Israel Now

Israel Now May 2013

In the wake of January’s elections, The Jewish Week looks at changes sweeping through Israeli society—from the halls of the Knesset to the classroom to the Western Wall. A 40-page special report.

05/28/2013
Israel Now May 2013

Respecting ‘The Other’ At The Next Desk

The ABC’s of religious pluralism in a Jerusalem classroom.

Israel Correspondent
05/29/2012

Jerusalem — For 15-year-old Ella Gal, “the other” isn’t an Israeli-Arab teen from Jaffa or a Palestinian high schooler in Ramallah. He’s the boy in the kipa sitting next to her in class.
Gal, whose father was raised secular but whose non-religious mother was brought up Orthodox, attends the Keshet School in the Katamonim neighborhood of Jerusalem, an oasis of religious pluralism in an increasingly divided Israeli society.

Ofer Gordon, who is religious, and Ella Gal, who is secular, study together at the Keshet School. Photos by Michele Chabin

The Theater As ‘Alternative Synagogue’

The country’s stage is increasingly a ‘meeting place’ where Israelis grapple with issues of identity.

Special To The Jewish Week
05/29/2012

When Yigal Even-Or’s incendiary play, “Fleischer,” opened in Israel in 1993, it was one of the first times that the Israeli stage had confronted the gap between the religious and secular in Israel. The play, which is about a married non-Orthodox couple whose butcher shop is boycotted by ultra-Orthodox Jews, became a flashpoint of controversy, prompting secular Jews in the audience to vent their hatred against what they viewed as ultra-Orthodox domination of the Israeli government and society.

Amnon Levi and Rami Danon’s “Sheindele,” about rival chasidic sects, performed by the Cameri Theater. Israel Haramati

What’s The ‘Jewish’ In Jewish State?

The impossibly thorny issues of religion, state and identity, and the role American Jews can play.

Special To The Jewish Week
05/29/2012

I could begin by saying the image in our own ad says it all. Some of you saw it — a New Israel Fund ad that ran last month featuring a photo of a poster in Jerusalem, defaced by ultra-Orthodox extremists because it featured a woman’s face.

Daniel Sokatch

‘I Want To Live In A Democracy, Not A Religious State’

For liberals and centrists, a growing fear of Orthodox power.

Special To The Jewish Week
05/29/2012

The 15-year-old daughter of an Israeli friend announced to her parents that when she gets older she will leave Israel. “The religious are taking over,” she said. “I don’t want to be treated like a second-class citizen, and anyway I want to live in a democracy, not a religious state.”
“I didn’t have an answer,” my friend said.

After the storm: Naama Margolese walks to school with her mother, Hadassa, in Beit Shemesh.

Going The Distance

Are American Jews, especially young ones, driven away from Israel by its growing haredization?

Special To The Jewish Week
05/29/2012

In 1948 the new government of Israel, under the hegemony of David Ben-Gurion and his Mapai party, entered into deals with two crucial groups: the Religious Zionist party, Mizrachi, and the anti-Zionist Agudat Yisrael. (By 1948 Agudat Yisrael had become a political entity; a year earlier Ben-Gurion had sent its leaders a letter outlining the pact). The goal of the deals was to retain the “status quo ante” — the religious reality that was in place before the creation of the state.

The phenomenon of women at the back of the bus in Israel is one that resonates with younger Americans. YNet News

The Haredi Revolution

The ultra-Orthodox are becoming increasingly integrated into mainstream Israeli society the author argues. But will it be enough for secularites, and for the media?

Special To The Jewish Week
05/29/2012

Noah Efron, a young American-born graduate student at Tel Aviv University, was standing in the cafeteria line, just before the outbreak of the first Iraq War, when he overheard one female student say to another, “The best thing for the country would be if there was a chemical attack on Bnei Brak [the largest haredi population center] before they get new gas masks [for bearded men].” The Silver Spring, Md., native had never before experienced anti-Semitism, and was shocked to hear a Jew talk about the salutary effect of gassing other Jews.

A growing number of religious Jews are serving in the IDF.  Abir Sultan/Flash90/JTA

Toward A More Perfect Union

Rabbi Uri Regev has been on a crusade to make Israel a more religiously equitable country. A lot of forces are lined up against him, but he sees some change in the wind.

Staff Writer
05/29/2012

Rabbi Uri Regev is president and CEO of Hiddush-Freedom of Religion for Israel, a group founded in 2009 to promote religious liberty and equality in Israel. He was also a founding chair and executive director of the Reform movement’s Israel Religious Action Center and president of the World Union for Progressive Judaism.

Uri Regev

Spitting In The Face Of Extremism

How an unlikely pair of religious-secular activists stopped the zealots in Beit Shemesh.

Israel Correspondent
05/29/2012

Beit Shemesh, Israel — Little Naama Margolese brought them together.

On the surface they were an unlikely pair: Dov Lipman, an American-born “modern haredi” rabbi-educator who lives in Beit Shemesh, and Mickey Gitzin, the secular Israeli-born head of Yisrael Hofshit (Free Israel), an organization that works toward pluralism and against religious coercion.

Rabbi Dov Lipman spearheaded a rally against religious extremism in Beit Shemesh. Michael Lipkin

Separation Anxiety

Secularites grouse about how ‘black’ the country is becoming, but issues of religion and state in Israel may not be as divisive as they seem.

Special To The Jewish Week
05/29/2012

Jerusalem — The separation of religion and state, be it ever so beleaguered, remains a fundamental tenet of American democracy. In Israel, it’s quite the opposite. A Reform or Conservative rabbi, for example, cannot not perform a legally binding wedding in the State of Israel, whose Chief Rabbinate, dominated by ultra-Orthodox leaders, has hegemony over Jewish marriage, divorce and conversion.

Tensions between Jews of different stripes hit a high point in Beit Shemesh. Ynet News
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