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

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Religion and State in Israel

March 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.

Israeli Foreign Ministry says pope can wear cross at Western Wall

By Judith Sudilovsky March 18, 2009

“In accordance with rules of hospitality and dignity,” Israel will not prevent Pope Benedict XVI from wearing his pectoral cross when he visits the Western Wall, the Israeli Foreign Ministry said.

Jerusalem Rabbi Insists the Pope Must Hide His Cross

By Tim McGirk March 19, 2009

Explaining his demand that Benedict hide the very symbol of the Catholicism he represents, Rabbi Shmuel Rabinovitch, the spiritual authority responsible for overseeing Judaism’s most sacred site, told TIME, “I wouldn’t go into a church wearing Jewish symbols, out of respect for the place, and I would expect that the Pope would act the same here.”

Explaining the intensity of feeling over the quintessential symbol of Christianity, Rabbi Ron Kronish, director of the Interreligious Coordinating Council in Israel, a Jerusalem group promoting religious dialogue, says there exists among ultra-Orthodox Jews a “certain allergy toward the cross.”

Asking the Pope to remove his cross, he says, is “part of the ongoing paranoia of Jewish history. But it doesn’t show respect for the leader of another major religion.”

Western Wall rabbi says pope should not wear cross at site

By Matthew Wagner March 17, 2009

“My position is that it is not fitting to enter the Western Wall area with religious symbols, including a cross,”

said Rabbi Rabinovitch in a telephone interview with The Jerusalem Post Monday.

Pope orders a kosher meal?

By Shelly Paz March 23, 2009

El Al will be flying Pope Benedict XVI and his entourage from the Holy Land back to Rome on May 15, when his historic visit to Jordan, the Palestinian-controlled areas and Israel ends.

The special flight from Ben-Gurion Airport to Rome will be on a Boeing 777 that will bear the Vatican logo.

Jewish-Christian crew to accompany Pope on flight home

By Zohar Blumenkrantz March 23, 2009

A special crew comprised of both Jews and Christians will serve Pope Benedict XVI and his entourage on their El Al flight home from Israel on May 15.

According to El Al, the entourage will include 30 church officials and 70 journalists.

The airline also plans to paint the Pope’s plane with the Vatican logo. Tens of thousands of pilgrims are expected to accompany the Pope on his visit here, and El Al is hoping for a piece of that action as well:

It will inaugurate direct flights between Tel Aviv and Sao Paulo, Brazil, on May 2, and is planning an aggressive advertising campaign in other South American countries too.

Israel, Holy See may be near deal on tax dispute

By Etgar Lefkovits March 17, 2009

After more than a decade of negotiations, Israel and the Vatican are nearing an agreement on a longstanding tax dispute over Church properties in the Holy Land, senior Foreign Ministry officials said Monday.

At the core of the tax dispute is hundreds of millions of shekels owed to the city by the Vatican and an array of Christian churches, Jerusalem municipal officials said.

According to law, properties that are used as houses of prayer are exempt from property taxes, but the churches, which own vast tracts in Jerusalem, are required to pay for buildings they own that are not used for worship – including hostels, guest houses and schools.

The total amount of unpaid property tax amounts to roughly NIS 300 million, with the Latin Patriarchate the biggest offender, a city spokesman said.

The debt collection was frozen pending ongoing negotiations between Israel and the Vatican.

Any agreement reached between the Prime Minister’s Office and the Vatican will be precedent-setting, since it will apply to all church properties in Jerusalem.

Secret emigration effort for Yemenite Jews imperiled

By Uriel Heilman March 18, 2009

…after Israel’s daily Ma’ariv published an account this week of the UJC’s effort, Jewish organizational officials involved in the emigration effort said they were worried the Yemeni government would clamp down on Jewish emigration — especially to Israel — possibly to placate Arab critics.

For its part, the Jewish Agency, which was the first group to go public with its effort to spirit Yemenite Jews out of the country, issued a harsh condemnation of the operation to bring the Yemenites to the United States.

