It took Israel decades to accept Jewish Ethiopian religious leaders and to integrate them as rabbis, but it remains to be seen how much the reforms will be implemented.
Religious leaders of the Israeli Ethiopian community take part in a ceremony marking the Ethiopian Jewish holiday of Sigd in Jerusalem, Nov. 16, 2017.
The Ministerial Committee on the Integration of Israeli Citizens of Ethiopian Descent into Israeli Society decided Feb. 19 to recognize kessim as spiritual leaders of Ethiopian Jews, and thus to formalize their status as part of the system of religious services in Israel. The decision also relates to the integration of rabbis with Ethiopian backgrounds in roles on religious councils.
The chairman of the committee, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, said at the meeting, “The [Ethiopian] community has a special status because it has actually kept the heritage of Israel in complete isolation. It moves me, it’s close to my heart, and therefore the moment we mark today is also historic.”
In this instance, the use of the word “historic” is actually correct. This decision officially abolishes one aspect of discrimination suffered by Ethiopian immigrants in Israel.
The kessim were the spiritual leaders of the Jewish communities in Ethiopia and maintained Jewish customs in a unique form. With the community’s immigration to Israel, the status of the kessim diminished. The rabbinic establishment in Israel has not recognized them as keeping Jewish law or in their status as spiritual leaders, claiming that Ethiopian Jews were unfamiliar with the Jewish laws that developed after the biblical period. The rabbinate and Ministry of Religion required them to pass courses for ordination to the rabbinate, and those who passed these courses were authorized to serve as a rabbi only of Ethiopian communities, and not, heaven forbid, of any other community in Israel.
Despite the support of late spiritual leader Rabbi Ovadia Yosef, who was the first to recognize Ethiopian Jewry as early as the beginning of the 1970s, and thus enabled their immigration to Israel by means of the Law of Return, the rabbinic establishment, especially the Ashkenazic (of European origin) establishment, which has doubted their Judaism from the start, has refused to accept the kessim as spiritual and religious leaders.
Journalist and social activist Ayanao Sanbeto told Al-Monitor that only after the angry demonstrations of Ethiopian Jews in 1992 did a government committee recommend allowing the ordination of the Ethiopian religious leadership. According to him, in the end, Ethiopian rabbis who received full ordination were only appointed to minor roles and only in Ethiopian communities. A tiny number of kessim received jobs as what has been called a “spiritual shepherd” in Ethiopian communities, but here, too, discrimination has continued and these rabbis received much lower salaries compared with non-Ethiopian rabbis.
After years of debate, the Regional Labor Court in Beersheba decided in July 2016 that the State of Israel and religious councils have for years discriminated against the kessim and rabbis of the Ethiopian communities, and that they should be paid reparations, the differences in pay and pensions retroactively. The court’s decision noted that the kessim and rabbis were discriminated against for years by religious councils, despite repeated determinations that they work and act exactly like neighborhood rabbis who receive a significantly higher salary.
“Instead of finding courage and seeking a solution to the wrong that has been done for years, the state has perpetuated discrimination and the gap when it shirked its responsibility to fix this wrong, especially in presenting clever arguments regarding the statute of limitations,” wrote Judge Yohanan Cohen. “This conduct does not fit with the obligation to act in good faith that applies more strenuously to the state. The picture revealed to the court is a disappointing one that does not align with the principles of equality as arise from the Scroll of Independence.”
In the meantime, the state has not recognized its responsibility for this discrimination and has appealed the court’s decision at the National Labor Court; deliberations there will start soon.
In 2015, another wave of protests by Israelis of Ethiopian origins erupted in an outcry over continued discrimination, this time in protest of the violent conduct of police officers toward Israeli Ethiopians. The protest was sparked by a video showing officers hitting Damas Pikada, a soldier of Ethiopian descent, for no apparent reason. The investigation showed that Pikada was the one who started the altercation with the officers, but that they responded with excessive force. The decision of the attorney general to close the case led to the protests that devolved into violent altercations where dozens of protesters and officers were injured and hundreds were arrested. In August 2016, Pikada became an officer in the Israel Defense Forces.
