Tuesday, December 27, 2011

Jonathan Rosenblum's take on Gender Segregation in Israel

A guest post (mostly by Menachem Lipkin,) posted by Philo

Jonathan Rosenblum's latest article is titled "First, Let’s Calm Down", and it basically accuses everybody of making a bigger deal of the gender segregation than is necessary. The tagline of article reads "How a rejection of any separation between the sexes has become a fetish."

Is he kidding me? THAT'S the fetish??!! The obsessive misogynistic separation is the fetish here, not the fight against it!

Rosenblum brings up a bunch of straw men and claims that the cases he brings up are what people are up in arms about and that they have a feminist agenda. People who complain about the separate sidewalks in Meah Shearim during Sukkot are perhaps not aware that "the extremely narrow main street is virtually impassable without having to jostle members of the opposite sex – something that both the men and women are eager to avoid" and educates us about separate seating on buses: "What haredim do wish to avoid is being squished together with strangers of the opposite sex on crowded routes."

His article doesn't have a single word about the little girls getting yelled at and spit on in Beit Shemesh.

A Facebook friend suggested that someone needs to write a scathing rebuttal. I was going to do that, but then noticed that Menachem Lipkin wrote a pretty good one already in the comments to the article on another website where it was reprinted. (A site which DovBear doesn't like to link to, so as this is his blog, I'll respect that policy.) Here is Menachem Lipkin's comment in its entirety:


I respect Jonathan and understand that he tries both to be a voice of moderation to the “outside” world and to prod the “olem” to improve. However, in this case I think he’s off the mark.

To those of us living in the trenches with these issues for years now, it’s a welcome blessing that the broader Israeli society has finally woken up to this problem and we are thrilled to finally have the media and politicians paying attention. Because of this, finally, the police are beginning to act against the extremists living among us. Jonathan, by cherry picking a couple of isolated examples and then comparing to them to what goes on in “normal” places, has obfuscated the larger, more pernicious issue. No, it’s not a strictly feminist issue, but if that’s the “hook” that was needed to wake people up then we’ll take it. The issue is one of a cancerous spread of religious fanaticism. These pages and other blogs have overflowed with examples, so there’s no need to list all of them. But the seemingly innocuous examples Jonathan brought are just the tip of the iceberg.

So, for example, while it may not have been outrageous, in isolation, to have a temporary separation in Mea Shaarim during the height of Succot, there’s a permanent sign in front of a synagogue just a couple of blocks from my house that asks women to cross the street, and women who do not oblige have been spat upon. If people within a certain type of community want to voluntarily segregate themselves on buses that serve ONLY those types of people, then that’s their business, but it’s totally unacceptable to foist this on buses that travel intercity or among different types of neighborhoods within the same, diverse city. (And let’s be honest here, if these extremists truly “honor” women the way they claim, then they would reserve the front of the bus for them and not the rear, which is objectively less comfortable and more difficult to access.)

If one steps back and looks at the panorama of extremist issues, from separate buses, to extorting businesses to put up “tznius” signs, to removing women from all advertising, to running out of ceremony when women get up to sing, to not calling women up to a podiumm at a government event, to receive their medical award, and on and on, it’s not unreasonable for the broader public to perceive this in feminist terms. To compare any of these items to what’s done in the US or other countries, where there is no broad based effort to enact such restrictions in so many areas of daily life, is to truly miss the point of what’s going on here.

Regarding, what we in Bet Shemesh affectionately refer to as our Burqa Babes, I must admit to enjoying a level of glee at the sight of the “Frankenstein” Eidah squirming in the face of this “monster” they created. While Jonathan is right that there have been quiet murmurings among some rabbis against this for a while, it has reached a crescendo of late. There’s no question that some of these women are wackos, as exemplified by one of their leaders in Ramat Bet Shemesh who was arrested for basically running a brothel in her house. But to assume this of all of them is, again, to miss the point. I’ve seen a couple of videos recently of these women speaking about there beliefs. They sincerely believe that what they are doing is what’s right in the eyes of God. To my mind they are simply invoking a basic Kal V’chomer. If the “normative” Chareidi world is pushing women out of view in so many arenas, if even “progressive” magaizines like Mishpacha and AMI make it a sin of temptation to even view a 2-dimentional picture of a modestly dressed woman, how much more so should it be forbidden to gaze on any part of an actual, 3-dimensional, living woman? They are simply following the extremes of the recent tznius obsession to their logical conclusion.

We in Bet Shemesh have davka been making a concerted effort to bring national attention to these issues. So, no Jonathan, the very last thing we want is for people to “calm down”.

Search for more information about crazies terrorizing little girls in Beit Shemesh at 4torah.com
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