Religion and State in Israel – August 4, 2008 (Section 1)

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Religion and State in Israel

August 4, 2008 (Section 1) (continues in Section 2)

Editor – Joel Katz

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

Conversion row sparks suspension of rabbinical court appointments

By Anshel Pfeffer, August 4, 2008

Chief Rabbi Shlomo Amar has [frozen] the appointment of 22 new Jewish conversion court judges, further delaying reforms aimed at easing the difficult and lengthy conversion process.

Last week, Amar reneged on his decision to approve the appointments this week, in the face of strong objections from the 25 current religious court judges, or dayanim.

The judges are paid per court session. They claim that appointing new judges will reduce the number of cases each judge handles, and threatening their livelihood.

“The fact that presiding dayanim receive their salaries based on the number of sessions they hold means they have no motivation to speed up conversions,” said one of the 22 new appointees.

“They have a financial interest in lengthening the process, causing a headache for potential converts. The new religious court judges were going to change that situation, and create a market where different groups compete to treat converts more efficiently and more courteously.”

Rav Bin-Nun Leads Civil Service Chief’s List to Replace Rav Druckman

By Yechiel Spira, August 1, 2008

Rabbi Yoel Bin-Nun, a veteran figure in the Gush Emunim movement, appears to be the leading candidate to replace Rabbi Chaim Druckman Shlita as head of the government’s conversion program.

According to the report appearing in the weekly Hebrew Mishpacha Magazine, Rav Bin-Nun is the leading candidate of Civil Service Commissioner Shmuel Hollander, who heads the search committee seeking a new conversion chief to replace Rav Druckman.

It is also reported that Prime Minister Ehud Olmert told Sephardic Chief Rabbi Shlomo Amar Shlita that he may bypass the committee and pick his own candidate, but following Olmert’s decision to step down, the chief rabbi may not merit cashing in on the promise.

Lay-led Conversions

B y David Greenstein, Issue 8, August 4, 2008

The writer is yeshiva head of The Academy for Jewish Religion, New York, an independent, pluralistic rabbinical and cantorial seminary.

The conversion crisis in Israel has reached breaking point.

…What is to be done? The crisis must be met now. Every year that passes lessens the interest and willingness of Israeli non-Jews to seek a means to unify their identities with their existential destiny by means of conversion.

Aliya experts: Reform conversions August 4, 2008

The expert is Maurice Singer, Senior Aliyah Consultant at the Jewish Agency. While every care and attention is made to give accurate answers, no responsibility can be taken by the writer or the Jewish Agency if the information offered may prove to be misleading.

Q: I have a friend who went through a conversion with the Reform movement here in the USA. I read in one of your answers in Cafe Oleh that someone who does this must remain in the community where the conversion occurs for at least one year before applying to aliyah.

My question is this: does that year begin after the mikveh and the official date that the conversion papers are issued or does the year include the preparation time spent in the community before the actual conversion took place?

Also, I have heard that this year requirement could be shortened soon. Is this true, and if so what new time requirement is being considered?

A: The year begins after the conversion is officially confirmed. I have no information regarding plans to shorten this waiting period.

Q: I am Italian and I will be soon converted by a Bet Din of recognized American Reform Rabbis. After spending a year with my Reform community in Florence I would like to make aliyah.

Reform communities are not officially recognized by the Italian government (according to a law enacted during the Fascist dictatorship and which should be amended someday).

My question is: am I still eligible for aliyah even if Italian Reform communities are not recognized?

A: If your conversion is through the official Reform Synagogue Movement of USA, then there should be no reason that the conversion is not accepted in Israel for the purposes of Aliyah.

You are however required to spend at least one year actively participating in a Jewish Community abroad prior to your Aliyah. A letter to this effect by a recognized Rabbi should be sufficient.

Does anyone remember freedom of religion?

