Sunday, January 15, 2012

Society:  Israelis Facing a Seismic Rift over Role of Women

In the three months since the Israeli Health Ministry awarded a prize to a pediatrics professor for her book on hereditary diseases common to Jews, her experience at the awards ceremony has become a rallying cry. Multimedia Slide Show In Israel, a Clash Between the Secular and Ultra-Orthodox Metro Twitter Logo. Connect With Us on Twitter

The professor, Channa Maayan, knew that the acting health minister, who is ultra-Orthodox, and other religious people would be in attendance. So she wore a long-sleeve top and a long skirt. But that was hardly enough.

Not only did Dr. Maayan and her husband have to sit separately, as men and women were segregated at the event, but she was instructed that a male colleague would have to accept the award for her because women were not permitted on stage.

The list of controversies grows weekly: Organizers of a conference last week on women's health and Jewish law barred women from speaking from the podium, leading at least eight speakers to cancel; ultra-Orthodox men spit on an 8-year-old girl whom they deemed immodestly dressed; the chief rabbi of the air force resigned his post because the army declined to excuse ultra-Orthodox soldiers from attending events where female singers perform; protesters depicted the Jerusalem police commander as Hitler on posters because he instructed public bus lines with mixed-sex seating to drive through ultra-Orthodox neighborhoods; vandals blacked out women's faces on Jerusalem billboards.

As a group, the ultra-Orthodox are, at best, ambivalent about the Israeli state, which they consider insufficiently religious and premature in its founding because the Messiah has not yet arrived.
But while the community has gained increased economic might — there is a growing market catering to its needs — what is lacking is economic productivity. The community places Torah study above all other values and has worked assiduously to make it possible for its men to do that rather than work. While the women often work, there is a 60% unemployment rate among the men, who also generally do not serve in the army.

It is this combination — accepting government subsidies, refusing military service and declining to work, all while having six to eight children per family — that is unsettling for many Israelis, especially when citizens feel economically insecure and mistreated by the government.

... what children learn in the ultra-Orthodox school system — largely unregulated by the state as a result of political deals — is unsuited for the 21st century, so even those who wish to work are finding it hard to find jobs.

Their schools do not give them the skills to work in a modern economy and no training in civil or human rights or democracy, Mr. Ben-David said. They don't even know what we are talking about — what we want from them — when we talk about discrimination against women.

For more, see Israelis Facing a Seismic Rift over Role of Women by Ethan Bronner and Isabel Kershner, January 14, 2012 at NYTimes.com.

1 comment:

DrBones said...

True Believers are True Believers. They're really no better than the Islamic zealots or even our own Fundamentalists. Sigh