The move was the focus of a discussion held recently at the Knesset's Committee on the Status of Women.
In a heated debate, initiated by Knesset Member Uri Orbach (Habayit Hayehudi), haredi lawmakers and the radio station's representatives clashed with MKs and representatives of organizations demanding that women be allowed to talk on the radio station without any restrictions or sexual discrimination.
Who is secular? Who is religious?
Avi Mimran, Kol Barama's content manager, confirmed that the exclusion of women from the station's programs was not a halachic matter, but rather a matter of worldview and lifestyle.
He argued, however, that radio broadcasts suited for haredi listeners are an act of justice toward a public of 300,000 Israeli households whose needs have not been answered on the media for 50 years.
He said that the fact that Kol Barama was the most popular haredi station in Israel, and that more than half of its listeners were women, showed that that was what the target audience wanted and that the women didn't feel deprived.
"We changed the broadcasting schedule so that every woman in the State of Israel seeking to call in will be honored in the appropriate framework," he said.
Mimran noted that for years haredim had violated the law and put Israel's airspace in danger with pirate broadcasts, and that he feared they might resume those broadcasts should they be forced to broadcast women's voices against their will.
Shai Ben Maor, a representative of the station's owners, said during the discussion: "Don't educate the haredim. Let the listener decide what he wants to hear. As a secular radio station manager, I would not want anyone to intervene."
MK Orbach called out in response, "With such seculars who needs haredim?"
MK Israel Eichler (United Torah Judaism) responded, "With such religious Jews, who needs seculars?" He called for complete freedom of the press for all privately-owned religious and haredi media outlets, "just like no one will tell me what to talk about on my cellular phone."
According to Eichler, the station's opponents have become "Bolsheviks trying to educate entire public not following their ways."
There are women out there!
Attorney Hila Shamir, the Second Authority for Television and Radio's legal advisor, defended Kol Barama's stand, clarifying that allowing women to call in once a week for an hour was just "the beginning of a process".
She said the station must be listened to by the haredi public, which deserves some consideration.
Committee Chairwoman Tzipi Hotovely (Likud) lashed out at her, saying that the Second Authority had apparently fallen for those considerations. She criticized the Authority for the time it took to handle the complaints against Kol Barama and the fact that a "process" was needed in order to get the station to obey the law.
Addressing the exclusion of women from the station, Hotovely said: "What are they so afraid of? So the listeners will go the Army Radio and discover women there too, and then they'll move to Kol Hai Radio and find women there too, and then go out on the street and realize that – God forbid – there are women there too, and then escape home and discover that they mother and daughter are also women!"
At the end of the meeting it was decided that the Second Authority for Television and Radio would inform the committee of the ongoing handling of the exclusion of women from the haredi station.