Monthly Archives: October 2014

The Theocracy in Democracy Project: An Uneasy Union

The Theocracy in Democracy Project: An Uneasy Union


When it comes to marriage & divorce, Israel is a theocracy under the control of its Orthodox Rabbinate. What can be done?

By Eetta Prince-Gibson

To all appearances, the Lavies are a normal, middle-class, non-religious family, struggling with the high cost of Israeli living and the day-to-day demands of raising four young children. The kitchen counters of their modest third-floor apartment in Giv’on HaHadasha near Jerusalem are covered with the clutter of a weeknight, the supper dishes draining next to the sink. The refrigerator doors are plastered with magnets holding down bills to be paid, school schedules and reminders of appointments and events. Two daughters, ages seven and nine, are playing in the living room while the younger children, both boys, are already asleep.

But although they have been together for more than a decade and very much want to marry, Shlomit, 42, and Alon, 40, have been unable to do so. Shlomit is a widow, and in the eyes of Israel’s Orthodox rabbinate—which has sole authority over all matters of marriage and divorce in the country—she has not been free to remarry.

This is a consequence of a law in Deuteronomy that applies to all marriages between Jews. It stipulates that the late husband’s unmarried brother must marry the widow in order to produce a child who will carry on the name of the deceased. If the brother doesn’t want to marry his sister-in-law, he must stand before the elders of the community—which in modern Israel means the rabbinate—and announce: “I will not marry her.” The woman then performs a ceremony called halitzah by taking off her brother-in-law’s shoe, spitting in front of his face, and loudly declaring, “So shall be done to a man who refuses to build up his brother’s house.”

Shlomit, like most secular Jews, had never heard of this law. Since there aren’t many widows of childbearing age who have no children and an unmarried brother-in-law, it is seldom relevant, and when it is, it’s usually a technicality. But for Shlomit it was not that simple: Her brother-in-law, who lives in Canada, refused to take part in the ceremony. When summoned by the rabbinical court, he rarely appeared, and when he did, he demanded large sums of money in exchange for “permitting” Shlomit to perform the ceremony.

In essence this has meant that her late husband’s family has had the power to prevent Shlomit from remarrying. “The law of halitzah may have had some meaning in ancient times, but now it was just being used as a tool against me,” says Shlomit, a soft spoken, petite woman with olive skin and thick black hair that is tied back. “And the rabbis were allowing it to happen.” The rabbis, she says, advised her to give her brother-in-law the money so that she could be free. “I don’t have that kind of money,” she says. “But the rabbis told me that my husband’s soul will never find rest and that it’s my fault.”

Some time after her husband’s death, Shlomit met and fell in love with Alon. “Neither of us was so young anymore,” she says. “We wanted to get married, but we realized that if we would wait for the rabbinical courts, we’d be too old to have children of our own.” Without recourse, she formally took Alon’s surname, and the two lived as a couple and became a family when the children were born.

Halitzah applies to any Jewish woman anywhere in the world, but as long as civil marriage is an option, a widow can choose to ignore the religious injunctions and remarry. In Israel, a rare democracy that legally sanctions a religious monopoly over marriage and divorce, this is impossible. When a Jewish couple walks into a government office to obtain a marriage license, it is supervised by rabbis and run according to Orthodox interpretation of traditional Jewish law, known as halacha. According to Hiddush, an Israeli non-governmental organization (NGO) working toward religious pluralism, Israel—regarded as the Middle East’s only democracy—is among 45 nations with “severe restrictions” on marriage; most of the others are governed by Islamic law. This places the Jewish state in the dubious company of nations such as Afghanistan, Iran, Pakistan, Saudi Arabia and Sudan.

The chief rabbinate, which falls under the jurisdiction of Israel’s Ministry of Religious Services, maintains and supervises a massive religious government bureaucracy made up of a network of rabbinic courts consisting of regional, municipal, community and neighborhood rabbis. In addition to marriage and divorce, the rabbinate is responsible for all “personal status” issues, such as conversion, which is closely related to marriage; burial; kashrut certification; supervision of ritual baths and other religious services.

Over the decades, the Knesset, civil courts and Israel’s Supreme Court have created options for couples who are willing to forego official Jewish marriage. Chief among these is a 1963 law stipulating that marriages performed outside of Israel must be recognized by the state. Many Israelis with the necessary resources take advantage of this. In 2010, nearly 36,000 couples were married in Jewish courts, and another 9,262 couples had weddings abroad, according to Israel’s most recent census. And in recent decades, the courts have strengthened the rights of common-law couples so that they can maintain joint bank accounts, both be recognized as parents of their children, and be eligible for all social security and social welfare benefits and inheritance privileges to which a married couple would be entitled. Nevertheless, the vast majority of people in Israel—such as the Lavies—want their unions to be recognized by the state as marriages. 

“Israeli society is much more traditional than would appear,” says Aviad HaCohen, dean of the Shaarei Mishpat Academic College and a senior lecturer in constitutional law and Jewish law at the college and in the Hebrew University’s Faculty of Law. “Except for a small minority, most Israelis want to marry ‘like their parents did.’ Others, even if less traditional, don’t want to upset their grandparents and parents.”


Israel’s religious laws date back to the medieval rise of the Ottomans, whose millet system granted limited authority to each recognized non-Muslim minority to conduct their own religious and communal affairs. After World War I, the British kept the system in place and appointed Orthodox rabbis to act as the supreme halachic and spiritual authority for the Jewish people in Palestine. In 1947, before the British pulled out and Jewish State was established, future Prime Minister David Ben-Gurion made what is known as the “Status Quo Agreement.” Under this agreement, he made concessions to the religious parties, including recognition of the authority of the chief rabbi and rabbinical courts. 

In 1953, the Knesset passed legislation that reinforced this faith-based system by clearly placing all matters of marriage and divorce for Jews in Israel under the jurisdiction of these rabbinic courts. Religious leaders became civil servants—even if they perceived themselves as answering to a higher authority. And to this day, religious court verdicts, like civil ones, are implemented and enforced by the police, bailiff’s office, and other law-enforcement agencies.

Why did Ben-Gurion, an avowedly secular Zionist, push so strongly for the Status Quo Agreement and the subsequent 1953 legislation? And why was there so little opposition to these decisions?

There are many reasons. One that historians such as Anita Shapira, author of the 2012 book Israel: A History, have pointed to is Ben-Gurion’s assumption that ultra-Orthodox Jewry was on its last legs and would eventually disappear or become a small, insignificant sect. A second reason was timing, says Guy Ben-Porat, a professor of public policy at Ben-Gurion University of the Negev and author of the recent book, Between State and Synagogue, the Secularization of Contemporary Israel. “These were the years just after the Holocaust and the loss of fully one-third of the Jewish people,” he says. “Most of even the most secular Jews felt a pull toward tradition, toward the sense that the Jewish people had to maintain itself and hold on to what had been lost.”

But mostly the decision came down to politics—counting who was for and who was against establishment of the Jewish State. Although small in size, the religious parties held the balance of political power at the time, and Ben-Gurion wanted the state to have the legitimacy of Orthodox backing. “Ben-Gurion needed their support in order to guarantee the establishment of the State, and he knew that the religious parties were never going to give up on the crucial issue of marriage and divorce, which throughout the millennia [in exile] had been the sole province of the rabbis,” says Ben-Porat.

Pnina Lahav, professor of law at Boston University and an expert on women’s rights in the early period of the state of Israel, suspects there was another reason. “On the one hand the early Zionists rejected religion and on the on the other hand they had traditional views about marriage,” she says. “It was something akin to the current concept of ‘family values’ in the United States.”

Ben-Gurion—who married his wife, Paula, in a civil ceremony in New York City that was squeezed into his schedule between fundraising meetings for the nascent Jewish State—must have been aware that handing over marriage and divorce to the rabbinic courts would place women under the control of a male-dominated institution, in which only men could serve as judges. In his 2007 book, A History of Israel from the Rise of Zionism to Our Time, historian and author Howard M. Sachar quotes Ben-Gurion on his thinking about this issue: “Any government leader must prescribe for himself priorities, must decide on first things first… [so] I agreed not to change the status quo on religious authority for matters of personal status. I know it was hard on some individuals. But I felt, again in the national interest, that it was wise to… pay the comparatively small price of religious status quo.” 

But the price Jews—especially women—in Israel are paying is not small, says Ruth Halperin-Kaddari, head of the Rackman Center for the Advancement of the Status of Women at Bar-Ilan University’s Law Faculty and a member of the United Nations Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination against Women (CEDAW). “The question here is who speaks for the community, who gets to determine its norms,” she says. “Too frequently, religion gives a voice only to men, who declare, in the name of God, that they the men are in charge of the family and that they make the decisions for the women.”

Israel, regarded as the Middle East’s only democracy, is among 45 nations with “severe restrictions” on marriage; most of the others are governed by Islamic law.

Women are most vulnerable when it comes to divorce, which in Jewish law centers around the get—a bill of divorce. With the exception of a few specific instances, a get is valid only if the husband offers it willingly to his wife, and his wife accepts it willingly. But when divorces are not amicable, as they often are not, the get becomes the perfect tool for financial and emotional blackmail.

That’s because if a husband refuses, or is unable, to offer his wife a get, whether out of spite, because he is in a coma, or mentally ill, or lost in battle, or for any other reason, she is considered an agunah, literally a chained woman. In these cases, the woman is not permitted to remarry. While men, too, can be in a position of being unable to remarry—a wife must accept the get for the divorce to be valid—there are numerous accepted workarounds for men, including a heter meah rabbanim, a dispensation from 100 rabbis. There are none for women.

These rules apply to all Jewish women, but are particularly onerous in Israel, where there is no civil divorce. How many Israeli women are currently being refused a divorce or being held captive as agunot? Estimates vary widely: The rabbinate speaks of a few hundred, while women’s groups such as the International Coalition for Agunah Rights say as many as 100,000. Academics at Jerusalem’s Center for Women in Jewish Law estimate 20,000. Get abuse is pervasive, says Halperin-Kaddari. “It’s present in every third divorce; it intimidates every fourth divorcing woman; and almost a third of the divorces end in settlements that deviate from the law to the disadvantage of women,” she says. Get abuse, she continues, is more prevalent in the religious and ultra-Orthodox communities, where she says half of all divorcing women are threatened with the refusal to be granted a get, and almost half eventually give in to getextortion. 

The religious laws of divorce apply equally to non-religious women. According to Israel’s Bureau of Statistics, only 8.2 percent of Israelis identify as ultra-Orthodox and 11.7 percent as religious. The remainder consider themselves to be “traditional” (38.5 percent) or secular. Many of these women are not even aware that Jewish law pertains to them until their marriage has fallen apart. 

One of these non-religious women is Galit, 38, who asked me not to use her last name for fear that publicity might hurt her case, and who I met in her apartment in a poor neighborhood in Jerusalem. Her husband has refused to grant her a get for six years. “We keep going back to the rabbinic court,” she says. “Sometimes he shows up and says that he’s sorry about the way he treated me and that he wants to make things better. Mostly, he doesn’t even show up. The rabbis believe him and won’t force him to give me aget. They don’t ask me what I want. They just sit there, mumble into their beards, and say they can’t do anything abut it.”

The rabbis, she says, are only interested in the religious technicality of making sure he wants to give her a divorce. “I want my rights as a woman, as a human being,” she says. “I want to be free to continue my life. I want to find love, happiness, I want to have children. But these rabbis—they don’t care about a woman or her life.”

