Opposition women's rights rally 311.
(photo credit: Itzik Edri/Dover Kadima)
Top female leaders vowed Friday to step up the battle against any attempts by
ultra- Orthodox factions to exclude women from public life.
increase this struggle and wake up all those who have fallen asleep or become
numb to this problem,” said opposition leader Tzipi Livni during the one-day
conference that included MKs from across the political spectrum, journalists,
professionals and academics.
“This is not only a struggle for the place
of women in society but also a struggle for the State of Israel.”
said Israel’s democracy and the freedoms women have here should never be taken
for granted because the situation can change in an instant.
thinks all these things are not connected is out of touch with reality,” she
said, highlighting a recent Health Ministry ceremony where a female scientist
was honored for her work but not allowed on stage to accept the
“If we do not stand at the front of the stage today, then it’s
possible at some point we will not be able to stand on the stage at all,” Livni
said. “We must immediately challenge this situation and make sure things
She said this was a struggle over the country’s core values, and
“anyone who believes Israel’s Jewish and democratic values should be connected
but not collide with each other, should join the struggle.”
Over the past
few weeks, media reports have highlighted the growing frequency of
gender-segregated bus lines, supermarkets, as well as public events – both
military and civilian – where women were barred from attending or their
appearance caused uproar among male ultra-Orthodox attendees.
joined at the event by Labor leader Shelly Yacimovich, Likud MK Gila Gamliel,
who currently serves as deputy minister for the Advancement of Young People,
Students and Women, MK Tzipi Hotovely, chairwoman of the Knesset Committee on
Status of the Woman and television journalist Orly Vilna’i.
in the roster of speakers was Adina Bar- Shalom, the eldest daughter of Sephardi
Chief Rabbi Ovadia Yosef.
Bar-Shalom has been extremely vocal in recent
weeks against attempts to “eliminate” women from public life. On Friday, she
said it was haredi (ultra-Orthodox) women who had built the world of Torah and
it was women who had worked hard to allow their husbands to study
“According to the Torah, the women hold a very high status,
and if we were following the words of the Torah like they are written then there
would be no need for us to be at this meeting at all,” said Bar-Shalom,
highlighting that not one haredi rabbi has advocated gender-segregation on buses
although she did theorize that the practice stemmed mainly from the overcrowded
public buses that go between the ultra-Orthodox neighborhoods of Jerusalem to
the Western Wall.
However, she said, the problem was not about the buses
or the segregation, rather the issue is about the respect that is being given to
“If it was not for us, then our men would not be allowed to sit
and study and become knowledgeable,” Bar- Shalom said.