Time for the Supreme Court to join the revolution

Ultra-Orthodox feminism can no longer be ignored.

Haredi women vote in the 2013 elections. (photo credit: REUTERS)
Haredi women vote in the 2013 elections.
(photo credit: REUTERS)
A poster was hung on the wall of my Beit Yaakov classroom, stating: “Learn how to hold the spindle of silence.” Silence is a virtue, which we discussed in length during our Jewish studies lessons. Sometimes, within the turmoil created by digital media, I imagine an old teacher explaining why one should keep silence when insulted; say nothing, like Rachel when her father switched between her and Leah. Maybe the chatterbox humanity should consider taking a vow of silence every now and again?
I dismiss these thoughts as I recall that the art of silence is taught mainly to women. It is an art that prevents me from voicing my needs and being present in a sphere from which I am excluded, and in which I believe I must be present.
The Supreme Court will be convening this week to discuss whether I should I have a voice,  someone who will genuinely represent me within the Israeli Knesset – me and thousands of haredi women throughout Israel.
The question is not whether I am entitled to have political representation, but whether haredi parties, organizations or civil agencies have the right to exclude women and prevent our fundamental right to be represented.
A political party is not a synagogue. It represents the interests of its supporters and electorate. A city council is not a Beit Midrash. It is a secular agency that is responsible for attending the needs of its residents, and even if all of its residents are haredi, this doesn’t make it a religious institution. Can these institutions have a “No Entry to Women” clause in their by-laws or constitution?
The game plan is well known and has been rehearsed. The Supreme Court will convene, and in the social media, haredi men will rebuke me and explain why the state should not intervene in cultural customs of minorities and how it will bring destruction to the haredi society, which they cannot allow to occur. As usual, I will stress that the position of non-intervention undertaken by the State of Israel affirms the silencing of haredi women like me. Such a policy is crucial and determines the future of half of the haredi population – the women. Currently, we have no political voice and our path to the decision-making table is inaccessible because the State of Israel decided to allow this exclusion to happen, without even asking our opinion.
In one of its responses to the Court, the Agudat Israel party argued that if one cannot claim that the exclusion of children from a party is discrimination against children, one cannot use a similar argument relating to women. This answer was a game-changer for both my colleagues and myself. Such reasoning enlarges the insult even more than the clause challenged at the Supreme Court. It encouraged me to support this petition, even though, as a haredi, the Supreme Court solution is considered inappropriate to achieve gains.
In every interview, I am asked why don’t we launch a haredi women’s party. The haredi parties rely on the support and vote of the entire haredi society, not just the men. Do haredi politicians work only alongside men? I think not. We all know that they don’t. They cooperate with secular women in the political and professional arenas, so why can’t they work alongside the women within their own sector? Haredi women must be an integral part of the haredi parties as representatives of the public. This restrictive clause obstacle must be erased, but it won’t happen due to the kindness of the haredi parties themselves. It’s up to the Supreme Court now to take action and cancel the clause.
While we pray and hope for a miracle and wait for the Supreme Court decision, we must prepare the ground, as we train women to be more involved in social and political initiatives. Though for now, they will have to do it from within non-haredi parties, they will help raise issues relating to haredi women in particular and haredi society in general, such as personal security, education, health and so much more. We cannot sit and wait for the Supreme Court to bring a change to the haredi society, but we welcome it to join our revolution.
Haredi feminism is here to stay.
The writer is founder and CEO of NIVCHAROT