Bringing Muslims back to science

Bringing Muslims back to science
Is Muslim religious discourse on scientific matters killing the scientific aspirations of the religious?

By Mohamed Ghilan, Al Jazeera, April 11, 2014

The most important rule in Islam is “judgment on anything is a branch of conceptualising it”. To determine whether a belief can be accepted by a Muslim or not, this is the first and most often repeated principle. However, when it comes to matters scientific, this indispensable rule for correct judgment is paradoxically the most disregarded one.

Ever since the decline of the Islamic civilisation and the end of its Golden Age, Muslims have ironically taken up superstitious and irrational thinking habits they had previously dropped when they originally accepted the Message of Prophet Muhammad. The ideas that the sun could eclipse for the death of someone, that certain numbers have magical powers, or that birds flying in a certain direction indicates an omen of some kind were among superstitious beliefs explicitly pointed out by Prophet Muhammad and in verses in the Quran for their irrationality. Unfortunately, it seems that Muslims have gone full circle. Out of the top 20 countries in overall science output, Turkey is the sole Muslim representative, barely sneaking in at number 19.

Overly simplistic explanations of this phenomenon have pointed to Al-Ghazali (c 1058-1111), one of the most influential Muslim theologians. His work, The Incoherence of Philosophers, is cited for its negative impact on Muslim thinking. This, however, is a grave misrepresentation of Al-Ghazali, his attack on contemporary philosophers, and the Islamic civilisation as a whole. (more…)

Gender Issues in the New Yemen

By Samira Ali BinDaair, Sanaa

When it comes to women and gender in Yemen, I see the discussions inevitably alternating between what is happening in politics and then back again to the same old arguments about women’s rights. I think the problem is that we always look at women’s issues from a very narrow angle lens even though we profess to uphold women’s rights, whatever those are and by whosoever’s definition. After working for the past 20 years in development programmes that spanned different agendas and a variety of target groups and where gender analysis always featured largely, I can safely say that this whole concept of gender mainstreaming was introduced to Yemen without being communicated through more cultural-sensitive strategies. The result has been considerable confusion. Because it was introduced by Western agencies, it was sometimes greatly misunderstood, misimplemented and misused by people with vested interests, just as some men with vested interests have misinterpreted the role of women in Islam.

Gender, therefore, has taken on a demonic face when implemented in this way and came to be seen by some as advocating for the Western style of women’s lib from the 60s and being outside local religio-cultural norms. This ended up marginalizing women even more when the male members of society rejected it out of hand. Gender mainstreaming should be a rigorous process of examining the impact of policies on females, males and children and simultaneously defining the special needs of each category. The gender advocates simply go on repeating the same platitudes about women’s rights hinging on a two pronged concept of public life and employment. For example, in Yemen rural women constitute 70% of the labour force in agriculture so the question is not whether to work or not to work for them but how to relieve them of the many burdens that they face within an underprovided rural environment. (more…)

Creating and Preserving Cultural Heritage in the Arab World

Illegal excavations and military use have recently endangered Palmyra, Syria, a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Photo: UNESCO/Ron von Oers

by Shatha Almutawa, American Historical Association, April 2014

A car bomb exploded outside the Museum of Islamic Art in Cairo on January 24, 2014. The Egyptian Heritage Rescue Team arrived on the scene and began to assess the damage and prepare artifacts to be moved to another building. Trained by the International Centre for the Study of the Preservation and Restoration of Cultural Property, the Egyptian volunteers worked with museum staff until all the artwork was safely relocated.

In Syria, following the destruction of the minaret at Aleppo’s Umayyad Mosque last spring, people made their way to the mosque to save the stones for later rebuilding. Some lost their lives in the process. The mosque had been used by rebels, the Syrian army was attacking from the outside, and fighting continued as volunteers worked to protect the stones. As political instability continues in the wake of the Arab Spring, cultural heritage sites and objects are often endangered.

