Livnat joins opposition-led women’s rights rally

MKs, activists, rabbis join march against gender-based discrimination; Livni: A great darkness has fallen on Israel during Festival of Lights.

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December 21, 2011 18:22
3 minute read.
Opposition-led rally for women's rights

Opposition women's rights rally 311. (photo credit: Itzik Edri/Dover Kadima)

 
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Culture and Sport Minister Limor Livnat joined an opposition- led rally to stop discrimination against women on Wednesday, calling for the government to take action against the phenomenon.

The event, originally planned by Labor’s young guard, began with a march from the Supreme Court to the Knesset, during which MKs and activists held torches and quoted the well-known Hanukka song “Banu Hoshech Legaresh” (we’ve come to dispel the darkness).

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Most of the MKs participating in the demonstration were from Kadima, including opposition leader Tzipi Livni. Meretz and Labor MKs were also present, though Labor leader Shelly Yacimovich, who spoke out against the “terrible regression” in women’s rights on Channel 2 that day, was conspicuously absent.

Livnat, who leads the Interministerial Committee on the Status of Women, joined the protesters when they reached a Knesset conference room, saying discrimination has become more common and extreme recently, and that it is a form of violence against women.

At the same time, Livnat warned against turning women’s rights into a political issue, saying many others in Likud agree with her, but probably felt uncomfortable attending an event where Kadima, Labor and Meretz MKs bashed the government.

“Only if we leave politics aside, will we be able to eliminate this dangerous phenomenon,” Livnat said. “Let’s join hands and fight the exclusion of women from the public sphere.



The Kadima leader commended Tania Rosenblit, who attended the rally after becoming famous earlier this week for refusing to move to the back of a gender-segregated bus, for her courage in running her life without allowing others to dictate it.

“Hanukka is a holiday of light, but a great darkness has fallen on Israel,” Livni began her speech to the demonstrators.

Livni said discrimination against women, “price tag” attacks and bills seeking to limit the Supreme Court’s power are all related. She called for the public to hold up the torch of enlightenment and liberalism to protect Israel as a Jewish and democratic state.

Rosenblit asserted she deserves the freedom to express herself, sit where she wants, dress the way she wants and eat what she wants as long as she is not harming anyone.

However, she said, her rights have been taken away in order to be sensitive to others.

MK Shaul Mofaz (Kadima) said he found it unfortunate this problem became public because of an IDF ceremony, in which religious soldiers walked out rather than hear a woman sing.

He said when he was IDF chief of staff, he worked to make as many army positions available to women as possible, and called for the government and the IDF to ensure women and men have equal opportunities.

“This is a democratic state,” Mofaz said. “We cannot let any group, small as it may be, to set us back to darker days. We must declare this every day.”

MK Isaac Herzog (Labor) said the demonstration is to defend the country’s character, and that he is appalled that women’s rights even have to be on the agenda, because they should be obvious to all.

Herzog said his grandfather, the first Ashkenazic chief rabbi of the State of Israel, Isaac Herzog, never had a problem participating in ceremonies with women, even in “the most important events of his life.”

Rabbi Refael Feuerstein of the Zionist rabbinical organization Tzohar said discrimination against women is a “desecration of God’s name” because it “makes the face of Judaism ugly.” Feuerstein said at the demonstration that Tzohar seeks to make Judaism something that can connect the people of Israel and appeal to those who aren’t religious as well.

The rabbi called for those fighting for women’s rights to make sure they do so in a way that will increase, and not destroy, solidarity between citizens.

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