Religion and State in Israel – March 9, 2009 (Section 2)

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Religion and State in Israel

March 9, 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.

Report on rule tightening for Diaspora converts raises alarm bells among Reform

By Raphael Ahren March 6, 2009

The Israeli Reform movement threatened this week to return to the High Court if the Interior Ministry goes ahead with reported plans to implement new and more rigid rules for Diaspora converts who want to immigrate to Israel. 

Last week, the New York Jewish Week reported it had obtained a copy of secret interior ministry documents outlining a plan to require converts seeking to immigrate to spend at least 350 hours studying Judaism in a “recognized” Jewish community and spend 18 months in the community in which they are converting – nine of them after the conversion – to prove their sincerity.

The new rules are to be approved before the new government is installed, the newspaper said. 

“This is an ongoing saga,” said Rabbi Gilad Kariv, head of the local Reform community.

“It goes back to [March] 2005, when the High Court deemed illegal the interior ministry’s policy to demand of converts to stay in the communities where they had converted for at least 12 months. 

But unfortunately, it seems the ministry prefers to set criteria unilaterally, instead of engaging the different religious denominations in an ongoing dialogue.

If they will actually make the proposed new guidelines official, we will go back to the Supreme Court.” 

Bridging Jewish divides through study of Torah

By Gil Hoffman March 5, 2009

The Pluralistic Beit Midrash study session was the highlight of the 120th annual convention of the Central Conference of American Rabbis, the Reform movement’s organizational body.

United Jewish Communities of MetroWest NJ was the event’s main sponsor and helped make the shidduch between the CCAR and the network of Israeli Jewish study centers that came together for the session.

“In the group now,” Hayut said, “a Reform rabbi asked why I listened to him. I said I’m Orthodox but also pluralistic. 

I think Orthodoxy is correct but I believe there is more than one way to be a Jew, and it’s important for me to learn about them. I let them speak because I want to learn from them, not to attack them.”

UJC MetroWest NJ Israel operations director Amir Shacham said the study session was a great accomplishment for a federation committed to promoting religious pluralism in Israel.

Netanya Residents Fuming Over Plans to Allocate Land for Reform Synagogues

By L.S. Wasserman March 5, 2009

Chareidi and traditional residents of Netanya protested strongly a municipality plan to approve land allocations for a Reform synagogue despite the acute shortage of facilities for botei knesses in the city. As a result, the city backed down on its plans to approve the Reform request.

In most of the new neighborhoods built in Netanya in recent years residents have been left without botei knesses.

In one new neighborhood, Galei Yam (Neveh Oz), there are no botei knesses in the entire area.

After two high-rise buildings were constructed in the neighborhood recently, a large hall inside was donated for use as a beis knesses, but local Reform Movement activists actually filed a legal petition, preventing it from opening.

During the recent election campaign period, cornerstone-laying ceremonies were held for several new botei knesses, but construction cannot get underway because of Reform- sponsored petitions that resulted in temporary restraining orders.

The municipality must now respond to the petition against it. In the meantime it had scheduled a new proposal to allocate land for Reform facilities.

The proposal stirred heavy controversy in the city, even within the general population in view of the Reform behavior.

Rabbonim and public figures note that the chareidi and religious councilmen strongly opposed the proposal and threatened to join the opposition.

Many residents said they would rather pray outside in the street than see the city council approve construction of Reform synagogues.

The difference between us

By David Breakstone Opinion March 7, 2009

The writer is the international vice president of Masorti Olami, the worldwide association of Conservative communities, and a former chairman of the Masorti (Conservative) Movement in Israel.

I have every intention of continuing to play and explore with my Reform friends, cooperating closely as we traverse streams together, hand in hand.

God knows (and I use the term intentionally) that there are numerous obstacles that we must resolutely face together in our struggle along the path toward equality in this country so that it might indeed become worthy of its designation as “the Jewish state.”

But as I do so, I will not forget who I am and what I believe in. I will also continue reaching out to and forging alliances with my fellow travelers who are Orthodox (knowing full well that there are others who will always reject me), and I will never relinquish my entitlement to claim that what I am doing, living, breathing and transmitting is indeed authentic Judaism.

Rabbi David Hartman: The Rise of Religious Extremism March 9, 2009

Click here for VIDEO

Rabbi David Hartman talks about how Jewish religious extremism and even “mainstream” Orthodoxy have grown in modern times as more modern, rational movements have struggled.

Prof. Aliza Lavie: A Jewish Woman’s Prayer Book March 9, 2009

Prof. Aliza Lavie describes young Israelis’ search for Judaism in Israel and the inspiration behind A Jewish Woman’s Prayer Book

Click here for VIDEO interview

Secular Israelis forge new ways to connect with Judaism

By Dina Kraft March 3, 2009

The founders of the first secular-oriented spiritual community in the country, Nigun Ha’Lev in Nahalal, a town in the Jezreel Valley, say they drew inspiration not just from their Israeli surroundings but from the popular New York City synagogue B’nai Jeshrun, celebrated for attracting younger Jews with energetic and musical services.

