Religion and State in Israel – December 29, 2008 (Section 1)

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Religion and State in Israel

December 29, 2008 (Section 1) (continues in Section 2)

Click here to read ONLINE

Editor – Joel Katz

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

Movement for Alternative Beit Din Gets an Important Boost

By Dr. Elana Maryles Sztokman December 28, 2008

The public drive to create a viable alternative to the rabbinical court system received some significant support this week.

Mavoi Satum, in cooperation with Kolech and Neemanei Va’Avodah, received a five-year commitment from the New Israel Fund to help make this vision into a reality.

The implications are enormous, not only for agunot, not only for religious women, not only for the religious public, but also for women and men across all segments of Israeli society.

Batya Cahana-Dror, Director of Advocacy at Mavoi Satum, recently published an extensive article on the significance of this topic in Eretz Aheret.

Several volunteers from Mavoi Satum translated this important article into English. I am publishing it here for the first time in English. The future of Israeli society is undoubtedly at stake.

Violence is Not Grounds for Divorce

By Batya Cahana-Dror, Director of Advocacy Mavoi Satum 

December 27, 2008 Eretz Aheret, Vol. 46, Summer 2008

Translated by Judith Garson Djemal, Symma Freedmen and Sandra Lazowick

The issue of women in the rabbinic courts is one of the most important issues, in which Jewish values face the test of democratic reality.

Inside the court system, the rift between the judges and those who stand before them is deepening.

The judges, under pretense of democratic discourse, effectively negate the law as a basis of authority, and those who are being judged remain helpless. The revolution for civil rights has been left behind.

The battle of mesuravot get – women denied divorce, presents a difficult challenge for the religious judiciary system, functioning in democratic surroundings, and touches on several points of tension in Israeli society: 

halakha vs. law, rabbinic courts vs. civil courts, theocracy vs. Western liberalism, Jewish feminism vs. spreading fundamentalism, conservative, defensive orthodoxy, and modern liberal orthodoxy.

…It is up to the national religious public to lead the way in disconnecting from the apologetic, defensive, conservative Orthodoxy – a disconnect that would mean establishing a new Israeli Orthodox stream that would, among other things, establish its own religious courts.

…The creation of an alternative establishment will bring about an additional halakhic course as a central stream in Judaism – one that has a community of followers among the religious and traditional sectors, and which has institutions that return the halakha to its natural vibrancy, connecting it to our concrete lives while connecting its entire public to the State of Israel as a Jewish state.

NIS 700,000: Latest Award to Woman Whose Husband Refused to Give Her a Get

By Susan Weiss for Women’s Justice December 23, 2008

On December 14, 2008, Judge Tova Sivan of the Tel Aviv Family Court accepted our petition for damages (NIS 700,000) in compensation for the pain and suffering that our client endured because her husband refused to give her a get.

Justice Sivan rendered this decision despite the fact that the rabbinic court had not ordered the husband to divorce his wife. In fact, the rabbinic court had denied her request for such an order.

…This is the first time that the Family Court has awarded damages for get recalcitrance to a woman whose petition to order her husband to give her a get was denied.

This decision is yet another example of how the legal discourse in the Israeli courts is changing; and is a clear statement from our civil courts that get refusal is a tortious act that Israeli society will not tolerate.

Netanyahu vows to find compromise on civil unions

By Gil Hoffman December 25, 2008

Likud Chairman Binyamin Netanyahu attempted to attract Russian immigrant voters on Wednesday by announcing that a government led by him would pursue some version of a “civil union” to register couples who cannot be married by the Rabbinate.

He made this declaration at a press conference at the party’s Tel Aviv headquarters, which was called to launch its campaign aimed at Russian-speakers.

Civil marriage is not permitted in Israel, where the Rabbinate has a monopoly over Jewish marriage and divorce. But the state does register couples who marry abroad in non-religious ceremonies.

Immigrants who are not halachically Jewish but do not want to fly to Cyprus to marry Jews have been lobbying for years to at least be allowed to register legally as couples at the Interior Ministry.

Orthodox immigrant MK Ze’ev Elkin, who recently left Kadima for Likud, sponsored a bill in the outgoing Knesset that would allow legal registration for couples without violating Halacha.