The situation is even more difficult for women whose husbands have disappeared or gone into hiding. I traveled to a small farming village outside of Tel Aviv where I met Bruria, who also asked not to have her last name published. She is 32, and like Galit, has been in marital limbo for six years. The blue kerchief covering her head, which matches her simply cut blue blouse, is a sign that she is a religiously observant woman who observes the modesty requirement that a married woman should cover her hair.

“We were married for two years and then, one day, my husband simply disappeared,” she says. “I didn’t know what happened. I thought he had died, I thought he had been kidnapped by terrorists. After two days, I called the police—and that’s how I found out that he was involved in all sorts of criminal activities, that we were in terrible debt and that he had run away because the police were going to arrest him for fraud and theft. But now I’m the one in jail. No one knows where he is—so I’m an agunah. The rabbis say that that they don’t know if he would agree to a divorce or not if he were here, so they won’t give me a getin his absence.”

The rabbinical court referred Bruria to an “agunah department” in the chief rabbinate’s office, which is employing private detectives (at the public’s expense) to look for her husband, who is apparently living in Europe. “But what can the detective do if he finds him?” she wonders aloud. “Maybe he will beat him up until he agrees.” In practical terms, there is little a detective can do.

Israel’s civil legal system has weighed in: In 1995, the Knesset passed a law aimed at “persuading”—but not forcing—a husband to grant a get by imposing sanctions that include suspension of their credit cards, bank accounts, passports, and driver’s and professional licenses and injunctions against leaving the country. The impact of the sanctions law, however, has been limited: In 2008, only 20 arrest warrants were issued and private investigators were hired 36 times to find men who had disappeared in Israel or abroad, according to the rabbinate’s website.

Few Jewish Israeli women, even the most secular, are willing to completely dismiss the need for a get. According to Jewish law, if a woman conceives a child with another man while still married to her first husband—even if she and her husband have not lived together for years—her relationship will be considered adulterous and her children will be considered mamzerim (mamzer in the singular). The law forbids mamzerim—those born from an adulterous or incestuous union—and their offspring from participating in the Jewish community and from marrying other Jews for 10 generations. “Who can predict that, across the generations, none of your descendants will ever choose to be religious, marry a religious man or women, or marry in Israel?” explains Rachel Levmore, a rabbinical court advocate and head of theAgunah and Get-Refusal Prevention Project of the International Young Israel Movement in Israel and the Jewish Agency.

The relationship between civil and religious law is more complex when it comes to child custody and property distribution. In the landmark 1992 case of Bavli vs. Bavli, the Supreme Court ruled that civil courts take precedence over religious courts in these areas, but religious courts have not accepted this decision. They have continued to apply halachic norms, rather than civic norms, such as gender equality and Western understandings of the best interests of the child. In practice, this means that either rabbinic courts or civil family courts can adjudicate these issues—it’s simply a matter of which spouse registers first with which court. Men and religious women tend to prefer the religious courts, which usually refrain from objecting to men’s demands in order to guarantee that the divorce will be given willingly. Less religious and secular women tend to prefer the civil courts, which follow civil laws.

Israeli society is much more traditional than would appear. Even if tomorrow we were to have civil marriage, 90 percent of Israelis would still have a religious marriage.

Under Israel’s 1950 Law of Return, administered by the Ministry of Interior, anyone with at least one Jewish grandparent, and his or her spouse, has the right to immigrate to Israel and gain automatic citizenship. The rabbinate, on the other hand, has very different criteria for who is a Jew and will only agree to marry a person if he or she is Jewish as defined by Orthodox law: In other words, only people who are born to a Jewish mother or have been converted. But over the last two decades, the rabbinate has insisted upon increasingly stringent requirements for proving Jewish descent.

This has had a major impact on marriage in Israel, particularly on recent immigrants such as the approximately one million people who came from the Former Soviet Union (FSU). David Borozovski, now 40, arrived with his family from the FSU in the large wave of immigration in the late 1990s. His father was a physician, his mother an engineer. After difficult beginnings, the family did well socially and financially. David integrated into Israeli society, served in a combat unit, completed a degree at Tel Aviv University and now works as a high-tech engineer; his future wife, also from the FSU, is studying medicine. Both of his parents are now deceased.

Like all prospective Jewish couples, David and his fiancée went to the rabbinic court, in their town of Ashkelon, to register to marry. “The rabbi began to ask me all sorts of questions,” he relates. “He made me feel that I’m not a good enough Jew. He asked about my grandmother and grandfather—if they kept kosher. If they observed the Sabbath. Seriously? Does he realize that this was in Soviet Russia?”

There are approximately 400,000 “Jewish non-Jews” like David in Israel. They are Jewish enough to be conscripted into the Israeli army and pay taxes, but they are not Jewish enough to marry. “We always knew we were Jewish. And we were Jewish enough to be beaten up and called Zhids in Russia. But the rabbis say maybe I’m not Jewish because maybe my mother wasn’t Jewish. They are demanding to see herketubah [wedding certificate] and other documents. What documents could I possibly have that would convince them? They even made me pull down my pants—yes! I had to stand in front of three old men who wanted to know if I’d been circumcised—can you imagine how humiliating that is?”

David has applied for help from the partially government-funded group Shorashim (Hebrew for “roots”), which takes on more than 1,000 cases a year. It sends specially trained researchers to the FSU to wade through old Soviet and even Czarist records to find documents attesting to Jewish lineage.

According to Guy Ben-Porat, it was the massive influx of people from the FSU that pushed the rabbinate to become more restrictive. “Marrying so many secular couples, they already knew that the couples are not going to establish what the rabbis consider a true Jewish home,” he says. “They know fully well that few of the women that they marry come to the huppah [bridal canopy] as virginal maids. But accepting the immigrants from the FSU as Jews, when they know that intermarriage and divorce were widespread, was just too much.”

Aware of the problem, the Knesset passed the Civil Union Law in 2010 in yet another limited attempt to temper religious law with civil law. It allows for civil marriage if both the man and the woman are officially registered as not belonging to any religion. However, out of the 400,000 “non-Jewish Jews,” only 30,000 are officially registered as without a religion, and they are the only ones who can take advantage of this law. Since it passed, the provision has applied to only 94 couples. Ben-Porat calls the law “insignificant” and points out that it cannot be expanded to allow civil marriage for all.

The Jewishness of Ethiopian Jews, most of whom arrived in Israel in two waves, between 1990 and 1999, and between 2000 and 2004, has also been subject to question. Even though Chief Sephardi Rabbi Ovadia Yosef ruled in the 1970s that all Ethiopian Jews were halachically Jewish and thus not in need of conversion, not all rabbis accept his decision. This troubles Gadi (he asked me not to use his last name), who spoke with me at a trendy coffee shop in Tel Aviv. “After all my family and I suffered to get to Israel? A rabbi, appointed by the state, tells me that he won’t register us for marriage, because he doesn’t think we’re Jewish,” he says, his voice taut with hurt and anger.

 Short and tightly built, Gadi, 32, came to Israel from Ethiopia, crossing the Sudan with his family on a perilous, two-year journey. The family settled in Petach Tikva in central Israel. Like most Ethiopians, Gadi attended religious boarding school and completed compulsory military service. A teacher for underprivileged children in Petach Tikva, he wears a knitted kippah and maintains a religious lifestyle.

Unfortunately for Gadi, Rabbi Benjamin Attias—head of the rabbinic court in Petach Tikva and a member of the Mizrahi ultra-Orthodox Shas party—has repeatedly refused to grant permission for Ethiopian Jews to marry. And despite the earlier ruling, and numerous pronouncements that rabbis such as Attias cannot make their own decisions in this matter, the chief rabbinate has been unwilling to intervene.

In response to situations like this, the Knesset passed legislation last year permitting all Israelis to “shop around” and apply to a rabbinical court outside their places of residence. And most Ethiopians know very well that some courts—like the ones in Tel Aviv—are more lenient than others. Gadi knows this too, but insists on registering in Petach Tikva. “I am a religious Jew. My future wife is a Jew. This is our religious community,” he says firmly. “I will not shop around to find someone who will agree to that. It’s the truth.”

The rabbinate argues it is only doing its job as the gatekeeper of the Jewish people. “Jewish law must be the highest law of the land,” says Rabbi Eliyahu Ben-Dahan, the current Deputy Minister of Religious Affairs who was previously the Director-General of the Rabbinical Courts, and is a Member of Knesset (MK) from the Yesh Atid [There is a Future] party. “Jews have come to Israel from all over the world, and we are united only because we have a single Jewish legal authority.”

The rabbis believe that if they do not verify the Jewish status of a prospective bride and groom, it will tear the Jewish people apart, explains Rabbi Nissim Zeev, MK from Shas. “If my son wants to marry a young woman, he must know what her status is. Perhaps her parents were never divorced and she is a mamzer? Perhaps she is not even Jewish, and then their children will not be Jewish? We must verify this so that our people will not split into groups that will not marry each other.”

Without firm requirements, the rabbinate warns, it will be forced to create a blacklist of “unacceptable” Jews. But in fact, according to press reports and agunah advocacy groups, such lists already exist—some of them privately drawn up by community rabbis, especially within the ultra-Orthodox community, and some of them by the rabbinate itself. The lists are highly secret and have come under severe criticism from the state comptroller, who has accused the rabbinate of “exceeding its authority.”

At least half and perhaps even two-thirds of all children growing up in the American Jewish community today would not be allowed to legally marry in Israel.

Tehila Cohen is an attorney with Yad L’Isha: The Monica Dennis Goldberg Legal Aid Center and Hotline, an organization founded by Rabbi Shlomo Riskin’s Ohr Torah Stone Institution, and one of a dozen or more religious women’s groups now working within the rabbinical courts.

I met her at the Jerusalem court, where she was dashing energetically between offices and among the bearded rabbinical authorities, ensuring that the last details of a woman client’s get were being completed. Cohen, who covers her hair in the style of religious Zionists, is a religious advocate meaning that she has the rabbinate’s permission to address the court on behalf of women. That a woman can serve in this position at all is due to a 1993 Supreme Court decision.

Cohen’s job is to use her extensive legal and religious knowledge to find solutions to impossible cases. She tells me about Hawida Tzabari, who grew up in Yemen, and at age 12, was forced to marry a 20-year-old man whom she had never met. To escape her husband’s violent behavior, she eventually fled Sana’a for New York, then Israel. Still, she was legally tied to her husband, who told her he would never give her a divorce or allow her to see her two daughters.

Cohen managed to convince the Tel Aviv Rabbinical Court, in a rare move, to rule that for a variety of reasons, the marriage vows could be annulled and therefore, according to the laws of Judaism, Tzabari had never been married and did not require a divorce. In this case, notes Cohen, the rabbis “did their best to find a solution for Tzabari that would be just, fair, and religiously valid.”

“If the rabbis have the will, they can always find a way to solve problems within the framework of halacha,” she explains. Indeed, religious women’s advocates like Cohen say rabbinic will is the heart of the issue. After the Yom Kippur War, for example, Rabbi Shlomo Goren, who was then head of the Israel Defense Forces’ (IDF) Military Rabbinate (as well as chief rabbi of Israel, chief judge of the Supreme Rabbinical Court of Appeals, chief rabbi and rabbinical court presiding judge of Tel Aviv), saved untold numbers of women from becoming agunot war widows. Countless times, he and his staff crossed enemy lines in order to locate and collect the remains of fallen IDF soldiers, identify them and bring them to burial.

