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A different look at democracy: Impressions from a 'Haaretz' conference

What does it feel like to be thought of as someone who endangers democracy? Sometimes, all it takes is having dark skin, curls and a kippa. Thoughts on Mizrahi identity from Haaretz’s Conference on Democracy.

By Eli Bareket

Several weeks ago I attended the Israel Conference on Democracy sponsored by the liberal Haaretz daily. It was truly impressive. Around 1,000 polite and friendly people attended — those for whom Israeli democracy matters and who could set aside a day. Eva Illouz was also in attendance, and even said a lot of wise things such as, “democracy is a regime in which you do not have to be afraid of who you are.” This was a “wow” moment for me, as she unwittingly succeeded in throwing in a quote by Rabbi Nahman.

After imagining Rabbi Nahman hugging Eva Illouz, I could now imagine myself as part of the panel. I know that they invited people who stood them up. Yes, even Shas’ Aryeh Deri stood them up due to the New Israel Fund’s involvement, but if you have no representation on the stage you can imagine the panel with yourself in it. That way you can participate rather than complain.

So here are some musings of an Mizrahi Jew at the Israel Conference on Democracy.

As a child, I associated democracy with Arabs, and not just any Arabs, but terrorists. I think that one of the few times I was exposed to the term “democracy” was when it came up in the context of the Democratic Front for the Liberation of Palestine (DFLP) — democratic, but with a lot of blood on their hands.

I grew up some more and went to boarding school in Jerusalem. There things became clearer. There was Rabbi Meir Kahane who worked the “neighborhoods,” and said either Jewish or democratic — meaning that real democracy cannot suppress the Arabs. Thus, if one really means “democratic,” one has to make room for the Arabs, and if one really means “Jewish” one has to kick the Arabs out.

Read more: Why Mizrahim don’t vote for the Left

And then there were the leftists, the beautiful ones, sometimes called “the bleeding hearts,” for whom democracy was a private, members-only club that reinforced their self image — because they are democratic, they are better than all the Arabs in the neighborhood, and they are entitled to their privileges as guardians of the Only Democracy in the Middle East....

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Israeli Black Panther: Mizrahim must boycott the elections

Since its establishment and until today, not a single election has fundamentally changed the status of Mizrahim in the ‘only democracy in the Middle East.’ Now we must use the only tool we have left at our disposal and refuse to participate in the game altogether. 

By Reuven Abergel

For Palestinian citizens of Israel, the upcoming elections represent something new. The establishment of the Joint List is the result of the utter failure of the establishment to divide the rule different Palestinian political currents. In the wake of Avigdor Liberman’s racist attacks, the oppressed Palestinian public forced its representatives to unite. But for the Mizrahim, these elections bring nothing new to the table – the existing parties have nothing to offer them. This is why I am calling on Mizrahim to boycott the elections, in order to send a clear message to the Jewish parties that they do not represent us.

For the first time in its history, the “Jewish and democratic” state will have to face a large opposition that truly remains outside the realm of the ruling class. The prime minister will be forced to report to the Joint List about all peace talks with Palestinians, and will need to think long and hard about how to continue to control important committees such as the Internal Affairs and Environment Committee. Palestinian citizens, along with Jews who support the struggle for equality, will vote for the Joint List.

However, we must remember one thing: since its establishment and until today, not a single election has fundamentally changed the status of Mizrahim in the “only democracy in the Middle East.” The opposite is true: the situation of Mizrahim has only become worse in the wake of every election cycle. Don’t believe me? Read the reports by the Adva Center, the National Insurance Institute or the OECD. As opposed to Palestinians, who have been historically excluded from the political system as a group, thus forcing them to organize on a collective level, the attitude toward Mizrahim was always the opposite: to break down and spread out Mizrahi political activism among the different parties. How did they do this? Every few years, the leaders of these different politicians get on stage and promise the Mizrahim the exact same illusions – that the change they so need will only come if they vote for him or her.

