Religion and State in Israel – November 3, 2008 (Section 2)

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Religion and State in Israel

November 3, 2008 (Section 2) (continued from Section 1)

Editor – Joel Katz

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

Religion looks set to be a central issue in election campaign

By Matthew Wagner October 30, 2008

Civil marriages and reforms in the rabbinical courts are just two religion-state issues waiting to be decided by the next government.

Other points of contention between religious and secular politicians include the writing of a constitution, which is adamantly opposed by haredi MKs, as well as reforms in various religious services, including conversions.

A cynical ethnic demon

Haaretz Editorial October 29, 2008

In a sophisticated bit of spin, [Eli Yishai, Shas] has accused associates of Kadima’s head, Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni, of thwarting coalition negotiations between the two parties, claiming that they were “hypocritical, racist and arrogant,” and that they had “released the ethnic demon from its bottle in an ugly way.” 

What the Haredim should pray for

By Shahar Ilan October 28, 2008

The polls are consistently showing that Kadima, Likud and Labor would win a total of some 70 Knesset seats, and this creates an exceptional opportunity.

For years those who voted for these parties have felt that their interests were being trampled in favor of the religious public and were told that it would be impossible to set up a government without the ultra-Orthodox. 

This is an opportunity they cannot waste. Here are a few initiatives they can and should implement in such a government.

Enact a civil union law.

Pass a property distribution law that would distinguish between property distribution and divorce and considerably decrease the extortion power of husbands and rabbinical judges.

Equalize child allowances by providing equal allowances for every child, regardless of the child’s place in the family.

The outrageous laws that grant the private ultra-Orthodox schools equal status to the state education system and exempt Haredi yeshivas from the core study program must be canceled.

Cancel the Religious Affairs Ministry and turn the religious councils into municipal departments.

Cancel the “Chief Israel rabbi” titles, which have become ridiculous and which nobody takes seriously.

Eli Yishai in first place

By Nehemia Shtrasler Opinion October 28, 2008

If Yishai truly wanted to deal with the poverty in the ultra-Orthodox community, he should have pressured Livni to make sure the curriculum of the Shas-sponsored El Hama’ayan educational system included all the “free” subjects, taught at the very highest level: science, computers, mathematics and English.

All these would prepare the young for a life of employment, which is the only way they can pull themselves out of poverty. 

Most parties agree on election date over ultra-Orthodox objections

By Shahar Ilan and Yair Ettinger October 30, 2008

The date was chosen over the objection of MK Yaakov Litzman (United Torah Judaism), who said it was “inconvenient” because it is the day after the Tu Bishvat (Arbor Day) holiday that Hasidim typically celebrate into the night.

The minor holiday, which is not a national holiday, is also the date of the Gerrer Rebbe’s granddaughter’s wedding – and Litzman is apparently worried that Gerrer Hasidim, a major element of UTJ’s constituency, will have a hard time making it to the polls the following d

“If party activists are up all night, I’ve lost all of Election Day,” said Litzman.

Chareidim Fear Tu B’Shvat Lag May Impact Elections October 29, 2008

It has been decided, the general elections for the 18th Knesset will take place on Tuesday, 10 February, 16 Shvat.

Agudas Yisrael’s Rav Yaakov Litzman tried to persuade the Knesset speaker to select another date, but he was unsuccessful in his quest. 

He fears that many Chassidim will attend Tu B’Shvat tischin the day before and the ‘lag’ will result in a low chareidi voter turnout.

In addition, on motzei Tu B’Shvat, a grandchild of the Gerre Rebbe will be getting married and this will keep tens of thousands of Chassidim up late, with Litzman fearing the event may also negatively impact chareidi voter turnout.

Meimad to decide on direction as Labor ties show signs of fading

By Gil Hoffman November 2, 2008

The Meimad Party is expected to make a decision this week on whether to continue its partnership with Labor, join forces with Kadima, or turn in a different direction, the party’s chairman, MK Rabbi Michael Melchior, said Saturday night.

Melchior denied reports that his dovish, religious-Zionist party had already reached a deal with Kadima and broken its bond with Labor, which began in 1999 at the request of Labor chairman Ehud Barak.

Meretz’s new MK brings fresh blood to the changing party, from a surprising direction

By Shelly Paz November 2, 2008

Veteran Meretz MKs Yossi Beilin and Ran Cohen, who both announced their retirement from politics last week, will leave behind a huge gap in Meretz, which is drawing speculation regarding the left-wing party’s future.