As Cohen sees it, fewer and fewer rabbis seem to have that will anymore. “Some of the rabbis are very conservative,” observes Cohen. “As a religious woman, I believe that halacha provides solutions to all problems. But finding religiously legal solutions requires creativity, compassion, spiritual courage and will.”

According to press reports, rabbinic will is sometimes for sale. “The going rate,” Alon Lavie tells me, “is about $5,000 per judge to get the panel to rule in your favor.” Others I spoke with also mentioned that they had been presented with opportunities to bribe. “As a religious Jew, I am appalled by this,” says Yair Sheleg, a research fellow at the Israel Democracy Institute, a liberal think-tank. “It is a desecration of God’s name. But it is inevitable whenever a system has absolute power.”

Not everyone wants a system that relies on something as intangible as rabbinic will, and there are a number of proposals for reform that may gradually be gaining acceptance from the religious establishment. Rachel Levmore, for example, has proposed an optional prenuptial agreement, known as the “Agreement for Mutual Respect.” The agreement, Levmore explains, protects both the woman and the man from future get refusal via two mechanisms: One is a monetary incentive to arrange a get within six to nine months, the other encourages couples to attend therapy sessions. Both these mechanisms are designed to help warring spouses to communicate and reach an agreement in a dignified manner. Tehila Cohen says there is a problem with this approach: many starry-eyed young couples often resist signing pre-nups.

Those couples who want to avoid the rabbinate altogether can take advantage of the law allowing marriages abroad to be registered with the state. Most go to Cyprus, which is nearby and has an entire tourist industry devoted to accommodating Israeli couples and their families. The numbers of Israelis choosing this option is growing. According to the Central Bureau of Statistics, in 2012 16.9 percent of marriages involving at least one Jew took place outside of Israel, a 5.4 percent increase over 2011. Another popular trend is cohabitation. But these common-law marriages are not the same as official ones: They create more bureaucratic hassles, says Ben-Porat. For example, unmarried couples need to show proof of their cohabitation status in order to obtain a mortgage.

But perhaps the most telling trend is that young observant Orthodox Jews are more frequently bypassing the rabbinate. Tanya Zion-Waldoks is a young, self-defined modern Orthodox woman, well educated in Jewish law, active in religious feminist circles and working on her Ph.D. dissertation in religious and gender studies at Bar-Ilan University. “For nearly a year, my husband, Ehud, and I studied the Jewish wedding ceremony and we knew that we would not be married within the rabbinate,” Zion-Waldoks says. “This was a form of a political statement, relating to gender and equality and the fact that getting married in the rabbinate implies the subjugation of women. We wanted our ceremony to express our Jewish identity and our values of partnership, love and mutual respect.” The couple was married in a private ceremony conducted by a like-minded Orthodox rabbi. And while the Zion-Waldoks family live as modern Orthodox Jews, in the eyes of Israeli and Jewish law they are merely cohabitating. 

Warns Ben-Porat: “These workarounds actually perpetuate the situation, because they create a detour around the need for change. Because Israelis, religious and non-religious alike, have found ways to solve their problems, they have little incentive for political action.”

I’m a religious Jew. My future wife is a Jew. I will not shop around to find someone who will agree to that. It’s the truth.

Since Israel’s founding, all attempts to push for the establishment of civil marriage have failed. A civil marriage bill was recently voted down in the Knesset in a resounding 52-19 vote. “When it comes to marriage and divorce,” says Zvi Triger of the Academic College of Management in Rishon L’Tzion, “even if tomorrow we were to have civil marriage in Israel, 90 percent of Israelis would still have a religious marriage.”

Most Israeli Jews believe that the rabbinate serves an important purpose in maintaining the Jewish character of the state. But with the rabbinate’s newfound rigidity, a range of studies shows that passive acceptance of its control over marriage is waning. A 2013 survey conducted by Geokartography, an independent Israeli research group, determined that 71 percent of Israeli Jews said they were not pleased with the chief rabbinate. In its research, Hiddush, the NGO promoting religious pluralism, found that 63 percent of Israelis and 88.5 percent of those who define themselves as secular support the possibility of civil marriage in Israel.

Encouraged by these statistics, a new coalition is forming to push for civil marriage, says Mickey Gitzin, a member of the Tel Aviv City Council. Gitzin is also the executive director of Israel Hofsheet [Be Free Israel], an NGO advocating for ending the Orthodox monopoly that is part of a broad group of Israeli organizations developing public campaigns to create pressure on the government.

Gitzin attributes some of the new energy around this issue to the dissatisfaction that Israelis feel toward their politicians, whom they view as cynical and motivated by self-interest. “Parties like Yesh Atid, headed by Yair Lapid, and HaTnuah, headed by Tzipi Livni, promised that they would push for change,” he says. “Then they became part of the government and backed down. And [Prime Minister Benjamin] Netanyahu, who doesn’t even have a single haredi party in his coalition, still is afraid of angering the ultra-Orthodox in case he needs them in the future.”

Jews are not the only ones calling for change. The lack of civil marriage in Israel also impacts the members of all other recognized religions—Muslim, Baha’i, Druze and 10 Christian denominations such as the Latin (Roman Catholic) Church and the Greek Orthodox Catholic Church. Like Jews, each of these groups is bound to its own religious courts. Since there are only 120,000 Christians in Israel, the marriage pool is small, says Amnon Ramon, an expert in Christianity at the Jerusalem Institute for Israel Studies. As a result, “most of them ‘intermarry’ between the denominations. Which means that one member of the couple ‘converts’ to the other’s denomination, because the different clerical courts will not agree to intermarriage.” This situation is exacerbated, he adds, because the Latin Catholic Church does not recognize conversion. 

But most affected are Muslim women who are bound by sharia law. Suha Abu-Assawa, a Palestinian-Israeli feminist activist from Haifa, in Israel’s northern region, says that the Muslim courts routinely discriminate against women. “Like the rabbinic courts,” she explains, “the courts are made up solely of men. Women have no standing. And like the Jewish courts, their interpretations of Islamic law are strict and usually anti-woman. According to their interpretation of Islamic law, for example, if a woman is divorced, she has no claim to custody of her children.”

Most fraught is intermarriage between Jews and Arabs, who make up 20 percent of Israel’s population, and are mostly Muslims. This August, Israeli newspapers were full of stories about the wedding of Morel Malka, a Jewish woman who converted to Islam, and Mahmoud Mansour, an Israeli Arab. Hundreds of angry protestors held a noisy demonstration against the marriage. They were organized by Lahava, an extremist NGO that opposes “miscegenation,” as it calls marriage between Jews and non-Jews. Most of the press coverage did not mention that the couple had no choice if they intended to marry: It is very difficult for Muslims to convince the rabbinate to convert them.

Israel’s rabbinate has become increasingly bold in asserting its authority over conversions conducted in the United States. In 2008, in one sweeping move—and with the support of a single American Orthodox organization, the Rabbinical Council of America—the rabbinate limited its recognition of conversions performed abroad to a short list of handpicked rabbis and rabbinical courts. As a result, Hiddush estimates that at least half, and perhaps even two-thirds of all children growing up in the American Jewish community today would not be allowed to legally marry in Israel.

Debbie Waxman’s story is typical. Waxman, now 31, moved to Israel 13 years ago. “I came from a Zionist home,” she says. “I came to Israel on a year program and decided to stay. I felt at home here, as a Jew. I served in the army and then studied law. I belong here.” Two years ago, Waxman fell in love with an Israeli man whose family has lived in Israel for four generations. Thinking herself savvy, she brought her mother’s certificate of conversion along when they went to register for a marriage license at the rabbinate. “My mother converted even before she met my father,” Waxman tells me. “She was a proud Jew. We kept kosher at home and attended synagogue regularly.”

Their application to be married, however, was rejected since Waxman’s mother was converted in a ceremony performed by a religious court in America composed of Conservative rabbis. In the eyes of the Israeli rabbinate, Waxman’s mother never converted and she herself, born to a non-Jewish mother, was not a Jew.

 According to Sheleg, the requirement that an approved Orthodox rabbi oversee conversion is new to Jewish history. “Ruth the Moabite never underwent a conversion ceremony,” he says. “Ruth simply declared her commitment to Naomi, her mother-in-law, she accepted Naomi’s god and became part of the Jewish people. She was even the great grandmother of King David.” Sheleg adds, “It is part of the ultra-Orthodox zeitgeist to pretend that nothing has changed in Judaism for centuries as if any change would contradict 3,000 years of Jewish history and practice. But it’s not true. Most of what the ultra-Orthodox and the rabbinate are claiming is actually less than 200 years old, and is a product of the response to the Enlightenment.”

Although Waxman and her future husband can and will be married by a Conservative rabbi in the United States, she says that she is hurt and humiliated by the treatment she has received in Israel. But she is furious at American Jewish leaders. “The American Jewish community nurtured my Judaism and encouraged my Zionism,” she says. “But the community hasn’t done anything about this. They haven’t confronted the Israeli political leadership.”

Susie Gelman, a leader of the American Jewish community, agrees that these are significant issues that must be addressed. Gelman is the past president of the Jewish Federation of Greater Washington; inaugural chair of the Birthright Israel Foundation; and has twice served as the North American co-chair of the General Assembly of the Jewish Federations of North America (JFNA). “We encourage our children to make aliyah,” says Gelman. “We educate them to be committed to the Jewish state—but then the Jewish state doesn’t think they are Jewish enough. This situation is mind-boggling and it needs to change.”

Even more than that, “the issues of marriage, divorce and conversion are fundamental issues of civil rights and civil liberties,” she continues. “They are also fundamental issues for the Jewish people. Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has repeatedly declared that Israel is the nation-state of the Jewish people. For this to be true, Israel needs to recognize the religious practices of Jews throughout the world.”

To this end, JFNA has established the Israel Religious Expressions Platform Committee, which Gelman co-chairs. The committee is meeting at JFNA’s November General Assembly to begin to determine its direction and recommendations. Other major American Jewish groups are also paying attention to the issue. In January, the American Jewish Committee (AJC) established an ongoing workshop to examine issues relating to marriage and divorce in Israel and their effect on Israel-diaspora relations.

The implications extend far beyond questions of civil rights and the basic human right to marry and establish a family, says Dov Zakheim, a former national security advisor to President George W. Bush and advisor on the Middle East to Republican Presidential contender Mitt Romney. “Israel cannot continue to ignore the diaspora and our Judaism or the American Jewish community will simply disconnect from Israel,” says Zakheim, who is currently serving as chair of the American Jewish Committee’s Commission on Contemporary Jewish Life. “The American Jewish community is the main source of the support that successive American administrations have given to Israel. If Israel loses American Jews, it will lose American support. And that would pose a serious strategic threat to the very existence of the State of Israel. We have no intention,” he says definitively, “of letting that happen.”

Few in Israel seriously suggest that the rabbinate be stripped of its power, and American Jewish leaders, insist that they, too, are not calling for abolishing the rabbinate. “We are not trying to force American-style Judaism on Israelis,” says Jerry Silverman, president and CEO of the Jewish Federations of America. “But at a minimum, Israel must recognize all streams of Judaism and provide a civil option for those who choose it. We are not imposing anything. We are creating a platform for dialogue.”

This dialogue will include American and Israeli partners. The North American groups will emphasize the conversion issue while the Israeli groups, Zakheim says, are focusing more on marriage and divorce. “But it is all part of the same situation—the chokehold that the rabbinate in Israel has had for so many years cannot continue.”

