30/12/2011 | Writer: Kaos GL

Jerusalem Open House executive director and feminist activist Elinor Sidi wrote for kaosgl.org upon the recently rising tensions over the discussions of women’s rights and ultra-Orthodox community in Israel.

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Jerusalem Open House executive director and feminist activist Elinor Sidi wrote for kaosgl.org upon the recently rising tensions over the discussions of women’s rights and ultra-Orthodox community in Israel.

Everybody conveniently forgot to mention the violence women are subjected to in the very heart of the Israeli liberalism, the silencing of women in secular protests and the pushing of women to the back by liberal activists. How very convenient it is to blame ultra-Orthodox men in everything.
 
Jerusalem Open House executive director and feminist activist Elinor Sidi wrote for kaosgl.org upon the recently rising tensions over the discussions of women’s rights and ultra-Orthodox community in Israel.
 
Israel finally discovered sexism in the past few days, it seems. One 4-minutes item on the mainstream news did what years of feminist struggles couldn't achieve --it got attention to women's exclusion from the public sphere.
 
An 8-year-old girl was shown in the article, crying since she was too afraid to get to her school. The way to school goes through an ultra-Orthodox neighborhood and although the girl was religious and dressed modest, she was not modest enough to the men who yelled and screamed and spit on her daily. Men were also interviewed to this item. Big, frightening, ultra-Orthodox men dressed all in black. They were filmed angry, calling out loud and threatening little Na'ama who just wanted to get to school.
 
The images shown on TV were strong enough to set wheels in motion. It seemed for a minute that the feminist wet dream is coming true and the public gets involved with women's issues: Knesset members spoke, community leaders wrote, police officers acted, and people protested. It seemed dreamy before feminists understood that they are being used. Cynically used.
 
Secular, liberal, Jewish population finds it convenient to present women's exclusion as a specific ultra-Orthodox disease that's got nothing to do with us. Sexism and misogyny are problems in all levels of Israeli society, but it's easier to think of them as crimes that only ultra-Orthodox -scary, black dressed, big, loud- men are guilty of.
 
Thousands of people came from across the country to protest in Beit Shamesh, where little Na'ama lives. Man after man after man they came up to the stage and spoke passionately against women's exclusion, against forcing women to sit at the back in public transportation and against silencing of women. Man after man after man… When the first women came to the stage, it was over an hour after the protest begun and people were leaving. All speakers conveniently forgot to mention the violence women are subjected to in the very heart of the Israeli liberalism, the silencing of women in secular protests and the pushing of women to the back by liberal activists. How very convenient it is to blame ultra-Orthodox men in everything.
 
Now, don't get me wrong-- there are serious feminist issues in the ultra-Orthodox community. I'm not saying everything there is perfect, but I do get angry when feminist issues are being cynically used, when women’s pain is being cynically used in the war between secular men and religious men over power. What difference does it make for little Na'ama who spits upon her, religious or secular men, is she still gets spit upon?

Tags: women
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