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June 14, 1996 - Image 70

Resource type:
Text
Publication:
The Detroit Jewish News, 1996-06-14

Disclaimer: Computer generated plain text may have errors. Read more about this.

Out In The Cold

Announcing

Reform and Conservative groups feel the most
vulnerable as Israeli Orthodox flex political muscle.

Mercury For Men

— a collection of

treasures for the

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adies, ready your veils!" read
the graffiti scrawled in Tel
Aviv last week in response
to the great gains made by
the religious parties in last
month's Knesset elections.
Indeed, a wave of anxiety and
dismay engulfed Israel's secular
population as, exhilarated by its
victory, the 23-seat bloc (up from
16) of the ShaS, United Torah Ju-
daism, and the National Religious
Party (NRP) revealed its demands
for joining the coalition to back
Benyamin Netanyahu's new gov-
ernment:
• Close non-kosher butchers
shops
• Close all stores and
Jerusalem's Bar-Ilan Street (the
city's main east-west thorough-
fare) on the Shabbat
• Outlaw archaeological exca-
vations at the sites of ancient
graves (or wherever bones turn
up)
•Amend the laws on abortion
(to allow only medical grounds),
conversion (to bar Conservative
and Reform ceremonies), and the
Law of Return (to prevent the non-
Jews from enjoying Israeli citi-
zenship)
•Allow only Orthodox Jews to
serve on religious councils;
•Roll back the "status quo" to
what it had been four years ago
— and then anchor it in law so
that it can not be "eroded" again.
But Orthodox leaders are, in
some respects, proceeding with
caution. "We're sensitive to the
fears because we've grown so fast,"
Rabbi Avraham Ravitz of the
Torah Judaism Party told re-
porters. He assured them that the
religious parties would focus only
on "issues that are acceptable to
the Likud and Israeli society."
Indeed, it was only after the
Likud's leaders had pronounced
their demands "exaggerated" that
the religious bloc began whittling
them down to a few hard core is-
sues (including religious conver-
sion and the composition of the
religious councils) plus "freezing
the 'status quo' on everything
else."
Early this week, the negotia-
tions continued. Yet, because of
objections from the Tsomet faction
of the Likud, as well as the secu-
lar Yisrael B'aliyah and Third
Way parties, the betting was that
secular Israelis will not face rad-
ical upheaval.
"The religious parties know
they're walking a tightrope and if
the country's way of life is turned
topsy-turvy, there will be sharp
reaction from the public," says
Bar-Ilan University sociologist

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INA FRIEDMAN ISRAEL CORRESPONDENT

successful man by

An Orthodox Israeli casts his vote at a
polling station.

Professor Menachem Friedman.
Ironically, those who stand to
be most affected by the enhanced
power of the Orthodox parties
come from a different sector of Is-
rael's religious community: the
Conservative and Reform move-
ments.
'We're appalled at how far the
demands of the religious parties
go," says Anat Galili-Blum,
spokeswoman for the Movement
for Progressive (Reform) Judaism
in Israel. "We do know that it's
easy for them to take shots at the
Reform and Conservative move-
ments, because they perceive us
as a minority, as marginal, as a
sector no one cares about."
Though true in the past, that
perception is now outdated. There
are two coalitions forming in Is-
rael today: one of the political par-
ties backing Mr. Netanyahu's new
government; the other, known as
the "Freedom Headquarters," of
independent organizations rang-
ing from the Association for Civ-
il Rights in Israel to local branches
of Hadassah, not to mention the
Conservative and Reform move-
ments.
That group's purpose, as Ms.
Galili-Blum puts it, is "to show
Bibi that we're not happy about
where things are heading." And
the sentiment has won the sup-
port of such popular public figures
as Tel Aviv Mayor Roni Millo, for-
mer Tel Aviv Mayor Shlomo La-
hat, and elder-statesman Abba
Eban.
The "Freedom Headquarters"
has already written to Third Way
leader Avigdor Kahalani and Yis-
rael B'aliyah head Natan Sha-
ransky to point out that "that the
coalition can't pass any religious
laws without them."
Although it received no reply,
the group feels that it has made
its point. "That very evening, both
Kahalani and Sharansky an-
nounced their parties' intention
to hold to the principle of freedom
of conscience in voting on religious

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