Religion and State in Israel – December 28, 2009 (Section 2)

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Religion and State in Israel

December 28, 2009 (Section 2) (see also Section 1)

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Editor – Joel Katz

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

Mock ‘chastity squads’ protest segregated bus lines

By Kobi Nahshoni December 27, 2009

A mock “chastity squad” divided the walking routes leading up the government offices in Jerusalem for men and women on Sunday morning in protest against the segregated bus lines in public transportation in the capital.

The protestors, some 20 activists of the Yerushalmim movement handed out fliers outside the Supreme Court building which directed pedestrians to their designated pavement according to their sex.

The demonstrators held up signs which read,

“Passersby! We implore you to adhere to complete separation between men and women in the government compound. Men are required to move to the right side and women to the left side. Mothers are required to separate from their children and husbands. Please do not disrupt our lifestyle of god-fearing Jews, God and his Torah.”

Jerusalem groups to protest ‘mehadrin’ bus lines

By Abe Selig December 25, 2009

On the same day that Transportation Minister Yisrael Katz is expected to deliver his recommendations to the Supreme Court about “mehadrin” bus lines – which designate separate seating for men and women – some residents of the capital plan to make their voices heard on the subject.

Poll: Majority of Israelis oppose gender-segregated buses

By Abe Selig December 27, 2009

“If gender segregation isn’t stopped on buses, our fear is that it will continue to move further into the public sphere,” said Martin Viler, a spokesman for the Yerushalmim movement, which is led by city councilwoman Rachel Azaria.

“Our goal today was to call attention to the ongoing segregation of the sexes on the mehadrin bus lines, but also to warn the public that if it continues unabated, we’ll soon see it on the streets, and not just in haredi neighborhoods.”

Factions clash over Israel’s buses

By Seth Freedman December 16, 2009

With the gulf between the secular and religious camps in Israel continuing, the issue of gender segregation on public transport has become the latest bone of contention.

Activists from both sides are eagerly awaiting a ruling – due at the end of the month – from the Minister for Transport, whose decision will either bring an end to the forced separation of men and women on state-run buses or enshrine the partition in Israeli law.

Chanukah demonstration at Western Wall December 22, 2009

Returning to the Kotel

By Haviva Ner-David Opinion December 23, 2009

Rabbi Haviva Ner-David is a writer, teacher, and activist.

This past Friday was my first time coming back to Jerusalem to join my sisters at the Kotel for our monthly Rosh Hodesh service.

I have been active in Women of the Wall for over 15 years. I am on the board and had been praying at 7 am each month, rain or shine, with these women at the Kotel for all of those years. Until I moved this past summer to Kibbutz Hannaton in the Lower Galilee.

Kibbutz Hannaton is a religious Kibbutz, but it is religious in the same unacceptable-to-the-Israeli-religious-powers-that-be way as Women of the Wall.

Poll: 90% of Israelis want less gender-separation at Kotel

By Jamie Romm December 24, 2009

A new poll conducted by Hiddush, a group promoting religious freedom and equality in Israel, shows that 90 percent of the adult Jewish population here wants to see, at minimum, a liberalization of the gender-separation policy at the Kotel.

In the current poll, the 90% in favor of a change included 81% of the self-defined religious people who were polled.

These respondents were either against the mehitzot that separate the men from the women or wanted them to be moved to give the same amount of space to both.

Seventy-one percent of respondents believed that the mehitzot degrade women.

Oren Asks for Inquiry on Wall Arrest

By Debra Nussbaum Cohen December 23, 2009

Israeli Ambassador Michael Oren blamed his own government for giving him an “incomplete” report recently that led to his giving leaders of Conservative Judaism an inaccurate account of one of their members’ detention at Jerusalem’s Western Wall.

When asked about the incident at the annual meeting of the United Synagogue of Conservative Judaism in December, Oren dismissed these accounts as “widely misreported,” saying she was simply “led away” from the area.

In the face of challenges to his account, the Israel embassy released a statement December 22 conceding he had misinformed the Jewish leaders.

