Religion and State in Israel – April 13, 2009

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Religion and State in Israel

April 13, 2009

Click here to read ONLINE

Editor – Joel Katz

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

‘Hametz’ snitching campaign launched

By Matthew Wagner April 8, 2009

Call them “Pessah narcs” or “hametz finks” – these self-appointed informers will wander the cities of Israel this holiday searching for wayward restaurateurs, bakers and other food purveyors illegally displaying leavened bread during the seven days of Pessah.

Armed with a cellphone camera and an eye – and a nose – for fresh-baked bread, each informant will relay concrete evidence of the illicit culinary activity to a group of legal activists. Police, municipal officials and the Interior Ministry will be notified of the transgression.

…Not all religious leaders agree with the forum’s tactics. Rabbi Rafi Feuerstein, chairman of Tzohar – a group of modern Orthodox rabbis – said that coercion was counterproductive.

“I personally believe that secular Israelis should want to have a hametz-free public domain, because otherwise, in what way is this state Jewish?” said Feuerstein.

“But I also believe that any attempts to force people via legislation will only turn them off. Coercion does not bring anyone closer to Judaism.”

Pessah illuminated Editorial April 8, 2009

Were the Rabbinate a bastion of probity and spirituality, a relentless campaigner for Jewish unity and Ahavat Yisrael, we might be inclined to forgive its occasional dalliance with religious coercion.

But it is none of these things. So its declaration that it will “out” stores selling leavened products on Pessah is just the latest instance of this country’s established church getting its Judaism precisely wrong.

The Rabbinate, however – with little success – has been pressuring supermarket chains (most of whom anyway do not sell hametz) to fiddle with their checkout bar code readers so hametz items can’t be processed.

How superfluous – as if supermarkets were inundated with tactless customers surreptitiously grabbing from inaccessible shelves and trying to sneak their purchases past the checkout clerks.

Attorney General: ‘Chametz Law’ not limiting distribution of leaven

By Shahar Ilan April 13, 2009

The so-called “Chametz Law” has not been forcibly implemented anywhere, and anyone who wants to distribute leaven during this year’s Passover has been able to do so, said attorney Gilad Barnea yesterday.

Barnea is representing four Jerusalem businesses charged two years ago, the first such cases since the law was enacted in 1986.

Last year Jerusalem Magistrate’s Court judge Tamar Ben-Asher issued a ruling allowing stores relative lenience to sell leaven during the holiday.

Attorney General Menachem Mazuz refused the religious parties’ attempts to petition the ruling and said his interpretation of the law was similar.

Passover celebrations take place throughout Israel

Click here for VIDEO April 12, 2009

IDF Holds Massive Seder, Pesach Bash for 400 Lone Soldiers

By Gil Ronen April 10, 2009

The IDF held a massive Seder for 400 “lone soldiers” who have no parents in Israel. Lone soldiers are defined as those who immigrated to Israel without their parents or whose parents have emigrated from Israel, as well as orphans and soldiers who are not in touch with their families for other reasons.

Federman detained after trying to sacrifice goat for Passover

By Efrat Weiss April 8, 2009

Extreme right-wing activist Noam Federman was detained for questioning Wednesday afternoon along with his children after arriving at the Temple Mount with a goat for sacrifice.

Federman was stopped by police at the gates of the Temple Mount with the goat he planned to sacrifice for the Passover holiday, and taken to the nearby police station by squad car.

Some find Passover freedom from tradition with alternative Seders

By Noah Kosharek April 8, 2009

Idan Rossman, 29 from Tel Aviv, plans to spend this Seder with five friends at the Be’erotaim caravanserai near the Azoz village in the Negev.

Idan and a diverse bunch of five friends – one former kibbutznik, three formerly religious girls hailing from the ideological settlement of Kedumim and two religious boys from Jerusalem – will pass what is a traditionally strictly familial night by the campfire, reading the Haggadah, singing and playing their guitars. 

50,000 participate in once-in-28-year prayer ritual for sun at Western Wall

By Yair Ettinger April 12, 2009

More than 50,000 Jews flocked to the Western Wall in Jerusalem’s Old City before dawn Wednesday to recite a prayer said once every 28 years to bless the sun. 

