Championing the rights of Israeli women

Championing the rights of Israeli women

I am upset each time I read another article about the rights of women in the haredi areas of Israel.

How much more can the rabbinical decisions of Israel push back into primitivity our sisters in Israel?

It is terrible that women cannot pray where they want (the subject of several recent op-ed pieces). It is an insult that there still is, in this day and age, a wall between men and women in a synagogue.

Do not the men tempt the women? Haven’t we learned that temptation may go both ways? Now, Israeli buses segregate women and men, as well as rest rooms and doctor’s offices. Israel is allegedly a modern nation. There have always been gender-segregated beaches in Tel Aviv, and I sympathize with the problem facing the poor men of Orthodox Israel – that they may be forced to actually see a female shape unclothed.

In an Israeli rabbinical court, the male is always right. All power in matters of divorce is on the side of men, and therefore the rights of women are violated yet again. Having to go to a mikvah can be humiliating for a secular woman. One is also required to have premarital sexual counseling, regardless of age, choice, or religious belief.

I have seen billboards advertising bathing suits torn down in the middle of the night by ultra-Orthodox invaders of Tel Aviv from Jerusalem. I have had fists raised in my face for carrying a camera in Mea Shearim.

My daughter has been stripped of child support in her divorce because her former husband lied about his income and put debts in her name. The man is the man.

On El Al, planes are delayed for the haredim to settle themselves apart from the women. Everyone is inconvenienced by this and the plane cannot leave until every male is seated a distance from a woman. This causes havoc. Soon we may be faced with separate flights for men and women, and certainly, separate restrooms for each in flight. Those ordering glatt kosher meals are served first – before women and children, or for that matter before the elderly or anyone who may have traveled a long distance without food before boarding.

Those making these laws and restrictions should remember that not everyone in Israel is Orthodox. Secular Jews have rights too. In a synagogue, an airplane, or a bus, one should be able to choose where to sit. And certainly, praying at the Wall, despite being on “the women’s side” as ordained, cannot and must not be prohibited.

We will certainly be reduced to a status well below that of the Arab women if this kind of bigotry and chauvinism continues in Israel. There is already far too much spousal abuse, sexual freedom for the male of this community with prostitutes, and separations in too many areas of life, some of which are irrelevant to the practice of a supposedly humane religion.