Netanyahu did not officially endorse Elkin’s bill, but he said he would work to find a compromise solution to help such couples, despite warnings from Shas that it would not join any government that advances civil marriage.

No more illusions

By Rabbi Reuven Hammer Opinion December 23, 2008

The writer, who served on the Neeman Commission, is the head of the Rabbinical Court of the Rabbinical Assembly of Israel and a member of the board of directors of the Joint Institute for Jewish Studies.

One solution readily available is to make recognition of conversions by other rabbinical groups meaningful not only by recognizing them but by providing for the possibility of marriage outside of the framework of the Chief Rabbinate.

This could be done by the authorization of civil partnerships which could be solemnized religiously by rabbis of all denominations.

Another solution would be to permit alternative Orthodox courts to perform conversions that would be recognized by the state and to permit these courts to authorize marriages as well.

There are enough modern Orthodox rabbis in Israel who understand the situation and the Halacha who could do this. It requires courage for them to stand up against the current monopoly, but it can be done.

These solutions are not mutually exclusive and both require the breaking of the monopoly of the Chief Rabbinate on marriages.

Conversion Crisis in Israel Boils with New Appointee

By Nathan Jeffay December 24, 2008

“The Jewish Agency wants it to be known that it wants those who made aliyah under the Law of Return who were not halachically Jewish to have the chance to become so without obstacles,” Jankelowitz said.

It is expected, however, that such a body would still leave conversion in the hands of Orthodox rabbis, a position that rankled Reform delegates to the Jewish Agency congress. They saw the proposal as a betrayal of their fight for equality under Israeli law.

A motion that the Reform delegates introduced at the congress calling for government recognition for non-Orthodox conversions failed.

The idea of trusting Orthodox rabbis to deliver moderate conversions “has become bankrupt,” Dalya Levy, executive director of Arzenu, the international Zionist organization of the Reform movement, told the Forward.

“We think we’ve come to the end of the line on the whole process,” she said. 

“Whenever we say we don’t like being second class and prefer to be equals we are told we are being divisive.”

Secular conversion – an oxymoron

By Aliza Hausman Opinion December 23, 2008

The writer is a Latina Orthodox Jewish convert, freelance writer, educator and blogger. Currently working on a memoir about her conversion, she lives in New York with her husband, who is pursuing rabbinical ordination.

But what in the world is a secular conversion? What exactly does it look like? I’m sorry, but “secular conversion” sounds like an oxymoron.

…It seems clear to the observant outsider, no pun intended, that the way must be paved for civil marriage and civil burial institutions in Israel that don’t make people feel like outsiders.

Because in the meantime, the current practice of religious marriages and religious burials excludes thousands of Israeli citizens. It ensures that these people feel that they are not full-fledged citizens.

Now, don’t get me wrong. There is no question that the thousands of Israeli citizens of Jewish descent have a commitment to their Jewish relatives and their Jewish friends and family.

There is no question that they have pledged their faith in the State of Israel. Many of them are out there risking their lives every day for the state. God bless them. But whether they have pledged themselves in the Jewish faith is another story altogether.

Perhaps it’s time that being an Israeli citizen stopped being synonymous with being a Jew.

Because being an Israeli citizen should not arbitrarily make someone Jewish.

Aliya ‘qualifications’

By Maurice Singer December 22, 2008

The writer is Senior Aliyah Consultant at the Jewish Agency.

Q: My husband was born to a Jewish father and a non-Jewish mother. We have two children. We all made giur [conversion] before a Masorti [Conservative] Beth Din in London. 

If we make Aliyah, he would be granted Israeli citizenship. What would happen with my children and I?

A: If your husband can prove that he had a Jewish father then all of you are included within the Law of Return and as such are eligible to make Aliyah. 

As far as recognition of being Jewish you will have to battle with the Rabbinate regarding their attitude as to the Masorti giur.

Spiritual waterworld

By Ayelet Dekel December 25, 2008

Some of Mayyim Hayyim‘s rituals have been adapted and translated into Hebrew by a group of four Reform rabbis in Israel, who have compiled a book of suggested ceremonies, “Parashat Hamayyim” (“Watershed: New Opportunities for Immersion”). 
“Not that there is a mikveh [in Israel] where you could use them,” Kline said in an interview.