Ultimately, Yair Sheleg believes that introducing some form of civil marriage and divorce would serve the best interests of Judaism. “If the rabbinate had competition—from other streams of Judaism and from a civil system—it would have to adapt itself. It wouldn’t be a monopoly, and so would have to become more friendly and more in touch with the communities it is meant to service. This would open up wonderful opportunities to bring Israeli Jews closer to their Judaism, instead of being turned off.” 

This summer, after numerous inter-ventions by influential rabbis in Israel and Canada, Shlomit Lavie traveled to Canada at her own expense and performed the halitzah, aided by the Chabad religious courts, who convinced the brother-in-law to appear for the ceremony.

Upon her return, Shlomit and Alon were sure that they would finally be allowed to marry. But to their horror, the rabbinic court, citing another arcane religious law that is applicable only to Jewish men of Ashkenazi descent, declared that since they had cohabitated and since Alon is an Ashkenazi Jew, the couple could never be married in the eyes of the Jewish state.

True, they could be married in an unofficial Conservative or Reform or even Orthodox ceremony, or get married abroad. But that is not what Shlomit and Alon want. “We want a traditional marriage, and we want to be married in the eyes of the State,” insists Shlomit. “We are proud Jews. We are raising our children as proud Jews. The rabbis should not have the right to forbid us from marrying. I’m not a fighter, but I don’t want to be humiliated like this.”

Alon speaks up. “It is astounding to me that the rabbis, who say they care about Jewish unity, are forcing us to live as an unmarried couple because I am an Ashkenazi.”

Under Tehila Cohen’s guidance, Shlomit has appealed the decision to a higher rabbinic court. Cohen remains hopeful that a court made up of different rabbis will have the halachic will, and find a halachic way. “There are many wonderful rabbis who realize that Judaism and democracy really can exist together,” she says optimistically.

Shlomit merely sighs and asks: “How long are we supposed to wait?”

Según tomado de, el viernes, 31 de oct. de 2014.

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Former Israeli Ambassador to U.S. Affirms That USS Liberty Was ‘Tragic Friendly Fire Incident’

Former Israeli Ambassador to U.S. Affirms That USS Liberty Was ‘Tragic Friendly Fire Incident’ as Al Jazeera America Prepares to Air ‘Shocking Report’ by Conspiracy Theorist

OCTOBER 31, 2014 12:05 PM


Ben Cohen

With U.S.-Israeli bilateral relations hitting a new low this week, the Qatari-financed news broadcaster Al Jazeera America is tonight broadcasting a special report on the USS Liberty, the American naval vessel that came under deadly fire from Israeli forces on June 8, 1967 – the fourth day of the Six Day War which pitted the Jewish state against a coalition of Arab armies.

Thirty-four Americans died and 171 were injured in the attack. Israel said it mistook the Liberty for an enemy vessel, the Egyptian ship El Quseir. Subsequently, Israel issued a full apology for the attack, and has to date paid out more than $12 million in compensation to the survivors and their families, as well as the U.S. government.

In an interview with The Algemeiner, former Israeli Ambassador to the U.S. Michael Oren, an expert on the Liberty affair who now serves as Ambassador-in-Residence at The Atlantic Council, asserted that “thousands of pages of formerly classified documents on the Liberty have been declassified, both Israeli and American. None of those documents – I stress none – indicate that the Liberty was anything other than a tragic friendly fire episode.”

Among the declassified documents, Oren said, “are the tapes made by Israeli pilots and the tapes intercepted by American intelligence. All of them indicate that the Liberty attack was an accident. Every once in a while, someone comes up with ‘new evidence,’ but it always falls short.”

The USS Liberty affair has long been a favored topic of Israel’s harshest critics in America, as well as more extreme antisemitic conspiracy theorists, who insist the attack was deliberate. These detractors charge that Israel attacked the Liberty because the ship was eavesdropping on Israeli plans to attack the Syrian-controlled Golan Heights. Oren, who authored an extensive report on the matter, is adamant that “Israel made no attempt to hide its preparations for an offensive against Syria, and that the United States government, relying on regular diplomatic channels, remained fully apprised of them.” According to Oren, the attack was a tragic example of friendly fire, with severe operational errors made by both American and Israeli military planners.

Another theory advanced by the American investigative journalist James Bamford – described by Oren as “a well-known conspiracy theorist, who keeps coming up with different stories” – holds that “Israel mounted the attack because it worried that the Liberty would learn of the nearby killing of hundreds of Egyptian POWs by the Israeli army.” As an Anti- Defamation League report on the Liberty incident pointed out, “no evidence has been found to corroborate a war crime charge.”

Al Jazeera’s report is produced by Richard Belfield, a British journalist. In an article for the broadcaster’s website, Belfield left little doubt as to which side of the dispute he falls on. “First, the crew had been attacked in broad daylight by a close ally, then they were betrayed by their government and now they were being humiliated by the same agency many had worked for back in 1967,” Belfield wrote. His article made no mention of the compensation paid by Israel, and nor did he say whether he had spoken to any Israeli sources.

Belfield has somewhat of a penchant for conspiracy theories. His 2005 book “The Assassination Business” claimed the official versions of the death of Britain’s Princess Diana and the murder of Israeli Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin were false, and that British and Israeli intelligence services were likely involved in both deaths. Belfield’s book was described by the respected book reviewer Kirkus Reviews as an “oddly entertaining exposé,” with readers advised to “keep a tumbler full of salt grains close at hand” when reading it.

In his account of Rabin’s assassination, Belfield declared, “the history of modern Israel is one of conspiracy interrupted by assassination, a volatile and feverish democracy underpinned by the world’s most ruthless intelligence services, for whom there is no moral debate about ends and means.” Even more outlandishly, he wrote of “the long tradition of Jews assassinating other Jews” – without providing examples – and argued, again with no citation, that “ancient Talmudic law” portrays as a “sacred duty” the imperative for a Jew to kill another Jew who “imperils” Jewish lives or properties.

While no evidence has emerged to suggest that Al Jazeera has deliberately timed the broadcast of Belfield’s film to coincide with the current crisis between Washington and Jerusalem, interest in the report is likely to be heightened because of the diplomatic clash. Al Jazeera promises that the report will reveal “the shocking truth behind a deadly Israeli attack on a US naval vessel.”

The ailing Al Jazeera America is certainly chasing ratings, given its poor performance in the 14 months since its American version went on the air. According to media and entertainment website The Wrap, Al Jazeera America “is down 44 percent compared to [predecessor] Current TV,” averaging just 14,000 viewers in a “total day.”

Segun citado de, el viernes, 31 de oct. de 2014.

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¿Qué opina el Judaísmo del martirio?

¿Qué opina el judaísmo del Martirio?

¿Los judíos tienen mártires? Sé que hay religiones en las cuales es muy apreciado morir por su fe, y esto lo hace un santo o le consigue la entrada al paraíso. ¿Cuál es la visión judía? ¿Se supone que una persona deba morir por su fe?


Los judíos nunca buscamos el martirio – el martirio nos encontró antes. Desde que Abraham fue lanzado en un horno ardiente por Nimrod, millones de judíos en cada era de la historia han dado la vida por su fe en la mano de los asirios, persas, griegos, romanos, musulmanes, bizantinos, cruzados, de la Inquisición, bolcheviques, nazis y muchos más.

El judaísmo, llama al martirio Kidush Hashem– “la santificación del nombre de Di-s” y un mártir es llamado kadosh– “santo“. Pero, no esta permitido que un judío busque el martirio, sino debe buscar la vida y sostener la vida. Es verdad que el Talmud dice sobre los que murieron al Kidush Hashem que su lugar en el mundo por venir está más allá del alcance de todo ser creado.1 Pero, el mismo Talmud también enseña que, “una hora de Teshuba y buenas acciones en este mundo son más valiosas que toda la vida en el mundo por venir.2 ”

El Talmud nos cuenta cómo Rabi Akiva, fue arrestado para el crimen de enseñar Torá en público, gritó Shema Israel (“Oye Israel Di-s, nuestro Di-s es Uno”) mientras su piel era arrancada de su cuerpo por los verdugos romanos.

Sus estudiantes le preguntaron “¿También ahora dices Shema?”

Rabí Akiva contestó, “toda mi vida desee cumplir con el versículo, “… amaras a Di-s con toda tu vida”. Significa, que aunque te quiten la vida debes amar a Di-s. Siempre me pregunte, ¿”Cuando me llegara la oportunidad de poder cumplir este versículo”? 3

Con todo no sólo que Rabbi Akiva no espero que el martirio le llegue, sino que se escapo y ocultó de sus perseguidores romanos mientras podía. De la misma forma los judíos a lo largo de toda la Diáspora utilizaron todos los medios posibles para sobrevivir en las tierras de su exilio.

Encontramos una paradoja. Ésta es una de las cosas que ocurren con los judíos y el judaísmo: no hay nada sobre nosotros que podamos definir de forma unánime. Por cada reflexión hacia un lado, encontrarás otra que diga lo contrario. Lo mismo ocurre con el martirio. Puede decirse que el martirio es el tema principal y al mismo tiempo la antítesis del judaísmo.

Usted probablemente ha oído cientos de veces declaraciones tales como, el “judaísmo es la afirmación de la vida.” “El judaísmo busca la salvación aquí y ahora” “”No estamos preocupados en llegar al cielo, estamos intentando traer cielo acá a la tierra.” Todas estas afirmaciones son absolutamente ciertas. Sin embargo, dentro de ese vibrante entusiasmo por la vida, usted encontrará el corazón del mártir que nos ha sostenido en cada punto de nuestra historia.4

Fuego del Cielo

Comencemos con la historia bíblica de los dos hijos de Aaron, Nadav y Avihu. Cuando los hijos de Israel habían terminado de erigir el santuario portátil para Di-s llamado el mishkan, y el fuego vino del cielo a consumir las ofrendas en el altar, Nadav y Avihu estaban tan inspirados que rompieron el protocolo, entraron en el compartimiento interno del Mishkan y quemaron allí incienso “que no fueron ordenados”. Una vez más un fuego descendió del cielo, este vez tomando sus almas y dejando sus cuerpos perfectamente intactos.

Moses le dijo a Aaron, “esto es lo que me dijo Di-s cuando dijo, “seré santificado con quienes están cerca Mío, y ante toda la gente seré glorificado”.Y Aaron calló.5

Esas palabras llaman la atención. Pero se aclaran más leyendo el siguiente Midrash:

¡Moses dijo a Aaron, “Aaron, hermano! Sabía que esta casa debía ser santificada con los amados del Omnipresente, pero pensé que serias tu o yo. ¡Ahora veo que ellos eran más grandes que nosotros dos!6

Es verdad, que Nadav y Avihu sabían en lo que se metían. Como el Or HaJaim explica7, anhelaron la unión mística con la luz infinita y la consiguieron. ¿Pero cómo puede ser que el santuario de Di-s requiera la “santificación” con la muerte de sus amados?

