Grapevine: R-E-S-P-E-C-T

President Shimon Peres: “No man has the right to force a woman to sit where he decides.”

Ethiopians and Shimon Peres Jerusalem Day 521 (photo credit: Marc Israel Sellem)
Ethiopians and Shimon Peres Jerusalem Day 521
(photo credit: Marc Israel Sellem)
■ BOTH PRESIDENT Shimon Peres and Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu spoke out against discrimination of women or of any sector of society at an awards ceremony at the President’s Residence this week at which the main focus was the battle against human trafficking.
Peres, who is an outspoken champion of women’s rights, was highly critical of discriminatory practices and said that any form of discrimination is a serious flaw that must be rectified as soon as possible. Relating to the recent phenomenon of erasing women from public life, and citing bus segregation as one of the examples, Peres said that if men don’t want to sit in the front of the bus with women, then they shouldn’t get on at all.
“No man has the right to force a woman to sit where he decides,” said Peres, adding that as a Jew and as president of the state, he could not ignore such incidents. Peres also regretted that despite religious and national values to the contrary, there is human trafficking in Israel and declared that this erosion of social norms must be uprooted immediately.
Netanyahu noted that gender discrimination is illegal and that women’s equal role in society must be safeguarded.
Awards were given to Amnon Mantver, the director general of the Jerusalem-based JDC Israel, who accepted it on behalf of the JDC’s Center for International Migration and Integration (CIMI); and to lawyers Moshe Shilo and Sigalit Zohar for their ongoing fight against human traffic in general and prostitution, slavery and coercion in particular.
■ THE NINTH Emunah Convention that opened at the Jerusalem Theater last Sunday evening included men – some of them rabbis – in the audience.
But that did not prevent the key female organ of national religious Zionism from expressing itself in song and dance as it always has done.
Moreover, although there are several religiously observant women in Israel’s electronic media, Emunah chose secular Dalia Mazor to be the evening’s moderator.
Interviewed on Israel Radio on the morning prior to the official opening, Liora Minka, who chairs Emunah Israel, said that Emunah was, among other things, an organization of women’s empowerment that would fight any effort to have women excluded from the decision process. She gave as an example the fact that the appointments committee for the selection of new judges in the rabbinical courts did not take place last week as result of Emunah’s petition to the High Court of Justice which issued an interim injunction that delayed the selection. The interim injunction was in response to Emunah’s protest that for the first time in many years there was no woman on the committee. The interim injunction was issued by Justice Elyakim Rubinstein, who is identified with the Religious Zionist movement.
At the conference itself, Minka underscored that although women appeared to be in the minority in Israel, demographically they are in the majority and have the right to elect and to be elected. Women should be judged in accordance with their abilities and not in accordance with their gender, she insisted, adding that women have proven track records as capable leaders.
■ IN THE haredi world, women are so dominated by men that men are the keynote speakers at major gatherings of haredi women. Case in point is the upcoming Women’s Vacation with Values that will take place in one of the Dead Sea resort hotels in mid-February. Organized by Arachim, which is headquartered in the North of the country, the three-day vacation features Rabbi Yitzhak Fenger, who will speak on education with a smile; Rabbi Avner Kavas, who will speak on communication between (married) couples; and Rabbi Yosef Kehati, who will speak on family harmony.
Admittedly the charismatic Rabbanit Yemima Mizrahi, whose subject is beauty without blemish, will also be among the speakers and will presumably be talking about inner rather than outer beauty. But there’s a certain flippancy in the title which implies that women are not qualified to speak on more intellectual subjects. There will also be a female comedian and female singers, plus jewelry making workshops with female instructors and the usual resort hotel amenities, but the rabbis get top billing.