Thursday, September 4, 2014

Religion and State in Israel - September 4, 2014

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

The Jerusalem Magistrate’s Court on Tuesday issued an injunction against an ultra-Orthodox girls’ school that took over part of a secular Beit Shemesh public school, ordering it to leave the building amid protests over a “creeping conquest” into secular institutions in the deeply divided city 

“Every Israeli child has the right to an [appropriate] educational framework, but this right cannot be achieved by unilateral action which tramples the law and morality. 

“They crept into a school in the dead of night, built a wall and removed books and [educational] materials from the classrooms.

It’s unthinkable that such things happen in the State of Israel, and certainly not in the educational system that teaches pupils the values of fairness, integrity and obedience to the law,” Piron said, adding that the ministry would not compromise on “preserving the rule of law.” 

By Shmarya Rosenberg  

... But the conflict over the use of part of this secular school should be seen for what it really is – a haredi attempt to solidify its hold over more of Beit Shemesh. 

The truth is, Beit Shemesh really should be divided into two cities: a non-haredi city where most people pay taxes, keep clean streets and do not hurl stones and bottles at little girls and women because their skirts are one inch higher than some rabbi says they should be; and a haredi city where, despite the law, none of that is true. 
Some secular residents are trying to effect this division into two separate cities, but haredi leaders oppose it. 


Because without the tax payments of non-haredim, the new haredi city would be very poor and would likely be unable to function. 

The battle at the secular School for Languages and Cultures in Beit Shemesh is not over classroom space. It is a battle being fought by haredim for control of the resources of this culturally divided city, and a desperate existential battle being fought by almost everyone else to stop them. 

By Shmuel Rosner

Of course, the bigger question for Beit
 Shemesh is not about the separation of neighborhoods, it is about whether haredis and secular Israelis can live in one city.

The answer here is not easy to swallow: they can, as long as the city is governed by non-
haredi forces, or when the city has a significant and strong non-haredi population. It works well with the small haredi communities in central Tel Aviv. It works reasonably in Jerusalem, where non-haredi neighborhoods are many and strong.

But when
 haredi communities take over, politically speaking (and it should be restated, in case people forget, that they have every right to take over), they have a tendency to scare the non-haredi communities away by imposing new conditions that they can't tolerate. 

By Nahum Klugman 

We all know the ugly truth and that is because it was for a Chareidi school. If it was for another secular school you can be sure that the move would have happened with a social dance attended by both schools celebrating the happiness it would have brought to both sides. 

But we are talking about Chareidim, and not just any Chareidim, but Chareidim from Beit Shemesh. 

By Allison Kaplan Sommer  

It seems as if September 2014 will mark another milestone - and the wall in the schoolyard is an appropriate emblem. This year may be remembered as the beginning of the end of Beit Shemesh as one municipality.

The only way to prevent it from becoming a second Bnei Brak, nearly entirely ultra-Orthodox, may be formal division in two cities: one secular and national religious, another ultra-Orthodox. 

A spokesman for Mayor Abutbul said that the injustice was to the girls of Mishkenot Daat, adding that some of them lacked even caravans for learning in. 

Speaking to the Post, he argued that the low number of pupils at Safot Ve’tarbuyot and the dearth of classroom space in the city meant that it was unreasonable not to allocate part of the building to Mishkenot Daat. 

Haya was also in favor of the wall separating the schools. “They are trying to protect themselves. They don’t dislike them as people, but the irreligious sector has iPhones and other things that can be confusing for our kids.” 

“This is a creeping conquest of the institution whose ultimate goal is closing the school, as Haredim are not capable of learning together with the secular,” Moshe Sheetrit, a municipality board member affiliated with Likud, said. 

Eli Cohen, opposition leader on the Beit Shemesh city council: 
“What’s astounding is that the State of Israel and the Education Ministry aren’t succeeding in enforcing their view on the municipality,” he said. “This isn’t an argument over yardage; it’s an argument over the Zionist character of the state. This fence is the beginning of the end of Zionism in Beit Shemesh.” 

Yossi Hadad, vice chairman of the school's parents association said that "this is a decision that splits the school in two and adds in the Haredi denomination while putting up barriers simultaneously." 

He added: "This process began four days ago, before the school year started, with no meetings conducted and no organized agenda. The municipality wants to the school to be Haredi in nature and scare away the secular population." 