This gap is to be partially filled by ultra-Orthodox left-wing activist Dr. Tzvia Greenfield…

Greenfield, who was born in Jerusalem, currently resides in the capital’s haredi neighborhood of Har Nof. 

She is the mother of five grown children and is married to an American pediatrician, with whom she lived in the US for a number of years.

She was raised in a haredi home and attended a Beit Ya’acov school. She attended the Hebrew University of Jerusalem, completing her doctoral degree in political philosophy there in 2005.

She has been engaged in political and social activities since the early 90s, when she established the Mifne Institute for Democracy and Cultural Identity, which is active within Israel’s haredi community

Likud and Shas – natural partners?

By Matthew Wagner November 2, 2008

According to the haredi weekly Mishpacha, Shas and the Likud have a secret deal to form a government coalition together.

Reportedly, the Likud promised to form a government coalition with Shas, and promised Yishai the Interior portfolio and deputy prime ministership.

The Religious Affairs portfolio will also go to Shas, according to Mishpaha, along with two additional ministries. Torah institutions’ budgets will remain unchanged.

Rabbi Yosef: Woman can be prime minister November 2, 2008

Rabbi Ovadia Yosef, Shas spiritual leader:

“In regards to appointing a woman as prime minister – if she conducts herself with dignity and honesty, and is instrumental in strengthening religion more than any man who submits his candidacy, then we most certainly should give preference to electing the woman.

“It is absolutely forbidden to support any party whose representatives are not God fearing,” he added.

“On the contrary, we must vote in favor of representatives that strengthen the power of the Torah. 

And if people who are not fit can be found in all the parties, then the ones that are closer to religion should be favored.”

Rabbi Ariel: Elect women if they promote religion October 29, 2008

Rabbi Ariel wrote that it is hard to answer without knowing the conditions, but added that in principle, 

“if choosing a woman will advance Torah-related issues more so than if a man is chosen, a woman is preferable.”

Shas Rabbi assumes Biblical proportions in billboard battle

By Etgar Lefkovits November 3, 2008

A new political advertisement on Jerusalem billboards quotes from the Bible and equates Shas spiritual leader Rabbi Ovadia Yosef with Moses.

Who is on the LORD’s side? Let him come unto me,” reads the top of the advertisement in bold black lettering – the question Moses asks the people of Israel in Exodus 32:26, after having received the 10 Commandments and seeing the golden calf they had made in his absence.

An immense picture of a beaming Yosef – bedecked in his trademark sunglasses, turban and gold-embroidered robes – appears immediately beneath the Hebrew text.

The bottom of the advertisement concludes, “I believe,” followed by the Shas logo.

Netanyahu rebuffs Shas bid to take over Education Ministry

By Shahar Ilan October 31, 2008

Speaking at the Knesset ceremony on the seventh anniversary of the murder of Minister Rehavam Ze’evi, Netanyahu said the idea of the ultra-Orthodox Shas party taking over the education portfolio in the next coalition government would be a “nightmare.” 

Shas Chairman Eli Yishai said earlier yesterday that his party would demand the education portfolio to bolster the state’s Jewish curriculum. 

Needed: a taxpayers party

By Nehemia Shtrasler Opinion October 31, 2008

What is missing now in the Knesset is a successor to Shinui: a taxpayers party that would raise the twin banners of economic freedom and freedom from religious coercion.

A party that would be a counterweight to Shas and would represent the humanist values of the secular majority.

A party that would also work to pass a civil marriage law, so nobody will have to fly to Cyprus in order to marry, as well as abolishing the local religious councils, which cost a fortune. They can be ordinary departments in the municipalities

Breslov Chassidus Wants a Slot on Shas Ticket October 30, 2008

On Wednesday, Shas leader Eli Yishai met with Rav Shalom Harush, Rosh Yeshiva Chut Shel Breslov, a prominent leader in one of the numerous Breslov factions in Eretz Yisrael today.

It appears Breslov is seeking representation on the Shas lineup in the general election for the 18th Knesset.

Jewish Agency Hit by Financial Tsunami October 29, 2008

Click here for VIDEO

Jewish Agency cuts $45 million from 2009 budget

By Greer Fay Cashman October 30, 2008

Giving after the crunch

By Anshel Pfeffer October 31, 2008

…The large organizations such as the Jewish Agency and JNF will lose much of their influence. 