“The ambassador’s response was based on information he had requested and received from Israel, but which was subsequently proven to be incomplete,” the statement said.

Challenging Traditions at the Heart of Judaism

By Isabel Kershner December 21, 2009

Anat Hoffman, chairwoman of Women of the Wall, which was founded in 1988, said she had never seen so many turn up in the month of Tevet.

“We are pushing the envelope. History is made of moments like this,” she said.

…“Women are exempt from carrying out certain commandments, but not forbidden,” said Ms. Frenkel, who kept her prayer shawl hidden beneath her jacket by the Kotel this time around.

But the rabbi of the Western Wall, Shmuel Rabinowitz, said “there is no value to prayer that creates controversy and offends other female worshipers” at the site.

The dispute is not about interpretations of religious law, he added, but about the sanctity and the accepted custom of the place. “On Friday the heavens wept,” he said.

Jewish women risk arrest, insults to pray at holy site

AFP December 27, 2009

Anat Hoffman said the police commander for the Wall recently told her the women could be arrested for wearing fringed black and white prayer shawls like those used by the men. “He did say something flowery would be okay,” said Hoffman.

She wore a paper crown with the inscription: “The Kotel is for all,” and smiled as she joined the crowd in singing traditional Hanukah songs. The women’s voices startled an elderly ultra-Orthodox man who promptly scurried away.

Western Wall Rabbi: There will be No Negotiations Regarding the Kosel

By Yechiel Spira December 24, 2009

While secularists view the Kosel [Western Wall] as a national treasure, an asset that belongs to “all Jews”, frum and non-frum alike, their representatives wish to enter into talks with Israel’s Chief Rabbi of Holy Site HaRav Shmuel Rabinowitz Shlita, hoping to arrive at an agreement that will accommodate their secular lifestyle at the Kosel.

The Rav told the secularists that perhaps he erred in some of his statements, “and if that is the case I am correcting myself. There will not be any negotiations regarding the Kosel”.

Rabbi calls on Haredim to visit Western Wall at night

By Kobi Nahshoni December 25, 2009

Ultra-Orthodox rabbis have called on their followers to visit the Western Wall early in the morning or late at night, because “it is almost impossible to pass through the place without running into a prohibition”.

The ad was published in Yated Neeman newspaper Tuesday by the Rabbinical Transportation Committee, which supports kosher bus lines – seating women and men separately – in Jerusalem.

Blog series on Women of the Wall December 18-26, 2009

Blog series in solidarity for Women of the Wall

Some Color at the Kotel: Rosh Chodesh Tevet

By Anat Hoffman Opinion December 21, 2009

Anat Hoffman is the Executive Director of the Israel Religious Action Center in Jerusalem.

And while standing and waiting in the rain, part of our new Torah was ruined.

That night, after laying it out to dry as best it could, I couldn’t help but notice that the portion that had gotten wet, from parashat Pinhas, told the story of the daughters of Zelophehad, who stood in front of Moses and all the important men of the day to plead for the rightful inheritance of their father’s name.

They spoke up for themselves, and Moses listened. He brought their case before God, not before other men. Their plea was declared just. Inheritance was revolutionized.

Har Bracha soldiers wait for compromise

By Kobi Nahshoni December 23, 2009

Some 100 students and soldiers are already facing the dilemma of whether to abandon the yeshiva that the IDF and Defense Ministry cut ties with, or become regular soldiers and serve in the military for three years.

Even after an ultimatum was given to the students of the Har Bracha Yeshiva, which was deemed a supporter of insubordination, the Hesder Yeshiva Association still believes a compromise can be reached.

Rabbi urges parents protest against evacuation

By Kobi Nahshoni December 23, 2009

Rabbi Zalman Melamed, one of the Religious Zionism stream’s senior rabbis, urged parents of IDF soldiers to protest against orders handed down to their children to evacuate settlements in the West Bank, and recommended they demonstrate outside the army bases in which their children serve.

Melamed is head of the Beit El Yeshiva and father of Rabbi Eliezer Melamed, whose yeshiva was recently removed from the arrangement with the IDF following its refusal to condemn its troops’ insubordination.

