Esther Hetzog
Haredi men taking over?
Photo: Dudu Azoulay

Israel's religious apartheid

Op-ed: Rabbi who removed girls from go-karts latest symptom of Jewish women's exclusion

While the Knesset focuses on legislation pertaining to Muslim veils, it ignores processes the continuously reinforce the exclusion and humiliation of Jewish women.


We already saw women being pushed to the backs of buses (an ongoing affair despite the High Court's ruling on the case,) women confined to one side of the streets in Jerusalem's haredi neighborhoods, and the humiliation of Mizrahi girls in Emmanuel. Earlier this week, we were told about the violent removal of girls from a go-karting facility at the same community.


At the end of this process we can expect to have a state managed by haredi men who discriminate against and humiliate women.


We've become accustomed to taking for granted political parties who disqualify women from taking office. These parties are nonetheless allowed to run in the elections, join governments, and lead the country despite their discriminatory conduct. Indeed, the State of Israel permits open, explicit, and legal disqualification of and discrimination against women; many women in this country are deprived of the basic civilian, democratic right to be elected.


One of the reasons for the obliteration of Israel's ideological leftist camp, with the exception of the disregard for deepening socioeconomic gaps, is the acceptance and silence in the face of intolerable discrimination against women by haredi parties. Leftist parties in particular (and secular parties in general) never objected to sitting alongside the haredim in government.


The flattery and efforts to curry favor with the haredim started in the State's early years, when Ben-Gurion and the Mapai party were willing to forego women's right to be elected. Ben-Gurion was the one who enabled religious courts to control the fate of all women in Israel, in line with religious dictates. Women who get married and divorced here, or who cannot elicit a divorce, are paying the price to this day.


Where are the mass rallies?

Had a serious public debate been held here (one which most parties prefer to ignore,) we would discover the central role played by the National Religious Party in the growing apartheid against women. Religious Zionist parties, who had been fighting for survival for four decades now against the various ethnically-based haredi parties, did so at the expense of women, by separating boys and girls in their education system.


This process got underway three decades ago. Under pressure from haredi parties competing for voters' hearts, the National Religious party decided that it must show its constituents that it's "more haredi than the haredim," acting with great determination to introduce absolute male-female segregation within its schools. By doing so, the party had been able to entrench the apartheid policy in its own home, while also instilling public perception with the notion that gender segregation is a legitimate reality.


Hence, nobody around here gets overly excited when some "cheeky" girls are being thrown out of a go-karting facility. The secular public and media outlets that lead it perceive the event as a sort of amusing, trivial episode; after all, if it happens in the distant haredi town of Emmanuel it's not our problem.


Yet make no mistake about it – this is gradually becoming a problem that is not reserved for religious and haredi women, who have been facing this reality for a while now, but also for the secular State of Israel, which reconciles itself to segregation, racism, and backwardness across society.


Had Israel been home to genuine leftist parties and a public holding strong civil rights orientation, they would embark on massive rallies in Emmanuel in order to protest the humiliation of the girls there, but beyond that, in order to do away with racist decisions, like the one allowing boys only to use a public facility.


Professor Esther Hertzog heads the Anthropology Department at Beit Berl College and coordinates the Women's Parliament


פרסום ראשון: 08.11.10, 18:18
 new comment
This will delete your current comment