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Hiddush CEO Rabbi Uri Regev & Chairman Stanley P. Gold

A message from Hiddush

April 20, 2017
24 Nissan, 5777

Dear Friends,

As underscored by current events, between the renewed political Orthodox assault on the Supreme Court over Shabbat enforcement in Tel Aviv, and Hiddush's taking up incidents involving the exclusion of women for fundamentalist religious reasons, as well as the shirking of responsibility on the part of the Shas controlled Ministry of Religious Affairs to provide citizens the legally mandated civil burial alternative, there's never a dull moment in the ongoing battle for religious freedom and equality in Israel.

Providing further international comparative context for the clash of religion & state in Israel, you may find interest in the Pew's new Global Restrictions on Religion report released this month. It's not surprising for those of us who have been laboring in this field for years, but surely a rude awakening for those who are less versed.

According to the Pew Research Center's recent report, Israel is among the 11 worst countries in the world for the 'Social Hostilities Index', categorized along with Syria, Nigeria, and Afghanistan as 'Very High'. Israel is also categorized as 'High' for the 'Government Restrictions Index', sandwiched on the list between Sudan and the UAE.

In addition to the more prominent current events, this week's media also highlighted an extremely disturbing practice among a number of Israel's hospitals, which are religiously oriented but publicly funded, including Jerusalem's biggest hospital Shaare Tzedek. They refuse to grant IVF services to women who cannot demonstrate that they are halakhically married under the auspices of Israel's Chief Rabbinate. Many women cohabitating with their partners or civilly married overseas were turned down when requesting IVF treatment. While Shaare Tzedek's director stated on camera that if a couple insists on being served by their hospital, their wish would be granted, the hidden camera clips that were broadcast showed the opposite.

These are just the examples from this week's crop, and rest assured more are coming shortly. We hope you had a meaningful and enjoyable Passover and even though matzah is no longer mandatory, we trust that the essence of the festival - the struggle for freedom - will us in the days to come.

All the very best,

Stanley P. Gold,
Hiddush Chair

Rabbi Uri Regev,
Hiddush President

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Supreme Court rules:
Tel Aviv mini-markets may operate on Shabbat

Israel's High Court of Justice ruled on Wednesday in favor of Tel Aviv’s battle to expand facilities open to the secular public on Shabbat, saying that the municipality can permit mini-markets to operate on the Jewish day of rest.

Click here for full article

After the ruling was announced in the afternoon, Hiddush projected that the Court would once again be viciously assaulted by the ultra-Orthodox political parties. As always, they didn’t disappoint us. Here is a prime example:

    Knesset Ombudsman's Committee Chairman MK Yisrael Eichler said: "This is like the Kremlin's rule, and it is a shame that the shaky, cowardly Knesset does not enact a law to invalidate [such] a ruling, which negates the legislature's intent, as per the Justices' personal agenda. A Jewish state must respect Shabbat, and a democratic state must respect the law. The High Court of Justices does not respect Shabbat, nor the law."

As it turns out, it isn't only the ultra-Orthodox political parties, but also the Zionist Orthodox Jewish Home party, that is demanding that the Court ruling be overturned via legislation. The ultra-Orthodox leaders have no respect for the independent civil judiciary as a matter of principle, but now Jewish Home party Chairman Naftali Bennett has also expressed his adamant refusal to accept the balance recommended by the Supreme Court, which attempts to maintain both respect for Shabbat and a limited availability of convenience stores in the city. In a joint letter from the heads of the Jewish Home party, Shas and United Torah Judaism, they demand that the Prime Minister intervene immediately and correct the court's ruling regarding the opening of the supermarkets on the Sabbath: “We will not be partners in harming and trampling the honor of Shabbat.”

In reality, the High Court of Justice acted in a balanced, responsible way, once again heeding the will of the overwhelming majority of the Israeli public, the core values of freedom of religion and conscience, as well as a profound respect for the Jewish Shabbat. According to Hiddush's recent public opinion polling, 78% of Jewish Israelis support permitting Tel Aviv's convenience stores and minimarkets to remain open on Shabbat.

Click here for full article

Israel's exclusion of women
and lack of civil burial alternative

This week Hiddush initiated stern communications to the authorities over two critical issues: 1) the gross breach of responsibility of the Ministry of Religious Services to provide an option for alternative civil burial, and 2) the exclusion of women from a medical conference about women’s health.

Click here for full article

Diaspora Jewry is accustomed to news of occasional scandals coming out of Israel over issues of religion & state. For those of us who live in Israel, not a week goes by without some flare-up reminding us of the urgent and multi-faceted challenge of resolving the religion-state conflict.

This week, in addition to the bombshell of the Supreme Court's ruling on the Tel Aviv municipality Shabbat ordinance, Hiddush initiated stern communications to the authorities over two additional critical issues: 1) the gross breach of responsibility of the Ministry of Religious Services to provide an option for alternative civil burial, and 2) the exclusion of women from a medical conference about women’s health.

In the first matter, a secular Jewish Israeli from Tel Aviv passed away, and his family sought to arrange a civil burial for their beloved husband and father, in accordance with Israel's 1996 Alternative Civil Burial Law. His loved ones were informed that residents of Tel Aviv and its environs were not allowed to have civil burial ceremonies - only religious Orthodox burials, performed by the official Orthodox burial societies.

The second matter is a conference on women's health scheduled to take place this Sunday at Assuta Hospital in Tel Aviv. Despite the subject of the conference, women are completely excluded. Hiddush’s inquiry revealed that not only will there be no female researchers or health professionals presenting at the conference, but women's participation is also prohibited.

As ever, and as we were reminded of this week in these and other instances, Israel’s unholy alliance of religion and state continues to undermine the very foundations of Israel’s identity as a Jewish and democratic state. Together with partnering organizations and activists in Israel and the Diaspora, Hiddush strives to help Israel secure the promise made in its Declaration of Independence: that of freedom of religion and conscience for all!

Click here for full article

Hiddush in the Media


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