Time after time,...

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What Mizrahi activists really want: A ten-point program

Mizrahi activists have tried explaining their positions for years. Now, in the run-up to the elections, they lay out their political vision for education, land reform, health care and representation in a ‘ten-point program.’

By Roi Grufi

Throughout my years of being active in the Mizrahi struggle in Israel, I found that there are several dominant themes that affect the greater public views  us: past versus present, or in other words — it happened a long time ago and is no longer relevant; complaining instead of taking responsibility for our lives, rather than legitimate claims about the difficulties that stem from the way our society is structured (similar to claims made by feminists or even the middle class during the social protests in 2011); and of course: “What do you want?” Every so often my friends and I try respond to this question, but it seems like most people are not satisfied by our answers. Somehow, it always begins and ends with specific problems, rather than, God forbid, with our the way our society is structured.

The following document tries to grapple with these problems. It attempts to provide a way out of the oppressive narratives that seek to tire us out and strip the legitimacy of our struggle by painting as just another sectarian movement. This document discusses some of the issues that are rarely spoken about. We believe that everything has a solution – it is simply a matter of will and policy.

The ten-point program

The current elections have brought the social and peripheral discourse to the top of the public agenda. It seems that the next Knesset term could be one of the biggest turning points for socially-driven politics in the history of the State of Israel. The “ten-point program” written by Mizrahi activists, demands to place the most pressing, concrete political problems on the table. We call on the citizens of this country to support and sign this document, and we call on all candidates in the upcoming elections — from all parties — to openly declare that they will fight for these principles and for a more just society.

1. Education

Provide educational budgets according to socio-economic indices in the periphery and central Israel; expand formal education in the periphery, while emphasizing the need for students to receive high-quality matriculation certificates; set realistic goals for promoting higher education in...

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Can a feminist Mizrahi woman find her political home in Shas?

Although it is run by ultra-Orthodox men and its path for social mobility is anchored in religion, Shas remains the only truly socially minded political party and is certainly the only Mizrahi party. One voter’s search for answers.

By Efrat Shani-Shitrit

A few weeks ago, flyers targeting the women of north Tel Aviv were posted around the suburban streets of one of its better-known neighborhoods, Ramat Aviv: “If you live in Ramat Aviv, don’t vote for us. If you work for someone who lives in Ramat Aviv: Only Shas.” Aryeh Deri, who until the most recent Knesset had not led the ultra-Orthodox party for 13 years, is back with a new, clear social message: Rabbi Ovadia Yosef [Shas' spiritual figurehead, who died in 2013] called for taking care of the invisible people who have been left behind by the state, struggling to close societal gaps, fighting for hungry children, better education in country’s periphery, and the creation of more jobs. Should Ovadia’s message come into fruition, it would benefit both disempowered women and men.

Shas offers a Mizrahi-based agenda, a Mizrahi leader and Mizrahi members of Knesset — the diametrical opposite of other parties. There are many who critique the party for its non-social direction, and the fact that its former leader, Eli Yishai, took the party to the political far-right. But it is far more acceptable to harshly (and wrongly) criticize Shas for perpetuating social gaps and its lack of any real contribution to the periphery. There are those who also criticize Shas for being corrupt, though we must remember that this country’s elites act in ways that are far more detrimental than Aryeh Deri, who spent three years in prison for accepting bribes. The rise of the Mizrahim, and their inability to fit into any of the political templates that were available to Mizrahim before the establishment of Shas, brought on the ire of seculars, Religious-Zionists and the Ashkenazi ultra-Orthodox alike. It seems that Israel is incapable of having a Mizrahi political party with a clear Mizrahi agenda.

Read also: Shas’ challenge to both Right and Left

Public discourse in this country is blind to the fact that Shas’ proposed path for “strengthening” (a process of becoming more religious) provided one of the only avenues to improve their lives. Many Mizrahim, whose disempowered place in society allowed them very few ways to make a living,...

