Israel Stands Up to Gender Extremists

P. David Hornik is a freelance writer and translator living in Beersheva and author of the book Choosing Life in Israel. 


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On Thursday Attorney-General Yehuda Weinstein called a meeting of top brass to discuss combating the intolerable phenomena. On the agenda were “whether local municipalities can be required to remove signs [demanding “modesty”] that violate women’s rights” and “ways to improve criminal law enforcement against ultra-Orthodox extremists who are physically and verbally abusive toward women.” Earlier in the week Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu had asked Weinstein to tackle the issue.

Also on Thursday female Member of Knesset Tzipi Hotovely, along with two male MKs, rode a segregated, mostly ultra-Orthodox bus from Beit Shemesh to Jerusalem. All three sat in front of the vehicle. Hotovely is herself Orthodox and one of the more “right-wing” (assertive about the importance of land) members of Netanyahu’s Likud Party. She is also one of the strongest voices against the ultra-Orthodox abuses.

In other words, Israel is uniting against the threat—something it is much practiced in doing. Indeed, some point out that far worse things—polygamy, honor killings, and female genital mutilation are some—go on in the surrounding countries without evoking nearly as much media interest as some harassment in Israel.

Which is true enough; as is the fact that another, seemingly relevant story this week—five women graduating as pilots in the Israeli air force—seems to have been missed by the media entirely. It might have made Israel look too good.

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  • Shalom Freedman

    This is a very good article as it correctly outlines the problem and indicates the way Israeli society is attempting to deal with it. It also hints , correctly i believe, that the problem is not going to go away completely. I might also add that the problem of fanatical narrowmindedness and I might add ignorance relates not only to the problem of women's dignity it also relates to the openness and freedom of inquiry of the society, its defense, and its general strength.

  • Alex Kovnat

    I can't help but notice the similarities between Israel's ultra-orthodox element and the Arabo-Islamic peoples. In both, the men wear beards and are in both cases, terrified of female sexuality. Instead of hating one another, they should sit down and have lunch or dinner together. Wouldn't that be something?

    • Bamaguje

      I couldn't agree more…Judaic Sharia!!
      Actually its not completely surprising after all, the Old testament Torah also calls for stoning adulterers to death.

    • Alain

      However there remains a major difference in that the "ultra-orthodox" Jews do not throw acid on girls and women, do not mutilate them and do not murder them for dressing and behaving in a secular way. Let's leave the relativism out, please.

      • stern

        and, of course, as this article points out, the other major difference is that this behaviour is not condoned by the government. In the "Arabo-Islamic" (sic) world, it seems that the people are in the process of electing governments that will ENFORCE this kind of behaviour.

      • Roco

        Well, once they are no longer a minority you can expect a major ramp up of such violence. Christians in the west don't really pitch much acid but when they set off bombs, hide assassins and protest war dead you can see what they would do if given a truly free hand.

        • ziontruth

          You're right, religionists are all the same. It's best to live in a non-religious Marxist paradise like North Korea. /sarc

    • ziontruth

      "I can't help but notice the similarities between Israel's ultra-orthodox element and the Arabo-Islamic peoples."

      It so happens Islam copies a lot from Jewish Law. But Judaism remains local and national and therefore no concern of other peoples, while Islam is global and imperialistic.

      "Instead of hating one another, they should sit down and have lunch or dinner together."

      Great idea. Thing is, despite all the "common ground" you trumpet here, it so happens the Muslims want to kill us all, including the Ultra-Orthodox Jews, so this idea will have to go the way of all other pipe-dreams.

      The Jewish–Muslim conflict is not about moral values so much as it is about Jewish survival. In many ways, this is far better than a moral crusade, because it means we get to play by our own rules instead of having to guard against being hoist on the petard of our morality. We don't have to grapple with the question of building a mosque on Ground Zero, because we aren't it in to prove how moral we are. Or at any rate that's how things are going to be once we have true Jewish leaders more concerned with Jewish survival than with looking good in the eyes of the world.