To calm the demonstrations, the government decided to create a ministerial committee headed by Netanyahu himself. Since its establishment less than two years ago, it has made 12 decisions on projects to advance the integration of Ethiopian immigrants, for instance, in the fields of education, welfare and housing.
Yet even nowadays, despite the projects authorized and this latest decision among them, the situation of Ethiopian immigrants in Israel is far from satisfactory, as seen in the crime rate among the youth of this sector. The rate of indictments against young people of Ethiopian descent is more than twice that of their Israeli peers, and among minors, the picture is truly frightening: The rate of indictments reaches four times that of Israeli minors.
A senior government source involved in the committee’s decision on the kessim told Al-Monitor on condition of anonymity that the decision made last week is nothing short of a revolution. “We have finally managed to overcome the opposition of the rabbinate and make an official government decision on principle in accepting the status of the kessim as spiritual leaders of the Ethiopian community. They have this status by right and not on sufferance.”
According to him, the government will fund the salaries of 20 such kessim at a rate equal to the salary of rabbis, “including young kessim trained by the elders.”
Knesset member Pnina Tamano-Shata (Yesh Atid), the first Ethiopian-born woman to hold a seat in the Knesset, told Al-Monitor, “With a delay of three decades, historic justice has been done to those who were the gatekeepers of Ethiopian Jews in the Diaspora in the face of all the challenges, hardships and missionaries. Until today, their honorable role has been dismissed here in Israel, and it is better late than never to own up to a mistake and remedy the wrong.”
Sanbeto is not moved by the recognition and said that aside from a few jobs given to rabbis and the kessim, the decision has no true significance. What would be meaningful, he noted, is if rabbis and kessim were allowed to participate in determining the eligibility of thousands of Falash Mura (Ethiopian Jews who converted to Christianity in the last century) in Ethiopia who seek to immigrate to Israel.
Many believe that the test of this decision will be practical. Will the rabbinate indeed allow rabbis of Ethiopian background to serve as neighborhood and community rabbis to an Israeli public of all backgrounds, or will it continue treating Ethiopian immigrants as a separate and excluded religious sect? A Sephardic synagogue would probably pick a Sephardic rabbi, and an Ashkenazi synagogue would prefer an Ashkenazi religious leader. But the essence of the Israeli melting pot is that the rabbi is there to guide his community members and to help them, whether they immigrated to Israel from Ethiopia, Morocco or the United States.
Jeremy Corbyn leads a pro-Palestinian demonstration in London in 2014, one year before becoming Labour Party leader. Photo: File.
This marked a massive rise from the previous such survey, in which only 39% of Jews believed Corbyn was antisemitic.
British Jews also expressed an extremely low opinion of the Labour Party in general. The poll showed that 85.6% believed Labour suffered from “very high” levels of antisemitism.
Corbyn and his party have been beset with a series of high-profile antisemitism scandals for several years, which has resulted in the resignation and suspension of several prominent officials. Corbyn himself was recently caught on video saying that “Zionists” did not understand “English irony” despite “having lived in this country for a very long time.”
Makuya in Jerusalem 201 (YouTube)
Like an apple tree among trees of the forest, So is my beloved among the youths. I delight to sit in his shade, And his fruit is sweet to my mouth. (Song of Songs 2:3)
For ten days in late August, Israeli Rabbi Benny Lau and his wife, Rabbanit Noah Lau, traveled from Jerusalem to Japan to lead Bible study for groups of Makuya Japanese Christians. The Laus traveled to five Japanese towns and spent three days together at a weekend conference with 3,400 members of the Makuya group.
Makuya is Japanese for the Hebrew word Mishkan, the tent of meeting, where human beings come into contact with God. The Mishkan was the portable sanctuary that the Israelites used in the desert, before entering Israel and building the First Holy Temple.
The Lord tests the righteous, but his soul hates the wicked and the one who loves violence. (Psalm 11:5)
Brazilian presidential candidate Jair Bolsonaro. (Credit: Agencia O Globo)
Jair Bolsonaro, the front-runner in the upcoming presidential election in Brazil, was stabbed during a campaign rally Thursday and was undergoing surgery.
