Religion and State in Israel – December 27, 2010 (Section 1)

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Editor – Joel Katz
Religion and State in Israel is not affiliated with any organization or movement.

By Jonathan Lis December 24, 2010
Yisrael Beiteinu is planning on conditioning its support for the budget on the progress of a draft bill recognizing conversions in the Israel Defense Forces, Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman has reportedly told associates recently.

By Stewart Ain December 21, 2010
Despite assurances that there would be no backroom deal to allow passage of a conversion bill giving the Orthodox Chief Rabbinate veto power over all Israeli conversions, the leader of the Reform movement is worried.
“[Natan] Sharansky has spoken with the prime minister and has been assured this will not happen,” said Rabbi Eric Yoffie, president of the Union for Reform Judaism. “But in the turmoil now in Israel, we are concerned that ultimately we could be the victims here. Therefore, we feel a need to be exceedingly vigilant.”
…“We’re seeing a process in Israel that will culminate in the not too distant future in the collapse of the Orthodox religious structure — the collapse of the Chief Rabbinate,” he said.

By Susan Hattis Rolef December 22, 2010
The writer, a former Jerusalem Post columnist, was a Knesset employee for the past 16 years.
From any angle that one looks at the military conversion bill, introduced in the Knesset by Israel Beiteinu, and passed last Wednesday on preliminary reading, one confronts an anomaly.
The first concerns the fact that in a modern democracy, it is felt that there is a need for a law on what constitutes a legally acceptable religious conversion. Why this came about is simpler to explain than to suggest how one gets out of the entanglement.

By Yossi Yehoshua December 20, 2010
Data published by the IDF Personnel Directorate reveals that the rate of ultra-Orthodox who obtain psychiatric exemptions is five times higher than among secular people, although they have another “escape route” out of military service.
Recruitment data from the past year indicated that 12% of total recruits were haredim who were exempt from military service based on religious reasons.
Another 6.5% of recruits were released due to medical problems, 4.5% of which were given psychiatric exemptions (profile 21), and 2% were haredim that could have also obtained an exemption based on religious reasons.
The implication is that some 45% of those who receive psychiatric exemptions from the IDF are haredim, although they only constitute 14% of the total number of annual recruits.

By Merav Michaeli December 21, 2010
If anyone still had any doubt about the advisability and necessity of exempting ultra-Orthodox men from army service, statistics were released yesterday showing 45 percent of those getting psychological exemptions are Haredi.
It turns out that being psychological unfit enables ultra-Orthodox youths to not only avoid army service, but also not to study in a yeshiva.
That is the reason that young ultra-Orthodox men have taken the trouble to go to army psychologists and get the exemption, and not make do with the “Torah as profession” exemption.

By Aviel Magnezi December 21, 2010
How hard is it to get out of military service in Israel? Not that hard – If you are ultra-Orthodox. When God won’t help you get an exemption, the mental health officer will. Over the past year alone, a third of those who received a military exemption for mental health reasons were haredim.
“In my yeshiva, many students were released one after the other, but it isn’t a regular yeshiva, since most have the ‘Torah is his profession’ rule. Students that use the mental health clause are usually just tired of having to go sign in at the unemployment line to get their assurance of income, or they want to work or go abroad.”

By Rebecca Anna Stoil December 21, 2010
In the shadow of the government decision to limit funding for yeshiva students to five years, the Knesset’s State Control Committee met Monday to discuss national service and other options for those with draft exemptions or deferrals.
According to Hiddush, an organization that tracks matters of religion and state, there are approximately 62,500 haredi men of draft age who currently receive IDF deferments, as opposed to 45,500 five years ago.

By Jonathan Lis December 21, 2010
Israel Defense Forces Chief of Staff Gabi Ashkenazi on Tuesday said that all Israelis, including Arabs and the ultra-Orthodox, should be obligated to do civilian service.
He added that he believes the government should revoke the exemption given to the ultra-Orthodox at the age of 22, and raise it to the age of 24.

By Jonah Mandel December 21, 2010
Head of the Civilian and National Service Authority Sar-Shalom Jerbi has managed to secure the same mortgage benefits that released soldiers and graduates of the national service get, for those who have completed civilian service.
Jerbi praised Attias’s decision, which will “reward those who choose to contribute to the state and community, and I believe that it will encourage more haredim to join the civilian service.”
There are currently 1,552 haredim and 1,459 Arabs serving in the civilian service for the year 2010-2011.