The only way to ensure that all Israeli citizens can take part in a modern, national economy is by making sure that all school students study a core curriculum of subjects that will enable them to pursue higher education and join the workforce.

The lack of core curriculum studies is a key factor behind the low representation of the ultra-Orthodox sector in the Israeli workforce and a great obstacle to our economy's potential growth. 


A widow who was unable to remarry for 13 years due to the refusal of her dead husband’s family to allow a little- known ceremony to be performed has recently been denied the right to finally marry her partner of over 10 years by the Jerusalem Rabbinical Court. 
Speaking to The Jerusalem Post on Wednesday, Lavi strongly condemned the ruling of the Jerusalem Rabbinical Court and its attitude toward her throughout the process. 

“The judges were almost abusive toward me, they treated me as if I had slept around or cheated on my husband,” she said. “They told me that because of me my late husband has no rest or peace.” 

Lavi claimed that one of the judges had told her that part of the reason she could not marry her partner was because she is Sephardi whereas he is Ashkenazi. 

She also strongly criticized the court for not working harder to persuade her husband’s family to agree to the halitza ceremony, and noted it had never challenged her father-in-law’s involvement nor requested that he present a power-of-attorney document to act on behalf of his son, her husband’s brother. 

Lavi was equally critical regarding the ruling preventing her from marrying her current partner, Alon. 

The urgency of freedom of marriage in Israel and support for it among the majority of Israelis were made crystal clear to the Israeli public with the recent airing of "Married to the Rabbinate," a Channel 10 news series on the issue. 

Despite the natural media and political focus on the Gaza war, it was very telling that the station chose to air this four-part series, which presented the stranglehold of the Israeli Orthodox Chief Rabbinate on marriage and the public’s strong desire to break it. 

When ‘Romeo and Juliet’ are Reuven and Jamila (premium content)  

By Rabbi Benjamin (Benny) Lau  

[F]ormer MK Michael Ben-Ari said at yesterday's demonstration: "Morel Malka is our sister. We came to save our sister." 

I understand this argument, but at the same time, I find it frightening. In the name of protecting his sister, Michael Ben-Ari is prepared to burn down the shared family home. Contempt for the word "democracy" leads some members of the religious community (admittedly few) to light fires anywhere they see a reality that does not fit the spirit of Israel. 

In the wake of the commotion around the mixed wedding earlier this month of Mahmoud Mansour and Morel Malka, with the latter converting to Islam from Judaism, Haaretz talked to several such families, trying to gauge the complexities of their children’s identities within Israel’s reality.

The interviews revealed that the forging of an identity is a prolonged process of searching, with questions of belonging often plaguing them for life. 

We cannot allow religion to be a mask for racism and ethnic supremacy. Jewish Israelis need to start understanding what it means to be the majority in their country and understand their responsibility to the non-Jewish minorities. 


Ilia was born in Kazakhstan and when he was six months old his mother died. His Jewish dad, and Jewish grandparents and uncle and cousins came to Israel; Ilia was brought up on a kibbutz by the sea. 

When he was 12 his father married a Jewish woman from the former USSR; Ilia’s brother and sister are Jewish too. Hebrew is his mother tongue. He served in the crack Paratroop Brigade in the army and fought in the Second Lebanon War; he was wounded in action in the West Bank. This time round, together with his unit, he volunteered to go into Gaza – and actually felt bad that he wasn’t called up.

But, should he decide to marry my child, he is not Jewish enough to break the ceremonial glass under a huppa. 

The oft outspoken parliamentarian MK Elazar Stern of Hatnua caused fresh controversy on Tuesday in criticizing hard-line national-religious leader Rabbi Shmuel Eliyahu during a radio interview. 
Stern was speaking on the Galei Israel radio station about his proposals for reforming the conversion process that have come under fire from several quarters in the rabbinic world, including from Eliyahu, who serves as the chief rabbi of Safed and is a leading figure of the die-hard wing of the national-religious community. 

By Evelyn Gordon 

Essentially, both men were making the same argument: If liberal Diaspora Jews would look at Israel as a real country, rather than as a projection of their fantasies, they would see it was neither as perfectly good as they once imagined it nor as irredeemably evil as they imagine it today.

Like any other country, it has real problems, and like any other country, it deals with some problems better than others, but its positive qualities are no less real than its flaws. 
And if Diaspora Jewish liberals are incapable of seeing the real Israel through the cloud of their adolescent fantasies, then that isn’t Israel’s fault. It’s their own. 

