Religion and State in Israel – May 4, 2009 (Section 2)

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Religion and State in Israel

May 4, 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.

Pope to visit Middle East as ‘pilgrim of peace’

AP May 3, 2009

“In just a few days I will have the privilege of visiting the Holy Land. I go as a pilgrim of peace,” the pontiff said of his first papal trip to the Middle East.

Pope’s visit to Israel fraught with potential minefields

By Ruth Ellen Gruber April 30, 2009

The official Israeli government Web site for Pope Benedict XVI’s upcoming trip to Israel and the West Bank promotes the May 11-15 visit as a “Bridge for Peace.”

Others, however, describe it as a potential minefield where various factions may try to exploit the pope’s presence for political gain.

Nazareth Hopes Pope’s Visit Will Boost Tourism

By Howard Schneider May 4, 2009

The pope’s upcoming trip to Israel is not planned as an economic development tool. But the mood in this Arab city, which has felt short-changed in its share of the tourist trade, is that Benedict’s day-long itinerary here will be an important boost.

Nazareth, meanwhile, is banking that the Pope’s presence will promote the city as a place that is central to Christianity and a seat of Arab culture in Israel.

For the town as a whole, Benedict’s visit is already paying off in the form of about $6 million in infrastructure that the Israeli government is funding to handle the expected crowds.

Foreign Ministry opens website dedicated to Pope’s visit May 3, 2009

The Foreign Ministry inaugurated on Sunday a website dedicated to the upcoming pilgrimage of Pope Benedict XVI to Israel, set to take place between May 11-15.

The website, accessible at, is presented in eight languages (English, French, Spanish, Portuguese, Polish, Italian, German and Hebrew). 

It contains textual and audio-visual information on the Papal pilgrimage, Israel-Vatican relations, Christian communities in Israel and Christian holy sites throughout the country.

The site will also provide regular updates throughout the course of the visit, as well as live broadcasts of events during the Pope’s pilgrimage, such as the visit to Yad Vashem, masses at the Garden of Gethsemane and at the Mount of the Precipice, and visits to the site of the Last Supper and to the Church of the Holy Sepulcher.

‘Peres pushing gov’t to yield key Christian sites to the Vatican’ May 4, 2009

President Shimon Peres wants to give up Israeli sovereignty over key Christian holy sites to the Vatican, according to an Army Radio report Monday, a proposition which is reportedly opposed by Interior Minister Eli Yishai.

Army Radio said that the president was exerting pressure on the government to give up sovereignty over six sites including the Church of the Annunciation in Nazareth, the Coenaculum on Mount Zion, the Gethsemane on the Mount of Olives in Jerusalem, and the Church of the Multiplication on the Kinneret.

Western Wall to Remain Open during Papal Visit

By Hillel Fendel May 3, 2009

Israel Police and the Israel Security Agency (Shin Bet) have announced that the Western Wall will not be closed to Jewish worshippers during the Pope’s visit.

The two bodies made the decision, overturning their previous intention, in response to a request by the Rabbi of the Holy Sites, Rabbi Shmuel Rabinovitch.

The Western Wall plaza will remain open prior to the Papal visit, but in the morning hours, worshippers will be directed to the closed Wilson Arch area, alongside the Wall but north of the main prayer area. 

Neither the Dung Gate or Hagai Street entrances to the plaza will be closed, but during the visit itself, which will begin at 9:45 AM, visitors from Dung Gate will be detoured to the Hagai Street entrance.

Pope asked to find Jews raised Catholic

By Matthew Wagner April 28, 2009

Yad L’Achim, a haredi anti-missionary organization, called Monday on Pope Benedict XVI to help find thousands of European Jews who as young children were saved from the Holocaust by Catholic clergy and laymen and were never told of their Jewish origins

Lipshitz said that Yad L’Achim had a list of about 2,000 names of children believed to have been handed over to Catholic families, orphanages and other Church institutions to hide them from the Nazis.

Rabbi David Rosen, director of the American Jewish Committee’s Department for Interreligious Affairs, who is helping to coordinate the pope’s visit to Israel, said that Holocaust survivors with Jewish roots had the right to know about it, but doubted that the pope was the right person to petition.

“It is more appropriate to meet with the local archdioceses and attempt to track [them] down on a local level,” said Rosen. “It is a bit sensationalist to turn to the pope.”

Professor Jacob Neusner Comments on the Pope Benedict XVI’s Upcoming Trip to Israel April 28, 2009

Q: Above all this trip is a pilgrimage. How do you see it, as rabbi and Jewish intellectual?

When a century ago Theodor Herzl, founder of Zionism, turned to the Pope for support for a Jewish state, he was told that until the Jewish people converted to Christianity, the Church would do nothing to establish a Jewish state.

