Friday, May 31, 2013

Israel's Religious Services Ministry to allow non-Orthodox, state-funded community rabbis

Ministry to phase out state-employed neighborhood rabbis and channel funds to communities that hire rabbis; Reform movement in North America welcomes the move.

In another move toward recognition of non-Orthodox Jewish movements, the Religious Services Ministry announced Thursday that it plans to abolish the institution of state-appointed neighborhood rabbis. Instead, financial support will be given to communities that request it for rabbis of their own choice, including non-Orthodox ones.
The plan was unveiled in a brief submitted to the High Court of Justice Thursday in response to a petition by the Reform and Conservative movements and several of their community rabbis. The petition had demanded these rabbis receive a salary from the state, just as Orthodox neighborhood rabbis do. It also asked that the city of Jerusalem reserve at least two of its neighborhood rabbi positions for non-Orthodox rabbis.
In its response, the state asked the court to postpone hearing the case to give it time to implement a planned reform of religious services. Under this reform, positions for neighborhood rabbis who are currently state employees will first be reduced from the current 157, and eventually abolished altogether. Instead, money will be given directly to communities to hire rabbis of their own choice.
The ministry is working on drafting criteria for awarding this funding, the brief said, and these criteria will be "independent of which Jewish denomination the relevant community belongs to."
The document noted that in any case, no new neighborhood rabbis have been hired in the last decade. However, no decision has yet been made on what to do with the 157 existing rabbis. "At this stage, the general intention is to transfer the currently serving neighborhood rabbis to other posts in the religious councils," it said, noting that about 100 of them already have second jobs in such positions.
The institution of neighborhood rabbis was harshly criticized in the 2009 State Comptroller's Report, which said these rabbis were appointed without the ministry having "examined the religious needs of neighborhood residents or defined what the job of neighborhood rabbi entails [and] the basic requirements that derive from this."
Rabbi Gilad Kariv, executive director of the Israel Movement for Progressive Judaism, welcomed the ministry's initiative.
"For years, the Reform Movement has sought to advance a community model of religious services, in which these services are supplied by independent communities on a voluntary basis rather than by government agencies," he said. "The ministry's announcement is an important step toward advancing this model."
Rabbi Rick Jacobs, president of the Union of Reform Judaism in North America commended what he sees as a move for greater religious pluralism: “We are reading this decision with great interest and are encouraged by the conclusion that the current system is broken. We believe that there should be choice in the system and we will continue to be engaged with this issue alongside our brothers and sisters in Israel until religious equality is codified in Israeli law.”
This is the second bombshell launched this month by Religious Services Minister Naftali Bennett and Deputy Minister Eli Ben Dahan, both of the Habayit Hayehudi party. Earlier, they announced plans to reform marriage registration by allowing couples to register anywhere they wish, thereby forcing municipal rabbis to compete for their business ­ rather than forcing them to register in their own city. This reform, however, is currently being held up by Justice Minister Tzipi Livni.

Tuesday, May 28, 2013

Coalition partners in tense standoff on equal service law

by Shlomo Cesana and Israel Hayom Staff

Yesh Atid accused Likud of deviating from coalition deal regarding enlistment reform, while Likud says Yesh Atid is trying to distract the public while it heals from budget crisis criticism • Pro-equality groups: Disband the Peri committee. 

Equal Service LawJust a little over two months since it was sworn in, the Israeli coalition government on Monday faced its most serious test over the wording of a proposed bill to include the ultra-Orthodox sector into army and national service. It seemed a replay of the July 2012 exit of Shaul Mofaz from his 70-day coalition with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, where in that case too, the coalition fell apart because Likud was unwilling to punish those in the Haredi sector who refuse to serve.

On Monday, Yesh Atid warned that a crisis over enlistment reform which erupted between the party and Likud-Beytenu on Sunday had the potential to lead to the coalition's collapse. Yesh Atid accused Likud-Beytenu on Sunday of breaching the coalition deal, which stipulates personal financial sanctions against haredi draft dodgers, after Defense Minister Moshe Ya'alon (Likud) asked to have the final say in determining the sanctions for draft dodgers. Yesh Atid saw this as an attempt by Ya'alon to stymie the reform and said that without the "teeth" of financial penalties, the reform in haredi enlistment would not happen.

"The conduct of Likud-Beytenu minister constitutes a blatant violation of the coalition agreement, with the potential to sour the historic opportunity to equalize the burden of military and economic service," the Yesh Atid Party said in a statement on Monday, adding that applying compulsory military or national service on "the whole population" was a "necessary step toward fostering equality in Israeli society."

