Religion and State in Israel – March 30, 2009 (Section 1)

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Religion and State in Israel

March 30, 2009 (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.

Shas-Likud coalition deal includes record funding for yeshivas, boosts child allowances

By Yair Ettinger and Shahar Ilan March 25, 2009

The party’s main achievement is securing money for its yeshivas and women’s seminars, totaling NIS 975 million in each of the next two years, raising state funding for yeshivas by NIS 250 million. This is the highest sum ever to be paid yeshivas by the state. 

Likud also agreed to pay Shas an additional NIS 1.4 billion for child allowances over the next three years, bringing the sum close to what it was before then-finance minister Netanyahu’s 2003 cuts. 

UTJ gets rabbi’s approval to join Netanyahu’s government

By Ronen Medzini March 30, 2009

United Torah Judaism’s way into Benjamin Netanyahu’s government has been paved, Ynet learned Monday afternoon.

The ultra-Orthodox party’s Knesset members met with their Lithuanian leader, Rabbi Yosef Sholom Elyashiv, at his Jerusalem home. 

The rabbi approved the compromise on the issue of conversion and gave the MKs the green light to sign a coalition agreement with the Likud.

UTJ won’t join gov’t that does ‘wholesale conversions’

By Matthew Wagner March 23, 2009

Rabbi Yosef Shalom Elyashiv, the preeminent halachic authority for the Lithuanian haredi community, announced Monday that United Torah Judaism’s five MKs would not join a government that performs “wholesale conversions,” according to a UTJ source.

During a meeting with UTJ MKs at his home in Jerusalem, Elyashiv said the party could not join the government under the present coalition agreement between the Likud and Israel Beiteinu, which would empower city rabbis to perform conversions.

Buying a coalition

Haaretz Editorial March 25, 2009

There is nothing “social” about the way child allotments were and the way the ultra-Orthodox parties want them to be.

These allotments encourage people to have children, so they encourage poverty. All this is simply the ultra-Orthodox parties bribing their voters.

According to many reports, Shas and Likud agreed to increase stipends even before the election, which is what thwarted the establishment of a government headed by Kadima’s Tzipi Livni. Netanyahu offered the ultra-Orthodox more than Livni did, and thus bought his government with money in a clearance sale of values.

And Netanyahu believes in these values – equality among children, encouraging the ultra-Orthodox and Arabs to work, and parents’ responsibility for supporting their children.

Families of religious soldiers get a base motel

By Anshel Pfeffer March 27, 2009

A motel for religious married staff members and families of the Bahad 1 Officers School will be inaugurated next week on the Israel Defense Forces’ base near Mitzpe Ramon, as part of the changes planned in the school due to the increase in religious staff and cadets. 

The motel is also intended to accommodate rabbis who come to lecture the soldiers over the weekend.

…The increase in religious trainees has also led to the construction of a new synagogue, due to be completed soon, which is three times larger than the old one. 

Unlike many military synagogues, which have room for men only, the new Bahad 1 synagogue will have a women’s gallery. 

For the past five years all female officer cadets have been trained together with the men in Bahad 1, although a male-only company and female-only platoon are available for religious cadets who insist on training separately. 

The IDF is also planning to renovate Bahad 1’s swimming pool with walls around it, and have separate swimming hours for men and women.

IDF lets rabbis blur boundaries between religion and state

Haaretz Editorial March 29, 2009

The plans to renovate the swimming pool at the army’s Bahad 1 officers’ school are not surprising, but they should be cause for concern.

At first glance, it’s an issue of adapting to changing needs at the base as a result of the rising number of religiously observant trainees and officers.

In practice, it is another ill wind blowing from the religious radicalization that is taking control of the Israel Defense Forces. 

Religious IDF soldiers walk out of event featuring female singer

By Amos Harel March 25, 2009

About 100 religious soldiers left a Paratroop Brigade assembly earlier this month to avoid being present at the performance of a female singer, the army weekly Bamahane reported last week. 

Their departure stemmed from their belief that halakha, or Jewish religious law, prohibits them from hearing a woman sing. Their position has the support of the army rabbinate. 

Sources in the army rabbinate said that halakha supports the soldiers’ decision to leave.

The rabbinate has urged commanders to show sensitivity in such situations and either to excuse religious soldiers in advance from attending any portion of a ceremony that poses a problem or to simply not feature female singers at such programs. 

Ex-justice Barak: Don’t expand rabbis’ jurisdiction

By Yair Ettinger March 27, 2009

Former Supreme Court president Aharon Barak called upon Justice Minister-designate Yaakov Neeman to oppose the initiative of expanding rabbinical courts’ authority into areas of civil law and arbitration yesterday. 

“The very notion that dayanim (rabbinical judges) sitting under the emblem of the State of Israel will serve as arbitrators is improper,” said Barak at a conference Neeman and himself took participated in.

