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The Feminists of Zion


FaustianSlip

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I recently ran across this article in New Republic about the increasing restrictions being put on women in public places in Israel and how the situation (wherein the Haredim generally appear to be left to do as they please with impunity, up to and including physically attacking people) has started to create alliances between frum (i.e. Orthodox but not Haredi- what diaspora Jews would probably refer to as Modern Orthodox), heterodox (i.e. Conservative/Masorti and Reform) and secular Israeli women. It's a fascinating, if disturbing read, and it says a lot about how bad the situation is becoming, IMHO, that a non-Jewish, non-Israeli periodical is covering this in some depth.

One of the commenters on Failed Messiah, where I first saw this article linked, asked a good question about the (Orthodox!) schoolgirls in Beit Shemesh who were spat on and harassed by an angry Haredi mob for being "immodestly dressed" while going to school. Namely, if President Eisenhower was able to muster the 101st Airborne to ensure that the schools of Little Rock were desegregated and that those kids could get to school unmolested, at least for the most part, why in the world couldn't the Israeli government put IDF troops in Beit Shemesh to ensure that those girls were protected? That's what scares me the most about this stuff- yes, the Haredim are lunatics and all the rest, but what I find much more disturbing is the way the Israeli government has largely stood back and allowed this stuff to occur with very little pushback, at least until very recently. And it's not just a case of declining to enforce law and order (as in the cases with women being attacked on buses for refusing to move to the back or women being attacked for getting to near Haredi neighborhoods in "immodest" dress), but of actually propping up this system with stipends paid by the state to men studying in yeshiva, draft exemptions and the rest.

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I'll read the article as soon as I get a chance.

The short answer to your questions is:

1. The Bet Shemesh incident was a turning point, with Israelis politicians taking the issue more seriously.

2. In some cases, governments have avoided conflict with fanatics because dealing with protests or riots is not pleasant. As well as gender issues, confrontations have taken place from issues ranging from Pride Parades in Jerusalem to municipal parking lots being open on Saturdays to fears that new construction may disturb ancient graves.

3. The Israeli political system isn't just 2 big parties. There are a whole lot of parties, which keep changing, and to form a government someone needs to get enough of these small parties into a coalition. Traditionally, when peace/security issues were paramount to most Israelis, either Labor or Likud would be willing to get smaller religious parties into their coalition by saying, "we'll give you the Interior Ministry, pass a piece of legislation, fund your schools and drop corruption charges against X". That's changed a bit with the most recent election, since none of the Haredi parties are in the current coalition, and some of them are feeling particularly threatened.

4. In the past, there were some old agreements and status quo arrangements. It was actually secular socialist politicians (like Shimon Peres) who agreed to have military exemptions for religious yeshiva students - but at the time, they were only talking about a few hundred students and this was seen as a compassionate move after so many Eastern European centers of religious Jewish life had just been destroyed. They also agreed that the state would be largely secular in character, but that Jewish law would apply to specific areas, including marriage and burials for Jews. Now, some of these old agreements are not longer valid, it's clear that some of these agreements ended up being way more far-reaching than anticipated, and court have come up with an end-run around some religious restrictions (eg. religious marriage rules don't apply to marriage performed abroad or common-law relationships, so the rules for both are very liberal and Israel was one of the first countries to recognize same-sex marriages performed in Canada).

ETA: I just read the article and the update. It's probably the best and most comprehensive article that I've read, and it captures a lot of the nuances and details. I guess I could have just saved myself tons of posting time and simply said "read this".

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I did read the article (which was why I posted it). And I am familiar with the coalition system and its impact on politics in Israel, but even taking that into consideration, it seems particularly gutless to just sit by and do nothing while this stuff is going on. And while Beit Shemesh was a turning point, there are still stories pretty much daily of not only women being attacked by Haredim for ridiculous, perceived slights (my personal favorite was the female firefighter on her way to fight a fire in a Haredi neighborhood who was attacked by a mob because her uniform included pants), but also Haredi men in uniform. And while a handful of these cases do appear to be resulting in arrests being made, my impression is that a hell of a lot of them still don't. And look at the thing with the Egged buses- first it's, "Well, no pictures of women." They're told this is illegal. "Okay, no pictures of anyone." Um, no, that's not acceptable, either. "Well, we're still not putting any ads with pictures on our buses or bus shelters." It's like the entire country is being held hostage by these lunatics and just letting it happen.

I honestly think that if the secular and religiously moderate Israelis don't address this stuff very, very soon, it's going to be too late to do anything. At that point, it's just a matter of time before Israel collapses under its own weight trying to support an increasing number of people who won't work, won't serve in the military and won't do anything, really, but try to impose increasingly Saudi Arabian-esque laws upon the general public.

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And this, from the updated article, is particularly disturbing (italics mine):

Allison also reported recently that Hadassah Margolese, the woman whose daughter, Na’ama, was featured in the video about the Orot school embedded in our story, moved out of the city of Beit Shemesh last Tuesday, as the result of controversy over things she had said and done around the issue of women’s treatment in the community. Importantly, Margolese said she felt pressure not just by the Haredi people of Beit Shemesh, but also by members of her own Modern Orthodox community, to stop speaking out publicly against the religious establishment.

Keep it classy, guys!

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it's just a matter of time before Israel collapses under its own weight trying to support an increasing number of people who won't work, won't serve in the military and won't do anything, really, but try to impose increasingly Saudi Arabian-esque laws upon the general

I agree 100%. I'm a lifelong atheist but cultural Jew and what I read about the Haredi is absolutely infuriating. I really see no difference between them and the Taliban. Both want to impose strict religious law on every living soul, and both view women as nothing more than breeding machines and pack mules, unworthy of even minimal consideration as human beings.

I have enough issues with some Israeli policies. But if the government continues down the path of bending over for these leeches, they've lost me completely.

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I totally agree. I've had conversations with friends about it, and I can never quite decide which makes me more angry, the whole situation with Gaza and the West Bank or the fact that ultimately, Israeli politicians don't have the stones to stand up and protect their own mothers, wives, sisters and daughters if it means losing some precious coalition votes. It's a complete disgrace.

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Is it possible this violence is in reaction to the Israeli government's push to integrate the Haredim and cut draft exemptions/welfare payments to that group? I can see if they feel that their status of being special and set apart is being threatened, they may push back. Not that I'm excusing it, I'm just wondering if there is a correlation.

I know just enough about this to be dangerous, but this post made me think of a NYT article I read recently: http://www.nytimes.com/2013/06/07/world ... d=all&_r=0

ETA: not breaking link b/c it's news

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Disgusting, and just goes to show that extremism is always a bad idea, in any form. Do you really think that God is pleased with people who attack little children and innocent people? In the case of the firefighter, what ever happened to saving lives coming before every other commandment? It's just sick.

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I just watched the video that was part of the article and I don't even have words to describe how angry it made me. Fundie arrogance knows no bounds.

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Is it possible this violence is in reaction to the Israeli government's push to integrate the Haredim and cut draft exemptions/welfare payments to that group? I can see if they feel that their status of being special and set apart is being threatened, they may push back. Not that I'm excusing it, I'm just wondering if there is a correlation.

There may be- I definitely think the attacks on Haredi soldiers in uniform correlate, but the attacks on women were going on well before the prospect of cutting draft exemptions and yeshiva stipends really gained traction.

I do think that, not unlike a lot of the fundie men trying to ram through all of these insane abortion restrictions and the like, the Haredim are realizing that people have started to wake up and are about finished kowtowing to what they want. Knowing that if things continue in this vein, their days on the government dole may well be numbered, they're lashing out out of desperation as much as anything else.

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