Women’s Rights in Israel and Ultra Orthodox Jewish Protests

Women's Rights

Islam is often painted as a culprit in terms of treating women poorly and in discussions around the Palestinian/Israeli conflict I’ve often heard people deride Palestinians because of poor assumptions about how women are treated and their place in the women’s rights discussion. Those poor assumptions are often just the flow on effect of another poor assumption – that all Palestinians are Muslim and it’s wrongly assumed that all Muslims further the subjugation of women as lesser citizens. This terrible line of reasoning is then used to speak poorly of Palestinians and in support of Israel without examining the ongoing issues facing the treatment of women in Israel itself. Well, the bottom line is the Israeli side isn’t so glossy on the issue of women’s rights.

Women's Rights

Photo: Francis Ritchie

Check out the quote below from an article on Ultra Orthodox Jewish protests that have become an ongoing issue in Israel – it removes some of the gloss and shows a bit of the reality. There is a clash of cultures happening there as there is in many places. Please note, I’m not doing this to try and make Israel look bad. I like Israel and many of its people just as I like Palestine and many of its people. There are people from both sides that I consider very real friends. I pray for both regularly. Every people group and nation is nuanced and I’m acutely aware of poor arguments used to turn that particular conflict into a good guy/bad guy situation with the issue of women’s rights being one of the things used to do so – usually with the Palestinians made out to be the bad guys. This just shows that it’s not a simple discussion of one being bad and the other good.

According to Israeli news outlet Haaretz, the disruption began this week when one woman passenger approached another woman sitting at the front of a bus and told her to move to the back. After the bus driver reported the incident to local police, two arrests were made: The woman who had asked the passenger to move was taken into custody, as was the woman’s husband. Protestors wielding hammers smashed the windows of the bus where the incident took place and attacked two other buses in the area, reported Hareetz.

Tensions are high between the ultra-Orthodox Jews who reside in Beit Shemesh and those who are secular or modern Orthodox Jews, largely because of disagreements surrounding women, according to The Associated Press.

Protests erupted in 2011 after a group of ultra-Orthodox men spat on an 8-year-old girl and called her a whore as she walked to school in her uniform.

In early 2012, a group of ultra-Orthodox men attacked a woman in Beit Shemesh as she was hanging up posters. The men pelted the woman with stones and slashed her car tires.

Source: Huffington Post

What this highlights is that the struggle for women’s rights is universal. The state of Israel upholds women’s rights but it’s an ongoing battle to defend that. It’s a struggle in Muslim communities, Jewish communities, Christian communities, heck, even secular communities. It’s a struggle in both Palestinian and Israeli communities. It’s a global struggle. The fight for those rights is undermined by sectors of each of those communities listed while also being fought for by people in each of those communities. Trying to paint any one community or people group as good or bad in it is futile and naive.

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