Scholars and activists working on issues relating to the preservation of cultural heritage in the Middle East convened on February 28 at the Smithsonian’s Freer Gallery to discuss the Arab Spring’s impact on monuments, historic neighborhoods, and culture in the region. Lisa Ackerman, executive vice president and chief operating officer at World Monuments Fund, spoke about the importance of providing training to communities around historic sites in times of peace and after conflicts, so that locals can preserve their own heritage. She also mentioned the reality that in times of war, troops are trained to find strategic locations to use as bases; historic sites, as she explained in a later e-mail, “are often located in strategic positions with existing infrastructure, such as roads and nearby accommodations, or, as we’ve seen in Syria, are often situated at the highest points, providing a location advantage.” As an example, the US Army in Iraq chose Babylon for its Camp Alpha, which resulted in damages to its ancient walls and gates. (more…)


Ibb the Beautiful

اب الخضراء؛ عبقرية المزارع اليمني وحكمته في أبهى صورها

The Rarely-Seen Lives of Palestinians

Bodybuilders in Gaza show off the results of their work.

The Rarely-Seen Lives of Palestinians Photographed by Tanya Habjouqa
by Shawn Saleme, Visual News, April 8, 2014

[Check out the photographs here.]

“More than four million Palestinians live in the West Bank, Gaza, and East Jerusalem, where the political situation regularly intrudes upon the most mundane of moments. Movement is circumscribed and threat of violence often hangs overhead. This creates the strongest of desires for the smallest of pleasures, and a sharp sense of humor about the absurdities that a 47-year occupation has produced. This is an exploration of the moments where ordinary men and women demonstrate a desire to live, not just simply survive.”

Read more at″>this site for several interesting photographs…]

If one was considering a visit to Palestine and had never traveled there before, they may imagine that going there was quite dangerous. In the mainstream media, images of conflict permeate, along with the tragedy that is expressed afterwards. While it may be interpreted as a melancholy environment, where an endless dissension between two people groups continues, there is still the spirit of life. One that each human participates in, whether in an conflicted area or not.

East-Jerusalem based photographer Tanya Habjouqa has focused her work on photographing the Palestinian communities of the West Bank, Gaza and East Jerusalem. She captures a way of life that is not always seen by the public eye. Her series is titled “Occupied Pleasures,” and displays the Palestinian community enjoying the pleasures of life as any person would. The images are striking yet simple and garnered her a World Press Photo award. Regarding the Occupied Pleasures work, Habjouqa says:

“More than four million Palestinians live in the West Bank, Gaza, and East Jerusalem, where the political situation regularly intrudes upon the most mundane of moments. Movement is circumscribed and threat of violence often hangs overhead. This creates the strongest of desires for the smallest of pleasures, and a sharp sense of humor about the absurdities that a 47-year occupation has produced. This is an exploration of the moments where ordinary men and women demonstrate a desire to live, not just simply survive.”



Kicking the Neoliberal Habit

By Yossi Dahan (Translated from Hebrew by Orna Meir-Stacey,  Edited by Ami Asher)

After the 2008 global financial crisis, some of Israel’s neo-liberal fundamentalists sobered up from capitalist dogmatism and became ‘social.’ This led them to discovering Scandinavia, and lately they have been busy marketing a biased and union-free capitalist version of the ‘Nordic Model’ in Israel as well.

It is interesting to follow the socioeconomic discourse in Israel as it developed over the past three decades. To see how the social-democratic dictionary and debate, which had previously been the province of few – a discourse revolving around values such as social justice, solidarity and collective responsibility adopted in the Nordic welfare state model – was partially appropriated and adopted by the establishment media. There were days when this discourse would be subject to heaps of contempt and mockery on the part of the neoliberal economy media, which treated anybody daring to express ideas such as social justice and social-democracy as economic ignoramuses, dogmatists and ideologists, whose vision was to turn Israel into the Stalinist Soviet Union.

Mainstream neo-liberal media included, at the time, many zealot followers like Guy Rolnik, who served at the time as economic correspondent in the IDF Radio. I recall the weekly public service broadcasts in favor of capitalists and rouge capitalism in the program “A Brief Hour about Economy,” edited and delivered at the station by the senior Haaretz economic correspondent and commentator, Avraham Tal. I recall the daily preaching for privatization, social budget cuts and deregulation to which many others in the established media were partners – but were no more than provincial copycats of their Reaganist and Thatcherite ideological allies. In recent years, particularly after the 2008 global crisis and more so since the 2011 social protest in Israel, some of these zealots have been undergoing ideological rehab, suddenly digging up the social dimension of the economy, and announcing the amazing discovery that the economy should serve society, not the other way round. The funny thing is how quickly those fickle public opinion leaders are appropriating a progressive social discourse without a word of apology or remorse. I’m not complaining, though. I can only wish them full and successful rehab without too many withdrawal symptoms.

