As top rabbis declare that attempts to draft ultra-Orthodox men into the army constitute a 'religious war,' masses turned out for an anti-draft rally in Jerusalem. Violent confrontations broke out between a few demonstrators and police. Thirteen were injured and 10 arrested. Around 30,000 ultra-Orthodox (Haredi) demonstrators, many more than anticipated, showed up for a mass rally against the planned induction of Yeshiva students outside the Israeli army's recruiting offices in Jerusalem Thursday night. The government plans to revoke a special exemption given to these ultra-Orthodox yeshiva students, part of plan to "equalize of the national burden" orchestrated by Yair…Read More... | 17 Comments
For the first time in 24 years, Israel Police protected nearly 500 Women of the Wall members Friday morning as they gathered at the Western Wall (Kotel) in Jerusalem for their monthly prayer service. The women were confronted by thousands of ultra-Orthodox protesters, both young girls who watched from the side and men of all ages, who acted violently towards the group of women. Protesters reportedly threw stones, water bottlers, garbage and whatever else they could in their direction, and a few were reportedly arrested. The police managed to enable a small group of 20-30 women to actually reach the women's section…Read More... | 7 Comments
Netanyahu will continue to serve as prime minister after the upcoming elections, but putting together a governing coalition will have significant long-term implications. The headline result of the upcoming elections in Israel, as Noam Sheizaf has thoroughly documented, is not in doubt. Benjamin Netanyahu will continue as Israel’s prime minister for another term, and will strive to maintain his policy of status quo in every area of policy. Nonetheless, there are at least two aspects of uncertainty in these elections. First, the potential for more significant changes in areas not related to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict (such as economic policy or…Read More... | 13 Comments
Neturei Karta, a small ultra-Orthodox sect that rejects the existence of a Jewish national movement, is embraced by Palestinians because of its opposition to Zionism. However, its radical approach does not serve Palestinians in their national struggle. By Eldad Levy Throughout the last round of violence in Gaza and the south of Israel, Facebook was flooded with Palestinian and Israeli support campaigns. The campaign of Neturei Karta, the most famous Hassidic sect that opposes Zionism, was among the most interesting ones. Facebook users often share pictures of Neturei Karta in their traditional black clothing, often wearing a keffiyeh decorated with Palestinian…Read More... | 12 Comments
A majority of the public wants the state to discriminate against Palestinians, says a poll published in Haaretz. The findings don't reflect a failure in education, as some might argue, but rather the inherently discriminatory nature of the state and the result of decades-long occupation. Gideon Levy reports in Haaretz today the findings of a survey that reveals deeply-rooted racism in Israeli society, and a desire of most of the Jewish public to practice ethnic segregation between Arabs and Jews. This is the front page story of Haaretz today. The poll was conducted by Prof. Camil Fuchs, one of the…Read More... | 78 Comments
Secular Israelis in the West Jerusalem neighborhood of Kiryat Yovel are fighting the ultra-Orthodox's growing influence in both the area and the state. The secular say that it's a struggle for Israel's identity and that they hope to protect the country's "pluralism" and democratic space. But is their battle truly pluralistic? And how can we talk about democracy after 64 years of dispossession and discrimination? On a recent Friday night, I attended a free, outdoor concert just a few blocks from my apartment in Kiryat Yovel. As religious families settled in for a quiet Shabbat, us secular settled onto mats…Read More... | 31 Comments
If Netanyahu's government doesn't come up with a solution, the army could soon start enlisting all of Israel's ultra-Orthodox citizens. But while it is convenient to see the debate on a universal draft as a step toward equality, Israeli militarism should be challenged by decreasing the army's size, not enlarging it. The deadline is closing in on Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's government to cross one of the most dangerous minefields in Israeli politics – that of national draft reform. In February, the High Court struck down the current arrangement – known as the Tal Law – exempting most of…Read More... | 23 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... | 60 Comments
Ever since an ultra-Orthodox Jew spat on 8-year-old Naama Margolese for dressing “immodestly”, Beit Shemesh can’t seem to get out of the news.Yet some women of Beit Shemesh, as the JPost reported two days ago, decided to dance the bad vibes away with a flash mob: Dance organizer Miri Shalem said that the event was organized in protest of the violent extremist actions of "the group of crazies," and to show that there is another side to Beit Shemesh. "Today the women and girls demonstrated our unity in public and I hope we will continue to do this in the future…Read More... | 8 Comments
The Jerusalem Post reports that Israeli Interior Minister Eli Yishai has warned against punishing the entire Orthodox community for the behavior of a small group of extremists: "Everyone knows that we are talking about a small group within haredi society, but there is incitement against all of the haredim," Yishai stated in an Army Radio interview. So the Interior Minister's message is not to punish and discriminate against an entire society for the conduct of small extremist groups? To be humble and understanding and moderate? What an interesting concept (cough, Palestinians, cough)! But in this case, after reading Larry's report…Read More... | 3 Comments
Before the intimidation of school girls by ultra-Orthodox enforcers became a national and international story, the local police were determined to remain neutral. If you meet the police in Beit Shemesh, you can understand why the town's mainstream Jewish majority is afraid of the ultra-Orthodox (Haredi) extremists, and why the Haredi extremists are afraid of no one. At the start of October, over the High Holidays, the stories of these Haredim harassing the not-sufficiently-Orthodox girls from Orot elementary school were spreading through the country's English-speaking religious community. (Many of the girls at Orot are children of American immigrants, such as Na'ama Margolese, the tearful, frightened "star" of last weekend's TV news segment that set off nationwide outrage this past week.) But the story…Read More... | 6 Comments
Israel’s Propaganda and Diaspora Minister, Yuli Edelstein, said the Arabs are a “deplorable nation.” His spokesman: He meant every one of them Israel’s Propaganda and Diaspora Minister, Yuli Edelstein, told a crowd in a public diplomacy event in Or Yehuda that “as long as the Arab nation continues to be a deplorable nation, which continues investing in infrastructure for terrorism, education to hate, and welfare for the families of shaheeds (martyrs), there will be no peace.” It can be seen in his Facebook page, here (Hebrew). The Hebrew epithet used by Edelstein to describe Arabs - נפסד - is rather difficult…Read More... | 20 Comments
Since this news report last Friday, about a little girl from Beit Shemesh, secular-religious relations seem to be the only thing Israelis are talking about Naama Margolis, an 8-year-old from Bet Shemesh, is the most famous girl in Israel today. In fact, nobody can stop talking about her. And why is that? Well, on Friday evening, Naama told her story on the most watched news show in the country. Interviewed by Channel 2’s Shai Gal, Naama told how she was afraid to go to school, just a few hundred meters from her house in Bet Shemesh, because Haredim cursed and…Read More... | 106 Comments
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