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Hiddush CEO Rabbi Uri Regev & Chairman Stanley P. Gold

A message from Hiddush

Dec. 3, 2017
15 Kislev, 5778

Dear Friends,

The clash of religion and state in Israel is escalating. The Israeli media focuses very much on either the investigations of corruption involving PM Netanyahu (and others), and the frantic attempts to amend the law to weaken the hand of Israel's law enforcement agencies. Or else - scandals involving blue laws in Israel, with the focus on businesses operating on Shabbat, maintenance on Israel's railways on Shabbat, the pressure to include Jewish religious law in the Nation-state bill, and gender segregated programs in higher education - to name a few.

In this newsletter, you'll be able to gain deeper insights into two core issues, which involve the unholy alliance of religion and state, namely - gender equality and Haredi education. We trust that reading our posts will give you the ability to more critically screen official pronouncements coming from governmental representatives. And - see that many of these issues go to the heart of international norms of human dignity and equality, which are being trampled in Israel for political gains.

As Hiddush's 2017 Israel Religion & State Index indicated, these concerns are likely to play a growing role in the upcoming Knesset elections (whenever they take place). The public already translated its frustration with issues of religion and state in the 2013 elections, as well as previously, and current polling by a number of sources indicates (once again) an anticipated rise in the representation of the centrist Yesh Atid party. With this in mind, one can consider the forceful speech made by Yair Lapid at the Knesset last week during a debate on a bill proposed by MK Rabbi Moshe Gafni, Chair of the Knesset Finance Committee, regarding Shabbat.

The Labor party, which could also potentially benefit from this shifting mood, is still wavering. While their leader Avi Gabbay recently stated his support for public transportation on Shabbat, he angered many inside and outside Labor by saying that the Left has forgotten how to be Jewish. Time will tell.

Hiddush is closely following these developments and publicizing the public's views, breaking them by the voters' political preferences. We hope that the relevant political leaders across the civil political spectrum will heed the public's will. In the meantime - we urge you to support the work of Hiddush, aimed at transforming the Israeli reality to meet both the will of the public and Israel's founding vision enshrined in its Declaration of Independence for freedom of religion and conscience for all.


Stanley P. Gold,
Hiddush Chair

Rabbi Uri Regev,
Hiddush President

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Taub Center Report:
Israel's Haredim in Higher Education

Click HERE for larger graph

A recent report by the Taub Center for Social Policy Studies in Israel sheds light on another important dimension of the official statistics on Haredim in Higher Education that are so frequently cited by government officials.

Much is being written especially by spokespeople of the government and Haredi apologists about the dramatic rise in Haredim choosing to enter into higher education.

Hiddush has pointed out that the current governmental policies, while preaching the importance of acquiring higher education for Haredim actually discourage them from entering the labor market by providing them with higher stipends that depend upon them remaining in the yeshiva.

The Taub report on Haredim in higher education [link] points to the following -

  1. While the numbers of Haredi students nearly tripled in six years, they are still extremely low in comparison to other segments of society.
  2. The numbers are misleading and overstated because they include, in many instances, non-Haredi Zionist Orthodox students who studied in schools that are registered as Haredi.
  3. Employment of Haredi men drastically dropped in recent decades from ~84% in the '70s to less than 50% today.
  4. ...


Religion & gender discrimination in Israel

An important reaffirmation of Hiddush's assertion that addressing the challenge of religious freedom & equality requires a more comprehensive, systemic, proactive, and bold overhauling was published this month by the United Nations Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination against Women (CEDAW) in its sixth periodic report on Israel.

Hiddush has stressed numerous times that the challenge of religious freedom & equality in Israel exceeds the common headline treatment that focuses on issues like worship at the Kotel, the status of non-Orthodox Judaism, “Who is a Jew?” etc. An important reaffirmation of Hiddush's assertion that addressing this challenge requires a more comprehensive, systemic, proactive, and bold overhauling was published this month by the United Nations Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination against Women (CEDAW).

The Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination against Women is a body of independent experts that monitors implementation of the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women. CEDAW Committee consists of 23 experts on women’s rights from around the world, including Prof. Ruth Halperin-Kaddari, Chair of the Ruth and Emanuel Rackman Center for the Advancement of the Status of Women at Bar Ilan University and is a senior lecturer at Bar-Ilan University's Law School in Feminist Jurisprudence and Bioethics.

The organization is a leading player in the international discourse on issues of gender equality, and CEDAW’s periodic report on Israel is of great importance. While the commission's most recent periodic report covers all forms of discrimination, one should easily assume that much of what CEDAW found to be incompatible with internationally held norms and conventions regarding equality of women emanates from the link between religion and politics, given the role played by Israel’s religious functionaries in setting state policy and controlling services such as marriage and divorce.

Here are the key examples of discrimination given in the report, stemming from Israel’s unholy alliance of religion and state:

  1. Limitations on freedom of movement continue to impact women in public spaces
  2. Discriminatory stereotypes based on restrictive religious interpretations concerning women
  3. Women suffer from discrimination in divorce matters due to discriminatory religious laws
  4. Married women who are unable to divorce for lack of receiving the Gett continue to suffer stigma
  5. A lack of concrete measures to address discrimination by ultra-Orthodox political parties
  6. Women cannot serve as judges in Rabbinical courts
  7. Gaps on equal access to education experienced by Arab, Bedouin and Haredi women and girls
  8. The participation of Bedouin and ultra-Orthodox women in the labour market is limited
  9. The law does not provide for civil marriages

It is important to emphasize the fact that these infringements stand in sheer contrast to the will of the overwhelming majority of the Israeli public. They represent another example where civil liberties and human dignity have fallen victim to political opportunism and surrendering such key concerns as gender equality to the whims and prejudices of fundamentalist Orthodox politicians.

Hiddush's ongoing polling of public opinion in Israel shows how wide the gap between the policies and public opinion is, including that of growing circles of Modern Orthodoxy, as can be demonstrated in the following examples:


Hiddush in the Media


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