The attempt to dismantle patriarchy does not necessarily imply hatred for ultra-Orthodox Jews. Rather it is an urgent task that extends to all spheres of daily life. A response to Orly Noy.
My colleague Orly Noy, whose thinking and writing I greatly value, wrote an article entitled “Let’s fight women’s oppression without demonizing ultra-Orthodox.” After reading Orly’s arguments carefully, I found that I disagree with nearly all of them except perhaps the title. I do not support demonizing ultra-Orthodox Jews or any other group. But even my agreement with the title is qualified, since the issue at hand is everyone’s problem.
Orly was responding to a recent case of a woman who is suing El Al with the help of the Israel Religious Action Center (IRAC), after she was asked to move seats so that an ultra-Orthodox man wouldn’t have to sit next to her. Orly felt that the incident is being exaggerated, treated like an “epidemic.” She believes that Anat Hoffman, a longtime activist for religious pluralism, and others opposing this practice paint Haredim as barbaric and anti-Semitic, while presenting themselves as enlightened. She hints that IRAC is using questionable legal tactics, and possibly provoked the woman to sue.
I don’t have the data to know whether the seat problem is a “phenomenon” or not. But I have been asked to move myself.
It was a few years ago, and I had a sprained ankle. Every move on the short business trip to London had been painful. On the return flight, I negotiated for an aisle seat, near the front – more stretching and elevation, less walking. Between summer heat, a crowded plane and the extra effort of shuffling through Heathrow with an injury, I reached my seat tired and grateful, settled in and closed my eyes. The stewardess tapped me. Would I trade seats? A Haredi man seated next to a woman somewhere wished to move, and I was sitting next to a man. For a second, I wanted to cry. It had nothing to do with feeling insulted as a woman or hating ultra-Orthodox. I just hated the thought of moving.
But like Orly, who made a case I generally support for simply being nice, my instinct is to be considerate and accommodating where possible. I reflexively said yes, stifling my overwhelming desire to stay put and dreading the cramped inner seat I was offered....Read More