Religion and State in Israel – August 24, 2009 (Section 1)

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Religion and State in Israel

August 24, 2009 (Section 1) (continues in Section 2)

If you are reading in email or RSS feed, please click here to read ONLINE

Editor – Joel Katz

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

Israel’s Unusual Unions

Click here for VIDEO online August 21, 2009

Civil marriages are not allowed in Israel. CNN’s Paula Hancocks talks to those who fall foul of the law.

Embedded video from CNN Video

Prenuptial agreements book hoped to prevent ‘agunot’

By Matthew Wagner August 20, 2009

The plight of agunot – women “chained” in failed marriages – is in Rachel Levmore’s bones. That’s why she wrote a book on prenuptial agreements, which she believes could help prevent such cases.

Levmore’s book, Spare Your Eyes Tears: Prenuptial Agreements for the Prevention of Get Refusal (Hebrew title: Min’i Einayich Medima) might represent a new trend in female Torah scholarship.

“My purpose in this book is to bring to the attention of rabbis and rabbinical judges the halachic basis for prenuptial agreements,” said Levmore.

“I hope to bring about change by increasing consciousness and educating people who have the power to implement prenuptial agreements.”

Rabbi David Stav, spokesman for the Tzohar group, a rabbinic organization that became famous for, among other things, offering to officiate at weddings pro bono, said that rabbinical judges’ opposition to the use of prenuptial agreements is the main reason why his organization has not adopted them as a mandatory part of the marriages they conduct.

Women’s groups join battle against bus segregation August 19, 2009

Student and religious women’s organizations as well as leading women’s organizations such as the Movement of Working Women & Volunteers and Israeli Women’s Lobby have joined the cause in a public call not to legally legitimize the gender-based segregation in Israeli public transport, which applies in 40 haredi bus lines across the country.

Talia Livni, Na’amat chairwoman also called upon the transport minister to draw a clear red line against segregation on public transport.

“Today the ultra-Orthodox are demanding gender-based separation in public transport, in the future they will demand it in work places and public institutes.

“The haredim must realize that in the public sphere they are subject to laws of equality imposed by the state.

If they seek segregation in their private spheres, let them, but they cannot force their own gender discrimination on the general public,” she stated.

Express-ly Forbidden

By Michele Chabin August 18, 2009

“The rest of the passengers started screaming,” Yoffe, 26, said of the incident, which occurred about two years ago.

“There were 10 or 15 of them screaming. I told them this was a public Egged bus, that this is a democratic state and that they couldn’t force me to get off.”

…While non-haredim can, in theory, take the haredi buses, a woman who is not dressed in haredi style — wearing a blouse down to her wrists and above her collar bone; skirts far below her knees with thick stockings and closed shoes; with her hair completely covered — may face an onslaught of demeaning words and even physical abuse.

Neither the bus companies nor the Ministry of Transport have done anything to stop the intimidation.

“The Transport Ministry even denies the buses are officially segregated,” Attorney Einat Hurvitz said, her voice critical. “They say the passengers are making the decisions.”

…Yehuda Mirsky, a scholar who also attended the demonstration, noted that several female soldiers had been forced off buses by haredi passengers demanding “modesty.”

“What constitutes modesty and immodesty, and why is this a criteria for a public bus?” Mirsky asked.

The author Naomi Ragen, one of IRAC’s petitioners, said in a phone interview that she joined the court action “because haredi women can’t fight for themselves. My own terrible experience has convinced me that it’s open season on women on public transportation.”

What do women want?

By Shimon Stern Opinion August 19, 2009

Shimon Stern is the spokesman of the Rabbinic Committee for Transportation Affairs

Segregated bus lines have been in existence in Israel for 15 years, and in many countries such as the United States, Japan, Greece, and France one can find separate train cars for women.

There, everyone understands the legitimacy of the issue – women who wish to sit separately because of the terribly crowded conditions and for other reasons.

…Each person has the right to decide, for themselves, what constitutes humiliation or respect.

I therefore think that it is clear that a community espousing gender-segregated systems at schools, synagogues, and celebrations is also allowed to decide that sitting separately is not humiliating – rather, a woman’s modesty is part of the respect she garners and plays an integral part in her dignified personality.

The Haredi Women Who Are Relegated to One Side of the Street

By Debra Nussbaum Cohen Opinion August 17, 2009

Stories like these are all about the disempowerment of women. Here’s the progression that goes through my mind when I read them:

Men control communal and religious power >

women’s voices never heard outside the purview where they are kept by tradition as interpreted by the men in charge >

women subjected to ever-increasing disempowerment and invisibility under the guise of modesty, for instance by being forced onto a single side of the street >

women objectified as a gender and not viewed as individuals with discrete abilities and needs > women accept and internalize the disempowerment and invisibility >

women, now “disappeared” further from male view, are powerless and disregarded >

women whose husbands are abusive, or who withhold a get, have no recourse because their voices are literally not heard by the men in charge of their communal/religious systems.

And women who cannot squash themselves into the conformity required by their community are regarded as dangerous, and treated as such.

