Religion and State in Israel – August 25, 2008 (Section 2)

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Religion and State in Israel

August 25, 2008 (Section 2) (continued from Section 1)

Editor – Joel Katz

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

Government Aid for Liberal Shuls Breaks Orthodox Israeli Monopoly

In December 2004, the lobbying arm of Reform Judaism, the Israel Religious Action Center, petitioned the Supreme Court — for the fourth time since 2001 — to rule that non-Orthodox congregations should also receive state assistance. It called for an end to the “discrimination in the allocation of funds for the construction of synagogues.”

…This is equality,” declared Iri Kassel, executive director of the Israel Movement for Progressive Judaism, at the May opening of the building for Modi’in’s Congregation Yozma (“Initiative”).

“We broke a monopoly and brought about a development that is historic for the State of Israel,” the congregation’s rabbi, Kinneret Shiryon — Israel’s first female rabbi — told the Forward.

“There is still a long way to go in many areas, as almost all state money for religion still goes to the Orthodox, and while we believe in more separation between church and state, we feel if there is money going, we should get our share,” [Conservative/Masorti movement] Mikie Goldstein said.

There is also nervousness about political changes that took hold last month.

“Budgets for all synagogue building are now with the Ministry of Religious Services, which is controlled by Shas, which we think could prove a setback,” said Einat Hurvitz, head of the legal department at IRAC.

Weak dollar slams Reform movement in Jewish State

By Lorne Bell, August 22 2008

“There are signs of change and of a trend where the Israeli government is starting to support liberal, progressive Judaism in Israel,” said Iri Kassel, executive director of the IMPJ.

“But the changes have been minimal and there has been no change in the government’s policies on financing our operations.”

Providing a pluralism of options for living a Jewish life is vital for the health and sustenance of the Jewish State, according to Rabbi Andrew Davids, executive director of ARZA.

“People are asking what it means to be an Israeli Jew, whether religious or non-religious, on the political right or left, a new immigrant or a sabra.

Around these issues of Jewish identity in Israel there are a lot of serious questions, and we see the Reform movement and Reform values playing a critical role in responding to some of those challenges.”

Utopian or contrarian?

By Ruthie Blum, August 21, 2008

Interview with Avraham Burg

So, for me, the State of Israel is a democratic state of the Jewish people which belongs equally to all of its citizens.

If we don’t ensure the separation of Knesset and beit haknesset [synagogue], of rav and ribon [rabbi and sovereign leader] and of Halacha and law, we will be doomed to collide and doomed to fail.

Making this separation is the only way to guarantee a flourishing future.

Dispatch from the trenches of Jewish continuity

Locked in its rigid bureaucracies, Israel doesn’t know how to engage strategically with the American Jewish community.

The new governmental commitment to dialogue with the Diaspora – of which US Jewry accounts for up to 80 percent – is not reflected in any commitment to actually learn about Jewish life abroad or to meet the Jews living there.

If, as every major politician declares at every opportunity, Israel wants dialogue with American Jews, it has to meet the activist core of this community on its home turf. CAJE is one of those places.

U.S. entrepreneur makes aliyah seeking ‘next big invention’

By Haim Handwerker, August 23, 2008

Scott Tobin, a successful venture capitalist, rented his house in the Boston suburbs, took his wife and four kids, boarded a plane and moved to Israel last week.

“We bought a house in Ra’anana and got a pre-immigration visa, so it’s not a move for a year or two. If I have to choose between Paris, London and Israel, I go with Israel. I see it as a cosmopolitan place, vibrant, lots of fun…”

Tobin, who speaks basic Hebrew with an American accent, grew up in Great Neck, New York – a middle-class town with a large Jewish population, about an hour’s drive from Manhattan.

Israel needs school system that develops Jewish culture

Ariel Picard is the Director of Shalom Hartman Institute’s Center for Education. He was ordained as a rabbi by the Israeli Chief Rabbinate and formerly served as the rabbi of Kibbutz Shluchot.

By Rabbi Ariel Picard, August 14, 2008

More and more Israeli parents and children are interested in learning about Judaism, but not as religious teachings. Jews in the Diaspora make their Judaism a religious part of their life.

Studying Judaism is different here; it is not religious studies, but part of our culture and identity.

…But being a Jewish state also means we don’t want Judaism to become a private initiative. It should be part of the official state school system. That’s why the new law on education is important. This law is saying that the government will take these ideas upon itself.

Haredi rabbis call for renewing Temple Mount ban

By Nadav Shragai, August 24, 2008

photo courtesy of Mira Curzer

Israel’s leading ultra-Orthodox rabbis are waging a new offensive against Jews visiting Jerusalem’s Temple Mount.

