Limor Livnat 311 R.
(photo credit: Reuters)
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
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At a Wednesday meeting of the inter-ministerial 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
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 public life.
“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
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
“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 choice.”
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
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 street.
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.
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