Before we preach to Israelis living abroad by Daniel Gordis

December 25, 2011
This guy Daniel Gordis seems to see a lack of singing women as something that would keep me from coming to Israel. No… I would seek refuge in a place where I would not have to listen to show tunes. What would keep me from Israel is the elitism and snobbery of feminism every time Hillary Clinton scolds Israelis when the Egyptians kick the shit out of their ladies.

 (DANIEL GORDIS via Are we so desperately afraid of our external enemies that we’ll support at all costs a government that just watches as the country rots from within? IT’S ALMOST 2012 – practically 99 years since Rosa Kamal Subhi, formerly on the faculty of Saudi Arabia’s King Fahd University, recently joined other clerics in warning that if the Saudi ban on women driving is lifted, mixing of genders will increase and that, in turn, will encourage premarital relations. If women are allowed to drive, he said, in 10 years’ time the kingdom will have no virgins left. “The virgin dearth,” I guess we could call it. In Europe – and I’m not making this up – a Muslim cleric ruled that women should not touch or be proximate to bananas and cucumbers, in order to avoid “sexual thoughts.” Their fathers or husbands should chop them before they eat them, he suggested. Ouch.

It’s tempting to laugh, of course, to point to the absurdity that can result when a religious tradition develops thoroughly unfettered by any contact with or influence from the outside world, guided by clerics with the narrowest intellectual training imaginable. But before we point with derision to Saudi Arabia and some dark corners of Europe, it wouldn’t be a bad idea to look around and remind ourselves of what’s unfolding right here at home.