“We vehemently oppose the immigration of Jews, wherever they are, to the United States, including the group of Jews from Yemen that is not going to the State of Israel,” the Jewish Agency said in a statement. 

“The place of all Jews from the entire Diaspora — and included in this are the Jews of Yemen — is in their homeland, Israel.”

U.S. Jewish organizational officials said they simply were following the wishes of Jews in Yemen who had expressed a preference to immigrate to America.

Secret Yemen Rescue Imperiled by Communal Turf Battles

By Anthony Weiss March 19, 2009

The Jewish Agency, which has historically rescued Jews threatened by anti-Semitism and brought them to Israel, is locked in an apparent battle with a coalition of American Jewish organizations over the coalition’s operation to bring Yemeni Jews to the United States.

The American coalition includes United Jewish Communities — one of the Jewish Agency’s main funders — and a leading figure in the Brooklyn-based Satmar Hasidic sect, Rabbi David Niederman.

“When there are Jews who are in distress, there is one exit for them — going to the State of Israel,” a senior Jewish Agency source told the Forward.

“That is the fight that the Jewish Agency has with UJC.” 

The Jewish Agency source also accused UJC and Satmar’s operation to bring Jews to the United States of putting the Jewish Agency efforts to bring Jews to Israel in danger — and thus endangering the lives of Yemeni Jews who wish to leave.

UJC to pull 110 Jews out of Yemen

By Haviv Rettig Gur March 19, 2009

The United Jewish Communities is working with the US State Department, local federations and the Hebrew Immigrant Aid Society to implement the evacuation and help finance the $800,000 expense of absorbing the 110 Yemenite Jews, who represent more than a third of the roughly 280-strong community.

The Jewish Agency is particularly upset because the extraction of the Yemenite Jews comes at the behest of New York’s Satmar hassidic community, which opposes political Zionism and funds Jewish education institutions in Yemen.

Uzi Dayan – the next Jewish Agency chairman?

By Haviv Rettig Gur March 18, 2009

Uzi Dayan, the former deputy chief of General Staff and Likud candidate, is the frontrunner in the race for the upcoming chairman of the Jewish Agency, The Jerusalem Post has learned.

That is, unless some of the Jewish Agency’s largest donors succeed in wresting the chairmanship away from the Israeli politicians for the first time in the agency’s history

To revitalize Jerusalem, new mayor looks to Diaspora

By Dina Kraft March 16, 2009

Barkat’s plan is to create special economic zones in Jerusalem that are focused on two clusters — one called culture-tourism, the other health and life sciences. 

He will make his pitch in visits to New York, Boston, Los Angeles, Washington, San Francisco and Florida.

Barkat is hoping Diaspora Jews will be investment partners in joint business ventures. 

For example, he says, Jews in Los Angeles might invest in Jerusalem’s fledgling film industry, and biotech engineers in Boston might invest in biotech in a city that hosts Hadassah Hospital and the prestigious Hebrew University.

Wernick Promises Sweeping Change For United Synagogue

By Stewart Ain March 18, 2009

In addition, Rabbi Wernick said he would like to “enhance and enrich” the membership’s connection to the State of Israel.

“People should not only learn about it but should experience it as a living, breathing state,” he said.

“Aliyah needs to be on the table again as a legitimate and desired option for Conservative Jews. Our relationships have to be strengthened because our futures are connected to one another. 

If we want to have an identity as Conservative Jews there, we have to build the Conservative community there.”

Advocacy groups: Financial crisis leading to immigration surge from West

By Raphael Ahren March 20, 2009

Danny Oberman, NBN’s executive vice president of Israeli operations, speaks of three population groups driven by the current economic climate to consider aliyah: 

College graduates and young couples who cannot find a job and are no longer able to keep up with the cost of living, as well as finance, marketing and high tech professionals who are either laid off or perceive dim financial prospects. 