About six months ago, on the ruins of the gluttonous capitalism it preached for, The Economist discovered the Nordic welfare state model and lionized it as a socioeconomic wonder, a veritable miracle with high economic productivity, low poverty rates and high equality. Shortly afterwards, its local conservative counterpart, The Marker, imported and translated this discovery for the Israeli reading public. The Economist offered an erroneous and misleading description of the so-called Scandinavian welfare state, as Joseph Schwartz accurately observed in Dissent magazine. This description did not include, for example, the very high rate of unionized workers in these countries and their central role in determining the socioeconomic policies – an issue which Dr. Ami Vatury, the only local expert on Scandinavian socioeconomic policies and a cofounder of the Israeli Koach La Ovdim (Power to the Workers) union, referred to more than once. Both The Economist and The Marker also tried very hard to downplay the fact that 30 percent of the workforce in these countries are employed in the public sector, the object of their fierce hatred, as opposed an OECD average of 15 percent.

May 1, 2012 Goteborg. Photo: Socialdemokrater, cc by-nc-nd

May 1, 2012 Goteborg. Photo: Socialdemokrater, cc by-nc-nd

This week, Guy Rolnik devotes quite a few pages to an examination of the Swedish model, including interesting interviews with union and other economists. While praising Rolnik for retracting biased presentations of this model in the past, Ami Vatury points at what he calls groundless conclusions drawn by Rolnik regarding recent unionization processes in Israel.

The problem with Rolnik, and many others who have recently discovered the Swedish model, is the selective and biased manner in which they describe it – a selective description that corresponds with their ideological views. Rolnik writes: “Here is what we learnt from the economists representing the biggest unions in Sweden: all employment and pay agreements in this country are subject to the sacred principle of efficiency and productivity. To make sure pay agreements do not damage the economy, they are led by pay agreement in the export industries, which have to compete in international markets”. The foregone conclusion from this and from what Swedish economists say – the conclusion which should have been adopted by the newly converted fan of the Swedish model who wishes to import it to Israel – is that strong unions must be established in key Israeli export industries, such as the completely non-unionized hi-tech industry. Instead, Rolnik’s Pavlovian conclusion, which is also one of The Marker’s main agendas, is that unions in the public sector must be weakened. (I too agree that they require significant democratic reforms).

In order to create a sharp contrast between Israel and Sweden, Rolnik also misrepresents the new unions in Israel, claiming they are all established in the public sector, despite recent unionization initiatives in the insurance, media and cellular industries. The Marker regularly laments the bitter fate of disenfranchised non-unionized workers and contractor workers, but this is usually done not in order to improve their conditions, but in the context of attacking existing trade unions.

A central element of the Swedish model is a flexible labor market, with high mobility and career diversity. But in order to maintain this flexible labor market, Sweden sets aside 3 percent of its gross national product for professional training and grants generous unemployment benefits. In Israel, where the professional training budget has practically been eliminated, I would expect a convert of the Swedish model such as Rolnik – who considers employment security and job permanence to be one of the main causes for economic inefficiency and corruption in the Israeli market – to support these tenets of the Swedish model and promote their adoption in Israel. But also in this case – not a word.

So, too, as regards privatization. Rolnik emphasizes the policy of privatization of social services such as education and health. For instance, education services in Sweden are provided not only by the state but also by private entities, some nonprofit and others for profit. The state issues vouchers with which parents choose among various public, non-public and for-profit private schools. Note, however, that these vouchers are granted on an equal basis, and that it is impossible to top them with private funds. In addition, all schools are heavily regulated. Moreover, according to the interviewees, education is a major source of dissatisfaction in Sweden, with low teacher salaries and student achievement levels. Indeed, not all is pink in the Swedish education system. A few months ago one of the large private corporations providing education services, JB Education, declared bankruptcy, leaving thousands of pupils and teachers helpless. The privatization of the education system, which includes such thorny problems as privatization of service provision, the involvement of for-profit organizations, and competition between schools for vouchers, is too serious an issue to be dismissed with the statement that this is how they do it in the Swedish paradise, only because it fits in with your libertarian preferences.

If The Marker decided to enlist to the cause of the Swedish model which, among other things, is based on unique historical, cultural and moral values, then the first step, as also stated by the interviewees, would be to stop their obsessive persecution of public sector employees. Instead, they would do better to devote a column or two to the importance of establishing unions in export industry sectors, and call for public investment in professional training and increased unemployment benefits. These are central elements of the Swedish utopia.