“They see us as their Israeli branch,” joked Shay Zarchi, a leader of Nigun Ha’Lev.

…Instead of tapping into the small pool of Reform and Conservative congregations in Israel — which they say they have trouble connecting to — the secular Israelis set out to form their own communities focused on a mix of the Jewish, Israeli and Zionist experience.

The communities are independent and non-denominational. Until recently they were scarcely even connected to each other.

Meretz seeks to breathe new life into secular burials

By Miriam Bulwar March 5, 2009

Ra’anana’s Meretz faction is demanding that Mayor Nahum Hofree come up with a schedule for the creation of a secular burial section in the city’s cemetery,

Meretz made its demand after seeing that no action seems to have been forthcoming to create the section, despite the council’s having agreed one month ago to allow secular burials.

According to the report, the party has been worried because although the council decided that the city’s cemetery should be enlarged and that 10 percent of the space should be reserved for secular burials, it also decided that the Hevra Kadisha Orthodox burial society should be responsible for the creation of the secular section.

The party wrote a letter to Hofree urging that the section be created “with the greatest speed,” and that if the Hevra Kadisha did not meet the time frame, other organizations should be allowed to create the section.

The letter also said the elements of a secular burial should be spelled out, with burials permitted in coffins (as opposed to the shrouds of Orthodox burials), and with funerals to be conducted by anyone chosen by a bereaved family, and not only those approved by the Hevra Kadisha.

Lost Jews group shifts focus to Galilee

By Cnaan Liphshiz March 6, 2009

Following criticism from left-wing politicians, the immigration-assistance group Shavei Israel has stopped settling immigrants in the West Bank, directing them to the Galilee instead. 

“We did it to stop ideological issues from blinding people to our cause,” says Michael Freund, the U.S.-born founder and president of the nongovernmental organization, which focuses on bringing back lost Jewish communities around the world into the fold of Judaism.

“The last 450 Bnei Menashe we’ve brought have all gone to live in Ma’alot, Karmiel and Upper Nazareth,” says Freund. But the previous 1,000 Bnei Menashe who arrived went to live in settlements. 

“We got flack for this,” he says. “Most of our problems have come from certain people on the left.” 

According to Freund, placing Bnei Menashe in settlements was a purely pragmatic decision. “While studying here for a year for their conversion, the Bnei Menashe are on a tourist visa and not eligible for any government assistance or support,” he explains.

The only places willing to offer support, Freund says, were settlements. 

“We tried in places like Dimona and Mitzpeh Ramon. They were happy to have more people, but they didn’t have the resources to take them in.”

First Time: Chief Rabbinate Meets in Shomron

By Hillel Fendel March 5, 2009

For the first time ever, the Chief Rabbinate held a council meeting in the Shomron (Samaria).

It happened on Thursday in Elon Moreh, one of the oldest Jewish towns in Samaria.

Rabbi Metzger Hopes that Government will Support Yesha Towns

By Avraham Zuroff March 5, 2009

At a tour of Israel’s rabbinate in Shomron (Samaria) communities on Thursday, Chief Rabbi Yona Metzger said that he hopes that the new government will be more sympathetic to new communities in the Shomron.

Rabbi Metzger also addressed Shomron outlying communities which have not yet received government recognition. 

Click here for VIDEO interview

Hebrew Date Leads to Acquittal

By Hillel Fendel March 5, 2009

The Traffic Court in Nazareth acquitted a young man who drove four passengers – because he was 21 according to the Hebrew date

Judge Ilona Arieli, a daughter of State Comptroller Micha Lindenstrauss, accepted the point, and acquitted Frankel of all charges.

Attorney Faloch, a hareidi Jew himself who also serves as the Deputy Chairman of the Transportation Committee of the Israel Bar Association, said he plans to recommend that the Bar take action in the direction of upgrading the status of the Hebrew date in Israeli law. Reported by Yediot Acharonot.

Akko Municipality permits Arab businesses to open on Shabbat March 3, 2009

The Akko Municipality has cancelled regulations that prohibit Arab-owned businesses from opening on the Jewish Sabbath.

The new regulations follow a petition to Israel’s Supreme Court by veteran NIF grantee Adalah: Legal Center for Arab Minority Rights in Israel.

In May 2007 Adalah petitioned the Supreme Court arguing that the municipal regulations contravene the Knesset laws governing weekly days of rest and closure of businesses for religious minorities.

The Adalah petition said: “The primary legislator (the Knesset) has enacted laws to govern the weekly days of rest and closures of businesses on Saturdays.

Israeli law stipulates an obligation that the days of rest for each religious group should be determined separately.”

Change the framework of Israel-Diaspora relations

By Ze’ev Bielski Opinion March 2, 2009

The writer is a newly elected Kadima MK and the outgoing chairman of the Jewish Agency.

It is necessary to institute a fundamental change in Israel-Diaspora relations. It’s no longer the Jewish communities who are the contributors while Israel is the recipient of contributions.

Today we must build a true partnership on behalf of the two major historic missions that await us – guaranteeing the future of the Jewish people in the Diaspora and the continued construction and prosperity of Israel.

