On Tuesday, January 17, 2012 200 women gathered on Ben Yehuda Street in Jerusalem dancing to Adele’s “Rolling in the Deep”. The flash mob dance was organized to protest discrimination against women.
Inbar Admor, director of social activism in the student union told the Jerusalem Post, “We decided to come here and protest against the segregation of women here in Jerusalem, because this is a thing that we feel that both the government and the city of Jerusalem needs to deal with. What’s happening in the streets, or pictures are being taken off the walls of Jerusalem, we’re not allowed to sit wherever we want in the buses, and we feel it’s time to say ‘Enough of that!’ and to call for action”.
This is the second women’s dance flash mob this month. On Friday, January 6, 2012, 250 women gathered in Beit Shemesh city square to dance to Queen’s “Don’t Stop Me Now!”. The women dancing included both secular and religious, anglo and sabre. Some were even the daughters of rabbis.
According to one of the organizers the women danced “to show another face of Beit Shemesh – that Beit Shemesh is not just the extremists you see in the news. Another purpose is to show the extremists that they don’t own the city and that we are not afraid to express ourselves publicly: If you spit at us when we walk down the street, then we’ll dance down the street. This was about cooperation between all different types of women from different backgrounds, showing that we can get together and do something fun and empowering. We are free to dance in our own city….We wouldn’t have done it if we didn’t think it was kosher. We didn’t dictate a dress code or a religious test, since the message is that all women, regardless of their religious level or dress, are free to express themselves in our city and deserve to be treated with dignity and respect.” (interviewed by Israeli television station, Arutz Sheva).
Beit Shemesh attracted world attention when an Israeli television station published an expose which featured an 8 year old girl who was spit on by religious extremists for not being modest enough.
In recent years certain religious groups have objected to the public display of women dancing and singing. For several years certain male soldiers have been quietly walking out of military ceremonies because they didn’t want to hear a woman sing. In 2008 when the Jerusalem Chord Bridge at the city gate was dedicated, a girl’s dance troupe was forced to wear brown sacks to disguise their gender because the Haredi mayor and others believed that teen girls dancing was provocative.
For years appeasement has been the typical response to Haredi protests. This is beginning to change. In September, 2011 amid much controversy, the army dismissed 5 soldiers for refusing to obey orders and return to a ceremony they had walked on. In November, the Kolben dance troupe held a public dance exhibition to celebrate the reopening of their studio windows. The windows had been covered with blinds for several years because of Haredi protests.