Thousands more took part in prayer sessions around Israel, including on the roofs of Tel Aviv’s Azrieli buildings and the ancient desert fortress of Masada. 

‘As the sun rose over the Kotel, a real feeling of unity’ April 10, 2009

The prayer in Jerusalem was led by Rabbi Yosef Shalom Elyashiv, the most prominent halachic authority of the Lithuanian yeshiva world, and the Gerer Rebbe, Rabbi Ya’acov Arye Alter.

There was good mix of haredi and non-haredi Jews, as well as dozens of curious onlookers and photographers from around the world.

Thousands attend Birkat Kohanim at Western Wall

By Kobi Nahshoni April 12, 2009

Thousands of Jewish worshippers attended the Birkat Kohanim (Priestly Blessing) ceremony, which is traditionally held at the Western Wall every Passover.

Hundreds of Kohanim (priests) wrapped in talitot (prayer shawls) blessed the members of the audience, which came from all across Israel, with the blessing:

“May God bless you and guard you, may God make His face shine on you and show favor to you, may God lift up His face on you and give you peace.”

After the ceremony the audience walked pass Chief Rabbis Yona Metzger and Shlomo Amar and Western Wall Rabbi Shmuel Rabinovitch, received their blessing and wished them chag sameach.

Rabbi approves Litzman’s appointment as deputy Health Minister

By Matthew Wagner April 7, 2009

The head of the Ger Hassidic Sect, Rabbi Ya’acov Alter, approved on Monday MK Ya’acov Litzman’s appointment as health minister, according to Litzman’s spokesman.

Litzman will have all the powers of a full-fledged minister, but will be called a deputy minister so he can refrain from taking part in cabinet decisions.

Since 1953, when Agudat Yisrael’s Rabbi Yitzhak Meir Levine stepped down as Social Affairs Minister, Ashkenazi haredi MKs have refrained from being appointed ministers for religious reasons.

Being a member of the cabinet is seen as having collective responsibility for decisions that are opposed to Halacha, such as the desecration of Shabbat.

Following the rebbe’s prescription

By Shahar Ilan April 10, 2009

UTJ insists on defining the position as a deputy minister rather than a minister, so that it will not be a partner to all the sins of an atheist government.

A mere few weeks ago, the party had made great efforts not to accept the Social Affairs portfolio with the status of a deputy minister, but rather sought a more important post.

The post that was found was at the Health Ministry. So why did every member of the faction try to fob it off on another colleague? 

Israel Medical Assoc. sickened over deputy health minister app’t

By Ran Reznick and Yair Ettinger April 8, 2009

The Israel Medical Association vowed yesterday to continue pushing for the appointment of a full-time health minister following the announcement that MK Yaakov Litzman would be named deputy health minister.

The IMA has petitioned the High Court of Justice over Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s failure to name a health minister, and protests will begin after the Pesach holiday. 

‘God willing,’ Litzman seeks to improve health services

By Judy Siegel-Itzkovich April 7, 2009

Litzman, who was born in Germany in 1948 and taken by his parents at the age of two to New York, grew up in Brooklyn’s mostly haredi Boro Park neighborhood. 

He immigrated to Israel with his wife, a clerk at a haredi newspaper, with whom he has five adult children. They currently live in Jerusalem’s Ezrat Torah neighborhood.

…Not only did he quote biblical sources several times during the short, modest ceremony at a synagogue event hall across the street from the ministry, officials also added Torah references and “God willing” to their speeches. 

At least one staffer dug into her closet for a modest dress instead of her usual jeans, and wondered whether to shake his hand (she didn’t).

Litzman wants more staff in hospitals Thursday night through Shabbat

By Judy Siegel-Itzkovich April 12, 2009

Even before he formally takes over the Health Ministry as deputy minister, United Torah Judaism MK Ya’acov Litzman says he wants to beef up hospital staffing on weekends.

Shaare Zedek Medical Center director-general Prof. Jonathan Halevy noted that there were fewer patients in the hospital on weekends partly because some elective patients preferred to be at home on Shabbat and holidays. 