‘Find new yeshiva or serve full 3 years in IDF’ December 23, 2009

“Whoever is for G-d, Follow me!”

The IDF will give an ultimatum to soldiers studying at Yeshivat Har Bracha, according to a letter obtained by Army Radio on Wednesday morning.

“Soldiers will be given 60 days to switch to another hesder yeshiva,” read the letter. “Any soldier that refuses to move to another yeshiva within the given period will leave the hesder track and serve the full three years.”

Hesder Yeshiva Quits Army

By Hillel Fendel December 23, 2009

The head of the Yeshivat Hesder in the Negev city of Arad, Rabbi Yinon Ilani, has sent a letter to the Union of Hesder Yeshivot, asking to be removed from both the Union and the Hesder arrangement with the army.

“Rabbi Stav said to the media that the Union is obligated to both State law and Torah law,” Rabbi Ilani wrote, “but that it is not yet clear how to integrate both of them.

If the Yeshiva heads cannot decide the proper approach, then what can be expected from a simple soldier? Why not say clearly: ‘We are loyal to the State and its laws as long as they do not contradict our holy Torah; every law that opposes the Torah is blatantly illegal?’”

Religious Zionists must disown the zealots

By Isi Leibler Opinion December 24, 2009

Religious Zionists are confronted by an unenviable challenge which could permanently undermine their status in Israel.

From being regarded by the mainstream as the voice of religious moderation and a force of societal unification – whose youth have earned the reputation as role models of devotion and dedication to the state and its defense – they are now teetering on marginalization at best, and stigmatized as zealots at worst.

Cracks emerge in hesder unity as rabbis eye faithful

By Matthew Wagner December 22, 2009

Just one day after 57 hesder yeshiva heads met and issued a statement of unity there were already signs of dissent Monday.

Several heads of hesder yeshivas told The Jerusalem Post they were dissatisfied with the overly conciliatory message that went out from Sunday’s meeting at Or Etzion Yeshiva.

VIDEO: Interview with Rabbi Dov Wolpe, The Task Force to Save the Nation and the Land

*Click PLAY, then place mouse on arrow at bottom-right, click “CC” for Closed Captions – English subtitles.

Click here for VIDEO

December 15, 2009

On Zionism and refusing orders

By Prof. Shlomo Avineri Opinion December 22, 2009

The pain and distress of those who support settlements throughout the historical Land Of Israel is understandable. But expressions of pain, however genuine, cannot be a substitute for acknowledging that in the Jewish state only one legitimate body is authorized to enforce political decisions.

Failing to acknowledge this is to undermine Zionism’s historic achievement, and the alternative is another Lebanon.

IDF’s Kfir Brigade – Fighting Palestinians and insubordination

By Yaakov Katz December 27, 2009

Alongside the operational threats, Col. Oren Abman is also facing a new and unique challenge from within the brigade, insubordination.

…The recent wave of insubordination has to do with a number of factors, Abman explains to his officers. Firstly, since the Kfir Brigade is deployed in the West Bank, its battalions are the ones who rub up with the local population and are chosen to provide general security for evacuations.

In addition, in recent years and since the IDF Manpower Division has cut the number of hesder students who are drafted into the traditional infantry brigades, Kfir has seen a rise in the number of soldiers it gets from yeshivas, many of which are located in the West Bank.

The two Nahshon soldiers, for example, are from settlements and both serving in the IDF in the hesder program, which combines yeshiva study with military service.

The ’00s: Variations on a Theme of Trauma

By Gary Rosenblatt December 22, 2009 The Jewish Week Editorial

It is clear that the project is the community’s most dramatically successful Jewish identity program in memory. But can Birthright reverse the trend of a young generation of American Jews increasingly distanced from their history, heritage and religion?

To date, follow-up efforts to involve Birthright alumni in Jewish life back home have been less than successful, but studies indicate that the Birthright experience often has a profound and lasting effect on participants.

Russian Jews name Sharansky ‘Man of the Year’ December 24, 2009

Jewish Agency Chairman Natan Sharansky was named “Man of the Year” by the Union of Jewish Communities of Russia in ceremony at the Kremlin in Moscow on Sunday.

