Monthly Archives: August 2023

Women Under Threat In Israel From Extreme Government

The girls sitting at the back of the Nateev Express bus, after being told to 'cover up' on Sunday. Credit: Haaretz

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.

ARZA President, Helen Shardey

Helen Shardey OAM
ARZA Australia President
UPJ Vice President

2023-08-27T23:38:48+10:00August 25th, 2023|News|

A Tolerant Jewish Voice For Israel

Orly Erez-Likhovski

Last Saturday IRAC’s executive director, Orly Erez-Likhovski had the privilege of speaking at the Jerusalem rally in front of thousands of protesters. (Facebook/IRAC)

Last week I received an email from Orly Erez-Likhovski, Director of the Israel Religious Action Centre (IRAC). Orly had been invited to speak at the Jerusalem protest rally in front of thousands of protesters. It was a very powerful experience for her, which is why she wanted to share some of what she had to say on that night. I will quote parts of her message.

“We, in the Reform movement , have been fighting for years for equality for all streams of Judaism, against discrimination and racism, against the exclusion of women and for LGBTQ rights. Just this week, we argued before the Supreme Court for equality for LGBTQ couples who want to adopt children.”

“Our motto has been Defending Democracy in the name of Judaism, because what the government is pushing is neither democratic nor Jewish.”

“We are fighting at the Knesset, in the courts, and in the streets. We are ‘praying with our feet’ as Rabbi Abraham Joshua Heschel said. We mark Havdalah every Saturday night right at the beginning of the weekly protests. We raise a tolerant Jewish voice, a voice that holds that ‘beloved is every human, for they were created in the image of God’ and believes in ‘you shall love the stranger’. A Jewish voice that cries out against the horrific and terrible events of the past weekend.”

“We are at a moment of crisis, but a crisis that presents an opportunity. Most Israelis reject extremism, support freedom of religion and equality, and oppose undermining our courts. This majority is saying that ‘we will not give up on democracy’.”

Orly went on to talk about the support from millions of Jews around the world who support the protesters and are Israel’s partners in defending Judaism and democracy. She also talked about us entering the month of Elul and quoted the poetic prayer ‘O child of Adam. Are you asleep?’. She said Since January, the Israeli public has awoken and risen up. This awakening is uplifting and moving. It is suffused with our power to change reality..

Watch Orly’s speech on Facebook

If you have the opportunity to support our Progressive movement in Israel through IRAC and the IMPJ (Israel Movement for Progressive Judaism) or through our world body the WUPJ (World Union for Progressive Judaism), please do not hesitate to give your financial support to protect freedom and democracy in Israel and Progressive Judaism world-wide.

ARZA President, Helen Shardey

Helen Shardey OAM
ARZA Australia President
UPJ Vice President
WUPJ Executive Board

2023-08-16T09:29:40+10:00August 16th, 2023|News|

Joint Statement by the Jewish Progressive Movement of Australia

upj logo clear

Joint Statement by the Jewish Progressive Movement of Australia supporting the ZFA and ECAJ in criticising the new position of the Australian Government in relation to Israel.

The Union for Progressive Judaism, the Australian Reform Zionist Association and the Assembly of Rabbis and Cantors today announced their support for the joint statement by the Zionist Federation of Australia and the Executive Council of Australian Jewry in condemning the Australian Government’s decision to “harden its position on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.”

The joint public statement said the Australian Government’s language was inaccurate, ahistorical and counterproductive, pre-empting the outcome of negotiations between the parties and final status issues.

The statement suggested that “the Labor leadership ought to push back against factions within Labor, and instead work to re-establish a sensible, centrist and sustainable bipartisan position on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. The Israeli-Palestinian conflict must not become a political football”.

The Progressive Movement of Australia agrees with this statement in its entirety and urges the Australian Government to heed the advice given.

Helen Shardey OAM
President, Australian Reform Zionist Association

David Knoll AM and Brian Samuel OAM
Co-Presidents, Union for Progressive Judaism

Rabbi Allison Conyer
Chair, Assembly of Rabbis and Cantors of Australia, New Zealand and Asia

2023-08-11T09:33:56+10:00August 10th, 2023|News|
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