The next step? (Illustration)
Photo: AFP

A Woman of Valor can't be found

Op-ed: State may not be actively promoting exclusion of women, but indifference to extremist religious sects means those days are not far behind

"A woman of valor who will find?" I doubt she will be found in Jerusalem. For though she "girds her loins and makes her arms strong" she cannot help the needy in the neighborhood of Beit Yisrael where a new Magen David Adom station has barred women from working.


She no longer "makes covers for herself in fine linen and purple." Rather, she chooses to engulf herself in black cloaks, her face hidden behind a veil. She may still "open her mouth in wisdom" with "the lesson of kindness on her tongue," but no one is listening. It is forbidden.


I grew up in a Modern Orthodox Jewish home and I continue to follow that path. One that includes singing "A Woman of Valor" every Friday night at the Shabbat dinner table; one that included my parents teaching us, five girls in all, the importance of our role in Jewish society – at its center.


Which is why I am terrified. I look around me today, and though I do not believe Israel is a society where women are excluded – I can even say I am offended by those who make such claims – I do see a disastrous trend. The most surprising thing about this trend? That secular society and some women are the ones promoting it.


For who was it that came up with the idea of wearing the black shawls and covering their faces with burqa-like veils? An extremist sect of women in haredi society.


And who was it that approved the possibility of "kosher" buses, where women sit in the back separated from the men? Israel’s own (secular) Supreme Court.


In the ruling allowing for "voluntary" separation, Justice Elyakim Rubinstein wrote: "We hope that this verdict will assist, finally, in creating a more proper society which maintains the respect of all its members. We do not know what will be the immediate and long-term effects of this ruling, but we know we cannot accept coerced discrimination against women."


Extremism goes against Jewish faith

So, accepting coerced discrimination against women is a problem, but if it is voluntary then it is legal? Would that include erasing women from ads? Excluding them from official State ceremonies? It is hard for me to believe any court would make such a ruling in the 21st century, let alone one with a woman as its president.


Jewish history is filled with women who took center stage, one even led troops into battle (at the side of Barak) – Deborah the Prophetess. When the Israelites vanquished the armies of Sisera (with the help of another woman – Yael) she sang a song before them.


In the song she states quite clearly: "Hear, O kings! Give ear, O princes! I, yes I, will sing to the Lord." I doubt any of the troops got up and left.


Why now? Why choose a path towards extremism, that is against everything the Jewish faith upholds? I believe that more than anything else – it stems from indifference.


The State tip-toes around extremist elements within haredi society, reviling it while accepting claims with regards to religion as unchangeable truths, and pandering to their demands because it is so much easier than rocking the boat.


Thus, women don’t belong on stage. They belong behind a thick black veil, at the back of the bus, away from the public eye. They cannot walk on the same side of the street as men, they cannot be present on ads...the list goes on and the public official sighs, shrugs, and most likely says: "It's not important, agree to it and move on."


And the businessman says: "I don't need the haredi sector boycotting my goods, take the women off the ad."


And the politician says: "I need his vote and support, I’ll support him in return."


And the Woman of Valor is sidelined. The Song of Deborah silenced.




פרסום ראשון: 12.12.11, 18:12
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