De algún modo el escape de Nadav y Avihu de la vida terrenal es la antítesis al tema de traer a Di-s a este mundo que representa el Mishkan: “Hagan para mí un santuario, 8Más que salir de este mundo para visitar a Di-s en el otro mundo el quiere que lo encontremos aquí, en un santuario pequeño , práctico, construido por la gente para la gente en nuestro mundo diario donde la gente come, duerme, siembra y cosecha sus plantaciones. El Mishkan era una especie de “primera parada” para que la luz divina brille en nuestro mundo. De allí podíamos tomarlo y esparcirlo por todas partes. Como las palabras del Midrash de Rabí Tanjuma,9 “Di-s deseó una morada en este mundo físico.” Si es así, abandonar sus cuerpos por la unión mística era un vehículo anticuado de adoración, ahora reemplazado por un nuevo paradigma “de encontrar a Di-s aquí y ahora”

Con todo Moises parece decirle a Aaron lo contrario: La única manera de traer a Di-s al santuario era a través de estas dos almas santas que abandonaron su vida física para enlazarse con la luz divina. El paradigma es afirmado por su antítesis.10

Los Mártires de Noe

No es el único caso. Considere este Midrash:

Noe ha desembarcado del arca y ofrenda un sacrificio para Di-s en un altar. Di-s “huele la fragancia agradable”11 (obviamente en un sentido figurado) y hace votos de nunca más destruir el mundo. Él promete a Noe que conservara el ciclo de las estaciones y la naturaleza de ahora en adelante, asignando el arco iris como señal eterna de este convenio. En este punto, el Midrash hace una aserción sorprendente –que el catalizador a esta resolución no era solo el sacrificio animal de Noe, sino muchos sacrificios humanos todavía por venir:

Él olió en las ofrendas de Noe la fragancia de Abraham nuestro padre que se levantaba del horno ardiente, la fragancia de Hananiah, Mishael y Azariah levantándose del horno ardiente… la fragancia de los mártires de la era de conversiones forzadas…12.

Nuevamente vemos la contradicción: Di-s está haciendo votos de mantener al mundo. Como dice Isaías, “él no lo creó para que este desolado, 13 Pero solo está dispuesto a sostener este mundo porque contendrá a quienes den sus vidas por él.

El Profesor Bill, el Anarquista

En mis años formativos, uno de mis mentores era un anarquista. Su nombre era Bill, un hombre larguirucho, altamente articulado en sus 50 quien fue profesor en varias importantes universidades en el pasado. Pero ahora las repercusiones de sus actividades políticas lo habían forzado a conformarse con enseñar en un secundario privado. Bill me introdujo a sus amigos que habían luchado como anarquistas en la guerra civil española. Yo solo tenía quince, pero organice a un grupo de discusión anarquista para la Universidad Gratuita de Vancouver. Fue el mejor organizado y más duradero grupo de esta universidad.

Tengo vivida en mi memoria la reunión que llevamos a cabo en el salón de la JCC (Centro Comunitario Judío por sus siglas en ingles) de Vancouver. La política radical estaba de moda en 1971 y los sofás que alineaban las paredes quedaron abarrotados con oyentes de todas clases. Mi mentor anarquista habló, reviviendo las palabras de Proudhon, Kropotkin y Murray Bookchin, relacionándolos con la comuna y el movimiento colectivo que se estaba difundiendo a través de la región de British Colombia. El gobierno central era una afrenta a la dignidad del ser humano. El instinto natural del hombre es cooperar, hacer las paces, y los gobiernos son responsables de la guerra y la devastación. Deseo poder creer estas palabras hoy como lo hice en mi inocente juventud.

Entonces, mientras todos estábamos fascinados e inspirados, él lanzó una simple pregunta a la audiencia. ¿”Cuánta gente aquí está dispuesta a morir por la causa del anarquismo?” preguntó.

¿Morir? ¿Por una Causa? La gente parpadeo y se miró unos a los otros como si alguien acabara de contar una broma pesada. Era una charla interesante. Ideas frescas. Quizá algunos iríamos por unos meses a una comuna en el Lago Arrow. Pero… epa, ¿morir por una causa?

Entonces Bill se sentó decepcionado. Le dije, “Bill, nada de lo que usted dijo genera violencia. No estamos hablando de derrocar a un gobierno, solo propagar estas comunas y establecer una red entre nosotros hasta que el “viejo y decrépito régimen” muera por si mismo.”

Bill contesto, “si una madre oso no está dispuesta a arriesgar la vida por su cachorro, el cachorro no sobrevivirá. Si una causa no tiene a nadie dispuesto a morir por ella, eventualmente la causa morirá.”

Lecciones de los Peces

Bill decía que algo que el pueblo judío sostuvo durante miles de años: Nuestra existencia se mantiene por nuestra predisposición al autosacrificio.

¿Recuerdan la historia de Rabí Akiva mencionada arriba? Antes de que los romanos lo capturaran, un hombre llamado Popus ben Yehuda lo había amonestado por enseñar en público, desafiando abiertamente a las autoridades romanas. A lo que Rabí Akiva contestó con una fábula:

Un zorro dio un paseo a la orilla del río y vio que los peces se movían de un lugar al otro rápidamente. El zorro pregunto a los peces, “¿por qué huyen de un lugar a otro?”

Los peces contestaron, “¡debido a las redes que los hombres tiran para capturarnos!”

El zorro les dijo, “tengo una idea. ¿Suban a tierra seca y viviremos juntos, como mis padres lo hicieron con sus padres? ”

Los peces contestaron, “¿tu eres llamado el más listo de los animales? ¡ No eres nada listo, sino un tonto! ¡Si en el lugar que nos da vida estamos asustados, tanto más en el lugar que nos da la muerte!14

Traducción: Si los judíos dejan de arriesgar sus vidas por la Torá, dejaran de existir como pueblo.

El mismo concepto podemos utilizar para la situación global actual: Si el terror logra disuadir a la gente, refrenándolos de reconstruir lo que el terror destruyo, impidiéndoles volver a la vida cotidiana donde el terror ha traído muerte, han sacrificado la fe en la humanidad en su totalidad. La vida humana en este planeta se mantiene por quienes no temen morir por él.

Llegar a la Esencia

Volviendo a la historia del Mishkan, el hogar propuesto por Di-s en la tierra. Se han seguido todas las instrucciones, todo el trabajo se han hecho según lo ordenado. Un fuego ha descendido desde lo Alto, la presencia Divina se revela a todo el pueblo. Pero Él no esta allí. Como el rey Solomon dirá más adelante en la inauguración del Templo que construyó en Jerusalén: “Los cielos y los cielos de cielos no pueden contenerle… sino esta casa…15

Di-s está en todas partes, más allá de todas las cosas, pero él quiere que su misma esencia fuese encontrada dentro del tiempo y espacio, comenzando con ese lugar que construimos para él. No es otro lugar para ver milagros, no es un lugar para comunicarse con él– sino un lugar para unirse, para ser uno con él, con suesencia.

Pero para hacer eso, Él necesita un socio que trabaje desde adentro. No solo alguien que siga las instrucciones, sino alguien que realmente crea en todo esto, alguien que sienta la idea como propia, dispuesto a entregar todo por ella, incluso haciendo algo que no era ordenado, entregando todo–incluso la vida misma– solo para encontrar la unicidad con Di-s. Con los dos hijos de Aaron, y mientras que vinieron a Él, Él entró a su Mishkan16.

Ahora llevemos esto al mundo en general. En última instancia, el mundo entero es considerado el Templo de Di-s. Él lo creó como un lugar en el cual podría revelar su misma esencia, en todas las cosas, en cada alma.

Una vez más él necesita un socio. Él mira hacia abajo, a su mundo y dice, “¿si debo estar allí por ti, tu estas para mí?”

Y le contestamos, “desde nuestro patriarca Abraham, hemos dado nuestras vidas por ti. En cada generación, procuran convertirnos, con la espada o con un beso, y caminamos a través del fuego por ti. Nos matan solo porque pertenecemos a ti, y continuamos con ti a pesar de todo. Podríamos cambiar nuestra fe, uniéndonos a otras más poderosas y felices que la nuestra, y Tú nos diste excusas suficientes para hacerlo. No obstante, por casi cuatro mil años, hemos estado parados firmes, e incluso ahora, cuando nada parece tener sentido, cuando los justos son mirados con desden y las criaturas humanas más decrépitas tienen éxito, nosotros todavía nos aferramos a Ti y aumentamos nuestros esfuerzos. Tienes un socio. Tienes una puerta abierta con nosotros. ”

Como escribí anteriormente, los judíos nunca han buscado el martirio, fue el martirio el que nos buscó a nosotros. En última instancia, el propósito es la vida en la tierra. Bastantes ofrendas y sacrificios ya se han hecho, y ahora, por primera vez en la historia, la fragancia placentera llega desde la India, también. Hemos hecho nuestra parte millones de veces. Ahora es el turno de Di-s de cumplir la suya.17

Notas al Pie
1. Talmud Baba Batra 10b.
2. Pirkei Abot 4:17.
3. Talmud, Berajot 61b
4. Ver Tania, Capitulo 25, donde declara que la llave para el cumplimiento de todas la mitzvot es el reconocimiento por parte del Judío que prefiere entregar su vida antes de estar separado de Di-s..
5. Levítico 10:3.
6. Rashi ad loc; Levitico Rabba ad loc; Talmud Zevajim 115b.
7. Levitico 16:1
8. Exodo 25:8
9. Midrash Tanjuma, Numeros 16.
10. Fuentes de noticias reportaron que cuando los miembros de Zaka (equipo de rescate y recuperación de cuerpos) entraron al Beit Jabad de Mumbai después de la masacre, encontraron balas en el Arca de la Torá. Al abrir la Torá descubrieron que el rollo recibió un impacto justo debajo del versículo: “Di-s hablo a Moshe después del fallecimiento de los hijos de Aaron que se acercaron a Di-s y murieron.” (Levítico 16:1) Muchas fotos fueron publicadas de este suceso incluso el Rabino Eliashiv examino este rollo de Torá.
11. Génesis 8:21.
12. Génesis Rabba 34:9.
13. Isaías 45:18.
14. Talmud Berajot 61b.
15. 1 Reyes 8:27.
16. Ver Likutei Sijot volumen 27, pp. 116.
17. Ver Maamar de Parshat Noaj, 5740.
El rabino Tzvi Freeman es el director del equipo de “Pregunte al rabino” de, y es uno de los miembros más antiguos de .Autor de varios títulos sobre Cábala y filosofía jasidica, incluido el aclamado “Trayendo el cielo a la Tierra”. Para comprar el libro de Tzvi, haga clic aquí.
Segun tomado de, el viernes, 31 de oct. de 2014.
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Witchcraft and Judaism

Witchcraft and Judaism

Witchcraft and Judaism

If magic and the occult do exist, why are they so evil?


Born poor through no fault of your own? No problem ― a wonderful fairy will come to your doorstep and give you the fortune you so longed for. A bully is tormenting you mercilessly? A spell will be cast and he will become a squirrel for the rest of his life.

The Blair Witch Project films give teenagers a momentary shot of excitement and dread, and an ominous whiff that maybe there really is something lurking out there.

Three General Approaches

When a person matures, three general approaches towards the occult and other outside forces begin to emerge.

There are the serious, rational mindsets who laugh it all off. For them the world is rational, quantifiable and anything else is utter rubbish.

The world has a spiritual dimension with mysteries we cannot comprehend.

There is a second group of people, who tend to be spiritual, artistic, poetic, etc. They sense the world has a spiritual dimension to it, and that there are all sorts of forces and mysteries that reason can’t comprehend. Theirs is a world of tea-leaf readings, tarot cards, crystal balls and psychic predictions.

