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Dec 18, 2012

Women Cant Serve in Knesset Because They Have Different Roles

A couple of weeks ago womens rights organizations got together and petitioned the election board of the Knesset to have the haredi political parties disqualified due to their not having any female candidates listed on the party lists for Knesset. At the time, the election board said the issue would only be dealt with after the deadline for submitting party lists will have passed.

The deadline passed already over a week ago, and tomorrow the election board is set to discuss all the requests for disqualifications.

A few days ago, the organizations officially submitted their petition to have the haredi parties disqualified. They base it on the fact that their are no female representatives, but also because the regulations of both SHAS and UTJ parties state that women will not be allowed to run as representatives of their parties for Knesset. Due to clear discrimination against women, they should be disqualified according to the petition.
(source: Kikar)

A member of the groups that filed the petition wrote an op-ed on the Times of Israel explaining their action. Among all the discussion of lawlessness, equality and all that, I find the following paragraph, the concluding paragraph, the most interesting:
Let’s hope that the members of the committee, all party representatives, will understand that it will be better for all of us if we start at the very beginning by rooting out such bias from the core of our political system. I have no doubt that Haredi women, who tend to receive a far wider and better education than their counterparts in the sex-segregated Haredi school system, will do at least as well as the men who have been shutting them out.  Their very presence in the Knesset will be a welcome change and a bright sign for the future.
Again, I do not expect the election board to disqualify the haredi parties over this, but I guess we'll see what happens tomorrow..

In the meantime, the haredi parties have responded to defend themselves against the petition. In their joint response they say that:
"the haredi parties operate, as per the halacha, with separation between men and women, for reasons of tzniyut. Men have one role, and the women have a different role. The division of labor has nothing to do with the removal of women, discrimination against women, or any claim that women are valued any less than men. In a democratic country a party that wants to operate according to halacha cannot run for Knesset? That itself makes the petition itself anti-democracy in the clearest way!
They add that they do not oppose women being chosen for the Knesset, just not via their parties. "Being that these responding parties operate according to the 4 cubits of halacha, their representatives for the Knesset can only be men. If this approach is not acceptable to some people, they do not have to vote for these parties."
They even added that "haredi women would not vote for them specifically if women were on the party lists, because it is against halacha. In order to satisfy the desires of the petitioners, is it right to take away the rights of these women from voting for haredi parties that act according to halacha?"
(source: Ynet)

I don't know which halacha prevents women from being on the Knesset lists of these (or any) parties. The choices are:

  1. kol kvoda bat melech pnima: If it is the one that talks about women being in the home or the glory of a woman is being inside or internal (kol kvoda bat melech pnima), then women should not be allowed to leave their house for work - whether it is teaching or computer programming or architecture or anything else. The Knesset should be no different. If women are allowed out to work, they can also work in the Knesset.
  2. problem of having a party mixed with men and women.. meetings, talking between the sexes, meetings, yichud, etc: If it is issues of yichud or tzniyus, those are all solvable. They cannot be any worse than the situation created of haredi male MKs sitting in meetings with secular women from other parties, sitting and talking to them, talking to female reporters, etc. If the problem is a mixed list of men and women, perhaps the solution would be to have only women listed on the party list and let the men go back to yeshiva, though then it would be a problem of male discrimination.
As far as the division of labor, the different roles placed upon the different genders, it is interesting that that statute is enforced when discussing the Knesset but not elsewhere. As a matter of fact, Deputy Health Minister Yaakov Litzman recently said that haredi women work and there is no need for both spouses to do so, so he seems fine with the move away from the traditional roles that were attributed to each of the genders in the past.

The Labor party has already announced that they are going to vote against disqualification. Not just for the haredi parties but in all the petitions against the various parties and reps, including Zoabi, Otzma L'Yisrael, Balad-RamTal, and Shas-UTJ. They say they will vote against because it is a slippery slope to prevent people form running and in a democratic country freedom of expression and speech is the most basic right. (source: Walla News)

I tried to do some research to see how Labor voted when Rav Kahane's party was voted to be banned form the Knesset, but I could not find the information. He was banned by a vote of 66-0, but there were a lot of abstentions, so I dont know how any particular party necessarily voted. I am just wondering if this "slippery slope" issue is longtime Labor policy or something new.

It is all just an interesting discussion, because I don't see anybody actually voting to disqualify these parties based on this.

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  1. A woman could run Misrad HaPnim, then.

    I really fail to see how the Knesset could have voted 66-0 to back Kach, but then not ban Zuabi after the Mavi Marmara incident.

    Manya Shochet

  2. I was wondering if it is two different things. There is the election board that decides on whether a party can run or not. Maybe even if a party could run, a complaint could be later filed with the knesset and the party could possibly be banned separately from the knesset itself.
    as far as connecting Kahane and Zoabi, I dont see how they let her get in, considering the ban on Kahane

  3. People who object to one slate on the ballot could vote for another. It's stupid to obligate a party to make its slate meet your own PC expectations.

  4. You are ignoring the halacha about kavod for the community.

  5. please explain. what issue of kavod is there with a woman being a Knesset representative?

  6. I heard from someone in about 2003, that Rav Mordechai Eliyahu ztl only gave three women a bracha to run in politics, I think two were strong Mafdal women of the past.

  7. Halacha my foot!

    There is nothing in Halacha that prevents a woman from serving in the Kenesset... anymore than there is a Halacha that a woman may not sit on a dais with men... or address a group of men and women as a public speaker. Do you think Arie Crown Hebrew Day School violates halacha? Has there ever been one word said about that by even the most Charedi Rav in Chicago.

    Arie Crown is the home of Rebbetzin Esther Levine, wife of Moetzes member R' AC Levine, RY of Telshe. Do you think she would teach at a school that violates Halacha?

    The issues you mention are a basis for Chumra and nothing more. Halacha has nothing to do with it.

    It's really sad when a politcal party that presents itself as operating within the Daled Amos of Halacah has to lie in order to maintain its Chumros! Which is all thier policy WRT women in the Kenesset is.

    Being a legislator is not an issue of Serrara either. Perhaps Prime Minister might be... but I don't think the Charedi parties have a snowball's chance of that ever happening.

  8. "please explain. what issue of kavod is there with a woman being a Knesset representative?"

    If a community finds a certain type of person to be dishonorable as a leader then they are not allowed to be appointed leader no matter how great they might be. The Talmud brings women and converts as examples. Jewish responses to Hadrian might be another example.

    While the rest of the world may no longer have problems with Women or convert leaders, the charedi sector certainly still does.

  9. The Knesset should do something to earn its "kavod".


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