FaithWorld

from AxisMundi Jerusalem:

Jerusalem’s ultra-Orthodox Jews take on Intel

In recent months, ultra-Orthodox Jews in Jerusalem have taken to the streets in protest over businesses operating on Saturday -- the Jewish Sabbath when ritual law bans Jews from working.  At times, the demonstrations have even turned violent, like a conflagration in July over a parking lot near the Old City. Most of the ultra-Orthodox ire has been directed at the Jerusalem municipality.

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Until now.

Last week, the Shabbat Strife took a surprising turn with some ultra-Orthodox taking aim at the world's biggest electronic chip maker for keeping their new Jerusalem plant open on the Jewish day of rest. Though the building is located in an industrial park on the outskirts of the city, it is nearby a religious neighborhood that strictly observes the Sabbath laws.

Intel's new electronic chip plant was inaugurated on Nov. 15, and the company said it would operate on Saturdays in accordance with its business needs and Israeli law. This announcement drew hundreds of angry ultra-Orthodox Jews who gathered outside the building. Some threw rocks at police trying to disperse the crowd.

Since last week's outburst, representatives of the ultra-Orthodox community, with mediation from religious parliament member Uri Maklev, have been trying to reach an agreement with Intel. An aide to Maklev said a likely solution to the quarrel would be to keep the plant open on Saturdays, but allow only non-Jews to work.

Rabbi Yosef Shalom Elyashiv, a leading Jewish sage, is expected to okay the deal. But Israeli radio is already reporting that not all of the ultra-Orthodox will be satisfied.

from AxisMundi Jerusalem:

Turmoil on Via Dolorosa

jerusalem1Hundreds of visitors to Jerusalem's old walled city got more than the tour of religious holy sites they had bargained for on Sunday, as violence between Israeli police and Muslims at al-Aqsa Mosque spilled over into some of the otherwise charming cobblestone alleys that frame the compound.

 

Eighteen Palestinians and three Israeli policemen were injured in the latest of a series of recent confrontations at the mosque, situated on al-Haram al-Sharif (the Noble Sanctuary), which Muslims regard as their third holiest site. Jews revere the area as the Temple Mount, a site where two ancient temples once stood. The Western Wall remnant to a Roman-era temple, one of Judaim's holiest sites, is right next door.

As the clashes ensued, tourists visiting a Christian holy site on a neighbouring Jerusalem street hurried on past as Israeli police scuffled with Palestinian protesters throwing stones, hurling an occasional firebomb and burning trash on an intersecting alley.

Will Orthodox Jews say good-bye to Sabbath elevators?

jerusalem-cropped (Photo: Posters for protest in Jerusalem against parking lot open on Sabbath, 8 July 2009/Baz Ratner)

In a move that may literally take the breath away from many of the world’s Orthodox Jews, a group of Israel’s top rabbis recently ruled that riding in what for decades have been designated as “Shabbat (Sabbath) elevators,” is  against Jewish law. This decision — already been opposed by other leading rabbis – could force many Jews who live in apartment buildings to sweat their way up staircases once a week.

The Jewish Sabbath, or Shabbat, is meant to be a day of rest. Observant Jews refrain from working, traveling in vehicles, spending money and from using electricity.

Reuters photoIn modern times, it’s tough to imagine going 24 hours without using anything electric. So gadgets have been invented to allow the use of certain appliances without physically turning them on. Like timers for lights, called Shabbat clocks. Or special cookers for stove tops. Or elevators for Shabbat.

Saudi cleric says don’t pray for downfall of “infidels”

mosque-sermonMuslims should avoid prayers that call for the destruction of non-Muslims, an influential Saudi cleric has said.

“Praying for the ruin and the destruction of all infidels is not permitted because it goes against God’s law to call upon them … to take the righteous path,” Sheikh Salman al Awdah told Dubai-based MBC Television channel.

Many mosque imams and preachers in some Muslim countries, including Saudi Arabia, close their Friday sermons with prayers that call for the destruction of Islam’s enemies, especially Israel and its allies.

from AxisMundi Jerusalem:

Sorting through a digital history

With more and more libraries digitising their archives, academics have a growing number of texts they can access without having to get on a plane and journey to distant continents. Perhaps in the near future, researchers will be able to simply log on from their office to view a database of a nearly infinite number of ancient texts, prayers or whatever writings have been handed down by our ancestors. Dead Sea scrolls

Of course, problems arise with digitising thousands of years of handwritten documents. Making a digital copy is the easy part. Helping the computer understand what is written, well, that is a tough one.

Gideon Ben-Zvi, who has founded a couple companies in the field of Optical Character Recognition (OCR), told me that: "The eyes outperform even the best OCR software by magnitude, although the speed achieved by OCR is far faster than humans."

