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>Israel Faxx
>JN Nov. 24, 1997, Vol. 5, No. 216

Israeli Flag License Plates

By IINS News Service

In a combined move to deter car thefts and mark Israel's Jubilee celebration, Minister of Transportation Yitzchak Levy announced that next year, license plates on motor vehicles will have special "watermarks" that will make their reproduction more difficult and they will have an Israeli flag affixed to them.

Jerusalem City Worker Wants Double Nursing Time

By IINS News Service

A Jerusalem municipality employee who gave birth to twins in January 1997 has asked Meretz Councilwoman Anat Hoffman to assist her in obtaining twice the permitted time to nurse her children. The employee maintains that since she has two children to nurse, she should be entitled to twice the amount of time to nurse than a mother with one child.

MD's License Revoked for Not Granting "Get"

By IINS News Service

The Haifa Rabbinical Court has revoked the license to practice medicine of Dr. Yuri Perlitz, after he refused to give his wife a "get" (divorce).

Under Jewish law, a woman who is not given a "get" by her husband may not remarry and is suspended in the category of an "Aguna." This means she is considered wed according to Jewish law, even if she and her husband lead separate lives.

The rabbis have been working towards finding new methods of "convincing" husbands to issue a "get" and thereby freeing the wife from being an Aguna. An appeal filed by Dr. Perlitz was rejected by the appeals court.

The Rabbinical Court has filed the necessary papers with the Ministry of Health and the Puriya Hospital in Tiberias, informing them the doctor's license to practice medicine has been revoked.

Israel: Democracy or Theocracy

By Al Pessin (VOA-Jerusalem)

Some say the eventual results of a dispute between Jewish leaders to avoid a crisis about religious observance in the Jewish state. will define to what degree Israel is a democracy as opposed to a theocracy.

When Israeli troops captured Jerusalem's Old City in 1967, and stood for the first time in front of Judaism's holiest shrine -- the Western Wall -- one of them took out a ceremonial ram's horn and blew a traditional blast of triumph. That marked one of the strongest of many moments which almost constantly demonstrate Israel's inseparable connection to the Jewish faith.

But at the same time, there are almost constant questions about just how close that connection should be. That question has been raised by Rabbi Richard Hirsch, a leader of the Reform movement -- a sect of Judaism which endorses a relatively less-observant lifestyle. Many Orthodox Jews do not even consider Hirsch to be a rabbi.

"What kind of a state are we going to have: a [state] of Jews or is it going to be a state of Judaism, run by...a benighted, anachronistic, militant, narrow, exclusivistic view of what it means to be a Jew? You have pluralism all over the Jewish world, and the winds of pluralism blow wherever they are, throughout the Jewish world, and suddenly you come to the eastern shores of the Mediterranean Sea and the winds of pluralism stop, and the winds of democracy stop. It is an untenable situation.It can not continue ...You can not have a monopoly side-by-side with a democracy. You can not have a theocracy side-by-side with a secular state.

Reform Jews are aligned on this issue with Conservative Jews who advocate a somewhat more observant -- but still not Orthodox -- interpretation of Jewish teaching. The two groups have cases in Israel's Supreme Court seeking, in essence, legal recognition so their rabbis can perform weddings and religious conversions in Israel, as they do elsewhere in the world.

Moshe Fogel is a spokesman for Israel's government -- a coalition of the three religious parties and several rightists and centrist parties. Fogel says the government is committed to passing the religion laws.

"What has happened is the Reform and Conservative movements have tried to change, by political force, the situation here in Israel, that has existed for the past 50-years -- to have a diversity of approaches to the issue of Jewish identity. And when we deal with that issue, we are certainly concerned that would lead to a split within the Jewish community in Israel, and we want to avoid that type of split."

Fogel says the laws now before the parliament would not create a theocracy or make non-Orthodox Jews second-class citizens, as they claim. Rather, he says the country must have one standard for determining such issues as who is Jewish and who is legally married, and the authority over that standard must remain with the most observant Jews. Such issues of the relationship between religion and politics affect many countries, and it is often a difficult balance to achieve.

In Israel, the Orthodox control the religious issues, but the majority of the people are almost totally non-religious -- that is, less observant than what the Reform or Conservative movements advocate. That creates occasional disputes, like the current one.

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