Religion and State in Israel – February 23, 2009 (Section 2)

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Religion and State in Israel

February 23, 2009 (Section 2) (continued from Section 1)

Click here to read ONLINE

Editor – Joel Katz

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

Conservative rabbis want Chief Rabbinate privatized

By Frances Kraft February 19, 2009

“In general, there’s a sense of the need to move toward a greater separation of synagogue and state,”

 said Toronto’s Rabbi Baruch Frydman-Kohl, one of about 300 rabbis and one of about 10 Canadian rabbis to attend last week’s annual Rabbinical Assembly convention in Jerusalem.

Rabbi Martin Lockshin, a York University Jewish studies professor who has Orthodox smichah, said he believes there has to be “a further separation of synagogue and state in the State of Israel.”

“I’d be in favour of civil marriages and divorces,” he added. “If the Chief Rabbinate is not controlling areas of personal status, it can be a force for intellectual and religious growth for the Jewish people.”

North American Reform rabbis to meet in Jerusalem this week

By Etgar Lefkovits February 23, 2009

More than 300 Reform rabbis from North America will convene in Jerusalem this week for their annual rabbinical conference, seeking to bolster the tiny Reform Judaism movement in Israel.

The six-day event, which opens Tuesday, aims to strengthen the liberal movement’s ties with Israel and build bridges to its religious and secular communities.

“The fact that the largest Jewish community in the world still has not recognized Reform rabbis and Reform Judaism’s institution of learning is something that must be fixed,” said Anat Hoffman, executive director of the Israel Religious Action Center, the legal and political arm of Reform Jewry in Israel.

“I want to see liberal Jews around the world break their silence and make their voice heard,” she said, adding that “there was not much room for hope” within Israel on the issue.

“If Reform and Conservative Judaism want to stay alive in the world, they must take root in Israel,” Hoffman concluded.

Preventing a schism

By Mike Prashker Opinion February 20, 2009

Mike Prashker is founder and director of Merchavim: The Institute for the Advancement of Shared Citizenship in Israel.

The recent elections in both the United States and Israel have exposed a deep and potentially catastrophic schism between the world’s two preeminent Jewish communities. 

…At its best and most effective – there is no contradiction – the response of American Jewry will be based on deeply held Jewish, Zionist and democratic values.

It will be driven by a strong commitment to Jewish peoplehood and confidence in the uncompromising inclusive vision of Israel’s founders.

It will also be grounded in hard-nosed pragmatism and self-interest and energized by America’s new found confidence in the unrivaled might of democracy and the power of hope. 

‘Jews facing increased challenges and threats worldwide’

By Herb Keinon and Abe Selig February 23, 2009

Representatives of the Jewish People Policy Planning Institute (JPPPI) briefed the cabinet at its weekly meeting Sunday on their 2008 assessment, presenting a particularly bleak forecast.

Among the JPPPI’s recommendations are enhanced ties between Jewish communities and the Hispanic and Afro-American communities in the US, increased cooperation between Israel and the Diaspora in dealing with the challenges of the new anti-Semitism, and Israeli government involvement in considering ways to lower the cost of Jewish education in the Diaspora.

The scholar who happened to be female

Book Review: Nehama Leibowitz: Teacher and Bible Scholar By Yael Unterman Urim Publications

By Rachel Adelman February 19, 2009

It wasn’t until her 80s that her role as a woman scholar and teacher became controversial. As the best Bible teacher, she was hired by Rabbi Shlomo Riskin to teach in his program that trained rabbis for work in the Diaspora. 

Spurred by a pernicious report, Rabbi Eliezer Schach issued an edict against the program, many haredi students felt compelled to drop out, and Riskin was excommunicated; the fact that a woman taught there served as a pretext. 

Deeply embarrassed by the controversy, Nehama offered to resign but Riskin adamantly refused. 

In Unterman’s words, “for the first time in a lifetime of tiptoeing between the raindrops, Nehama had got wet.”

Haredim attack bus, open own line

By Kobi Nahshoni February 19, 2009

Residents of the haredi neighborhoods in Jerusalem are going to war against Egged, an Israeli bus company. 

Dozens of people demonstrated Wednesday afternoon in the Geula and Mea Shearim neighborhoods, blocking through traffic to Egged buses.

The protestors are taking action against the bus company after a complaint was submitted by the Transportation Ministry against the operation of private “kosher” lines within the public transportation framework without a license.

According to police reports, haredim threw stones at an Egged bus traveling through the neighborhood. No injuries were reported, but damage was caused to the bus’ windshield

The haredi committee, Va’ad Mehadrin Le’Eretz HaKodesh, inaugurated on Tuesday a line of private buses that run from haredi neighborhoods to the Western Wall following Egged’s refusal to run Bus 2 on a similar route even though, according to the committee, the line transports 20,000 haredi passengers a day.

Those behind the new bus lines promised that additional “kosher” lines would be inaugurated soon, hoping that pressure put on Egged will have an effect.