  • Robin Garbose

    Great piece. I just returned from Israel and you summed it up perfectly. Please read my recent Op-Ed in the Jerusalem Post:
    http://www.jpost.com/Opinion/Op-EdContributors/Ar

    • P. David Hornik

      Yes, what we need is moderation from all sides. What happened this week was a coalescence of the broad swath of the moderates against one of the extremes.

  • Robin Garbose

    I would like to see more mainstream hareidi rabbis come out against these extremists. Unfortunately, patriarchy does exist in several religious communities where women are shamed and bullied into submission. I think many in the Beit Shemesh religious zionist community feel broken-hearted by the meanness of these 'religious' Jews. I can only imagine what a man who spits on little girls does to his own daughters.

    • P. David Hornik

      I quite agree. I'm not Orthodox but I like to listen to Chaim Amsalem. There need to be more like him.

  • StephenD

    So let me get this straight. An 8 year old girl is spat upon for immodest dress and the world is in an uproar. Despicable as this act is I can't wrap my head around the silence when I read of another girls ears and nose being cut off or acid thrown in her face for "immodest dress" as happens in Islam. Maybe if we get even quieter about these atrocities, they will not have happened and we can watch for the unicorns and rainbows together.

    • tanstaafl

      I think the reaction is similar to the west's reaction to the dictatorships of Mao and Stalin compared to that of Hitler's. Hitler is viewed as the devil incarnate; Mao and Stalin, not so much.

      We know better. We know better than to spit on eight year old girls.

      Of course, the slaves of Islam do far worse. Muslims are not far removed from stone age savages. Their actions are appalling and should be condemned by the ummah. But they won't be.

      We know better.

      • daniel rotter

        "Muslims are not far removed from stone age savages."

        Yes, and the Jews who venerate the Old Testament (a book that contains such delights as the advocation of death for, among many other things, blasphemers) are such pristine angels by comparison for their OT worship.

  • SwampFox2U

    In reading the old testament and the covenant ways one notices the similarity of the true believers in Islam. Both have rather extreme ways toward women and ultra conservative beliefs on what God told them to do to infidels and apostates.

    • stern

      Oh for heaven's sake, give it a rest. Read the article above. Notice that while the Islamic world is enforcing fundamentalist views, 99% of Israelis are speaking out. While Islamic governments are legislating against women, Israel's government legislates equality for all.

      • daniel rotter

        Give me a break with the "99% of Israelis are speaking out" silliness. You just got that from a completely citation-free claim from the article.

        • Elgar

          Good point. Actually there's a new study out that says 87.4002% of Israelis approve spitting on little girls. Those damn people…

    • ziontruth

      "In reading the old testament and the covenant ways one notices the similarity of the true believers in Islam."

      Judaism is confined to one nation, and its laws of statecraft to one small region in the whole world. Islam is believed to be for all humanity, and all its laws to be enforced worldwide. You have a right to criticize Islam, because the Muslims plan for you to live as they do in their heartlands, no matter who you are and where you live; but criticizing Judaism is intervention in an affair that is no concern of yours, and therefore not your right.

    • alan g

      can you please point out where in the old testament, there is anything disrespectful to women aside from allowing a man to not be distravcted in prayer.

  • Northanhymbre Heathen

    My guess is that Judaic extremism thrives where people feel that the mainstream has failed them somehow (particularly as regards security.). People probably feel an urge to return to scripture in a very literal way because it gives them that sense of security (you see some of these tendencies amongst some Hindus too, and for the same reasons). Sadly this may lead some to become like the very people they want to defend themselves against, and whom they feel the moderate mainstream has not succeeded in tackling properly (or has "allowed in"). Where people are terrified, they can become rather apocalyptic and religiously fundamentalist, driven by a desire to make sense of a crazy world and align themselves desperately with a higher power, whatever they percieve that to be. Also, whatever they percieve that higher power to require, they'll do, even stuff they wouldn't dream of doing under normal circumstances.

