One (via the New York Times):
Two weeks after ultra-Orthodox Jews in Jerusalem wore yellow stars and striped prison uniforms, invoking Nazi Germany to protest what they called their persecution by secular Israelis, Israel’s Parliament moved closer to approving a bill that would ban the display of Third Reich symbols and even make it a crime to call someone a Nazi.
The bill passed one legislative hurdle on Monday and is expected to move closer to becoming law after a vote in the Knesset on Wednesday, the Israeli newspaper Haaretz reported.
Two (via The Globe and Mail):
The controversial exclusion of women from various settings in Israel because of pressure from ultra-Orthodox Jewish leaders reached a new level this week with a major conference on gynecological advances that is permitting only males to address the audience.
The conference on “Innovations in Gynecology/Obstetrics and Halacha [Jewish law]” is being held by the Puah Institute this Wednesday in Jerusalem. It will include such topics as “ovary implants,” “how to choose a suitable contraceptive pill” and “intimacy during rocket attacks,” in which there are many qualified female professionals, but none will be permitted to speak, at least not from the podium.
Women are allowed in the audience, in a section separate from men.
Several Israeli human rights groups have protested the men-only nature of the conference. While it is considered a private rather than a public forum, and therefore not subject to Israeli policies against discrimination, Puah receives considerable funding from the Health Ministry, these complainants point out.
Such complaints are unlikely to make much of an impression, however. The Health Minister, to whom they are addressed, is actually the Prime Minister, Benjamin Netanyahu, owing to another sop to the Ultra-Orthodox.
Three (via Forward):
Not long ago, on my way down three flights of stairs from the improvised nursery school where I used to take my youngest son every morning, I saw a woman struggling with several shopping bags filled with groceries. I asked her if she needed help, and when she nodded — though somewhat reluctantly — I carried the bags back up the three flights to her apartment. I tell this story not because I am vying for my neighborhood ‘Tzadik of the Month’ award, but because as I was going back down the steps the second time, I realized that something was missing: She did not say thank you.
I am sure this woman, whom I had never met and only rarely see, has excellent manners. But she refrained from acknowledging the small favor I did for her — nothing so little as to raise her eyes to mine — because in the ultra-Orthodox neighborhood in Jerusalem where I live, men do not talk to women, and women certainly not to men, not even to say thank you. It is because, as seminary girls will tell you (they hear it all day as a mantra), “It is not tznius!” meaning that this behavior is considered immodest.
Amid the polemical rhetoric that has taken over what has now become a full-fledged culture war about gender discrimination on Israel’s public buses, there is another, quieter story. To be sure, the attack on Tanya Rosenblit for not ceding her place on a gender-separated bus is appalling, and the general encroachment of religious values into the public sphere is an alarming development, but beyond the proclamations, the more everyday story — an equally disturbing one — has not been fully told.
That story includes that of the woman on the stairwell. She was certainly grateful. But since she is so concerned about the public perception that both men and women may have of her, she acts in a manner that she knows — she must — to be wrong. Better to be perceived to be impolite than immodest. A few grateful words, even the wrong gesture, might be negatively construed by someone watching, betraying the fear that someone must be watching, and all the time.