 Continue reading. 

Friday, May 24, 2013

From the Brooklyn Bridge to London

 By Diana West

If "Allahu Akbar" is the historic cry of Muslims engaged in jihad, it is also the contemporary trigger for Western denial that jihad exists
Fresh perspective emerging nearly two decades after mass shooting

Brooklyn Bridge to London | Nearly 20 years after a Hasidic Jewish boy riding across the Brooklyn Bridge was killed by a Muslim fighting jihad, a British soldier was hacked to death and reportedly beheaded on the streets of London by Muslims fighting jihad.

Thanks to the happenstance of a passer-by with a video recorder, the world heard almost immediately from one of the two London suspects, Michael Adebolajo. His hands red with blood, Adebolajo confessed to the murder he had just committed in Koranically correct terms of revenge, presumably for Britain's efforts against jihad in Iraq and Afghanistan. We also know that cries of "Allahu Akbar" ("Allah is great") punctuated the knifing and meat-cleavering of the victim.

But if "Allahu Akbar" is the historic cry of Muslims engaged in jihad, it is also the contemporary trigger for Western denial that jihad exists. "We will defeat violent extremism by standing together," British Prime Minister David Cameron stated, gravely opaque. How? "Above all by challenging the poisonous narrative of extremism on which this violence feeds," he said, definitely not referring to the verses of the Koran that inspire jihad.

Islam, the prime minister was saying, has nothing to do with this murder in the streets. Furthermore, global jihad is not underway, and no caliphate in which Jews and Christians will defer to Islamic law as "dhimmi" is on the horizon.

Flash back almost two decades to March 1994, one year after the first attack on the World Trade Center, and shortly after an Israeli doctor, Baruch Goldstein, massacred 29 Muslims in a mosque in Hebron. Goldstein's act was uniformly denounced by Israeli and Jewish authorities, but it nonetheless engendered calls for jihad from Islamic authorities around the world. It was at this point in New York City that 16-year-old Ari Halberstam was shot and killed on the Brooklyn Bridge by Rashid Baz, a "Middle East" man or "Arab" -- the vernacular of the day for Muslim.

Continue reading. 

Thursday, May 23, 2013

Boruch Spiegel (1919-2013)

He was one of the last three remaining Warsaw Ghetto fighters

By Adam Chandler for Tablet Magazine

 Last month, some of the Tablet staff had the honor of attending the 70th anniversary of the Warsaw Ghetto Uprising and the related commemorations throughout the city. At the event itself, we had the chance to hear Simha Rotem, one of the three surviving members of the ghetto fighters, deliver a speech in which he spoke not just of the experience of the uprising but the audacity of making the decision to fight at all.

“The thought of waging an uprising was dictated by our determination. We wanted to choose the kind of death we would die,” he said.
It’s a pretty simple human aspiration to die on one’s own terms, cruelly elusive given its simplicity. 70 years later, it’s being reported that the ranks of the remaining fighters has narrowed further with the death of Boruch Spiegel, who passed away at age 93 earlier this month. Here’s part of his story.
In the early morning of April 19, the eve of Passover, a German force, equipped with tanks and artillery, tried again, surrounding the ghetto walls. Mr. Spiegel was on guard duty and, according to his son-in-law, Eugene Orenstein, a retired professor of Jewish history at McGill University, gave the signal to launch the uprising. The scattered ZOB fighters, joined by a right-wing Zionist counterpart, peppered the Germans from attics and underground bunkers, sending the Germans into retreat once more. Changing tactics, the Germans began using flamethrowers to burn down the ghetto house by house and smoke out those in hiding. On May 8, ZOB’s headquarters, at 18 Mila Street, was destroyed. The group’s commander, Mordechai Anielewicz, is believed to have taken his own life, but scattered resistance continued for several more weeks in what was now rubble.
By then, Mr. Spiegel and 60 or so other fighters had spirited their way out of the ghetto through sewers. One was Chaike Belchatowska, whom he would marry. They joined up with Polish partisans in a forest.
“He was very modest, a reluctant hero,” his son Julius said. “He was given an opportunity and he took it. I don’t think he was braver or more resourceful than anyone else.”
Spiegel and his wife would return to Warsaw and joining in the Polish Uprising of 1944, their second fight against the Nazis.
In reprisal, the Germans destroyed 90 per cent of the city, shot many and selected others for slave labour in Germany. Boruch and Chaika and other Jews chose to hide out in a bunker in the ghetto ruins, Orenstein noted, recalling one of their favourite anecdotes.
“There was a woman with a young boy, 12 or 13, and no one wanted to help them because they were afraid of the burden.
“Boruch insisted, saying: ‘I’m not going to allow another Jewish boy to die. This boy stays with us’.”
The group remained buried in the bunker unaware the city had been liberated on Jan. 17, 1945. When a Bundist comrade and friends who knew about the hideout began digging, those underground feared the worst.
“They thought it was the Gestapo and started digging deeper. … Finally, the woman they had sheltered ventured out one night and saw people singing in the streets and dancing. She verified the fact the Germans had gone and they all came out after being buried underground for a week.”

