The New Push For Gender Segregation In Israel

Illustration for article titled The New Push For Gender Segregation In Israel

The recent battle over whether women can be told to sit in the back of a public bus in Brooklyn to uphold Orthodox Jewish rules against the mingling of the sexes gave New Yorkers a very small taste of the battle that's currently going on in Israel. Though ultra-Orthodox Jews are a minority in the country, they're pushing to apply their religious rules in more public areas, and secular Jews are balking at the idea of sanctioning gender segregation.

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While Israel is known for having strong female leaders such as Golda Meir and an army in which women have the same rights as men, gender is still a thorny issue within the country thanks to the conflict between the secular and ultra-Orthodox communities. The Associated Press estimates that of Israel's 6 million Jews, about half are secular and the rest are evenly split between Orthodox and traditional Judaism. Yet, the Ultra-Orthodox have a disproportionate amount of political power and their population is growing, particularly in Jerusalem. Now many secular Israelis fear that they could start forcing them to adhere to their rules on modesty and appropriate behavior.

Years ago Israel's Supreme Court shut down efforts to segregate busses that run through ultra-Orthodox neighborhoods, but recently leaders in those communities have been making new attempts to separate the sexes. Some health clinics have started featuring separate entrances and waiting rooms. Supermarkets in some ultra-Orthodox communities have started letting men and women in during different hours. Four female soldiers were told they might have to leave their artillery battalion because some extremely religious male soldiers are joining the unit.

As shown in the Brooklyn bus case, it's difficult to decide where to draw the line between the rights of one group to practice their religion and the rights those who don't share those beliefs from being discriminated against. However, the new effort to expand ultra-Orthodox regulations is having negative effects that aren't even mandated by law. For years advertisers have voluntarily kept ads featuring scantily-clad women out of certain neighborhoods in Jerusalem, as they're often defaced and torn down in a matter of hours. Now it seems it isn't enough to simply keep lingerie ads out of the area. Some advertisers have been removing women from ads altogether, and a radio station even banned songs by female singers and interviews with women. While once it was enough to keep the sexes separate, now images of women are actually disappearing from public areas.

Gender Segregation On Rise In Israel [AP]

Earlier: Women Told They Must Ride In The Back Of The Bus In Brooklyn

DISCUSSION

You can tackle segregation in cultures like this all you want, but you're wasting your time and not going to get anywhere. The ROOT cause of all this is the religion itself. In damn near all religious texts, women are barely considered people (half-people, at best) and yet something like 6 billion people on the planet consider these outdated misogynistic texts worthy enough to structure their lives around.

So we have people walking around looking at a book that's at LEAST 2,000 years old for guidance on current moral/social behavior and gender treatment.

If these people were just trailer trashed that threw vegetables at women for seeing them on the streets because their dad was abusive then sure, you might have a shot at breaking down that brick wall and getting them to realize that men and women are equal. THESE people though, they get their idea of women's behavior from their family, their church, their society and the book they read every day. The book that tells them that it's the ultimate undisputed authority on life. The How To guide for life and behavior and beliefs.

Good luck getting through to that one....