Thursday, November 18, 2010

Growing Gender Segregation in Israel Exposed

Report exposes growing gender segregation in Israel (New Israel Fund)

IRAC, the Reform movement’s Action Center, has published a comprehensive 50-page report entitled "Separation Between Men and Women in Public Places." The report analyzes the expansion of gender segregation over the past decade to encompass buses, government and municipal offices, health clinics, sidewalks and private businesses such as stores and restaurants. The report was presented to the Knesset last week.

The report’s authors stress, "The report’s aim is to expose social processes taking place in Israeli society that are supported by authorities even though they are against the law and there has been no public debate on the subject."

In recent years, the NIF family has fought an intensive campaign against growing gender segregation in Israel's public cases and has won court orders regarding segregated buses and sidewalks.

Read more about the report in the Jerusalem Post

Here is IRAC's first-hand report:

I have such great respect for the Beatles. They were huge, and they changed the world through their music. At IRAC, we strive to be the Beatles of pluralism. We try to get Israel to walk to a different beat. This week, I decided to borrow a few words from John, Paul, George and Ringo (in blue) to bring you up to speed with our work with the government.

Last Tuesday, we reeled and rocked in the Knesset. IRAC hosted a conference, with a little help from our friends in the Knesset, called Mudarot La’mhadrin, which translates roughly into Excluded Due To Mehadrin (ultra-Orthodox Jewish requirements for modesty or kashrut). Citizens, leaders of organizations and communities, professors and Members of Knesset spoke up about gender segregation in the public sphere.

Our legal team presented a 42-page report compiled over the past several years documenting how this phenomenon is escalating, with numerous cases—on buses, on public streets, at the Western Wall, even at medical clinics—showing that the increasingly strict ultra-Orthodox rules do not only separate men and women, but also humiliate them and keep them in a subjugated position. While it’s only available in Hebrew at the moment, I assure you that it is being translated into English and will be available soon.

We had a full room, and they saw the photographs that we presented showing real-life examples of segregation and signs that enforce it. Women and men spoke their minds, demanding that the State fix a hole where the rain gets in. One woman shared that she was excluded from her own father’s funeral ceremony, explaining that the funeral director told her that only men could partake in certain parts of the ceremony. Those who shared were no longer seen as fools on the hill; leaders in the government and members of the press listened intently throughout the conference.

Next month, we’re holding another session about issues of marriage. The conference on the subject of freedom of choice in marriage will advocate for a large portion of Israeli society who come from back in the USSR who could get married anywhere but not in Israel, their own country.

There are many members of Knesset who disagree with our continued presence there. I’ve got a feeling it will be a long and winding road, but we’re working eight days a week, and it’s getting better all the time.


Anat Hoffman

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