Israel, our perky start-up nation, now has another credit of which to boast. We have our very own Rosa Parks. Her name is Tania Rosenblit; she’s the young woman who refused to move to the back of the bus when instructed to do so by haredi passengers on a bus from Ashdod to Jerusalem. It’s almost 2012 – practically 99 years since Rosa Parks was born. But parts of the Jewish state are still struggling to enter the 20th century, which, of course, ended over a decade ago.
Thankfully, and none too soon, Israel’s Ashkenazi chief rabbi, Yona Metzger, rushed to condemn the segregation of men and women on public buses. “We [the ultra-Orthodox] don’t have the authority to force our ideas on others,” he asserted. “This state does not belong to the haredi community.”
Ah, so there’s the problem. The issue is not that it’s wrong to relegate women to the back of the bus (why don’t the men go to the back of the bus and let the women sit up front if they’re so worried?) or that the segregation of men and women on buses is absurd (does insurmountable temptation really lurk at every stop?) but simply because the haredim don’t (yet?) have the political power they need to enforce this. Metzger’s concern was only tactical – the haredim were over-reaching. Not a word about the shamefulness of a society in which men and women cannot respectfully and properly occupy the same public space or how similar to Saudi Arabia we seem intent on becoming. Will there be a separate section on the bus for women carrying uncut fruit?
Buses are far from the full extent of it, of course. Now we learn that the Karmiel Employment Bureau has assigned different days for men and women seeking unemployment compensation. But lest we worry that this is fundamentalism-creep, rest assured, it’s only an administrative nicety. It is “more convenient” for men and women to use the office’s services on different days, the office explained to Ynet. “It prevents stress and chaos in the waiting room and is more aesthetic.” Aesthetic? How’s that, exactly?
And let’s not forget the still-simmering controversy over women singing at army ceremonies. Since halachic rulings are apparently immutable, Israel’s noble political leaders are resorting to – what else? – technology. That, after all, is where we Israelis shine. Sephardi Chief Rabbi Shlomo Amar has a brilliant solution: he simply puts his fingers in his ears when women sing at army events. (I would pay for a photograph of that.)
Not to be outdone, and perhaps in order not to offend those singing young women (who are actually in the army serving their country – yes, some people still do that, apparently) who might find the sight of the state’s chief rabbi with his fingers stuck in his ears somewhat disconcerting or even offensive, Shas MK Nissim Ze’ev has a much better idea: religious men should simply use earplugs when women sing. Brilliant. One only hopes that they remember to remove them before heading into battle. I’m told that being able to hear your commander can increase effectiveness in combat. Unless you had no intention of obeying his orders in the first place, I guess.
And we have, infinitely worse, the burning of mosques, vicious and violent attacks on Israeli soldiers by radicalized settlers and an emerging national debate as to whether (or when) the army is going to have to start shooting them. And our government? It’s tiptoeing around, doing nothing and saying little, its only genuine concern that the coalition not be weakened.
AH, THE joys of Jewish sovereignty, the nobility of Jewish independence. A.D. Gordon, Ahad Ha’am, Ze’ev Jabotinsky and David Ben-Gurion may have all disagreed in life, but now they have one thing in common – they are undoubtedly turning in their graves. That, by the way, was the real absurdity of those much-discussed ads begging Israelis abroad to come home. Those pot-shots at Jewish life in America (gratuitous and simplistic, a bit offensive and not entirely wrong) utterly missed the point – maybe those Israelis live in America because what’s unfolding in Israel is so thoroughly unappealing to them. Maybe they’ve noticed that back “home” in Israel the pockets of outrage against all of this violence and medievalism are tiny, virtually muted.
It’s Hanukka, our collective reminder that in an era of darkness, Jews struggle to create more light. Do those of us unafraid of cucumbers or mixed buses, those of us who believe that women serving their country ought to be able to sing, those of us who are ashamed of a country that takes only the feeblest action against Jews who do to mosques what anti- Semites did to our synagogues not that long ago, possess the courage of which this holiday is a reminder? Will we, like the Maccabees, take our country back before it’s too late?
It’s hard to know. So far, it seems we are so desperately afraid of our external enemies that we’ll support at all costs a government that just watches as the country rots from within.
At moments like this, it’s hard not to think about the Altalena affair. Tragic though it was, it was the defining moment at which Ben-Gurion made it clear to all that there would be one central authority in the Jewish state. Those who sought to subvert it would be treated in accordance with what they were – threats to the state’s very existence. One prays that some progress can be made here without the use of force. But if it cannot, it’s worth remembering that we once had a prime minister who knew what had to be done.
But then, of course, it’s been a very long time since we’ve had a leader with that character, that confidence, those deeply held commitments. These days, with Hanukka reminding us of the enormous power of convictions, it would be nice to have some leadership with any principles at all.
Daniel Gordis is president of the Shalem Foundation and senior fellow at the Shalem Center in Jerusalem. His latest book, Saving Israel: How the Jewish People Can Win a War that May Never End (Wiley), won the 2009 National Jewish Book Award. His next book, The Promise of Israel: Why Its Seemingly Greatest Weakness is Actually Its Greatest Strength, will be published this August.

the opposite extreme could get very annoying as well. American Jewish summer camps is a lot of singing. It would be annoying to see it go to that extreme. Music is nice, once in a while… even the sound of women, but the other extreme of constant inundation of music in the military can be dangerous. Let’s not pretend the military is about free choices… cuz it isn’t. The military should not become a musical. This has nothing to do with cucumbers or women’s rights… it has to do with what makes a MAN, the best soldier he can be,… or any man the best man he can be. I sincerely doubt (knowing what I know about performing arts Jews who have strong representatives in Hollywood and Broadway), that if singing becomes allowed in the military that the liberals will not take this liberty out of proportion. I happen to like the sound of music once in a while, but frankly I’d say the soldiers have a damn good reason to fear that allowing singing would be abused. I love Jewish culture, but the thing that chases me from the synagogue in America is the element of performance that seems to take priority over spirituality… especially in Reform synagogues. It is a shame that there is a need to ban singing, but it is silly to pretend that the military is a free reigning Broadway show.
Responses to Gordis article:
Arik Elman 
Ah, the inestimable Mr. Gordis, who slept through more then 100 physical attacks on the Israeli soldiers by the Jewish Leftists in Bilin and Naalin, who failed to notice hundreds of secular women raped by their boyfriends and murdered by their husbands, who applauds murder of Jews by other Jews when those Jews come from the Left and denies freedom of conscience and belief to the minority group when it is Jewish Orthodox. And this is a man who presides over what passes in Israel for a “Conservative think tank”. Some think. Some tank.
Alien X 