The upside of these developments should be the elimination of the vast bureaucracy that filtered the charitable money down to its destination and a real engagement of a new generation of successful Jewish donors with the recipients and their communities. 

On the flip side, it will also mean a greater outside influence of money on Israeli society and politics.

Just as philanthropists are set to become a lot more selective as to where they put their money, they will also be a lot more demanding as to what that money can achieve.

JA slashing budget, cutting back staff due to financial crisis

By Cnaan Liphshiz October 31, 2008

The cutback will affect the Jewish Agency’s activity abroad, particularly in the United States, the former Soviet Union and South America, where emissaries may be required to take on more duties. 

Click here for a copy of the Jewish Agency’s 2008 budget for 2008.

As Kadima enlists Bielski, talk about replacing him begins

By Haviv Rettig November 3, 2008

Already rumors have started about possible contenders to replace the chairman, with the most common name being Kadima’s Housing and Construction Minister Ze’ev Boim, who expressed interest in the position when Sallai Meridor vacated it in 2005 to become Israeli ambassador to Washington.

…Before any permanent chairman is elected in a summer meeting of the WZO General Council, Bielski would have to formally quit in favor of the Knesset.

This would only happen, according to one Jewish Agency insider, if he won a high spot in the Kadima primaries and received a portfolio as part of the next cabinet.

Operating Budgets to Return to Religious Zionist Education

By Yishai Fleisher November 2, 2008

Last Wednesday the Treasury gave its approval to the Finance Committee to return the funds which Education Minister Yuli Tamir slashed from the educational institutions of the Religious Zionist movement, including yeshivas and the national service.

According to the decision of the Finance Committee the monies will pass to the yeshiva high schools, the girls’ seminaries, to the National Service, and other educational wings including dormitories and to Torah community groups.

Women Protesting through Song

By Dr. Elana Maryles Sztokman Opinion October 28, 2008

Miriam sang. Deborah sang. The women in the Temple sang. But today, in modern Israel, women are forbidden from singing, at least in public.

Over the past few months, there has been an increasing number of incidents in which women have been asked not to sing in the Knesset, in the army, and in IDF and Holocaust memorial ceremonies.

…Well, some women are not taking this quietly. Today, Roni Aloni Savodnik organized a “singing protest” outside the Knesset. She and group of her female friends did a remarkable thing: they sang.

“Our singing voices are spiritual and human and we will not allow ourselves to be insulting by the notion that ‘a woman’s voice is sinful’” Savodnik wrote in an essay in on the Kolech website .

She and a group of women stood outside the Knesset today and sang in full volume.

“We will continue to do this until Knesset speaker Daliah Itzik cancels the rule forbidding women from singing, until the Israel judiciary implements full equality in the government.”

Singing a different tune

By Nadav Shragai November 3, 2008

For years, Otniel Yeshiva, like other educational institutions affiliated with the religious Zionist movement, has not made do with just learning and living life according to halakha (traditional religious law), but is also searching for a more experiential spiritual world.

The two main axes of this search are Hasidism and music. 

…The general trend toward Hasidism is reflected in different ways, but undoubtedly its clearest indicator in recent years is the shift of hundreds and perhaps even thousands of youths from the national-religious sector to Bratslav Hasidism.

God as ‘Big Mama’

By Tamar Rotem October 31, 2008

Ruhama Weiss teaches at several institutions, including Hebrew Union College, the Beit Daniel Center for Progressive Judaism in Tel Aviv-Jaffa and the Kolot Center for Jewish Women’s and Gender Studies.

…Weiss, 42, is a divorced mother of two who lives in Jerusalem. Although she was never the kind of religious woman to keep her blouse buttoned all the way up and has always been opinionated – her friends dubbed her “the lefty” – she was a distinct product of Israel’s national-religious educational system.

She grew up in a religious-Zionist household, dutifully attended the Bnei Akiva youth movement and studied at Horev.

…Weiss was among the pioneers who founded Midreshet Bruria in Jerusalem, the first all-female yeshiva.

“I was drawn to the Gemara in a kind of defiance. You say I can’t? I’ll show you,” she says.

She was also one of a handful of women studying in the Hebrew University’s Talmud department, surrounded by male yeshiva students.

After getting her degree, she taught Talmud for two years at the Pelech girls high school in Jerusalem – the flagship institution of the local liberal-religious community.