A chuppah in the closet

By Anshel Pfeffer Opinion August 23, 2009

The impending halakhic ruling to allow religious gay men to marry women and have children while not forcing them to keep their homosexuality a secret may seem like a rare sign of liberalism in the Orthodox establishment.

On the other hand, it may paradoxically be a reinforcement of the wall of halakha.

The initiative was unveiled by Rabbi Menachem Burstein, head of the Jewish fertility organization Puah Institute, at a conference titled “Parenthood at any cost?” at the Center for Health Law and Bioethics at Ono Academic College

The ruling, which is still under consultation, allows a religious gay man, who is committed to keeping mitzvahs, marry a woman with the understanding that he is not physically attracted to her and that whatever children they have together will be conceived either artificially or through sexual relations that will have only that target.

At the same time, that man will be allowed to maintain a relationship with his gay partner on the condition that he will not have forbidden sexual intercourse with him and will undergo counseling with therapists of Atzat Nefesh, an organization whose stated purpose is to “treat” religious gays and lesbians.

Haredi writer: Gays should be forced to face firing squad

By Uri Blau Opinion August 21, 2009

A Haredi Web site this week published an article calling for police to arrest the managers of the Tel Aviv gay center that was the scene of a shooting that left two dead earlier this month, claiming that the managers ran a club where child molestation and acts of sexual perversion took place.

Haredim and homophobia

By Jonathan Rosenblum Opinion August 24, 2009

Haredim think that the media show a persistent and blatant bias in their coverage of the community. And they are right.

…Even those who did not jump to the conclusion that the murderer himself was haredi were quick to assign blame to haredi politicians for “incitement” against homosexuals.

Organ donation to get halachic approval

By Nissan Shtrauchler August 23, 2009

The Chief Rabbinate is currently in the midst of resolving the last halachic quandaries surrounding organ donation, Yedioth Ahronoth reported Thursday.

In order to encourage organ donation among the religious public, the rabbinate decided to introduce a new organ donor card – different from the National Transplant and Organ Donations Center (ADI) card – which will stipulate that the potential donor’s organs can be harvested only if and after brain death is determined according to the strictest letter of the law.

Chief Rabbi of Israel Yona Metzger also wants the Chief Rabbinate’s Council to issue an official decree giving the law a halachic seal of approval.

State to impose civil service rules on religious councils

By Dan Izenberg August 19, 2009

After 40 years, religious council employees are to become subject to civil service disciplinary rules, the state informed the High Court of Justice this week.

The state’s message came in response to a petition by The Movement for Quality Government and the Israel Religious Action Center of the Reform Movement.

“The state shares the hopes of the petitioner to make order of and formalize disciplinary rules in the religious councils,” the state’s representative, Dana Manha, wrote.

Israel: Religious Freedom and Pluralism

“Speaking about Israel on the High Holy Days: A guide presented by the New Israel Fund Rosh Hashanah 5770” (page 11) [pdf file] August 2009

Many of Israel’s Jewish citizens feel disconnected from their Jewish identity, and there is a chasm between religious and secular Jews in Israel, with significant implications for social cohesion both within Israel and between Israeli and Diaspora Jewry.

…The monopoly of religious institutions and traditions by the ultraOrthodox sector has resulted in the impingement of the basic rights and status of Jewish women in Israel – religious and secular alike.

…Despite these obstacles, there are encouraging signs of Jewish renewal and in Israel today Jews of all types are reconnecting – or connecting for the first time – to their Judaism.

Three new justices appointed, including two outsiders

By Tomer Zarchin August 24, 2009

The three new justices are Tel Aviv District Court Judge Uzi Vogelman, Haifa District Court Judge Isaac Amit and Be’er Sheva District Court Judge Neal Hendel.

Hendel is religious and Amit comes from a religious background. That made their appointment a double victory for the four politicians on the nine-member appointments committee, who had sought to bolster the court’s religious contingent.

Prominent rabbis slam Supreme Court candidacy

By Chaim Levinson August 21, 2009

Prominent religious Zionist rabbis yesterday published a manifesto opposing the proposed appointment to the Supreme Court of Be’er Sheva District Court Judge Joseph (Sefi) Elon.

They primarily objected to two decisions he made at the time of Israel’s 2005 disengagement from the Gaza Strip.

Russian Jews ponder age-old question: Israel or the U.S.?

By Natasha Mozgovaya August 19, 2009

Until recently, the American Jewish community ignored the Russians’ uniqueness, hoping that over time they would be absorbed into the community’s usual framework.

Israeli diplomats and local representatives of organizations such as the Jewish Agency also preferred to ignore reality.

However, the Limmud FSU convention demonstrated the extent to which attitudes have changed.

Showing up at a one-day meeting with 400 participants were Israel’s minister of immigrant absorption, Sofa Landver, the country’s consul general in New York, Asaf Shariv, several Knesset members and a Jewish Agency emissary who considers them a potential source for high-quality immigrants.

Charities Hurt by Madoff May Have To Return Funds

By Josh Nathan-Kazis August 19, 2009

The battered image of Hadassah, the American women’s Zionist organization, may be harmed further by the disclosure earlier this month that its former chief financial officer was a mistress to Bernard Madoff — even as she sat on the committee that invested the charity’s funds with Madoff’s $50 billion Ponzi scheme.

