Haredi bus protest with women 311 .
(photo credit: Marc Israel Sellem)
A new government committee formed less than a month ago to take on the increasing incidents of gender discrimination by some members of the haredi (ultra-Orthodox) community has already started to see some tangible results.
At a Wednesday meeting of the interministerial committee formed and headed by Culture and Sport Minister Limor Livnat, members heard that the Transportation Ministry has already started operating a 24-hour help line to field complaints about gender discrimination on public transportation, and the Religious Services Ministry declared it was ready to take on the phenomenon of preventing women from participating in burial ceremonies at public cemeteries.
In addition, a young woman who made headlines last month for refusing to move to the back of the bus at the request of an ultra-Orthodox male passenger told the committee that since speaking out against the ordeal, she had received multiple death threats.
Labeled the “Israeli Rosa Parks,” Tanya Rosenblit described at the meeting the threats she had received via phone, email and on Facebook, which she’d had to report to the police.
The story of how she stood up to pressure from the haredi man on a bus
ride from her hometown of Ashdod to Jerusalem has made her one of the
main symbols of the struggle against attempts to eliminate women from
“We live in a state governed by civil law, and not in a state controlled by religious law,” stated Livnat during the meeting.
While the death threats Rosenblit has received caused a stir, the steps
that the Transportation and Religious Services ministries have taken so
far were warmly received.
In addition to the Transportation Ministry reporting its help line
(1-800-800- 355), the Religious Services Ministry notified the committee
that it was set to release a clear statement to all cemeteries that
keeping women from eulogizing their loved ones or from accompanying them
on their final journey to the grave was prohibited.
The latter ministry’s director-general, Avigdor Ohana, said the notice
would be sent out in the coming days and emphasized that “no one can
tell a woman that she is not allowed to mourn” and that “each family
should be free to chose its own way of mourning.” He added, however,
that according to his own data, the practice of preventing women from
participating was not widespread.
“Even one case is one too many,” responded Livnat, adding that according
to her own information, “we are talking about dozens of incidents in
various cemeteries countrywide.”
She said there was “significant evidence” of such exclusion, and
highlighted that “each family should be able to act according to its own
The committee also welcomed a new set of guidelines drawn up by the
Civil Service Commissioner, to be distributed to the general managers in
government ministries and the heads of various departments, on all
matters concerning the elimination of women within the government
The new committee is a direct response to a recent spate of incidents in
which women were attacked physically and verbally for not moving to the
back of public buses or were forced to walk on a particular side of the
Gender segregation issues have also become visible in both civilian and
military public ceremonies, where women’s roles have been either
diminished or completely removed after requests or complaints from some
members of the haredi community.
At one army event, religious male soldiers refused to attend because
there were female singers, and in another case, a Health Ministry award
ceremony, the sole woman recipient was excluded because her presence
offended religious individuals. In addition, some cities with a large
ultra-Orthodox population have started to refrain from posting
billboards with images of women.
Livnat said the committee would continue to monitor this matter closely.