Indeed, almost all mikvehs in Israel – with exceptions such as that on Hanaton, a Conservative kibbutz – are supervised by the National Authority of Religious Services, and are only open for women’s immersion, according to Orthodox practice, after sundown. Local Reform and Conservative rabbis often counsel their converts to immerse in the sea.

Rabbi Haviva Ner-David, who received Orthodox ordination privately, comments that immersion “should actually be a ritual through which all denominations can come together.”

The Israel Religious Action Center of Reform Judaism (IRAC) has appealed to the Be’er Sheva and Jerusalem District Courts to allow non-Orthodox converts and brides access to the municipal mikvehs in those cities. 

The appeals are to be answered by the State Prosecutor’s Office, which has meanwhile requested an extension in providing a response.

“We will not accept this discrimination,” says Rabbi Gilad Kariv, IRAC’s associate director.

“The state finances the mikvehs, and it is unacceptable that they will be closed to Jews who are not Orthodox. As taxpayers, we are paying for the mikveh in Tel Aviv, for example, but have to take our converts to the Tel Baruch beach.”

National service for ultra-Orthodox a surprise success

By Shahar Ilan December 25, 2008

The number of ultra-Orthodox men currently performing national service – 470 – is more than double the number the National Civilian Service Administration had expected by the end of 2008, according to a report the administration will present to the cabinet Sunday. 

…The Tal Law was considered a failure for the first five years after its 2002 passage. 

The law allows yeshiva students over age 22 to take a year off from their studies without being drafted into the Israel Defense Forces and then choose between returning to full-time Torah study or completing an abbreviated stint in national service.

One major obstacle blocking ultra-Orthodox participation in the program was the Finance Ministry’s objection to funding a national service administration, preventing its establishment.

Shabbat Shalom: Parshat Miketz Genesis: 41:1-44:17

By Rabbi Shlomo Riskin Opinion December 27, 2008

Is there a concept of separate of Synagogue and State or at least Synagogue and Politics, in the Biblical tradition?

…the Chief Rabbis of Israel – High Priests of our modern age – must remain independent from the Prime Minister and Parliament.

The Rabbinic-ethical voice must be perceived as the eternal word of G-d, free of any political blandishments and concerned only in influencing by means of moral persuasion.

It must be independent of political coalitions and Knesset popularity; it must be as close as possible to the voice of God. 

Is this the case in Israel today?

When we remember that the chief Rabbis are elected by the political Knesset, and that the political coalition parties have a major hand in choosing the judges of the Chief Rabbinate High Court, politics plays a strong role in the determination of religio-legal policy.

Clearly it is time for a change!

Rabbinate without borders

By Amos Harel Opinion December 24, 2008

Whether due to education, ideology or achievement orientation, the fact is that the religious Zionist community sends its sons to front-line units and officers’ courses in greater numbers than any other segment of society.

The army will have to learn to meet them halfway on noncritical issues. A religious combat soldier should not be forced to listen to a female singer or be taught by female sports instructors wearing shorts.

But there are times when the army gets confused. A good example is the behavior of the IDF’s chief rabbi, Brig. Gen. Avichai Ronski.

…it seems that [Chief of Staff Gabi Ashkenazi] would be wise to summon Ronski and make it clear, once and for all, where the boundaries of an IDF chief rabbi’s activity and speech properly lie.

Betzedek Challenges Ashkelon’s Annulment of Fines for Businesses Open on Shabbos

By Yechiel Sever December 25, 2008

The City of Ashkelon has annulled the standard penalty built into the municipal ordinance that prevents businesses from operating on Shabbos and holidays. Following the unexpected move, legal rights organization Betzedek has warned the legislation is illegal and essentially nullifies the municipal ordinance entirely.

Recently it came to light that shortly before the recent municipal elections in the city, the former mayor passed an ordinance annulling the penalty clause from a number of city ordinances, including the law forbidding businesses and entertainment spots from opening on days of rest. Last week the ordinance was placed on the books.

