Religion and State in Israel – November 3, 2008 (Section 1)

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Religion and State in Israel

November 3, 2008 (Section 1) (continues in Section 2)

Editor – Joel Katz

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

Porush: God Willing There Won’t Be Any Secular Mayors in 10 Years

Photo courtesy of Mirah Curzer November 3, 2008

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On the eve of Jerusalem’s mayoral elections, the city’s only ultra-orthodox candidate, Meir Porush, has made a major political blunder that may cost him the election.

At a gathering of Haredi supporters on Saturday evening, the candidate was quoted as saying that God willing, in another ten years’ time there won’t be a single secular mayor in any city in Israel.

Porush was asked about his remarks when he arrived at a fair on Jerusalem’s Emek Refaim Street on Sunday evening, but when asked to elaborate on the comments he had made, he denying them entirely.

When he learned that the inflammatory remarks were taped and broadcast by Channel 2 News on Sunday evening and an audio recording of his speech was being widely circulated, he said he had merely been speaking of the connection between the National Religious and the ultra-Orthodox community.

Meir Porush: In 15 years, Israel won’t have any secular mayors

By Yair Ettinger and Nadav Shragai November 3, 2008

“In another 15 years there will not be a secular mayor in any city in Israel, [except for] perhaps in some far-flung village,” 

Porush, the ultra-Orthodox candidate in this year’s municipal poll, told a pre-election gathering of Belz Hasidim. 

Porush’s remark was not intended for general consumption; it was made in Yiddish to an all-Haredi audience at Jerusalem’s Belzer yeshiva. 

But it became public knowledge when it was broadcast live, without his knowledge, by the cellular news service Hakol Haharedi. 

In his speech, Porush noted that the religious community’s size, and therefore its influence, has been growing, due primarily to its high birthrate. 

Jerusalem, he pointed out, elected its first Haredi mayor five years ago, and Beit Shemesh may well do the same in next week’s municipal election, as the Shas Party’s candidate currently leads in the polls

Don’t judge a Porush by his beard

By Neri Livneh Opinion October 29, 2008

Billboards across Jerusalem depict a sweet grandfatherly Smurf who greets pedestrians with the words: “Jerusalem will like Porush. From experience.”

This promise, containing a veiled threat, is Meir Porush’s campaign slogan.  

Thousands of Belzer Chassidim Attend Porush Support Rally

By Yechiel Spira November 2, 2008

Thousands of Belzer Chassidim on motzei Shabbos attended a rally in support of Rabbi Meir Porush, who is a contender in the Jerusalem mayoral election.

The Rebbe’s gabbai, Rav Shimon Ze’ev Klein addressed the rally as well, stating 

“whoever does not vote for Porush results in a chilul Hashem,” stating to vote for the frum candidate is an act “L’Shem Shamayim”.

On The Eve of Municipal Elections Meretz Wants To “Liberate” Jerusalem from Haredi Influence October 29, 2008

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As the city of Jerusalem immerses itself in local politics during the run-up to the November 11th municipal elections, met with leading City Council member Yosef “Pepe” Alalo to speak with him about his campaign for reelection and his vision for the future of the city.

Jerusalem Chareidi Sector Unites Behind UTJ List and Rabbi Porush’s Mayoral Bid October 31, 2008

If the chareidi sector fails to unite in support of the single chareidi candidate for mayor of Jerusalem the chareidi sector is liable to lose all of the progress made in the current term to promote the sanctity of Jerusalem and to meet the needs of the chareidi sector and the Torah-based educational institutions.

Belz Chassidus Working Towards a Porush Success: Photos October 29, 2008

Nir Barkat meets with Gur Hassidim to aid campaign

By Yair Ettinger October 28, 2008

He may be known as the secular candidate for Jerusalem mayor, but Nir Barkat met this week with representatives of the Gur Hassidic sect in an attempt to gain ultra-Orthodox support for his bid.

Barkat is trying to take advantage of the split in the Agudat Yisrael party to bolster his campaign.

A struggle over control of the independent ultra-Orthodox educational system has led the party’s Gur faction to try to help block the party’s mayoral candidate, MK Meir Porush.

It’s Sad To Be Mayor

By Kamoun Shimon Issue 15, November 10, 2008 The Jerusalem Report

Ultimately, the elections may come down, then, to voter turnout and whether the secular, traditional and modern Orthodox sectors of the city will be motivated more by their fear of ultra-Orthodox control – and their outrage at incidents such as the dancers at the Calatrava Bridge and the refusal to sell advertising space on buses in the city – or by their own self-fulfilling apathy and alienation.

High Court petitioned to order Knesset vote on automatic property division

By Dan Izenberg November 3, 2008

A coalition of social justice, women’s and religious organizations petitioned the High Court of Justice on Friday, demanding that Knesset Speaker Dalia Itzik put to vote in final reading a bill to divide the assets between a couple undergoing divorce before the divorce is granted.

