(photo credit: Marc Israel Sellem)
The Knesset Committee for the Advancement of the Status of Women held a stormy
hearing on Monday on a policy of the independent haredi radio station Kol Berama
that prevents women from working as radio broadcasters and from being
interviewed on the station’s programs.
The session, held at the request
of MK Uri Orbach (Habayit Hayehudi), was attended by a number of MKs, including
committee chairwoman MK Tzipi Hotovely (Likud), MK Yisrael Eichler (United Torah
Judaism) and Orbach, as well as Kol Berama broadcaster Avi Mimran and Shai
Ben-Maor, a representative of the station’s owners.
“The voice of our
matriarch Rachel, after whom Kol Berama is named, would not be able to be heard
on this station,” Orbach declared.
“No one has the right to conduct such
blatant discrimination, [which] is seeping into public life and is quickly
becoming the norm. It’s creeping into the buses, and official ceremonies; this
is a new Judaism,” he said.
But Ben-Maor argued that the station’s
audience did not want women on its airwaves and has the right to decide who they
want to listen to.
“If I go to a synagogue, my wife and daughter can’t
sit with me, and some people will say that this is discrimination,” Ben-Maor
Pointing out that he was “totally secular,” he continued, “But when
I go to synagogue, I respect this, and if I disagree, then I won’t go. This
station is for a specific segment of the population and this issue is different
from that of the buses, because they serve the general public.”
stated that there is no halachic prohibition to listen to a woman but expressed
his opposition to what he called “government interference” into the affairs of a
private radio station.
“I completely reject the principle that the state
can interfere with the freedom of the press in any way,” he
“State-funded broadcasters need to adhere to any policy the
government determines but private radio stations should be treated like private
newspapers. Just like I have no control over what gets written in Yediot
so to the government shouldn’t have any control of the internal
policies of a private radio station.”
Mimran added that, according to a
survey conducted for the station, 55 percent of Kol Berama’s listeners would
stop listening to the station if women were employed as
“Equality comes before ratings,” Hotovely argued
“There are rights in the State of Israel that are protected by
legislation and these laws also apply to sectarian radio stations, whether
they’re aimed at specific sectors or not,” she said.
reality as if, when the haredi public hears a woman on the radio, he’ll start
listening to Army Radio instead, where he’ll also hear women, so then he’ll flee
into the streets where he’ll discover that there are women walking about, and
then he’ll rush home and discover that his mother is a woman.”
lobbying arm of the Reform movement in Israel was also involved in the campaign
against Kol Berama, and argued that the station’s policy infringes on women’s
employment rights and the law of equal opportunities in the work
Despite the station’s opposition, Mimran stated during the hearing
that Kol Berama has taken upon itself to institute an hour every week in which
women will be able to be interviewed and will also consider whether or not to
appoint a female broadcaster.
A legal adviser for the Second Authority
for Television and Radio regulator, which was heavily criticized by Hotovely for
having failed to deal with the issue until now, confirmed this arrangement and
added that the authority would ensure that new guidelines, issued to Kol Berama
in October, would be adhered to.