By Shulamit Aloni, Opinion July 30, 2008

…In other words, there is no barrier to adding a conditional get to every ketuba, which would take effect if the husband disappeared for several years or refused to divorce his wife.

…With regard to conversion as well, our ancestors were incomparably more broad-minded and open-hearted than those holy men who serve nowadays, and who pretend to put individual and public welfare at the top of their priorities.

Rabbinical Court wages war against mother who wants to raise secular kids

By Haaretz Staff and Channel 10 August 3, 2008

Click here for VIDEO

If the Rabbinical Court gets its way, Yael, a mother of two young boys, may go to jail in several weeks’ time. Yael is not a criminal or a neglectful parent. Her only offense is that she is a secular Israeli who does not want to raise her children in an ultra-Orthodox setting.

Yael’s former husband was also secular when they married. But he became increasingly religious after the birth of their children, and ultimately insisted that they be raised in an ultra-Orthodox household.

He enlisted the Rabbinical Court’s help, and they have since ignored a family court ruling.

Shas against women

The writer is an educator, researcher and activist specializing in education, society, religion and gender, and a founding member of Mavoi Satum for Agunot and Mesuravot Get,

Her blog “For Serious Jewish Women” can be found at

Yesterday, the women of Israel suffered a major setback in divorce reform as Shas blocked the divorce finances bill by using a coalition threat.

…This bill is vital because it can enable women to achieve at least financial freedom while they are struggling to escape from an abusive life.

This kind of financial freedom – which unlike the get itself is not dependent on halachic rules that determine female passivity in the process – can enable a woman to get on with many vital aspects of her life.

She can set up a new home, become financially independent and free herself from potential blackmail.

She may not be able to remarry without the get, but for many women, the ability to remarry is hardly the main point. All they want is the freedom that they deserve as human beings.

Olmert sells his soul

By Susan Weiss, July 29, 2008

ICAR has proposed an amendment to the law that would allow for the division of marital property prior to the get: when the parties are living apart, for example.

(Almost) everyone agrees that this is a good idea– Why facilitate extortion? Everyone, except for Shas. They too think that the suggested amendment to the law would cut down, if not eliminate, extortion.

But Shas thinks — hold on to your hats — that the Bet Din needs tools of extortion in order to facilitate the get. So the existing law is good, reasons Shas, because it facilitates the extortion that is essential to divorce resolution!!! (So help me, it’s true).

Despite education funding cuts, more money for religious high schools

By Zvi Zrahiya, August 3, 2008

Funding for yeshiva high schools, religious girls secondary schools, National Service and pre-army preparatory programs will be increased by NIS 121 million.

The additional funding is the product of secret negotiations between MK Nissan Slomiansky (National Union-National Religious Party), a member of the Knesset Finance Committee and the Education and Finance Ministries, as well as the Prime Minister’s Office.

The National Service program, mostly for religious girls who choose this route instead of army service, has 3,160 women who mostly serve as teachers aides or teach “Heritage” coursework in schools.

The budget for national service this year will be NIS 82 million, of which NIS 20 million comes from this additional funding and NIS 22 million was returned from the canceled cuts. This works out to NIS 2,162 per young woman per month.

The pre-army preparatory programs will receive NIS 30 million this year, NIS 17 million from the deal with Slomiansky. This works out to NIS 1,785 per student per month.

Education in the service of politics

Haaretz Editorial August 4, 2008

Lev Leviev’s Zman Masa (Journey Time) curriculum was rejected in the past by the Education Ministry’s pedagogical secretariat, but came back, slightly spruced up, and was approved.

This is a real threat to the state education system – one that is no less grave than that involved in waiving the core curriculum and supporting pre-army training programs and young women teaching “heritage.”

The education minister must weigh political survival against the well-being of the state education system, and decide honestly which matters more.

Tolerance, without state funding

www.jpost.comJuly 31, 2008

The haredim will never voluntarily adopt the core curriculum, and it may well be impossible to force them to do so at a price society would find tolerable.