Wednesday, May 22, 2013

Israel announces new gun-control rules after Be'er Sheva bank shooting

Rules aimed at tightening licensing, preventing workplace guns from getting into homes.

One day after a Be'er Sheva man shot dead four people in a local bank before turning his gun on himself, the Public Security Ministry on Tuesday announced new rules to limit the number of guns in circulation. School security guards will have to turn in their weapons, which guarding firms will reissue at the start of the new school year. Licensed gun owners will have to store their weapon in a safe at home. Security companies must obtain special exemptions from being required to store a weapon when its bearer is off duty, only one gun license will be issued to any single individual and anyone applying to renew a gun license must show why they need a weapon.
In addition, a panel will be appointed to consider administering mental and physical examinations to license applicants.

"Limiting gun ownership is at the top of our agenda, and I intend to hold a weekly follow-up meeting on the subject," Public Security Minister Yitzhak Aharonovitch said in the statement.

"The security situation in Israel in recent decades has led to the granting of numerous gun licenses. We intend to restrict this while protecting necessary balance. In the last 10 years the number of licenses of firearms has been reduced from 300,000 to 160,000, and now we are reducing the number of licensed firearm-carriers by 10,000 a year," Aharonovitch said in the statement.
According to the Public Security Ministry, diamond dealers and gold-shop owners can no longer receive a license to carry a gun. Only people who work or live in "risk areas" -- West Bank settlements or communities near the Green Line -- or who drive trucks carrying explosives can obtain a license.

Soldiers in the regular army from the rank of captain, and in the reserves from the rank of colonel (or captain on active duty) can obtain a license.
The ministry is scrutinizing one criterion in particular -- that any person who has had a license to carry a handgun for more than 10 years (or 15 years for an air rifle), is entitled to an unconditional, permanent license. In addition to the approximately 160,000 people licensed to carry private weapons, most of whom have handguns, another several thousand own licensed air or hunting rifles.
The ministry says it knows of 6,500 people who have not renewed their licenses on time. According to ministry policy, a few months before a gun license expires the ministry sends a notice to the owner to "prove a reason" for owning the gun. However, action is not usually taken against people who do not renew their licenses on time.

The police and the Public Security Ministry recently launched a campaign to collect weapons whose licenses have expired. As part of the campaign, the police have received the names of 6,500 who have not renewed their license, but people who turn in their weapon have been promised that they will not be prosecuted. The Public Security Ministry statement issued Tuesday noted that some 70 firearms had so far been returned as a result of the campaign.

"We will continue to look into restricting the criteria so as to limit as much as possible the number of firearms unnecessarily in the hands of civilians, so that a tragic event like Tuesday's in Be'er Sheva does not recur," the minister's statement said.

Tuesday, May 21, 2013

Hundreds protest anti-Semitism in Malmo

Jews, people of other faiths march in southern Swedish city, which has large immigrant Muslim community, to bring attention to intolerance, anti-Semitic attacks in Nordic country

Several hundred Jews and people of other faiths and none marched in the southern Swedish city of Malmo over the weekend to bring attention to intolerance and anti-Semitic attacks in the Nordic country.

The city has a large immigrant Muslim community and attacks on Jews have spiked in recent years.

Sweden's government has come under criticism for failing to provide adequate protection to the country's small Jewish community and address the issue of anti-Semitism, even after an explosion rocked a building in a Jewish community in Malmo last year.

In 2010, a group of Jews were attacked during a peaceful demonstration in support of Israel and in August several hundred Jews and non-Jews marched in Stockholm in solidarity with Malmo's persecuted Jewish community.

