Posts tagged Discrimination.
"Hello hi. Have you made a post about the racism towards Ethiopians in Israel? If not, what are your thoughts?" by Anonymous

I actually haven’t written about racism towards Ethiopians in Israel. If it’s something you’re interested in, let me know - and I can write a longer post.

However, briefly: I’m against discrimination and racism. I know this will sound juvenile, but it is stupid to discriminate against someone because of the colour of their skin. Furthermore, it is COMPLETELY against Halacha.

פרשת שמות

There were three stages of the Israelites’ exile in Egypt: גרות-being a foreigner, עבדות-slavery, and עינוי-affliction. As we saw in the previous weeks’ Parshiot, the Israelites only intended to temporarily live in the Land of Egypt (ג.ו.ר) and remain foreigners in the land. However, they began to feel comfortable there, settled there (ש.ו.ב)and felt bound to the land (א.ח.ז.).

The first stage of exile, גרות, didn’t last very long as the Israelites soon adapted to their new environment. It was this feeling of routine that led to the second stage of the Israelites’ exile- עבדות. However, the Israelite’s slavery wasn’t JUST slavery, it is described as “back breaking” and “harsh”.

וַיַּעֲבִדוּ מִצְרַיִם אֶת בְּנֵי יִשְׂרָאֵל בְּפָרֶךְ:

So the Egyptians enslaved the children of Israel with back breaking labour.

(Exodus 1:1)

The only other time the root פ.ר.כ appears in Tanakh, is in the word פרוכת - the curtain separating the Holy of Holies from the Sanctuary in the Tabernacle. From this we can see, that the wordבְּפָרֶךְ contains a connotation of separation. The second stage of exile, עבדות separated the Israelites from other Egyptian citizens, making them slaves with no civil or political rights. The Israelites were isolated. 

It is interesting to notice, that the separation and isolation of the Israelites occurred once the Israelites were settled and comfortable in Egypt. The Israelites had forgotten the first stage of their exile גרות and needed to be reminded that they were still foreigners. This isolation, this בְּפָרֶךְ- reminded the Israelites that they were different, they had their own homeland, and they were foreigners in Egypt.

This concept of isolation and being different, is one of the defining characteristics of the Jewish people throughout the millennium. After the Israelites are redeemed from Egypt, G-d tells them through Moses

וְאַתֶּם תִּהְיוּ לִי מַמְלֶכֶת כֹּהֲנִים וְגוֹי קָדוֹשׁ

And you shall be to Me a kingdom of princes and a holy nation.’

(Exodus 19:6)

The root ק.ד.ש also has a connotation of isolation and separation. For example, Shabbat, is the holiest day of the week and it is ‘set aside’ and ‘different’ to all the other days of the week. The Jewish people, the “holy nation” are also set aside and different.

Menachem Begin would hold a Parsha Shiur at his house every Shabbat. At one such Shiur, he talked about the identity of the Jewish people and the very fact that we are separate, that we are different. He explained that the reason that the Jews are separate is not because there is only one Jewish state in the world or because Hebrew is the official language of one country in the world but because we are something unique a  “nation-faith” –. This means that we are not just a nation – the Jewish People, but also a religion – Judaism. One cannot be a member of Am Yisrael without being Jewish, and one cannot be Jewish without being part of Am Yisrael. The two MUST go together. If we assimilate, if we forget our religion, if we forget that we are foreigners in a foreign land, if we become comfortable in a foreign land; we cease to be different and we cease to exist.

The back breaking Egyptian slavery was not just to remind us that we’re different…but happened BECAUSE we are different. The Egyptians enslaved the Israelites BECAUSE they were foreigners, and because, as foreigners they had no rights. The actual root of the עבדות, was the גרות, and the mistaken notion that foreigners have no rights.

In contrast to the Egyptian way of thinking, the Torah’s laws ALWAYS protect the rights of strangers. 24 times throughout the Torah, whenever the Torah discusses a person’s rights, the stranger, the foreigner, is given special protection.

The measure of justice in a country, is not measured by the rights attained by the rich, native, well-connected people, but by the justice given to the unprotected stranger. One of the basic ideas of Jewish law is complete equality of the native and the stranger.

R’ Samson Raphael Hirsch wrote in his commentary on this phrase

In Jewish Law, the homeland does not grant human rights; rather, human rights grant the homeland! Jewish law does not distinguish between human rights and citizens’ rights. 

R’ Samson Raphael Hirsch unfortunately died long before the re-establishment of the State of Israel; but as Jews, we can be proud to say, how relevant a description, his words are to the Jewish state.

