Six lawmakers on Sunday signed an open letter to Chief Rabbis Yona Metzger and Shlomo Amar, requesting a special conference on the exclusion of women in the ultra-Orthodox society.
The letter, initiated by MK Chaim Amsellem (Shas), calls for a clear halachic manifesto stating that these phenomena are forbidden by Jewish Law.
"We're going through hard times right now," the letter says. "Zealots and violent people are trying to impose their opinions on the Israeli society in general and on the religious society in particular, causing a great 'defamation of God'.
"The wide public can't always distinguish between the majority of the sane religious and haredi public and these delusional margins which claim to be the defenders of Torah and Halcha. We must not keep silent at this time."
'Restore Rabbinate's dignity'
The MKs demand that the rabbis "protest and declare that such phenomena like the 'Taliban women', the exclusion of women while insulting and offending them, hurting little girls in Beit Shemesh and racial discrimination are wrong and forbidden, are not recognized by Halacha and are abominable in the eyes of anyone who cares about the Torah."
The letter was also signed by MKs Zevulun Orlev (Habayit Hayehudi), David Rotem (Yisrael Beiteinu), Tzipi Hotovely (Likud), Uri Ariel (National Union) and Otniel Schneller (Kadima), who also addressed it to the prime minister, president and all rabbis in Israel.
They conclude their appeal with a request for an emergency meeting of all senior religious leader in Israel – including city, community and neighborhood rabbis – "in order to protest and express reservation over these shameful acts.
"This serious issue is one of the most important things the Rabbinate must deal with these days. A clear and unequivocal statement is required to restore the Rabbinate's dignity."
Against 'kosher' buses
The appeal followed a series of incidents, including a young woman's refusal to sit at the back of a "kosher" bus from Ashdod to Jerusalem and the haredi-religious "modesty wars" in Beit Shemesh.
Israel's chief rabbis spoke out against the "kosher" bus lines last week. Commenting on the Tanya Rosenblit affair, Rabbi Metzger said that the haredi public had no right to impose its opinion on the rest of the population.
"We can't be the world's landlords. This isn't the haredi public's country," the chief rabbi said in an interview to Kol Barama Radio. "We have no authority to impose our opinion on others. This is a public place.
"If we want separation, setting up a special bus company for certain lines is legitimate, and then we'll be the landlords. But as long as they pay like we do, and it’s a public company which doesn't only serve the haredi public – what can we do?"
The office of Rabbi Amar said in a statement to Ynet, "A person can be strict about himself, but not about others. If the haredim want to be strict on their own buses, let them. But imposing it on other people is irrelevant."
He referred to a haredi man who scolded a blind woman sitting at the front of a bus as "stupid", adding: "It's insolent; it's a basic lack of understanding… It's foolish and has nothing to do with fear of God."