Like a moth drawn to the fire, I can’t stop myself. And I warn the reader that this blog doea not have anything directly to do with science, or life in science–although it does have to do with life. And equality. Or a lack of it.
I moved to Israel in 1983. I was recruited to the military, and after some time, I thought to myself “If I ever get out of this uniform, everything will be okay. For anyone who survives the military, living in Israel should be ‘a piece of cake.'”
Then I realized there were reserve drafts, and I hated this as well. Within 10 years, I was able to get discharged (I’ll leave the circumstances purposefully enigmatic)–and I thought that from then on, life would be easy.
I was wrong. Among all the great achievements in Israel, scientific and otherwise, there remains a growing sense that medieval forces are taking over the country. That equality is being rejected. On various fronts.
Recently, some of us were grappling with the issue of how to leave a legacy–or lasting impact. Well, I am again appending an article written in the Israel daily “Yediot” by one woman who has made a lasting and lifelong impact. Her name is Shulamit Aloni, and she was the head of one of Israel’s political parties devoted to human rights, freedom, equality, tolerance and much more. She was Israel’s very best Education Minister for a time as part of a coalition years ago. She is a tireless fighter for the right’s of women and for freedom against religious coercion.
As I read this little article that Shulamit wrote, I could feel my guilt at abandoning her to the struggle. But I do not want my own daughter helplessly stuck in this atmosphere.
Judaism against women
Op-ed: We must fight Jewish radicalization, which views women as lesser human beings
Last month, Anat Hoffman of the Reform Movement (a non-orthodox and tolerant religious movement that has equality for women and is shunned by the orthodox in Israel-SC) proposed that I board one of the previously gender-segregated bus lines and examine the attitude to women. These are the bus routes where the High Court of Justice ruled such segregation is illegal and must be annulled (the orthodox believe women and men need to be segregated on buses, in lines, everywhere-SC).
I boarded the Route 418 bus from Ramat Beit Shemesh to Jerusalem. The bus was full, and I, an elderly woman over 80 years of age, sought a seat. The men did not appear ill to me yet nobody offered his seat (hardly surprising-SC).
I finally found a free seat at the front of the bus. I sat down and immediately heard someone yelling: “Women to the back of the bus.” They screamed but I smiled and continued to sit. Emotions were high but eventually the bus driver said: “Stop it. Let her sit wherever she wants.”
This segregation is disgusting. It is a shame that the Egged bus company cooperates with this for some profits. However, the problem is not Egged. After all, Egged is subsidized by the State and must serve the entire public, regardless of ethnicity, creed, religion or gender.
We are currently experiencing the revival of radical, zealous rabbis who seek to elicit power. They challenge the government and Knesset, brainwash their students and present themselves as an alternative: The rule of the Torah (the Bible-SC). This radicalization is fed by money, political power and the weakness of ministers and Knesset members who seek to curry favor with the religious public.
This is not a new phenomenon. It started when politicians began to make pilgrimages to rabbis.
Judaism never espoused the need to distance from women. After all, God created both man and woman in his own image. The segregation we are witnessing is the producing of prejudice and power struggles.
A crazy country
I learned from various rabbis, such as Shlomo Goren, who followed historical precedents of a “conditional divorce” to prevent women from becoming Agunot (A woman who cannot remarry for religious reasons-SC). Together we managed to prevent injustices done to many women. Rabbi Shmuel Avidor Hacohen was also a special man, and when I approached him with the problems of couples who could not get married he spared no effort and smoothed over the issues elegantly.
I meet successful women at the highest level of every field. I admire their rational, practical devotion to the targets they pursue. I also view the women of Kolech, Israel’s first Orthodox feminist organization, as wise, educated and incredibly clever. Yet I feel that we live in a crazy country. Everyone woos women but they are not given rights. We want them to be pretty, healthy and make a living – yet we also want them to shut up. Only few appreciate and truly care for their rights.
The Israeli public has tired of struggles for changing legislation for the sake of human rights. Yet now of all times – when winds of change are blowing and people are enlisting to the cause of a more dignified life for all of us – we must not forget the notion of equality for the entire population. We must care for others, allow every group and individual to express themselves, and respect each other.
We are persecuted by people who are supposed to be men of letters who honor every human being. So I have news for them: A woman is a human being too.