“Giving it a state blessing is hard, and the idea of civil jurisdiction authorities is problematic.” 

Ultra-Orthodox party Shas is striving to amend the law of rabbinical courts during the Knesset term and Haaretz reported recently that Shas spiritual leader Rabbi Ovadia Yosef had met with Neeman this week to discuss the matter.

Masorti wedding ad angers Chief Rabbinate

By Kobi Nahshoni March 24, 2009

The Chief Rabbinate’s general attorney Shimon Ullman sent a letter to the Israel Broadcasting Authority (IBA) on Tuesday urging it to take off the air or revise a radio ad produced by the Israel Masorti Movement.

Ullman claimed that the commercial, which encourages couples to consider marrying in a Conservative ceremony, rather than an Orthodox one, is fraudulent and deceitful, because it fails to note that a Conservative wedding is not recognized by the state’s authorities.

In his letter to IBA, Ullman referred to the Masorti Movement as “an organization that undermines official state institutions.”

A spokesman for the Masorti movement said that the Rabbinate’s claims were “absurd,” since the commercial itself stressed that the movement was not affiliated with the Orthodox establishment.

He added that the movement makes it clear to all marriage applicants that the Masorti ceremony is not recognized by the state, and recommends that couples also hold a civil wedding abroad, so that they can register with the Interior Ministry.

The Chevra Kadisha should lay zealotry to rest

By Rabbi Seth Farber March 30, 2009

Rabbi Seth (Shaul) Farber received his Ph.D. from the Hebrew University and his rabbinic ordination from Yeshiva University. He is the founder of ITIM: The Jewish Life Information Center

The recent uproar regarding the refusal of an Israeli burial society (Chevra kadisha) to allow a woman to eulogize her relative highlights a broader problem in Israeli Jewish culture.

The fact is that too many of those charged with assisting rank-and-file Israelis with their experience of Jewish life have little regard for the values of their clientele.

…Those seeking to be zealots in the service of Halacha are in fact doing a disservice both to Orthodox Judaism and to the Jewish people. There is no room for them when it comes to providing religious services.

Rabbi: Satan dances as women attend funerals

By Sharon Roffe-Ofir March 28, 2009

Batya (pseudonym) will not forget the day her father was buried at the Migdal Haemek cemetery. Not only was she forced to deal with a great loss, she was also humiliated at the graveyard when she was prevented from lamenting her father over this grave.

…She went on the stage and said she would like to lament her father, but Rabbi Amar suddenly asked her to get off the podium.

“I was surprised. I looked at him and said, ‘What do you mean? I want to say a few words to my father.’ But he insisted,” she says. “The mayor and other people tried to talk to him, and he replied, ‘You are a woman, you mustn’t say a word.’

More on Orthodox Women Rabbis

By Elana Sztokman Opinion March 27, 2009

Without the title of Rabbi, women remain in a perpetually wanting, yearning, unfulfilled position, like the hyperbola that never reaches the X axis, like Sisyphus never finishing his task, like Moses gazing at the Holy Land from a mountaintop over the Jordan River.

Without the title of rabbi, women remain in an inferior position no matter how learned, pious or qualified they might be. The title of Rabbi is recognition, acknowledgment, respect and power, all of which women are systematically deprived of by being deprived the title.

…Orthodoxy may call itself a religious movement, but there is nothing spiritual going on here. It is all about political, power dynamics aimed at retaining control of a social status quo.

So long as women are kept “in their place”, people can continue to call themselves “Orthodox”. But let’s be clear: this may be “Orthodox”, but there is nothing Godly about this stance.

Revolutionary hotline provides halachic counsel for women

By Tzofia Hirschfeld March 25, 2009

The Nishmat Center for Advanced Jewish Studies for Women in Jerusalem, founded by Rabbi Yehuda Henkin and his wife, Rabbanit Chana Henkin, created a program meant to train women to become Yoatzot Halacha (halachic consultants) and provide counsel on women’s halachic issues.

The two-year program, called Keren Ariel, includes in-depth Jewish studies, as well as courses in psychology, physiology, sexual practices and bridal instruction. Only married, Orthodox women are admitted to the program.

One On One: Interview with Daniel Gordis

By Ruthie Blum Leibowitz March 26, 2009

Author of Saving Israel: How the Jewish People Can Win a War that May Never End

Speaking of this era’s challenges, as a traditional Jew do you not understand the fear of a slippery slope where religious pluralism is concerned – an issue that has come strongly to the fore in the forming of the current coalition?

Of course I understand the fear of the slippery slope. Ideally, we want a country and a society in which people recognized as Jews are recognized as Jews across the board, so that they can marry each other legally, or get divorced and remarry.

The question is: What is the cost of that dream? If the cost is a central rabbinate controlled by a small number of people who are largely out of touch with society, it’s too high.