Then there are those very deeply religious people, whose worldview is that of a great battle between the two forces in the world ― good and evil. The captain of the good team is God, assisted by a host of angels, saints, martyrs, etc. The captain of the bad team is the devil, assisted by demons, evil spirits and politicians. Their world is particularly threatened by the likes of Harry Potter books, due to a large degree to the severity with which witchcraft is dealt with in the Bible.

Not Jewish

None of these three general approaches are in keeping with Judaism. What is the Torah perspective regarding witchcraft?

The Torah takes a very negative attitude towards witchcraft in its various formats, such as:

“A sorcerer shall not be allowed to live.” (Exodus 22:17)

“For you are coming into a land that God is granting to you; do not learn the ways of the abominations of the native people. There shall not be found amongst you … a sorcerer, soothsayer or engager of witchcraft … or one who calls up the dead. For it is an abomination before God, and it is on account of these abominations that God is giving you their land.” (Deut. 18:9-12)

But why? What is the problem with it?

The so-called “devil vs. God” approach is an anathema to Judaism because of the whiff of dualism inherent in it. God is One, and only One. He acts in many different ways, but there are no “two” armies in the full sense of the word.

Judaism does speak of the “Satan/devil,” but it sees Satan as an agent of God, testing the sincerity of man’s deeds, the strength of his convictions, and the stamina of his moral fiber. Although this so-called devil seems to entice man to do wrong, he is not inherently an evil being. Rather, he is conducting a “sting” operation; overtly enticing to bad, but in reality working for God. A cursory reading of the beginning of Job conveys that message: God sends out Satan to test Job’s righteousness.

Just as a dentist or doctor tests the firmness of a bone or flesh by probing it, just as the army tests the integrity and trustworthiness of its intelligence agents by tempting them, so too does God test man. A test reveals the inner worthiness of a person’s deeds, demonstrating what they are really made of.

Good Magic, Bad Magic

So, if magic and occult do exist, why are they so evil?

We also find mention of many types of “good magic” in the Talmudic sources, such as blessings, amulets etc. How do we distinguish between the two types of spiritual forces?

The perspective most widely used is that of the Nachmanides, the great 12thcentury thinker. We will try to adapt and explain his perspective.

Although God was the sole creator of the universe, He created an autonomous system of “nature” that serves as an intermediate layer between God and man.

The system of nature is self-contained and has its laws and its causes and effects. Being that one can use this system without immediate recourse to God, it allows for a sort of atheism. It is easy to think that the system runs on its own, independent from God. Gravity, inertia, electro-magnetism etc. all work whether the person is a sinner or a saint. A person who buys into the phenomena of nature, without bothering to ask himself about their cause, nor being sensitive to God’s manipulation of natural events, is misled by the system into disbelief in God.

The world of the quasi-spiritual can bend the rules of nature through miracles and magic.

Between God and this world of nature lies another bridge, which we shall call the “occult” or the quasi-spiritual. It has the ability to change and bend the rules of nature, through miracles, magic, etc. But this quasi-spiritual world, although it is more elevated than nature per se, is still not the Divine. It has its rules and laws of operation, and is perhaps more powerful than the physical world, but certainly not omnipotent.

Are we to make use of this world in the way which we are bidden to make use of the physical world?

Nachmanides says that generally speaking God does not desire that we make use of this world. God had intended for us to come to awareness of Him withinthe natural world, and through its phenomena. Someone who subverts the system of nature, by constantly using the supernatural world, is going against the will of God.

In those instances where holy people have used forces above nature, they’ve always emphasized the fact that the miracles thus generated only demonstrated God’s omnipotence to override natural phenomena. This is similar to (though certainly not the same as) the miracles that God performed for Israel in Egypt with the aim of establishing certain Divine truths. When a righteous person occasionally uses Divine intervention, it bolsters those great truths.

Danger Of Wrong-Doing

It is at this point that the danger of real wrongdoing exists. A person who has realized that the laws of nature unto themselves are insufficient to explain the world, has tapped into this more spiritual world and come upon a melange of all sorts of “spiritual beings.” If he understands they are agents of God, this becomes a true spiritual experience. But if he mistakenly understands them to be independent of God, then he engages in idol-worship! These forces then become a source for evil when they are viewed as an alternative power to God.

Perhaps the best illustration for this dual approach is inherent in the story of the “copper snake”:

And the people spoke ill of God and Moses … and God sent against them the burning serpents and they bit the people, and many people died … and God told Moses: “Shape a snake [out of copper] and place it on a stick, and whoever was bitten will look at it and live.” Moses then made a snake of copper and put it on a stick, and if a person was bitten by a snake, he would look at the copper snake and live. (Numbers 21:4-9)

The Mishna (Rosh Hashana 29a) puts this into perspective:

Did the serpent heal or kill? Rather, when Israel looked up heavenward, and dedicated their hearts to their Heavenly Father [they would be healed], and when not, they would waste away.

Here we have both facets of the supernatural: At first, the miraculous nature of the snake caused people to realize that the plague was God’s doing, and they worked on bettering themselves. In this vein it was a positive spiritual experience.

But later things disintegrated and instead of the snake being a means to recognizing God, it became a focal point in itself, i.e. the wonderful healing snake ― separate from God’s power. That is idolatry. For this reason, many hundreds of years later, King Hezekiah had this copper snake destroyed because people turned it into an idol!

Understanding Idol Worship

Idol worship is the perception that there are many forces with various powers over mankind and perhaps even over God. The idolater thinks that he can use these “powers” against God if he only knew how to wrest them away from God.

It’s as if God’s power were vested in a gun He holds in His hand. The idolater thinks that if could only wrest the gun from God, then he’d wield that power. He equates the spells of witchcraft with the ability to overpower God.

The prime example of this thinking is the evil prophet Bilaam, who is called a sorcerer by the Torah. He was a person very knowledgeable in this area of the universe. He kept scheming to use the world of magic against God. He thought he understood the mind of God and that with enough powerful manipulation, he would be able to outfox Him!

In a sense, this is the worst form of idolatry possible. On the one hand, the person is onto something “real.” It is not a weird looking rock that a primitive mind has fantasized into a god. Rather, it is a power that works. Yet, it is utterly false, because nothing is independent of God.

The litmus test of “spirituality” is morality. Without morality any “spirituality” is bogus or evil.

For us, the litmus test of “spirituality” is morality. Any form of “spirituality” that makes no moral demands on a human being, that does not seek to bring him closer to God, or bring out the Divine potential of man, is bogus or evil spirituality.

If a person practices “occult rites” and the content thereof is a mumble of strange words, bizarre costumes, or strange rites, it is either bogus or evil. It usually is bogus, but in those cases that he has tapped into these powers, it is evil for he has divorced it from God.

The great rabbis who performed supernatural acts, were using them to bring home a message about God. They enjoined people to recognize the Creator, develop their character, be kind to others, be honest and faithful, reign in their drives, etc. Understood in the larger context of God, Torah and morality, these unusual miracles were indeed Divine revelations.

Segun tomado de, el viernes, 31 de oct. de 2014.

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Posted by on October 31, 2014 in Uncategorized


El intento de asesinato de un judío ultranacionalista eleva la tensión

El intento de asesinato de un judío ultranacionalista eleva la tensión

La Policía israelí mata a un palestino sospechoso del ataque a tiros a un judío en Jerusalén

Una unidad especial de la lucha antiterrorista israelí ha matado esta mañana en Jerusalén a Muatnaz Hijazi, un palestino de 32 años al que consideraban sospechoso de haber disparado, anoche, contra el rabino ultraderechista Yehuda Glick, que se encuentra en estado muy grave. Según ha hecho público el Shin Bet, el servicio de inteligencia interior de Israel, los agentes rodearon al hombre en los alrededores de su casa, en el barrio de Abu Tor, en la zona oriental de la ciudad, y se produjo un fuego cruzado, mortal para el perseguido. El hombre, ha indicado la misma fuente, había sido detenido en 2002, durante la Segunda Intifada, y había pasado diez años en prisión por “actividades terroristas” aún no especificadas. Salió libre en 2012. Ningún grupo ha reivindicado a esta hora el ataque.

La búsqueda de Hijazi ha tenido en vilo toda la noche a Jerusalén, insomne por el constante vuelo, bajísimo, de los helicópteros policiales y por las sirenas de los coches patrulla. El dispositivo se activó cuando, anoche, el conocido rabino Glick, un rostro conocido en los medios, fue tiroteado a las puertas del Centro Menachen Begin, donde había clausurado el evento “Israel vuelve al Monte del Templo”. Se trata de una convención anual por la que se reivindica el derecho de los judíos a controlar la Explanada de las Mezquitas –que alberga la Mezquita de Al Aqsa y la Cúpula de la Roca-, hoy bajo gestor musulmán, donde se admiten visitas de judíos pero no rezos de ningún tipo.

Justo en estas semanas hay grupos ultrarreligiosos presionando para cambiar el estatus de la zona, el tercer lugar santo en importancia para los musulmanes y el primero para los judíos. Estos últimos entienden que bajo la explanada se hallaba el corazón del templo levantado en torno a la piedra donde Abraham se dispuso a sacrificar a Isaac, que los musulmanes tornan en Ismael, la misma roca desde la que Mahoma subió al cielo según la tradición del Islam.

La zona está hoy completamente cerrada al culto y a las visitas, no pueden entrar ni musulmanes ni judíos, una situación que no se producía desde 2000, cuando el entonces líder de la oposición, Ariel Sharon, accedió al recinto, iniciándose un choque entre fieles y policías que acabó desembocando en la llamada Intifada de Al Aqsa. La ciudad se encuentra en máxima alerta, con un despliegue policial añadido a los casi 2.000 efectivos desplegados la pasada semana, tras una cadena de incidentes que han caldeado el ambiente en la capital triplemente santa, desde visitas constantes de religiosos judíos extremistas a Al Aqsa hasta la entrada de nuevos colonos en barrios del este como Silwan, pasando por el atropello intencionado, a manos de un palestino, que dejó dos muertos el miércoles pasado.

Según el relato de varios testigos –entre otros, el diputado Moshe Feiglin, de la rama más extremista del Likud del primer ministro Netanyahu-, anoche una moto se acercó al rabino Glick, el conductor le preguntó algo y luego le disparó. Los médicos que lo atienden en el hospital Shaare Tzedek han confirmado que recibió tres tiros en el pecho y el abdomen, de los que fue operado anoche. Esta mañana volverá a ser intervenido. Su estado es muy grave, aunque estable. Hacía 13 años que no se producía un ataque contra un objetivo concreto en la ciudad.

Glick, que tiene pasaporte norteamericano además del israelí, suele encargarse de llevar grupos a la Explanada de las Mezquitas, donde ha sido detenido en varias ocasiones por intentar rezar o llevar elementos judíos empleados en el rezo. Creó una organización que precisamente busca ampliar el derecho de los judíos sobre este espacio.

Segun tomado de,, el jueves 30 de octubre de 2014

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Posted by on October 30, 2014 in Uncategorized


Grupo feminista judío desafía norma religiosa en el Muro de los Lamentos de Jerusalén

Grupo feminista judío desafía norma religiosa en el Muro de los Lamentos de Jerusalén 

Las Mujeres del Muro, una organización judía que lucha por lograr la igualdad de derechos entre hombres y mujeres a la hora de rezar en el “Kotel Hamarabí” (Muro Occidental, conocido en el mundo gentil como Muro de los Lamentos), logró colar una minúscula Torá en el espacio reservado a las damas y realizar un Bat Mitzvah.

