For women’s full participation in conflict resolution and peacebuilding

An initiative from Kvinna till Kvinna

Ultra-orthodox attacks on women in Jerusalem

Tags: , , Categories: The Middle East

We recieved a blog post from one of The Kvinna till Kvinna Foundation‘s employees in Jerusalem, commenting on the reports of the continuosly harsher environment for women in the city, due to attacks from ultra-orthodox Jews. There is always a bigger picture…

This is the first time I write a blog… ever. So for this momentous occasion, I’ve decided to share my thoughts on the recent media reports of the ultra-orthodox community committing  acts of violence directed primarily against women for not being “modest” or for not complying with the community’s unspoken rules (i.e. sitting at the back of the bus while the men sit in the front). This has become such news that I even read an article about it in my parents’ local newspaper (the Herald-Tribune… not the International Herald Tribune…the Sarasota Florida Herald Tribune )!

While I think it is great that media is writing about the image of women in public spaces (or the disappearing image) and what impact conservative practices are having on women’s lives… there is still something that doesn’t feel right about all this sudden media frenzy. So I decided to have coffee with an Israeli friend to discuss.

Rina told me that she feels that what we are seeing is a response backed by liberal Israelis who need to show that they respect women’s rights so that they can keep proving that this is a modern, democratic society – the only democracy in the Middle East, according to Israel. Yet there is no real analysis coming out as to why these extreme acts against women are taking place nor what has made these groups so strong. There is no discussion about the fact that the state has supported them financially for years and let them live by their own principles in their own neighborhoods.

Rather than an open debate on root causes, the reaction has been to vilify the religious conservatives, to show how weird they are, that they are just a rare anomaly, and in fact, overall, Israel is still a modern, liberal society that respects women’s rights.

What am I trying to conclude by writing this? Well, that the international media attention against the ultra-orthodox is perhaps not painting the whole picture.

Linda Öhman, The Kvinna till Kvinna Foundation, Jerusalem