Op-Ed: The Attorney General's By-laws: Malice Towards Hareidim
Rabbi Yaacov Meidan, Rosh Yeshivat Har EtzionThe writer is Dean of Har Etzion hesder yeshiva, and a prominent Zionist leader who vehemently opposed the Oslo Accords He is a renowned Biblical and Talmudic scholar, essayist and lecturer.
Attorney General Yehuda Weinstein has ordered stronger measures to prevent what is termed the "exclusion of women" in public places, and was rewarded with kudos from Minister Limor Livnat, among others. He has now forbidden separating men from women at funeral services in cemeteries, not differentiating between instances where the bereaved families themselves wish for such separation and those where they do not.
From now on , "Women of the Wall" and their like will be able to harass families in the midst of burying their loved ones, claiming the right to intermingle with the men present, and, considering the crowded nature of many of these events, also unintentionally coming into pysical contact with them.
In his desire to preserve the honor of women, Weinstein ordered that Egged buses in hareidi religious neighborhoods may not have separate seating or have women enter the bus by the back door. He did this although he knows that hareidi women want this separation as much as the men do. And rightly so – after all, mixed seating and crowding are first and foremost an unpleasant experience for women.
Every female bus passenger knows that, but the feminists whose strident voices are raised against "exclusion of women" hardly ever ride public buses. It is worth noting that in Japan, and not just there, there are train cars reserved for women only.
The attorney general also ordered the removal of any partitions between men and women's lines at medical centers in hareidi neighborhoods, places where most of the women want them. He did the same in other spheres, but we will limit ourselves to the above.
The attorney general is making a grave mistake. This has to be said loudly and clearly. He has not differentiated between the honor of women – an important issue – and female modesty, a civil right and religious requirement of anyone, male or female, who believes in the G-d of Israel – or in other religions, for that matter. We will not go into deciding the required level of modesty.
However, the attorney general has decided to force observant, normative Jews to accept a lifestyle that goes against their consciences and beliefs. He does not exempt any community or neighborhood, even if their residents are totally religious and do not live his sort of lifestyle. Everyone must act according to his and the rest of the "enlightened" liberal public's definition of women's honor and their interpretation of democracy's respect for human rights.
And now for my main point: I imagine that the attorney general will not act in this fashion when it comes to Moslem or Druz communities, where separation between the sexes and principles of modest behavior are also integral parts of tradition. I surmise that he has made his moves against the hareidi community at this time, because he feels that it is all right to persecute them in the wake of the hostile words of Yair Lapid and his deputy Mickey Levy's branding them "parasites".
Forcing hareidim to study the "core curriculum" is another kind of coercion (whoever justifies this move has yet to explain his reasons) in addition to the other blows that have been aimed recently at the hareidi community.
The attorney general has now allowed himself to add these bylaws forcing mixed bus rides and unpreventable physical contact while crowding on line. This is not unintentional – it is done on purpose and with malicious intent.
The hareidi community now feels it is a community being persecuted for its faith by the powers-that-be. The community is now barricading itself from the outside world even more than before, and any progress in the gradual mingling of the hareidi sector into Israeli society and the IDF is in danger of disappearing. Voices calling for a complete cut off from Israeli society will increase in volume – and after the attorney general's decisions, they will be in the right.
Those who should protest vehemently - and right now - are not the hareidim themselves, but the religious Zionists. It is the hareidi sector's turn to be hounded; once those in power have succeeded in distancing the hareidim from Israeli society, our turn will come. That notwithstanding, the glaring injustice evidenced here trumps any sectoral considerations, and we must not remain silent.
This is the time to lavish praise on the late former prime minister, Yitzchak Rabin.
Not long ago, Attorney General Weinstein's wife was caught consciously breaking the law by employing an illegal foreign worker. One can forgive someone for this infraction, but not when he is the attorney general, who is supposed to represent unequivocal law abidance at its finest.
The attorney general's defense was that it was his wife who hired the woman and not he; that is why this is the time to remind readers that Rabin resigned his candidacy for the office of prime minister in 1977, only days before the elections, because of a foreign currency infraction by his wife.
This was an instance of outstanding integrity on the part of a public servant. It seems that we are not worthy of that level of public servant today, more's the pity!
(translated by Rochel Sylvetsky with Rabbi Meidan's permission from the Makor Rishon Israeli newspaper)