Egged suspends service through Mea Shearim after buses damaged

By Yair Ettinger February 20, 2009

Egged partially suspended several Jerusalem bus lines that pass through the ultra-Orthodox neighborhood Mea Shearim yesterday after residents threw stones at several buses and punctured their tires. 

Ultra-Orthodox youths demonstrated throughout the day to protest the bus company’s refusal to make a local bus a so-called mehadrin line, meaning men sit in the front and women sit in the back. The No. 2 bus route goes to the Western Wall via ultra-Orthodox neighborhoods. 

Haredim halt hospital fortification

By Aviad Glickman February 17, 2009

Five Ashkelon residents petitioned the High Court of Justice on Tuesday, demanding that the construction of a fortified emergency room at Barzilai Hospital in the city be resumed.

The construction was halted by the Prime Minister’s Office and Minister of Religious Affairs Yitzhak Cohen, who denied the hospital a construction permit because of an ancient cemetery located on the intended land. 

The government claims the graves cannot be moved despite the fact that the Chief Rabbinate permitted it.

The petitioners claim the halt in construction places Ashkelon’s residents in grave danger due to the rocket threat in the area.

“We cannot have a hospital that is under constant rocket threat aiming to paralyze it remain exposed and unfortified until the conflict between the different factions in the ultra-Orthodox public is solved,” the petition says.

Jerusalem streets to put a face to name

By Danny Adino Ababa February 18, 2009

The Jerusalem Municipality has decided to embark on an operation, the first of its kind in Israel that will allow residents to enrich their general knowledge on significant personalities.

In the near future, the city will start replacing all signs of streets named after people with new and more detailed ones

…The only thing that may disrupt the new initiative is the possibility that members of the ultra-Orthodox community may not appreciate seeing pictures of woman appearing on street signs all over the city

‘Kosher’ GPS device gets official launch

By Etgar Lefkovits February 19, 2009

It lists thousands of kosher restaurants and includes the Book of Psalms, the three daily prayer services, the Traveler’s Prayer, a Hebrew calendar, and two versions of Grace After Meals.

Welcome to the “kosher” GPS device.

The state-of the art electronic gadget geared to the religious public will be unveiled Thursday morning at a Tel Aviv press conference in the office of the city’s Chief Rabbi Yisrael Meir Lau, who will “give his blessings” to the device.

The device, which was developed over the last year by Mio Technology, will also list thousands of other points of interest in Israel, including holy sites, synagogues, cemeteries, and ritual baths.

In keeping with the strictest religious sensitivities, the device, aptly dubbed Mio Ma’amin (“Mio Believer”), will use only a man’s voice and does not have telephone functions or allow Internet access.

Community members allege child abuse covered up among ultra-Orthodox in Safed

By Eli Ashkenazi February 19, 2009

Leaders of the Bratslav Hasidic community in Safed have been covering up instances of physical and sexual abuse of children at school in the community, ostracizing anyone who wants to deal with the issue, several community members said recently. 

…”Whoever goes to the establishment is a moser,” he said, referring to the Talmudic term for informer.

Jews who passed information to the authorities about other Jews have traditionally been treated harshly by persecuted Jewish communities, since in such cases denunciation could lead to death and destruction. 

Stuck between cutbacks and studies

By Tamar Rotem February 23, 2009

B., an ultra-Orthodox resident of Jerusalem in his twenties, was fired a year ago and has since been unable to find work.

For years, he combined yeshiva studies with a job editing religious books for publication. He had even seriously considered abandoning the yeshiva to work full-time at the institute that employed him. But then he was fired. 

In fact, more than half the institute’s employees were fired over a two-month period. 

Jerusalem Halts Construction of Sukkah Balconies February 22, 2009

Jerusalem City Hall has implemented a new policy, halting the construction of sukkah balconies, resulting in a growing number of complaints from frum residents of the capital.

According to a report in the daily HaMevaser, the city has publicized a list of preconditions to submitting plans for the marpesot (balconies), including approval from most of the residents of the apartment building. 

Even if an applicant has obtained approval from neighbors, the city will no longer accept individual requests from residents, stating such requests will not be reviewed by the building committee.

New System Identifying ‘Mashgichim’ Fingerprints Inaugurated in Jerusalem February 23, 2009

The Rabbanut Yerushalayim mehadrin kashrus supervision under the posek Rav Eliyahu Schlesinger is making use of new technological inventions to insure that its kashrus supervision is the highest available.

Last Monday, Rav Schlesinger visited the Jerusalem wholesale vegetable and fruit market in Givat Shaul, to inaugurate the new identification system.

The new system identifies the fingerprints of the mashgichei kashrus, insuring that they arrive at 5 in the morning and leave only at the closing of the market.

The advantage of the system is that it responds only to the mashgichei kashrus, an improvement over the card system which can be used by someone else.