Malmo’s mayor, Ilmar Reepalu, said that a group of Jews who were attacked during the peaceful demonstration had brought the violence upon themselves for not distancing themselves from Israel and its actions during the month-long Gaza war in 2008-2009.

One demonstrator spoke of how he was harassed while working as teacher.

A local Jewish community leader attempted to put the problem into perspective for the country’s 20,000 Jews.

"I think that it is a small minority that harasses Jews in Malmo," said Willy Silberstein of the Swedish Committee against Anti-Semitism. "The big majority is here with us, but still the enemies are strong enough to be a big problem. That's why I'm here."

Anti-Semitism in Malmo first drew international attention in 2009, when riots broke out due to the presence of Israeli professional tennis players in the city.

For first time, Assad regime claims responsibility for firing at Israel

Syrian forces, IDF exchange fire for third time this week; Israel returns fire after IDF jeep damaged by the gunfire, but denies Syrian claims vehicle destroyed.

Syrian forces, IDF exchange fire for third time this week; Israel returns fire after IDF jeep damaged by the gunfire, but denies Syrian claims vehicle destroyed.

The Syrian government took responsibility for firing at Israeli forces on Tuesday, marking the first time that the regime of President Bashar Assad has made such a claim.

Syrian forces fired at Israeli forces on Monday night, the third such incident this week. At approximately 1:00 AM, Syrian forces fired at IDF troops patrolling near Tel Fares in the central Golan Heights. No one was wounded, but an army jeep was damaged.

Syrian State TV reported Tuesday afternoon that the Syrian army destroyed an armored Israel Defense Forces vehicle that entered the demilitarized zone between the two countries in Bir Ajam and that at least one person was inside when it exploded. Senior IDF officials told Haaretz that the claim the vehicle was destroyed was fabricated.

The Syrian declaration comes after more than 10 such incidents took place over the last year.

The IDF believes the assumption of responsibility for the fire is part of a new policy adopted by Assad since the aerial attacks in April to open a front against Israel on the Golan Heights.

Responding to events on the Syrian border, Defense Minister Moshe Boogie Ayalon said "Our policy is clear: We do not interfere in what goes on in Syria, or in its civil war. As for the situation in the Golan Heights, we do not and will not allow any Syrian fire to enter our territory. Last night a Syrian army target was destroyed as a result of such fire."

Following the incident, the Artillery Corps returned fire with precision Tammuz missiles. IDF officials said that a military response to the firing incidents on the border was being considered in detail and in accordance with a situation assessment in progress. It is not yet known whether the gunfire was aimed at the IDF troops or was stray fire from the nearby fighting between the Syrian army and the rebels.

Continue reading.

Monday, May 20, 2013

Vicious graffiti sprayed on home of Women of the Wall board member

Women of the WallJERUSALEM (JTA) — The Jerusalem home of a long-time board member of the Women of the Wall was spray painted with vicious graffiti.

Some of the graffiti sprayed on the door and stairwell of Peggy Cidor’s apartment read in Hebrew: “Women of the Wall are wicked,” “Peggy, your time is up,” “Peggy, we know where you live,” and “Jerusalem is holy,” according to the Women of the Wall.

The words “Torah tag” also were spray painted on the door of the apartment, calling to mind the phrase “price tag” used by extremist settlers and their supporters to describe retribution in the form of vandalism for settlement freezes and demolitions or Palestinian attacks on Jews.

It is the first time that such an incident has happened to Cidor, who has served on the board of Women of the Wall for the last 15 years. Police are investigating the incident.

The Rabbi of the Western Wall, Shmuel Rabinowitz, condemned the graffiti in a statement released to the media and called on “all fanatic groups to remove their hands from this holy place.”

“I have warned against the conflagration and gratuitous hatred. I pray and hope we can check the escalation and that a solution will be found that allows the Western Wall to remain not as a disputed area but as holy grounds that unites and unifies,” he said.

The Women of the Wall in a statement called on haredi Orthodox rabbis to condemn the attack.

“This was likely the actions of bored youth, acting in response to the incitement of their leaders. The real problem facing Israeli society is not what they did but what the leadership of the Haredi public will do now. The writing is on the wall. We call on the rabbis to staunchly condemn the vandalism and to end all incitement against Women of the Wall, without regard to the legitimate public discourse,” the group said.

