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Nov 17

Hear No Evil: SIlencing the voices of Israeli women

From: Israel Religious Action Centre
Singing troupes in Israel are many things; groups of enthusiastic young men and women using their talents to entertain, emblems of enthusiastic Israel youth, and honestly, they are quite fun. The one thing they are not is dangerous. Try telling that to Rabbi Yona Metzger, the chief Ashkenazi rabbi of Israel who wrote a seven-page responsum, a halachic answer, saying that the voice of women stirs up sexual thoughts in men. This is why he believes that our tradition teaches men not to listen to women singing.
The Israeli army has been struggling with this issue since a mixed IDF singing troupe sang at an officer’s course ceremony and nine soldiers walked out in protest. Four of these soldiers were dismissed from the course for their action. These events stirred up great controversy among many Israeli Orthodox rabbis. Even the radio has begun to be infected by the fear of women’s voices. An independent Haredi radio station has a policy of preventing women broadcasters, and doesn’t conduct any interviews with women.
We at IRAC are fighting this suppression of a women’s right to have her voice heard. We are seeing extreme elements of the orthodox establishment in Israel trying to literally make women invisible. They do not want to see their faces on billboards, they want them sitting in a separate section on public buses, and finally they want to silence their voices in public ceremonies. There is no limit to how far they are willing to oppress women, both religious and secular, in the name of their own extreme view of modesty.
We will not argue against individual soldiers who refuse to hear women sing for entertainment during on-base leisure time, but when personal taste affects public accommodation IRAC must step in and protect the civil liberties of all Israelis. We will be collecting information and assisting any female soldier who is marginalized by the IDF’s rabbinic authorities.
During official ceremonies, when the national anthem is sung, all soldiers must attend and show respect regardless of who is singing. Anything less makes a mockery of the very ideals that they are wearing a uniform to defend.
L’shalom, Anat Hoffman