Betzedek Director Atty. Rabbi Mordechai Green sent an urgent letter to Benny Vaknin, the newly elected mayor, demanding that the municipality restore the penalty clause to the ordinance in question and even significantly increase the amount of the fine imposed for violations.

This Hanukkah: 82% of Israelis still believe in miracles December 23, 2008

The poll showed that 96% of the Jewish Israeli public light Hanukkah candles, 82% believe in miracles and 69% believe the Jews’ resistance against foreign cultural influences is relevant today as well.

Ninety-six percent of participants asked if they planned to light Hanukkah candles said yes, with 78% saying they would light candles on each of the holiday’s eight nights.

Eighteen percent said they would light a candle on at least one of the nights, and 4% said they would not be lighting their menorah this year, agreeing with the statement: We don’t care about the holiday.

According to the poll, 82% said yes, and 41% said they have experienced miracles firsthand in the past, with 41% saying they were still waiting for their first miracle.

IDF Chief of Staff Ashkenazi Lights Candles with Nachal Charedi December 25, 2008

IDF Chief of Staff Gabi Ashekenazi lit Hanukah candles with the Nachal Charedi battalion Tuesday evening. 

The Nachal Charedi battalion is composed of religious soldiers and operates in Samaria.

Ashkenazi said to the soldiers, “The secret weapon of the IDF is spirit. I look at all of you and say to myself, ‘If these are our soldiers and this is our spirit, then there is nothing we cannot do.’”

Jerusalem mailmen prepare letters to Heaven for Kotel

By Max Socol December 25, 2008

…every year, as Hanukka and Christmas approach, Yaniv’s small warehouse in the Givat Shaul neighborhood is transformed into the address for wishes and prayers from around the world. Letters to God, or Jesus, or Heaven, come pouring into the holy city – and Yaniv and his crew are tasked with sorting the special letters and delivering them to the Western Wall.

Two weeks ago, a ceremony was held, widely covered in the international press, in which rabbis scooped up handfuls of letters from boxes marked “Letters to God,” and stuffed them into crack in the Wall

The photographs from the event are sure to warm hearts around the world.

Choosing your own Christmas trees from KKL-JNF forests December 14, 2008

Every year just before Christmas, [the Jewish National Fund] distributes trees to churches, monasteries, embassies and the foreign press in Israel.

JNF subsidizes the project to continue the good relations with our Christian citizens and visitors. We also supply trees to the United Nations missions in Israel

Personally, I have been working in KKL-JNF for 27 years and I want to see this beautiful tradition continue every year.”

Santa Claus and Judah Macabee join forces in Tel Aviv ‘end of year’ fair

By Matthew Wagner December 22, 2008

Santa Clauses, Christmas trees and reindeer are nowhere near as ubiquitous as Hanukka candles here during this holiday season, but they are definitely making inroads.

As more Israelis spend time abroad and the million immigrants from the former Soviet Union, many of whom are not Jewish, make their presence felt, malls and shopping centers throughout the country are using Christmas symbols to lure consumers.

Christmas symbols are no longer relegated solely to Arab Christian cities such as Nazareth and Bethlehem or to the Russian-language press and television.

Nor are the country’s foreign workers – the Filipinos, the Romanians and the Sudanese – the only target market.

Church of Nativity wired for live webcast December 24, 2008

As over a billion people turn their eyes towards the Church of the Nativity this time of year, the holy site in Bethlehem is ready to go online via live streaming video in time for the holidays for the first time ever.

The service has included streaming video 24/7 from key Christian holy sites in Jerusalem including Calvary, Mount of Olives, the Eastern Gate, the City of David, and the city of Jerusalem since its launch in October 2008.

A festival for all of us

By Andrew Tobin December 5, 2008

The Wadi Nisnas district of Haifa features an eclectic community of Christians, Muslims and Jews. 

In celebration of this diversity, the Festival of Festivals begins tomorrow for the 15th year running.

The festival encompasses Christmas, Hanukkah and Eid Al-Adha, with major events taking place every Saturday this December. Tens of thousands of visitors are expected.

Religion and State in Israel

December 29, 2008 (Section 1) (continues in Section 2)

Click here to read ONLINE

Editor – Joel Katz

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

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