Daily Archives

December 10, 2015

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

The Race for Jurisdiction

By | Marriage, Religion and State | No Comments

By: Ariel Finkelstain, Arieh Ulman

Assisted: Roy Yellinek, Daniel Wildlansky

The first chapter of this position paper will present the legal background, the current situation, and the implications of the issue commonly known as the “race for jurisdiction.” The existing legal situation in Israel has the rabbinical courts as the only system authorized to settle divorce cases and the giving of a get. The attendant issues in the divorce (property division, custody, and alimony) can be decided in either the rabbinical or the family courts. The crucial element in deciding which legal system will resolve disputes on these matters is a chronological test: the system in which the first claim was made is the system which will hear the case. Read More

The Israeli Shabbath

By | Religion and State, Shabbath | No Comments

By Nadav Eliash, Aviad Hominer, Eyal Berger, Ariel Finkelstain

The Israeli Sabbath – a proposal for normalizing the status of the Sabbath in Israel in keeping with the Gavison-Medan Covenant.

The debate over the status of the Sabbath has been raging in Israel since the advent of Zionism. The first Zionist settlements in Israel debated the nature of public observance of the Sabbath. Central to the debate was a vision of the public space in the renewed Jewish community and the Sabbath served as an important and concrete symbol. The battle over the Sabbath atmosphere has continued until today, and no proposed formula for respecting the Sabbath in the public domain has gained general acceptance.

In recent years many attempts have been made to reach such an agreement and to word a law which will structure and formulate the status of the Sabbath as a day of rest. Such a formulation would benefit the public and would protect the unique character of the State of Israel as a Jewish state. The attempt which achieved the widest acceptance was that of Prof. Ruth Gavison and Rabbi Yaakov Medan, whose Gavison-Medan Covenant was published in 2003.

This position paper will provide an overview of the status of the Sabbath in Israel, 2014.With this status in focus, we will propose a law to normalize the public character of the Sabbath consistent with the terms of the Gavison-Medan Covenant. Read More

The Kashrut Structure – An overview, obstacles, and the proposed “State Privatization” solution

By | Kashrut, Religion and State | No Comments
Written by Assaf Greenwald, Noam Benaiah, and Ester Brown-Ben David

With the Assistance and Guidance of Ariel Finkelstain

Israeli lawmakers have granted the Chief Rabbinate and the local rabbinates exclusive privileges on matters of kashrut certification and importation of kosher food. This legal situation (in common with most monopolies) leads to bureaucratic and professional problems and complications. These problems have created difficulties for owners of food industry businesses who wish to obtain kashrut certification so as to expand their clientele. Consumers of kosher products are also affected by the not-uncommonly sub-par level of local rabbinate supervision of food manufacture, preparation, and presentation.

Ever since the chief rabbinate was given authority over kashrut as part of the Chief Rabbinate legislation many committees have been convened, many recommendations have been written, and many words have been spoken about the kashrut situation in Israel. Discussions focused on the deficiencies of the system and possible ways to fix it. None of the suggestions has led to significant improvements and lately it seems as though the Israeli public — certainly segments of the public — has given up and has reluctantly begun the search for alternatives, some of which are illegal. One example can be seen in the “social kashrut certification” which is gaining traction in Jerusalem and its environs.

This position paper first surveys the kashrut structure as it now is and details the main problems when compared to the American kashrut system. Following this, the position paper surveys the various proposals for reform of the Israeli kashrut structure and analyses the advantages and disadvantages of each. The main goal of this position paper is to present and explain in detail a different, unique solution which would serve as a suitable compromise between the different approaches to questions of state and religion and which might lead to the desired change. This solution, first proposed as a way to deal with problems in the marriage registration system, champions the creation of kashrut regions, thereby breaking the monopoly of the local rabbinates by allowing business owners who seek kashrut supervision and certification to turn to any local rabbi they choose. This could be called “governmental privatization,” despite the oxymoron. Read More

Analysis of the Proposed Conversion Law

By | Conversion, Immigration, Religion and State | No Comments

By Ariel Finkelstain

Following the proposed law sponsored by MK Elazar Stern regarding conversion by the local Rabbis, there is a deep and alert public discourse about the conversions issue. Throughout the public discussion, many arguments were heard, which were often imprecise and based on a misunderstanding of the proposed law. The goal of this analysis is to fill in this void and briefly explain the proposed law to the public, including the previous forms it took and its goals, and to discuss several of the points made against it.

The analysis focuses on two arguments which were brought up against the proposed law:

The first argument is that the goal of the proposed law is to promote reform and conservative conversions. Analysis of the proposed law shows that this argument has no substance and the proposed law does not at all promote that type of conversion. Read More

Burial of Non-Jewish Soldiers

By | Additional Issues, Immigration, Religion and State | No Comments

Eliad Avruch and Lilach Ben-Zvi

One of the most obvious manifestations of being Israeli is army service. Another factor positioning a person within Israeli society, is his religious affiliation. This presents a dilemma for the many people currently serving in the armed forces who are categorised as being without religion or questionably Jewish, and this dilemma is particularly poignant during times of bereavement, when the army must decide whether to bury both Jews and non-Jews, side-by-side (considered by most to be against the dictates of Halacha). This situation creates a clash between the values of Israel as a Jewish state and as a state which appreciates and even sanctifies all its fallen.

According to Jewish law it is forbidden to bury a member of another religion in a Jewish cemetery. But since burial of combat soldiers has taken on such symbolic importance, setting aside separate sections for members of other religions or burying the bodies outside the cemetery fence may lead to unwanted personal, familial, and sectorial complications. Insensitive treatment of a soldier who was persecuted in his native country for being a Jew and in Israel is treated, even after his death, as a non-Jew (leaving aside for now any determination of his true religious affiliation) may lead to alienation and isolation on the part of both the soldier’s family and entire groups within Israeli society. At the same time, ignoring Jewish law may have a negative impact on the Jewish character of the state of Israel and on soldiers and their families who wish to be buried according to the dictates of Jewish law.

The purpose of this position paper is to determine the most appropriate approach to the burial of these members of Israeli society in order to maintain a balance among the needs of the different sectors which serve in the armed forces. Read More

Font Resize
Contrast