Posts Tagged With: Demonstrations

Protests Begin at Restaurant Banning Thursday Night Waitresses

Protesters in front of the Heimishe Essen restaurant. Click image for additional photos.

Yesterday men and women gathered on a cold Thursday Jerusalem night for the first time in front of the Heimishe Esin ( ‘היימישע עסין’ ) which removed women from busy Thursday night shifts after Badatz of Agudat Israel demanded it as part of its Kashrut certification process.

About 30 male and female demonstrators gathered for over an hour to sing a selection of popular Israeli songs that includes both songs about the love of Israel and Jewish religious values. The singing ended with HaTikva and the waving of the Israeli flag. They included secular and religious Jews from a variety of streams and even earned some applause from on-lookers, as well as Jerusalem Council member Laura Wharton.

The demonstration was organized by the Jerusalem branch of Israel Hofshit (ישראל חופשית)  . Protesters plan on meeting again at the restaurant next week on Thursday night unless Badatz withdraws its demands and women continue to be employed as waitresses on Thursday nights.

The owner told photo journalist Nir Alon that the protests are unnecessary because he convinced Badatz Agudat Israel that women will only serve tables with women and men will only serve tables with men. However, when asked directly by News1 if women will wait on tables on Thursday nights or serve only in the kitchen he did not give a direct answer.

The Heimishe Esin restaurant is located in the heart of pre-state Jerusalem. There is a secular high school across the street from the restaurant and the majority of the area is secular/non-Haredi dati. It’s in the heart of the very secular original post-independence Jerusalem. The Jewish Agency building where statehood was proclaimed by Ben Gurion is virtually around the corner. Teddy Kolech’s old aparment was a few blocks away. So is Golda Meir’s home.

Expanding Media Coverage

Since our coverage of this story at the beginning of the week the story has been picked up by two major Israeli papers, HaAretz and the Jerusalem Post, and syndicated to US Jewish world papers such as the Los Angelos’s Jewish Journal on the West Coast of the USA and the Forward and Vos Iz Neias on the East Coast . It has also been picked up in the Israel Haredi press via LaDaat. The story is also beginning to make the rounds of the blogosphere: Failed Messiah, Frum Satire, and Life in Israel have all featured pieces and reader comments.

Based on mynet’s poll of its readers and the tenor of blog comments, opinion is strongly against this demand of Badatz Agudat Israel. A mynet reader poll resulted in 91.5% disapproval rate.

Discrimination or Just Good Business?

The owner sees this as a customer preference. He told HaAretz, “My right as the restaurant’s owner is to do anything I want.” . He does not see his actions as discrimination because no one is being fired. They are only being asked to switch to less busy shifts. He told the Jerusalem Post, Continue reading

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Coalition Members Celebrate Radio Kol BaRama’s Third Year Without Women

Israel Hofshit members in front of the hall where the anniversary celebration took place.

On Tuesday night Radio Kol BaRama celebrated its third year. While the leadership of Shas celebrated with the radio station inside, Israel Hofshit volunteers stood outside protesting and handing out consciousness raising material against the radio stations policies.

The Kol BaRama radio station limits the sound of female voices, even speaking voices, to one hour a week. Outside of that one hour show there are no female broadcasters, no women interviewed, no women calling in. They insist that their listeners don’t want to hear women, and that they will be economically damaged if there is more than one hour of programming.

Opponents argue that the refusal to employ or broadcast women is against Israeli law and the policy of the Israeli broadcasting association that hands out private radio station contracts. A formal complaint was lodged with the Second Authority for Television and Radio over a year ago. Knesset members have held hearings on the matter. NGOs have filed legal a complaint in the Israel Supreme Court. Former Sephardi chief rabbi Ovadia Yosef has issued a formal decision that women’s speaking voices on the radio are permitted. However, government bodies either won’t or can’t pressure them into adding more radio stations. Despite the station’s continued resistance, Shas leaders showed up to celebrate with the radio station. Shas is one of the political parties in the ruling coalition. Continue reading

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Shabbat Bus Protests Grow

Demonstrator for Shabbat buses in Jerusalem

The movement for Shabbat public transportation is growing. Today Ramat Gan will be voting on whether or not to join Tel Aviv in seeking public transportation on Shabbat.

