Photo: Noam Moskovich
Much has been written already about the exclusion of women in the haredi community, yet one aspect of it has not yet come to light. Does the main factor behind this exclusion indeed have to do with strict interpretation of Jewish Law and nothing else? This is highly unlikely.
My grandfather, may he rest in peace, was a religious Jew who strictly adhered to the mitzvahs. Yet my grandmother and him sat together at cultural events and banquet halls without thinking twice.
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What then drives the radical haredim mad and what prompts the deafening silence of their rabbis?
The exclusion of women is a clear testament of the haredi education system’s utter failure. Haredi society is based on absolute discipline in complying with Jewish law rulings. The haredi Jew is told which foot he must step on first when getting up. Every food item he eats must be preceded by a prayer. His strict dress code, which is akin to a uniform, also constitutes an indication of discipline. Yeshiva students spend the entire day praying and studying.
Colossal failureYet despite this, the haredim are concerned that they will not be able to face the temptation of a seven-year-old girl not dressed modestly enough? Must she be removed, lest the urges of haredi men prompt them to act improperly? After all, one would expect that their education and lifestyle would immune them against this to a much greater extent than secular members of society. What a colossal failure.
Yet this is not the heart of the matter. The reason is deeper and is one that the haredim would never admit to: There is a reason for concern. While no less strict haredim in New York or London work and provide for their families, in Israel’s haredi strongholds women are the breadwinners who provide for the family.
Haredi men spend all their time looking into Talmudic issues, a challenge that constitute a highly impressive intellectual effort but barely pertains to real life. Hence, these men feel a need to emphasize, time and again, that they are the center of their surroundings, thereby having to stress the inferiority of women and excluding them.
In this respect, the obvious parallel to the state of affairs prevalent in traditional Islamic societies and in the Third World is especially regrettable.