    Sadly, it's often women's liberties which suffer in all this, as people mistake historical inequalities (perhaps originally designed to prevent womenfolk from being carried off by marauders) as "divine mandate" which will somehow bring them holy favour in an uncertain world. It's ironic though as it would be another victory for the Islamists if those who stand against them were to fall into some of their very own evil ways!

    • ziontruth

      "My guess is that Judaic extremism…"

      Segregation of the sexes is not Judaic extremism, it's basic Jewish Law. Where Jews do not uphold such segregation, it just means they don't take Jewish Law seriously, and not that Jewish Law offers any wiggle-room on that point.

      • Northanhymbre Heathen

        "Where Jews do not uphold such segregation, it just means they don't take Jewish Law seriously, and not that Jewish Law offers any wiggle-room on that point."

        I'm guessing that you don't consider Reform Jews as "proper Jews" then eh (or a fair number of Conservatives and even some Orthodox by the looks of things) ? So were the Warsaw ghetto resistance fighters wrong to have men and women fighting alongside each other in the way that they did? Surely those guys have been an inspiration to generations of Jews since the war – is that wrong in your opinion? Are those people less worthy of glory because they didn't segregate?

  • FriendofGaryCooper

    Although many Orthodox Jewish men are afraid of female sexuality; Orthodox Judaism doesn't necessarily put women in straightjackets. There is a prayer in the
    Orthodox prayerbook that begins, "She considereth a field and buyeth it," and the
    rest of it describes how the lady of the house runs the house, AND the family business.
    The problem here is in how Orthodox Jews INTERPRET the law; the law itself is most of the time not oppressive. Judaism CELEBRATES strong women.

    • ziontruth

      "The problem here is in how Orthodox Jews INTERPRET the law…"

      Orthodox Judaism has always interpreted the commandment not to go astray after one's own eyes (Numbers 15:39) as necessitating sexual segregation. This has been so for about three millennia, ever since the Torah was dictated to Moses at Sinai, and its authoritative commentary (the Oral Law) was handed along with it.

      What people want now is for the Jews to give up God's commandments in favor of the zeitgest, which means also the acceptance of homosexuality and abortion on demand. The faithful cannot in all conscience do so, any more than the faithful Jews of the past could heed decrees to bow to pagan statues. HaShem's eternal law trumps current fads now and always.

      • FriendofGaryCooper

        There's nothing in Numbers or anywhere else that says that women need to sit at the back of the bus. The bus isn't a synagogue, and women can sit wherever they choose.

        • ziontruth

          "There's nothing in Numbers or anywhere else that says that women need to sit at the back of the bus."

          I think people are only getting worked up over this because of the imagery, the reminder of blacks sitting at the back of the bus in the past. Orthodox Judaism just says there needs to be sexual segregation; if it could be done some other way than putting the women at the back, it would likely be done so.

          • FriendofGaryCooper

            To Ziontruth: You are side-stepping the issue, sir. In your first reply above, your too-broad interpretation of Numbers 15:39("not to go astray after one's own eyes") carried to its logical conclusion, would necessitate sexual segregation in all public places; an absurd result. Politically, it might result in a theocracy in Israel–a totally unacceptable possibility. As to your second reply above–just as forcing American blacks to the back of the bus was and is wrong; so forcing women to the back is also wrong. And THAT is the issue.

          • ziontruth

            "your too-broad interpretation of Numbers 15:39"

            Not my interpretation, but the Jewish Sages'. It's from the Mishnah, the Oral Law that was given along with the Written Law (the Torah) as the one and only true key to its interpretation.

            "Politically, it might result in a theocracy in Israel–a totally unacceptable possibility."

            I don't want Israel to become a theocracy without the consent of all its Jewish citizens, so I'm not advocating theocracy here. However, I can't condemn Jewish Law. The hallmark of Orthodox Judaism is its steadfast clinging to God's law, no matter how "unenlightened" the world might consider it.

            "…so forcing women to the back is also wrong. And THAT is the issue."

            Then it needs to be done some other way, I agree. But not at the price of letting unrelated, unmarried men and women mix.

          • FriendofGaryCooper

            No minority needs to sit at the back of the bus; whether force is used or not. True freedom is freedom for all.