Rabbis Shalom Elyashiv, Chaim Kanievsky and Ovadia Yosef sent a letter recently to Rabbi Shmuel Rabinovich, the overseer of holy places in the Western Wall complex, urging him to reiterate the religious decree signed 40 years ago by most rabbis in Israel forbidding Jews from entering the Mount.

The rabbis’ statement calls for a complete ban on entering any part of the Temple Mount complex for fear of compromising the “purity” of the area.

Rabbi Elyashiv urged Rabinovich to place notices and guards around the complex to warn the faithful of the prohibition.

Religious modesty guard ‘enjoys support of rabbis and police’

By Haaretz Staff and Channel 10 August 19, 2008

Click here for VIDEO

A member of the Modesty Patrol, a group of ultra-Orthodox men working to eradicate so-called immodest behavior in Haredi areas, has detailed in a rare interview an organization that enjoys the support of rabbis and the police.

The group has existed in some form since the establishment of the State of Israel, and is suspected of recently stepping up its violent acts.

While it claims its focus is on advocacy, members have been recently been accused of breaking into homes, violent assault and forcing women to move to the back of public buses.

Jerusalem Police against [modesty] squad

By Neta Sela, August 22, 2008

On Wednesday evening, a group of yeshiva students demonstrated opposite another store in Meah Shearim, demanding that it stop selling “impure films.”

The haredi community accused the police of “deciding to destroy the chastity squad,” according to a prominent community member, who said that the “modesty guard” had nothing to do with the violent incidents.

“The [modesty] squad members are doing the work the police should have done. Instead of thanking us for putting things in order, they are acting against us and trying to destroy the guard,” he added.

Edah Hachareidis to Meet Police to Release ‘Mishmeres Hatznius’ Suspects August 21, 2008

In a meeting with Jerusalem police representatives, Rabbi Yitzchok Tuvia Weiss [Gave’d] head of the Edah Hachareidis will demand: free the Mishmeres arrestees.

Word on the Chareidi street: “If the answer is no, we go to war.”

“If the demand is not accepted, at least partially,” said Edah Hachareidit sources tonight, “the Beis Din itself will call upon its public to take to the streets and demonstrate until the police succumb and free the innocent arrestees.”

Member of ‘modesty squad’ indicted

A 29-year-old man affiliated with Jerusalem’s haredi “modesty squad” has been indicted in a Jerusalem court for allegedly assaulting a 31-year-old woman in her apartment, together with six other men, after they suspected she had carried out “improper” relations with other men, court documents released Sunday show.

A second suspect has been arrested in the case, Jerusalem police spokesman Asi Aharoni said.

The suspect, Binyamin Meirovitch of Jerusalem, is believed to be one of the modesty squad’s leaders, and the person responsible for the illicit organization’s operations.

The other men involved in the attack remain at large.

What can rabbis do?

By Matthew Wagner, August 25, 2008

Even if the rabbinic leaders oppose certain actions taken by the mishmeret hatzniut (“modesty squad”), they usually cannot publicly attack it for fear of losing their credibility among the public who look to its rabbis to champion haredi zealotry and meticulous adherence to the letter of the law.

Ultra-Orthodox learn about safe hiking

By Moti Katz, August 22, 2008

The sight of ultra-Orthodox students poring over maps instead of Holy Scriptures in Jerusalem’s Belzer Yeshiva was strange and unexpected. Even stranger was the suntanned man in jeans and a visored cap standing behind the rabbi’s podium.

…After six yeshiva students were killed in hiking accidents last summer, the Belzer Yeshiva opened its doors to a secular instructor and introduced a compulsory workshop for would-be hikers

Yeshiva students attack nature reserve rangers in Ein Gedi; none hurt

Three park rangers and the supervisor of the Ein Gedi Nature Reserve came under a hail of stones and abuse by a group of about 100 yeshiva students from Bnei Brak early Sunday morning.

The incident began when a park ranger discovered the students in the nature reserve having a bonfire and cook-out.

The ranger asked the students to put out the bonfire since it is against regulations to have them. In response, the students attacked him.

“They started to yell at him and then shove him and then started to throw rocks at him,” Dudi Greenbaum, the reserve’s supervisor, told The Jerusalem Post just hours after the incident.

“He called for reinforcements which arrived in the form of two more rangers who were also attacked. Then they called me and I drove in. They threw rocks at my car and damaged the windshields…”

US, South African Jews to build 300 units in Jerusalem for Haredi community

By Ariel Rosenberg, August 19, 2008

A group of US and South African Jews has bought a nine-dunam (2.25-acre) site in the Givat Shaul neighborhood of Jerusalem for $23 million, on which they plan to build more than 300 apartments for the haredi (ultra-orthodox) community. The price amounts to $77,000 per land per apartment.

