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Elham AbolFateh

Opinions

Israel's secular society is under attack

Friday 24/May/2019 - 10:46 PM
Sada El Balad
Edied by Ahmed Moamar
Despite constituting a majority، secular and traditional Jews are weak and getting weaker in the face of increasing Orthodox power to impose their will on society، such as segregating the sexes
Former Israeli beauty queen Linor Abergil was selected to host the official torch lighting ceremony on Independence Day. Oded Alyagon، who retired from the bench 13 years ago، chose to mock her for wearing a head-cover fashionable in the Orthodox community.
Disparaging someone for their choice of clothes، whether a Haredi woman or a contestant in a beauty pageant، is of course wrong. The disrespectful comment، by a person who is not in the public eye، caused a huge amount of anger.

Women of stature in politics and society decided to don Haredi head cover in solidarity، enjoying the publicity that followed. Even the spokesperson for the courts، in an unusual move، saw fit to call the former judge's comment "shameful".



In comparison، a recently reported incident involving a woman's attire received no such scrutiny.



A young woman clad in shorts was denied entry to a bus because the driver refused to allow her to board. He claimed she was inappropriately dressed and causing offensive to the religious passengers on the bus.



This was just one of many examples، but there are many more. For example، again on Independence Day، a young girl was invited to perform a duet with a singer، but was prevented from singing on stage so as not to offend the religious people in the audience. In the same vein، woman soldiers in the IDF are constantly banned from singing in public so as not to "offend" religious listeners.

Such separation goes against the basic values of the Zionist movement، namely the belief in equality، including gender equality.



Zionism، a secular movement، has since its early years supported women's right to vote and be elected، despite religious orthodoxy and the policies in place in 19th century Europe.



I have not heard of Haredi students joining universities abroad and making demands for gender separation. But in Israel، anything is possible.



These demands always come with a warning: you let us impose separation، or Haredi students will stay away، won't be educated، won't become productive members of the workforce، and will continue to be a burden on secular and moderately religious tax payers.
Tel Aviv University's law department initiated a track for Orthodox students that takes into account the poor level of general studies many Haredi students are left with when they leave their religious schools. And despite the university refusing to separate male and female students at the law school، some religious students do choose to attend.
Secular society is under attack، as are its basic values. Non-religious and traditional Jews make up the country's Jewish majority. But it is a weak majority and under the current system of government، it is an under-represented majority.
Now the institutions of higher education are being targeted. Orthodox students، in modest numbers، are joining universities and colleges. On the face of it، this is a positive change.
*****Daniel E. Friedmann was CEO of MacDonald، Dettwiler and Associates for 20 years until 2016

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