Religion and State in Israel – October27, 2008 (Section 1)

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Religion and State in Israel

October 27, 2008 (Section 1) (continues in Section 2)

Editor – Joel Katz

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

Rabbi Yosef calls on Shas supporters to vote for Porush

By Yair Ettinger October 27, 2008

United Torah Judaism’s candidate for Jerusalem mayor, MK Meir Porush, has received his first public endorsement from a major spiritual leader in the ultra-Orthodox community, two and a half weeks before the elections.

Rabbi Ovadia Yosef, the spiritual leader of Shas, on Saturday night urged his party’s supporters to vote for Shas’ list for the municipal council and for Porush on the separate ballot slip for mayor.

Porush is focusing his campaign on the national religious sector, the same public for which secular candidate Nir Barkat is vying.

Both men are convinced that this particular population will determine the election’s outcome.

However, in order to win, Porush, who is trailing behind Barkat in the public opinion polls, will have to unite the entire Haredi public. Rabbi Yosef is the first to publicly endorse his candidacy.

Rav Ovadia Yosef Shlita Endorses Meir Porush for Mayor

Yechiel Spira October 26, 2008

Chacham Ovadia Shlita continued his election instructions to Shas followers, explaining that 

“in the Heavenly Court we are judged and we must act appropriately,” going on to explain that 

“by casting a ballot for Porush on 13 Cheshvan, we may earn a higher place in the World to Come since Porush will build mikvaos and continue his good deeds, and we are compelled to ensure his success….

…A mikve costs $250,000 and we must take part in building. How can I do this? I barely meet my monthly expenses with my salary,” stated the Rav rhetorically. 

“By voting for Porush, that’s how! With placing a simple white piece of paper in a ballot box, one buys one’s Olam Haba”.

Needed: A passionate mayor . . .

By Elan Ezrachi Opinion October 24, 2008

Dr. Elan Ezrachi is the director of the International School for Jerusalem Studies at Yad Ben-Zvi.

At the very center of the city’s plight is the ultra-Orthodox population, who make up about 20 percent of Jerusalem’s citizenry.

Given that the capital will continue to be a stronghold of the Haredi community – with a very high birth rate that is altering the demographics of local schools – what can be done to balance their legitimate needs with the ability of the city to sustain itself economically?

Younger members of this population cannot afford housing in Jerusalem any more than young secular residents can. 

…The Haredim should be encouraged to contribute to the well-being of the city by joining the workforce while protecting their own vital interests.

As long as they lack housing in their neighborhoods, they will spill over into others. By constructing housing appropriate for all, it should be possible to prevent other sections of the city from becoming predominantly Haredi.

Jerusalem needs leadership that understands this, and will seek to moderate the friction between different populations. 

. . . and a city council to keep him honest

By Rachel Azaria Opinion October 24, 2008

Rachel Azaria is co-chair of the Hitorerut-Yerushalmim list for city council, which is made up of young professionals who aim to improve conditions for Jerusalem’s secular, traditional and modern-Orthodox residents.

The elections are expected to be decisive for the city’s future.

The last five years have been difficult ones for the capital’s non-ultra-Orthodox residents.

Although Haredim constitute some 25 percent of the city’s voters, for the past half-decade they have dictated the municipal agenda, directing resources principally to their sectorial needs.

For non-Haredim, voting is an opportunity to redress the imbalance that has been the stuff of Jerusalem city politics since 1993. 

Ultra-Orthodox politics

By Yair Ettinger October 22, 2008

There is no need to play the self-righteous card. After all, politics is politics.

But at present, particularly as we approach municipal elections in Jerusalem, the pot has reached its boiling point and will likely leave the entire ultra-Orthodox political establishment with nasty burns. 

…Until November 11, it seems every political operative in the fractured ultra-Orthodox community will continue to pray hard for the downfall of his respective rival. 

Rabbi Aviner: Porush has no consideration for national-religious public

By Kobi Nahshoni October 27, 2008

 “(Jerusalem mayoral candidate) Meir Porush and the ultra-Orthodox public have no consideration for the National-Zionist population. 

They aren’t interested in them, do not recognize them and do not think they have any significance,” said Rabbi Shlomo Aviner ahead of the November 11 vote.

He also mentioned during an interview with Kol Hai Radio that the “national-religious population prefers a true partnership than an inferior stance,” and for this reason, he said, most of them support secular candidate Nir Barkat, who promised National-Religious representatives senior positions at the municipality.

Israel military rabbi under fire for ‘brainwashing’ soldiers

By Amos Harel October 23, 2008

The Chief Military Rabbinate has recently expanded its educational activities in IDF combat units, and in doing so has entered areas previously served only by the Education Corps.

