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Religion in Israel

Shas Shas
Thursday, January 21, 2010 | Jewish Ideas Daily » Daily Features

In a first for Israel's ultra-Orthodox parties, the Sephardi-dominated Shas party has joined the World Zionist Organization—another step on the road to becoming a fixed presence in the country's political landscape. Founded in the mid-1980's, Shas has long scrambled conventional categories. Although the party is avowedly haredi, and its leaders tend to imitate both the garb and the ideologically-mobilized politics of Ashkenazi haredim, most Shas voters conduct their lives in a non-haredi, if traditional, style.  As for attitudes toward the state, Shas politicians, unlike their more squeamish Ashkenazi counterparts, serve in the Israeli cabinet and, sometimes, in the IDF. The success...
Let My People In Let My People In
Thursday, January 14, 2010 | Jewish Ideas Daily » Daily Features

Debates over conversion to Judaism show no sign of abating, least of all in Israel. Last week, the legal adviser to the country's chief rabbinate declared that all conversions may retroactively be annulled at any time. In the ensuing firestorm of criticism, even some on the religious Right chimed in, especially those reflecting a historically more lenient Sephardi approach. A great deal of institutional politics is involved here, including between the ultra-Orthodox in Israel and the Modern Orthodox in the United States; some of this came to light in the recent disgrace and resignation of an ultra-Orthodox foe of the moderates....
And That’s an Order? And That’s an Order?
Wednesday, January 6, 2010 | Jewish Ideas Daily » Daily Features

International pressure is mounting on the Netanyahu government to freeze—and eventually remove—Jewish settlements in Judea and Samaria. Simultaneously, a heated domestic debate is taking place within the national-religious (Dati Leumi) community over whether religious soldiers can, if push comes to shove, resist a government order to remove settlers from their homes. The argument resonates most strongly in the "Hesder" yeshivot, higher-level schools whose students alternate periods of Talmud study with active military duty. Yesterday, the heads of Har Etzion, a flagship Hesder yeshiva, issued a strong statement against disobedience. The issue is made more acute by the fact that so many religious...
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Editors' Picks
A Role for Israeli Arabs Khaled Abu Toameh, Hudson New York. A population still mainly loyal to Israel can and should do more; it should act as a bridge between Jewish Israelis and both Palestinians and the Arab world.
What a Country! Noah Efron, Jewish Review of Books. After twenty-six years in Israel, one immigrant is blisteringly denounced before the Tel Aviv city council, and asks: "How did I ever get here?"
A Living, Humming Instrument Allan Nadler, Forward. The great poet of cultural Zionism, Hayim Nahman Bialik (1873–1934), also gave voice to the predicament of loving religious Judaism while violating its norms.
Torah and Military Ethics Gil Student, Torah Musings. A wildly controversial book by two Israeli rabbis has been lambasted as racist and an incitement to violence; the first charge is true, the second false.
Sabbath Rock BibleWalks. Newly discovered: carved into a rock in Lower Galilee is the word shabbat, likely a Roman-era marking of the furthest point to which local Jews could travel on the day of rest. 
Polygamy Now? Gil Student, Torah Musings. Calls for lifting the Jewish ban on polygamy may respond to a felt need, but violate a millennium-old proscription that protects the dignity and rights of women.
Reclaimed Doreen Carvajal, New York Times. Centuries after the forced conversion of their ancestors to Catholicism, members of fifteen families on the island of Majorca have been recognized as full-fledged Jews.
Baby Un-Boom Tamar Rotem, Haaretz. Are ultra-Orthodox Israeli women giving up their "career" of multiple childbearing?
Off the Path Miriam Shaviv, Jewish Chronicle. Dropouts from Orthodoxy are growing in number, but many of them never leave completely; in this there may be a peculiar sign of hope.
God's Army? Arieh O'Sullivan, Media Line. Ever since religious Jews began filling leadership positions in the IDF, some have been worrying about potential disloyalty to the state—so far, without reason.