JNF taxed on forest

By Shmuel Dekalo March 17, 2009

For the first time in Israel, a regional authority has demanded arnona (local property tax) from the Jewish National Fund (JNF) for a forest. 

The JNF has petitioned the Jerusalem Court for Administrative Affairs against the levy.

The JNF argues in its petition that it does not pay arnona on the forests, because local authorities do not consider the agency as the “owner and user of the forest” in the sense of municipal ordnances. 

Lieberman the Diaspora czar

By Anshel Pfeffer March 20, 2009

The [Yisrael Beiteinu] manifesto makes clear that [Lieberman] has little use for the Jewish Agency and its tradition of partnership and compromise with the Diaspora.

Tellingly, his deputy at the Foreign Ministry will be Yisrael Beiteinu MK and former Washington Ambassador Danny Ayalon.

Until a few months ago, Ayalon was president of Nefesh B’Nefesh, the independent Aliyah organization that has all but usurped the Jewish Agency’s historical role of promoting North American immigration. 

Jewish leaders who previously shunned Lieberman for his strident political views will now have to face him, not just as Israel’s premier representative to foreign governments, but also as the man who believes their duty is to Make Aliyah, Support Israel and Shut Up.

A chance to rediscover aliya

By Haviv Rettig Gur March 17, 2009

But the greatest barrier to aliya today is not financial, it’s cultural. Two-thirds of the Diaspora – American Jewry – lives in a world of personal choices, belonging simultaneously to a myriad of real and virtual communities, with the ability to move between them.

Israel needs to learn how to speak to these Jews in ways in which they can understand and identify. 

An American Jew cannot be convinced to make aliya merely by removing financial or bureaucratic obstacles from the move.

He or she must possess a cultural identification with Israeli society, a personal and meaningful reason to cross the cultural divide into Israel

Art of Gay Religious Jews Bridges Worlds

By Joshua Mitnick March 18, 2009

Out of the Sacred Closet: Beauty, Belief, Identity” is a joint exhibition at the Hadassah Art Gallery in the German Colony here of 14 gay and lesbian artists from the Orthodox world whose creativity is driven by an effort to somehow reconcile the seeming clash in their identities. 

“You have a gay problem here and you have Jewish identity,” said exhibition curator Ofra Zucker, referring to the dilemmas faced by gay couples who want to have families but their marriages are not recognized in the Orthodox community.

Artistic, religious, and proud

By Yoav Friedman March 18, 2009

“The discussion of sexual and gender identities in the framework of the modern Orthodox discourse in Israel may be the most subversive, refreshing and challenging expression of modern-day Judaism,” art researcher David Sperber told Ynet.

A Religious War in Israel’s Army

By Ethan Bronner March 21, 2009

The publication late last week of eyewitness accounts by Israeli soldiers alleging acute mistreatment of Palestiniancivilians in the recent Gaza fighting highlights a debate here about the rules of war.

But it also exposes something else: the clash between secular liberals and religious nationalists for control over the army and society.

…Mr. Halbertal, the Jewish philosopher who opposes the attitude of Rabbi Rontzki, said the divide that is growing in Israel is not only between religious and secular Jews but among the religious themselves.

The debate is over three issues — the sanctity of land versus life; the relationship between messianism and Zionism; and the place of non-Jews in a sovereign Jewish state.

Israeli army uses PIs to spy on suspect dodgers

By Diaa Hadid, AP March 18, 2009

With more 18-year-old females claiming religious modesty as grounds for exemption from male-dominated military life, Israel’s army is hiring investigators to spy on suspected draft evaders, catching them doing decidedly unreligious things.

In 1991, 21 percent of women avoided service on religious grounds, according to army figures; last year the figure was 36 percent, even though overall only around 20 percent of Israelis classify themselves as religious.

IDF Reviews Soldiers’ Refusal to View Female Singers

By Gil Ronen March 20, 2009

The Military Rabbinate said, however, that there is no justification for forcing religious soldiers and officers to be present at these parts of the ceremonies and for coercing them into something that contradicts their religious worldview.

