Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Live and Let Live: Israelis are being told not to allow religious extremists to rule their lives!

Is it time to speak up?
Since writing the item below, another 3 articles have now appeared in our AJN 16/12/11:
1. “Bibi, Peres take a stand”. (Omri Ephraim, Jerusalem). President & PM “ expressed fierce criticism on Monday over issue of exclusion of women in public life.’’ The Ynet Article ended with:” It was likely to assemble representatives from various ministries to weigh options, including issuing sanctions and fines against councils and private companies that permit the segregation of women”.
2. “ Extremism overtakes women’s rights.” Nua Rubistein, Ynet news.
3. “ Don’t turn Israel into Iran” Omri Efraim, Ynet News. “Hundreds of people gathered in Israel’s capital to protest at religious pressure to limit women’s role in the public life in Israel”. And finished with:
“Mickey Gitzin, head of the Free Israel movement, which organized the event, told Ynet: ‘we plan to continue singing every time and every place until this ugly phenomenon of shunning women stops.”

It seems to be time for everyone to speak up now!
Our Australian Jewish News had 2 articles the previous week (AJN, 7/12/11) referring to the problems that Israelis face vis-a-vis the religious extremists,- the 'Charedim' and/or the ultra-Charedim, the Sikrikim!

The religious affairs editor, Yossi Aarons describes what has happened to the religious-texts specialist book-shop in Jerusalem, Manny's. Being near Meah Shearim, the ultra-religious neighbourhood, it should have been in an ideal position. Not so,because it is absolutely horrifying what they did to that shop until they capitulated and now employ a Mashgiach to check what books are stocked so as not to have what they consider 'controversial' texts,- more for the women and girls not to see!,- and that there should be "modesty standards" in dress and similar issues, banning even Zionist books from the shelves,- except English ones!

As Yossi Aron put it:"It is Charedi gone mad- and even the police cannot (or don't want to) stop it.Indeed it is time for Rabbis to speak out- including the Rabbis of the Edah Charedit. For the trend that has led us to this situation is the bane of the contemporary Orthodox world and it cannot be allowed to flourish in any way, shape or form. Censorship of religious tomes and bans on their sale was sadly part of centuries of Diaspora Jewish life. It is the last thing the Orthodox world needs in Israel."

In the second article “Relax Israelis: live and let live” Avi Rath puts it well when he stated that “the last thing Israeli society needs is constant squabbling over religious affairs”.
It seems that as he puts it, "we always speak of love, but in practice we produce hatred." He goes on to tell everyone that they do not have to react to everything,- not the Rabbis, not the journalists to blow it up out of proportion, not the judiciary, leftists do not have to intervene every time against the right on the West Bank, nor the rightists in the repertoire of the national theatre!

What a sensible way to put it.Therefore, when Hilary Clinton reportedly expressed concerns about some aspects of domestic Israeli and religious politics, was she so wrong to speak up,- about the women’s issues in particular?

Modern Orthodox, ‘secular’ and Progressive Israeli women are voicing alarm at the intrusion of ‘haredi’ influences on Israeli society which impacts first and foremost on the civic and just plain human rights of girls and women and they are challenging us to help them from the Diaspora. Well known activist, Sharon Shenhav quoted from her article:” as an Orthodox women's rights activist and lawyer, I am very concerned about increasing efforts by religious extremists to remove women from public areas. My friends and colleagues, who include Orthodox, Conservative, Reform, and secular (non-observant) Jews are equally concerned about these efforts to silence women's voices. In Jerusalem, we are particularly concerned about the elimination of women's faces and bodies from billboards and public advertisements on buses. As I mentioned in the article I published, I am concerned about the response of secular organizations and companies who have voluntarily agreed to eliminate women from public areas or comply with demands for gender segregation in public areas. These secular organizations include the IDF, Egged Bus company, Magen David Adom, the city of Jerusalem, and private commercial companies.”

The time may have come for all Diaspora Jews to also voice our concerns about the circumstances which face many of our Israeli sisters in particular. Women must be permitted to be HEARD as well as to be SEEN -- in Israel and in all other countries. With affiliates in over 40 countries in the world, The International Council of Jewish Women ( ICJW) strongly supports this position to help all women including the Israeli ones with social issues which do not depend solely on throwing money at them. The “squabbling” Rath describes over religious affairs is based on real problems many women and families face.

PM Netanyahu and the Knesset should enforce a Jewish religious edict of “live and let live”.
It is bad enough that the whole Arab Middle East seems to be returning to the Middle Ages religiously, especially vis-à-vis women,-but we do not wish such a fate creeping onto the Israelis.
There is a small minority of Jewish religious extremists,- why allow them such influence in a democracy? .
Rath’s “Live and let live” is a wonderful slogan for coexistence. If only her Arab neighbours would also embrace it vis-à-vis Israel as a whole!
Malvina Malinek OAM
Hon. Life Member of ICJW Executive)

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