Latest Articles & Research

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

Summary of 19th Knesset Activities Concerning State and Religion

By Additional Issues, Religion and State No Comments

Abstract

Though the 19th Knesset served for one of the shortest periods in our history (less than two years), it was very active concerning matters of state and religion. The governing coalition did not include any of the Ultra-Orthodox parties, and, although there were those who criticized this fact, others saw this as a chance to enact reforms on issues of state and religion.

This survey examines the activity of the 19th Knesset in this area, focusing on proposed legislation (both private and governmental) which was actively advanced or which generated significant public discussion. The survey does not discuss other proposed laws which may have been formally filed. The survey also encompasses a number of formal government regulations and certain public initiatives outside the regulatory framework. The survey does not include proposed legislation relating to the state relationship to religious populations such as proposals to draft Ultra-Orthodox men into the IDF or to modify the autonomy of the religious and Ultra-Orthodox educational systems.

The survey shows that 32 proposals and initiatives on the subject of state and religion were actively promoted during the 19th Knesset. Deputy Minister of Religious Services Eli Ben Dahan (HaBayit HaYehudi) and MK Elazar Stern (HaTenuah) are the leading members of Knesset in this area: each promoted eight different initiatives. MK Aliza Lavie (Yesh Atid) promoted six initiatives in the field, and Minister of Justice Tzipi Livni (HaTenuah) promoted five. (At the end of the survey there is a table summarizing all proposals and their current status.) Read More

Mikvas in Israel Part II

By Mikva, Religion and State No Comments
The Business Licensing Order states that a ritual bath (mikveh) is a business requiring a license, and this, to “insure public health, including appropriate sanitary conditions”. The Business Licensing directives of 1999 (dealing with appropriate sanitary conditions for ritual baths), as set by the Ministry of Health include directives relating to the ritual bath building, it’s facilities, maintenance and operation, and are aimed at preventing safety and sanitary hazards in ritual baths. The Ministry of Health’s website states clearly that “only in licensed ritual baths can the sanitary conditions and other conditions be deemed appropriate.”
In 2004, the State Comptroller carried out an audit with respect to the business licenses of ritual baths in eight different local authorities in Israel, and pointed out numerous flaws and defects, which the authorities promised to rectify as soon as possible. A follow-up check, which we conducted more than a decade later in those very same local authorities, disclosed to the fact that despite the severely negative report submitted by the State Comptroller, with respect to most of the local authorities in question, the business licenses have not been improved, and, indeed, in some places (e.g., Tel Aviv) the situation has even worsened.
In an extensive examination conducted as part of this study, we contacted various local authorities in order to obtain information regarding the business licenses of the ritual baths operated by the different Religious Councils and Departments of Religious Services. Of the 761 ritual baths currently in operation in Israel and operated by these bodies, we received 481 responses (63.2%). Of these, 359 ritual baths (about 75%) currently operate without a license. For the sake of comparison, only 29% of business running regular bathing facilities in the Jewish sector operate without a required license.

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Another Saturday of Football? Suggestion for Regulating Football and Other Sports Games on Saturday

By Religion and State, Shabbath No Comments
A court ruling given by the Labor Court last August raised the issue of holding football games on Saturdays (Shabbat = the Jewish Sabbath], stating that holding league games on Shabbat is a violation of the law, as football teams were never given a permit to hire workers on Shabbat.
This ruling opened a wide public debate on the matter, and touched not only on the legality of employing religious players on this day, but actually holding public games while violating the Sabbath, and the ability of religious players to participate in these games, as players and as spectators.
One must note that football in Israel includes two separate issues: professional football (top leagues) and popular football (lower leagues and leagues for children and youth). Even though the Labor Court referred only to professional football, the public debate currently being held deals also with popular football and, therefore, must also address this issue with utmost seriousness. In fact, the public debate on popular football is relevant to all sports fields in Israel, and even to several fields in professional sports.
When dealing with professional football, the position paper examines top league games in the 2014-2015 season and points out that only 57 games – constituting 23.57% of the games during this season – were held at hours considered by Jewish Law to be Shabbat, while 29 games were held led than one hour after the end of Shabbat. Thus, in many weeks all that is needed is for the games to start a little bit later in order to prevent them being held on Shabbat.

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