Sisterhood Blog

No Women Allowed in the Bomb Shelter

By Debra Nussbaum Cohen

  • Print
  • Share Share
ורד אלמוגי

Amid all the Facebook posts about the heart-rending violence taking place at this moment in Israel and Gaza, this photo of a bomb shelter door in Ashdod leapt out. It says that the bomb shelter is only for men and boys.

We don’t know if there is a separate shelter right next to this one, designated for women and girls. Nevertheless, it is gender segregation at its most outrageous.

It reflects how deeply the notion that men and women must be separated at all costs has taken hold — even in life-threatening situations, such as when the sirens sound the alert that rockets are falling.

There may be a women and girls’ shelter next door. There may not be. My Hebrew isn’t good enough to be able to read all of comments this photo has sparked on Facebook, some of which might shed light on the question, and Bing does a lousy job of translating them.

But even if there is, what if going to the female-only bomb shelter requires women and girls to take a few more steps than if they were allowed in this one? What if that puts them in harms way?

I understand that many Haredim feel deeply uncomfortable in close proximity to unrelated members of the opposite sex, since their communities have made this a defining issue over the past decade or two.

And some of the gender segregation strikes me as harmless. Who cares if they have to have separate entrances to wedding halls? But sometimes it goes too far. Insisting on gender segregation on public transportation, for example, means imposing their customs on others. And with these gender-segregated bomb shelters, this Haredi community in Ashdod is taking their reactionary value to a dangerous extreme.

One wonders what has to happen for leaders in Haredi communities to stand up and say that there is a time when a custom, or community value, must be jettisoned for the sake of common sense.

For the sake of saving a life, even the most serious of religious laws may be broken, according to halacha. How much more so for a custom like extreme gender-segregation. After all, isn’t the most important value of all to choose life?


Permalink | | Share | Email | Print | Filed under: sisterhood, israel, haredim, gaza, debra nussbaum cohen, bomb shelter

The Jewish Daily Forward welcomes reader comments in order to promote thoughtful discussion on issues of importance to the Jewish community. In the interest of maintaining a civil forum, The Jewish Daily Forwardrequires that all commenters be appropriately respectful toward our writers, other commenters and the subjects of the articles. Vigorous debate and reasoned critique are welcome; name-calling and personal invective are not. While we generally do not seek to edit or actively moderate comments, our spam filter prevents most links and certain key words from being posted and The Jewish Daily Forward reserves the right to remove comments for any reason.




Find us on Facebook!
  • Is pot kosher for Passover. The rabbis say no, especially for Ashkenazi Jews. And it doesn't matter if its the unofficial Pot Day of April 20.
  • A Ukrainian rabbi says he thinks the leaflets ordering Jews in restive Donetsk to 'register' were a hoax. But the disturbing story still won't die.
  • Some snacks to help you get through the second half of Passover.
  • You wouldn't think that a Soviet-Jewish immigrant would find much in common with Gabriel Garcia Marquez. But the famed novelist once helped one man find his first love. http://jd.fo/f3JiS
  • Can you relate?
  • The Forverts' "Bintel Brief" advice column ran for more than 65 years. Now it's getting a second life — as a cartoon.
  • Half of this Hillel's members believe Jesus was the Messiah.
  • Vinyl isn't just for hipsters and hippies. Israeli photographer Eilan Paz documents the most astonishing record collections from around the world:http://jd.fo/g3IyM
  • Could Spider-Man be Jewish? Andrew Garfield thinks so.
  • Most tasteless video ever? A new video shows Jesus Christ dying at Auschwitz.
  • "It’s the smell that hits me first — musty, almost sweet, emanating from the green felt that cradles each piece of silver cutlery in its own place." Only one week left to submit! Tell us the story of your family's Jewish heirloom.
  • Mazel tov to Chelsea Clinton and Marc Mezvinsky!
  • If it's true, it's pretty terrifying news.
  • “My mom went to cook at the White House and all I got was this tiny piece of leftover raspberry ganache."
  • from-cache

Would you like to receive updates about new stories?




















We will not share your e-mail address or other personal information.

Already subscribed? Manage your subscription.