By Carlo Strenger 

We liberal Jews are entitled to our visceral revulsion for the fundamentalist racism of Rabbi Dov Lior; Rabbi Elyakim Levanon’s suggestion that rabbi kings should rule Israel; for the Kahanist attitudes and beliefs of former MK Michael Ben Ari; and to our distaste for the political styles and views of Monsieurs Bennett, Lieberman, Danon, Elkin & Co. 

By Brent Sasley  

It is for liberal Zionists to work together to determine how to advance this agenda, in the face of opposition within Israel and in the diaspora. It obviously isn’t easy, but perhaps if liberal Zionists outside of Israel began working closely with the groups in Israel mentioned above, the work would go more smoothly. There would also develop a critical mass of hope, rather than the despair under these challenges that many of the commentators in the diaspora seem to prefer. 


Rabbi Arye Stern, 69, a prominent and respected figure in the national-religious community, is considered the strongest candidate for the position of Ashkenazi chief rabbi. He has had the backing from the national-religious community to be its candidate since 2009 and his campaign team have voiced confidence that he will succeed in gaining the 25 votes from the electoral panel required to be elected. 

After years of political squabbling, Jerusalem is set to have two chief rabbis (one Sephardi and one Ashkenazi) again. Mayor Nir Barkat announced Sunday that on October 21 an electoral panel will vote on the important positions. 

The selection committee convened on Sunday in Barkat’s office to confirm the composition of the electoral panel, which includes 12 representatives from synagogues in the city, 24 representatives from the city council and 12 rabbis and public figures nominated by Bennett, with Barkat’s consent. 

Half-a-year after the police anti-fraud unit recommended that former Ashkenazi chief rabbi Yona Metzger be charged with taking bribes, money laundering and other crimes, the attorney general and state prosecutor decided Sunday that an indictment will indeed be filed against him, conditional on a court hearing.


Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has ordered Israeli authorities to dismantle a wooden footbridge between Jerusalem's Western Wall plaza and the Temple Mount, in response to Jordanian pressure. 

Work began Wednesday to remove the footbridge, less than two weeks after construction began. 

The order came after the royal palace expressed anger over the lack of coordination with Jordan. 

See also:


“Just as the State of Israel has invested resources into the study and promotion of archeology, in part to demonstrate and strengthen the connection of the Jewish people to the Land of Israel, by investing in the fields of genetic research and molecular anthropology, Israeli scientists could be at the forefront of this growing field not only to demonstrate the historical connection of the Jewish people to the Land of Israel, but to help refute studies that manipulate data in order to undermine that connection,” said Noah Slepkov, author of the JPPI study. 

Rabbi Maimon says in the introduction that he had hesitated before publishing his innovations, for fear that people would see it as an approval to use the Internet. He finally decided to publish the book after witnessing the lack of knowledge in the public, and even received the approval of some of the sector's leading rabbis. 

By Avraham Burg  

It is likely that many people will continue circumcising their sons for religious or behavioral reasons, and many will look for other ways to express their membership in the Jewish collective without compromising on universal principles, which include the child’s right to an intact body. 


“Any effort that weakens the Haredi emotional connection with the far right and strengthens a moderate Haredi position on a two-state solution is a blessing for Israeli society,” says Israeli writer Yossi Klein Halevi, a senior fellow at the Shalom Hartman Institute in Jerusalem.

“My concern is that an alliance between the Haredi community and the post-Zionist left could further weaken the Zionist ethos in Israeli society.” 

Dr. Hillel Ben Sasson, of the progressive think tank Molad, does not share Klein Halevi’s concerns. “A Haredi-left alliance demonstrates that Zionism is an established, epic moment in Jewish history with which the Haredim have finally come to terms, even as the left is abandoning its attempt at transforming the Haredi into the new Jew.” 


Ironically, Yinon Avitan would actually be entitled to what amounts to a total exemption from military service if he reported to an IDF enlistment office.

Under the terms of the new legislation for haredi conscription passed in March this year, anyone who was over the age of 18 on the day the law was passed, as was Avitan, is entitled to defer his service by one year, every year, until the age of exemption at 26. 

However, Auerbach’s Jerusalem Faction is calling for zero cooperation with the government. 



“Bennett intends to turn Habayit Hayehudi from a religious national party into a national religious party,” said a veteran party functionary who was speaking on condition of anonymity. 


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