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Buses and Boundaries Buses and Boundaries
Thursday, February 4, 2010 | Jewish Ideas Daily » Daily Features

This morning, Israel's Supreme Court reconvenes on the matter of "mehadrin"  buses: public transportation in which women are expected, ostensibly on a voluntary basis, to enter from and sit in the back. The Court's hearing is in response to a decision earlier this week by the Transportation Ministry to grant formal recognition to such bus lines, several dozen of which now operate. Powerful segments of the ultra-Orthodox (Haredi) community argue that such segregation is the only way to insure appropriate modesty (tzni'ut) between the sexes. The degree to which Haredim in general agree with this position is not entirely clear, but the...
Goldstone, Again and Beyond Goldstone, Again and Beyond
Tuesday, February 2, 2010 | Jewish Ideas Daily » Daily Features

The UN's Goldstone Report on Operation Cast Lead has taken on a life of its own. Late last week, Israel submitted its own official version of its military operations in Gaza, to which UN Secretary General Ban-Ki Moon is expected to respond today.  Within Israel, calls for an independent commission of inquiry have found a prominent ally in the state's outgoing attorney general. Meanwhile, Alan Dershowitz, alongside his substantive criticisms of the Goldstone Report, has denounced its author as a Jewish traitor. Intentionally or not, the Report has become a powerful element in the mounting international campaign—warfare conducted as "lawfare"—to delegitimize Israel's very existence as...
Aliyah Aliyah
Wednesday, January 27, 2010 | Jewish Ideas Daily » Daily Features

Israel has a general immigration problem; it also has an aliyah problem, to use the tradition-honored term for the specifically Jewish act of "going up" to the Land. The two problems are not the same, though in many ways, as a conference this week underlined, they're related.  High-level economic opportunity of the kind that might attract large numbers of Western Jews doesn't exactly beckon. Meanwhile, the country's freedoms and porous borders make it an unregulated haven for hundreds of thousands of foreign non-Jewish laborers, legal and illegal, and declared asylum seekers from the world's trouble spots.  For early Zionist thinkers like...
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...
Rabbi Who? Rabbi Who?
Tuesday, January 5, 2010 | Jewish Ideas Daily » Daily Features

A prominent rabbi in Israel has landed in hot water with his Orthodox colleagues for referring to the historical Jesus, admiringly, as a "model rabbi." This is not the first time that the American-born Shlomo Riskin, a long-time supporter of enhancing women's roles in Orthodoxy, has shown himself willing to push the religious envelope. Though he quickly qualified his reported remarks, this latest contretemps highlights not only internal debates within the rabbinic fraternity but also, more intriguingly, the changing shape of Jesus in the mind and imagination of contemporary Jews. On both sides, indeed, the dramatic diminishment over recent decades in official...
Some Things Never Go Away Some Things Never Go Away
Monday, January 4, 2010 | Jewish Ideas Daily » Daily Features

Nine years ago, according to recent reports in the Israeli media, the head of the country's leading forensic institute admitted to having transplanted tissues and organs—corneas, skin, heart valves, and bones—from deceased Jews, Palestinians, and foreign workers. It seems that the families of the decedents, while consenting to autopsies, had not consented to transplants. The practice was halted and the physician dismissed from his post. Old news, then. But the exact nature of the doctor's past actions, limited if clearly unethical, was lost in the furor aroused by the surfacing of this old news in late December. In Britain, the Guardian...
Perfidious Albion? Perfidious Albion?
Friday, December 18, 2009 | Jewish Ideas Daily » Daily Features

The British government's announcement on Tuesday that it would no longer tolerate the legal harassment of visiting foreign officials put a halt to speculations of an arrest warrant for Tzipi Livni, Israel's former foreign minister and now leader of the opposition in the Knesset. But it has not ended the uproar over Israel's alleged war crimes—Ms. Livni vocally supported her country's invasion of Gaza to stop rocket fire by Hamas—or over the principle of "universal jurisdiction" invoked by judges hoping to hold foreign (read, Israeli) dignitaries for prosecution. On one Arab website, an Israeli musician living in England lambastes the British...
Land That I Love Land That I Love
Wednesday, December 9, 2009 | Jewish Ideas Daily » Daily Features

For many American Jews, the approach of Hanukkah is a reminder of another miracle besides the one in Jerusalem two millennia ago: the miracle of their country, of the blessings it has showered on its Jewish citizens, and of its firm friendship with the state of Israel. Steven Windmueller of the Hebrew Union College-Jewish Institute of Religion has written a crisp summary of the American Jewish experience and of the factors that have made it the exceptional phenomenon it is. Also just released are a handful of essays focusing on the economic life of American Jews, a subject that has...
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Editors' Picks
The Battle for Jerusalem Abraham Rabinovich, Times of Israel. Israel's 1967 conquest of the Old City, as celebrated yesterday, has become part of the religious Zionist narrative. But whether or not it was divinely preordained, it was never planned by Rabin.
Masonic Rites in the Holy Land Nadav Shragai, Israel Hayom. Below Jerusalem's Old City, a Freemason "laid my pocket Bible atop the stone in the middle of the cave and three candles around it which shower light . . ."
Haredinomics Uri Weiss, Haaretz. By bringing in donations, Israel's ultra-Orthodox—whether they know it or not—are boosting the country's GDP.
The Nakba that Almost Was Robert Werdine, Times of Israel. What would have happened to the Jewish towns of nascent Israel were the invading Arab armies successful?
The Refugee Question Ruth Lapidoth, Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs. The plight of the Palestinian refugees raises at least three legal questions: Who is considered a refugee? Do these refugees have a right to return to Israel? Do they have a right to compensation? (2002)
Nakba and Narrative Matti Friedman, Times of Israel. The simple narrative of the 1948 displacement of Palestinian Arabs erases the uncomfortable truth that half of Israel's Jews are there not because of the Nazis but because of the Arabs themselves.
Israel's Gay Pride Giulio Meotti, Ynet. The story of gay Palestinians sheltered by Israel—some 300 in the last 20 years—goes unreported in the Western media, which is happy to hold Arabs to a lower standard.
Campaign for Relegitimization Joel Fishman, Israel Council on Foreign Relations. It is no longer enough for Israel to proclaim that it seeks peace. Although it is unfashionable to speak in such terms, we are also engaged in a religious war. (PDF)
Israel's Future Air Force Amir Mizroch, Wired. Nano drones that an infantryman can pull out of his pocket, robots that can extract wounded soldiers from the battlefield, algorithms that resolve pilots' ethical dilemmas . . .
Megalopolis Avital Lahav, Ynet. Is the solution to Israel's housing crisis the creation of a mega-city encompassing much of central Israel?