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Thursday, 4 May 2017

Israel's Universities Plan Gender-separate Classes for ultra-Orthodox - Saudi Arabia comes to Israel

Choice in the Israeli State means male and female lecturers only teach the same sex  

Western liberals have long turned a blind eye to racial segregation in Israel – the fact that Jews and Arabs are segregated in Education, the Civil Service, most employment, land and housing and indeed most areas of civil society is taken for granted in a Jewish state.  Even (or maybe especially) the Israeli Labour Party supports separation i.e. segregation. [see Labor Adopts Herzog’s Plan for Separation From Palestinians as Party Platform]

Now we are beginning to see sexual segregation in Universities.  At the Hebrew University there are now separate classes for Orthodox men and women.  And that means that women lecturers cannot teach men, so the segregation is spreading into the faculty as well.

Ultra-Orthodox youngsters on the backdrop of the Hebrew University of Jerusalem. Olivier Fitoussi

In Israel exceptions to the norm are taken to be the norm as tokenism is used to represent normalcy (for example there is one Arab Supreme Court judge out of 11 (i.e. 9% compared to Arabs being 20% of the population).  What you are not told is that he is only the second such judge in the history of the State of Israel and that there is massive under-representation of Arabs throughout the legal profession.  But this is nonetheless used to demonstrate how Israel is an equal society.

What you are also not told is that gender segregation is also pervasive and becoming more pervasive in Israel society.  The basis for the Zionist claim on Israel was the use of the Jewish religion to legitimise its settler colonial project.  The concept of Zion was always a religious concept which the Zionist movement co-opted for political purposes.

Although the founders of the Zionist movement and the Israeli state were secular, they based their state on the very god that they denied!  Although David Ben Gurion was an atheist, he waxed lyrical on the promises that god made to the Jewish people in terms of the Biblical Land of Israel.  This contradiction ran through Labour Zionism, including its ‘Marxist’ wing, Mapam/Hashomer Hatzair.

Segregation of the sexes is normal amongst the Jewish Orthodox.  When I was young and went to my local Orthodox synagogue, women went upstairs into the balcony and men went downstairs.  It was so normal that I never even thought about it.  Actually relatively few women even went to the synagogue because it was expected that when the men came home from a gruelling 3 hours of boredom at the synagogue, they would have something to eat.  Naturally this would have to be prepared by the mother and wife and therefore attendance at the synagogue was purely voluntary.

The history of the Israeli state is a history of concessions to the Orthodox.  Because Israel is a Jewish state there was and is no secular definition of what it is to be Jewish.  The Orthodox Rabbinate was therefore given the role of defining  ‘Who is a Jew’ and they of course reserved exclusive control over converting to a Jew.  This does of course cause problems because American Jewry, the largest Jewish community in the world after Israel, is primarily Conservative and Reform.  In my father’s eyes (he was an Orthodox Rabbi) Reform Jews were not really Jews, indeed they were worse than Christians because at least you knew where you were with the latter! Reform Judaism threatened the purity of the Jewish people/race.

So in Israel there is a considerable number of what in Nazi Germany were called Mischlinge, mixed race, who are not considered Jewish according to strict Orthodoxy but are nonetheless part of the Israeli Jewish section of the population.  No doubt in time they will be formally assimilated to the Jewish majority as splits in the ranks of the colonists is to be deplored.

Segregation of the sexes is legal on buses in Jerusalem, because of the demands of ultra-Orthodox Jews.  Women who have objected have been assaulted.  So in 2011 the Supreme Court ruled that segregation was legal on Israeli buses  - with passengers’ consent of course! [High Court: Gender Segregation Legal on Israeli Buses - but Only With Passenger Consent].  But even if it were not legal it would in practice occur because of the strength of the Hardis.
Women at the women's section of the Wailing Wall in Jerusalem - there is fierce Orthodox opposition to the presence of women, who are considered 'unclean'
We found out recently that there is a quaint practice of giving Jewish women the ‘choice’ of not having to share a maternity ward with Arabs.  [Maternity Ward Segregation (is) Just Tip of the Iceberg in Israel] and Jewish students at the Technion, Israel’s oldest University and probably other universities too, had the right, when sharing residential accommodation, not to have to share with someone who was an Arab.  Of course there are some people who would call this racist, but I would prefer to think of it as the extension of the Choice Agenda that Tony Blair advocated.  After all it is a common belief in Israel that Arabs are dirty and unhygienic so why should Jews be forced, for the sake of political correctness, to have to live with them?  Everyone should have the right to choose not to have to live with a person of the wrong race or religion!

It is nice to read, therefore, that the Choice Agenda is being extended to Universities too.  It is accepted in Israel that the Haredi, ultra-orthodox section of Israeli Jewish society, is under represented in higher education.  The obvious reason for this is that they are content to spend much of their lives studying nonsense in yeshivahs, religious seminaries where they pore over the wisdom in the Talmud and similar books.  In Israel the Haredi section of the population is growing as a percentage of the Jewish population.  From 11% in 2011 it is predicted to grow to 18% in 2030 and 27% in 2059.   What this  means is that the Haredi parties have an increasing influence politically in Israeli society.  Many secular Israelis take care to have a second passport since they understand that Israel is in practice becoming not only a more racist society but one where religious practice is being imposed by law on the irreligious, for example public transport on a Saturday doesn’t happen in cities like Jerusalem.