By Alexander Yakobson Opinion December 23, 2010

Chief Rabbi Yonah Metzger
A separation of religion from state in this country is not a politically realistic option. But the link between religious establishments and state institutions is not just a privilege; it also comes at a price.
Whoever receives official power from the state becomes subject to the mechanism which scrutinizes the actions of officials. This mechanism in Israel enjoys considerable power and has already removed officeholders from their positions.

By Dov Halbertal Opinion December 22, 2010
The writer is a lecturer on Jewish law and served in the past as the head of the office of Israel’s chief rabbi.
As an ultra-Orthodox man, I’m about to write some very strong things. I can’t help but write them, though, having reached the conclusion that it’s time for radical change.
…The only possible solution, for the benefit of religion and for the benefit of the state, is to adopt the First Amendment to the U.S. Constitution and separate church from state. December 20, 2010
Seventy-three percent said a rabbi who receives his salary from the State must not voice a controversial political opinion, while 23% said that as public leaders they should express their opinion on any matter. The rest of the respondents did not answer the question.
A segmentation according to religious affiliation revealed that secular (91%) and traditional (66%) Israelis believe rabbis who are civil servants must not voice their opinions on such matters, while the religious (75%) and haredim (72%) object to any restriction on rabbis’ freedom of speech.

By Uri Avnery Opinion December 20, 2010
The simple and decisive answer to this whole mess is complete separation between religion and nationality and between religion and state. No other solution, and certainly not another Lieberman law at the Knesset, would solve the problem. As long as the basic assumption doesn’t change we’ll be facing more problems.
…The secular majority would no longer fear that rabbis may take over the state and put an end to democracy. The religious will no longer have to fear secular institutional attempts to dictate to rabbis what to do. It would be good for the State, good for religion, and resolve the problem.

By Dror Zeevi Opinion December 23, 2010
So when are we finally going to understand that the problem here is not whether to ease Orthodox conversions or make them more strict, but rather, define Judaism in a more pluralistic manner, take away the monopoly from the Rabbinate, Shas and their ilk, and join the 21st Century world.
If a soldier wishes to convert, the army should offer him several options – Orthodox, Conservative or Reform conversion, or even a secular ceremony, and at the end of this process register him as a Jew in his Israeli ID card.

By Gershom Schocken August 29, 1985
The writer was Haaretz chief editor, 1939-1990
This article, written by Gershom Schocken, is being republished on the 20th anniversary of his death.
Ever since the state was founded, the religious establishment has undergone a process of radicalization, as it attempts to impose on the sovereign Jewish nation those prohibitions and bans that applied when they existed solely as an ethno-religious group.
Although it won’t be able to succeed, the more it tries, the more it prevents the formation of normal relations among the different ethnic groups in the country.

By Rabbi Reuven Hammer Opinion December 24, 2010
Indeed, the greatest conflict in religious Judaism here today is not between Orthodoxy and Masorti or Reform Judaism, or even between religion and secularism, but between two contrasting views of Judaism:
the one that seeks to cut it off from the world and create here an isolated ghetto in which the only criteria of Jewishness is the scrupulous observance of every detail ever added to Jewish law, a Judaism concerned only with itself, and the other view that sees in Judaism as a constantly evolving way of life, keeping its own identity but incorporating the best of human knowledge with the intent of bringing all humanity to a higher stage of moral and ethical living.

By Peggy Cidor Opinion December 23, 2010
“These last days and weeks, we have been facing, wave after wave of hatred, racism, and many other disgracing phenomenon in the name of Judaism” says Roni Yavin, Executive Director of Elul, the pioneer pluralistic Beit Midrash, created 21 years ago. “I feel that it just can’t go on like this without any response on our part,” continues Yavin.

By Rabbi Brad Hirschfield Opinion December 21, 2010
Israel’s Jewish majority overwhelmingly defines itself as either “secular” or “traditional”, and without a long explanation of these terms, that translates into a population which does not live according the dictates of rabbinate.
Despite that fact, this majority refuses to take itself seriously enough to proclaim that it’s Jewishness is every bit as real and authentic as is that of the Rabbinate. And because of that, the majority gives real power to those they deem the “real Jews” i.e. the rabbinate.