To accomplish this, the sporadic enlistment by the government in response to an emergency case or the individual distress of any Jewish community will not suffice. What is needed is a joint program by the government and the Jewish people.

We are talking of a long-range plan with copious resources. The Jewish Agency, which has always served as a bridge between the Jewish people in the Diaspora and the State of Israel is best suited to advance that plan.

If in the past the Jewish Agency provided a platform for the Jewish people to establish and consolidate the State of Israel, it must today function as the platform of the government and the Jewish communities throughout the world in leading this critical initiative.

Back to its roots – Hadassah

By Ruth Eglash March 4, 2009

Interview with Hadassah national president Nancy Falchuk

Hadassah has made other cutbacks too, with Young Judaea, North America’s only pluralistic Zionist youth movement, having its funding reduced by some $2m., and the Hadassah College of Technology also suffering losses. 

Most recently, Hadassah put two multimillion-dollar Jerusalem properties – one utilized by Young Judaea and the other by its alumni branch, Hamagshimim – onto the market.

“We are not actively trying to sell them but will, of course, accept offers on them,” said a spokeswoman for Hadassah in Israel

“If we do sell them, Young Judaea will move its operations to another location in the capital. For us, it’s the programs that are important not the physical buildings they are housed in.”

Falchuk believes these steps need to be taken, not only to help Hadassah move forward during the recession but as a chance for the organizations it supports to find their own independence.

“Young Judaea has had to do the same thing that we did – reorganize,” she says. “Hadassah has been supporting Young Judaea to the tune of $8m. and it was wonderful, but at a certain point they needed to become more self-sustaining. 

If you have the expectation that someone will cover you for x amount of dollars then you are not going to even think about making cutbacks.”

And, Falchuk says, she has already challenged the youth movement to utilize its vast database of alumni, many of whom are very active in the North American Jewish community.

“If the youth movement wants to succeed, then these alumni really need to step up to the plate,” she says.

A new type of aliyah March 5, 2009

Brian Chaim Becker, a young man from the United States who arrived in Israel this week, is the latest oleh to make aliyah through a unique program for young religious men aged 18 to early 20s.

After landing in Tel Aviv Chaim travelled directly to the Golan Heights where his new home, Mechinat Keshet Yehuda, is located.

The mechina is a pre-military academy that adheres to the philosophy of Rabbi Avraham Yitzchak HaCohen Kook zt”l, the first chief Rabbi of Israel and the leading force in the creation of the national religious movement.

US Recession Prompts Surge in Desire for Aliyah March 6, 2009

The deepening recession in the United States has spurred a surge in interest of young Jewish couples wanting to “make aliyah”.

The number of applications to the Nefesh B’Nefesh organization is double the usual rate, indicating there will be a further increase in new North American immigrants this year.

Young Georgian woman gets new liver and life

By Judy Siegel-Itzkovich March 3, 2009

A 19-year-old Jewish woman from the former Soviet republic of Georgia was fortunate that Wilson disease, a rare genetic liver disorder she didn’t even know she had, caused a sudden life-threatening attack while she was touring here.

Miriam Kishishvili, who was here on a birthright program, became an Israeli citizen and three days later underwent a free liver transplant here that constitutes a cure for the rare disorder.

Now, with a new liver, she has decided to remain here, as has her 17-year-old brother.

…The government agreed in a race against time to make her a citizen on the spot and give her health insurance coverage, as she was very unlikely to survive if she returned without a healthy liver to Georgia.

Vatican chooses Nazareth venue for papal mass

By Jack Khoury March 4, 2009

The large mass that Pope Benedict XVI will celebrate during his May visit to Israel will be held in Nazareth, and not in Haifa, as had been proposed. Haaretz has learned that the Vatican made the decision last weekend following a visit by a Vatican delegation that met here with representatives of the two cities.

The Christian historical associations with Nazareth tipped the scales in its favor despite some Vatican preference for Haifa. 

The Nazareth mayor indicated that Precipice Mountain will be the venue for the mass; it was prepared for such an event in 2000, when John Paul II visited Israel. 

Papal visit may bring $60 million

By Irit Rosenblum March 9, 2009

The visit to Israel of Pope Benedict XVI in May may revive the languishing tourism industry and bring in up to $60 million in revenues. The industry is suffering from the double whammy of the security situation and the world economic crisis. 

Some 40,000 pilgrims and tourists are expected during the week of the Pope’s visit, May 8 to 15. 

Hotels in Jerusalem, Nazareth, Tiberias, Tel Aviv and at the Dead Sea are expected to be full for most of the visit.

Archbishop Angered over Pregnant Nun in Nazareth March 9, 2009

A 17 year-old Jewish girl from Nazareth Illit who dressed up as a pregnant nun for Purim told police Monday that an Archbishop and his wife poured out their wrath on her in a mall in the area.

According to the girl, the Archbishop scorned her choice of costume while his wife spat at her. The police are investigating the charges.

Religion and State in Israel

March 9, 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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