Discussion of the exclusion of women from public spaces in Israel — its manifestations, its dangers and its possible remedies — has increased in recent weeks, with a different variation on the theme catching the media spotlight every few days.
Recently there has been increased focus on the issue of violence against women. First, Culture and Sports Minister Limor Livnat (who also heads the Ministerial Committee on the Status of Women) exclaimed during a heated cabinet debate, “Where there’s an exclusion of women, violence against women eventually grows.”
Walla published a related opinion piece by attorney Anat Tahon-Ashkenazi titled, “The Exclusion of Women From Security Issues Influences Their Security.” While much of the concern recently has been about gender segregation and the disappearance of women from advertising and signage, as well as on the paucity of women journalists (especially on television) presenting and analyzing news, she zeroed in on political leadership and decision-making.
These days, we’re hearing about more ultra-Orthodox men who are turning to increasingly hateful tactics to prevent women from praying as they wish on their side of the Western Wall’s mechitza. Recently, they hurled chairs over the divider, even before the women had a chance to begin their davening. Once the police were called, the chair-throwing stopped; two men were arrested.
But there are some things to follow up on:
1). How many women have to be physically hurt before the Ministry of Religion and the Chief Rabbinate say, unequivocally, that this is unacceptable? The Prime Minister needs to take an unambiguous stand against this violence.
2). It seems to me from the video that there were more than two men involved. What should happen to the men who participate in such incidents? They shouldn’t be allowed back.
Years back, when the Lubavitcher rebbe was alive and I was covering various events connected with that movement, I was always pleasantly surprised when my job seemed to cancel out my gender.
For instance, at a gathering of thousands of Chabad emissaries, then held at a hall on Eastern Parkway across from the movement’s headquarters, instead of being kicked upstairs with the wives, I was led through a packed, black-jacketed male-only crowd to be introduced to bigwigs at the front. It was definitely not in keeping with that community’s practice of maintaining physical distance between women and men if they’re not immediate family members, but it didn’t seem to matter, because I was a journalist.
A female reporter for ABC News-Europe covering haredi rioting in Jerusalem over a parking lot opened on Shabbat was not so lucky.
Today I discovered the National Council for Jewish Women of Columbus, Ohio’s “Love Shouldn’t Hurt” community service project, which educates high school students about dating abuse and healthy relationships. The NCJW’s Love Shouldn’t Hurt committee, chaired by Nancy Eisenman, has reached over 1,800 students with their teen dating abuse lecture. The NCJW of Columbus, Ohio is working to pass a bill to require all schools to include educational programs about dating and relationship abuse in the high school curriculum. I applaud this initiative, and wish there were a similar bill on the floor of every state legislature.
Teen dating abuse is an issue dear to my heart after teaching in a high school last year and observing this kind of abuse on a daily basis. I think people are generally aware of physical abuse issues, and schools are quick to report bruises and other signs of violence. Harder to monitor, however, are signs of verbal, and electronic abusive behavior (depicted in the following television commercial):
I am sure most of us are familiar with this PSA about abuse via texting, but I am not sure most realize how realistic it unfortunately is. Texting simply provides another vehicle for the kind of verbal and psychological abuse that has always existed in unhealthy relationships, and it absolutely stuns me that there is no formal health education for teens on this subject.