Silencing of women MKs' singing in Knesset sparks outcry

Female MKs joined forces in protesting what MK Marina Solodkin (Kadima) described as an anti-democratic decision to exclude women from the choir that sang "Hatikva."

knesset 224.88 (photo credit: Ariel Jerozolimski [file])
knesset 224.88
(photo credit: Ariel Jerozolimski [file])
Female MKs joined forces Tuesday in protesting what MK Marina Solodkin (Kadima) described as an anti-democratic decision to exclude women from the choir that sang "Hatikva" at the conclusion of British Premier Gordon Brown's Knesset appearance on Monday. The choir in question was the official Knesset Choir, in which Solodkin, as well as MKs Zevulun Orlev (NU/NRP), Orit Noked (Labor) and Colette Avital (Labor) are active members. On Tuesday, Avital collected the signatures of all 17 women MKs on a letter protesting the decision to exclude women from singing to avoid offending the sensibilities of haredi MKs. "At the time, in the plenum, I didn't even understand what had happened," Solodkin said Tuesday. "We began to sing 'Hatikva,' and I heard only men's voices in the choir. I looked and saw our choir director leading all of our male choir members... When I heard how it sounded, I understood. Without women, the 'Hatikva' is different." Solodkin said she then asked some of the men in the choir what had happened, and they told her that they had been given a briefing before the performance, informing them that women were excluded from singing in the plenum because of the presence of haredi MKs. In previous ceremonies, such as those welcoming US President George W. Bush and French President Nicholas Sarkozy, the choirs singing the national anthem were made up of children. Knesset director-general Avi Balashnikov said the rule against women singing in the plenum was not new, and that the choir had performed previously at other events, in other Knesset halls, that haredi MKs could choose not to attend. Solodkin, however, said even at those performances, the majority of haredi MKs remained at the ceremonies, and only a few chose to leave. "I think they made a mistake - not a drastic one, but rather a stupid one," she said. "They are so terrified of the coalition falling apart that nobody wants to do anything that could antagonize the haredi parties. I only hope that Gordon Brown didn't understand what was going on." "The Knesset, like the country, is both Jewish and democratic," Solodkin said. "In making this decision, they not only hurt the performance, but also hurt a symbol of our country, our national anthem, which represents all of us, including the women."