This is typical leftist propaganda, looks good on the surface, but scratch it and you see BS all over it. Women in Israel have all the rights of other women in developed Western societies and more, and feminists in Israel have so much money, power and media influence, that they could try men in newspapers and TV, forcing courts to put innocents in prison. So comparing them to Saudi women or alluding to Rosa Parks is intellectually dishonest and shameful.
All the author demonstrates is disrespect for religious Jews so typical for his leftist atheist crowd. As for Hanukka, I can’t imagine that an atheist would be the best person to lecture us about its meaning.

In Israel religion is not separated from the State. So if Israel is a law-obiding country then citizens should respect Jewish laws. If you don’t like sitting in the back of the bus, fine, ride a bike or drive a car, or demand that politicians in knesset provide funding for separate buses, for religious Jews and for non-observant Jews. In gyms mixed sex sessions could be altered with single sex sessions, it’s not difficult to arrange the schedule, we don’t need “a revolution” for that. Similar arrangements could be made in other areas of life so that religious and non-religious Jews could live in peace. This self-imposed cultural apartheid would do good for Israelis until they become more civilized and tolerant and learn to respect each other.

Another option is to vote for separation of sinagogue and state. Israel is a democracy, right? I m not religious but I hope this will not happen. Israel will lose its unique character as the only Jewish state in the world and will turn into yet another politically correct “goy” western country (and I know how many in Israel would not mind that, many still got self hating roots in their subconscious). If Israel is not a Jewish state then why bother defending it? Give it to Palestinians and scatter around the world again, hoping that rulers in foreign countries would not engage in another Holocaust one day.

Israel is a wonderful place where even Mr. Gordis, who plainly and routinely has no idea what he is talking about, can write a column for a serious newspaper.  Indeed, what is really amazing is that the Jerusalem Post actually published this sanctimonious piece of nonsense.
Sherlock Holmes 5
Let’s look for a moment at America and the UK.  Americans rejected the ERA — Equal Rights Amendment that made it unlawful to distinguish between males ansd females. Americans saw how ridiculous this was and scrapped the proposed Amendment to the Constitution. In America and the UK the top univesities — Ivy League and Oxbridge — educated men and women in separate colleges  until the past generation. Top private schools in the USA and UK still tend to be either male or female, not mixed. Many top state grammar/selective schools are also either male or female. In the UK the choirs of the great cathedrals are male only, as they are in traditional synagogues. In the most modern music we have ‘boy bands’ and ‘girl bands’, but few mixed bands. Segregated buses did NOT begin in Israel. They began in New York, in Monsey, Borough Park and other frum areas, so men could lay tephillin and davven Shacharis on the commute to work.

I find it repulsive that you would allude to the Altalena affair in this context.

What, exactly, are you suggesting?

That we do like the leftist in Israel have always done and sell out or kill those Jews who won’t fall into line?

What a sickening article. 

StanleyT 1

Daniel Gordis used to be one of my favourite commentators. I think a leftist with the usual bankrupt leftist ideas has kidnapped him and is submitting articles in his place.

for heaven’s sake: there are just a few bus routes that go into Haredi areas, where men and women prefer to be separate. I don’t condone this and I don’t agree with it. But NEITHER DOES THE GOVERNMENT!!! Rosa Parks was protesting against racist laws, which is why Tania Rosenbilt is no Rosa Parks.

As another poster has pointed out, nobody anywhere has said that women should not sing, or that anyone should not listen to women signing. All that’s happened is that a small number of soldiers have been asked to be excused from hearing women sing. For Gordis to get onto this bandwagon is just nuts.

I’m horribly disappointed