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To fight police violence, address their racism

The killing of a young Bedouin man from Rahat and the death of another during the funeral have deepened the city’s lack of faith in the authorities. Only anti-racism education for police and young people alike can stop the landslide.

By Kher Albaz

The Or Commission, which investigated the shooting deaths of 13 Arab demonstrators in October 2000, found serious flaws in the Israeli police’s actions against Arab citizens. The atmosphere within the Israeli police, then and apparently now, can be summed up by one sentence from the committee’s recommendations: “The police must implemented an approach that views Israeli Arabs as Israeli citizens with equal rights.”

The violent events that took place in Rahat two weeks ago, which led to the police killing two residents and wounding of dozens of others, demonstrated that the Or Committee’s recommendations have clearly not been adopted by the police. This should be a red warning light for all of us; the degree of force and violence used against the residents, along with a trigger-happy policy generates a sense of discrimination against the Arab public. And, as if we have not learned anything from the past, we once again find ourselves calling upon law enforcement agencies to launch an investigation into events with such dire consequences.

The protesters have repeatedly voiced complaints about the police’s conduct, and specifically their “trigger fingers,” which has resulted in their loss of faith in law enforcement. If the violent behavior that led to the death of Sami Al-J’aar wasn’t enough, the attempt by the police to besmirch Sami’s name under the false pretext of drug dealing made it clear to the residents of the city that the police have no real intention of seriously investigating the events. The appearance of a police car at the funeral – which violated an agreement signed with the mayor of the city according to which there would be no police presence at the procession – generated a dangerous and needless provocation that led to the death of Sami Alziadna.

The feeling in the streets of Rahat is that when it comes to Arabs, the police allow themselves to act in ways they would never against Jewish demonstrators. In addition, following the events there was a complete disregard of context on the part of leading Israeli politicians, as well as one-sided and limited media coverage that made no...

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Why Mizrahim don't vote for the Left

It is no wonder that Mizrahim vote for right-wing parties when the Ashkenazi-dominated Left has done everything in its power to exclude them. Want things to change? Start talking about Ashkenazi privilege.

By Tom Mehager

Those who have, historically, voted for Israel’s left-wing camp are often nicknamed “the white tribe.” On the other hand, the right wing enjoys a high percentage of Mizrahi voters. Why? In the run-up to the elections, it might be worth taking a look at this question.

First of all, the social categories “Mizrahim” and “Asheknazis” are nowhere to be found in the platforms of Israel’s leftist parties. While the platforms of Labor (the “Zionist Camp”), Meretz and Hadash include, among other things, social issues relevant to both central Israel and the periphery, these parties base themselves on a colorblind worldview that believes that “there is no such thing as Mizrahim and Ashkenazim anymore.” But that’s just it – there is such a thing. When it comes to many issues, Mizrahim were and still are a group that faces discrimination, when compared to Ashkenazim. And yet, left-wing parties choose to totally ignore this fact.

1. Representation

Amir Peretz stood at the helm of the Labor Party during the 2006 elections, while Ehud Barak headed the party during the 2009 elections. A comparison between the percentage of people who voted for Peretz and Barak reveals a clear-cut picture: Peretz, a Mizrahi leader from the periphery, significantly raised the percentage of Labor voters among the Mizrahi public.

For example, in Sderot (Peretz’s hometown) 24.57 percent of voters gave their vote to Labor, as opposed to 5.31 percent who voted for Barak. In Dimona 17.49 percent voted for Peretz, while only 5.31 percent voted for Barak. In Shlomi 20.74 percent for Peretz, and 5.99 percent for Barak. In Yeruham 14.9 percent for Peretz, as opposed to 4.21 percent for Barak. Labor won 19 Knesset seats under Peretz, winning only 13 under Barak.