“The organizers should be aware of this problem,” explained Rabbi Captain Menachem Perl, who heads the Halacha Section in the Military Rabbinate.

He calls for a “creative solution” to be found, “either by releasing the religious soldiers from the entire event, or by letting them exit discreetly during parts of the event, or by changing the contents of the event itself.”

Top IDF brass sign organ-donation cards March 23, 2009

The IDF’s Chief Rabbi, OC Chaplaincy Brig. -Gen. Avichai Ronzki and OC Medical Corps Brig. -Gen. Nachman Ash both signed up for an organ donation card during a ceremony in the Kirya Military Headquarters in Tel Aviv on Sunday.

Ronzki said that “The Torah itself consecrates the preservation of life and we are happy to push this subject forward.”

Tzohar, YU aim to create 200 independent congregations here within 10 years

By Haviv Rettig Gur March 19, 2009

New York’s Yeshiva University and the Israeli rabbinic group Tzohar are teaming up to create a network of independent Orthodox communities in Israel focused on outreach and education for Jews from all walks of life.

Tzohar is an Orthodox rabbinic organization seeking to bridge the religious-secular divide in Israeli society.

“If Tzohar can create 20 new communities a year over the next 10 years – that is their goal – you can change the face of Israel.”

Jewish TV network launched in Mideast March 23, 2009

A Middle East-based television network delivering Jewish and Israeli-themed programming has been launched. 

It is the first 24/7 Jewish television channel operating in the region and it will take its place alongside dozens of Muslim and Christian stations.

Jewish Live TV International is a satellite channel of Los Angeles-based Jewish Life TV, broadcast on Time Warner Cable. JLTVI will localize JLTV’s existing programming and will also create original content including live telecasts of major Jewish and Israeli events.

The pendulum of justice – Interview with MK David Rotem

By Shahar Ilan March 18, 2009

Likud MK David Rotem’s father, Shachna, was a leader of the now defunct Poalei Agudat Yisrael party and was a close associate of the Hazon Ish, one of the most important ultra-Orthodox rabbis in the early days of the state.

But nevertheless, Rotem has a surprise up his sleeve. The law, he says, will apply also to the ultra-Orthodox population.

…Are you are in effect proposing that the arrangement which defers military service for the ultra-Orthodox be canceled? 

“That’s right.” 

Is that what you grew up with? 

“I grew up in an ultra-Orthodox and Zionist home. We celebrated Independence Day. We all did military service or national service.

Israel Democracy Institute ‘excluding non-Orthodox streams’

By Kobi Nahshoni March 17, 2009

The Israel Democracy Institute (IDI) hosted a Roundtable Forum on Sunday to discuss issues of religion and state in Israel, focusing on the Shabbat, conversions and marriage.

Although the institute maintains that it ‘seeks to involve all sectors within Israeli society in dialogue concerning these all-important national dilemmas,” the Masorti movement in Israel, which is affiliated with Conservative Judaism, claims that the institute systematically excludes representatives of the Masorti and Reform movements in Israel from such forums.

“Is it even conceivable that on such matters as conversions or civil marriages the opinion of the non-Orthodox streams of Judaism will not be heard?,” they asked in the letter, stating that the two movements “have converted and married off thousands of people in Israel, they deal with the complex reality of the relations between state and religion on a daily basis, and represent a wide public in Israel and a huge public across the world.”

High Court: Fencing nationals open to religious

By Kobi Nahshoni March 17, 2009

The High Court of Justice ruled Monday that the national fencing championships to be held next month must not discriminate against athletes who observe Shabbat.

The decision was handed down when the court convened again to discuss the issue of religious national youth fencing champion Yuval Freilich.

World Union for Progressive Judaism Connections

By Raphael Ahren March 20, 2009

More than 300 Reform leaders from 26 countries are currently in Israel for the 34th international convention of the World Union for Progressive Judaism, called Connections, which opened Wednesday night in attendance of Jerusalem Mayor Nir Barkat and several foreign ambassadors to Israel.