Jewish doctors are permitted by Halacha to work on Shabbat and festivals, but then there are also a larger number of non-Jews on duty.

Report: IDF brigade won’t recognize Conservative soldiers as religious April 8, 2009

The rabbi of the Nahal infantry brigade has refused to recognize soldiers belonging to Israel’s Conservative movement as religious Jews, Army Radio reported Wednesday. 

The rabbi did this by forbidding the troops from exercising the right to grow beards for religious reasons. 

The Conservative, or Masorti, soldiers in the Israel Defense Forces brigade told Army Radio they have been warned that should they grow beards, they would have their furloughs revoked.

…they were told that they could not be given the permit for religious reasons because the Nahal rabbi did not recognize their stream of Judaism. 

“From the army’s point of view, there is no such thing as Conservative soldiers,” they were told, according to Army Radio. 

In praise of religious troops

By Mordechai Kedar Opinion April 11, 2009

Dr. Mordechai Kedar is a lecturer at Bar-Ilan University’s department of Arabic.

The anxiety over the prospect of rabbis replacing education officers stems from the primal fear gnawing at some secular camps in the face of Judaism and its role within Israeli society and the State.

Get over it. The problem is not the IDF Rabbinate, but rather, those who use it and its success as a means to slam the moral and dedicated national-religious community, which constitutes a mirror for those who are not like it.

Make it about property values, not religion

By Miriam Erez Opinion April 10,2009

Miriam Erez, a freelance translator, immigrated to Israel in 1981. She blogs at

…Instead of looking to the government for salvation, the Kiryat Hayovel residents and others in their predicament should learn two words: community organizing.

Ettinger’s article described “an organization that seeks to preserve the neighborhood’s [secular] character.” 

Note that I put the word “secular” in brackets. That’s because though it was in the quote, it’s superfluous. 

The terms “secular” and “Orthodox” need to be removed from this discourse entirely. 

The important issue is that the veteran residents want their neighborhood to remain an appealing place to live, as it was when they arrived and as it has been until now. 

A state governed by religious law

By Gideon Levy Opinion April 10,2009

…Religion has never been separate from the state here; hand in hand they oversee our way of life.

Orthodox society and its leadership should not be blamed for this.

The Orthodox and ultra-Orthodox have the right to do everything they can to impose their faith on the secular majority.

It’s the secular who are to blame. Just as it’s not yeshiva students’ fault that they are not drafted, but rather the fault of the secular majority that allows this, so it is with the other aspects of our lives.

We, the secular people, are to blame for all this. We’re the ones who give in.

Psychometric exam goes ‘kosher l’Mehadrin’

By Abe Selig April 12, 2009

A program has been developed to help religious and haredi students prepare for the psychometric examination – the standardized entrance exam for the country’s universities and academic colleges – by removing content they might deem immodest or offensive.

The initiative comes from the Institute for the kosher l’Mehadrin Psychometric Exam, established by Rabbi Chaim Fogel, a Jerusalem-based rabbi involved in a number of educational initiatives and institutions.

The initiative was instituted not only to encourage the integration of the religious and haredi community into the Israeli workforce, Fogel said, but to be referenced by other religious and haredi educational institutions, in order to raise the educational level in those institutions.

Kiryat Yovel Residents to Appeal Court Ban on Apartment Shul

By Yechiel Spira April 7, 2009

Members of Kiryat Yovel’s chareidi community are unwilling to come to terms with last week’s court ruling released by the Jerusalem Local Court siding with secular residents who object to using a home for a Shabbos minyan.

Residents are now taking their case to the Jerusalem District Court, seeking to have the earlier ruling overturned.

Chareidi residents feel the court’s ruling was not in line with Freedom of Religion, insisting the use of a vacant home for Shabbos tefillos is not a violation of zoning ordinances as the court states.

Calls to boycott Dankner over Shabbat desecration

By Gali Berger, Calcalist April 13, 2009

Pashkavils (posters) accusing businessman Nochi Dankner of being “the greatest Shabbat desecrator of all” have been distributed in Bnei Brak and in Jerusalem’s ultra-orthodox neighborhood on Passover eve.