It is true that the Labor Party, which openly supported Operation Protective Edge, and Meretz, which silently supported the war until a very late stage, are not worthy of being called “Left.” What is clear, however, is that there is a huge potential to mobilize Mizrahi voters. On the other hand, Israel’s left-wing parties systematically exclude Mizrahim; Labor, Meretz and Hadash reserve spots for women and Arabs (Labor saves spot 18 for a representative...

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Yemenite Children Affair: Families of the kidnapped speak out

Between the years 1948 and 1952, thousands of babies, children of mostly Yemenite immigrants to the newly-founded State of Israel, were allegedly taken away from their parents and given up for adoption to Ashkenazi families. Now a group of activists is telling the stories of the traumatized families who vow never to forget.

(Translated from Hebrew by Maayan Goldman)

Yemenite children's affair.

The baby in the photo is younger than my Abigail. His name is Rafael – a tiny baby, seen here in his mother’s arms. She wandered from Damascus to Beirut and onto the shores of the promised land, before being placed in a tent in the Beit Lyd transit camp. Rafael is my mother’s younger brother. She traveled this long route along with him in a sailboat when she was one-and-a-half years old. Grandfather Mordecai wrote in his diary about what had happened to them when they arrived at the immigrant camp:

“One of the nights a horrible wind was blowing, and rain came pouring from the sky. The small children who slept with us in the tents became sick with colds, diarrhea and fever. The smallest one, five-month-old Rafael, got stomach poisoning, and so we went to Tel Aviv and took him to the government hospital in Jaffa, where he returned his pure and innocent spirit to God in the morning light of Tuesday, 13/9/49.”

In Donolo Hospital they wouldn’t let my grandfather see his son’s body nor his place of burial. They also refused to provide him a death certificate.

The three languages they spoke didn’t help my grandfather and grandmother who were religious and educated. They believed the doctors and sat shiva (a week-long mourning period in Judaism) in mourning. They couldn’t imagine being lied to; who could believe that in Israel of all places, Jews will kidnap the child of other Jews.

Years later, when similar, horrific stories began coming to the fore, they understood. Since then they have not stopped tormenting themselves over how naive they were. They spoke about Rafael and looked for him until their very last day. Every conversation with my grandmother Jenia would always come to Rafi. “We didn’t think ya binti (“my daughter” in Arabic) we didn’t think,” she would say to me, her eyes filling up with tears.

After some time, Uncle Ezra, may he rest in peace, leafed through the documents and found the...

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France must not push Muslims into the arms of extremists

The terrorists who attacked Charlie Hebdo and a kosher supermarket were well-trained, spoke French and knew their actions would play into the hands of France’s Islamophobic right. Let’s not give them what they’re after.

By Yossi Dahan

As Israel’s news outlets covered the terrorist attacks in Paris, we watched how our analysts and correspondence suddenly became experts on the Republic of France and Islam. We watch as they compete over who does a better job mocking French naiveté – over the “political correctness” by which the French treat the Muslims as equal citizens. The French have likely not seen Tzvi Yehezkeli’s excellent series on Islam in Europe, otherwise they would have understood that Muslims pose the gravest existential threat to Europe. “They don’t understand how to treat this group,” said one of the correspondents. “They need to learn from the Americans how to declare war on Islamic terror,” added another.

In an article titled “What’s the Real Reason Al Qaida attacked ‘Charlie Hebdo’?” Juan Cole, a professor of Middle East history at the University of Michigan, gives an alternative explanation. Terrorist groups like Al-Qaida have trouble recruiting Muslims in their ranks. Most Muslims, writes Cole, are not interested in terror. Most aren’t even interested in politics or political Islam. In a country of 66 million people and five million Muslims, less than 2 million say they are interested in politics. The French Muslim community is the most secular Muslim community in the world. In Paris, where Muslims tend to be more religious and educated, most of the Muslims openly oppose violence and are loyal to France. While Al-Qaida is interested in taking control of the minds of France’s Muslims, it runs into opposition from the local Muslim community. If it succeeds in causing non-Muslim French citizens to hate the Muslims, it will be successful in creating a political identity that fights against anti-Muslim discrimination.