Desafiando la regulación del rabinato, las mujeres introdujeron una diminuta edición del libro sagrado del judaísmo, de apenas 28 centímetros, escondida en una bolsa de Talit y lo leyeron frente al Kotel – vestigio del Templo de Jerusalén – por vez primera en 25 años.

Después, cerca de un centenar de mujeres celebraron el Bat Mitzvah de Shasa Lutt, una adolescente de 12 años procedente de la localidad de Beersheva, que transmitió al diario local “Haaretz” su “felicidad por tener un verdadero Bat Mitzvah y no solo una fiesta más”.

Según el rotativo, esta es la primera vez que una mujer celebra de forma plena esta crucial ceremonia judía de llegada a la madurez en el “Kotel Hamarabí” o Muro Occidental.

La iniciativa comenzó cuando las mujeres se presentaron con una Torá en la explanada del muro y se les informó de que, según las regulaciones, nadie puede introducir copias particulares en el recinto.

De acuerdo con las mismas, todo el que quiera orar o recitar la Torá en este lugar sagrado debe solicitar uno de los 300 rollos que se guardan en una zona cubierta en la zona a la que acceden los hombres.

Las mujeres solicitaron entonces la suya, y les fue denegada, por lo que pidieron la intervención del rabino responsable de la Fundación para la Herencia del Muro Occidental, Shmuel Rabinowitz, quien al parecer no estaba y que se opone a que las mujeres lean allí la Torá.

Las mujeres entraron entonces en la zona exclusivamente femenina y sacaron la pequeña copia de la Torá, que había sido introducida bajo una mesa, y realizaron las oraciones ante la atenta mirada de dos policías, que no intervinieron.

“Estoy muy nerviosa. Es increíble que una cosa tan obvia y natural haya que hacerlo engañando”, declaró al citado rotativo Lesley Sachs, directora ejecutiva de esta organización que lucha contra la discriminación femenina.

Sachs explicó que la copia utilizada fue sacada de contrabando en 1880 de Lituania y llevada a Sudáfrica antes de que terminara en el Reino Unido, desde donde viajó para esta aventura.

“Esta copia única fue creada por la misma razón por la que la hemos usado hoy”, agregó la activista.

El grupo feminista ya había lanzado una campaña para alentar a las mujeres a realizar su Bat Mitzvah en el “Kotel” o Muro Occidental, incluyendo la recitación.

La iniciativa fue condenada por Rabinowitz, quien definió la acción como “decepcionante”.

“Un pequeño grupo de Mujeres del Muro realizaron una acción decepcionante. Después de que se les impidiera introducir una gran Torá, arteramente introdujeron una pequeña”, denunció en un comunicado. EFE y Aurora.

Segun tomado de, el martes, 28 de oct. de 2014,

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Posted by on October 28, 2014 in Uncategorized


Nueva ley promete menor burocracia para conversos

Nueva ley promete menor burocracia para conversos 

Las personas que se han convertido al judaísmo en el extranjero y que desean inmigrar a Israel tendrán algunas facilidades para la obtención de la ciudadanía, en virtud de procedimientos completamente nuevos adoptados por el Ministerio del Interior.
Un documento que especifica los nuevos procedimientos, fue presentado a la Corte Suprema la semana pasada. Es la primera vez que el Ministerio del Interior ha delineado por escrito sus criterios para la aprobación de las conversiones realizadas en el extranjero con el propósito de solicitudes de ciudadanía. En virtud de la Ley del Retorno, los judíos que son reconocidos como tales por el Ministerio del Interior son elegibles para la ciudadanía automática en Israel, así como un paquete de beneficios financieros.
La Corte Suprema había exigido que el Ministerio del Interior especifique sus criterios por escrito después de varias peticiones presentadas el año pasado por el Centro de Acción Religiosa de Israel (IRAC) en nombre de los conversos cuyas solicitudes para la ciudadanía habían sido rechazadas por el Ministerio del Interior.
Según fuentes de IRAC, los nuevos procedimientos requieren que el Ministerio del Interior se pronuncie sobre las solicitudes de ciudadanía presentadas por los conversos dentro de un período determinado de tiempo -en los casos en que se proporcione toda la documentación necesaria, dentro de 45 días, y donde alguna documentación no está disponible o donde surgen preguntas acerca de los motivos para la conversión, dentro de 3 a 4 meses. Hasta ahora, era típico que las decisiones acerca de esas solicitudes se demoraban durante muchos meses e incluso años.
Además, conforme a los procedimientos del Ministerio del Interior que habían estado en vigor hasta ahora, pero que nunca fueron fijados de forma escrita, se exigía a los conversos que sean miembros activos de sus respectivas comunidades judías en el extranjero durante al menos nueve meses antes de que pudieran trasladarse a Israel. Bajo los nuevos procedimientos, los convertidos ya no tendrán que gastar todo el período de nueve meses en el extranjero, pero pueden unirse a congregaciones judías en Israel y recibir visas de residencia temporal para la duración del período de nueve meses y hasta que sus solicitudes de ciudadanía sean aprobadas.
Bajo los nuevos procedimientos, el converso que solicite la ciudadanía en Israel tiene la obligación de haber participado en cursos de nueve meses de duración de conversión (o no menos de 300 horas en clases), tiempo durante el cual eran miembros activos de las comunidades judías “reconocidas”.

Una comunidad judía “reconocida” se define para este propósito como una comunidad establecida afiliada a uno de los movimientos judíos reconocidos (ortodoxo, conservador, reformista, reconstruccionista, etcétera), o alternativamente, uno reconocido como tal por la Agencia Judía para Israel.
En los últimos años, el Gran Rabinato de Israel se ha negado a reconocer las conversiones realizadas por ciertos rabinos ortodoxos modernos en los Estados Unidos. Bajo estos nuevos criterios, la Agencia Judía puede anular la autoridad del Rabinato cuando surgen estas discrepancias.
Con los nuevos procedimientos, el converso con documentación que acredite que se han cumplido todos los criterios deben tener sus solicitudes de ciudadanía aprobadas dentro de los 45 días.
En el documento presentado a la Corte Suprema de Justicia, el Ministerio del Interior enumera una variedad de circunstancias en las que se requiere una mayor investigación para descartar las conversiones ficticias realizadas con el único fin de obtener la ciudadanía israelí. Estos incluyen los siguientes:
1. El solicitante tiene una historia previa de residente en el país sin un visado válido.
2. Una solicitud anterior presentada por el solicitante fue rechazada.
3. El solicitante tiene otros familiares que no se han convertido, pero que desean inmigrar a Israel con él o ella.
4. El solicitante comenzó clases de conversión durante su residencia en Israel sin visa válida.
En estos y otros casos en que surjan sospechas de que el solicitante puede estar tratando de explotar el sistema, los nuevos procedimientos requieren que se fije una fecha para una audiencia dentro de 45 días y que la decisión final sobre el asunto sea dictada por el Ministerio del Interior dentro de 60 días de la audiencia.
En respuesta a los nuevos procedimientos, el rabino Seth Farber, fundador y director ejecutivo de ITIM, una organización que ayuda a las personas a navegar por la burocracia religiosa de Israel, declaró: “Después de 2005, hemos estado en la Corte Suprema cuatro veces sobre esta cuestión, y es gratificante ver que el ministerio está finalmente reconociendo las aspiraciones legítimas de los conversos que quieren hacer aliá. Lo que todavía hay que hacer es asegurarse de que las políticas sean implementadas por los empleados locales y que los procedimientos burocráticos innecesarios que aquejan a los conversos ya no tengan efecto”.
Segun tomado de, el martes, 28 de oct. de 2014.


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Posted by on October 28, 2014 in Uncategorized


Chief Rabbis Warn: Converts Under New Bill Won’t Be Jews

Chief Rabbis Warn: Converts Under New Bill Won’t Be Jew


Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu held an urgent meeting early Tuesday afternoon with the Chief Rabbis, Rabbi David Lau andRabbi Yitzhak Yosef, in order to reach understandings that would defuse the coalition crisis on the Conversion Law.

The meeting follows a vote in the Knesset’s Law, Constitution and Justice Committee Monday, in favor of the Conversion Law limiting the Rabbinate’s power in matters of conversion onto Judaism. The committee decided to bring the bill, which was sponsored by MK Elazar Stern (Hatnua), to a final vote in the plenum.

During the meeting, the chief rabbis warned Netanyahu that they will not recognize conversions taking place under the framework of the new law, showing how the new law will make conversion more questionable and difficult, not easier as proponents of the bill have claimed.

Rabbi Lau likewise warned last month that he met with world rabbis in London, who told him that with the supervision of conversion being removed from the Chief Rabbinate, rabbis around the world will not recognize conversions taking place in Israel either.

MK Orit Struk (Jewish Home), who is a member of the Knesset committee, told Arutz Sheva that she will take action, together with the other members of the Jewish Home faction, to prevent the law from passing. “This bad law is prepared for the second and third readings and we in the Jewish Home will do everything so that the law does not pass in the plenum,” she promised.

“Unlike MK Stern, we are not used by various elements, and we listen to the rabbis of religious Zionism,” she sniped.

converting to judaism
Not so much…
(carloscappaticci / Creative Commons)

MK Struk estimated that the bill would not be brought to a final vote in the Knesset, and will instead be brought to the government for approval – and be revised in the process.

The resulting bill “is the least bad option,” she said. It is not something the Jewish Home would have initiated, but “under the circumstances, in which the law was advanced because coalitional promises made to us were broken, following dirty deals between Likud and Labor, there was no choice but to opt for a government decision, and the hareidim also understand that a government decision is better than this bad law.”

The vote Monday came on the heels of an urgent debate Monday morning on a decision by Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu to withdraw support for the proposed Conversion Law – a move harshly criticized by the bill’s liberal backers.

The bill itself has been at the center of political wrangling and controversy, and would greatly diminish, if not eliminate, the Chief Rabbinate’s control over conversion in Israel, by making it possible for local rabbinical courts to set their own criteria for conversion.

The Jewish Home Party strongly opposes the law, but originally had agreed to let it come to a first reading, despite its right (as part of a coalition agreement) to veto laws pertaining to religion and state before their presentation to the Knesset, in order to gain support for its bill against freeing terrorists in exchange agreements. The Likud had promised to prevent the Conversion Bill’s coming to a final vote, but did not live up to its promise. Jewish Home’s compromise suggestions did not pass.

MK Elazar Stern (Hatnua), who initiated the bill, said it was “humiliating” for a person who came to Israel because his father was Jewish, to be told that he is not a Jew.

That may be, but Jewish identity is matrilineal and such a person must apply for halakhic conversion to be accepted as a Jew in all sectors of Jewish society.

Segun tomado de, el martes, 28 de oct. de 2014.

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Posted by on October 28, 2014 in Uncategorized


Hamas Claims Tunnels are for Defense, Not Terror

Hamas’s terror tunnels are well-known for their horribly destructive capabilities. However, Hamas is trying to claim otherwise. 

UN SG Ban during his tour of a Hamas terror tunnel. (Photo: IDF)

Hamas and other terror organizations in Gaza invest millions of dollars and resources in order to construct and operate an intricate network of tunnels leading into Israel. These tunnels are to be used for attacks and kidnappings, as in the case of IDF soldier Gilad Shalitand several attacks committed during Operation Protective Edge. Hamas terrorists are consistently using construction materials transferred into the Gaza Strip by Israel for humanitarian aid in order to build these terror tunnels.