Sharansky received the award at the ceremonial hall of the Kremlin in the presence of Russia’s Chief Rabbi Berel Lazar, Russian Jewish community leaders, and public figures.

Bar-Ilan University celebrates French aliyah December 26, 2009

Bar-Ilan University’s Dahan Center for Sephardic Heritage, together with the Ariel Institute, will on Monday host an international conference marking 40 years since the immigration of many thousands of French Jews to Israel.

A nightmare of an aliya

By Ruth Eglash December 23, 2009

It’s been nine months since Michael Diamant first approached the Jewish Agency about making aliya and more than two months since he actually moved here, but for the former resident of Stockholm, citizenship in the Jewish state seems more elusive than ever.

VIDEO: Christmas and New Year’s Kashrut Controversy in Jerusalem

December 27, 2009

Click here for VIDEO

(Note: no audio during interviews with Rabbi Tovia Singer)

Christmas Blessing by President Shimon Peres

Santa distributes Christmas trees in Jerusalem

Jerusalem Municipality Distribution of Christmas Trees

JNF funds Christmas tree distribution in J’lem

By Abe Selig December 16, 2009

In an effort to spread some holiday cheer, the Jerusalem Municipality on Wednesday announced that it would be distributing free Christmas trees to the capital’s Christian residents in front of the Old City’s Jaffa Gate on the morning of Christmas Eve.

According to the municipality, the trees are supplied by the Jewish National Fund, which owns large swaths of forest-land across the country.

Season’s Greetings from the IDF

December 20, 2009

Lt. Col. Avital Leibovitch, head of the foreign press branch of the IDF Spokesperson Unit, takes a moment to wish the world a happy holiday. Whether you are Jewish, Christian, Muslim, or Druze – the Israel Defense Force is happy to wish you a joyous new year and a peaceful holiday season!

Herzog: Postpone Pope Pius XII’s beatification

By Matthew Wagner and Lisa Palmieri-Billig in Rome December 27, 2009

Welfare and Social Affairs Minister Isaac Herzog met Saturday evening with senior leaders of the Catholic Church in Israel and asked that the beatification of Pius XII be delayed until his role during the Holocaust could be better scrutinized and clarified.

“I call on the heads of the Vatican to delay the beatification process until Vatican archives with documents dating to Pius’s stint as Pope during World War II are opened.”

Metzger ‘hurt’ by pope’s call on Pius

By Matthew Wagner December 23, 2009

Chief Ashkenazi Rabbi Yona Metzger said Tuesday that Pope Benedict XVI’s decision to proceed with the beatification of Pius XII would make it difficult to continue with Catholic-Jewish interfaith dialogue.

Nevertheless, Metzger made it clear that the Chief Rabbinate would not cut off relations with the Vatican.

“It will be difficult to continue our dialogue with the Vatican because this move hurts our relationship,” said Metzger.

“But from experience we have seen that maintaining contact with leaders of other religions is important. Nevertheless, we will express our dissatisfaction with this controversial decision.

Vatican, Israel joust over Jerusalem site

By Edmund Sanders December 23, 2009

The Roman Catholic Church has been fighting for more than 450 years to win back control of the Crusader-era sanctuary, also known as the Holy Cenacle, which was seized from Franciscan monks around 1551 during the Ottoman Empire.

Vatican officials had hoped to make a deal with Israel this year, but the latest round of negotiations ended this month without an agreement, leading some to say that the impasse is souring diplomatic relations between the two sides.

IN PICTURES / Israel uncovers first Jesus-era house in Nazareth December 21, 2009

Israeli archaeologists said Monday that they have uncovered remains of the first dwelling in the northern city of Nazareth that can be dated back to the time of Jesus.

The find sheds a new light on what Nazareth might have been like in Jesus’ time, said the archaeologists, indicating that it was probably a small hamlet with about 50 houses populated by poor Jews.