This article was first published in Hebrew on the Haokets website.

Filed under: Economics, Media, Uncategorized Tagged: Ami Asher, Ami Vatury, Guy Rolnik, haaretz, Koach La Ovdim, Neo-Liberalism, OECD, Orna Meir-Stacey, Scandinavia, Sweden, The Economist, The Marker, The Nordic Model, Yossi Dahan

Milking the Marathon: Ayaan Hirsi Ali’s Brandeis Speech

by Setareh Sabety, Huffington Post, April 11, 2014

When my son, a senior at Brandeis University, forwarded me the news of the controversy surrounding the decision to grant an honorary degree to the controversial feminist Ayaan Hirsi Ali, I took her side. I knew about her. She is a Somalian feminist, a champion of banning genital mutilation of girls, and later a member of the Dutch parliament. She reached fame when Theo Van Gogh, the director of Submission, a film that Hirsi had written criticizing women’s treatment in Islam, was killed by a fanatic.

She went too far when she picked on Islam as a particularly violent religion, but as a Muslim-born feminist, I understood her anger. I too have been accused of being Islamophobic when I criticized Islamic views of women. It is easy to become angry after a video clip of a stoning or yet another story of an honor killing. It is easy to hate Islam when your husband threatens to keep you from traveling, or when the waiter tells you to cover your hair better in a restaurant. In Iran, where Sharia, or Islamic, law is imposed by force, women like me “hate” Islam on a daily basis. For Hirsi Ali, coming from the especially violent Somalia, undergoing genital mutilation herself, and witnessing the death of a colleague even in the relative safety of Europe, it must have been horrendous. I can see how her experiences could make her take sides and lose patience.That is why, initially, I supported her receiving an honorary doctorate from Brandeis. When the Muslim Student Association gathered enough signatures from both students and faculty to force a cancellation, I was impressed by the passion of the students, and by their convincing arguments about condoning hate speech. But, still, I had mixed feelings about canceling someone I considered a sister-in-arms against radical Islam. Hirsi Ali is not an Islamophobe. She is not afraid of Islam. She is fed up with it. I am too. As a woman who fled Iran because she did not want to be forced into the hijab or banned from travel by her husband, I understand Hirsi Ali on a deep and visceral level. (more…)

Depression, Happiness and the Challenges of Global Peace Work

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 Please find the full article here on the Huffington Post. 

Most people do suffer tragedy, and self-pity is often justified, but it is also very destructive, inducing great anger, depression, and destructive approaches to others. Personally speaking, I simply become a less decent person when all I can think about is my losses and the hurt that was caused me. It is exhausting, time consuming, and embittering.

People are unhappy due to selfishness, according to one of the greatest thinkers on the subject. That flew in the face of every instinct I had my entire life. It was serious people who were sad about the world, it was informed people who worried, cared, talked and ruminated ceaselessly on the worst tragedies, like the Holocaust. They were depressed, but they were the responsible ones on this planet, not the fools saying happy empty things all the time. But here Mill was saying the opposite. 

Depression, Happiness and the Challenges of Global Peace Work 

Postcards from old Aden #12

There are many postcards on the Internet from old Aden under British control. This continues the series with more views of camels and a bullock in Aden.

to be continued… for #11, click here.

Last week in Egypt in TV

This is a sporadic column by Arabist contributor Nour Youssef. 

Lately, a rekindled hate for repetition has prevented me from watching television and not fighting with taxi drivers. Little has changed in the media scene since July 3. The West, led by the US, the Ottomans and the matchbox that is Qatar, is still intimidated by Egypt's potential for greatness and so it continues to plague it with corruption, poverty and injustice, giving the protesters it pays to paralyze traffic something to chant about. Only thing that has changed is that the narrative is no longer funny.

Even Tawfik Okasha is sick of repeating it. The owner of the Faraeen channel gave his viewers an ultimatum: if they don't join him on April 11 in al-Abbasiya Square to -- well, he hasn't really specified what, but he knows that if the population doesn't show up, the terrorists win, and he will quit the whole nationalism thing and punish them with BBC-like uncaring professionalism because it is not worth it anymore. It's worth noting that Okasha's good friend, lawyer Mortada Mansour -- the man who has cursed and slandered more people on air than Okasha himself -- is running for president.