The Women of the Wall’s May 10th prayer service for the Hebrew month of Iyar was mobbed by haredi Orthodox women and men. The women required police protection, but were still attacked by men throwing chairs, stink bombs and garbage. It was the first time the women held their monthly service following the ruling of a Jerusalem District Court judge that said the group’s services do not violate the law and merit police protection rather than arrests.

In previous months women had been arrested for wearing prayer shawls during the service because police said the practice contravened the site’s “local custom.”

Women of the Wall has held a prayer service at the holy site almost every month for the past two decades, according to the group. The service is held on Rosh Chodesh, the first day of the new Hebrew month, at the back of the women’s section.

Friday, May 17, 2013

Iran’s Plans to Take Over Syria

  • In mid-April, Hizbullah leader Hassan Nasrallah paid a secret visit to Tehran where he met with the top Iranian officials headed by Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei and Gen. Qasem Suleimani, the commander of the Quds Force of the Revolutionary Guard Corps. Suleimani prepared an operational plan named after him based upon the establishment of a 150,000-man force for Syria, the majority of whom will come from Iran, Iraq, and a smaller number from Hizbullah and the Gulf states.
  • Suleimani’s involvement was significant. He has been the spearhead of Iranian military activism in the Middle East. In January 2012, he declared that the Islamic Republic controlled “one way or another” Iraq and South Lebanon. Even before recent events in Syria, observers in the Arab world have been warning for years about growing evidence of “Iranian expansionism.”
  • An important expression of Syria’s centrality in Iranian strategy was voiced by Mehdi Taaib, who heads Khamenei’s think tank. He recently stated that “Syria is the 35th district of Iran and it has greater strategic importance for Iran than Khuzestan [an Arab-populated district inside Iran].” Significantly, Taaib was drawing a comparison between Syria and a district that is under full Iranian sovereignty.
  • Tehran has had political ambitions with respect to Syria for years and has indeed invested huge resources in making Syria a Shiite state. The Syrian regime let Iranian missionaries work freely to strengthen the Shiite faith in Damascus and the cities of the Alawite coast, as well as the smaller towns and villages. In both urban and rural parts of Syria, Sunnis and others who adopted the Shiite faith received privileges and preferential treatment in the disbursement of Iranian aid money.
  • Iran is also recruiting Shiite forces in Iraq for the warfare in Syria. These are organized in a sister framework of Lebanese Hizbullah. Known as the League of the Righteous People and Kateeb Hizbullah, its mission is to defend the Shiite centers in Damascus. It is likely that Tehran will make every effort to recruit additional Shiite elements from Iraq, the Persian Gulf, and even from Pakistan.

Tuesday, May 14, 2013

Simms Taback and the Freylikhe Meal

As an international bastion of treyf, McDonalds doesn’t seem to have much Jewish going on. But dig a little deeper and you’ll find that the first Happy Meal box was designed by a famous Jewish illustrator, children’s book author, and Yiddish story aficionado name Simms Taback.

But Taback, who won a Caldecott Medal in 2000, is better known for his rich and whimsical picture books than for changing the ways American children consume chicken nuggets. In Joseph Had a Little Overcoat, not to mention the 40-plus other books that bear his name, Taback’s inimitable style can be seen in full effect: cut-and-paste characters brought to life with dark, suede-like colors and bizarre settings.

Taback isn’t the only Jew to make a lasting impact on the fast food industry. In 1964, two Jewish brothers by the names of Forrest and Leroy Raffel founded Arby’s—(i.e. “R.B.’s,” for Raffel Brothers). And then there’s Subway, which had 12 glatt kosher locations in America during its peak, though now only 5 remain. They might have fared better had they recruited Taback to the cause.

Monday, May 13, 2013

Revealed: Netanyahu’s secret talks with the Palestinians

By Avi Issacharoff

More than two years ago, the Times of Israel reports here for the first time, top PLO official Yasser Abed Rabbo held a series of meetings with the PM’s peace envoy, Yitzhak Molcho, and ultimately met at length with Netanyahu himself, to discuss new negotiations. The prime minister seemed ready to restart talks on the basis of pre-1967 lines, but then discontinued the contacts

RAMALLAH — Israel and the Palestinian Authority tried to conduct backchannel negotiations, or at least initiate them, in late 2010 and early 2011 in a series of secret meetings between the prime minister’s envoy, attorney Yitzhak Molcho, and the head of PLO Executive Committee, Yasser Abed Rabbo. Abed Rabbo revealed these contacts in an interview with this correspondent here last week.

