Several dozen fathers' rights activists held a protest at Bar Ilan University Tuesday as an allegedly biased conference for social workers took place in one of the university's halls. The activists told Arutz Sheva that police were called in and that fathers who were demonstrating peacefully were made to leave the campus grounds.
The protesters put up signs in which the university's name was changed from Bar Ilan ("Bar" literally means "the son of") to Bat Ilan ("Bat" refers to a daughter). They handed out flyers protesting the conference's alleged anti-male slant and stickers that carried the messages: "A woman is worth no less and no more than a man" and "A man is worth no more and no less than a woman."
The event that the fathers object to is the ninth annual conference on "Women, Law and Family in Israel" hosted by the university's Rackman Center for the Advancement of Women's Status. The program for the conference indicates that the first part of the event is intended for social workers, who will hear three lecturers, all of whom support the Tender Years Clause that gives mothers automatic custody of young children in divorce. The activists call this "indoctrination" and note that social workers' opinions are crucial in cases where parents vie for custody.
The social workers' conference will be followed by an open conference featuring Prof. Dan Schnitt, who headed an official committee whose final report, handed in this week, recommended abolition of the Tender Years Clause. The committee sat for 6.5 years and showed no intention of handing in a final report until threats of legal action were made by fathers' rights activists. A spokesman for the activists said that he expects the militant feminist establishment in Israel – which is very powerful in the Knesset – to bury any attempt to turn the committee's recommendations into law.
A representative of a group that advocates for parental equality in divorce announced Monday that she was pulling out of the conference. The representative, Ruthy Daniel, is an activist in "Horut Shava" (Equal Parenting), a group that advocates abolition of the Tender Years Clause. In a letter to Rackman Center head Dr. Ruth Halperin-Kaddari, she cited concern that she was being used as a "fig leaf" to grant legitimacy to a conference that she sees as biased.