By Jonah Mandel December 21, 2010
Nearly 50 Conservative (Masorti) rabbis have signed a halachic statement allowing home rentals or sales to non- Jews in Israel, in a move to counter the statement recently signed by nearly 50 city rabbis that prohibited just that.
Rabbi Aharon Lichtenstein, head of the Har Etzion Yeshiva, bemoaned [the letter’s] tactlessness and failure to address the halachic question at hand with the complexity befitting learned rabbis.

By Rabbi Ben Greenberg Opinion December 20, 2010
Rabbi Ben Greenberg is the Orthodox Jewish chaplain of Harvard University, Orthodox rabbi of Harvard Hillel and Director of the Orthodox Union’s Seif Jewish Learning Initiative on Campus at Harvard.
I pray that the addition of my signature to the collective voice of more than a thousand rabbis from every corner of the globe, representing the broad diversity of the Jewish people, along with the support of the overwhelming majority of the Israeli rabbinate, will be a source of strength and encouragement to Israel’s political leadership to swiftly and decisively respond to this disturbing edict.
Then we will all stand and affirm the statement in the Talmud that “the whole Torah is for the sake of the ways of peace.”

By Prof. Kremnitzer, Amir Fuchs December 20, 2010
Prof. Kremnitzer is vice president for research at the Israeli Democracy Institute. Attorney Fuchs is a researcher in the institute.
[I]f the legislation concerning community admission committees’ right to accept or reject potential members passes its upcoming second and third readings – the message promoted by those rabbis will receive additional validation from the Knesset.
If they don’t vigorously oppose that bill and try to prevent its passage, the Knesset, the government and the prime minister will in essence be saying that words are one thing, but deeds are another.

By Chaim Levinson and Haaretz Service December 21, 2010
Shin Bet officials earlier this month summoned the rabbi leading right-wing protests in Bat Yam against Arab residents, and warned him not to draw his students into any criminal action.

By Rabbi Gil Student Opinion December 22, 2010
Rabbi Gil Student is the managing editor of OU Press and blogs at
I write this with trembling and tears because I revere the rabbis I am discussing. I am not contradicting or belittling them, but imploring them to take greater account of perspectives across the ocean.
The problems they identify are real but Judaism offers other options that are not discriminatory and are therefore more attractive to the general public.

By Yossi Sarid Opinion December 24, 2010
If more young couples had decided to get married according to their own wishes, a revolution would have taken place – religion would have been separated from the state.
…This is all a matter of choice.
If the majority of a minyan holds a festivity or an event of mourning according to its own way of thought, if it lives and dies according to its own beliefs and not according to their dictates, then no force on earth will trample on us as happens at a threshold, not even force majeure. And we will have been set free.

Haaretz Editorial December 23, 2010
The message out of Jerusalem in the delicate language of legislation is translated into wild incitement in the offices of the rabbis.

By Sayed Kashua Opinion December 24, 2010
Rabbi Haim Druckman & Sayed Kashua

What could they possibly add to what Rabbi Druckman said, in a discussion I heard on Army Radio during the short drive to the clinic? This rabbi, who is considered a moderate, declared that every Arab who purchases an apartment in a Jewish neighborhood is funded by hostile forces.

By Gili Cohen December 23, 2010
Residents of Ramot Hashavim lashed out at neighbors yesterday after a report surfaced of a campaign against ultra-Orthodox moving into the community, saying the self-appointed action committee’s tactics reminded them too much of the letter of the municipal rabbis banning renting property to Arabs.

By Tali Heruti-Sover December 24, 2010
The fear of labor migrants is greater among observant and right-wing people than among secular and left-wing people: Whereas ultra-Orthodox Jews are highly anxious (5.2 ) – even though jobs in areas where they live are not necessarily threatened by the foreign workers – and the modern Orthodox are anxious (5.06 ) – the average level of anxiety among secular people is 3.3.

By Yair Altman December 23, 2010
“(The leftists) call us racists, but they say haredim should live separately. This is hypocrisy. They attack the rabbis (who signed the letter calling to ban the sale of apartments to non-Jews) who are fighting for this land’s identity,” he said.
The guest of honor at the rally was Safed chief Rabbi Shmuel Eliyahu, one of the initiators of the rabbis’ letter.

By Tovah Lazaroff and Jonah Mandel December 24, 2010
There will be a civil war and the creation of a new, autonomous entity, the Authority of Judea and Samaria, should the government evacuate even the smallest West Bank settlement, Rabbi Shalom Dov Wolpe warned at a Jerusalem rally on Thursday night.

