The argument haredi parties used to explain the absence of women from their tickets stirred an unsurprising ruckus among political parties and equal-rights organizations.
According to Shas and United Torah Judaism, the decision to exclude women from their lists for the 19th Knesset stems from the assumption that if women were part of their rosters, most ultra-Orthodox women will not vote for them.
The parties added that according to the Halacha, including women in their rosters would be considered as a violation of modesty laws.
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In response to allegation of discriminatory exclusion of women, the Central Elections Committee is scheduled to convene Wednesday and decide on whether Shas and United Torah Judaism (UTJ) should be disqualified.
The bid to disqualify the lists follows the protest of political figures, who claimed that the de jure and de facto exclusion of women from the parties was in essence undemocratic.
"A party that bans half the population from being included in its leadership is a party that negates the democratic nature of the State of Israel and does not abide by its laws," said Jerusalem City Councilwoman Laura Wharton, who urged the elections committee "to enforce the law and disqualify both parties from running to the 19th Knesset."
According to Wharton, "Both Shas and United Torah Judaism are benefitting from campaign financing and are yet blatantly discriminating against women by banning them from joining the parties and running for Knesset." Moreover, she added, the ban was "anchored in the parties' guidelines."
'Including women – violation of modesty laws.' Shas leaders (Photo: Haim Zach)
Meretz Chairwoman Zahava Gal-On also commented on the haredi parties' decision, saying that "Shas and United Torah Judaism are chauvinistic parties, bearing on 3,000 year-old halachic perceptions that are used to cynically exploit women and prevent them from claiming their rights.
"Some 700,000 haredim reside in Israel. Half of them live in poverty. Shas and United Torah Judaism will do everything they can to ensure that this population does not take core studies, seeing as that would lead to women pursuing careers and higher education and God forbid – claim their rights.
"Meretz believes in offering incentives to haredi women to take core studies and break the rabbinical blockade. After they go to school they will be part of the job market and may turn their backs on oppression," Meretz chairwoman stressed.
Herzliya Mayor Yael German, who is running for the Knesset with Yesh Atid, noted that "Excluding women from politics… is dangerous to Israeli society. The fact that a party in 2012 Israel fails to realize that women are equal is harsh and saddening."
Not only members of the secular public voiced their opposition to the stance of ultra-orthodox parties regarding gender. According to Yizhar Hess, CEO of the religious Masorti Movement, fighting for egalitarianism within Jewish communities in Israel, "Were I one of the men in the leadership of the haredi parties, I would be very careful with so patronizingly discussing the role of women versus the role of men in this world."
Hess added that he believed that in the near future haredi women, "tired of a humiliating coexistence of horse and rider… will exclude the discriminating parties in the voting polls."
As for now, those who oppose the exclusionary approaches of the parties, push for "A denouncing of this notion and those behind it, for it belongs in the Dark Ages," as said by Yifat Zamir, the CEO of the WePower organization for gender integration and equality.
Roi Mandel contributed to this report
Roi Mandel Telem Yahav are Ynet and Yedioth Ahronoth correspondents
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