    • Chaya

      Very well said! There are lunatics unfortunately in every sect and every religion. As an observant Jew I as well as my coreligionists find this whole situation sickening on many levels. First and foremost that a person who considers himself religious can treat another person in such a way (which by the way is the first indication that this person is NOT IN ANY WAY religious) and secondly that people should comment about the way "the orthodox treat women" as if this is normal is so very sad.

      • Chaya

        This comment was to FriendofGaryCooper

        • FriendofGaryCooper

          To Chaya- Unfortunately, fringe behavior almost always succeeds in unfairly characterizing the majority; and Orthodox Jews are no exception. Do a majority of Orthodox Jews treat women in a disrespectful way? No, of course not. But tell me, what do you think of the Haredi protest in Jerusalem, in which they were wearing yellow Holocaust badges?

          • ziontruth

            "But tell me, what do you think of the Haredi protest in Jerusalem, in which they were wearing yellow Holocaust badges?"

            You see, Chaya? No matter how you try to justify your community, there will always be a further demand from those who are in it for faultfinding.

          • FriendofGaryCooper

            And that is why there are different types of Judaism. You don't have to justify your community; and I don't have to justify mine. But don't try to impose your beliefs on me; with our without force, if I don't agree with them.

          • Chaya

            My friend, It's the same radicals! to quote a local paper "It is becoming increasingly clear to me that the Charedim (ultra-orthodox) of Meah Shearim and Ramat Bet Shemesh Bet (RBS B) on the one hand – and the rest of the Charedi world on the other are as different from each other as observant Jews are from secular Jews. The Hashkafos (philosophies) of the two Charedi worlds might seem similar, but they are in fact radically different." I must also tell you that I know extremely refined "ultra orthodox' families from Meah Shearim who open their homes every Sabbath to whomever would like to join them (religious or not) and are treated royally. I know this because I was guest there many times! So much for stereotypes!

      • daniel rotter

        "…this person is NOT IN ANY WAY religious")…

        WHAT?! From the article (my emphasis): "An ULTRA-ORTHODOX man, Shlomo Fuchs, told her to sit in the back."

        • mjazz

          Isn't the essence of religion, "Don't do to others what you don't want done to yourself", or, "Do to others as you would have them do to you."?

      • ziontruth

        Chaya,

        Currying favor with those who want to find fault with us is a waste of time.

        • Chaya

          Not everyone wants to find fault. I think many are curious for real answers :)

          • ziontruth

            You've got a point there. But one still needs to be careful—some (though not all) innocent-looking walls have anti-Israel mainstream media ears.

  • Yeshayahu Goldfeld

    For as long as Israel exists governments have sold us secular citizens to the religious parties for coalitional consideration.Year by year our civil rights have been encroached with the active participation of all those who claim now to be shocked by the latest and crasses upflair of messianic extremism.The poor population votes for religious parties who distribute financial assistance from taxes paid by us secularists and transferred by the government to the religious parties in huge sums.

  • Ben

    No conflicts between Us extremist sects attract so great international attantion as this Israel`s! SwampFox2U, as an atheist I can`t understand the ironic attitude of many Christians toward the Old Testament that is the base of their believe.For the atheist it`s like the irony on the spherical earth.

    • mjazz

      It might have something to do with the fact that Jesus was Jewish.
      I think it's ironic that someone with a scientific point of view thinks that everything came from nothing all by itself.

  • WilliamJamesWard

    This is a really nutso situation created by someone who should know better than
    to spit on a child, there is no moral reason for this, no defense, it is a deplorable
    act but not a vicious and horrid attack. It is the act of someone who has not grown
    up and does not see their responsibility as and adult. It does though bring focus
    on other complaints where there is real or perceived insult and demeaning of
    honor and stature, the danger is swallowing whole PC which makes everything
    all the worse and opens the door to untold insanity. To say that it is all overblown
    is understatement, apologys are in order. International Israeli haters need little
    to criticize the Jewish Nation, look at the idiot Hillary Clinton for a prime example.
    Every place has problems no matter who or where, the idea is let the adults take
    charge and let the demagogues shut their big fat mouth……………William

    • daniel rotter

      "…but not a vicious and horrid attack."

