December 28: On gender segregation, modesty and spitting

Modesty is not only about clothing; it is also about behavior and the God-fearing attitude that these haredi Taliban violate.

haredi women in Beit Shemesh_311 (photo credit: Reuters)
haredi women in Beit Shemesh_311
(photo credit: Reuters)
Sir, – The ridiculous false modesty which prevents the mention of breast cancer and other cancers that particularly affect women by the health funds is unbelievable (“Haredi segregation reaches health funds’ special edition newsletters,” December 27).
The “Song of Songs” (Shir Hashirim) is recited aloud in many synagogues and by individuals on Friday afternoons at the onset of the Shabbat and in Ashkenazi synagogues on Shabbat Hol Hamoed of Passover, and by many at the end of the Passover Seder. It contains the word “breast” in plain Hebrew no less than eight times.
Rabbi Akiva said that if the other books of the Bible were holy then the Song of Songs is the “holy of holies” (Megila 7a).
The concept of Pikuah Nefesh (the saving of life) is paramount in Judaism.
If this false modesty prevents women who may be at risk from obtaining treatment – which in many cases can prevent or alleviate this often malignant disease – it is a tragedy that not only affects them but their families.
Sir, – Modesty is not only about clothing; it is also about behavior and the God-fearing attitude that these haredi Taliban violate with their criminal acts (“Journalists attacked, man arrested for spitting at woman in Beit Shemesh,” December 26).
There is nothing halachic about their behavior. Hashem (God) will judge them, but for now we need to act to protect society from their criminal actions.
Social workers and law enforcement officers should be sent to the homes of these haredim who publicly terrorize females to make sure that their female relatives are not domestic violence victims.
Barbarians who brutalize girls and women on city streets, who spit, call names and post gender segregation signs on municipal property, as well as perpetrate violence against men and private property, are very likely victimizing the girls and women related to them, too.
Law enforcement should arrest and bring to trial these haredi Taliban. Criminals belong behind bars to keep society – the public and the unfortunate females in their family sphere of influence – safe.
The rabbinic leaders of these haredim should speak up about these crimes, and assist law enforcement to apprehend and bring to justice these criminals.
Beit Shemesh Mayor Abutbol should be removed from office for allowing the haredi extremists to break the law by posting gender segregation signs on public city streets. The yeshiva inciting violence should be closed as an institution where criminal violence is preached and practiced by its leaders and students.
Sir, – I understand that haredi values differ from those of other religious sects. However, haredi extremists are giving a bad name to their community and to Jews as a whole. It is unacceptable to allow this to go on any longer.
Is this the way these haredi men were taught to act by their parents? To spit, to harass, to assault and to taunt? They have disgraced the Jewish nation and the people of Israel. They are criminals and should be forbidden from walking the streets.
Sir, – I saw a television interview with a haredi man who said it was permissible to spit at even a school-age girl if she was not dressed “properly.” I was disgusted. This supposedly religious and God-fearing Jewish man actually justified the abuse of innocent little Jewish girls! I have had the misfortune to personally witness such hideous and un-Jewish behavior by haredim toward Christians and the police – otherwise, I would not have believed my ears. But the particularly despicable remark by this haredi individual astonished me.
What sort of abomination of Judaism are these men being taught by their rabbis and yeshivot? For any Jewish man, religious or secular, to countenance this sort of ugly and loathsome behavior toward a child is a desecration of God’s holy name and an affront to decent and moral human beings.
As a religious Jew, I demand that the haredi leadership immediately and forcefully condemn these abusive sentiments, as well as the violent and lawless behavior of their adherents.
This is not Judaism; this is paganism.
Sir, – I do not claim to adhere to the strict observance of Judaism as do the haredim, but in all my Jewish education I have been told that life comes before everything.
Therefore, it is a mystery to me how haredi men can use violence against their own people, putting their lives at risk. We can only hope that they use this pent-up aggression to join the army and fight for their state.
SANDRA ROSE London/Herzliya
Sir, – When I read the comments by Culture and Sport Minister Limor Livnat that “we don’t need to force a different way of life” on haredim (“Netanyahu: Public sphere will be open – and safe – for women,” December 26), I was glad that, at last, someone was talking sense about segregation on public transport.
If haredim want separate seating for men and women on bus routes specifically set up for their needs, why should they not be allowed? Unfortunately there are some on the non-haredi side who want to force their ways on everybody.
If only everyone would take Livnat’s “live and let live” attitude, and respect other people’s wish to be different, a lot of the tension tearing Israeli society apart would disappear.
Westcliff-on-Sea, UK
Sir, – I can’t help agreeing with Martin D. Stern (“Haredim and women,” Letters, December 26) that Tanya Rosenblit must have been determined to make a feminist point and had specifically selected a mehadrin bus to do so.
Although I would describe myself as modern Orthodox and certainly not haredi, I am quite happy to accommodate other people’s lifestyles, if that keeps them happy. When in Rome do as the Romans.
The first time I came across such buses was when I was returning to Jerusalem from Beit Shemesh with my husband. We sat in the front seats, having no idea that the bus had separate seating. At the next stop, a gentleman got on and politely asked me to move because it was a “mehadrin” service.
When we explained that we were visitors and were not sure exactly where we had to get off and so we were sitting together, he said there would be no problem if we sat near the rear doors.
We moved and noticed other couples sitting in the same part of the bus. Everything was done in a pleasant manner, as I am sure is the case in the vast majority of such situations.
Things only become heated when one side wants to provoke a confrontation, and it could just as well be the woman as the man.
Sir, – There is one point nobody seems to have considered – that some women may actually like the arrangement of separate seating.
I am not particularly Orthodox, just traditional, but I would prefer to take such buses because I know I would not be subjected to unwanted advances from male passengers.
Solihull, UK