Many commanders accept offers of such programs since the rabbinate pays for these activities, while the units must foot the bill for events run by the Education Corps. 

…Non-profit organizations and religious citizens have been contributing money via Libi – The Fund for Strengthening Israel’s Defense.

The contributions are earmarked for specific purposes, in this case the rabbinate’s educational activities. The sums are significant, and give the rabbinate an advantage over the Education Corps.

Army values / IDF infiltrator?

By Amos Harel October 24, 2008

The head of the Manpower Branch will now examine why the Rabbinate invaded the Education Corps sector, without bothering to coordinate with them. 

The real mover behind the power grab is Lt. Col. Zadok Ben-Artzi, the head of the Jewish Awareness department. His friends say he has a feeling of being on a “continual divine mission.” 

…These battles are being fought while in the background a major demographic change is taking place in the IDF: Over a third of the combat officers in the lower ranks are religious.

The IDF is actually more open to Jewish values than in the past, even after it threw out Lubavitch Hasidim from its bases over 10 years ago.

But the processes Ronski and Ben-Artzi are igniting seem to be a worrying attempt to destroy the status quo. Only intervention by Ashkenazi can stop this and get the Rabbinate into perspective.

Labor MK demands IDF be investigated for alleged proselytizing

By Amos Harel October 26, 2008

The chairman of the Knesset Interior and Environment Committee, MK Ophir Pines-Paz (Labor):

“The [military] rabbinate is overstepping its authority, which is solely to provide religious services, and is acting in an aggressive manner in order to cause Israel Defense Forces soldiers to become religiously observant.

This activity undermines religious-secular relations in the IDF and leads the army into dealing with areas beyond its scope. It uses the IDF to advance religious and political ideas.

The [military] rabbinate is bringing religion in through the back door, in a dangerous manner, and harming the IDF’s ability to fulfill its mission.” 

Without a Lord of (military) Hosts

Haaretz Editorial October 26, 2008

The military rabbinate’s desire to expand beyond the narrow boundaries of meeting the religious needs of interested soldiers undermines the foundations of the IDF’s existence.

Israel is a state of democratic law, not one of religious law. And it has a secular majority, which would be outraged if anyone tried to change its way of life through religious coercion. 

…The senior command’s acquiescence in military rabbis’ efforts to expose nonreligious soldiers to religious propaganda violates the obligations of the chief of staff and his generals – and the defense minister and the cabinet above them – toward citizens whom the law has forced to don a uniform. 

Chief IDF rabbi taught Torah to jailed Jewish extremists

By Amos Harel October 27, 2008

The chief rabbi of the Israel Defense Forces has in the past year been visiting prisoners associated with extreme right-wing groups, some of whom are serving jail sentences for planning or helping to carry out terrorist attacks against Arabs, Haaretz has learned. 

Brig. Gen. Rabbi Avichai Ronski, who assumed his position in 2006, has met with the prisoners to teach them about Judaism.

The IDF Spokesman’s Office responded to a query about the visits by saying that the encounters were a private initiative of Ronski. 

Orthodox, but not Jewish enough for aliya

By Seth Farber October 23, 2008

Two criteria related to conversion delegitimize even the most serious of Orthodox converts.

The first – which is reasonable in its conception but not in its realization – prevents Orthodox converts from making aliya subsequent to their conversion. 

…But a second criterion is even more deleterious to the Jewish fabric of the state. In the past two years, the Chief Rabbinate has radically downsized the list of recognized Orthodox rabbis whose conversions will be confirmed for purposes of marriage.

…The State has to learn to rely on Diaspora Jewish communities.

Benny Lau Attacks Rabbi Elyashev on Conversion Issue October 27, 2008

During a recent event regarding the status of conversions in Israel, Dr. Benny Lau attacked Rabbi Elyashev’s position on maintaining a strict Halachic standard.

The gathering, which took place in Beit Morashah in Yerushalayim, discussed the decision to consider all of Rabbi Chaim Druckman’s conversions unacceptable.

“Rabbi (Shlomo) Amar’s understanding on the topic of conversions is clear,” Lau stated.

“Only it is not being put into action because of the fear…Rabbanim cannot speak their minds because of being terrorized by Rabbi Elyashev.” 

Lau insinuated that Rabbi Ovadia Yosef also disagreed with Rabbi Elyashev but was afraid to make his opinion public.

Lau also attacked Dayanim that belonged to the religious Zionist movement, saying many of them are “enemies not visible to the eye.”

According to him, “some of ‘our’ own Dayanim come from Batei Medrash that make them too focused on their own sect…some of them want to wreak destruction in the area of conversions even more than Rabbi Elyashev.”