Twitter and God

TECH-TWITTER/JERUSALEM

An Israeli university student has opened a Twitter site, twitter.com/thekotel, where prayers can be sent for placement in the crevices of Jerusalem’s Western Wall, a Jewish holy site that faithful believe provides a direct line to the Almighty.

You can see our report by my colleague Lianne Gross here.

(Photo: Rolled up messages in the crevices of Jerusalem’s Western Wall, a Jewish holy site that faithful believe provides a direct line to the Almighty.Picture take August 4, 2009. REUTERS/Baz Ratner)

from AxisMundi Jerusalem:

Fatah’s “Palestinian Hebrew” Councilman

The elections for Fatah's sixth conference, which just ended in Bethlehem, had an unusual first: their first Jewish Israeli member elected to the 120-member Revolutionary Council. Uri Davis, an Israeli citizen living in the West Bank, has been a member of Fatah for 25 years.

Here are some excerpts from Reuters correspondent Ali Sawafta's article on new council member Uri Davis for Reuters Arabic-language service:

Uri Davis, who calls himself a "Palestinian Hebrew", joined the Fatah movement in 1984, and told Reuters he plans to work in the Council's committee for foreign relations.

from AxisMundi Jerusalem:

Jewish Custom in the Time of Swine Flu

ISRAEL/In Israel, the death count for the H1N1, or swine flu, outbreak reached 7 yesterday, and for some citizens, fighting the virus has taken on some religious dimensions.

Israel's leading paper, Yedioth Ahronoth, wrote an article about health concerns raised by Israel's Ultra Orthodox media: kissing mezuzahs. A mezuzah is a tiny encasement holding a piece of parchment with a Jewish prayer enscribed on it. Mezuzahs are nailed to most doorways inside a Jewish home, and traditionally, Jews will touch the mezuzah and kiss their fingers when entering a house.  An ultra-orthodox journalist decided to ask seven doctors their opinion on whether this tradition could be dangerous in the Swine flu era.

According to Yedioth Ahronoth, "The doctors unanimously agreed that bacteria leave high levels of residue on such objects, but six of them refused to comment on mezuzot in particular, 'so as not to get in trouble with the rabbis'."

from AxisMundi Jerusalem:

Israel’s burial crisis and the afterlife

Far from the spotlight of peace talks and military conflicts, Israel is facing a different kind of land crisis: it is running out of space to bury its dead. Most Jewish cemeteries in major cities like Tel Aviv, Jerusalem and Haifa, are filled beyond maximum capacity. Gravestones are packed together leaving little room for mourners to gather.

Cemeteries in Israel are packed with graves. REUTERS/Darren Whiteside

You can read about a new system of multi-tiered burial chambers being used in the Jewish state to solve the issue of land. It's actually an ancient system, used thousands of years ago by Jewish sages, that was modernised by two Israeli architects and given approval by the country's chief rabbis. Ancient Sanhedrin Tombs Modernised Multi-Tier System

Ancient Sanhedrin tombs and their modern-day revival

Adding to the problem of dwindling burial space for Israelis, each year about 1,500 Jews from around the world choose the Holy Land for their final resting place. For some, the choice could come from the allure of being buried in the Jewish state. For others, it stems from the Bible. And you can always find some group that offers to help make it happen.

from AxisMundi Jerusalem:

Collective Punishment in Religious Jerusalem Neighborhoods?

ISRAEL-RELIGION/RIOTMuch ink has been spilled about the riots of Haredi (ultra-Orthodox) Jews in Jerusalem over the past several weeks (See our article on that here). Among some sources, there's a note of disdain for this sector of Jewish population, seen as being contemptuous of the state of Israel while making up the largest portion of the country's welfare recipients.

So I was a bit surprised to see one group rise to defend the Haredim this week --left-leaning bloggers. A few critiques were posted about Israel's Jerusalem municipality's reaction to Haredi riots. Philip Weiss, in his blog Mondoweiss, calls the police treatment of Haredim "bigotry." And Jerry Haber, of the Magnes Zionist blog, began his latest entry saying, "I tend to distrust news reports about Haredim the same way I distrust news reports about Palestinians; both are hated sectors in Israeli society (though the haredim that participate in the state are much more privileged.)"

Not only bloggers took issue with police treatment of Haredi communities. Haaretz, Israel's left-leaning daily, had an editorial condemning Jerusalem Mayor Nir Barkat's "collective punishment against Haredim".  They criticised his decision to halt municipal services to two ultra-Orthodox neighborhoods, Mea She'arim and Geula in response to the street violence.  Barkat said this was done for safety reasons, to prevent attacks on municipal workers.