The girls sitting at the back of the Nateev Express bus, after being told to ‘cover up’ on Sunday. Credit: Haaretz
Gender segregation in Israel is being promoted and forced on women by an extreme government which is completely out of touch with Israeli citizens and most of the community who are getting sick and tired of an unacceptable level of discrimination, particularly against women.
Women are being openly discriminated against on public buses and on international flights. Women are literally being sent to the back of the bus, and told to cover up, even on hot days and on flights women are told to change their seats for orthodox men who won’t go to another seat themselves. A women’s advocacy group remarked that what is happening is the continuation of “Israeli government policies that actively work to exclude and erase women from every space”.
An example is the push by Israel’s Environmental Protection Minister Idit Silman for a pilot plan for gender segregated bathing in public nature reserves and parks regardless of legal objections that it is illegal. But the Minister continues her outrageous crusade showing her contempt for the law and seeking to undermine the principle of equality as laid out in Israel’s Declaration of Independence.
A recent article talked about the government’s frightening steps against women to “reduce women’s status in Israel by weakening state bodies intended to advance women to strengthening rabbinical courts and avoiding actions meant to protect women from violence.”
In the Knesset the Committee on the Status of Women and Gender Equality headed by National Unity Party lawmaker, Pnina Tamano-Shata has been sidelined in the discussion of legislation to now be debated by a joint committee headed by far-right MK Simcha Rothman against the advice of the Knesset’s legal adviser. The bill to be discussed was importantly one for cancelling the statute of limitations on sex crimes. A bill which had already passed a preliminary reading in the Knesset.
An angry Pnina Tamano-Shata is quoted as saying “Do you think I’ll be your fig leaf so you can crush the status of women? You might as well dismantle the Status of Women’s Committee.”
Also, in the Knesset Haredi women’s groups are being barred from a Knesset panel on the “Right to Gender Segregation in Israel”. Two groups were denied entry on the basis that there were already enough organisations representing Haredi women. The two groups happened to be Orthodox feminist groups which represent women in rabbinical courts. There has sadly been an expansion of rabbinic court’s authority.
To drive home the point the Netanyahu government has appointed 23 men to the position of director-general of ministries-and not a single woman. “An attempt to roll back the presence of women at the cabinet table and in the public arena”. Finally, the legal discrimination in providing services on the basis of religious belief is an excruciating attempt to deny women access to medical treatment in favour of men.
As Progressive Jews, let us continue our support for IRAC, the IMPJ and the WUPJ in support of Israel and Israeli women.
Helen Shardey OAM
ARZA Australia President
UPJ Vice President