In the one Jewish state in the world, anyone can receive Israeli citizenship, anyone with Israeli citizenship can run for Parliament, be a Supreme Court Judge, receive a tertiary education etc! 20% of Israeli’s population is Arab, and they are represented in our governmental, legal, military, law enforcement, education and medical systems!

In a neighbourhood where abuse of human rights, civil rights and political rights is rampant, Israel a safe haven and a “light unto the nations”.

As Jews in Israel, we must remember our own history. Our own abuse, exile, and discrimination. We must be a “light unto the nations” and remain a proud upholder of human, civil and political rights for all - as Jewish Law requires us.

However, as Jews in the Diaspora, we must remember that we are different, we are separate. We must not become overly comfortable in our host countries, and remember that we have an eternal homeland that is waiting for us. 

Gender Segregation in Israel Part Two: Buses

When it comes to religion, I don’t think people should be imposing their views on others. If someone is uncomfortable with the way a woman is dressed or a woman singing, they should walk away/wear ear plugs/look down. They shouldn’t impose their religious standards on others and should instead, remove themselves from the situation. This position protects everybody’s rights; women’s rights, religious rights etc.

(An answer of mine to a previous question)

In this 3 Part series I’ll address three topics: Beit Shemesh, segregated buses and women singing in army ceremonies.


In the past few days there has been international uproar regarding some of Israel’s bus lines which are gender segregated. This issue caught the attention of the media after the recent events in Beit Shemesh and a protest in Beit Shemesh condemning gender segregation. The day after the protest, the media attention on the matter increased, after Doron Matalon, a female IDF soldier was verbally abused by an Ultra-Orthodox man on a Jerusalem “Mehadrin” line, for standing in the men’s section.


In Israel, the bus lines can be divided into two groups, the “normal” lines, and the “Mehadrin” lines. The “normal” lines, run just like regular buses, but the “Mehadrin” lines, have the men standing in the front, and the women in the back.

The word Mehadrin is usually refers to the most stringent level of Kosher supervision, but in this context, refers to more stringent levels of religious observance, particularly the Chumrot (stringencies) pertaining to separation between men and women.

The Chumrot regarding separation of the sexes, are directly related to the Halachot of Tzniut, modesty. Men are forbidden to see the “ervah” (nakedness) of women they are not married to, or related to. In addition to this, men are restricted in the blessings they can see and the Torah materials they can learn, whilst in the presence of a woman who is displaying what is considered ervah. Furthermore, members of the opposite sex are forbidden to touch one another (Shomer Negiah) if they are not married, or related. Ultra-Orthodox communities generally discourage members of the opposite sex mingling due to these laws of modesty as well as to prevent adultery. (In fact, this is the reason that many of these laws are actually in place).


Riding a bus, is a potential situation where all these factors could come into play. An issue of great concern, was that of Shomer Negiah - especially when riding bus lines during peak hours. Thus, the Mehadrin line was created in order to provide an environment where Ultra-Orthodox Jews would be able to use public transport, but at the same time adhere to their level of religious observance.

The Mehadrin bus line caters to the Haredi community that pays particular attention to the stringency in which they observe the rules of Tzniut. The line is targeted towards the Ultra-Orthodox community and generally runs between major Haredi population centres. In addition to regulations as to where men and women sit, the Mehadrin lines censor their advertisements to conform with Haredi religious stringencies and avoid playing the radio or secular music.

Here is a brief list and explanation of Rabbi’s opinions regarding segregated buses.

In January 2011, the Israeli High court stated the unlawfulness of gender segregation and abolished the Mehadrin lines. However, the court rule allows the continuation of the gender segregation in public buses on a strictly voluntary basis for a one-year experimental period


Personally, I do not feel that Mehadrin lines should be institutionalised and be considered part of the state’s public transport system as Israel, a democratic country should not foster gender separation or exclusion. However, if these buses were to be run privately, I see no reason as to why they could not continue to have the men in the front or the women in back - without forcing women to do so of course. In fact, this is one of the solutions that are being offered.


On the other hand, according the High Court’s ruling in January 2011, the continuation of gender segregation is on a voluntary basis only. Essentially, that means that women who choose to sit in the back may do so, but women can also choose to remain in the front of the bus. The women in the Haredi community continue to volunteer to sit in the back. In fact, this entire conflict is considered a non-issue by most women in the Ultra-Orthodox community. They do not feel “persecuted” or “discriminated against”. Most wish, just to continue to live life as they usually do - sitting in the back of the bus and following the Chumrot they’ve accepted upon themselves. 


