Thursday, December 28, 2006

Apartheid in Beit Shamesh

Here's a blog post that just blew me away: Brooklyn Wolf: Wolfish Musings

Some excerpts:

...there are times when it [tsniut] gets carried too far - and I think that the residents of Beit Shemesh (where I have relatives living) have reached that point. In parts of the town, there are now separate sidewalks for men and for women. Signs are posted on the street advising women that they have to cross over to the other side of the street. Women are not allowed on the side of the street where the shul is located...

...One has to wonder if that isn't the goal for some of the ultra-zealots - to, in short, have separate communities where men will sit and learn all day and not be distracted by the womenfolk and the women will work and support the men without being distracted by their presence. Of course, I realize that I'm greatly exaggerating the situation - after all, we're only talking about separate sidewalks, not separate houses and communities. But sometimes, I feel like that is the direction that we are headed in. What ever happened to taking a moderate approach? The Wolf

And the comments are even better:

LL said... Frankly, I suspect separate residences will happen at some point unless this trend reverses. The 'women's tent' is part of the historical middle east. I have friends who keep TH who prefer separate bedrooms to separate beds for when they are niddah - only high housing costs may be keeping them from making the next step.

E said...

There were seperate lines at the bank in Emanuel when my husband's family lived there. However, the men didn't feel like dealing with the extra wait when there were more men than women. So they would stand in both lines, and inform the women that they essentially couldn't use the bank. (This actually happened to my mother-in-law on several occasions.) My concern in this case (after reading the linked article) is that the women in question are mothers taking their children to the doctor's office next door. So this is directly causing added inconvenience for women who are doing nothing wrong, rather than the men accepting on themselves some inconvenience as is often the case when one has halachic obligations. (Since this is an issue of a mitzvah incumbent on the men, not the women.) Additionally, as I am sure many people will mention, the charedim chose to move to Beit Shemesh after it was an established area, so it is not a matter of a community setting up its own standards as it would be if this was Meah Shaarim or Lakewood.

RF said... "Has there ever been a Jewish community where it was noted that this standard was observed?" Yes, in New Square. Shoshana mentioned it before. "Signs are posted on the street advising women that they have to cross over to the other side of the street. Women are not allowed on the side of the street where the shul is located." 1- There aren't any signs for men to cross over? That's sexist. 2- So women can't daven in shuls?

A said... The thing that always worries me about extreme separation of men and women is that it results in men thinking of women almost as an alien race (and women feeling the same way about men). I have a hard time understanding how this can NOT have a negative impact on a future marriage.

D said... >>separate communities where men will sit and learn all day and not be distracted by the womenfolk<< The Chovos HaLevovos describes this exact scenerio and praises it to no end!

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You get the idea, I'm sure. One of the posts near the end is by someone who says he lives there, and that yes, they posted the signs but for now, at least, some people ignore them.

The problem is, some people will not ignore them, and will then harass people who do ignore them. This will lead to violence - just like the woman who was recently attacked on a non-heredi bus for refusing to give up her seat and go sit in the back. And in case no one has noticed, those streets and sidewalks are part of the public right of way paid for with taxpayer money - the orthodox do not own them by any stretch of the imagination. Property lines do not include sidewalks. They are public streets and every person of any gender has every right to use them, either side.

Where is this paranoia leading? Is Apartheid really what God intended for his people? I can hardly think so, class. Was Huldah a second class citizen? No, she was a prophetess, annointed by God Himself. Was Devra a second class citizen? No, she was a judge of all Israel, again, annointed by God. How would these women have ever come to their God-given leadership positions under the apartheid being slowly implemented by the Rabbis? Can someone explain that to me?

What these Rabbis want is for women to be glorified concubines - sex slaves - who by the way, also are apparently required to sacrifice their kids to the day care industry - and for good measure be re-sold into economic servitude by their "husbands" who have no intention of supporting themselves with market-rate gainful employment.

Of course they can't, really, since they have no marketable skills, but that's another story.

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