Thursday, January 12, 2012

MK Tzipi Hotovely on Dignity and Honor for the Women of Israel

Tzipi Hotovely is a Member of the Knesset, Israel's parliament, from the Likud Party. She is a Torah-observant Jewish woman, an attorney, and, when elected at the age of 30, she became the youngest person ever to serve in the Knesset. I have never met her, but I am privileged to be on her e-mail distribution list. Some of our readers may have heard about recent incidents in which thugs from a fringe Orthodox Jewish sect have bullied and harrassed young girls at a Modern Orthodox elementary school, Orot, in Beit Shemesh and have tried to intimidate female bus riders on public buses passing through Haredi neighborhoods in Jerusalem into sitting at the rear of the bus. Here is MK Hotovely's position on these recent incidents:

The Knesset
MK Tzipi Hotovely
Jerusalem, 16th of Tevet, 5772January 12th, 2012

Dear Ralph:

You may be interested to know that in recent weeks a battle has ensued to protect the honor and dignity of women in Israel. I grew up as part of the National Religious community. In school I learned of Devorah the Prophetess. At Home every Shabbat we sang Eshet Chayil, "a Woman of Valor", and in synagogue once a year we celebrated the heroic acts of Queen Esther. I grew up proud to be a Jewish woman.

In the last month multiple incidents have occurred affecting the role of women in Israeli society, while widening the schism between Israel's Ultra-Orthodox population and the rest of its citizens. An eight year old girl in Bet Shemesh was spit upon on her way to school, because she was "immodestly dressed". Women and female soldiers were defamed and harassed because they refused to move to the back of a public bus. Mass protests for, and against, the actions of the Ultra-Orthodox ensued. In this time, I attempted to understand all perspectives on the issues at hand. I visited with families involved in these incidents, as well as municipal officials and community leaders. Along with my colleagues from the Committee for the Advancement of Women, I boarded a "Mehadrin" (Ultra Orthodox) bus and sat down up front, where I was berated with unpleasant verbal assaults. I also spent a Shabbat in Beitar Illit, a community with a significant Ultra-Orthodox population, to better understand their perspectives on the issues.

From my experiences, I have seen that this is not a conflict between the religious and secular. There are two battles here. The first is being waged by a small extremist group, from within the Ultra-Orthodox, who have attempted to hijack Judaism. In their distorted view, they have turned a religion which teaches of love and respect towards thy neighbor, into a religion of internecine persecution, animus, and division amongst the Jewish people. This cannot be tolerated in the one State we have and the police must enforce the law against any who seek to violate it. The second battle is over the role of women in society, an issue of culture which all sectors of Israeli society are responsible for. As the famous US Supreme Court ruling of Brown vs. the Board of Education proved, "separate but equal, is not equal". Two weeks ago, five women were inducted as pilots in the Israeli Air Force. If they can sit in the cockpit watching over our country, then as the Chair of the Woman's Committee, I will ensure that these modern day Devorahs, and all other women, will sit wherever they want on a public bus.

I am proud to share with you that, this week, the cabinet approved a law granting free education to children of three and four years of age. Next year this will provide over a quarter of a million Israeli children with education, and allow thousands of young mothers to return to the work force. As daycare costs have skyrocketed this has been one of the main battles of my committee. Now that this law has been approved, we can begin to educate children at a younger age with strong Jewish values, while strengthening the careers of countless women as respected, equal and integrated members of the work force. It is through education and opportunity that we shall promote a culture of dignity and honor for the Women of Israel.

As always, if you have any questions, comments, or suggestions please feel free to contact me. To better update you on the latest developments please be sure to stop by my Facebook page,, with up to the minute news to keep you informed. It is my sincere hope that together we will work to forge a brighter future for the men and women of Israel.

Shabbat Shalom,
Tzipi Hotovely
Member of the 18th Knesset Chairperson,
Committee on the Status of Women


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