Skeptic News: Israeli Women Fight Orthodox Curbs

From: Inter Press Service

After filing the first-ever class-action lawsuit on the issue of gender segregation in Israel, a local religious women’s rights group says it hopes to protect the rights of women in the public sphere of Israeli society.

“It’s a way to stop the phenomenon. Usually we just talk about (discrimination against women) and nothing happens. When people will understand that it’s going to cost them a lot of money, we hope that things are going to change,” Riki Shapira, legal advisor and board member of Kolech, the first Orthodox Jewish feminist organisation in Israel tells IPS.

Kolech filed a NIS 104 million (25.8 million dollar) class action lawsuit on Aug. 29 against Kol Berama, an ultra-Orthodox radio station in Jerusalem. The organisation argues that Kol Berama discriminates against women by forbidding women’s voices from being heard on any of the station’s programmes.

According to an article in the Jerusalem Post, in its response to the lawsuit, Kol Berama called on the petitioners to respect “the beliefs and outlook of the majority of the (ultra-Orthodox) community, men and women together.” But not everyone in the ultra-Orthodox, or Haredi, community – which makes up approximately ten percent of the Israeli population – supports the radio station’s decision to exclude women from the airwaves. A 37-year-old ultra-Orthodox man who gave his name as Moshe (not his real name) spoke to IPS on condition of anonymity. He says he is opposed to gender discrimination within his community. “The radio station doesn’t give a voice to women, even when women are the issue being discussed. It’s a shame that their voices are being silenced,” he tells IPS. “There are a lot of different voices within the Haredi community. I don’t claim to know how many people think this and that way, but I know a lot that think like me.”

A Jerusalem native, he says that women’s rights are worsening, largely due to people becoming more religious, and extremist groups trying to control the ultra-Orthodox community. “Women should have the same rights as men,” he says.

Gender segregation based on the wishes of the ultra-orthodox seems to be becoming more common in Israel.

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