      Bet you'd change your tune on that if it was a Muslim doing the spitting.

      • WilliamJamesWard

        You are and idiot rotter, please do not waste your brilliance on any comment
        I make, you are nauseating and brainless……………………….William

        • daniel rotter

          "…you are nauseating and brainless…"

          Coming from you, Ward, those words are obviously meant not as criticisms but as compliments.

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  • Ardeshir

    As an Iranian who has seen Islamic Extremism, I am amazed at how nobody even the Israelis learn from the History!!!!
    When I was 18, I was arrested by the Islamic extremist Basijis in Tehran just because I was walking with my girl friend in a Park in Tehran. I was put in jail for 3 days, humiliated, and my poor mother had to pay equivalent to one month of her salary to bail me out. My girl friend was called the worst names and taken into custody and her parents had to go and get her out. That's why I escaped Iran's Intolerance the first opportunity that I got, and moved to the West, I always considered Israel as a Progressive society which allowed its women to be all that they had the potential to be. I used to see the Israeli women in uniform and be in awe of them. Now all of that image is shattered in my mind and millions of others because just like Iran, these intolerant Ultra Orthodox Jews are acting exactly like the Mullahs in Iran. THERE IS NO DIFFERENCE. God forbid if these people get into power in Israel, it will be worse than in Iran. I warn all secular, tolerant Jews to wake up before it will be too late. We lost our beloved Iran to a minority of extremist Islamic Fundamentalists who pushed the majority aside with their barbarism and hateful messages, took control of my country the last 32 years and pushed it socially backwards hundreds of years. PLEASE wake up and stop these zealots before it is too late. I lost several of my good young friends just because they were leftists. They were executed in the 1980s by the same regime of Mullahs in Iran. If you do not prevent the Ultra-Orthodox Jews, do not be surprised to see the Taliban style enforcement of throwing acid in the little girl faces going in their pigtails to school. Now they are spitting & cursing at these innocent young girls, and tomorrow they will do much worse. WAKE UP.

    • WilliamJamesWard

      Where in the world have you been during the murder and mayhem of Islamist
      riot, destroying and killing innocents, murdering Jews, Christias and anyone
      not bowing down to Islam. How is it even possible to equate a foolish and
      incensitive act of juvenile behavior with bloody assassination and mayhem.
      You are a fraud and to try and indict Israelis as equally guilty of anything
      found in Islam is a sickening fraud……….back to your cell……………William

      • Ardeshir

        I bet you are one of those same intolerant extremists. Islam, Christianity & Judaism are all tools of those who are intolerant, and want to control & enslave. It has been exactly people like you who have caused all the violence, & destruction in the name of religion throughout the history.

    • ziontruth

      "We lost our beloved Iran to a minority of extremist Islamic Fundamentalists who pushed the majority aside…"

      The same old story told again and again. Always, always there's a "moderate majority" that was "pushed aside" by a "tiny minority of extremists." Yeah, that's what people would like to believe.

      I call male bovine excrement on this narrative. As in Turkey, so in Iran, the fundamentalist believers eventually won the day through superior demography. And in Israel too, the Jewish populace is getting more religious because of, among others, the higher birthrates of the religious.

  • waterwillows

    Actually, the Haredin have their own bus lines that they exclusively use. There is no reason in the world why a secular person need to get on one of those buses and if they chose to do so, then abide by the rules.
    Or is it to be a trouble causer?

    The Haredi women are not brow beaten into anything. No one puts a gun to her head and says submit. She is free to accept this lifestyle as her choice. Or she may leave the ultra's and no one will issue a fatwa against her as an aspostate.
    Haredi women speak up and are listened to. They are not the door mats of men.

