According to the Israeli Chief Rabbinate which, naturally, follows the dictates of halakha, a woman must have an attendant with her before and during immersion in a mikvah (ritual bath) for the purpose of ritual family purity. However, the Rabbinate announced today, following the decision of the Israeli courts, that, “the privacy of the woman must be respected and the kashrut of the ritual is the responsibility of the woman performing the ritual.”
In the announcement it is stated that “in order to protect the modesty of the individual, the woman is allowed to enter the ritual bath according to the following rules: immersing while wearing a closed gown, immersing while accompanied by a friend and not a bathhouse attendant, asking the attendant to be present once the woman has entered the bath.”
The announcement stated that if a woman asks to enter the mikvah without a friend or attendant present, she should be allowed to do so, but must be informed that she is responsible for the sanctity of her own ritual immersion.
The updated regulations are to be posted on every ritual bath and will be overseen by the Rabbinate.
The announcement also emphasizes that the bathhouse attendant is forbidden from asking the individual about her marital status and she should not be prevented from entering the bath. The Rabbinate was against this as it was seen as possibly encouraging intimate relations before marriage.
Rabbi Seth Farber, director of the Itim organization, which fought for the decision stated that “we support the decision made by the Rabbinate and the Ministry of Religious Services," and explained that this decision will make ritual bathhouses more accessible to women who don’t feel entirely comfortable but want to fulfill the ritual immersion.