It may come as a shock, but Okasha is not the only TV host in Egypt who is aware of the existence of professionalism and his deliberate failure to meet its standards. Others like Lamis el-Hadidi admit to it too, only passive-aggressively to silence critics. (After yelling on air at a former Egyptian colleague for “selling himself” and being a “traitor” for working for Jazeera, Hadidi grumbles sarcastically about those who would reign in her patriotic fervor by holding her to a journalistic code of ethics..) 

Lamis el-Hadidi is sick of "traitors"

Equally angry, but minus the helmet of hair, was el-Hadidi’s husband, Amr Adeeb, who was infuriated by novelist Alaa Al Aswany saying that the upcoming presidential elections will probably be like Mubarak’s 2005 rigged election -- which is an unnecessary shame, Al Aswany thinks, because Field Marshal Abdel Fatah El Sisi is popular and has a great chance of winning on his own, even if the elections were supervised by the UK’s House of Commons. “MB feloul (remnant)!” Adeeb bellowed and went on to demand to know why the ungrateful al-Aswany gave Morsi a chance and supported him (which he didn’t), but won’t do the same for Sisi, even though “if it weren’t for him, (al-Aswany) and (Adeeb) would be sharing a cell now.” 

Speaking of elections and Sisi, in case you were worried, the latter has a thought-through program (in his head, that is), according to filmmaker and now presidential adviser Khaled Youssef, who Sisi invited over about two months ago along with Hassanein Heikal, Mostafa Hegazi and Abdel Galeel Mostafa and instructed to work on his program and campaign, if they felt like it, while he tended to few a conspiracies before announcing his bid. Judging by Heikal’s “Sisi doesn’t need a program” statements and Youssef’s description of the program as something with “features,” no one seems to have taken him up on his offer. The features, Youssef revealed, include specific things like “a focus on security,” the “application of the constitution,” fighting corruption, distributing resources fairly among the people and opening up the country for investment, while looking out for the workforce. As for freedoms, its guarantee is the people’s desire to keep it. And since the program is uniquely original and its methods of application are anything but vague, Sisi is probably going to skip the campaigning, debating other candidates and touring the country bits, Youssef says.

Director Khaled Youssef talks about Sisi's electoral program

While Sisi wonders whether or not two televised interviews are enough to educate his voters on his non-program program, TV hosts like Mostafa Bakry are busy unveiling the details of the documents Morsi and his secretary tried to smuggle to Qatar. The documents allegedly contain important national security secrets, but no proof of the existence of the documents; history of how they were obtained; or explanation of their actual significance has been forthcoming. 

Bakry made more discoveries recently. Two weeks ago, a smiling Bakry received a phone call from Brigadier General Mohamed Ibrahim telling him that there are 1400 (no-longer) secret MB agents at loose in the cabinet. Gen. Ibrahim then revealed that the recent power cuts are not the result of an electricity shortage, they are the work of the MB…who are putting small boxes on electrical cables that damage the cables without sundering them, to cause power cuts  -- making it look like there is an electricity crisis and the government is incompetent. The problem with these matchbox-sized, cable-crippling boxes is that they are hard to find, the general explained in a tone that implied they can’t possibly be expected to look for them. The general then left us with another example of MB terrorism from el-Marg, where they were caught polluting the crystal clear drinking water, before answering a long forgotten question: who burnt down the Institute for Scientific Research during the cabinet clashes of 2011?

You should be able to guess the answer. But in case you, like Moses and the Egyptian people, are exasperatingly argumentative and tend to ask too many favors and questions (according to expert on religious affairs Amany el-Khayat) the Institute was targeted because it contained the only documents to prove that the Armenian genocide happened (apart from this Independent article and the rest of the Internet) which Turkey, the MB’s partner, didn’t couldn't risk leaving to gather dust in a building hardly anyone heard of before its combustion. And if you want to smell the smoke coming out of the barrel, the Israeli and the US governments were mad at the UNESCO for recognizing Palestine and were clearly going to burn a building loaded with historical valuables to get back at the agency. 

When not uncovering conspiracies and boxes on cables, Bakry can be found bemoaning satirist Bassem Youssef’s lack of shame, running pixelated footage (because Bassem Youssef is a female nipple now) of El Barnameg’s dirty jokes. 