The private member’s bill, submitted by Michael Melchior (Labor-Meimad), Zevulun Orlev (National Union-National Religious Party), and Othniel Schneller and Menahem Ben-Sasson (Kadima) is aimed at preventing either side in a divorce from blackmailing the other into conceding material rights in return for agreeing to a divorce.

…According to the bill, the assets of the couple will be automatically divided at a specific time in the divorce procedure. 

In most cases, it will be done one year after one of the sides has filed for divorce in court. 

In some cases, the division will take place at a given point in time after the couple has separated.

 In cases where there is domestic violence, the date of the division may be advanced.

The bill’s sponsors believe that once the material “potential” of the divorce is neutralized, the recalcitrant party in many cases will give in and grant the divorce, since he has nothing to gain from not doing so.

MKs debate property distribution law

By Amnon Meranda November 2, 2008

As the Knesset prepares for its election break, a battle is taking place in its corridors over a bill aimed at allowing couples to divide their property before a divorce is granted.

See also: Knesset Committee: Division of property before divorce October 1, 2008

Livni to introduce ‘civil marriage’ bill October 30, 2008

Kadima intends to introduce a bill to legalize civil marriage in Israel, the faction’s chairwoman Tzipi Livni announced late Wednesday night.

“I support civil marriage,” she told Channel 9, Israel’s Russian-language channel. 

“It’s an important issue in Kadima’s platform, and I want to bring it before the Knesset now, before the recess.”

She called the issue “a matter of principle,” and said that it would be part of Kadima’s platform in the upcoming elections.

The bill would enable some 300,000 Israelis who are currently seen by the state as “without religious affiliation,” and as such cannot be married by the Rabbinate, to get married in Israel. Many of the citizens with such status are Russian-Israelis.

Livni said that she planned to put the bill forward before the Knesset breaks for elections, despite the fact that it would be have little chance of passing. 

Just putting it forward, she said, would show where Kadima stands on the matter.

Rav Amar Shlita Decries Lack of Local Rabbonim October 30, 2008

Sephardic Chief Rabbi Shlomo Amar is seeking to establish an organization which would include hundreds of rabbonim, hoping to use the new body to facilitate the appointment of rabbonim and fill the vacancies.

This body will be a rabbinical lobby and profession support organization.

The Rav plans to enlist top media consultants to train and assist rabbonim regarding how to conduct themselves with the media, a sphere in which most are lacking. 

He also wants to promote activities that will permit the rabbis to begin maintaining a higher profile and enjoy greater positive media exposure.

Portraits of women running for J’lem council not allowed on buses

By Etgar Lefkovits October 30, 2008

A company responsible for advertising on the Egged bus company has refused to place a political advertisement on Jerusalem city buses showing female candidates for the city council, so as not to offend the haredi public.

The advertisement rejected last week by the Canaan advertising company, which is charged with advertising with the Egged bus cooperative, includes the portrait of two fully clothed women – along with a man – running for city council on a joint religious-secular list called Wake up Jerusalem-Yerushalmim. The municipal elections will take place on November 11.

A spokesman for the company on Wednesday stood by the rejection of the ad.

“All advertisements are subject to the approval of the Egged censor,” Canaan company spokesman Ohad Gibli said.

“In order not to offend the sensitivities of a certain public, certain criteria have been defined regarding the content of advertisements.”

Meretz ad in Ramat Gan deemed immodest

By Adi Sasson November 2, 2008

Meretz’s Ramat Gan branch was told last week that if the sleeves of the party’s third municipal candidate, Yuli Goldstein, are not lengthened in the party’s ad campaign the ads would not be posted on local buses.

The Canaan advertising company, which is responsible for ads on buses belonging to the Dan Bus Company operating in central Israel, referred to a sign featuring Goldstein wearing a short sleeved t-shirt, surrounded by high-rising buildings.

Three top rabbinate officials among 10 charged in religious-study certificates scam

By Ofra Edelman November 3, 2008

Three senior rabbinate officials are among the 10 people charged on Sunday with falsely certifying some 1,500 members of the security forces as having completed a course of religious study equivalent to a bachelor’s degree. 

The defendants include the bureau chiefs of both current Ashkenazi Chief Rabbi Yona Metzger and former Ashkenazi chief rabbi Israel Meir Lau, as well as the deputy chief rabbi of the Israel Police. 

The other seven are officials of yeshivas in Beit She’an, Haifa, Be’er Sheva, Safed and Gan Ner. 

Most of the false documents were issued by Yitzhak Ohana, Rabbi Lau’s former bureau chief, who at the time headed the rabbinate’s examination department. 

