If you miss me at the back of the bus….

                               WIZO Women demonstrate for women’s rights                                           (courtesy Tricia Schwitzer)

 

Forgive my allusion to the famous US civil rights anthem but I thought it appropriate for this post. Over the past few weeks Israel (okay and most of the world thanks to a huge amount of international coverage on major news sources) has been buzzing about the seeming rise of the Haredi (ultra-religious) and their, lets call it, extremely unorthodox behaviour.

I do stress that the culprits come from a sect within a sect of Israeli society and do not represent the ultra-religious as a whole. This kind of behaviour, while not new, has certainly gained a lot of exposure over the last few weeks and has brought to light issues that have long been kept contained within that community. What brought it to the attention of the mainstream is the refusal of a woman in Jerusalem to sit at the back of a “kosher bus”. Her refusal a la Rosa Parks ignited a controversy that has filtered into other areas.

Israel is a democratic country that prides itself on protecting the civil rights and freedom that is instituted by its declaration of independence. Here, not only are you free to practice whatever religion you want (unlike our neighbours) but you can follow whichever stream or interpretation you want. If you want to observe Shabbat in downward dog or the lotus position – you are more than welcome to! The Israeli government protects religious freedoms and institutions and we the people are most grateful for that. We will not allow for our democracy to become a theocracy. The issue of religious segregation took on a whole new trajectory in the city of Beit Shemesh when Haredi man (yes I hesitate to use the word gentleman) spat on a 7 year old little girl, from a religious observant family, because she was not dressed modest enough. For me the issue is not about religious fundamentalism as much as it is about harassment and abuse of a child and if a grown man who we assume knows the difference between right and wrong sees a 7 year old little girl as something potentially sexual – well this in my opinion is a far greater problem!!! Calling our women in uniform “sluts” because they also refuse to move to the back of a Kosher bus is diabolical. To the man whose immodest mouth spewed such invective, she protects your very freedom to spout your nonsense!

Again, I take pride in my fellow citizens as they have come out in support of women’s rights and the protection of freedom of religion. We Israelis are never shy to voice our opinions or discontent! Sadly, once again, the world media, rabid with this juicy story, have chosen to focus their attention on the small lunatic fringe than the greater society. Women in Israel have held some of the most powerful portfolio’s in government – Minister of Foreign Affairs, President of the Supreme Court, leader of the official opposition, high rank in the military and of course, who can forget the incomparable Prime Minister, Golda Meir, tiny in stature but a giant of a leader. We will not allow our rights to be hijacked but the bully boy tactics of a few who hide behind religious tenet but disobey one of the greatest commandments – honouring your fellow man. Or woman!

This is Israel. Full of simplicities and complexities. Never boring! Israel’s women have roared these past few weeks. From my WIZO sisters demonstrating in Tel Aviv (see picture courtesy of the fabulous Trica Schwitzer) to social media networking mavens and me, who never passes up an opportunity to jump on my proverbial soapbox, we have made our voices heard.

If you miss us at the back of the bus, you will find us nowhere. Come on over to the front of the bus – we’ll be riding right there!

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11 thoughts on “If you miss me at the back of the bus….

  1. I have decided to make you a be-jewelled, bedazzled, gasp-inducing eye-widening strong, handy soap box for your next birthday. A few reasons why: Firstly, let’s all agree you are ‘short-stuff” and a classy box would serve you well. Secondly – poetically you DO expel volumes of soap, much needed to wash out the deaf ears of those who never want to listen to Israel’s point of view, and finally because I ( for one) want to “put you UP and out you OUT THERE so that that little voice can ring out loud and clear to the world! Tell it as it is, Ms Roro.. we’re all here – and we all hear!!!

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  2. Unfortunately, as usual, the international press jumped on the incident in Beit Shemesh to castigate our country on the abuse of women. Of course the disgusting behavior of some of our co-religionists should be condemned and those who perpetrate such obscenities should be called to the carpet and soundly punished.
    But I ask where are all these “concerned” journalists when women are publicly stoned to death in the Sudan , or child brides as young as 2 and 3 are sold by their families into marriage with pederasts in countries like Sa’udi Arabia and in Gaza, where are the ferocious advocates for women’s rights when it comes to forced genital mutilation and clitoridectomies on young girls in many Moslem states, and where are the strident voices for gay rights when homosexuals are publicly hanged on construction cranes in Iran? I guess they are all too busy with important issues on human rights, as long as they can vilify Israel for the acts of a few miserable cretins who will be imprisoned and fined by a government that protects women and children-but that is, after all, a fundamental Jewish law, and, of course, Islamist fundamentalists are never wrong, but Jews. it seems, always are.

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    • I agree with Gill. A “be-jewelled, bedazzled, soap box” is definitely on the list for your next birthday. Well said. Israel, be aware! We have a live wire here, and nothing goes past her. We will all vote for her in the next elections!!!!!!

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  3. Well-written, Roro (say that three times fast). Israel is a living, breathing, bustling and thriving miracle. Unlike many of the miracle stories that we were all weaned on as strangers in a strange land (i.e.: the water-to-wine bit, raising of the dead, walking on water, etc.), Israel is a miracle that involves…Jews. As a result, even the greatest single accomplishment in human history, the rebirth of a 2,000-year-old nation after centuries of persecution, oppression and so much worse, must retain a strong defensive posture – both against the international community AND those that seek to weaken the land of Naomi, Boaz and King David (secret revealed: David’s mum wasn’t even halachacli Jewish…the scandal!) from within. Discrimination is a scourge that if left to fester, will spread. An educated, outraged and galvanized populace is the ultimate antedote to those who seek to drag the third Jewish commenwealth into an age of darkness. Thank you.

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  4. Bouncy you have definately found your niche. I’m so proud of everything you’re doing, especially expressing the right to independent behaviour and belief as long as it does not belittle the State of Israel.

    I’ll be a partner in the soap box for you; we’ll have to find the best spot for you.

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  5. I think Irwin has a good point. This was also mentioned by Haaretz columnists, Gideon Levy and Israel Harel in their discussions of the hypocrisy of selective outrage.

    .Of course what happened offends the sensibilities of mainstream Jews of all streams, but religious coercion has been going on for years in one way or another. It’s just been taken to new heights since “shtika k’hodaya” (silence represents agreement). Where was the religious outcry when all this began, when it would have been easier to stop? Why is there no uproar over what happened to Manny’s in Meah Shearim? It’s just as bad if not worse than the situation in Beit Shemesh. I think it’s very unfortunate that the community has let this situation get to the point that it has – saying they are “extremists” does not absolve the community/municipality, etc. from nipping this in the bud. I also understand that there are many political issues involved here that olim don’t really understand. But with all this, why should we pick up the battle cry of the left? I think the whole affair is very unfortunate and the behavior of these “extremists” bears no semblance to Torah values and morals and not speaking out against it is probably as bad. I wonder if perhaps because it wasn’t taken care of quietly a long time ago as it should have been, Hashem decided to force the issue.

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  6. Well RoRo, I also agree with Gill that you have earned the right to your be-jewelled, bedazzled, gasp-inducing eye-widening strong, handy soap box as you know how to put everything into perspective. Well said and well done.
    Love Sandy

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  7. An excellent post. Unfortunately I think ‘the rest of the world’ will view Israel in general as anti-women, not understanding that the offenders are a very small group and do not represent the overall population.

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  8. Ro – just read your blog and as always you say it as it is …. Gill’s soap box will have to increase in size as you will have many of us right there next to you. Keep on going ‘girl’ !!
    Love

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