A senior Knesset official on Monday said fear of offending ultra-Orthodox MKs led the institution to exclude women singers from the parliamentary choir at a special session in honor of visiting British Prime Minister Gordon Brown earlier in the day.
Two-thirds of the Knesset choir, headed by MK Zevulun Orlev (National Union-National Religious Party Chairman), were missing when the national anthem Hatikva was performed at the afternoon session.
Director-general of the Knesset, Avi Balashnikov, told Haaretz that the decision to leave out the female members of the choir was made in order to accommodate all MKs.
“I am the director-general of all MKs, and I don’t have any wish to cause situations that would make MKs get up and leave,” Balashnikov said. “Even though there are only a few Haredi MKs, we think of everybody….”
Perhaps female Knesset members should get up and leave when women singers are excluded. Then the director-general would have to choose between having the Haredi MKs walk out or the female parliamentarians splitting.
Also, does he really think that a ceremony in which women are excluded is the best way of creating a favorable impression for Prime Minister Brown and his fellow Britons?
UPDATE: Here’s a much better way of handling this issue. Ultra-Orthodox Knesset members can exempt themselves from ceremonies with female singers (which, like many ceremonial sessions, most parliamentarians don’t attend anyway).
UPDATE II: Ha’aretz’s editorialist agrees with me.