Lawsuit filed against haredi radio station for excluding women


The religious women’s organization Kolech filed a class-action lawsuit against a haredi Orthodox radio station for excluding women.

The nearly $26 million lawsuit filed Tuesday in Jerusalem District Court against Kol Berama alleges that the station does not hire women as interviewers or invite women to be interviewed.

“From the start, the station adhered to a patently illegal policy, and women’s voices were completely silenced,” the suit says. “At all hours, only men are heard in the station’s programs. A woman who wishes to be interviewed is refused, and is requested to send a fax to the station, which is read by the presenter.”

The station went on the air in 2009; the Reform movement had asked the Israeli Supreme Court to prevent its launch.

Earlier this year, Israel’s Second Authority for Television & Radio ordered Kol Berama to interview women in official positions or who are experts in their fields. It also called on the station to allow women to speak on the air for four hours a week, Haaretz reported.

The station claims to have hundreds of faxes from female listeners that are satisfied with the station’s format.

Rally in Beit Shemesh protests exclusion of women


Hundreds participated in a rally in the Jerusalem suburb of Beit Shemesh against gender segregation and violence against women by haredi Orthodox extremists.

The rally Tuesday evening was held near a national religious girls school which has been at the center of the controversy. It is the school attended by 8-year-old American immigrant Na’ama Margolis, who was featured in an Israeli television news program, saying she was afraid to walk to school following harassment by local haredi Orthodox men.

The rally was organized on Facebook. More than 4,000 users responded on the Hebrew Facebook page, “1,000 Israelis are going to Beit Shemesh to protect little Na’ama” that they will be attending. Organizers had expected some 10,000 people to participate.

Israeli President Shimon Peres urged Israelis to attend the rally. “Today is a test for the nation, not just for the police. All of us, religious, secular, traditional … must as one man defend the character of the state of Israel against a minority which breaks our national solidarity,” Peres told reporters Tuesday.

“Discrimination against women goes against the tradition of the Bible and the principles of Judaism,” Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu told the audience at an adult Bible contest gathering Tuesday evening as the rally was getting underway.

The rally comes a day after clashes between haredim and police in two neighborhoods of Beit Shemesh, a northwestern suburb of Jerusalem with a population of 80,000. Two residents were arrested.

About 300 haredi Orthodox men threw stones at police and burned trash cans Monday after the police removed a sign calling for the separation of the sexes on city streets, Haaretz reported. The signs had been replaced after being removed the previous day.

Rioters on Sunday reportedly surrounded and threw stones at the city workers who removed the signs. Some reportedly called the police who came to break up the riot “Nazis.”

One sign called for women to cross the street in front of a local yeshiva; another called for women to dress modestly in public. The sign removal began Sunday evening, when it was assumed that residents would be in their homes lighting Chanukah candles, Ynet reported.

Following media reports of attacks on women by haredi Orthodox men, the Beit Shemesh municipality said it would install hundreds of security cameras in areas where harassment of women was occurring.

News teams from two Israeli television channels were attacked by haredi Orthodox men attempting to film in the city on Sunday and Monday.

Netanyahu over the weekend called on the Israel Police to act aggressively against violence against women in the public sphere. The order came from Netanyahu Saturday night through Public Security Minister Yitzhak Aharonovitch following the television news report about Na’ama.

Netanyahu reportedly also spoke with Attorney General Yehuda Weinstein to make certain that laws against excluding women from the public space were enforced.