Doron Matalon, the IDF soldier that was called a “gentile” and a “slut” by an Ultra-Orthodox Jew was riding a Mehadrin line. While I condemn the Ultra-Orthodox man’s, (Shlomo Fuchs) actions, I do believe that the request of the Haredi community should be respected. If a woman does not feel comfortable sitting in the back of the bus, don’t take the Mehadrin line!

I also feel that the media and the Left is purposely trying to widen the chasm between the Ultra-Orthodox community, and the rest of Israeli society. It is obvious that there is also a certain degree of “Haredi Bashing” in the media.


This is most detrimental to all of Israeli society at this point in time. As Abraham Lincoln famously said “A house divided cannot stand”. Like R’ Obadiah Yosef said last week, we must have Ahavat Yisrael for all our fellow Jews, regardless of their levels of religious observance. Rather than widening the gap between Jewish communities - let’s face issues as a united, loving front. 

Gender Segregation in Israel Part One: Beit Shemesh

When it comes to religion, I don’t think people should be imposing their views on others. If someone is uncomfortable with the way a woman is dressed or a woman singing, they should walk away/wear ear plugs/look down. They shouldn’t impose their religious standards on others and should instead, remove themselves from the situation. This position protects everybody’s rights; women’s rights, religious rights etc.

(An answer of mine to a previous question)

In this 3 Part series I’ll address three topics: Beit Shemesh, segregated buses and women singing in army ceremonies.

Beit Shemesh

In Beit Shemesh there has been tension for years between the national-religious community and extremists in the Haredi community. However, only in recent months, has this tension escalated and resulted in intensive media coverage.

It is to be emphasised that these extremists in the Haredi community do not reflect the general attitude of the Haredi community or Orthodoxy at all. In fact, they are labelled as “Kana’aim” - “Zealots”, and are not the average Haredi.





The tension in Beit Shemesh escalated in September at the start of the new school year in Israel. The building of a national-religious girls school was to be opened and used for the first time. This school building was on the border between the national-religious and Haredi neighbourhood.

The radicals were unhappy that a national-religious school was built in what they considered “their” neighbourhood. Even before incidents of 8 year old girls being spat on and verbally abused, there were incidents of vandalism.

In September, after the first few incidents which pitted extremists against the national-religious, the parents of the national-religious students organised a rally of unity. This rally attracted thousands of the city’s residents from all walks of life. The national-religious community and the Haredi community attended this rally together, singing together, eating together and as they do every day, living and co-existing.

See this video from the rally.

The conflict in Beit Shemesh captured the attention of the international media after an eight year old student, Na’ama Margolese was spat on and verbally abused by the radicals. The extremists justified their actions by saying she was not dressed modestly.

Obviously it is illegal according to Israeli Law and Halacha to spit on anyone, or call anyone a prostitute, (let alone an eight year old) but let’s look at the situation from another perspective.

Na’ama Margolese was dressed modestly according to Halacha. She was wearing long sleeves and long skirt. So what justification do these extremists have? There are certain communities within the Orthodox world who take upon themselves “Chumrot” in addition to following actual Halacha. A Chumra is a stringency in addition to actual Halacha. These Ultra-Orthodox radicals hold their selves and their communities to stricter standards than basic Halacha. The extremists felt that Na’ama and her peers modest dress was not adequate i.e did not follow their level of strictness. Although Na’ama and her fellow students were dressed within the confines of Halacha, they were not dressed to satisfy the Chumrot, the stringencies of the radicals.

The actions of the zealots were condemned by both religious and secular leaders of the Israeli community and the Diaspora. Israel’s Prime Minister and  President, Benjamin Netanyahu and Shimon Peres, as well as countless other Knesset Members and political figures condemned the extremists.


In religious circles, the “Sikrikrim” were condemned by the Rabbinical Council of America and the Orthodox Union. These two organisations are largest body of Orthodox Rabbis, and the largest organisation of Orthodox Synagogues, respectively. 


Earlier this week, Rabbi Obadiah Yosef, one of the leading Halachic authorities of the generation gave a speech and spread a message of the need for unity and love amongst Jews, regardless of religious observance. He also relayed the hope that the media would do its part to encourage unity amongst Jews and not cause a further rift between Jewish communities.



One of the most famous Mitzvot in the Torah is “Ahavat Yisrael” commonly translated as “Loving you Fellow Jew”. The actions of the zealots in Beit Shemesh are clearly not following the spirit of Ahavat Yisrael, the Torah or Halacha.