On Wednesday, January 4, EJewishPhilanthropy reported that eighty residents of Modi’in, both religious and non-religious, met to dicuss the current hot button issue in Israel: exclusion of women and the use of shared public space. The meeting was sponsored by Limmud Modi’in, Melitz and the Jewish Community Foundation of Los Angeles.
Rachel Azarya, a member of the Jerusalem Municipal Council known for voicing opinions against the exclusion of women seemed upset by the latest turmoil in Israeli society but said she was pleased that the term “exclusion of women” has finally found its place in common conversation, and not only in university gender studies courses.
Esther Salmon, an ultra orthodox social activist, remarked that when you attack a group, they will react in defense. “In the past, the ultra orthodox lived in a closed society, but in recent years we’ve seen great development in the form of attending academic institutions, going out to work in the general society and serving in the army,” said Salmon. “Attacking us now can set us back fifty years.”
Ma’ayan Cohen, an ultra orthodox member of the Beit Shemesh Women’s Council, added that the latest events brought out the extreme radicals from each side. In her words, “The fools on either side got the courage to speak up.”
Levana Shiffman, a member of the Modi’in-Maccabim-Reut municipality, could not hide her dismay at what she called “the radicalization of the righteous. “When a religious group decides that you need kosher for Passover toilet paper, you can’t let that extremism enter the public space.”
The only male participant of the panel of five, MK Uri Orbach, retorted “You speak of the public space as if it were exclusively secular, or exclusively yours – but public means everyone. On one hand we have religious newspapers that do not portray any pictures of women – whether three years old or eighty. On the other hand, general media portrays women scantily dressed in various advertisements and on television shows.