Israel Ministry of Tourism Greetings December 2009

“From the Holy Land, where it all began, we send you our warmest season’s greetings and our best wishes for a happy New Year. May 2010 bring you and yours joy and happiness, may it be the year you visit the Holy Land for a life-changing pilgrimage.”

Israel’s Messianic Jews wary of stepped-up persecution

By Michele Chabin December 22, 2009

Community members say the decades-old harassment has intensified in recent years, as ultra-Orthodox Jewish groups dedicated to stopping missionary activity have grown stronger and more confident.

Anti-missionary activists hold protests outside Messianic places of worship and post photos and the addresses of believers on lampposts. They tell the Ministry of the Interior that Messianic Jews are converts to Christianity, something that would make them ineligible to immigrate to Israel.

Although Israeli law permits missionary activity—provided the evangelizer does not offer any material incentive to a potential convert—the persecution and forced conversion of countless Jews for generations has made Jews extremely wary of proselytizing.

Holly in the holy city

By MJ Rosenberg December 26, 2009

Jewish tourists in Israel for the first time marvel at the lack of Christmas spirit – no “Deck the Halls” music in coffee shops, no happy-ending made-for-TV specials, and no last-minute-shopping Christmas Eve stampede at the mall.

But despite the low level of visible Christmas cheer, the city is still preparing for Christmas and the throngs of holiday visitors in more private ways – inside churches and Russian supermarkets, in the narrow passageways of the old city and the festive Christmas trees adorning apartments of foreign workers.

It’s beginning to look a lot like Christmas

By Mya Guarnieri December 25, 2009

The majority of the customers and staff of these stalls are immigrants from the former Soviet Union. But their winter celebration, which is held on the New Year, shouldn’t be confused with Christmas, manager Alexander Zelentsov says.

“In Russia, it’s the biggest holiday of the year,” Zelentsov remarks, explaining that it’s the only national holiday free of politics or history.

It is also a completely secular occasion, he adds. “From the outside, it looks like Christmas, but there is no connection.

No snow, but Christmas in Jaffa is jolly all the same

By Lital Levin December 25, 2009

Jaffa’s Christmas procession, organized by the city’s Greek Orthodox Scouts, marched on Louis Pasteur Street.

The children – most of them Arab except for three Philippine girls accompanied by their mothers – wore Santa costumes. A few girls dressed up as angels, and even babies wore red Santa hats. A thin, tall girl flaunted short tight pants, leggings and high red-and-white boots.

Tourism Ministry presents 3-year plan

By Ron Friedman December 24, 2009

Tourism Minister Stas Misezhnikov presented his ministry’s three-year plan to boost tourism at a press conference in Tel Aviv on Wednesday. The plan, which aims to bring in an additional one million foreign tourists by 2012, focuses mostly on attracting tourists who come to Israel for religious, historical and cultural purposes.

According to the ministry, the sectors Israel should be focusing on are Evangelical Christians, Russian Orthodox and Catholic Christians and Jews.

Tourism minister wants million more tourists in 3 years December 26, 2009

Thirty-nine percent of incoming tourism was of Jewish travelers and 54% of Christians.

The most toured sites were Jerusalem’s Western Wall (74%); the Jewish Quarter (66%); Mount of Olives (54%); Church of the Holy Sepulchre (53%) and Via Dolorosa (51%).

Report: 154,000 Christians live in Israel December 24, 2009

On Christmas Eve 2009, some 154.5 thousand Christians live in Israel, representing 2.1% of the total population, according to a report published Thursday by the Central Bureau of Statistics. The data does not include foreign workers residing in Israel.

The majority of the Christian population – some 20,000 – lives in the northern city of Nazareth, while another 14,100 live in Haifa, 12,800 live in Jerusalem and 9,100 in the northern town of Shfaram.

From Santa to Sanballat

By David Parsons Opinion December 24, 2009

The writer is media director for the International Christian Embassy Jerusalem

It comes as no surprise that the ‘culture wars’ over Christmas being waged in other lands have hit Jerusalem.

Religion and State in Israel

December 28, 2009 (Section 2) (see also Section 1)

Editor – Joel Katz

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

All rights reserved.

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