The investors will submit a plan to consolidate the lots in order to build nine buildings with 34,000 square meters of residential space alone. The total investment in the project will reach NIS 200 million and proceeds are expected to exceed NIS 300 million, leaving a net profit of around NIS 70 million.

The haredi community accounts for a substantial part of the Jerusalem housing market, but few haredim can afford to buy the luxury apartments that have been built in the city in recent years. As a result many haredim are moving to Beit Shemesh, and the settlements of Betar Illit and Upper Modi’in, where prices are lower.

Haredim who are still buying apartments in Jerusalem are mostly foreign residents, who tend to congregate in the western neighborhoods of Givat Shaul, Har Nof, and Romema. 3,000 apartments are currently planned for Romema alone, and demand for apartments there by foreign haredim has reached a peak in the past three years.

Blue Square overcomes ultra-Orthodox ire

By Yuval Maoz, August 21, 2008

Retailer Blue Square Israel’s profit more than doubled in the second quarter of 2008, partially because of the timing of the Passover holiday, to NIS 29.5 million.

Same-store sales increased by 8%, which helped the group overcome the ultra-Orthodox boycott of Shefa Shuk, where sales dropped by 11% year over year.

Poll: Jerusalem and Haredim

By Tzipi Malchov, August 25, 2008

Seventy percent of those asked are sure that the city is more haredi.

63% of the haredim asked are sure that the city is more haredi. In addition, 31% of them think that no change has occurred and one percent thinks that the city is more secular.

Amongst the secular denomination, 87% think that city is more haredi than it used to be while 4% think that the city is more secular than in the past. Eight percent think that no change has occurred

Poll: Barkat front-runner in race for J’lem mayor

The poll also indicated that the more secular opponents Barkat faces in a city where a third of Jewish voters are haredi, the less chance he has to win the race.

The poll also found that a whopping 70% of city residents feel that the capital is becoming increasingly haredi. This view is shared by 87% of secular respondents as well as 63% of haredi respondents.

Protest Landscaping Work along Jerusalem-Tel Aviv Highway

By Yechiel Sever, August 21, 2008

Public protests continue in response to the trampling of Shmittah laws underfoot through extensive planting at the Daniel Interchange along the Jerusalem-Tel Aviv Highway.

MK Rabbi Uri Maklev sent an urgent letter to Transportation Minister Shaul Mofaz and the board of Derech Eretz demanding an immediate halt to the landscaping work.

In response he was informed that the work is not under the responsibility of the Transportation Ministry or Derech Eretz.

The rabbi’s army

By Nissan Shtrauchler, August 21, 2008

Despite the similarities to any army recruitment center, these are not 18-year-old kids who are joining the IDF, these are children, aged 9 to 13 who were accepted to a unique program aimed at training the children as “house managers” for the countless Chabad houses located worldwide

…Using army terms is not new for the members of Chabad, even though no one will admit to it out loud, in contrast to other Orthodox sects in Judaism, their members serve in the IDF without social condemnation, and the emissaries’ work sometimes completely interacts with the army.

The Chabad emissaries, among their different duties, visit different army bases before holidays and Shabbat and sometimes work together with “the army aunts” and give out food for soldiers on the road.

Mission accomplished?

The writer is program director for Israel of the Moriah Fund, which has supported both Ethiopian-led organizations in Israel and organizations serving the Jewish community in Ethiopia for more than 15 years.

Chief Rabbi Shlomo Amar wrote to Olmert again this week telling him, “I have already held in the past that they are completely Jewish.”

Amar explained that the modified conversion required of Falash Mura immigrants upon their arrival was introduced to make absolutely certain that the new immigrants were Jewish, in case a few Christians or Muslims wrongfully included themselves among the thousands of Jews returning to Zion.

Jews, Christians at odds over Last Supper site construction

By Matthew Wagner, August 22, 2008

An ancient monastery adjacent to where, according to Christian tradition, Jesus ate the Last Supper, has turned into a legal battleground for Catholics and Jews.

Last week the High Court of Justice issued a temporary restraining order halting construction work by a Jewish organization in a Franciscan monastery on Jerusalem’s Mount Zion adjacent to the Cenaculum, the Latin term for the room where the Last Supper was held.

The court also issued an order preventing the Jewish organization – the Institute for the Study of the Family and Family Laws in Israel – from moving people in to live in the monastery, known as the Franciscan house, just outside the Dormition Church.

Religion and State in Israel

August 25, 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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