Israeli Women: Accomplished … and Unclean

Generally, I’ve kept my mouth shut about Israel. Honestly, I haven’t taken the time to really delve into the country’s history, or its politics. My hands-off-ness grows out of that – I know I’m not well-enough informed to hold strong opinions about it all. I’m sure there are some larger issues I don’t understand.

Still, there have been news stories over the years that have sometimes made it difficult for me to feel friendly toward the country.

Mostly, I like the joke I heard years ago, that the world would be better off if we’d given the Jews a homeland in New Jersey rather than the middle East.

Listen to this, though, from the New York Times:

Israelis Facing a Seismic Rift Over Role of Women

Organizers of a conference last week on women’s health and Jewish law barred women from speaking from the podium, leading at least eight speakers to cancel; ultra-Orthodox men spit on an 8-year-old girl whom they deemed immodestly dressed; the chief rabbi of the air force resigned his post because the army declined to excuse ultra-Orthodox soldiers from attending events where female singers perform; protesters depicted the Jerusalem police commander as Hitler on posters because he instructed public bus lines with mixed-sex seating to drive through ultra-Orthodox neighborhoods; vandals blacked out women’s faces on Jerusalem billboards.

The lead of the story involves a pediatrics professor, Dr. Channa Maayan,  attending an awards ceremony organized by the Israeli Health Ministry. Though she was there to receive an award, she was forced to sit quietly in the audience – separated from her husband, by the way, because the event was sexually segregated – while a male colleague went to the stage to accept the award for her.

Why? Because the acting health minister is an ultra-orthodox Jew, and because there were other ultra-orthodox Jews in attendance. And because THEY think that women are … well, hell, who cares what the fuck they think? It all boils down to this: Women are dirty and inferior, and not to be allowed to flaunt their ghastly, horrifying selves on stage even when they’ve been invited to a public event, by an official government office, to accept a major award.

Israeli women face a culture of religious morons, just like we’ve got in the U.S.  But can you imagine American women allowing such a thing to take place?

And yes, I know women in Israel are allowed to be military pilots, and elected officials, and all sorts of other stuff. They have still had to sit separate from men on certain buses.

I liked this weird bit at the end:

Rabbi Dror Moshe Cassouto, a 33-year-old Hasid, lives with his wife and four sons in the Jerusalem neighborhood of Mea Shearim, one of the centers of Haredi life in Israel. He never looks directly at a woman, other than his wife, and he believes that men and women have roles in nature that in modern society have been reversed, “because we live in darkness.”

His goal is to spread the light. “God watches over the Jewish nation as long as it studies Torah,” he said.

Still, the spitting and Nazi talk horrify him.

Ha. I’ll just bet they do.

Israel receives between three and five billion dollars annually in military and economic aid from the U.S. Because they’re allies in an uncertain world.

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  • Nomen Nescio

    i’ve never figured out exactly what we get back from israel for all that aid. i’m too cynical to think this country would just give that kind of money away without some sort of quid pro quo, but what’s the quo?

  • sumdum

    Political job security? I bet anyone who’d speak up against funding like this would have a short or limited career.

  • slc1

    Re Nomen Nescio @ #1

    Just for the information of Mr. Nescio, here’s a link to an article that appeared some time ago in the L. A. Times. Sounds pretty impressive to me.

    • Nomen Nescio

      thanks for the link.

      now, a diplomatic relationship probably shouldn’t be evaluated on the basis of just one newspaper story online, but i must say that that’s likely a good thing. the authors outline three major benefits of the relationship, as well as one (partially?) offsetting drawback, and on the whole they do not convince me we’re getting value for our money.

      the benefits are (1) technical assistance in developing weapons systems; (2) assistance in training and performing intelligence operations, as well as intelligence sharing, and (3) a political lever on the other regional powers of the middle east. the drawback is that israel occasionally disagrees with our policy objectives in both word and deed, in ways that can partially sabotage benefit #3 and possibly even #2.

      my counterarguments would be that (1) we’re already spending way too much on military hardware, and that first benefit could likely be jettisoned without seriously harming our interests; (2) intelligence on the relevant subjects could probably be had through purely U.S. efforts for no more money and with fewer drawbacks; and (3) i’m uncertain if the political influence they give us in the middle east is really a lever, rather than a two-edged sword.

      but, again, one newspaper article is nowhere near good enough grounds to judge an entire country, or a diplomatic relationship, on. i could likely get myself an entire poli sci degree (which i do not have) and still be unqualified to make that call. still, thanks for the reading.

  • carolw

    How do these men get over the squick factor to reproduce? How horrible to see half the population as filthy and lesser. I’d love to go flash a busload of Ultra-orthodox Jewish men just to see the looks on their faces.

    • Nepenthe


      If you’re up for some fun, you can play chicken on sidewalks with the Haredi men. Since they take a vow not to touch women, not even accidentally, walking down the streets is a dicey proposition for them.

      Of course, that’s a really assholeish thing to do. But then, so is sticking women at the back of the bus.

      PS. Fun fact. I had a modern Orthodox gent attempt to become my “friend” in college, but he was shomer negiah and would literally prod me with objects like pencils or move my chair to get my attention. Nice guy, but after about a month he found out that I’m not Jewish and ceased communication. Immediately upon graduation, he married a woman who would wear a wig, stay at home, and pump out pure-blooded children for him. Oh damn, what a missed opportunity!

  • F

    What’s with the unexplained photo of PZ with the funny hat?

  • frankb

    Hey F, you are on to something. PZ is visiting the holy land but doesn’t want us to know. Ok, he dyed his beard black and stretched his head, but it is all a ruse I tell you.

  • embertine

    I think the guy looks more like a young Terry Pratchett myself.