Papal visits to the state of Israel – this is not the first and will not be the last – repudiate that original decision and affirm the legitimacy of Israel as the Jewish state. It is always important to recognize the implicit statement represented by the Pope’s pilgrimage.

Israel-Vatican Meeting: No Mt. Zion Deal

By Hillel Fendel May 4, 2009

Representatives of the State of Israel and the Vatican who have been negotiating fiscal and property matters for over ten years met today for their semi-annual high-level meeting, and once again reported “significant progress.”

Nothing was signed, and another meeting was scheduled for Dec. 10 at the Vatican.

Asked if the question of control over the Last Supper room, in the building housing King David’s Tomb on Mt. Zion in Jerusalem, is close to being resolved, a Foreign Ministry delegate to the meeting answered in the negative.

The Israel Philatelic Service commemorates the visit of Pope Benedict XVI to Israel

May 4, 2009

Pope Benedict XVI is scheduled to visit Israel from 11 May 2009 to 15 May 2009. This occasion will be commemorated by a selection of philatelic and souvenir products.

The stamp used is the “Blue and White” stamp showing the sea and the word “Israel” in Hebrew written in the sand.

Edelstein: US funders won’t torpedo Sharansky

By Haviv Rettig Gur May 3, 2009

American funders’ opposition to Natan Sharansky’s candidacy for chairman of the Jewish Agency will likely not torpedo his appointment, Diaspora Affairs Minister Yuli Edelstein told The Jerusalem Post over the weekend.

According to Edelstein, who is responsible for the government’s relations with Jewish organizations such as the UJC and the agency, the UJC heads “are making a serious mistake in failing to consider that the government of Israel should be part of the reform process.”

Reforms seeking to weaken the deep ties between Israel’s political leadership and the agency’s governance would “turn it into just another NGO with no special connection to the State of Israel. They’d be a respectable charity, but no more than the JDC, Nefesh B’Nefesh or the IFCJ,” Edelstein said.

“Emotionally, I can understand where they’re coming from in not wanting to deal with the representatives of different political parties in Israel, and not necessarily leading representatives, but a total divorce that is implemented without considering its results could be a crushing blow to the Jewish Agency,” Edelstein added.

US Jewry’s unlikely savior

By Amotz Asa-El Opinion May 3, 2009

Israel’s help to HUC, JTS and YU might be more appropriately transmitted through the Jewish Agency, but the origin of the money can only be the government of Israel, which can earmark $100 million for this kind of purpose with relative ease.

Such a sum would not only immediately lift the three schools out of their current crises; it would serve Israel’s long-term needs far better than the handful of fighter planes that $100 million can hardly buy.

For the rabbis all these colleges produce later lead communities, inspire education and create more of what Israel lacks even more sorely than its hopeless lack of gold, oil, water and peace: They produce Jews.”

Richard Pratt – philanthropist, leader and ‘true mensch’

By Greer Fay Cashman May 1, 2009

Philanthropist Richard Pratt, who gave tens of millions of dollars through the Pratt Foundation to cultural, educational, social welfare, sports and environmental projects in Australia and Israel, has succumbed to cancer at age 74.

Pratt and his wife began visiting Israel regularly in 1970, and as a couple – and later through the Pratt Foundation – supported more than 300 projects in Israel.

Among these was the Peres Peace Center, which benefitted substantially from their generosity. The foundation also contributed some $4 million a year to the United Israel Appeal.

Waiting for the magic carpet

By Natasha Mozgovaya May 4, 2009

Since the Bnei Menashe first made contact with Israel in the 1950s, about 1,500 of them have moved here. Israel’s Ashkenazi chief rabbi, Yona Metzger, recognized them in 2005 as the descendants of one of the lost tribes.

After formally converting to Judaism in the Indian state of Mizoram, a group of 219 Bnei Menashe came to Israel, as full Jews and new immigrants.

But the gates have recently clanged shut, and even indirect immigration – in which Bnei Menashe who come to Israel as tourists convert here and become citizens once they are already in the country – has ceased.

Only state-run Jewish-Arab school threatened with closure

By Or Kashti April 28, 2009

Sources in the municipality said the reason for the uncertainty was the diminishing number of Jews in the neighborhood served by the school.

“The Jewish population in the school must be strengthened. The way to do this is to give the school a unique Jewish character that does not harm the Arab pupils. This can be achieved through cooperating with the Israel Movement for Progressive Judaism, the Reform movement,” one official said. 

Representatives from the Reform movement, which recently established a new youth hostel and study center in Jaffa, are reportedly meeting with school officials to work out an agreement to enable members to send their preschool-age children to Weizmann. 