MyNet also reports that Jerusalem Deputy Mayor, Pepe Alou, will propose Shabbat bus transportation between areas heavily populated by secular student and entertainment centers. He expects significant opposition, but says he is planning to argue the case as a life saving measure: public transportation would prevent students from driving home intoxicated. Meanwhile Hebrew University students have contracted for private bus service from campus to the city center. The service is scheduled to begin next week.

Last Shabbat (February 25), 400 people demonstrated in favor of public transportation on Shabbat in seven different cities around Israel, among them Tel Aviv, Ranaana, Holon, Rosh Ayin and Jerusalem.  The demonstrations were organized by Israel Hofshit.

Polls show that support for this change goes well beyond the protesters themselves. The numbers in support vary from poll to poll, but they all show a majority in favor public transportation on Shabbat:

The Galgalatz results no doubt reflect the listening audience. Galgalatz plays Israeli and American pop music and presumably has a largely secular audience. However, support crosses religious lines. For instance the 2009 Central Bureau of Statistics study found that support for public tranportation on Shabbat broke down by religious identity as follows: 78% of secular, 58% of somewhat religious, 39% of somewhat more religious, 26% of religious and 4% of Haredim.

The reasons for support from the more traditional often arise from a concern about the ill-will and anti-religious feeling created by religious coercion, especially in mostly secular cities. Talia Farkish, an observant op-ed writer for HaAretz said that restricting people’s enjoyment of their day off in the name of a religion they don’t believe in would only further alienate the non-religious. Another observant Ynet commentator said he was loathe to force someone to abide by his own beliefs:

For people who see public transportation as their only viable option, halting Israel’s bus service on Saturdays is a grave act of religious coercion bordering on fundamental violation of one’s freedom of movement. There is no justification whatsoever for making people who require public transportation and do not keep the Shabbat hate their day off because of the flawed bus service. This does not serve religion or the religious, but rather, only provokes dispute and anger. Just like I expect secular Israelis to refrain from traveling through haredi neighborhoods on Shabbat, even if it means that they must drive a little longer, I also expect the haredim not to prevent Tel Aviv, a fully secular city, from providing its residents with public transportation on Shabbat.

There are also non-religious Jews who are against Shabbat buses. The most common reason is concern that buses will encourage bustle and noise. One commentator also worried that any aggitation for change actually will give more power to the Haredim when they want to push their religious practices into the public sphere.

The Shabbat bus transportation movement is also beginning to lobby for its position in the Knesset. On Tuesday, the Knesset Economic Committee discussed the issue. Micki Gitzin, the head of Israel Hofshit, testified before the committee in support of bus transportation. MK Nitzan Horowitz (Meretz) observed that all would likely benefit. Shabbat buses would significantly reduce private automobile traffic in certain areas and add to the sense of peace on Shabbat.

At present, coalition opposition to Shabbat public transportation is united. On Sunday, the ministerial committee voted on a bill to enable cities to choose Shabbat public transport without Transportation Ministry approval. The Transporation Minister, Israel Katz, says the Transportation Ministry will refuse requests for additional Shabbat bus lines (buses exist in Haifa and Eilat). The bill failed by a unanimous vote.

Previous post on this topic:  Haifa, Eilat have Buses on Shabbat: Is Tel Aviv Next?

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Chocolate at Twice the Price: Strauss-Elite Boycott Planned for Purim

In economics it is called “geographic price discrimination”. Buy a Pesek Zman candybar in the USA and you’ll pay NIS 2.70 ($0.69). Buy a Pesek Zman candybar in the UK and you will pay NIS 3.85 (65p). Buy the same candybar in Israel and you will pay anywhere from NIS 5.50 to NIS 6.29, dependingon the store.