According to Abed Rabbo, during the conversations, which culminated in a meeting between him and Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu at Molcho’s house in central Israel, Netanyahu seemed ready to renew negotiations within the framework of two states based on the June 4, 1967, lines. But the prime minister subsequently backed away from the contacts and the channel was discontinued.

Abed Rabbo said he and Netanyahu met for two-and-a-half hours in mid-February 2011, and mentioned — but did not negotiate over — various final status issues, including borders, Jerusalem and refugees. There had been no further contact since that meeting, Abed Rabbo said.
“The meeting with the prime minister occurred in mid-February, I think on the 15th,” Abed Rabbo recounted, beginning a detailed account of the contacts. “It was held in Molcho’s house in Caesarea. There were only four people present: Bibi, me, Molcho, and his wife. However, there were a series of meetings beforehand — I’d say 10 — between me and an envoy for the prime minister. The meetings were held in Jerusalem, again in Molcho’s house there. We discussed all the issues. But I sat and demanded in those meetings that Israel present its map for a two-state solution concept, and publicly declare its willingness to speak about the 1967 lines as the framework for the meetings. Molcho was not prepared to present a map and the meetings were truly exhausting, a lot of chatter without agreements. They were kept secret until now, actually. The only ones who knew about them on the Palestinian side were Abu Mazen (the chairman of the Palestinian Authority, Mahmoud Abbas) and Salam Fayyad (the Palestinian prime minister). (Saeb) Erekat (the head of the Palestinian negotiating team) was not in the know.

Continue reading.  

Friday, May 10, 2013

Haredi Orthodox youth mob Western Wall in protest of women’s prayer service

JERUSALEM (JTA) – Haredi Orthodox youth mobbed the Western Wall plaza by the thousands to protest Women of the Wall as they held their monthly prayer service.
The youth, many of them students from haredi Orthodox yeshivot, had filled the Western Wall Plaza by 6:40 a.m. on Friday, 20 minutes before Women of the Wall, a women’s prayer group that holds monthly services at the Wall, began praying. Because haredi Orthodox women had packed the women’s section of the plaza earlier in the morning, Women of the Wall were forced to pray in the back section of the plaza, further away from the Wall itself.
A constant din of screaming came from the crowd as the service began, and shrieks erupted as a woman wearing a prayer shawl tried to push through the mob to reach the service. Police, sometimes holding hands, sometimes linking arms, held back the crowd as two officers, with difficulty, escorted the woman through.
The scene was a reversal from months past, when women wearing prayer shawls to the monthly service would be arrested for breaking a law that outlawed any deviation from “local custom” at the wall.
Last month, a Jerusalem District Court judge ruled that Women of the Wall did not violate the law and deserved police protection rather than arrests.
One day before the service, Rabbi Aharon Leib Shteynman, a haredi leader, called on thousands of students to protest Women of the Wall.
“It’s sad that they’re using the Kotel to advance their interests,” said an Orthodox graphic designer from Jerusalem, 29, who declined to give her name. “They want to change all of Israel. It’s an insult to this place.”
Women of the Wall’s service has rarely, if ever, seen this many people come to protest. Many of the haredim said that they were there to pray, as haredim do daily at the Wall.
“I came to pay and to protest gentiles who masquerade as Jews,” said Pini, 17, from Jerusalem. “I’ve taken hits here and I’ll take more hits. They’re making the Torah crooked. They want us to be like them.”
As the service went on, the crowd of haredi Orthodox men tried to push through the police barricade several times – and almost succeeded before the officers pushed them back, sometimes manhandling a student or two along the way. As attempt after attempt to breach the police line failed, the men turned to throwing cups of water and coffee at police, journalists and – when they could – the women praying. One protester threw a chair.
At times, the haredi Orthodox crowd would itself break out into song, singing about the failure of wicked plans and the dominion of God.
Throughout it all, Women of the Wall prayed a full service, trying to sing over the screams that would rise every time a song began. For the first time in at least months, men and women mixed at the service, with no divider to separate them.
“This is an embarrassment and a shame how some people are acting to people who just want to pray,” said Bracha, 66, who participated in Women of the Wall’s service. “There’s space for everybody. People need to relate with understanding to those who don’t do the same thing as them.”
For some supporters of Women of the Wall, Friday’s conflict was about more than the right to pray freely at Judaism’s holiest site.
“This is a struggle for democracy in Israel,” said Lucas Lejderman, 30, a counselor in the Conservative Jewish youth movement here. “It’s amazing that in a democratic society people who believe this suffer from a lack of Jewish pluralism.”
Whether protesters will turn out in equal numbers when Women of the Wall meet next month is unclear. But as the crowd dispersed, the women sang Hatikvah, Israel’s national anthem.
As if on cue, the handful of protesters who remained booed at the top of their lungs.