Rabbi Metzger’s bureau chief, Meir Rosenthal, was the one primarily responsible for distributing the certificates to the recipients; he was a student at Darchei Hora’a L’rabbanim at the time. 

Rosenthal, the indictment added, earned some NIS 2 million from the scam, which he failed to declare to the tax authorities. 

Aharon Gottesdiner, the police’s deputy chief rabbi, not only participated in the fraudulent scheme, but also took a bribe from one of the yeshivas involved in it, the indictment charged. 

10 arrested in false rabbinical titles scam

By Dan Izenberg November 2, 2008

During these years, the rabbinate issued certificates to 1,500 security officers who had studied at the yeshivas listed in the indictment. 

The state paid these alleged rabbis a total of NIS 250,000. 

Haredi woman sues Pelephone for ‘ruining her life’

By Roni Lifshitz October 28, 2008

An ultra-Orthodox woman filed a NIS 2.5 million (some $653,000) damages suit against Pelephone Communications, one of Israel’s mobile phone service providers, claiming breach of contract which led to the “destruction of her home life.”

…Several days after the husband found out about her conversations with another man, she said, she was subpoenaed to the regional Rabbinical Court and issued a divorce.

Furthermore, the judges warned her that she may also be deemed a “rebellious wife,” which would strip her of her rights to any communal property and may prevent her from ever marrying within the Orthodox community again.

The Rabbinical Court did not award her any property; her ex-husband has taken all of what used to be their mutual belongings, he does not pay her alimony, nor does he have any contact with their two-year-old daughter.

As a result of the verdict, she added, she has been shunned by her community and the local chastity squads have begun an intimidation campaign against her.

Police fail to stop ultra-Orthodox ‘modesty patrols’

By Yair Ettinger October 30, 2008

Elhanan Buzaglo is currently being tried in a Jerusalem court. The state prosecution describes him as “a fist for hire” and he is charged with assaulting the complainant, Michal…

…The police had no difficulty connecting Buzaglo with Binyamin Meirowitz, a Gerrer Hasid who is known in Jerusalem to be connected unofficially with “the committee for the purity of our camp.”

This is a veteran ultra-Orthodox organization which, in addition to its overt activities on matters of modesty, is said to have been active over the years in “enforcing the law” against pedophiles in ultra-Orthodox neighborhoods and against ultra-Orthodox men involved in forbidden romantic affairs.

Among his other activities, Meirowitz owns the Ne’eman printing press, where Buzaglo worked, posting public notices. 

…In his memorandum, the investigator wrote that Buzaglo had spoken of “a great number of incidents, between 15 and 20 incidents, in which they had dealt with people.

He had received $2,000 for every job. He said he would have to think it over very carefully whether he wanted to make such a deal and if he decided to go ahead with it, he would tell us about all the people and all the cases.” 

Standoff in Ramot as Jerusalem City Hall Tries to Raze Illegal Shul

By Yechiel Spira November 2, 2008

Residents of Kadima Street in the Ramot area of Yerushalayim on Sunday morning were not about to sit by and permit municipal inspectors to destroy a shul that was set up in a temporary structure for the yomim tovim.

According to the commitment signed by Ariel Sharfer on behalf of the neighborhood, the structure was to be used during Tishrei to facilitate their needs during the yomim tovim, after which it would be voluntarily removed.

…According to a Kol Chai Radio report, the dati leumi residents of the area favor removing the shul, fearing if permitted to continue, the shul will contribute to the their community becoming increasingly chareidi. 

Rabbis send ultra-Orthodox to protest bars recently opened in Netivot

By Haaretz Staff and Channel 10 November 3, 2008

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Tensions are high between secular and religious residents of the southern town of Netivot, due several recently-opened bars that have brought droves of Haredi protesters into the streets.

Three such establishments have opened in the city in the last several weeks, much to the chagrin of many ultra-Orthodox residents offended by the notion of what goes on inside. 

On Saturday night, hundreds of demonstrators heeded the calls of local rabbis and protested outside one of the bars. Several disputes erupted with residents who didn’t take well to the protest.

Shefa Shuk Supermarket Chain to Close Following Charedi Boycott October 30, 2008

The Shefa Shuk supermarket chain will close for good within a month or two, owner Dudi Wiessman announced. A new supermarket chain, to be called “Shefa Tov,” will open in its place.

Several days ago, the Blue Square group announced that over the course of the coming year it is investing 30 million NIS in a new supermarket chain targeting the Charedi community. Approximately 15 Shefa Shuk branches will be converted into Shefa Tov stores, the group said.

The Shefa Shuk chain is being boycotted by the Charedi community in protest of the Shabbos operation of several outlets of the AM:PM convenience store chain also owned by Wiessman. 

Financial reports suggested that the boycott took a heavy toll on the Blue Square group. However, it remains unclear whether the Charedi community will take to the Shefa Tov chain; most will see it as merely a Shefa Shuk reincarnation.