Even retailers can’t get the price paid by the American consumer: Strauss-Elite sells the candybar to Israeli stores themselves at NIS 3.50. It refuses to say what the wholesale price is abroad. However, it appears to be much less. HaAretz interviewed the owner of a New Jersey store, Amira. He says that he is buying the Pesek Zman candy bars from a distributor and is still making a profit at his regular price of NIS 2.70($0.69).

The price discrimination came to light over the weekend when Yoav Rokach-Penn posted a photo of the Pesek Zman candybar on his facebook page. On the left side of the photo was Mega’s online shopping page for the candy bar; on the right was the store shelf at a Shoprite in New Jersey with the price clearly marked.

Taking Action

In response to the photo a group of mothers who had protested Strauss prices early last summer sent a letter of complaint to Strauss. The letter demanded that Strauss lower its prices immediately. Failing that the mothers planned to organize a boycott starting on March 1. Continue reading

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Protesters Gather to Support Second Try at Anti-Human Trafficking Law

On February 12, 2012 the Ministerial Committee will vote on a new anti-human trafficking law. The law attempts to stop human trafficking at the source by depressing the demand for paid sexual services. If the law is passed those using the services will face up to five months in jail and have to participate in a two day educational program. Their names will also be publicized.

Current laws attempt to stop human trafficking by cracking down on either the prostitutes themselves or on the managers and owners of brothels. Israel’s current approach is to focus on the managers of brothels, but this has not been effective in reducing human trafficking in Israel.

According the 2011 US Trafficking in Human Person’s Report, Israel’s management of human trafficking is currently classed with Bahrain, Cambodia, Egypt, India, Nicaragua, Uganda, the Ukraine, and Zambia.

Imprisoning prostitutes usually fails because the prostitutes aren’t usually acting freely and isn’t gaining financially from her actions. When she is “working”, her handler is paid and she gets little or none of the money. If she is put in jail, she will be intimidated back into the trade. The remaining group to focus on is the customers themselves and this is what the new law does. Sweden found that such an approach cut trafficking in half.

An attempt was made to pass a similar law in 2009. According to Levi Lauer, founder of ATZUM, the bill failed in 2009 because “too many people in important places with too many important friends would get caught with their pants down,”. To counter this, ATZUM has joined forces with the law firm Kabri-Nevo-Kaidar to form the Task Force on Human Trafficking (TFHT). It is also organizing grass roots efforts. They include

In addition to the above,  the Jerusalem Institute of Justice and Exodus Cry are sponsoring an internet petition at Ipetitions.  To sign, visit here.

Human trafficking takes many forms in Israel. Today 1990’s style Russian immigrants being spirited away to brothels in Tel Aviv are only one kind of sex trafficking. African migrants crossing the Sinai and seeking entry to Israel are also victims. Israel also has internal sex slaves – women who are trapped in relationships with abusive pimps who then transport them away from friends, family, and contacts in another part of the country. The threats of violence for internal trafficking can be intense. In Oklahoma, USA, a young woman was murdered and dismembered while another woman was forced to watch and report back to the other prostitutes who might be thinking of leaving.

According to Ruth Eglash , a senior correspondent for the Jerusalem Post, NGOs estimate that 15,000 prostitutes in Israel, about one third of whom (5,000) are minors. Most adults as well as children are not there by choice. They service up to 10,000 men each month. The men include secular and religious Jews, Arabs, and foreigners.

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Ethiopians Demonstrate at the Knesset

After a three day walk, Mulet Araro arrived in Jerusalem. He joined over 5,000 people who gathered last Wednesday ( 2012-01-18) outside of the Knesset to demonstrate against discrimination against Ethiopians.

Araro had walked all the way from his home town, Kiriat Malachi, a town south of Tel Aviv. Kiriat Malachi made the news a few weeks ago when channel Two reported that over a 100 families in Kiriat Malachi had agreed to refuse to sell or rent to Ethiopians. Outrage over this blatent act of organized discrimination lead to last Wednesday’s demonstration as well as one a week earlier in Kiriat Malachi.

This is not the only incident of discrimination that troubles the Ethiopian community. Continue reading

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