The rabbinic institutions in this country are designed to protect against the slippery slope you mention, but they have become so insular and protective of their own territory that they do not allow Judaism to compete in the marketplace of ideas.

Hundreds Use Kosher Transportation Initiative Connecting Jerusalem Neighborhoods to Kosel

By Yechiel Sever March 26, 2009

Hundreds of chareidim have used a kosher transportation system operated privately along the Number 2 bus route in Jerusalem.

The buses depart every half hour, on the half hour, from Har Nof and from the City of David parking lot near the Kosel Maarovi.

Many passengers use the kosher transportation to reach the Kosel in sanctity, and some use the special arrangement to travel from Har Nof to neighborhoods in North Jerusalem and for other routes within the city.

Orthodox, El Al Tensions

By Nathan Jeffay March 25, 2009

The Rabbinical Transportation Committee, an influential body representing a cross-section of Israel’s ultra-Orthodox, or Haredi, community, has published a guide telling people how to fly “kosher” around the world — a kind of Michelin Guide for observant travelers.

El Al’s generous provision of in-flight movies — a welcome amenity for most passengers — drew fire from the rabbinic inspectors. They accuse El Al of placing religious passengers under the influence of secular culture and “immodest” images.

London rabbi spooked by ghost

By Kobi Nahshoni March 30, 2009

The Rabbinical Centre of Europe’s Response department in Israel, which provides halachic answers to the questions of European rabbis, was approached by Rabbi Levy Yitzhak Raskin of London on behalf of a fellow rabbi who asked not to be identified.

According to Raskin, when the distraught rabbi turned to his congregation for help, “they confirmed that these strange events have occurred in the past, and estimated that the noises were caused by the ghost of a rabbi… who was the synagogue’s first rabbi and passed away 40 years ago, and is now seeking tikkun for his spirit.”

Upon receiving this query RCE member Rabbi Mordechai Biton immediately forwarded it to Chief Rabbi Shlomo Amar and Rabbi Yitzhak Batzri.

Kiryat Yovel Residents Davened in the Street

By Yechiel Sever March 30, 2009

The Jerusalem Magistrate’s Court last week responded to a City Hall request and issued an order prohibiting residents in the Kiryat Yovel neighborhood from davening in an area apartment since doing so is zoning violation.

The residents on Friday, represented by attorney Yoel Shtub turned to the court seeking an emergency order canceling the prohibition.

Handful of Kiryat Yovel Residents Provoke Chareidim on Shabbos

By Yechiel Sever March 26, 2009

A handful of secular residents in Jerusalem’s Kiryat Yovel neighborhood have repeatedly plagued the day-to-day life of chareidim living in the neighborhood.

Last Shabbos the group again tried to disrupt Shabbos tefillos, which are held in a private home in the neighborhood because the kehilloh has not yet been allocated proper facilities near their homes, but the police were alerted to the situation and stepped in.

Jews of the Upper Galil Unite in Hakhel March 30, 2009

Photo –

More than 800 men, women and children from all walks of life in Tzfas and the Upper Galil participated in a Hakhel event last night, in preparation for Birchas HaChamoh

In Perspective: Loyalty cuts both ways

By Daniel Gordis Opinion March 29, 2009

The writer is senior vice president of the Shalem Center in Jerusalem. His newest book, Saving Israel: How the Jewish People Can Win a War that May Never End, has just been published. He blogs at

Someone I know in that community told me this week that they’ve now organized informal patrols to walk their teenage kids on Friday night, so that they can come and go without being molested.

It sounds a bit like Europe, doesn’t it? Exactly the condition that Zionism was meant to change, only now it’s happening here, and now the perpetrators are “Jews” (I use the quotes advisedly).

…Loyalty cuts both ways. Citizens, to be sure, can be expected to show a modicum of loyalty to the democratic state in which they live. The olim of Ramat Beit Shemesh gave up everything to come here, and now many live in fear. There are enemies of Israel who are terrorizing some of Zionism’s best.

Court Orders Yated to Pay NIS 70,000 in Libel Suit March 24, 2009

In a libel suit against the chareidi Yated Neeman newspaper, a Jerusalem court ordered the newspaper to pay Rabbi Yisrael Rosen of Tzomet Institute NIS 70,000.

The case deals with an article written about four years ago, in which terrible adjectives were used in describing Rav Rosen, including “fool, ignoramus, worthless rat and simpleton”.

Rabbonim: Use Only Shomer Shabbos Taxis March 24, 2009

The Vaad Mishmeres Shabbos in Ashdod is urging chareidi residents of the city to only use taxis whose vehicles display the Shomer Shabbos sticker in an effort to support those companies which do not contribute to chilul Shabbos in the city.

The rabbonim also urge drivers working for those firms to cease driving people privately on Shabbos, outside the company framework, obviously referring to non-frum drivers employed by a shomer Shabbos firm.

Religion and State in Israel

March 30, 2009 (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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