Chassidish Kashrus Agencies to Unite, Challenge Eidah HaCharedis Monopoly November 1, 2008

Sources say that there is deal in its final stages that could change the face of Kashrus in Israel.

The deal will result in a unified Chassidish Kashrus agency that organizers hope will appeal to a broad cross-section of the Charedi public.

The Belz, Agudas Yisroel, and Mehadrin-R’ Rubin Kashrus agencies are to be replaced by a new, unified Kashrus agency. The new group will be called the “Badatz Vaad HaRabbonim”.

The three Hechsherim will unite with a common goal in mind: to compete against the Badatz Eidah HaCharedis.

Two Brothers Jailed For Kashrus Fraud October 29, 2008

The court in Petach Tikvah has sentenced two brothers, owners of a plant which imports kosher organic foods, to suspended jail terms and heavy fines for Kashrus fraud.

Judge Leah Lev On stated that the two had falsely claimed that their products were kosher, even though they did not have any genuine Kashrus certification. Although these items were not kosher at all, it stated on their packaging that they were.

Rabbi’s ruling: Torah falls; community must fast

By Hila Shay Vazan October 29, 2008

The Torah scroll that fell from the hands of a 12-year-old child during the traditional “hakafot” (circuit) celebrations at the Zechor Avraham Synagogue in Modiin, yielded a religious ruling by the city’s Chief Rabbi David Lau.

The decree stated that all the community’s men will have to fast in repentance next Thursday.

Reform Movement Wins Case on Seminary Property Taxes October 30, 2008

The Israel Religious Action Center, on behalf of the Reform Movement recently won a case concerning the status of Hebrew Union College-Jewish Institute of Religion’s municipal tax status in Jerusalem.

The taxation case concerned the decision by the Jerusalem municipality, which had reorganized its taxation system, to rescind the classification of HUC-JIR’s Jerusalem campus as a religious and educational facility, which entitled it to a substantial property tax reduction.

IRAC initially explained to the municipality that HUC-JIR still met the criteria for both designations.

When the municipality disagreed, IRAC sought a court ruling on the college’s status, and successfully argued that it is, in fact, both a religious and educational institution.

City officials later said the municipality apparently had misunderstood the word “seminary,” confusing it with the Hebrew word seminar, which denotes a teacher’s college and has nothing to do with religious training.

Although a certain amount of humor can be found in this episode, leaders of IRAC believe the outcome was a victory for the entire Progressive movement in Israel.

Chareidim Protest Major Missionary Event in Haifa

By Yechiel Spira November 2, 2008

A large protest was held by the chareidi community against a missionary event held in Haifa on Thursday night.

Twenty-five buses brought participants to a missionary event held in the Haifa Auditorium in the Merkaz Carmel area. The protest was sponsored by Yad L’Achim…

Hundreds of area residents took part in the protest, including HaRav HaGaon Dovid Zalman Zoldon of the Seret Vishnitz community. City Councilman (Agudah) Rav Aryeh Blitental was also in attendance.

4 Palestinians claim descent from Jews forced to convert

By Nadav Shragai October 29, 2008

Four Palestinians from the Hebron Hills contacted a group of rabbis on Tuesday and claimed to be the descendents of Jews who were forced to convert to Islam. 

The Palestinians were accompanied by Zvi Mesini, a researcher who wrote a book on the subject and assisted them in learning more about Judaism.

According to the Palestinians, their families had removed mezuzahs from their doors in order to avoid harassment by their neighbors. 

Noahides Warmly Welcomed Along Unfamiliar Journey

By Hillel Fendel October 30, 2008

Two non-Jews took vows in Jerusalem this week, and judges in the new court of Jewish law known as the “Sanhedrin” deemed them full-fledged Noahides.

A delegation of rabbis from the nascent Sanhedrin, a Jewish legal court struggling for legitimacy in the Jewish world, heard and confirmed the vows, recited by a teenaged male and a young woman. It was made clear that this is not necessarily a step towards full conversion to Judaism, and that Judaism fully recognizes the role of non-Jews who are loyal to the Torah.

Rabbi Chaim Richman of the Temple Institute told the newly-declared Noahides, 

“This is a new beginning for you, because you have gone from being a generic ‘son of Noah’ to being a Righteous Gentile, with a place in the World to Come. 

You have chosen this path not because you simply believe it is moral or the right thing to do, but because it was revealed by G-d to Moses at Mt. Sinai.”

The Big Kahuna

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A gathering of the tribe in Jerusalem

A Kohen-Levi international conference brings together Jewish priests to discuss the DNA connection, the nature of priesthood in modern life and looking ahead to serving in the Third Temple.

Religion and State in Israel

November 3, 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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