It is therefore gratifying to know that as part of the campaign to help encourage greater Haredi participation in the workforce and Israeli academic life, plans are being made to expand the already existing system of gender separate degree courses.  I must confess I didn’t even know about this practice though it is of no surprise that it was in effect at the religious university of Bar Ilan in liberal Tel Aviv.  After all Bar Ilan has separate residential accommodation for Jews and Arabs, so why not have separate classes and even a campus for men and women?

Now it would seem that having bitten the bullet and accepted gender segregation on bachelor courses, it is now proposed to extend these to advanced degrees as well.  And whilst previously these courses have been restricted to Haredi students, it is now proposed that non-Haredi students are included meaning that the notion of separate classes for men and women in Israeli universities will take hold more generally. 

Of course this presents problems.  You can hardly have separate classes for male and female students in Israeli universities and then having, for example, a female lecturer taking an all-male group, or vicer versa.  So there is clearly and obviously a need to have a separate system of faculty too, divided by sex, so that women lecturers will be expected more and more to teach female students and male lecturers will take male students.

Of course there will be some on the politically incorrect left who will object as a matter of principle but I’m sure that in time people even outside Israel will come to see the benefits of all-women lecture halls taught by women lecturers.  Indeed it could be argued that this is really just a form of Jewish feminism whereby women aren’t subject to intimidation or domination by mean  A form of women’s emancipation led by our noble rabbis!

Naturally there is also opposition to this by those who find it hard to adapt to modern times.  Joseph Klafter, the President of Tel Aviv University, has made it clear that they won’t be following the example of the Hebrew University, Jerusalem.  One imagines that the founders of the Hebrew University, which include Albert Einstein and Judah Magnes, are presently spinning in their grave, at the idea of gender separation in the universities.  It is literally Saudi Arabia come to Israel! 

As one might expect Ha’aretz, which represents what is left of liberal Israel, has issued a strident leader but it is fighting a losing battle.  It is the logic of a state whose settler racism is based on Orthodox Jewish religious tracts that gender separation which began on buses and facilities within those communities has now expanded out into wider society.

Those who argue that Israel is a liberal democracy, as creatures like Labour’s Luke Akehurst and Tom Watson are deliberately lying.  The Israeli state is heading in one direction and it isn’t towards womens’ liberation.

Tony Greenstein  


Critics say this would increase inequality on campus, and would be damaging to female lecturers

Yarden Skop Apr 21, 2017 8:58 AM

A class at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem's Givat Ram campus. Emil Salman
The Council for Higher Education in Israel is planning on opening gender-separate classes at Israel’s universities to encourage enrollment of ultra-Orthodox students.

Such classes currently exist only at colleges, university preparatory programs and a special campus at Bar-Ilan University.

University heads have been divided over the plan, as have the members of the council, who are to vote on the matter next month.

A document prepared by a team of experts, presented to the council before Passover, also recommended allowing students who are not defined as ultra-Orthodox to join gender-separate programs, and to expand gender separation in colleges to include advanced-degree programs.

The document concedes that the model proposed for gender-separate classes in the universities could be harmful to both male and female non-Orthodox students but that there were many advantages, both social and academic, that should be taken into consideration.

The model would “greatly reduce the damage to equality caused by the very establishment of separate academic frameworks for Haredim [ultra-Orthodox], and prevents ‘islands’ of separation,” the document said.

However, opponents of the plan told Haaretz that opening separate classes for Haredim would lead to greater inequality on campus, and would be damaging to female lecturers.

When the council established the program to incorporate the Haredim in academic education, it repeatedly declared that gender and sectoral separation were foreign to academic studies, opposed to their essence, and impairs equality. But the exception was justified as a temporary measure in light of its important goals, that it would limited to bachelors’ degrees only and to clearly Haredi students, with no compromises,” Prof. Orna Kupferman, of the Hebrew University’s School of Computer Science and Engineering, and former vice rector of the university, who was responsible for the program incorporating Haredim, told Haaretz

“The second five-year program now on the table abandons this temporary nature and the apologetics for the compromises with the academic essence,” she said.

One of the biggest bones of contention in the program is that women are not allowed to teach male-only classes. Opponents have also said that the separation is harmful to the pluralistic and egalitarian character of academic life.

In the past, the Council for Higher Education denied that female lecturers were barred from teaching on ultra-Orthodox campuses, but now it has become the norm in the programs and it seems the council has accepted it.

The council is also divided with regard to expanding the student body of the special programs for the ultra-Orthodox, most of whose participants are on scholarship, to include non-Orthodox participants.

According to the document, the council’s position is that up to 10 percent of the candidates for the special programs may be non-Haredi. Opponents say that relaxing the definition of who is considered ultra-Orthodox will create creeping gender-separation as students from a national religious background seek to enter the program.

The definition of Haredi at present is anyone who studied from ninth to 12th grade in an institution classified as Haredi by the Education Ministry.

Right now, gender-separate programs are only offered for bachelors’ degrees. But the document said limiting gender-separation to bachelors’ degrees was only a temporary decision and that “there is a possibility, if the need arises, to revisit this policy in the years to come, especially with regard to advanced degrees in the therapeutic professions, which cannot be practiced without a master’s degree and for which there is a critical need in the Haredi community.”

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