Mustafa Bakry gives Bassem Youssef a hard time

Although the Egyptian media generally don’t report on anything outside Egypt (i.e. Cairo, unless there is a bloodbath somewhere), an exception was made for the alleged protest that took place in Qatar which the Egyptian media is now calling a revolution, whose freedom fighters Sada el-Badad’s Ahmed Moussa ardently supports.

If you have more Internet to waste, either try these songs about Bassem Youssef [the first one is a plagiarized Nancy Ajram song to make fun of BY for plagiarizing articles and the second calls him fake and homosexual] or watch Rola Kharsa remind Saudi Prince al-Waleed bin Talal that he owns land in Egypt, which he presumably doesn’t want any harm to come to, so he should have his channel, LBC, apologize for running a report on the vote for the pimp hashtag (#انتخبوا_العرص) in which they actually said the word.

Religion and State in Israel – April 10, 2014

Editor – Joel Katz  
Religion and State in Israel is not affiliated with any organization or movement. 


The religious-Zionist Jewish Home party, a member of the current government coalition, supported recent legislation to draft Haredim, or ultra-Orthodox Jews, for the first time; approved a liberalizing overhaul of marriage procedures, and created a modest dedicated space at the Western Wall for non-Orthodox prayer.  

Yet the same party backing these religious reforms — the most progressive passed by any recent Israeli government — appears to have sabotaged a bill to help would-be converts. 

... The influential rabbi Shlomo Aviner, head of Jerusalem’s Ateret Cohanim yeshiva, told the Forward that conversion is just too important to be entrusted to local rabbis.

“Each rabbi decides things for his community, but with conversion, you are making decisions for the whole Jewish nation,” he said. “The rabbinate for this is the Chief Rabbinate, and only it should decide.”  
By Elli Fischer  

Fear of intermarriage and assimilation is baseless. The inability of Israelis of no religion to wed in Israel can be solved simply by instituting a civil option. That leaves only the problematic bureaucracy of the present conversion system. It is possible that the presence of a civil marriage option would actually improve service, as prospective converts would no longer be suspected of converting solely so that they could get married.  

There is no need to take that chance, though. Once a civil option is instituted alongside the existing Chief Rabbinate track for marriage, the state can completely deregulate the conversion system. Rabbis and laymen from any denomination will be able to convene conversion panels at their whim, and the state will have no need or reason to authorize or reject any conversion. ...  

By Rabbi Marc Angel and Rabbi Avi Weiss  

When a convert or their children or grandchildren make aliyah, he or she needs Jewish status validated. Because of the centralization of the GPS standards, the Chief Rabbinate's office now turns to the Beth Din of America for guidance.

The upshot of this is that conversions performed by RCA rabbis who served in non-mehitza shuls for years — some who even went on to become presidents of the RCA — are now in question.  

The High Court of Justice will hear an appeal Thursday against a decision by the state to deport 13 African-American Jews from Israel on the grounds that their conversion was bogus.  

The appeal was submitted a year ago by the Israel Religious Action Center, an organization affiliated with the Reform movement and that advocates on behalf of religious pluralism in the country.  

The 13 African Americans, originally from Kansas City, Missouri, are all members of one extended family.   


It was a year ago this week that Jewish Agency chairman Natan Sharansky unveiled his grand plan for a new “egalitarian” prayer space at the Western Wall.   

... The anniversary provides a good opportunity to look at some of the dramatic developments of the past year. Pushing and pulling in different directions, with varying degrees of success, these were some of the key players who influenced, or at least tried to influence, the course of events at the Wall.  

... Anat Hoffman did another about-face – this time after being warned that if she didn’t sit down at the negotiating table with Mendelblit, the consequences could be quite severe.

Specifically, she was told that if no agreement were reached, the government would likely decide to draft new regulations outlawing certain practices at the Western Wall by women, such as wearing prayer shawls and phylacteries. Then, whatever hard-earned gains had been made in their struggle would be completely lost.  


Lapid also campaigned on establishing civil unions in Israel, a measure that would have broken the Orthodox Chief Rabbinate’s control of Jewish marriage. Yesh Atid introduced a bill to create civil unions in October, but it is opposed by Jewish Home, a religious Zionist party that entered the coalition in alliance with Yesh Atid.  

Lapid sounded confident that he could get a civil unions bill past Jewish Home, possibly with support from left-wing parties. But though he vowed to continue to push the issue, he would not say if Yesh Atid would leave the coalition if the bill fails.  

