a different side of Israel

Tag: Women Rights

A Bill Raising Age for Marriage to 18 Approved

A bill prohibiting marriage under the age of 18 was recently approved in the Knesset, the new development changed the previous minimum age of 17. The Ministerial Committee on Legislation approved the bill initiated by MK Yariv Levin. Five ministers supported the bill and only one opposed, naturally, Minister Mushulam Nahari from Shas.

According to Levin, the minimum age of marriage must be aligned with worldwide norms and legal developments in underage marriage. This phenomena compromised the underage person’s rights, among these rights is the right to be joined in matrimony with full knowledgeable consent and with a right mind. Underage women are most at danger, in these kinds of marriages, as they are being wed according to traditional ideologies in which a woman’s place is at home and her life roll is limited to bearing and raising children. That is why the young woman’s consent might be a result of pressure from their family and in fact the marriage is forced. Furthermore, according to the bill, studies indicate that a large percent of underage marriages end up in divorce as well as violence and financial difficulties due to the couples’ young age and lack of maturity.

During the debate a representative from The Ministry of Justice stated that the office supports the bill. He explained that as the law rules 18 as the legal eligibility age, it is only appropriate that marriage, a legal declaration, will be prohibited under the legal eligibility age. The representative also stated that the Ministry of Justice also supports the clause that stipulates that a marriage license will be given at the age of 16 only in special cases.

This is indeed a historical landmark that will correct an injustice caused to young people, and especially underage women. This bill is social by nature and its approval will have a direct effect by sparing thousands from forced marriages, poverty and violence and will give them the opportunity to commence their lives however they choose. The bill is soon to be put for a preliminary vote at the Knesset.

Two Sides of Gaza

Hard Times

For those familiar with social policies in Saudi Arabia the following should not come as such a surprise:

According to a new Hamas law, women in Gaza are forbidden to smoke tobacco water pipes; the latest in a year long campaign to enforce gradually a strict life code on the citizens of the Gaza strip. Hamas has also banned women from riding motorbikes, impoverished women from riding behind their husbands on cheap Vespas; and teenage girls must cover up in loose robes and headscarves.

Men are targeted by Hamas officials if they are seen alongside women in public and if they dress in ways considered too Western, such as shorts and a T-shirt.

Last year, a 23-year-old man was interrogated for a week because of rumors that he was gay. In another case, the New York-based Human Rights Watch reported that a gay man was being held in a Gaza jail.

Better Times

Meanwhile, on another note,, a personal blog reported on bustling and crowded food markets in Gaza and the construction of a new Olympic-size public swimming pool,

“No shortage of building materials or water here”

observed Gross. He also mentioned luxury restaurants, “where you can dine on steak au poivre and chicken cordon bleu”. Well, lastly brought to attention in this personal blog was an impressive new shopping mall on the strip.

My point is not that the residents of Gaza should not have these things, but it is much to the contrary of the Western Media’s portrayal of the region, justifying human rights flotillas, for example.

Elyashiv Aside, Here’s the Good News

Nishmat is a center for women’s learning and halachic instruction. Not that Torah learning institutions for women are all that rare, but this one sponsors a program that issues certification for women who have completed a course in Jewish law in the area of family purity, or Taharat HaMishpaha. This area regulates sexual relations between husband and wife.

NishmatAnd yesterday evening, Nishmat lifted a 10-year restriction on their certifications’ validity. The women they certify, however, are not called “Rabbis,” but rather “advisors.” And their rulings are first sanctioned by a Rabbi before they are validated, if a simple answer is hard to come by.

Then, you may ask, what’s the point of training women? Simple. If you’re a married woman and you have a question regarding family purity laws, it’s really difficult to go to a male Rabbi you may not even know well and talk about the intimate details of your menstrual cycle. It is much easier talking to a woman about it, for obvious reasons.