Thursday, May 9, 2013

Collapse Of The American Jewish Center?

Ten days ago, the Jerusalem Post held a conference in New York, and inadvertently exposed the most important trend in American Jewish politics: the collapse of the “pro-Israel” center.

It happened when Alan Dershowitz began telling the crowd about his plan to revive negotiations in pursuit of a two state solution. Dershowitz is legendary for his ferocious attacks on Israel critics like Jimmy Carter and Richard Goldstone. But at the Jerusalem Post conference, he found himself under attack as the audience booed and jeered his claim that Palestinian leader Mahmoud Abbas might negotiate in good faith. The crowd was far more impressed with Dershowitz’s co-panelist,Jerusalem Post columnist Caroline Glick, who demanded permanent Israeli control over the West Bank and condensed her solution to Iran’s nuclear program into two words: “bombs away.” She got a standing ovation.

To understand the incident’s significance, it’s important to understand that Dershowitz—along with people like Abe Foxman and Dennis Ross and institutions like AIPAC—defines the American Jewish mainstream. For more than a decade, that mainstream has been liberal on domestic issues, secular in its approach to Israel, rhetorically supportive of the two-state solution and adamant that the failure to achieve that solution rests with the Palestinians. And for more than a decade, support for this American Jewish mainstream has depended on a particular species of American Jew: the “secular tribalist.”
For secular tribalists, Zionism is less an outgrowth of religious commitment than an alternative Jewish identity in place of religious commitment. Their tribalism makes them instinctive defenders of Israeli action. But their secularism puts them at odds with the GOP on key domestic issues, and inclines them to root their support for Israel in the language of democracy and security, not theology. This in turn inclines them to support the two-state solution—at least rhetorically—because they don’t see controlling the West Bank as a religious imperative.

Wednesday, May 8, 2013

Happy Yom Yerushalayim/Jerusalem Day

Jerusalem Day marks the 1967 reunification of Jerusalem and the Temple Mount under Jewish rule during the Six-Day War almost 1900 years after the destruction of the Second Temple in Jerusalem.

Tuesday, May 7, 2013

Turn the Shavuot Custom of Greenery Decorations into an Ecology Lesson

I couldn't help but see the constant green connection to Shavuot in my latest search for new customs. So many revolve around first fruits, greenery decorations, even paper cuts with  images of leaves and flowers surrounding the Torah and other Jewish symbols.

An aha moment? You bet. Especially when I connected the fact that the children of Israel wandered in the desert for 40 years and several millenia later their descendants took that same desert, tamed it and turned it into verdant fields.

Israel's modern agricultural miracle is a continuation of the rules the Torah taught us about protecting the environment -- and like Tu B'Shvat, Shavuot is a timely holiday for rejoicing over the environmental protection blueprint which the Torah has provided.

Have a look at two of the many environmental lessons from the Torah that we can share with our children:

1. Orlah: Connect celebrating the appearance of first fruits with this law teaching us that nature needs time to mature. While we rejoice over seeing the first fruits of a tree (usually in the third year), to truly savor its taste we must wait one more year before taking our first bite.

2. Bal Tash'khit: This Biblical law teaches us how to preserve the land. Over the centuries the rabbis expanded on it to include the concept of using only what is necessary.

Looking for another green connection with Shavuot? Try this out for size: The story of Ruth incorporates the world's first food drive. After all, didn't Boaz tell Ruth she could reap from the leftover bounty in his fields?

Green Bible Stories for Children for more eco-lesson ideas.
A different slant for this year's Shavuot lesson? Continue your green lesson plan by leafing through the pages of my book,