The terrorists who killed 12 Charlie Hebdo journalists and six people at a kosher grocery store were well-trained. They spoke French, and they knew that their actions would play into the hands of nationalist politician Marie Le Penn and the Islamophobic right. Their attacks weren’t in response to the debasement of Muslim symbols, but rather an attempt to provoke Europeans to commit pogroms against Muslims. This, in turn, would lead to an increase in Al-Qaida’s recruitment. Al-Qaida, which was led by Abu Musab al-Zarqawi, successfully...

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What Egypt's multicultural past teaches us about Israel's present

Jacqueline Kahanoff’s novel, ‘Jacob’s Ladder,’ strips ‘multiculturalism’ of its cold, academic veneer, displaying instead the reality of a Jewish, multicultural lifestyle. But the novel also directs a powerful question toward Israeli society: can the Arabs that live among us today ever live in Israel the same way Jews lived in Egypt?

By Ktsiaa Alon (translated from Hebrew by Shaked Spier)

Several decades after its publication, Jacqueline Kahanoff’s great novel, “Jacob’s Ladder,” has finally been translated into Hebrew. The novel portrays a vivid picture of a Levant of multiculturalism, as Kahanoff called it in her intellectual essays.

After a delay of over 60 years, Jacqueline Kahanoff’s novel “Jacob’s Ladder” was recently published by Gamma (which is under my ownership, K.A.), in cooperation with Yad Ben Zvi publishing house. Kahanoff (1919-1979) is known among Hebrew readers for her book “Me’Mizrah Shemesh,” as well as essays collected and translated by Aharon Amir (originally published in Keshet magazine). Ronit Matalon’s book “The One Facing Us“ contains many passages from Kahanoff’s articles, while the research of Prof. David Ochana, who published the book “Between Two Worlds,” puts together many of her writings. Kahanoff never wrote in Hebrew, which means her greatest novel remains unknown to her readership. The book contains a preface by Eyal Sagi Bizawi and an epilogue by Dr. Yael Shenkar.

In this short article I will address the conditions of visibility that enable the novel’s publication, rather than its content. How does a work of literature reach “its moment?” Reach the right beat, synchronized in time and place? In his essay “The Task of the Translator,” Walter Benjamin wrote that “translations that are more than transmissions of subject matter come into being when a work, in the course of its survival, has reached the age of its fame… in them the life of the originals attains its latest, continually renewed, and most complete unfolding.”

Kahanoff’s work tells the story of a upper-class Jewish family in early 20th century Egypt through the adolescent eyes of Rachel, the oldest daughter. In her intellectual essays, Kahanoff coined the term the “Levant option” – the merging of different cultures. The novel depicts this multiculturalism in all its glory, from the monotony of everyday life to greater ideological struggles. Kahanoff accurately draws the cultural landscape in which the Egyptian Jewish elite of that time lived, leaving no aspect untouched: the everyday life of the extended family, childhood, nannies...

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The Palestinian who won't give up on the power of nonviolence

At the end of 2000, as the Second Intifada was beginning to spread throughout the West Bank and Gaza, Israeli Professor Meir Amor sat down to speak with Dr. Mubarak Awad, a Palestinian expert on nonviolent resistance. Fifteen years later, the two met once again to talk about nonviolence, growing religious fundamentalism, gender equality, Palestinian refugees and Jews from Arab countries. This interview will be published in Peace Magazine in January 2015.

By Meir Amor

* * *

Meir Amor: About 15 years ago you and I had a discussion published in Peace Magazine. The editors think it’s a good opportunity to have another one. So let me ask you: Does your approach to nonviolence have a religious basis? Do Jewish or Muslim religious authorities consider it compatible with their teachings?