Dankner is the owner of the Yesh supermarket chain which caters to the haredi market.

According to the posters, many businesses owned by Dankner’s IDB group work on Shabbat and also facilitate Shabbat desecration by others.

These businesses include cellular service provider Cellcom, which operates its customer service on Saturdays, and Israir airline and Natur tour operator, which organize trips on weekends.

Kashrut supervisors to fight bugs with laser guns

By Kobi David April 10, 2009

Ahead of the summer season, kashrut supervisors in the northern city of Tiberias will be equipped with laser guns designed to eliminate bugs, the local rabbinical council decided recently.

Every kashrut supervisor in the city will be required to carry the gun on him during visits to the venues under his charge, in order to prevent food infestation.

Rabbi Rafael Cohen of the Tiberias municipality kashrut department said that the guns’ purchase will be paid for by business owners who hold a kashrut certificate issued by the city.

Ouch! Brit mila at 87

By Matthew Wagner April 13, 2009

A non-profit organization called Brit Yosef-Yitzhak, which has provided more than 35,000 pro-bono circumcisions since it was founded 20 years ago, is footing the bill for the entire procedure.

“It is a real self-sacrifice to undergo a brit late in life,” Amit said. 

“We try to do everything to make it as easy as possible. We arrange everything from transportation to and from the hospital, medical costs, the mohel, the festive feast after the brit, and we even change the bandages the day after.”

A circumcision costs an average of $1,000, he said.

“Sometimes we have to send a mohel to faraway places like Taiwan, South Korea, India, Japan or even Yemen and the cost rises to $7,000 or $8,000 per circumcision.”

Taking Care of the Western Wall April 12, 2009

While families throughout the world were in a last-minute rush to clean their homes for the Passover holiday — some even renovating and buying new furniture — the Israel Antiquities Authority was also busy, caring for one of Judaism’s most sacred sites, the Western Wall in Jerusalem.

Click here for VIDEO

Addition to building near Western Wall approved

By Ory Chudy, Calcalist April 11, 2009

The Interior Ministry’s Regional Committee for Planning and Construction in the Jerusalem District recently approved an addition measuring 950 square meters (10,225 square feet) to a building on the northern part of the Western Wall plaza.

According to an Interior Ministry official, “The plan, which was prepared by architect Ada Karmi, includes the addition of a two-story wing at the front of Strauss House and another, fourth floor on top.

“This area will be populated by a police station, the Chain of Generations Center, operational grounds and services for visitors and workers of the Western Wall plaza.”

Mira Regev and Dan Herman on Tikkun Olam in Tel Aviv

By Shmuel Rosner April 11, 2009

Tikkun Olam in Tel Aviv 

Our goal was to make a place for those “secular” Jews to study Judaism and get in touch with their Jewish identity without being forced to conform to the rigid confines of “Religiousness” in Israel today — in short, a place for secular Jews to find religion, or a “secular yeshiva.”

In English, it might be better to call it a “Pluralistic Yeshiva,” in which students study Torah, Halacha, Aggada, and Jewish philosophers from Rambam to Buber, and do so in an open format in which different opinions are welcomed and open discussion is encouraged. 

Far from cutting ourselves off from religion, we are merely trying to break the monopoly that currently exists on it here in Israel, and bring it to those who may be skeptical about its relevance or even cynical about its impact on society. 

Doing religion his own way

By Barry Davis April 12, 2009

Jacky Levy – and his actor cohorts from the Incubator troupe – fills a void in our society so snugly, yet so oxymoronically, that the success of his weekly Kalabat Shabbat sessions (in Hebrew) at Beit Avi Chai, in retrospect, seems guaranteed.

Levy is ardently Jewish, despite having issues with some of the pillars of Orthodoxy.

…On a personal note, Levy recently achieved closure on an important chapter in his formative years. 

“I was always a rebel at yeshiva,” he recalls, “and, before I left, I told my rabbi that he had done everything in his power to dissuade me from remaining observant but that I would stay religious nonetheless…”

Dispute threatens functions at Great Synagogue

By Maya Spitzer April 7, 2009

At one of Jerusalem’s most well-known spots for holding family celebrations, there’s not a lot of simha in the air.