Monday, May 6, 2013

Civilian airspace in northern Israel closed over fears

JERUSALEM (JTA) -- Israel closed the airspace in its North to civilian traffic following attacks on Syrian targets that were believed to be carried out by the Israeli military.
The closure comes after the Israeli military moved two Iron Dome missile defense batteries to northern Israel near Safed and Haifa on Sunday morning.
The Israeli domestic airline Arkia on Sunday canceled all flights from Haifa to Eilat for five days, saying in its statement that the closure was "due to IDF instructions on the closure of airspace in the North until May 9." 
Meanwhile, White House spokesman Josh Earnest told reporters Sunday that President Obama  believes "the Israelis are justifiably concerned about the threat posed by Hezbollah obtaining advanced weapons systems, including some long-range missiles." The U.S. "is in very close contact" with the Israeli government, Earnest said.
Syrian state media accused Israel of an early Sunday morning attack on what it identified as the Jamraya military research center located approximately 10 miles from the border with Lebanon.
The Reuters news agency cited an unnamed "Western intelligence source" on Sunday who confirmed the attack and said Israel targeted stores of long-range Fateh-110 missiles that were in transit from Iran to Hezbollah. The missiles have the capacity to strike Tel Aviv from Lebanon. Israel's military did not confirm nor deny reports that it was responsible for the attack.
Israel was said to be responsible for an attack on a Syrian target two days earlier; it has not confirmed or denied the attack.

Friday, May 3, 2013

Report: Israel rejects 1967 borders ‘precondition’

(JTA) -- Israeli Justice Minister Tzipi Livni, has reportedly refused to accept the 1967 border as the basis for a final Israeli-Palestinian border prior to negotiations.
Livni told U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry Thursday that Israel would not agree to the 1967 borders as a precondition of peace negotiations with the Palestinians, Maariv reported. Rather, she said, the border issue must be resolved through talks. 
U.S. President Barack Obama has called for resumption of negotiations “on the basis” of the 1967 borders, a reference widely interpreted as allowing for an agreement in which Jewish settlement blocs become Israeli territory in exchange for other areas. 
Earlier this week, the Arab League for the first time publicly cited the possibility of "comparable," mutually agreed and "minor" land swaps between the Israelis and the Palestinians.

Thursday, May 2, 2013

How Jewish American Heritage Month Honors US Jewry

By Jspace Staff on 5/1/2013
 Jewish American Heritgae MonthEvery May Jews across the United States honor Jewish American Heritage Month, an annual commemoration begun by President George W. Bush in 2006.

The decision to honor American Jewry with a national month was the result of immense effort on the parts of the Jewish Museum of Florida and politicians Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz and Sen. Arlen Specter, who each drafted resolutions urging the White House to begin the tradition.

The resolutions passed unanimously in the House in 2005 and in the Senate in February 2006, and the month of May was earmarked for the tributary.

To forward the project, the Jewish American Heritage Month Coalition was formed, made up of representatives from the United Jewish Communities and the Jacob Rader Marcus Center of the American Jewish Archives.

Each year, the month is honored with lectures, educational programs and parties across the US, recognizing the contributions US Jews have made to the national landscape over the course of more than two centuries.

In 2010 and 2011, President Barack Obama hosted private celebrations at the White House during the month, inviting guests like Nobel laureate and Holocaust survivor Elie Wiesel and Jewish baseball legend Sandy Koufax and Jewish to pay tribute to the month.

The movement has also made strides within the public school system, with many schools organizing lectures and special projects to teach students more about Jewish American history.

President Obama kicked off the month-long commemoration with remarks yesterday, saying Jewish accomplishments can be seen “in every neighborhood, and we see them abroad in our unbreakable bond with Israel that Jewish Americans helped forge."

Wednesday, May 1, 2013

Peres meets pope at Vatican, invites him to Israel

 (JTA) -- Israeli President Shimon Peres told Pope Francis at a Vatican meeting that the new pontiff has an important role to play in shepherding the peace process.

Tuesday's meeting was the first diplomatic encounter between an Israeli official and the new pope.

"You have an important role in progressing peace and the belief in it, I turn to you and ask that within your sermons in front of millions of believers in the world you include the hope for peace in the Middle East and the whole world," Peres said in a statement following the meeting.

Peres also invited the pope to visit Israel, saying "I am sure that you will be received warmly by all the citizens, regardless of religion, race or nationality.

"The citizens of Israel see in you a leader of peace and good will. The sooner you visit the better, as in these days a new opportunity is being created for peace and your arrival could contribute significantly to increasing the trust and belief in peace."

Francis thanked Peres for the invitation, saying he wants to visit Israel and would try to find a time to do so in the near future, according to a statement from the President's Office.

During the meeting, the pope made clear that anti-Semitism in the world goes against the beliefs of Christianity and must be opposed in every country. Francis suggested creating a global meeting with the heads of all the world's faiths and to come out against violence and terror.

The pope visited Israel in 1973 when he was a Jesuit priest.