Jerusalem Religious Council Warns of Fiscal Collapse February 17, 2009

Jerusalem Religious Council officials warn they are on the verge of fiscal collapse and if a solution is not forthcoming in the very near future, religious services in the capital may come to an abrupt halt.

The Ministry of Religious Affairs sent a letter to Jerusalem City Hall informing officials that the current arrangement, by which the national government funds 40% of the city’s religious services, leaving 60% for local government is coming to an end. 

The new arrangement calls on Jerusalem City Hall to undertake 75%, of funding, leaving 25% for the national government.

City Hall officials explain this is simply not possible, explaining the city barely has the funds to cover the 60%, stating emphatically, 75% is unrealistic and a non-starter.

Court Says Shmittah “Heter Mechirah” Land Sale Legally Invalid

By Yechiel Sever February 19, 2009

In a decision handed down by the Petach Tikva District Court this week, the judges stated, “The sale of land shortly before the Shmittah year is done for only one reason: to fulfill the mitzvah of Shmittah. 

It should not be concluded from a sale for this purpose that the seller lost all of his rights from any standpoint.”

…The court case addresses leasers in possession of Israel Land Authority property whom the Authority sued for illegal usage of the land during the Shmittah year. 

The leasers claimed that the Land Authority has no claim against them since the Authority sold the land to a non-Jew, so therefore it was not the landowner.

The court, however, rejected the claim, saying that the sale does not detract from the seller’s rights in any way and is based on a “legal fiction.” Therefore the Authority is the legal owner of the land.

Maran Rav Elyashiv: Rav Schlesinger Has the Final Word on Jerusalem Eruv February 18, 2009

Following Friday night’s cutting of the Jerusalem eruv near Bayit Vegan, Gilo Chief Rabbi and posek for the Jerusalem Religious Council Rav Eliyahu Schlesinger Shlita and Rav Moshe Katzenelbogen of the mehadrin eruv organization held urgent consultations with Maran Rav Elyashiv Shlita. 

Rav Elyashiv stated that the final decisions on eruv matters will be made by Rav Schlesinger.

Bar-Ilan to teach Eastern wisdom with a Jewish twist

By Ofri Ilani February 20, 2009

There is rising interest at Israeli universities in the study of East Asian cultures and religions, and Bar-Ilan University, which has a Jewish religious orientation, has not escaped the trend. 

…Dr. Danielle Gurevitch, who directs the multidisciplinary B.A. program, notes that “as a religious university, our uniqueness is our emphasis on the religious perspective. We are trying to build a bridge between the two cultures.” 

Galilee Christians, clergy protest Ch. 10 sketch on Mary

By Jack Khoury February 23, 2009

A satiric sketch on Channel 10 television prompted dozens of Christians in the Galilee to demonstrate against the channel this weekend, while the heads of local Christian churches published a denunciation of their own. 

In their denunciation, the clergymen accused the skit of fomenting interreligious hatred.

The skit, which aired on Lior Shlein’s nightly program, was called “Like a Virgin,” after the Madonna song. 

…Both Shlein and Channel 10 issued apologies immediately after the storm erupted. Channel 10 also promised that the sketch would not be aired again.

Vatican irked by ‘blasphemous’ Israel TV show

AP, February 21, 2009

The Vatican said it has formally complained to the Israeli government about a private Israeli TV show that ridiculed Jesus and Mary in an “offensive act of intolerance.”

A statement from the Vatican press office on Friday said its representative in Israel complained to the government about the segment, which was broadcast recently on private Channel 10, one of Israel’s three main TV stations, during Shlein’s late-night comedy talk show.

Satirists don’t apologize

Haaretz Editorial February 23, 2009

Heads of state ought to defend the right to be artistically creative and to use satire in any form, whether political or philosophical, in an atmosphere of total freedom. 

…A society that claims to espouse freedom of expression, and the leaders of such a society, are supposed to champion principles that completely differ from those of religious leaders.

Poll: Israelis split on taking Evangelical charity

By Etgar Lefkovits February 23, 2009

More than 40 percent of Israeli Jews, including nearly 80% of the Orthodox, believe Jewish groups should not accept charity from evangelical Christian organizations, a survey released Sunday found.

The study, which highlighted the sharp differences of opinion between secular and religious Jews on Christianity, was published amid growing support for Israel from evangelical Christians, who donate tens of millions of dollars each year.

Fifty-five percent of respondents said Israel should accept charity from Christian missionaries, while 41% were against accepting such funds, according to the survey carried out for the Jerusalem Institute for Israel Studies and the Jerusalem Center for Jewish-Christian Relations.

Seventy-nine percent of Orthodox Israelis said Jewish groups should not accept such charity, compared to 70% of secular Israelis who said they should.

Seventy-four percent of Israeli Jews do not regard Christians as “missionaries,” while 76% are not bothered by encountering a Christian wearing a cross, the survey showed.

Religion and State in Israel

February 23, 2009 (Section 2) (continued from Section 1)

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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