The event ended with Dr. Moshe Holinger of Bar Ilan University calling for religious Zionist Dayanim to band together to come up with less strict guidelines for Geirim that would be accepted by the Reform and Orthodox movement, even at the price of having to break away from the Charedim.

Chevra Kadisha: Crash victim won’t be buried in coffin

By Roi Mandel October 26, 2008

Conflict arose Sunday over the burial of one of Friday’s light plane crash victims as his family requested to lay him to rest in a coffin, while Chevra Kadisha, the Israeli burial society, refused and demanded he be buried in a shroud.

The family of Menachem Ben-Zaccaria of Netanya, who was killed in the crash along with three others, was told that using a coffin was against Halacha and would be impossible.

Netanya’s chief rabbi said that an official Chevra Kadisha representative inspected the body, and that it was intact, therefore there was no need for a coffin.

(The deceased’s sister) Havi criticized Chevra Kadisha’s conduct, saying, “It’s a shame on the State of Israel that they behave this way. Because they are a monopoly that lives at our expense, they allow themselves to do whatever they want. Unfortunately, this is our State of Israel.”

Livni considers more power for rabbinical courts in bid to lure Shas

Click here for VIDEO

By Mazal Mualem October 24, 2008

Prime Minister-designate Tzipi Livni has reportedly said she would discuss a demand from Shas to extend the rabbinical courts’ jurisdiction to civil disputes between couples to try to persuade the ultra-Orthodox party to join the coalition.

…As far as Shas is concerned, the move is a coup – bolstering the rabbinical courts that would be able to rule on property issues between couples, among other things. 

Court issues temporary ban on Shabbat fencing meet

By Aviad Glickman October 24, 2008

The High Court of Justice decided on Friday to set a temporary ban on an athletic meet scheduled for Shabbat, pursuant to a petition by a young fencer who is a religious Jew.

Yuval Freilich, the Israeli fencing champion aged 13 and under and under, and his father Gabi, petitioned the High Court on Wednesday, asking it order the Israel Fencing Association to refrain from holding tournaments on the Shabbat.

The petition cited Yuval is discriminated against simply for being religious, and that the Israel Fencing Association’s actions hinder go against the Equal Opportunities Act. 

Watchdog organization petitions against state funding for talmudei torah

By Dan Izenberg October 15, 2008

The Movement for Quality Government on Wednesday petitioned the High Court of Justice to order the government to stop subsidizing haredi elementary schools that are not recognized by the state and are not under its supervision.

According to the petition, the Ministry of Education allocates each year more than NIS 170 million to haredi elementary schools, known as talmudei torah, which are not part of the recognized Independent education and Ma’ayan Hachinuch Hatorani haredi streams, even though there is no legal basis for the funding.

“If Israel is based on the rule of law, this situation cannot continue. Not only does it transfer millions of shekels of public money without a legal basis… 

[The state] transfers the funds to a private body which has no experience or training in supervising the spending of the funds and whose interests are not identical with the public interest,” the petition says.

Vexing Appeal to High Court to Halt Funding for Talmudei Torah in Eretz Yisrael

By Yechiel Spira October 24, 2008

Chinuch Atzmai [Independent Education System] Director Rav Avraham Yosef Lazerson explains there is nothing new here, calling petitions by the Reform Movement and Movement for Quality Government 

“tsunamis of hate and jealousy and an ongoing attempt to bring the chareidi chinuch in Eretz Yisrael to a state of despair.”

Chinuch Atzmai Issues Continue to Occupy Agenda of Gedolei Torah

By Yechiel Spira October 24, 2008

Behind the scenes is the matter of launching a new non-profit towards assisting Chinuch Atzmai.

A number of months ago, a person loyal to Maran Elyashiv [who does not reside in Yerushalayim] approached the gadol hador and requested his approval for the letter drafted — the letter to be sent to the Registrar of Non-Profits to launch the new organization.

Schnorring suddenly gets harder

By Matthew Wagner October 23, 2008

The haredim have been the hardest hurt by the financial crisis. 

Haredi educational institutions refuse to adopt the curriculum requirements dictated by the Education Ministry. As a result, they receive only partial state funding. The missing funds needed to run these institutions are supplied by tuitions and donations.

In haredi circles, financial matters have become an obsession…However, there has been little talk among haredi leaders about making changes in haredi society that would reduce its inordinate dependence on philanthropy.

“There have been tough times in the past, and we have never seen a significant change in the haredi way of life,” said a senior administrator connected with the yeshiva world. 

“If anything, when the economy is good, there is more of a temptation to leave the yeshiva and get a job. But when there is a recession, all the opportunities dry up.”

Religion and State in Israel

October 27, 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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