That fact, however, in no way obligates the government to finance this lifestyle choice.

…But perhaps nowhere is this confusion more pernicious than in the debate over drafting haredi yeshiva students.

There is a third alternative, which is almost never discussed: leaving the exemption in place, but ceasing to fund it. Specifically, the government could stop paying stipends to most yeshiva students (a limited number of grants to exceptional scholars, like those offered exceptional university students, should remain).

Less than half of 17-year-olds in Israel qualify for matriculation

By Or Kashti, August 3, 2008

In the Orthodox public school system, 64.3 percent of students were eligible for matriculation, compared with 62.3 percent in the non-Orthodox system.

In the ultra-Orthodox system, where relatively few students sit for the matriculation exams, the rate of eligibility was 21.7 percent.

Egged opens another sex-segregated bus line in J’lem July 29, 2008

Petitions filed with the Transportation Ministry against the Egged and Dan mehadrin sex-segregated bus lines in 2007 seem to have fallen on deaf ears as Egged opens another bus route for the ultra-Orthodox in Jerusalem.

The new Egged-chartered, separate-seating bus route, 15A, operates in the capital’s Har Nof neighborhood.

Many object to bus lines for the ultra-Orthodox on the principle that Egged, as a public bus service, should not cater to a specific segment of the population.

The mehadrin buses often cause inconveniences and delays for the general public, who must either enter at the rear of the bus, separate from traveling partners, or wait for a regular bus.

Chareidim Step Up Shabbos Battle in Haifa

By Yechiel Spira, July 28, 2008

The Vaad L’Shmiras Shabbos in Haifa has sent letters to the mayor, Egged and other city officials calling for the cessation of the nighttime bus service which operates on Shabbos.

The bus service operates during the wee hours of the night on Friday nights [and other nights] in the hope of persuading the youth to rely on the buses and not attempt to operate motor vehicles under the influence of alcohol.

In the letter, the rabbonim write the bus service sets a dangerous precedent, since it may encourage other cities to attempt to launch similar services, thereby resulting in widespread chilul Shabbos by the public transportation company.

More and more yeshiva students choosing Torah over IDF service

By Shahar Ilan, July 31, 2008

The number of yeshiva students whose army service has been put on hold because they have declared Torah study as their occupation currently stands at 55,300, as opposed to just over 50,000 last year, according to Colonel Tziki Sela, head of the IDF Department of Planning and Manpower Administration.

Men, women, and religion

By Uri Orbach, Opinion July 29, 2008

When we’re facing the seculars, we’re not always interested in fighting over the public space and its nature. There’s a time and place for everything after all.

Yet when it comes to our women, we the men decide unilaterally what the religious space should look like.

Online Project Tries to Unite Secular & Religious

By Elana Eden July 30, 2008

An online project is attempting to reconnect increasingly alienated Israeli subcultures.

The “People-Israel: Guide to Israeli Society” project, created in part by Professor Oz Almog, a sociologist at Haifa University, explores the gap between growing Israeli subcultures, mainly the divide between the religious and the secular.

Yesha Resident Kicks Her Way to Beijing Olympics

By Hana Levi Julian August 4, 2008

The Jewish State will be represented at the Olympic Games in Beijing this month by Bat-El Gatterer, a young religious resident of Kochav Yaakov, located in the Binyamin region of Samaria.

Because she is an observant Jew, Gatterer does not travel by car on the Sabbath (Friday night and Saturday) – a complication which in the past has meant that she sometimes has had to walk to her competition venues. At the Olympic Games, the young Israeli will compete on Thursday.

She won’t have to starve, however, thanks to the kosher food that will be provided by the organizers. There will also be plenty of kosher food available for spectators, according to Rabbi Shimon Freundlich, who has been living in China for seven years.