By Rabbi Shmully Hecht  

I was so shocked by the venom he was espousing in front of his wife and 16 year old son that I felt like stopping the conversation right there just to avoid embarrassing him. This verbal assault on the majority of Jews alive and the Jews who I consider my dearest constituents was not going to pass without a fatal blow.  One, of course, I would have to deliver with love.  
By Rabbi Sholom Gold  

The Hamodia article quoted a rav who said, "The most difficult golus to endure is a golus suffered from other Jews and therefore we plead for a final redemption from this terrible golus." I experienced a great deal of personal anguish just writing that sentence.

First of all, it's absolutely false. We are not in Czarist Russia, Inquisitionist Spain, Crusader-ravished Rhineland, Cossack-scorched Poland, nor fascist Nazi Germany, nor assimilation-ridden America. Klal Yisrael in Eretz Yisrael is experiencing the most magnificent era in 2,000 years.  







Lapid said that overall, he is happy with how the past year has gone for his party. He dismissed criticism that Yesh Atid’s signature achievement, a bill mandating that the haredi Orthodox perform military service, is too weak. The bill defers criminal sanctions for haredi draft dodgers for three years, but Lapid said a stricter law would have been unrealistic.  

“If we would just send draft [notices] to any young 18-year-old haredim, we’ll be the winners of some game, but nothing would have happened,” Lapid said. “The way we’ve been doing this, it will actually happen.”  


Lapid said all Jewish denominations should have equal standing in Israel, which he said would strengthen Israel’s relationship with American Jews. He also called for ending the Chief Rabbinate’s monopoly over Jewish marriage and conversion, and for an end to all forms of religious coercion.  

But he stopped short of calling for the abolition of the Chief Rabbinate or for a complete separation of religion and state, which he said would hurt the country’s Jewish character.  

“I don’t think the American model of total separation of religion and state is feasible in Israel because it was established as a Jewish state,”Lapid said. “I don’t want to give up this identity.  

“I would favor having parallel institutions to the Rabbinate. If someone wants to get married in the rabbinate, he can. If someone wants to get married at City Hall, he should be able to do so as well.”  


By Shoshanna Keats Jaskoll   


By David M. Weinberg 




By Rabbi Shalom Hammer 


Editor – Joel Katz  
Religion and State in Israel is not affiliated with any organization or movement. 
All rights reserved. 

Aden in 2005

A Youtube video on Aden in 2005:

A video of interest mainly to people who once lived in Aden. Landing at Aden airport (footage taken from within aircraft), Khormaksar, Crater (tanks, commercial centre, market halls, fishermen at Front Bay), Ma’alla, Steamer Point. Please also see part 2 (Gold Mohur beach, car ride around Aden). Footage taken in December 2005.

Sisi vs. Sabbahi

Nasserist presidential candidate Hamdeen Sabbahi recently requested the chance to debate former defense minister Abdel Fattah El Sisi (whose propagandists have done quite a bit of Nasser-invoking themselves recently), prompting treasured local wit Sarah Carr to ask: "So will there be a public debate between Sisi and Sabahy. Will it just revolve around who loves Nasser harder?"

This sent contributor Paul Mutter down an imaginary wormhole from which -- courtesy this classic SNL sketch -- the following emerged: 

"I have a fever and only (more) Nasser can cure it."

"I have a fever and only (more) Nasser can cure it."

[ePalestine] Haaretz: A Jewish response to Israeli checkpoints


A Jewish response to Israeli checkpoints

The Israeli army restricts Palestinians’ freedom of movement for the sake of security. How can we strike a balance between serving one people’s freedom at the cost of another’s?

By | Apr. 8, 2014

Palestinian workers from Hebron at Tarqumiya Checkpoint

"...I met Sam Bahour last month whilst on an Encounter trip to Bethlehem, where he related his story...."


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[ePalestine] Le Monde diplomatique: If Kerry fails, what then? (By Sam Bahour and Tony Klug)

Le Monde diplomatique

Exclusive 8 April 2014

If Kerry fails, what then?

by Sam Bahour and Tony Klug

Suppose the US Secretary of State, John Kerry, fails to cajole the Israeli and Palestinian leaders into finally ending their conflict. What would happen next?


Sam Bahour is a Palestinian-American business consultant in Ramallah and serves as a policy adviser to Al-Shabaka, the Palestinian Policy Network. Tony Klug is a veteran Middle East analyst and a special advisor to the Oxford Research Group.



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