Reconnecting to Judaism in Israel’s Original All-Jewish City April 2009

Today, if you look carefully, among the trendy cafes, chic boutiques and modern office buildings of Tel Aviv as it celebrates its centennial, you’ll find surprising evidence of both new and old spiritual life in Israel’s original, custom-built, all-Jewish city.

The largely secular founders of Tel Aviv, who stood on the sand dunes in 1909 to proclaim the birth of the new city, would in all likelihood be quite surprised to see how many institutions of Jewish learning and synagogues are dotted across the landscape of contemporary Tel Aviv.

From the point of view of religious life, the Tel Aviv of 2009 reflects the city’s character as a place of innovation and forward thinking. 

In its centennial year, Tel Aviv plays host to everything from a women’s post-high school Midrasha learning program to a secular yeshiva, with a National Religious Zionist yeshiva and three or four independent Modern Orthodox minyanim and learning centers thrown in for good measure. 

The bible in comics

By Tamar Trabelsi-Hadad May 4, 2009

The Education Ministry has recently introduced a new comic book into school curriculums in order to facilitate Bible studies among elementary school students.

The book, which contains an illustrated version of the books Samuel and Judges (Shoftim), is intended for use among fifth and sixth grade students, but the ministry plans to gradually expand the use of comics to all elementary school grades.

It should be stressed that the books are meant to accompany and compliment the students’ reading of the original biblical text, rather than replace it.

The bar mitzva king

By Abigail Klein May 3, 2009

“I try to make each one like it’s my first; new and fresh,” says Karzen, a 74-year-old former American pulpit rabbi.

He believes he’s the only Orthodox rabbi emceeing bar and bat mitzva ceremonies in Israel as a full-time profession. Yet the majority of his clients don’t even belong to a synagogue.

“People often ask if I’m Orthodox, Conservative or Reform. I’m really an Orthodox rabbi, but I always say that those words don’t appear in the Torah.

Look through the entire Five Books of Moses and you’ll never see ‘Orthodox,’ ‘Conservative,’ ‘Reform’ or ‘Reconstructionist.’ You’ll find the words ‘holy’ and ‘joyous.’ And that’s what I am – a holy, joyous rabbi.

The Jewish case for the Israel Democracy Institute

By Yedidia Z. Stern Opinion May 4, 2009

The writer is vice president for research on Israel as a Jewish state at the Israel Democracy Institute, a professor of la at Bar-Ilan University and co-editor of the journal Democratic Culture and of the book series Israeli Judaism.

Last week, the Israel Democracy Institute won the Israel Prize for Life Achievement. 

Much of the ire directed at IDI stems from the institute’s ambitious effort to propose a draft constitution for the State of Israel.

“Constitution by Consensus” begins with the Declaration of Independence, declares Israel to be a Jewish and democratic state and goes on to delineate a set of arrangements that guarantee and strengthen the Jewish character of the state.

For instance, IDI proposed that the Knesset (and not the courts) have the last word on personal law, conversion and the Sabbath.

The institute is also promoting a legislative proposal to close shopping centers and businesses on Saturdays and holidays in order to strengthen the special character of the public sphere. 

The Black Hebrews of Israel

By Stephanie Rice May 4, 2009

To be sure, the Black Hebrews have come a long way in their relations with government and society here.

They run a successful national chain of vegan restaurants, more than 300 of their youth are serving in the army and their choirs regularly perform throughout the country.

In 2006, Israelis even chose Black Hebrew singer Eddie Butler to represent them in the Eurovision song contest.

Jesus’s Zionists

By Matthew Wagner May 2, 2009

…unlike most Jewish religious Zionists – who see the establishment of the state as a precursor to the yet-to be-revealed messiah – Bar-David has a radically different eschatology. That’s because Bar-David is a Messianic Jew.

Bar-David is one of about 10,000 Messianic Jews living here who believe that Jesus is the messiah and the son of God, and that accepting him as such is a precondition for spiritual redemption.

They call themselves Jewish because most were born to a Jewish mother or father.

But Bar-David and other members of the Messianic community see themselves not only as Jews, but also as ardent Zionists and patriotic Israelis.

They reject Christian replacement theology that sees, for instance, the Catholic Church, as the new chosen people. For the Messianic community, the Jewish people are still God’s chosen people, even if they rejected Jesus.

The establishment of Israel is a tangible manifestation of the prophecies of the Bible. The ingathering of the exiles, the return of the Jewish people to the land of Israel, is part of God’s master plan for the final redemption.

Fighting in the IDF against Israel’s enemies is tantamount to taking part in the fulfillment of biblical prophecies. To be on Israel’s side means to be on God’s side.

Religion and State in Israel

May 4, 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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