Campaign to prevent gender segregation in Israel
Category: Human rights
2 team members
Women in Israel are women who live in or who are from the State of Israel, established in 1948. Israel does not have a constitution, but the Israeli Declaration of Independence states: “The State of Israel (…) will ensure complete equality of social and political rights to all its inhabitants irrespective of religion, race or sex.”
Israeli law prohibits discrimination based on gender in employment and wages, and provides for class action suits; nonetheless, there are complaints of significant wage disparities between men and women. In 2012, Israel ranked eleventh out of 59 developed nations for participation of women in the workplace. In the same survey, Israel was ranked 24th for the proportion of women serving in executive positions.
In 2013, Israel's attorney general, Yehuda Weinstein, advised ministers across the government to end gender segregation in public spaces. If implemented, the guidelines would change many aspects of daily life in Israel, where gender segregation is allowed on buses, at funerals, in health care and on radio airwaves. The attorney general's guidelines, however, are non-binding.
In Orthodox Judaism, there are certain situations in which gender separation is practiced for religious and social reasons, with strict rules on mingling of men and women. Before they were banned in 2011, Mehadrin bus lines operated along routes with large Haredi populations, with seats in the front reserved for men passengers. In 2006, Miriam Shear, an American Jewish woman, claims she was attacked by ultra-Orthodox men after refusing to move to the back of the bus on a non-segregated line. Critics likened the “mehadrin” lines to racial segregation in the United States, with Shear compared to African American icon Rosa Parks.In July 2004, American-Israeli novelist Naomi Ragen was bullied for refusing to move to the back of the bus.
The Jewish Daily Forward noted that gender segregation has been a tradition in Israel and is actually on the rise, now encompassing gender segregated elevators in some places. In parts of Jerusalem where ultra-Orthodox live, advertisements and billboard do not have pictures of women, and some supermarkets have different hours for men to shop than women. Some clinics also have separate hours for men and women.
Similar problems with gender segregation have surfaced on airlines such as El Al, where Orthodox male passengers have pressured females to move, and planes have been delayed as a result. The New York Times interviewed Anat Hoffman on the phenomenon on Orthodox males asking female passengers on airlines to move, noting that IRAC had started a campaign urging Israeli women not to give up their seats. “I have a hundred stories,” said Hoffman.
Controversy has also been created by discrimination against women in public spaces. Women of the Wall have fought for the right of women to pray in their fashion at the Western Wall, including wearing prayer shawls, singing and conducting priestly blessings by daughters of the priestly caste. Women have also been denied the right to sing at some public events, such as memorial services and in the Knesset. The controversy focuses on whether "forbidding women to sing is an insulting act of unacceptable discrimination, or a gesture of sensitivity and consideration to Orthodox Jewish men who believe that listening to a woman’s singing voice is, for them, a violation of religious law. " Some believe such policies endorse religious fundamentalism and silence women or restrict their freedom in the public arena