World Leaders Shocked

When United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki Moon visited one of the tunnels earlier this month, he “was shocked and alarmed by the underground tunnels. It is not acceptable. No one should live under constant threat or fear of these rockets or the penetrating underground tunnels.”

US Ambassador Dan Shapiro had seen one that led directly to a kibbutz in October 2013. What he saw deeply disturbed him.

“Even though I have seen the photos of the tunnel in the papers, the truth is I was shocked by what I saw. It is clear that this tunnel has only one purpose: to carry out terrorist attacks against Israeli civilians and IDF soldiers,” Shapiro said in Hebrew. “There is no justification for this in our eyes. In no way will the U.S. allow this. The U.S.fully condemns these acts by terror groups,”  he declared.

“The U.S. condemns terrorist tunnels, supports Israel’s right and ability to self-defense and is focused on advancing negotiations for peace,” Shapiro tweeted following the tour.

Hamas leader

However, Hamas is trying to paint a different picture. In an interview with Vanity Fair, Hamas’s political bureau chief Khaled Mashaal denied that the network of underground tunnels was meant for terror. He further alleged that the IDF had used these tunnels as an excuse to launch an attack against Gaza during the summer.

“Please note when we used these tunnels. We used them when Israel waged war against us. So the tunnels may have been outwardly called offensive tunnels, but in actual fact, they are defensive ones. If those were offensive tunnels, Hamas would have used them before the war. But, when Israel carried out its aggression against us, we used the tunnels to infiltrate behind the back lines of the Israeli army, which is waging war on Gaza,” Mashaal told Vanity Fair.

IDF Reveals Murderous Hamas Plot

The IDF worked rigorously throughout the operation in Gaza to expose as many tunnels as possible and to destroy them. An intelligence report issued by the IDF reveals why.

The IDF exposed a Hamas plot to attack dozens of Israeli civilian targets within Israel, inflicting as many casualties as possible. They were to arrive at their targets through these allegedly “defensive tunnels.”

Israeli soldiers seen at the entrance to a massive terror tunnel near the Gaza border. (Photo: IDF Spokesperson)

The terror organization aimed to seize kibbutzim and other communities while killing and kidnapping Israeli civilians. In total, thousands of Hamas terrorists would have been swarming across Israel, wearing IDF uniforms, which would have further complicated an Israeli response. Reports indicate that Hezbollah may have planned to join the attack as well, opening another front in the north.

The IDF stressed that Operation Protective Edge prevented a catastrophic event on an apocalyptic magnitude, which would have “brought the State of Israel to its knees.” The destruction of these tunnels takes away from Hamas a strategic weapon.

Investing in Terror Instead of the Future

Writing for the Gatestone Institute, Lawrence Franklin says that the construction ofnetwork of tunnels used hundreds of tons of concrete that might otherwise have been used by the Palestinian leadership for building homes, shopping malls, parks, schools, hospitals and libraries.

Author: Aryeh Savir
Staff Writer, United with Israel

Segun tomado de,  el domingo, 26 de oct. de 2014.

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Posted by on October 26, 2014 in Uncategorized


Circuncisión: El pacto individual con Dios

Circuncisión: El pacto individual con Dios

Al final de la parashá de esta semana1, Dios le ordena a Abraham la mitzvá deBrit Milá (circuncisión). El Séfer HaJinuj nota un aspecto sumamente interesante de esta mitzvá. Hay una gran cantidad de mitzvot negativas cuya transgresión genera el ónesh (castigo) de caret2. Sin embargo, sólo hay dos mandamientos positivos cuyo castigo es caret si uno no los observa: El Brit Milá y el Korbán Pesaj (conocido como el Cordero Pascual), la ofrenda que se ofrecía en el Templo durante la festividad de Pesaj. ¿Cuál es la importancia de estas dosmitzvot que las hace únicas en este aspecto?

Para responder esta pregunta, primero necesitamos explicar por qué las mitzvot negativas están más relacionadas con caret que las positivas.

En una relación entre dos personas, como por ejemplo en el matrimonio, hay ciertas acciones que pueden dañar la relación sin causar necesariamente que ésta se destruya por completo. Sin embargo, hay otras acciones que son tan serias que pueden terminar acabando con la relación. De la misma manera, cometer un pecado genera un distanciamiento entre la persona y Dios. La magnitud del distanciamiento está determinada por la seriedad del pecado3; hay algunos pecados que dañan la relación tan profundamente que causan un daño irreparable. Estos pecados a menudo generan el ónesh de caret4.

Por otro lado, el no realizar una mitzvá positiva puede dañar la relación en el sentido que evita que aumente la cercanía con Dios, pero sin embargo, es muy difícil ver cómo la falta de acciones positivas podría causar un daño irreparable a nuestra relación con Dios. Esto explica por qué el pasar por alto la mayoría de las mitzvot positivas no genera caret.

¿Qué hace que el Brit Milá y el Korbán Pesaj sean diferentes? Para comenzar un matrimonio, el hombre debe asumir el compromiso de unirse con su esposa. Sin ese compromiso, no existe una relación verdadera; pueden hacer todo tipo de buenas acciones, pero de acuerdo a la Torá, no estarán casados sino hasta que hayan realizado la ceremonia de bodas según es prescrito por la Torá. De la misma manera, una persona debe hacer un compromiso con Dios para tener una relación con Él; si no se compromete, es imposible que comience una relación real5. El Brit Milá y el Korbán Pesaj son pactos con Dios en los que un judío se compromete a respetar la Torá.

Podemos ver esta conexión, por ejemplo, en un versículo del libro de Ezequiel, en el cual el profeta le recuerda al pueblo judío cuando eran esclavos indefensos en Egipto y cómo Dios los sacó de allí. Para recordarles esto, el profeta recurre a una analogía sobre un niño abandonado que es salvado. El versículo declara: “Y Yo6 pasé sobre ti y te vi cubierto en sangre, y te dije: ‘Por tu sangre vivirás, por tu sangre vivirás’”7. Nuestros sabios explican que esas dos menciones de sangre se refieren a la sangre del Brit Milá y del Korbán Pesaj. Dios redimió al pueblo judío de la esclavitud y lo llevó al Monte Sinaí para recibir la Torá gracias al mérito de estas dos mitzvot. Al parecer, no es ninguna coincidencia que sean precisamente estas dos mitzvot las que Hashem ordenó, ya que estas representan la voluntad del pueblo para comprometerse a ser la nación de Dios.

Otra conexión entre esas dos mitzvot es que hay dos ocasiones en que el profeta Eliahu visita al pueblo judío: en un Brit Milá y en la noche del Séder, la noche en que recordamos el Korbán Pesaj. Esto es porque Eliahu, exasperado por el continuo pecar de los judíos, dijo que no había esperanza para este pueblo8. En respuesta, Dios le ordenó visitar todo Brit Milá, lo cual le mostraría que, sin importar cuánto pecaran los judíos, ellos siempre respetarían el pacto que había entre ellos y Dios. Y por la misma razón Eliahu viene en la noche del Séder, que es cuando ve al pueblo celebrar su nacimiento como nación9.

Pero hay una pregunta que todavía debemos responder: ¿Por qué es necesario que hayan dos mitzvot que involucren el compromiso básico de hacer la voluntad de Dios? ¿Por qué no es suficiente con una sola mitzvá para cumplir con este objetivo? La respuesta es que cada una de estas mitzvot representa un aspecto diferente del compromiso.

El Brit Milá le fue comandado primero a un individuo, Abraham, para que creara su pacto con Dios. Entonces, vemos que el Brit Milá representa el compromiso de tener una relación individual con Dios y de todo lo que eso conlleva. Por otro lado, el Korbán Pesaj representa nuestro compromiso con Dios como parte del pueblo judío. Las leyes del Korbán Pesaj enfatizan la importancia de cumplir la mitzvá en grupos, acentuando de esta forma el aspecto nacional de la mitzvá. Por lo tanto, uno debe realizar dos pactos con Dios: uno como individuo y otro como parte del pueblo judío.

Este entendimiento puede ayudarnos a explicar una extraña ley del Korbán Pesaj. Está prohibido que un judío no circuncidado participe del Korbán Pesaj10. ¿Cuál es la lógica de esto? ¡No cumplir con una mitzvá de ninguna manera exenta a la persona del cumplimiento del resto de las mitzvot!11 La respuesta es que una persona no puede comprometerse sinceramente con Dios como parte de una nación si no se ha comprometido primero en el plano individual.

Esto nos enseña una lección esencial. Mucha gente se identifica fuertemente con el judaísmo y como parte del pueblo judío; se comprometen con el Estado de Israel y están dispuestos a sacrificar con alegría parte de su tiempo y energía —e incluso están dispuestos a arriesgar sus vidas— por el pueblo judío. Mucha gente defiende a Israel cuando es atacado verbalmente por algún antisemita. Pero, sin embargo, el compromiso es mucho menor desde el punto de vista individual12. Puede que uno se identifique como parte de la nación judía, pero también debe luchar para comprometerse a mejorar su relación individual con Dios.

La aplicación práctica de esta lección varía para cada persona, pero en términos generales, cada uno debería analizar cómo aumentar su compromiso personal en su relación con Dios. Algunos ejemplos podrían ser hablar con Dios13, estudiar más de Su Torá, esforzarse para observar más aspectos de Shabat o de cashrut, etc. Lo importante es intentar hacer algo, ya que es vital recordar que Dios quiere tener una relación personal con cada uno de nosotros.


1 Muchas de las ideas de este ensayo están basadas en una clase dada por Rav Uziel Milesky.


2 Séfer HaJinuj, Mitzvá 2. Caret es traducido como escisión espiritual. Hay mucho debate respecto a lo que caret implica exactamente pero, como su nombre implica, involucra alguna forma de pérdida de conexión con Dios. Las transgresiones que generan caret incluyen comer pan en Pésaj, comer ciertas grasas prohibidas, varios tipos de relaciones prohibidas, etc. Es importante destacar que una persona que comete alguna de estas acciones debido a una falta de conocimiento no sufre caret.

3 Hay otros factores que entran en juego respecto al nivel del castigo. Por ejemplo, como dijimos antes, el conocimiento de la ley judía es muy importante al determinar elónesh que la persona recibe.

4 Cabe recordar que la teshuvá (arrepentimiento) siempre puede rectificar el daño causado por los pecados (aunque, en algunos casos, puede que sea necesario un grado de sufrimiento).

5 Obviamente esto no significa que esté exento de cumplir mitzvot, sino que tiene una muy seria inhibición espiritual.

6 Este es Dios hablando en las palabras del profeta.

7 Ezequiel, 16:6.

8 Melajim 1, Cap. 19:10.

9 Es interesante notar que dos de las mitzvot más observadas por los judíos seculares son brit milá y la noche del Séder de Pésaj.

10 Séfer HaJinuj, Mitzvá 17.

11 Ni de esa mitzvá misma, obviamente.

12 Cabe destacar que mientas que la mitzvá de brit milá sólo aplica a hombres, las lecciones derivadas de ellas aplican a hombres y mujeres por igual.

13 Pese a que hay servicios de plegarias estandarizados, es altamente recomendable que la persona también hable con Dios en el lenguaje y el momento que le resulte más conveniente, y que comparta sus deseos, sentimientos y necesidades con Su Creador.

Segun tomado de, el domingo 26 de oct. de 2014.

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Posted by on October 26, 2014 in Uncategorized