    But the lefty secular can never leave them alone to choose their own lifestyle. Like the Amish, they dress different and worship different. Who are we to tell them do it the same way as the rest of us.
    They are not the ones bombing buildings or tossing acid into female faces. And no one speaks up or demostrates about those horrors.
    I think it is the gospel of the secular in full blown competition for converts. Something like when they Christian bash in western lands.

    • daniel rotter

      "There is no reason in the world why a secular person need to get on one of those buses…"

      There is no reason in the world why a religious sect (of ANY religion) should have their own bus lines in the first place.

      • ziontruth

        There is no reason why Marxists should have their own media outlets.

        • daniel rotter

          Have any more goofball non sequiturs for me, or have you used up your quota for today?

          • ziontruth

            I want you to shut up. I don't care what words it takes to make you.

          • daniel rotter

            "I want you to shut up."

            Tough.

  • waterwillows

    Well according to the lefty/secular/marxist……that is truly most terrible.

    Imagine having or doing something that the rest of the comrades don't. But have you thought….. that is allowed in a free society?

  • daniel rotter

    Fallacious logic. Just because something is "allowed" doesn't mean it isn't criticism-worthy.

    • Chaya

      Sorry Daniel- I (Chaya) tried to comment on your previous comment but it didn't go through. What I was trying to say was that the way someone dresses can be very deceiving. Just because someone is called "ultra-orthodox" does not mean he/she is religious -meaning wanting to do G-D'S WILL which would surely be not to cause any human any suffering, pain or embarrassment!

  • Steven Henderson

    It is always a big issue not only in Israel but all over the over the world that women are harassing for some illegal purpose e.g. sex etc. It is time to take the measures for cut downing such a bad incidents. This is really a bad fact which we have to admit. Newcastle wedding photography

  • daniel rotter

    I didn't know that religious Jews should be immune from criticism ("attack"), even when they deserve it. Silly me.

  • jmz

    there is alot of antisemetic news out there. but that also does not mean that jews /israel are immune from critisizm. In fact what will seperate you from mussies the most is how your extreamists are delt with in the broad public forum. dont be like the islamic loosers who treat every act of terrorism commited by islamists as unwarranted islamaphobia and ignored. when your religious idiots do something stupid, call them out on it loudly and publicly.

  • ziontruth

    daniel rotter,

    There's a world out there, a hostile anti-Jewish (even if masked as anti-Zionist) world, that pounces on every tiny bit of criticism as an excuse to hate Jews and delegitimize their state. Therefore it is the duty of every Jew to avoid washing their dirty linen in public. In the face of a treacherous media both in Israel and worldwide, people ought to can it.

    Do not criticize your brothers and sisters in public. Do not apologize for anything the Jews or their state do, even if you think badly of it. These times require absolute partisanship in favor of one's nation—universal values be damned.

  • daniel rotter

    "Do not apologize for anything the Jews or their state do…."

    You're insane.

  • WilliamJamesWard

    Ignore the dirt bag, he is a filthy antisemite imbecile…………William

  • daniel rotter

    Hmmmm, maybe ziontruth's comment was meant to be satirical. If so, I take my last comment back.

  • ziontruth

    Nope, it wasn't. I'm deadly serious about those things.

  • ziontruth

    "In fact what will seperate you from mussies the most…"

    Where the Jewish and Islamic systems of law are similar—mainly, as I said, because Islam copies so much from Judaism—the wish to differentiate Jews from Muslims amounts to cutting one's nose to spite one's face.

    We have an eternal law to keep, no matter what comparisons can be made to other systems of law.

    "when your religious idiots do something stupid, call them out on it loudly and publicly."

    What for? What's in it for us? Why should we supply the hostile Marxist-owned media with yet more "admissions" of "guilt" as fuel for their delegitimization of the Jewish State? Even where I think the religious leaders are wrong, it's to be taken care of within the circle, not to be trumpeted to the enemy media.

  • daniel rotter

    Okay, then, you're insane.

  • ziontruth

    Yes, put it here for all to know: The fact that fanatical secularists like you pine for the glory days of the Soviet Union, when the religious were institutionalized. Ah, those were the days!

  • daniel rotter

    Your insanity is further confirmed.