A Glatt Kosher restaurant – Dini’s – will be open during the Games 24 hours a day. The Chabad office in Beijing, added Freundlich, will also be on call to assist all the Israeli athletes and any other Jewish traveler who goes to Beijing for the Olympics – or after.

Not just another interfaith parley

By Rabbi David Rosen, July 31, 2008

The writer is international director of interreligious affairs for the American Jewish Committee and interfaith adviser to the Chief Rabbinate.

Published in cooperation with Common Ground News Service

While I had been invited not as an Israeli, but as a Jewish leader in the interreligious field, the fact that I am an Israeli citizen had been excitedly reported in the media.

In the highly choreographed proceedings, there was a moment of some passion.

It came in the wake of an almost inevitable mantra expressed by a panelist in the penultimate session: While dialogue with Jews was permissible (and perhaps even desirable), he said, dialogue with Israel was not. The panelist called on me to respond to his comment.

Rabbi: What I saw at Saudi-led interfaith conference in Spain

By Rabbi David Rosen, July 29, 2008

At the end of the opening, King Abdullah greeted the guests individually.

When my turn came, I introduced myself to him saying in my limited Arabic, “I am Rabbi Rosen from Jerusalem, Israel,” and he replied “Ahalan w’asalan” — welcome — but I could see that those around him almost had heart attacks on the spot.

In Good Company

By Raphael Ahren, August 1, 2008

The founder and director of the Interreligious Coordinating Council in Israel, the New York-born Dr. Ron Kronish, recently received the prestigious Interfaith Gold Medallion “Peace Through Dialogue” for his 17 years of working toward tolerance and reconciliation.

“One of the highlights of my career was when Pope John Paul II came to Israel in March 2000 and I helped explain the visit’s meaning to the Israeli public,” the long-time resident of Jerusalem told AngloFile.

Suspects freed due to their religion

By Jack Khoury, August 4, 2008

Does a defendant’s ethnicity affect whether he should be released from custody?

Yes, according to a recent decision by Acre Magistrate’s Court Judge Ziad Salih, who released three men suspected of kidnapping a woman at her ex-husband’s behest because he said that as a Druze, he does not think religious Druze constitute a threat.

The police appealed the verdict, which was overturned by the Haifa District Court.

The defendants appealed the Supreme Court to overturn the District Court decision to place them in custody.

A higher moral order

By Jeremy Rosen, Opinion August 1, 2008

Jeremy Rosen, former headmaster of Carmel College in the U.K., is a writer, Orthodox rabbi and professor at the Faculty of Comparative Religion, in Antwerp.

David Landau, in a recent opinion piece (“The Great Language Heist,” July 18), raised the moral and religious issues involved in the recent prisoner exchange. Is this a halakhic debate, or is it, rather, one that underlines a “clash” of values between Israeli civil religion and Jewish law?

…it is Israel’s civil values that demand these exchanges more than religious ones.

It does not matter if, as David Landau suggests, the civil religion of Israel contains unhealthy elements that tend to elevate tragedy rather than life.

Every moral code struggles with its history and experiences, and only through engagement and debate can it thrive.

New flights for Breslav tourism

By Shelly Paz, August 1, 2008

Flights to Kiev will be increased by 16 percent during the High Holy Days to meet the demand from Israelis who want to visit the tomb of Rabbi Nachman of Breslav in Uman for Rosh Hashana.

Both countries will be entitled to operate a second carrier on the Tel Aviv-Kiev route, according to a draft agreement signed by Udi Zohar, director-general of the Civil Aviation Authority, and his Ukrainian colleague Alexander Davidov recently.

Currently, only El Al and Aerosvit Airlines, the largest Ukrainian carrier, are allowed to operate on the route. The deal comes after almost a year of discussions.

Under the agreement, the Israeli and Ukrainian carriers will be able to provide 22 weekly flights starting in the summer of 2009, increasing to 28 in the summer of 2010. At present, there are 16 flights per week.

Religion and State in Israel

August 4, 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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