The effect on the community has been enormous. The volume of questions coming in to the Yoatzot (female advisors) hotline is exceeding 20, sometimes 30 a day, probably encouraging those who would otherwise shun away from the practice of family purity to follow it, now that they have someone to talk to. Over the past decade, 100,000 questions have been answered on their hotline, fielding questions from all over the world.

Nishmat is endorsed by leaders of Israeli Modern Orthodoxy including Ramat Gan Chief Rabbi Ya’acov Ariel abd Rabbi Aharon Lichtenstein, the former head of Yeshivat Har Etzion in Gush Etzion near Efrat.
It’s a big step in harmonizing the two worlds, one that brings many closer to religious observance without coercion.

Obama’s Egyptian Overture

He came with all the fanfare and adulation as a newly crowned Prince of Peace. Only this time, Barack Hussein Obama came to speak in Cairo as the 44th President of the United States of America, and spoke before a packed audience within the opulent Presidential Palace, the former residence of King Faruk, the last Egyptian king. He began his fine toned and eloquent address by saying “Al Salaam Aleikum”, May Peace be Upon You, and told the packed auditorium that he hopes to usher in a new era of relations between his country and the Nation of Islam, of which he said, the country of Egypt and City of Cairo are one of that religion’s finest realms.

Obama in EgyptIn regards to the religion of Islam, Obama told his audience that America is “not at war with Islam”, but will confront violent extremism and their aspiration to “kill as many innocent people as they can”, especially those small groups (such as Al Qaeda) which have gone against the positive dictates of the religion and have committed gross acts of terror, such as 9-11; and who still vow to commit more such acts.

After noting what his country plans to do in regards to the situation in Iraq, Afghanistan, and other places where American soldiers are still on active duty, Obama reached the part of speech we all had been waiting for , i.e. that part regarding his plans and desires for dealing with the situation involving Israel and the Palestinians. While he did say that his country has a ” very close and historic relationship with the State of Israel”, and mentioned the long persecution of the Jewish People and the horrors of the Holocaust ( “anybody who denies the Holocaust is ignorant and hateful”) he then countered by comparing this with the “suffering of the Palestinians in pursuit of a homeland” and that for more than 60 years they have lived in refugee and displaced person’s camps due to the occupation ( in all of Israel, perhaps?).

And again, he received loud applause when he spoke about “two states for two peoples to live side by side in peace and security” and that “America will not turn her back on a state for the Palestinian People”.

Side by side – peace and security. Many in Israel wonder how this will be accomplished, especially in light of current realities; and in light of Hamas’ (and even Fatah’s ) relations with Israel.

Obama also went on to speak about achieving democracy in the Middle East, saying that “elections alone do not make democracy”. He was obviously referring to the situation in counties like Egypt where the situation is far from being democratic (probably making his host Hosnei Mubarak squirm a bit). He also talked about women’s rights (a topic probably added by his wife Michelle and by his Sec. of State Hillary Clinton), saying that women who are denied an education are denied equality. He said: “I am convinced that our daughters (he has two) can contribute as much as our sons to society” and promised that his country will help Muslim countries to give more opportunities to women” (that must have gone over like a lead balloon to any male listening in countries like Saudi Arabia or Afghanistan).

We’re sure Mr. Obama does realize that Israel gives more opportunities to women than any country in the entire region, and that this will always be the case. Perhaps Palestinian women might pick up on this message though, providing their men-folk are willing to let them do so.

He ended his speech by quoting the Golden Rule, which he noted is also found in the Quran: “to do unto others as you would have them do unto you”. In a way, this “rule” has been practiced in this region, although not exactly in a positive framework. And that is where the entire matter may be found; i.e. in how this rule can be more positively applied.

In any respect, people will be analyzing his speech in the weeks and months to come, as well as being on the lookout for any hidden meanings. He did tell the young people of the region (including young Israelis we presume) that “you have the ability to change and reshape this world”.

Let’s all hope that this “changing and reshaping” will be within a positive framework.

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