Hareidi Women Launch Own Knesset Party

Yet another party for the hareidi camp in the 2015 elections by hareidi women frustrated by discrimination in their communities.

Tova Dvorin ,

רות קוליאן ובזכותן
רות קוליאן ובזכותן
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Yet another hareidi party has been formed for the 2015 elections Monday - this time, a party specifically for hareidi women. 

Three hareidi women are currently on the list for the new party, announced at the Zionist Organization of America (ZOA) House in Tel Aviv Monday night under the name "B'Zechutan," a Hebrew term for "in their merit" - a religious term indicating merit using the female grammatical case. 

The party will be headed by activist Ruth Kolian, a top campaigner for women's rights in the hareidi community. Legal expert Noa Erez is #2 on the list; she is followed by Business Administration student Karen Mozen, who is just 21 years old. 

The three women are working alone, NRG reports, and there are very few women behind the party proportionally. 

In December, activist Esty Reider-Indorsky announced a campaign for the hareidi parties to allow female candidates, taking to IDF Radio to speak about the discrimination they face despite being "half of the electorate."

However, that movement aims to integrate women into existing parties, not to form new parties for hareidi women. 

"After years of seeing how talented women are relegated to the side in light of their gender, we have decided to cease being forced to watch from the sidelines," Kolian stated in her opening speech. "Our conscience does not allow us to continue to be a prisoner without a voice, to continue to live our lives as if it's not about us, and think it would be someone else who will finish the job."

"This is a historic day for hareidi women to enact real change through legislature," she added. 

Frustration boiled over

Hareidi parties and rabbis are likely to respond negatively to the announcement, as the mere existence of Reider-Indorsky's movement caused a string of public threats against female activists and their families within the hareidi community. 

But the move - a historic step for hareidi women - could spark a change in the hareidi approach to politics. 

During the previous Knesset elections, both Shas and United Torah Judaism stated that men and women "have different roles" in life, dismissing public debate over their refusal to include women in their political parties. 

But women in the hareidi community have been held back by both the ban on women's candidacy in their own community's parties and by social stigmas on women in public office - with some candidates facing threats against their and their family's safety over their public roles. 

For example, in September 2013, Chairwoman Racheli Ivenboim of the Meir Panim-Co'ah Latet food charities was forced to withdraw her Jerusalem city council campaign after she received an avalanche of threats against her.

Part of the threats were due to the catch-22 situation within hareidi communities: that while women cannot be elected to public positions within hareidi parties, running under a different ticket - in her case, the religious-Zionist Jewish Home party - is seen as a form of betrayal.