On election day, Palestinians in East Jerusalem aren't worrying about who will be the next prime minister — they are too busy trying to protect their homes. I decided to start my day, Election Day, at the Western Wall. With all due respect to the ballot box, the Wall is the real thing when it comes to depositing small pieces of paper. The entire plaza was surprisingly empty. Aside from tourists there were very few worshipers. Three ultra-Orthodox girls giggled behind a table near the entrance, writing something on small pieces of paper. With a smile, I ask them if…Read More...
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,…Read More... | 12 Comments
Over 70 Israeli activists publish an open letter in support of the ultra-Orthodox community, as it struggles against a new law that would draft its young men into the army or national civil service. (Translated from Hebrew by Asaf Shalev) We, civilians and activists – religious, masorti (tradition-committed) and secular - wish to express our support for the struggle of the ultra-Orthodox community against forced military enlistment. There must be an end to the empty rhetoric employed by the Israeli government and its constituent parties that are calling for the "sharing of the burden" of military service, by which they…Read More... | 8 Comments
History has shown that the longer the ultra-Orthodox are excluded from the Israeli coalition, the more likely are the chances that they forge alliances with left-of-centre and dovish partners. Could the Haredi parties be the ones to tip the balance in favor of a peace agreement? By Romana Michelon As of late July, the Israeli-Palestinian peace process is once again making global headlines. Largely the result of the diplomatic efforts made by US Secretary of State, John Kerry, this is the first time since 2010 that chief negotiators representing Israel and the Palestinian Authority confront one another in direct, albeit…Read More... | 4 Comments
The debate over recent child subsidy cuts rests on empty myths and demagogic misinterpretations of Arabs and Haredim. They are not simply parasites and they are not the same, but Israeli journalist Shmuel Rosner is upset and that's what matters. It is seldom worth writing an entire blog post just to deconstruct that of another commentator, especially when terrible global events are more important than poor punditry. But reading Shmuel Rosner’s latest post in the New York Times, my heart sank. The piece isn’t just foolish – it actually contributes to the most divisive dynamics of Israeli society through demagoguery…Read More... | 42 Comments
Why don't most of Israelis know this music that has been passed down from generation to generation? How open are we to a culture that seems so far away from us, despite the fact that it is just across the street? By Merav Livneh-Dill He dances like Madonna, dresses like Lady Gaga and has more glasses than Sir Elton John. He's Lipa Schmeltzer. Heard of him? Lipa is the outlier who proves the rule, and the rule is very simple: the non-Haredi public in Israel is almost entirely oblivious to the music that Haredim (ultra-Orthodox Jews) listen to, or as it is…Read More... | 5 Comments
People who see Netanyahu as the great Jewish avenger should know how low he's willing to go in exploiting the memory of Jewish suffering. I can never get over the shamelessness with which Israeli nationalist power freaks will exploit people's memories of anti-Semitic persecution for their own low purposes. Nobody's better at it than Netanyahu; he can barely make a speech without waving around a document or two from some Holocaust-era archive. And he's always got that furious expression on his face, as if to warn his audience not to even dare think that he's faking it, that he's…Read More... | 41 Comments
After signing Tzipi Livni onto his coalition, Netanyahu doesn't need Yair Lapid anymore - he can have the haredim and Naftali Bennett while pacifying Obama. Give the devil his due: Bibi pulled off a masterstroke yesterday by signing Tzipi Livni's Hatnuah party to his coalition. Now he's got clear sailing to his ideal government - one made up of the right wing and ultra-Orthodox, his base, but one that also keeps Obama and the Europeans off his back by giving the appearance - completely hollow - that he intends to try to move toward peace with the Palestinians. That's…Read More... | 21 Comments
Rabbi Dov Lipman is soft-spoken and not even 41 years old, but has seen his share of action on the battleground of Israeli society. He's taken verbal beatings and sustained physical injury. He's won praise and publicity, and drawn fire too, for his tireless struggle against religious extremists literally next door. Lipman is a Haredi-ordained educator (Haredi = ultra-Orthodox), and a religious Zionist with a liberal bent – a rare bird in these parts. His main political arena is his home, the city of Beit Shemesh not far from Jerusalem, with its growing Haredi population. This year, Beit Shemesh became…Read More... | 17 Comments
A review of the year of social protests - just hours before the demonstration planned against the government's budget - yields bad news: The government has offered shallow solutions and deepened the roots of economic inequality. Last year's social paradox During last summer's social protests, outsiders and curious journalists repeatedly asked me how to explain that Israel has such excellent economic indicators, but so much discontent. Not being much of an economist, but knowing something about public opinion, I looked at how people experienced their lives here – micro versus macroeconomics. Despite apparently excellent macro indicators, most individual families weren't…Read More... | 5 Comments
If Judaism and democracy clash, which do you think Israelis would chose? And why is asking “where is the Palestinian Gandhi” the wrong question? You may be surprised The settlements in the West Bank have been called a “ticking bomb” more than once. And rightfully so: They’ve been growing year after year, without anyone doing a thing to stop it, and have actually “exploded” the two-state solution into oblivion. Yet Israels have another ticking bomb they have failed to dismantle over the years. A ticking bomb that could make all the diplomacy efforts of peace activists, politicians and nations seems…Read More... | 63 Comments
Behind the rhetorical condemnations of women's exclusion, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Finance Minister Yuval Steinitz are at least partially responsible for women's exclusion. Discrimination and marginalization of women in the public sphere has been fermenting for years as a direct result of Israeli policies - or lack thereof. By Gil Gan Mor Israel's political leaders are concerned – and justifiably so – with the recent incidents of exclusion and humiliation of women in the name of ultra-Orthodox Judaism. For example the incident of a women who refused to move after Haredi passengers demanded that she sit at the back…Read More... | 1 Comment
This post was written by Dahlia Scheindlin, Ami Kaufman, and Yossi Gurvitz About 4,000 people demonstrated in Beit Shemesh on Tuesday evening, including a parade of politicians from a spectrum of left and right parties, both secular and religious, to protest what is perceived as the “Haredization,” of the city, a takeover by the ultra-orthodox. The immediate events sparking the protests were a series of incidents highlighting gender discrimination – a group of Haredim spitting on an eight-year old religious girl, and the struggle over gender-segregated (women in the back) buses in Jerusalem; and more broadly, the exclusion of women…Read More... | 20 Comments
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