by Hiddush staff, cross-posted with permission from the Hiddush Blog
Recently, Israel has been facing a growing phenomenon of segregation and marginalization of women rooted in Jewish religious extremism. It has also taken the form of literally erasing women’s images from advertisements, news sites, and public posters. In protest, Hiddush has launched a campaign to “Exclude the Excluders”–Hiddush has blurred the images of Knesset members, ministers, and other ultra-Orthodox men who have supported and aided this exclusion. As women are being blotted out from the public sphere in the name of religious “modesty”, it is critical to protest the deep disrespect of this practice toward women, and toward the community at large.
Elected officials are furthering exclusion of women in the public sphere.
All politicians in the gallery promote the exclusion of women in the public sphere, either through segregated buses, banning women from singing in public, their role in political parties that will not include women as representatives, or activities that deny women selection for public positions. Politicos of the ultra-Orthodox party United Torah Judaism and its news outlets continuously further gender-segregated public bus lines. Their Knesset members leave the Knesset hall when women are singing. Shas’ most recent activity was to prevent representation of women on the nominations committee for religious judges. In the years since Shas has controlled the Ministry of Religious Affairs, not a single woman has been appointed to head a religious council..
Among the people that appear in the gallery:
- Beit Shemesh Mayor Moshe Abutbol of Shas who allowed the development of fanaticism and violence against women and girls in his city
- Deputy Minister of Health Yaakov Litzman whose ministry is involved in ceremonies that exclude women
- Minister of Housing Ariel Atias who founded “Kol B’Rama” radio station which consistently excludes women
- An ultra-Orthodox man in Beit Shemesh who was interviewed saying it is okay to spit at “immodestly” dressed 8 year old girls because he himself is a “healthy person”, and their dress “bothers him”
- The ultra-Orthodox news portal, La’Da’at, which blurs faces of women
- Chair of United Torah Judaism Knesset faction, MK Yisrael Eichler who left a conference on children’s stories because a girls choir was singing
- Knesset Finance Committee Chair MK Moshe Gafni of United Torah Judaism – Following the announcement of IDF rules forbidding exclusion of women, Gafni called on ultra-Orthodox males not to enlist in the army
- Minister of Interior Eli Yishai of Shas – Worked to thwart the appointment of Orthodox women’s rights activist Rachel Azaria as Deputy Mayor of Jerusalem
- Minister of Religious Services Ya’akov Margi of Shas (has not appointed even one woman as a chair of a religious council) and Mayor of Beitar Illit Meir Rubenstein of United Torah Judaism (in his city, all public bus lines are gender segregated)
The concept for the gallery is based on ultra-Orthodox news sources such as “LaDa’at” who recently published a picture which included IDF Head of Human Resources, Major General Orna Barbivai, blurring out her face for reasons of “modesty”. Many such news sources refuse to publish any image of a woman. Yated Ne’eman went as far as blurring out the faces of female members of the Israeli Cabinet from the government’s official photograph.
Hiddush Director, Rabbi Uri Regev said “This project is in protest to the exclusion that has become a regular occurrence, and to show that it is possible and necessary to exclude the excluders. Those behind this discrimination of women are not just the individuals who spit on little girls and curse at women on the street, but much of the ultra-Orthodox establishment who give these extremists support and inspiration. When ultra-Orthodox leadership refuses to include women in roles of leadership, promotes segregated buses and exclusion of women in the media, and discriminated against women in rabbinic courts, they give license to the acts of these extremists.
Regev continued “Such actions from the ultra-Orthodox political machine trickles down to hoodlums in the streets and on public buses, letting them know that acting to eliminate women from the public sphere will be welcomed . The time has come to exclude the ultra-Orthodox political parties from the government and to create a civil coalition. Only a civil government will be able to carry out the necessary civil reform so critically needed for Israel and put an end to the exclusion of women.”
HIddush is an organization dedicated to promoting religious freedom and diversity and realizing the promise of Israel’s Founders as expressed in the Declaration of Independence.