Heichal Shlomo, which owns the events hall in the Great Synagogue of Jerusalem, released a statement on March 29 warning that it is not responsible for any events scheduled past May 20, as the operator of the hall, Yisrael Erlinger, has been asked to leave and has been requested not to hold any events in the hall past that date.

According to Gura Berger, press representative for Heichal Shlomo, Heichal Shlomo brought an arbitration suit against Erlinger at the rabbinic court in Kiryat Ono on February 19, claiming that Erlinger had violated the terms of his contract on three counts.

Gathering the tribe

By Ruth Eglash April 13, 2009

The entrance to Casa Shalom, the country’s foremost center for Marrano-Anusim studies, is almost as well concealed as the secret Jews it researches. 

Located in the pastoral village of Gan Yavne, not far from Ashdod, the humble entrance – down several steps and behind one of the well-kept villas – gives little indication to the treasures it holds.

…According to Gloria Mound, the acceptance of Marrano Jews by Israel is a “vital matter that affects Jews all over the world.”

“This country is always complaining that the aliya figures are falling, but there are literally millions of Jews who want to come here,” she says. 

“In fact, coming to Israel should be the easiest thing for them to do but it’s so complicated and difficult that they don’t even bother trying.”

Christians celebrate Easter in J’lem

AP April 12, 2009

Christians prayed at an ancient church and sang in a garden outside the walls of Jerusalem’s Old City as they marked Easter Sunday in the city where they believe Jesus was crucified and resurrected.

Christians celebrate Easter in Jerusalem

Click here for VIDEO April 12, 2009

Christians mark Good Friday in Old City

AP April 12, 2009

Thousands of Christian clergymen, worshipers and pilgrims thronged the alleyways of Jerusalem’s Old City, chanting hymns and bearing crosses as they marked Good Friday by retracing Jesus’s final footsteps.

Click here for VIDEO

Christians celebrate Easter in Jerusalem

AP April 12, 2009

Also Sunday morning, Orthodox priests in black robes and beards and carrying palm fronds filed into the Holy Sepulcher for their Palm Sunday ceremony.

J’lem Easter service to be broadcast live on Web

By Etgar Lefkovits April 6, 2009

A Christian on-line broadcaster will be streaming live Easter services from the Church of the Holy Sepulchre on Sunday in an effort to connect believers around the globe to the Holy Land.

The unprecedented Web access to the Jerusalem holy site, which Christians traditionally hold to be the site of Jesus’s crucifixion and resurrection, will be available free of charge on

Pessah-Easter overlap boosts tourism to Israel

By Mel Bezalel April 11, 2009

Despite the widespread tourism decline across the world due to the financial crisis, hotel occupancy in Israel was expected to reach 75 per cent over the Pessah period – mostly thanks to Christian pilgrims here for Easter.

In 2008, Christian tourists comprised two-thirds of the three million visitors to Israel, and this year, a new record is expected as Pessah, which began on Wednesday evening, overlaps with Easter, which is celebrated today.

Pilgrim numbers for papal visit revised down

By Irit Rosenblum April 8, 2009

About 10,000 Christian pilgrims are expected to come to Israel in May during the visit of Pope Benedict XVI, significantly fewer than the “over 40,000” that Tourism Ministry officials spoke about less than a month ago.

The 2000 visit by John Paul II brought more than 47,000 pilgrims to Israel. Genesis Tours, which has an exclusive arrangement to fly pilgrims in and put them up, said there may be a few thousand additional pilgrims making arrangements with other travel agencies.

Pope to ride Aerial Odyssey in Jerusalem

By Danny Sadeh April 6, 2009

Pope Benedict XVI, who will be arriving in Israel for a short visit in a month-and-a-half, will also get to take a 40-minute trip through the country’s skies, without even having to leave the holy city of Jerusalem.

The pope will be visiting Jerusalem’s Time Elevator site, and get to inaugurate its new attraction – the Aerial Odyssey.

Religion and State in Israel

April 13, 2009

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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