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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