Mubarak Awad: Personally, I do it from a Christian perspective. For me, it’s time for us all to learn not to kill or destroy. But I did not push that belief on any Israelis or any Muslims. However, I did study Islam and nonviolence a lot, and I thought it would be great to have a Muslim who was interested in nonviolence so we could have a strong campaign. At that time I was interested in a fellow by the name of Faisal Husseini, a great Muslim who believed in nonviolence. I bought a lot of books about a Muslim who had been with Gandhi—Abdul Ghaffer Khan, who said that Islam is a nonviolent religion.

I did this because the majority of Palestinians are Muslim. We held conferences studying Islam and nonviolence, discussing what jihad really means and Sufism in Islam. Sufis are like the Quakers in Christianity. There are many Sufis in Islam who accept the challenge of nonviolence. It’s a big struggle for them—not only between the Palestinians and Israelis or Arabs and Israelis, but also between themselves, for them to be nonviolent at home and active in nonviolence in their community. They can see that we human beings have brains, not just guns, and can resolve any conflict, however big, by debating, by forgiveness, by conciliation.

But in the past 20 years the world has moved toward radical religion in Islam, Christianity, and Judaism. That has allowed a minority within each religion to begin dictating what religion means in a fundamentalist way. Many Muslims want to go back to a caliphate or to...

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The trauma and tragedy of Israel's vocational education system

Across the board, the achievements of vocational school graduates are significantly lower than those of non-vocational high school graduates. What is needed is equality. Nothing more, nothing less.

By Yossi Dahan (Translated from Hebrew by Alan Horowitz)

Before surrendering to the vision of Stef Wertheimer, Benjamin Netanyahu, Minister of Education Shay Piron and the vocational education system, which calls for transforming the educational system into an indentured servant of the labor market and the Manufacturers Association of Israel (MAI), consider first some data on the vocational education system in Israel. The latest research on the topic was conducted by Noam Zussman and Shay Tzur from the Bank of Israel in 2011 [Hebrew]. Here are their conclusions:

Moreover the results of this research point to “a large disparity in favor of academic over vocational education” in regard to education and success in the labor market. For instance, a vocational education student had a 42 percent chance of graduating with full matriculation, compared to 64 percent for an academic student. The rate of baccalaureate and higher graduate degrees stood at 12 percent for the vocational education student, compared to 27 percent for an academic student. The chance of getting a prestigious job was approximately 30 percent for a vocational education student, compared to 42 percent for an academic student. (All data refers to male students only; the rates for female students were lower, but with similar gaps.). These results apply to vocational school graduates of the 1970s; however the assumption is that the situation has not drastically changed since. For example, according to the latest data from the Adva Center, 43.8 percent of Jewish academic graduates enroll in universities, compared to 30.3 percent of vocational education graduates.

Given that the Jewish-Mizrahi student population in Israel’s geographical and sociological periphery was the main target population designated for vocational schools, there is a rational basis for the trauma and protest expressed by the three Mizrahi ministers from the south of Israel (Meir Cohen, Amir Peretz and Silvan Shalom), against expanding the vocational training education system (Hebrew). Data shows that students from countries with no vocational or other types of occupational education, such as Finland and Canada, achieve higher levels of achievement than students from countries with such tracking.

The public debate in Israel may give the impression that there are no vocational training schools here, but 39 percent of secondary school students...

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Seeking freedom for a rape victim who killed his attacker

Criminal sanctions for rape in Israel amount to a few years in prison at best. Yonatan Heilo – an Ethiopian immigrant and rape victim who lives outside the Israeli consensus – will now spend most of his adult life behind bars. He deserves our moral support despite the court’s blind eye.

By Naama Katiee (translated from Hebrew by Osnat Hadar)

Most sexual assaults are perpetrated by men. Most of the victims are women. When the victims are not women, they are usually children or disadvantaged people.

