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Israel Must Break Down the Walls of the ultra-Orthodox Ghetto

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The Israel Women’s Network’s battle against holding a sex-segregated concert in Afula has caused great harm to ultra-Orthodox feminism while bolstering the reactionary male forces in ultra-Orthodox society. And this isn’t the first time.

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The most damaging battle was the one against sex segregation at universities, which blocked the expansion of higher education among ultra-Orthodox women. Unfortunately, the Israel Women’s Network is more concerned with itself than with liberating ultra-Orthodox women, so it undermines the trend toward integration among Israeli ultra-Orthodox women – at work, in education and in cultural life.

In her Haaretz op-ed last Sunday, Iris Leal exemplifies how hard a liberal woman finds it to fully support an independent path for ultra-Orthodox women. Leal teaches ultra-Orthodox women in single-sex classes, with the goal of encouraging independent thinking and liberation (in contrast to the Israel Women’s Network’s stance). But she objects to holding cultural events with sex segregation. In her view, consciousness will develop through education, not through separate-sex cultural activities.

As someone who has taught women for many years at the Haredi College of Jerusalem, I think there’s confusion about the processes ultra-Orthodox society is undergoing and a misunderstanding about the right way to help it escape the ghetto it has been forced into. Because the issue of integrating ultra-Orthodox society is important and could also have a decisive impact on the........

© Haaretz