Religion & State

One of the greatest challenges in Israel is that of religion and state. As a Jewish State founded on democratic principles, personal status and life events such as marriage, divorce, conversion, burial etc., often become ensnared between the two ideals. The IZS sees the balance between Israel’s Jewish character and the liberty of the individual as the Golden Mean. It is from this perspective that we have conducted our research and advise Knesset and other committees and panels that address these issues. Staff members research position papers and draft proposals for new laws to ensure effective delivery of religious services to all citizens who seek them.  

Ribui Kashruiot

By | Kashrut, Religion and State | No Comments

Multiplicity of Kashrut Certification – This study examines the phenomenon of multiple kashrut certifications in the local food products market. The study aims to assess the extent of this phenomenon and to draw conclusions from the findings as to the relevance of Chief Rabbinate kashrut certification for the food manufacturers. The study’s findings clearly indicate the Israeli food manufacturers’ ready willingness to acquire private kashrut certifications in addition to that of the Chief Rabbinate mandated by law, this despite the high extra costs involved. The study also found that in many cases, the Chief Rabbinate’s function in this field was deemed ineffective or one that lacked any added value from a kashrut perspective.

Read the complete study here.

Multiplicity of Kashrut Certification

By | Kashrut, Religion and State | No Comments

This study examines the phenomenon of multiple kashrut certifications in the local food products market. The study aims to assess the extent of this phenomenon and to draw conclusions from the findings as to the relevance of Chief Rabbinate kashrut certification for the food manufacturers. The study’s findings clearly indicate the Israeli food manufacturers’ ready willingness to acquire private kashrut certifications in addition to that of the Chief Rabbinate mandated by law, this despite the high extra costs involved. The study also found that in many cases, the Chief Rabbinate’s function in this field was deemed ineffective or one that lacked any added value from a kashrut perspective.

To the full research…

Hafkaat Kiddushin

By | Marriage, Religion and State | No Comments

This position paper presents the proposed law that seeks a legally mandated solution for the problem of aginut (the situation whereby a spouse is ‘chained’ to a marriage) resulting from the husband’s refusal to grant his wife a get (a halakhic divorce), or from her refusal to accept a get.  A get ends the marriage. The proposed law is based on a mechanism that was suggested in the Babylonian Talmud to enable the Beit Din (Rabbinic Court), in severe circumstances, to annul the validity of the betrothal that the couple had originally mutually entered. This mechanism is termed hafka’at kiddushin (retroactive annulment of the betrothal).

As explained in the paper, the authority for such retroactive annulment is given not only to the Beit Din but also to the ‘kahal’ – the community. In other words, the community in which the couple lived, also has the authority to decide on implementation of the retroactive annulment of a betrothal in those cases in which the members of the community see fit. In contemporary circumstances, the ability to make such decisions “in the name of the community” can be understood to reside with our elected representatives i.e., the members of the Knesset. The central recommendation of Professor Berachyahu Lifshitz,[1] the author of this paper, is that the harsh reality of aginut created by recalcitrant husbands, should lead the Knesset to legislate the use of hafka’at kiddushin as a means of solving the problem, thereby saving women from this tragic plight.

[1] Berachyahu Lifshitz is a professor of law, senior research fellow at the Institute for Zionist Strategies, the former dean of the Faculty of Law at the Hebrew University, an expert in Jewish Law and laureate of the EMET Prize awarded under the auspices of the Prime Minister of Israel.

To the full research…

Israeli Hamshoosh

By | Religion and State, Shabbath | No Comments

Written by Yair Berlin, Eitan Yarden, Aviad Houminer and Ariel Finkelstain

The idea of fixing another official day of rest in the State of Israeli has come up on numerous occasions in the course of public debate, as well as in the Knesset, since the year 2000. Traditionally speaking, those advocating an additional official day of rest for the Israeli economy propose Sunday. The most serious proposal to be submitted thus far suggested that most of Sunday’s work hours be made up on Friday, which would, in turn, become a part-time work day, while the remaining hours would be made up by adding half an hour to each work day, Monday through Thursday. Those in favor of the move made the following claims: Such a move would strengthen the Israeli economy by making it compatible with Western economies around the world in terms of rest and work days; it would also strengthen the various fields of culture, sports and tourism and render numerous solutions – aimed at settling the religious status of the Sabbath – feasible. Read More

Official Days of Rest Around the World

By | Religion and State, Shabbath | No Comments

Written by Ariel Finkelstien and Tomer Yahud

This study examines the laws of commerce and employment on the official day of rest in most of the developed countries around the world :

1. Rest Days: In the overwhelming majority of developed countries, most of the citizens work Monday-Friday while Saturday and Sunday serve as rest days. In general however, countries do not set Saturday as an official day of rest, and only some countries declare Sunday as a rest day.