By Dan Brown Opinion December 20, 2010
What if the Diaspora demanded something in return for the financial aid they deliver each and every year to Israeli society?

By Gil Shefler December 21, 2010
The Jewish education system in the former Soviet Union is on the verge of collapse and needs immediate financial assistance, a charity warned at a conference dedicated to Jewish education in the region, held in Jerusalem on Monday.
Rabbi Yechiel Eckstein of the Fellowship of Christians and Jews said at the event that unless the Israeli government helped come up with a plan for the cash-strapped Jewish schools across the former Soviet Union, many will have to close. December 21, 2010
Immediately upon landing, the new immigrants will participate in the Jewish Agency’s “Aliyah on a Red Carpet” fair and will receive their Israeli ID cards. This is an innovative model of absorption providing under one roof a wide variety of services essential to the initial integration of olim in Israel.

By Yaron Sasson December 26, 2010
The life story of Mauricio Glucksman could easily become a plot for a Hollywood action movie, or at the very least a tear-jerking telenovela. In his 19 years on the planet, the young Venezuelan has endured experiences that would make field exercises and shooting ranges seem like a walk in the park.
In a ceremony at David Ben-Gurion’s grave site, Glucksman stood proud in his IDF uniform, and sang Hatikva out loud along with his fellow course members.

By Ron Friedman December 21, 2010
Forty-five new immigrants from Russia and Kazakhstan are the first olim ever to receive an Israeli identification card issued at Ben-Gurion Airport.
The new immigrants arrived in Israel on Tuesday afternoon. They took part in a ceremony to mark a pilot project aimed at improving the service granted new immigrants upon their arrival.

By Matthew Kalman December 26, 2010
Ronald L. Gallatin is a retired attorney, a CPA and a former managing director at Lehman Brothers credited with creating some of Wall Street’s most ingenious investment instruments. His wife, Meryl, is a prominent philanthropist in Florida charity circles.
But when they visit Israel, they prefer hanging around soup kitchens and drug addict drop-in centers rather than fancy restaurants.

By Sharon Udasin December 24, 2010
The new models are just a small part of the changes that the Tel Aviv-based Beit Hatfutsot, known since its 1978 establishment as the Nahum Goldmann Museum of the Jewish Diaspora, is about to undergo in the next few years.
A massive overhaul has already included an English name change to the Museum of the Jewish People and, in the future, will bring a transformation in historical scope and desired audience, in attempt to become more inclusive to the diverse world Jewish populations. December 21, 2010
Haifa, Israel’s third largest city, will celebrate this Christmas in an eco-friendly fashion with the unveiling of a new 38-foot Christmas tree made entirely of recycled water bottles and other plastic objects donated by its residents and on display in the city’s center. December 15, 2010
Statistics released by the Jerusalem Institute for Israel Studies indicate that only 15,400 Christians live today in the Holy City, divided into 13 different communities and other institutions. The JIIS calls on the Israeli government to adopt a more proactive approach towards the churches and Christian communities in the city. December 23, 2010
President Shimon Peres on Wednesday wished the Christian world a merry Christmas and a peaceful new year, as a children’s choir from the Latin Patriarchal School in Nazareth sang carols in honor of the upcoming Christmas holiday

By Thore Schroeder December 24, 2010
Today some of the refugees from the war-torn Darfur region will celebrate their first Christmas ever as they recently converted from Islam to Cush, the South-Sudanese variation of Christian faith. The baptism was celebrated by Pastor Matthew in the Jordan River.

By Jonah Mandel December 16, 2010
Rabbi Dr. Ron Kronish, director of the Interreligious Coordinating Council in Israel, spoke of the need to better educate Israelis about Christians and Christianity, while stressing the crucial role of the media in setting the public tone on such topics.
“The heads of the Catholic Church here feel that the synod’s messages were misunderstood,” Dr. Amnon Ramon, a researcher at the Jerusalem Institute for Israel Studies, said ahead of the event.

By Jonah Mandel December 21, 2010
A Muslim prayer room was dedicated at the Mount Scopus campus of the Hebrew University last week, after months of efforts of an inter-denomination student group.
The room, located in the humanities faculty not far from the campus’ synagogue, will provide the estimated two thousand Muslim students and university staff with a fitting site for worship. Till now, the quiet libraries and other isolated spots on campus served that end.

Editor – Joel Katz
Religion and State in Israel is not affiliated with any organization or movement.
All rights reserved.

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