudi Arabia and the World Muslim League to the conference that is slated for July 16 to 18.

Other rabbis representing Orthodox, Conservative and Reform Judaism have also been invited.

Rabbis to mull approval of Shefa Shuk sale to Rami Levy

By Adi Dovrat, July 1, 2008

The rabbinical Committee for the Sanctity of Shabbat will be convening in the next few days to make its final decision on whether it approves David Wiessman’s sale of Shefa Shuk grocery outlets, which serve the ultra-Orthodox community.

More specifically, the panel will be deciding whether a change of ownership would affect the chain’s pariah status in the observant community.

Super-Sol buys Haredi chain Alef

By Adi Dovrat and Nati Toker, July 2, 2008

The Super-Sol chain is buying a controlling interest in Alef, a formerly rival chain that caters to the ultra-Orthodox sector.

Alef runs nine branches, all located in the heart of ultra-Orthodox neighborhoods.

Sales at Alef have been taking off in recent months, in fact since the rabbinical Committee for the Sanctity of Shabbat declared a boycott of all stores belonging to Dudi Wiessman’s Dor-Alon chain three months ago, on the grounds that its AM:PM chain of stores violates the Sabbath.

Which it arguably does, as it operates 24/7. Dor Alon owns Blue Square which, in turn, owns Shefa Shuk, which – like Alef – caters to the observant community.

Clearing Customs Safely – Green Game Gambit

By Aharon Granevich-Granot, July 2, 2008

Apparently, following the publicity surrounding the Talansky affair, the American authority against money laundering exerted pressure on the Israeli tax bureau to keep their eyes on chareidi travelers, and not for naught.

It’s no secret that chareidim go abroad to raise funds, returning to Israel with pockets full of cash, none of it intended for Olmert, but rather for yeshivos, chesed organizations, and personal need.

This money is not necessarily reported to the Israeli authorities or tax people, even though it is often exempt from taxes.

But the government is interested in knowing about it, which is the reason for the American pressure and the cause for the recent crackdown on chareidi travelers more than others, though the authorities did pounce on others to make the operation look cleaner. And this resulted in provoking chareidi antagonism.

Haredi businessmen invest billions in Israeli real estate

By Matthew Wagner, July 2, 2008

A growing group of haredi businessmen, mostly from the US and Britain but also some locals, have become a force to be reckoned with in the Israeli commercial real estate market, investing NIS 4 billion in the last two years alone.

Kosher limhadrin graduation

By Barbara Sofer, July 3, 2008

The young women were actually graduating simultaneously from two schools, the Haredi College and Hadassah College Jerusalem, and their B.S. was awarded in laboratory science – approved of course by the stringent Council for Higher Education that monitors the awarding of academic degrees in Israel.

Four hundred and fifty women and 150 men are now studying in Haredi College academic programs. Another group of women has graduated with degrees in social work together with Bar-Ilan University.

Who are you to judge me?

By Nadav Shragai, July 1, 2008

Rivka Meirchik, 29, is maintaining her stony silence. For three months now this young woman from Kiryat Ata, near Haifa, has been sitting in a cell at the Neve Tirza prison, refusing visits from all family members, rabbis, lawyers, judges and policemen who are trying to encourage her to sign a symbolic bail agreement – a few hundred shekels – and to go home, to return to the special needs children who were in her care, and to her worried sisters.

Unlike Sariel, Meirchik grew up in a moderately religious home and is not a settler.

…Unlike Sariel and dozens of other arrested protesters who agreed to be tried by a rabbinical court, Meirchik never even mentioned such a possibility. Her ideology is apparently based on nationalism and ethics.

Pollution goes on ‘trial’ – in front of a religious court

Shomera L’Sviva Tova is having a good year. Celebrating a decade since its founding, it has grown from a grassroots local organization to one with national influence. Last month, Shomera was awarded a Green Globe 2008 award by Life and Environment, the umbrella organization of environmental groups in Israel.

Ever concerned with explaining the connection between Judaism and the environment, Shomera has teamed up with Gazit to bring an air pollution case before a beit din lemamonot, a religious civil court dealing with monetary issues.

Former Sephardi chief rabbi Eliahu Bakshi Doron, MK Michael Melchior (Labor-Meimad) and international environmental expert Dr. Michael Graber will also participate.

Religion and State in Israel

July 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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