2. The Scope of Restrictions: While most Western European countries have various restrictions on commercial activity on the rest day, in the majority of countries in North America, Eastern Europe, Scandinavia, East Asia and Oceania there are no such significant restrictions. Read More

Taxation of Kabbalists in Israel

By | Additional Issues, Religion and State | No Comments

Dozens of Rabbis in Israel, who are known as Kabbalists (mekubalim), function in Israel. They are involved in giving blessings for success, providing personal or business advice, and mediating between businessmen. Remuneration given for these services is generally considered as a donation to the Kabbalist, for which they are not required to pay any taxes.

In the public debate about the appropriateness of this tax exemption, much of the blame is directed at the Kabbalists. This position paper discloses how the Israel Tax Authority has discussed this issue for more than a decade, and has still not succeeded in formulating a uniform policy which is enforced. Read More

“Ethnic-Based Duplication in the Israeli Rabbinate”

By | Rabbinate and Local Religious Councils, Religion and State | No Comments

By Ariel Finkelstein

The ingathering of the Jewish people during the 20th century has led to a significant change in the role of the rabbinate. Up until that period the custom had been for one rabbi, called the Mara D’Atra (lord of the place), to be appointed for each community or city. The 1911 appointment of two rabbis – one Ashkenazi and one Sephardi – for the city of Jaffa and the 1921 appointment of two chief rabbis created the ethnic-based duplication customary to this day in the chief rabbinate and in many cities, townships, and regions.

This position paper surveys the historical development of the laws, regulations and legal rulings dealing with ethnic-based duplication in the chief and local rabbinates and raises three main problems caused by the duplication: Read More

Rabbinical Appointments in Israeli Cities

By | Rabbinate and Local Religious Councils, Religion and State | No Comments

 Eitan Yarden and Ariel Finkelstein

The process of choosing a city rabbi in Israel is difficult, complicated and subject to a host of political scuffles. In recent years, the situation has worsened and nearly every appointment of city rabbi has faced challenges in court, where they get held up for years. Therefore, several recent Supreme Court rulings have mentioned the need to change the appointment procedure. This position paper will present ideas to fix some of the problems which have been discovered in the current process.

The first part of the position paper discusses the appointment process. Read More

Sabbath and Jewish Holiday law

By | Religion and State, Shabbath | No Comments

Nadav Eliash

In recent years the Knesset has seen a number of proposed laws, based on the Gavison-Medan Covenant, meant to regulate the status of the Sabbath in Israel. To date, no such law has been passed.

The covenant seeks to regulate matters of state and religion on the basis of consensus among religious and secular and includes a long section devoted to the Sabbath, concluding with an agreement based on limitation of trade and industry alongside the opening of entertainment, cultural, and leisure venues. The Covenant also calls for a limited amount of public transportation on the Sabbath.

This position paper presents the theoretical background behind the need for a law to regulate the status of the Sabbath in Israel. Read More

The Conversion Crisis in Israel

By | Conversion, Religion and State | No Comments

Ariel Finkelstein

As a result of the opening of the immigration floodgates over the past two decades, there are currently some 318,000 citizens of Israel classified as without religion or as Christians who identify with the Jewish majority. Within 15 years that number will reach approximately 400,000. This situation creates problems and challenges for the State of Israel, both in terms of the specific citizens’ personal statuses and in national terms.

Even though following the 2008 recommendations of the Halfon Committee on conversion Israel has invested great resources in the official conversion mechanism and despite the natural increase in candidates for conversion, there has been a decrease in the number of converts over the past few years. Even before this, the number of converts had been below expectations. Read More

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