The far-right politician, whose heated rhetoric has electrified some voters and angered others – -who accuse him of racism and homophobia – in a deeply polarized electorate, was attacked amid a crowd in the south-east state of Minas Gerais. Bolsonaro has performed strongly in recent opinion polls.
Those same polls suggested that he will likely receive the most votes in next month’s presidential elections, especially if the country’s former president Luis Inacio Lula da Silva (‘Lula’) remains blocked from standing. He is currently in prison, but is appealing against his candidacy ban – imposed after his conviction for corruption.
Republican lawmakers have made it clear they have no intention of repealing Obamacare in the current Congress.
Republicans in the nation’s top lawmaking body have never really wanted to get rid of Obamacare. They would prefer to present the program, which David Horowitz correctly describes as “the greatest assault on individual freedom and individual choice in our lifetimes,” as a villain and whip up sentiment against it and run against it every election. They view Obamacare as good for the business of politics. They may chip away at it from time to time or tinker with it at the margins, but make no mistake: these creatures of Washington want to keep it in place. This is the Republicans’ dirty secret.
The Trump administration has decided to reopen a case brought by a Zionist group against Rutgers University, previously closed by the Obama administration in 2014, alleging that the university had allowed Jewish students to be subjected to a hostile environment in violation of Title VI of the U.S. Civil Rights Act. The issue, ignored by the Obama administration, was whether the students were discriminated against based on their actual or perceived Jewish ancestry or ethnicity. Kenneth L. Marcus, the new assistant secretary of education for civil rights, decided that the case deserved another look.
Nestled in the Han River in the middle of South Korea’s bustling capital of Seoul, Yeoui Island is hardly where one would expect to find the largest mega-church in the world. Home to the city’s business and financial district, its skyline dotted with skyscrapers, the island boasts some of the country’s most powerful institutions, such as the Korean stock exchange and the headquarters of LG, the international conglomerate.
The AfD’s opponents, who often brand the party as “far right” or “extremist,” claim that the party’s alleged ties to neo-Nazi groups pose an existential threat to Germany’s constitutional order. The AfD’s supporters counter that Germany’s politically correct establishment, afraid of losing its power and influence, is attempting to outlaw a legitimate party that has pledged to put the interests of German citizens first.
Israel’s Palestinian foes regard “martyrdom” as the supremely highest expression of Islamic sacredness. Nonetheless, there are certain conspicuously prominent disjunctions between the relevant obligations of faith and expectations of international law. Unambiguously, only the latter set of obligations can offer a suitably authoritative source for assessing Palestinian resorts to armed force.
This is the case even when the stated objective of such resorts would be “self-determination” and/or “national liberation.”
“Setting fire to the ground,” a “major catastrophe,” bringing “new instability” are the headlines that have greeted Donald Trump’s unorthodox decisions over the past year. Withdrawing from UNESCO, moving the US Embassy, leaving the Iran deal and cutting funding to UNRWA and funding for Pakistan were seen as extreme decisions in the Middle East and around the world. Insofar as there is a “Trump Doctrine,” it has been to call this bluff.
In the mind-set of Trump and his team, the time has come for the United States to move quickly to reverse decades of foreign policy norms, ending the status quo, and ripping up what the previous administrations did.
The jihadi assault on and massacre of Christians continued unabated throughout the Muslim word. According to one report titled, “Armed gangs WIPE OUT 15 villages in mass Christian slaughter in Nigeria,” several Islamic terrorists “stormed through 15 villages to massacre Christians and destroy their churches in a violent crackdown against the religion…. Dozens of people have been killed after the gangs ransacked towns and villages to clear them of all aspects of the Christian faith.
Wars are raging in various parts of the Middle East, although there is a tendency not to call the conflicts by that name because of the fear conjured up by the word.
One conflagration is the war Iran is waging against those – headed by Israel – who stand in the way of its plans to take over the entire Middle East.
Another is the Assad regime’s war to take back control of the entire country, and a third is the PLO’s battle for survival.
Much has been written about the first of these wars, and reports have claimed that from early 2017 on, Israel has launched over 200 attacks in Syria, mainly at targets connected to Iran.