Haaretz reports that in the past ten years the number of schools within Israel’s state-run religious elementary schools has grown from 25% of the schools to 65%. In some cases, segregation begins as early as 1st grade.
Of course, some smart-aleck might say that there is nothing wrong with pre-pubescent segregation between boys and girls and they’re getting the same education anyway. Fat chance. Rabbi Rabbi Michael Melchior who is also a former Deputy Minister of Education calls this radicalization
“that is being expressed in a wide range of issues alongside the issue of gender separation and the exclusion of the place of the woman.”
In other words, they are starting to exclude women from key roles in society by getting them young, really young. After all, they don’t need the same emphasis on, say, Torah studies, if they can’t become rabbis. They don’t need the same emphasis on subjects that may earn them a living wage if their roles will be those of mothers and homemakers.
This is quite literally a medieval practice. And it is funded by the state of Israel! They are violating Israel’s education rules in the process, by the way, since classes may only be divided if they reach 40 children (40 in a classroom!!! Maybe if they could get some more tax revenues from the two key populations that are having the most children, the Haredim and the Arabs, then they could afford smaller classes?)
Now, don’t think this is being driven by the Haredim. This is religious Zionism in action. The state of Israel should not be involved in any such educational division between boys and girls. It must either outlaw or de-fund it. Now. As soon as possible. Education is always a means of affecting people’s place in society, their income level, their mobility and their freedom in general. There is no place for this sort of segregation in a liberal democracy and certainly not in Israel where one of its recent Nobel laureates is a woman.
What can you do?
First of all, remember to sing and hum whenever and wherever you are in public. Especially around observant men.
Second, run for office or encourage your friends to run for office. Join the main political parties with your friends and have some women run on the Knesset slate. Then vote for the women and get your friends to vote for the women candidates, and your boyfriends and husbands too. After all, do they want their daughters and wives to be excluded from key places in society?
Third, write letters to the Netanyahu government to complain. Promise Kadima and Labor leaders that you will vote for them and their candidates if they run on platforms that put an end to these shameful moves against women such as omitting women from ads, removing them from public singing and separating them on buses.
You are fighting for the very soul of Israel right now. If this continues, you will not want to fight for its soul later, because it will be destroyed. This is a fight that women have to win!
Kol Isha / Woman’s Voice Movement Alert 3