In 2010 Yonatan Heilo, a 23-year-old Israeli man of Ethiopian descent with no criminal record, killed Yaron Ilin – his two-time rapist – in self defense, a minute before he could rape him yet again. Ilin, a felon convicted of raping an underage girl, blackmailed Heilo and threatened him over a long period of time. Although the court acknowledged Heilo as a victim of sexual assault, he was sentenced to 20 years incarceration for murder. He is currently serving his sentence in Shita Prison in the North, awaiting his appeal hearing, which is scheduled for December 1, 2014. A widespread public campaign for Heilo’s release has been taking place ahead of the hearing.

Contrary to common belief, sexual assaults are not about lust – they are all about exploitation, debasement, humiliation, power and control. Sexual assault is about domination, usually by men. The abusers re-establish their control over space and resources – that is how they identify who is worthless and who is equal to them, who is their “resource” and who is a person. Rape relates to sex the way severe beating relates to hand-shaking: there is no connection.

It becomes more and more evident that the justice system doesn’t know how to handle sexual assault. Its awkwardness, the insensitivity toward the victim, the basic misapprehension of the victim’s mental state – all that brings about the shocking manner in which the system conducts itself. Sometimes it seems that the justice system doesn’t help the victims and only enhances their pain, perpetuating the same balance of power that led to this terrible reality in the first place.

The judge that sentenced Yonatan Heilo to 20 years in prison made some serious mistakes.

The first mistake was saying that defending yourself in case of a rape is allowed only up to a certain point. It is true that rapists don’t deserve to be put to death, but...

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Why religious Jews are divided over the Temple Mount

As tensions between Jews and Muslims come to a head in Jerusalem, it is worth remembering that one of Israel’s most prominent rabbis strictly forbade Jews from visiting Judaism’s holiest site in the wake of the Six-Day War.

By Nissim Leon

Recent news reflects a surge in conflict between Muslims and Jews in Israel surrounding the question of control of the site known to Jews as the Temple Mount and to Muslims as Haram Al-Sharif (the “Noble Sanctuary”). Against this background, some of the country’s leading Mizrahi-Sephardic rabbis are voicing a strident position forbidding Jews from visiting the site. Thus, alongside the Jewish-Muslim conflict in this regard, there is also an internal debate going on within religious Jewish society in Israel. On one side are mainly ultra-Orthodox (Haredi) rabbis calling, in the name of Jewish law, for Jews to be prevented from visiting the Temple Mount. On the other side are mainly Religious-Zionist rabbis and activists demanding, in the name of Jewish sovereignty, recognition of their civic and religious right to visit and pray on the Temple Mount.

The position of religiously-observant and traditional Sephardic Jews is based on a clear and unequivocal ruling by Rabbi Ovadia Yosef (1920-2013), the former Sephardic Chief Rabbi of Israel and one of the most prominent 20th century scholars of Jewish law, as well as the spiritual leader of the Mizrahi religious political party Shas. Behind recent headlines lies an ongoing ideological conflict between him and the more outspoken nationalist approaches among some (primarily Ashkenazi) Religious-Zionist circles in Israel.

During the Six-Day War in 1967, Israel seized control of East Jerusalem, including the Temple Mount. Thus the site returned to Jewish hands for the first time since the destruction of the Temple in the year 70 C.E. The latter event marked the beginning of a long exile of Jews which, in the eyes of many secular and religious Jews alike, ended with the establishment of the State of Israel.

Many Israelis perceived the conquest of the Temple Mount as the climax of the Six-Day War and one of the defining moments of modern Jewish sovereignty. Some even interpreted this outcome as an overt sign of divine intervention, which was preceded by a period of tremendous anxiety and dark predictions in Israel. Similar nationalist and religious sentiments pervaded the central stream of the ultra-Orthodox public in Israel, affiliated with the veteran Agudat Israel party.

The...

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