Jewfem Blog

The exclusion of women at....a nature hike???

Sometimes a family outing is just a family outing. And sometimes a family outing becomes a whole other thing. So last Friday, my daughters and I decided to go on little trip before Shabbat to see a natural water spring around 20 kilometers away. One of my daughters brought a male friend along, and off we went, climbing 100 meters up the side of a mountain to find this lovely site. The place was not too crowded – though I noticed that we were the only females there. Some 20-30 teenage boys were enjoying the spot along with their beers, cigarettes and nargilla. (That's so Israel, I thought, where the place for such adolescent hangouts is a beautiful nature spot that the boys are genuinely enjoying.) We were all having a lovely time swimming and laughing. Until a religious man showed up. The man, in his forties or fifties, wearing a black velvet skullcap and sporting a beard, looked at us and began holding little conferences with some of the boys, while obviously looking at my girls with side glances. My daughter whispered to me, “He’s going to ask us to leave in a minute.” Sure enough, the man called over my daughter’s friend – apparently the “man” of our group, even if he is only 17 – and started talking to him. I called out, “What’s the issue?” If they are going to be talking about me, I wanted the courtesy of at least being part of the conversation. “He wants you to leave so he can do his ritual dunk before Shabbat,” my daughter’s friend said. Apparently this man used this particular spring as his own private mikveh. “There’s plenty of time before Shabbat,” I said, directly to the man. “Don’t worry.” This got him at least talking directly to me. “Just climb up the mountain and stay there for 15-20 minutes so I can have the spring,” he said, not as a question. I was sitting on the side of the spring at the time, next to my daughter who I don’t see often enough, really enjoying the moment, as well as the feel of the cold, natural water on my ankles and calves. I had just walked straight up the side of a mountain to get here, and there was no way I was getting off my spot to continue climbing and sit in the hot sun in a spot with no water. “We’ll be leaving soon,” I responded, looking at my daughter’s watch. “Another 15 or 20 minutes and we’ll be done.” He walked away and puffed on the nargilla while he watched us. My daughter whispered, “You know he’s going to be nudging us in 10 minutes to go.” We left the spring, as promised, 15 minutes later, a little bit before I was really ready. (We hadn’t even eaten our sandwiches yet that the kids had spent time making.) But Shabbat was indeed coming and I still had a lot of things to do....

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Talking about gender segregation on airplanes: A Voice of Israel Radio

I must admit that I did not see this coming. The buzz that has been generated around the story of gender segregation on the airplane, which has been reported now in at least half a dozen media outlets including The Telegraph and the Australian news, and has over 14,000 hits on Tablet alone  -- wow. I'm not sure why this particular story has suddenly generated such an outcry, as opposed to many other stories about gender segregation and religious radicalism. Maybe it's more like the straw that broke the camel's back in the sense that people have been experiencing this kind of thing for a long time and are finally fed up. In any event, I've spent much of the past two days engaged in all kinds of discussions online and in person about the issue of gender segregation and religion. And I'm really grateful and gratified that the conversations are happening this way. I hope that they are happening in the right places as well, places where change can happen. At least one piece of activism: Susan Shapiro started a petition to El Al, as Allison Kaplan Sommer reports in Haaretz. Meanwhile, here is an interview I did on Voice of Israel radio yesterday, on the Mottle Wolfe and Eve Harow Show. (It's really called the Mottle Wolfe show, but I felt the need to correct that gender inequality.....) REB MOTTLE: MILE HIGH SNUB What do you think?

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