This year, like last year, the neighborhood of Meah Shearim posted signs indicating that during the Sukkot celebrations, men and women would be directed to separate sidewalks. Civil rights or anti-haredi activists, depending on your perspective, petitioned the court, which ruled that the sidewalks belong to both sexes equally. The ruling was not enforced.
After the holiday, a group of civil rights activists entered the neighborhood and were greeted with food and rocks thrown from the balconies.
But is it right for outsiders to interfere? Reader Henya writes on the Mother in Israel Facebook page:
And if people belonging to a certain community prefer separate streets or buses it is silly and cruel to force them together for the sake of imagined equality.You as me how I know, simple – I happen to have the same values. If I could I would live there.
And Julia adds:
With all my liberal inclinations aside, I understand the intention of the haredi residents to impose some “social order” on Succot. It is not an easy holiday (similar to Purim) to maintain the “normal” gender separation. These holidays are great times for people to mingle, and that is very threatening to their normal mores. People are happy, there’s music, there’s no set schedule– its a recipe for disaster 😉
A similar scenario is playing out in New York, where a bus company that runs a public line in New York City requires women to sit in the back.
Both instances of sex-separation are clearly illegal. And in both cases outsiders discovered the violations and set out to enforce the law.
This raises important questions, like how far society can take religious tolerance? Do we know that all of the women in these communities are happy with the situation, as Henya suggests? And if they are all happy, should it matter?
Unpious, an ex-hasid, argues that until Hasidic women speak up, nothing will change.
What do you think?
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