But worse news may yet be in the offing.

Beyond the millions the organization reported losing with Madoff, Hadassah — and possibly other charities — may be required under a federal law to give back millions of dollars taken out of Madoff accounts, even before his firm collapsed.

Anti-Semitic cops beat me, says Israeli-American tycoon

By Raphael Ahren August 21, 2009

The savior of Beitar Jerusalem asserted this week that he was abused by anti-Semitic policemen in Florida, after a newspaper reported the U.S.-Israeli businessman and philanthropist had been arrested on charges of driving under the influence and drug possession in Broward County in June.

“They beat the shit out of me,” Guma Aguiar, 32, told Haaretz.

“That’s how I can sum it up, I got the shit kicked out of me by a bunch of anti-Semitic cops… There’s no doubt it was anti-Semitism.”

…Thomas Kaplan, with whom Aguiar co-founded in 2003 an energy company that is the foundation of Aguiar’s wealth, filed two lawsuits against his nephew.

A Florida court threw out the first case accusing Aguiar of misusing family foundation funds, but the second case involving the company, recently sold for $2.5 billion, is still pending.

Click here for VIDEOS of Guma Aguiar

Supreme Court denies ex-Minister Benizri’s appeal

By Aviad Glickman August 23, 2009

The Supreme Court on Sunday denied former Minister Shlomo Benizri’s appeal to postpone the start of his jail term until after the High Holidays.

The Shas minister will therefore begin his sentence on September 1, after being convicted of taking a bribe, breach of trust, conspiring to commit a crime and disruption of proceedings.

Benizri: I was victim of character assassination in media

By Ronen Medzini August 20, 2009

About 300 haredim gathered Thursday in Jerusalem to hold a prayer rally for former minister, Shlomo Benizri, who will soon be entering jail.

All the Shas leadership, some of whom made speeches, attended the prayer rally held in Or HaChayim Yeshiva in Jerusalem.

“I withstood eight years of persecution, suffering, sorrow, cruelty, and sucking my blood with a straw,” continued Benizri.

Benizri concluded his speech by giving voice to the sense of persecution spreading through the haredi public.

“Do a survey of people on the street (and you’ll find that) people feel persecuted. They feel great pain. Leave us alone.

We just want to continue upholding the Torah. We don’t ask anything more. There is a boiling point to this story, just as it exploded last month in Mea Shearim.

We are not looking for arguments and disputes. Let us live. We are loyal citizens. We haven’t asked for extra rights,” Benizri concluded.

Yisrael Hayom Editorial on Shas August 23, 2009

Yisrael Hayom argues that Shas spiritual founder Rabbi Ovadia Yosef “is one of the great Jewish minds of the ages.

For 150 years, there has been no movement of redemption of such magnitude and influence in the Jewish world like that which Rabbi Josef leads.”

But the author laments,

“This wonderful revolution has been taken over by a corrupt group who are so confused, it’s scary. Instead of working for the good of the movement, they chose to have the movement work for them.”

Shas rabbi: Benizri’s judges are heretics

Click here for VIDEO [Hebrew]

By Ronen Medzini August 23, 2009

Shas spiritual leader Rabbi Ovadia Yosef harshly slammed the legal system on Wednesday following the decision to send former Minister Shlomo Benizri, who was convicted of taking a bribe, to four years in prison. The rabbi referred to the judges in the Benizri trial as “heretics”.

“We deeply regret the evil trial given to our active friends, who has always engaged in teaching and praising the Torah,” Rabbi Yosef said.

“It’s a shame that we have such a distorted court. They have no religion, no judgment, they don’t believe in anything.”

Shas leader raps ‘warped’ Supreme Court for convicting Benizri

By Yair Ettinger and Tomer Zarchin August 21, 2009

“How can the Holy One, blessed be He, be found in their company? What business does a priest [who under Jewish law must not come into contact with the dead] have in a cemetery?”

Chief Rabbi to pray for Benizri August 20, 2009

Leaflets inviting the public to the rally were distributed on the streets earlier this week, with the organizers promising a speech by Chief Sephardic Rabbi Shlomo Amar and a broadcast of and address by Shas spiritual leader Rabbi Ovadia Yosef.

Cracking the code

By Shelley Neese August 24, 2009

Shelley Neese is managing editor and columnist for the DC-based pro-Israel Christian magazine, The Jerusalem Connection.

Both Barfield and Knight describe themselves as Torah observant Christians with a sincere love for Israel and the Jewish people.

Their central desire in getting involved with the Copper Scroll was to return the treasure of the Scroll to its rightful owners: the nation of Israel.

In a phone interview with Barfield we discussed the implications of actually finding something on the expedition. I also noted that the finder’s fee for such an achievement would be considerable.

“If God has selected me to do this,” Barfield replied, “He gave it to a guy that just doesn’t give a darn about wealth.”

Religion and State in Israel

August 24, 2009 (Section 1) (continues in Section 2)

If you are reading in email or RSS feed, please click here to read ONLINE

Editor – Joel Katz

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

All rights reserved.

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