During the five-day conference, the first part of which took place in the capital before moving Friday today to Tel Aviv, deals with the politics of conversion in Israel, religious pluralism in Israel and interfaith relations.

The delegates Wednesday adopted two resolutions: one condemning rising anti-Semitism and one calling on the Israeli government to “immediately recognize Miri Gold as an official rabbi of the Gezer Community.”

Rabbi Gold, who moved to Israel in 1977 from Detroit, is one of 16 rabbis serving the Gezer area, yet is the only one who receives neither recognition nor a salary from the government. 

The way they were – Beit Hakerem, Jerusalem

By Peggy Cidor March 22, 2009

Regarding the “secular stronghold,” not all its residents agree on the definition.

“I would rather say that it is the last stronghold of secular tolerance,” suggests former city council member Anat Hoffman, head of the Israel Religious Action Center, who recently moved there from Baka. 

“Above all, I would say it is the only place where the secular are not ashamed or apologetic for being so.”

…Beit Hakerem has remained a middle- and upper-middle-class mostly secular neighborhood, with just a few religious Zionist families.

Over the years, a few more synagogues were added (including one Conservative and one Reform), but the general atmosphere of a strong secular neighborhood had always been preserved. 

Africa Israel parking lot to remain closed on Shabbat

By Dotan Levi, Calcalist March 18, 2009

The Tel Aviv District Appeal Committee ruled recently that the Africa Israel parking lot on Tel Aviv’s Ahad Ha’am Street would be closed on Shabbat and on Jewish holidays, despite a demand by the Tel Aviv Local Committee that the property would remain open on those days.

The Africa Israel company, which is owned by ultra-Orthodox businessman Lev Leviev, appealed to the Local Committee several months ago, asking for a permit to add 10 more floors to its 18-story tower.

350 Hours of Oppression

By Aliza Hausman Opinion March 20, 2009

…I spent only 6 months in the community that performed my conversion. It was too expensive to live there so after those 6 months, I loved to a more affordable one. 

And once those six months were over, I moved yet again to live in a community that was still more affordable. I don’t have timesheets to prove my 350 hours.

I’m not sure if any of these communities were “recognized.” It doesn’t matter. I haven’t clocked in 18 months in any community and I didn’t put in 9 months after my conversion.

Does this mean that while the Israeli rabbinate approves of my conversion the Interior Ministry will not allow me to immigrate?

Good question. It is just one of many questions converts will be asking themselves soon.

Once Reviled, Black Hebrews Now Fêted

By Andrew Esensten March 18, 2009

Last month, the 62-year-old Ben Yehuda — father of 10 children and husband of 3 women — became the first member of his community to gain full Israeli citizenship.

Looking back on the hurdles he overcame since his 1971 arrival, Ben Yehuda mused, “I can only describe this journey in relationship to my forefathers,” referring to Abraham, Isaac and Jacob.

“They were able to endure. As long as we put fulfilling the will of the God of Israel first, there’s no challenge that we can’t overcome.”

Paganism returns to the Holy Land

By Ofri Ilani March 22, 2009

Due to Jewish sensitivity to idol worship, which is perceived as a sin, most Israeli pagans reveal their beliefs only to those who share them.

Alon Kobets, 29, a neo-paganist from Rehovot, is one of the few who decided “to come out of the closet.” 

“Some people live in fear, but I’m past hiding my faith,” he said. “Some guys live with religious families. They can’t tell their parents, ‘I don’t believe in Judaism, I’m a pagan.’ They’d chop off their heads.” 

Rinat Korbet, a Bar-Ilan University researcher who wrote her thesis on the pagan community in Israel based on its online presence.

Korbet will present her research at the First Israeli Conference for the Study of Contemporary Spiritualities which opens [March 23, 2008] at the University of Haifa.

Religion and State in Israel

March 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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