Bar Ilan University takes on Nationality Law

Women's rights center located in Bar Ilan claims Nationality Law will 'critically' harm women's rights.

Gil Ronen,

Rackman Center CEO Ruth Halperin-Kaddari
Rackman Center CEO Ruth Halperin-Kaddari
Rackman Center

Ten women's organizations demanded Knesset members block the approval of the Nationality Law and the Hebrew Law Bill, since, according to the organizations, these bills may harm women's rights.

Among the organizations opposing the bills is the Rackman Center for the Advancement of Women's Status, operating out of Bar Ilan University and considered to be supportive of religious feminist values.

Bar Ilan is a Religious Zionist university.

The Nationality Law will define Israel as a "Jewish State with a democratic regime" rather than as a Jewish democratic state. It will also include an order to preserve the state's religious heritage and the holy places according to their traditions.

Joining the Rackman Center are the Israel Women's Network and the The Association of Rape Crisis Centers in Israel, both of which were founded by the New Israel Fund.

According to Haaretz, the organizations are "concerned that beneath the surface, strengthening Israel's Jewish characteristics will also strengthen the weight of religious law," which they claim discriminates against women.

They also claim that the Nationality Law will "anchor all the Jewish elements into the State, but will not promise equality for minority groups such as women."

Israel Women's Network CEO Michal Gera Margaliot said that "anchoring Hebrew Law as a source of judicial decisions raises a serious concern for the rights of women both religious and secular, Jewish and non-Jewish. Anchoring this as a Basic Law has significant and worrying legislative impact, some of which oppose Israel's Declaration of Independence."

According to Hebrew Law, women are entitled to the amount agreed upon at the time of marriage, as well as to alimony and automatic custody of children up to age six.

According to the Rabbinical Court's statistics, there are more wives who refuse to divorce their husbands than husbands refusing to divorce their wives. Men whose wives refuse to divorce are not allowed to remarry.

Responding to the article, the Rackman Center wrote: "The Rackman Center for the Advancement of Women's Status in Bar Ilan University places an emphasis on advancing women's rights in family law. For years, the Center has worked to advance legislation and activities which led to a revolution in women's rights, which were and are discriminated against in religious law."

"The Nationality Law will disrupt the delicate balance between a Jewish state and a democratic state. One of the worst consequences of this will be deep discrimination against women, and anchoring this discrimination in a Basic Law.

"Turning to religious law as a default when there are no other options raises the chance that women's rights will be critically harmed, and this is something we want to avoid."