She also coordinated seminars for Bnei Akiva group leaders, but was kicked out of both places. 

Rockiah combines hard rock with the holy book

By Raphael Ahren October 31, 2008

Newman, who moved from Washington, D.C. to Israel 15 years ago, says the band wants to give observant listeners another avenue to express their religion.

As for the non-religious, he says, “this is a way to introduce them to a whole different side of Judaism, a side they hadn’t seen before, a side that is very artistic.”

He added, 

“We find people who say: Wow, this stuff is cool, and this is Jewish? That’s something to think about. We’re not about to give Torah lessons, but if we can have this kind of effect, if we can help people connect to their Judaism, then why not?”

Rabbi Aviner prohibits double dating

By Kobi Nahshoni November 3, 2008

Rabbi Shlomo Aviner, whose controversial rulings on relationships and dating have sparked a series of public debates, spoke out against double dating Sunday in a Q&A section of a synagogue pamphlet.

Aviner ruled that a couple on a date should not meet with another couple, be they married or single, even if the reason for such an outing were to observe the other’s behavior in a standard social environment.

3rd Year Yerushalayim Bais Yaakov Seminary Students Sent Home November 1, 2008

Students at a Bais Yaakov teacher’s seminary in Yerushalayim returning to classes after the Yomim Tovin were surprised to find a letter addressed to the Shana Gimmel students indicating that they could not continue in the program this year.

Israel’s Ministry of Education requires three years of study for a teaching certificate, rather than the two years that most girls remain in seminary.

But this week, students in the final year of the certificate program were told that classes had been discontinued by the Vaad HaRabbonim, except for those students who brought a signed letter from a school indicating that they are actively employed as teachers in the field they are studying.

New Jerusalem MBA program will stress Jewish ethics in business

By Judy Siegel-Itzkovich October 30, 2008

The Council for Higher Education has approved a new MBA at the Jerusalem College of Technology that will put much stress on Jewish ethics and morality.

This course at JCT (also known as Machon Lev) in the capital’s Givat Mordechai neighborhood is the first of its kind in Israel, and appears extremely timely. Unethical behavior of US investment bankers was a major factor in the global financial crisis.

A room for making business deals and buying shares while implementing the principles of Jewish ethics has been installed on campus. Students will be able to use money for stock purchases from a special fund.

Gravesites of rabbinical sages mean big business for peddlers

By Noga Mashal October 30, 2008

The grave of Ben-Uziel attracts 1.5 million visitors a year. That’s a lot.

The gravesite of Rabbi Shimon Bar-Yochai at Mount Meron, which attracts more than 200,000 for the Lag B’Omer hilula – public celebration for a sainted rabbi – gets some 2 million.

…The National Center for the Development of the Holy Sites is responsible for running 132 sites, some of which are sages’ graves. There are more sainted rabbis’ tombs around Israel: a guide written by Rabbi Yisrael Gliss mentions 267 of them. 

There’s no law enforcement and the criminals keep returning, taking over the selling. It isn’t peanuts, either: tens of millions of dollars a year change hands at Bar-Yochai’s grave alone, Saida estimates.

“I assume that millions more are turned over at the other graves,” he says. 

…Another reason for the absence of supervision is a battle between various bodies about management. 

Bar-Yochai’s grave is formally under the wing of the National Center for the Development of the Holy Sites. 

But in practice it is co-controlled by embattled Sephardi and Ashkenazi bodies. 

New Yad Vashem books teach Holocaust to haredim

By Matthew Wagner October 28, 2008

A new four-book series entitled Years Wherein We Have Seen Evil that teaches the Holocaust from a religious perspective was launched Sunday by Yad Vashem.

The books and the accompanying testimonies preserved on CD will be used as the basis for teaching the Holocaust in haredi educational institutions.

…Nava Weiss, head of Yad Vashem’s Haredi Department, which was established seven years ago, said that tailoring the teaching of the Holocaust to the special needs of the haredi community is part of larger trend in Israeli society.

…Until recently, the haredi education system did not teach the Holocaust.

In part this was due to a dearth of teaching materials, said Weiss. But it was also part of the haredi rejection of Zionist narrative of the Holocaust and its refusal to recognize Holocaust Remembrance Day, which fell on the anniversary of the Warsaw Ghetto uprising.

Religion and State in Israel

November 3, 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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