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Hiddush CEO Rabbi Uri Regev & Chairman Stanley P. Gold

A message from Hiddush

May 3, 2018
18 Iyyar, 5778

Dear Friends,

The Knesset has resumed its work this week, coming back from recess, and it's promising to be a very hot period, both inside and outside the building. We have already pointed out the seriousness of the demand for passing an "overriding clause" as a piece of constitutional legislation that is intended to give the politicians greater "immunity" from judicial review.

On Sunday the governmental Committee on Legislation is going to discuss a number of proposals regarding different ways of ensuring that the Supreme Court is muzzled and stops acting as a thorn in the government’s side. The pressure is building up to pass such legislation, and so are the voices that protest this assault on Israel's democratic fiber. We at Hiddush are naturally keeping out of the arguments that focus on security and related matters, but in the last few days it has become amply clear that the push for this effort to undermine the Court is directly connected with the unholy alliance of religion and politics:

Both leading cabinet members from the Likud such as Minister Gilad Erdan and the ultra-Orthodox political parties are making it clear. In the words of Erdan a few days ago: We need this legislation now because without it we would not be able to pass the "Draft Law" (which the Haredi parties demand in order to exempt Yeshiva students from military service, which has been declared by the Supreme Court as unconstitutional), which is pending before the Court again. Passing the overriding clause, they believe, is the only way to preempt the closing of this ages-old privilege.

At the bottom of this initiative is, to a great degree, the desire to give the government a free hand to trample over core democratic principles and constitutional values. Furthermore, unlike the self-righteous protestations of leading politicians, and as Hiddush polling indicates, it's the Court that fairly and accurately represents public opinion. It's the politicians that have consciously and cynically chosen to turn their back on the public.

Hiddush will work to prevent such dangerous assaults on the independence of the judiciary from succeeding, and in the meantime (as you can also read on the right) we are working to represent individuals and groups whose rights are being violated, who suffer discrimination, and who are victims of religious coercion and abuse.

Shalom for now,

Stanley P. Gold,
Hiddush Chair

Rabbi Uri Regev,
Hiddush President


Hiddush on the battlefront

This week we started action on behalf of a former Haredi man who is serving in the IDF and faces discrimination, as well as on behalf of a school and a PTA who have confronted a zealous religious fundamentalist who is trying to tempt their students to "experience Judaism" his way.

Hiddush continues to be active on the legal front, lending help to individuals and groups that confront injustice or other challenges in the realm of religion and state.

This week we started action on behalf of a former Haredi man who is serving in the IDF and faces discrimination, as well as on behalf of a school and a PTA who have confronted a zealous religious fundamentalist who is trying to tempt their students to "experience Judaism" his way.

In the first case we were approached by a young man who turned away from Haredi life and decided to enlist in the IDF and pursue a new path. One of the problems young people like him face is the lack of general education (math, science, English), which makes it practically impossible for them to find good jobs and provide for themselves. The State and the IDF have in recent years developed programs aimed at providing frameworks for catching up on basic education for Haredi young men who enlist in special IDF programs developed for Haredi men who serve in the special Haredi-only army units. These combine strict religious observance with military service, for those who plan to seek work after they complete their service. However, they do not offer these same educational opportunities to young men and women who have decided to leave Haredi life and enlist in the general army.

Namely - they are helping young men catch up the missing education needed to find a job if they remain Haredi, but not if they leave ultra-Orthodoxy. In both instances, the individuals lack basic educational skills, because of the nature of Haredi education that refuses to incorporate core curricular studies in their schools, as well as the government's refusal to require such education when funding ultra-Orthodox schools for boys. However, the opportunity to catch up is only given to those who choose to remain Haredi.

Hiddush is turning to the IDF on our young client’s behalf, demanding that they stop this discrimination and offer the educational program regardless of the current religious observance of the individual. Furthermore, we demand that the problem, which is shared by dozens of other soldiers, be addressed so that they may also realize their right for government-funded basic education.

In the second case, we were approached by parents and the administration of a prestigious high school in Jerusalem, who have been fighting (without success) several individuals, belonging to Chabad (although they claim not to be affiliated with any organized Chabad group or community). These individuals have "set up shop" across from the school and “reach out” to the students as they leave school (they have even started approaching them via WhatsApp and social networks). Naturally, all of this is without the parents' consent.

This Chabad group offers 13- and 14-year olds (for some reason, they seem to eschew older students) all kinds of "incentives" (vouchers for clothing items, ice cream parlors, pizzas, etc.) if they come to study Torah and participate in Chabad religious activities. The authorities, when approached, all shirked responsibility. We are now working in cooperation with the school administration to put a stop to this outrageous situation.

Stay tuned for updates from the battlefront!

Hiddush's analysis: Justice Silberman Abella's speaks out against delegitimizing Israel's Court

Justice Rosalie Silberman Abella, the senior judge on the Supreme Court of Canada, delivered a lecture at a symposium with Justice Aharon Barak (former president of the Supreme Court of Israel) regarding the ongoing attempt among members of Israel's Coalition Government to delegitimize the reputation of the judiciary.

Her lecture is of profound interest and worth reading, not only for what Justice Abella said, but also - for what she did not say.

This great justice, who is so close to Israel, put her emphasis on the "patriotic" claims against Israel's Supreme Court and the legal rulings that are not in line with "public opinion." However, it would seem that she is unaware or underestimates the threat of another source of perpetual assault on Israel's independent judiciary: the powerful ultra-Orthodox political establishment.

The ultra-Orthodox political parties are also major partners in and instigators of undermining the independent judiciary, and they are neither "patriots," nor do they care about public opinion. Not only are they not making "patriotic" arguments against the Court, but they actually reject the legitimacy of democracy, civil law, and civil judiciary altogether. Examples abound. Just last year, ultra-Orthodox politicians decried the Supreme Court's ruling permitting in favor of Tel Aviv’s battle to expand facilities open to the secular public on Shabbat.

[Click here for examples]

These same ultra-Orthodox political leaders also disregard public opinion, which the Court accurately and justly upholds. Hiddush polling clearly shows that the public's level of trust in the Supreme Court (59%) is more than four times greater than the public's level of trust in the Knesset (13%) and its trust in the government (12%)!

In short, the Supreme Court is the only branch of government that stands in the ultra-Orthodox political parties' way (having subjugated the Knesset and the Government), and that is why (as we can see in Gafni's, Litzman's, and Eichler's venom) they are out to castrate the Supreme Court and do away with its independence and its judicial review powers.

Justice Silberman Abella is either unaware of this, as many in North America have limited knowledge of this threatening aspect of the challenges of Israel's clash between religion and state, or else she is simply unaware of its serious nature.

Full article>>

Hiddush in the media

* As we celebrate Independence Day... how is Israel Jewish? by RABBI URI REGEV, Jerusalem Post, April 20, 2018 [link]

* Q&A with Rabbi Uri Regev: Pushing for Religious Equality in Israel, Canadian Jewish News, April 25, 2018 [link]

* Will new conversion bill help 400,000 Israelis of ‘no religion’? Not likely, Times of Israel, April 24, 2018 [link]

* Jewish Leaders Reject New Bill That Would Grant Orthodox Movement Control Over Conversions in Israel, Haaretz, April 24, 2018 [link]


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