Jerusalem - Top Israeli Orthodox Rabbi: Clinton Should Get Her Facts Right Segregated Buses Not Jewish Law
Last updated on: December 5, 2011 11:31 AM
Jerusalem - Israel’s chief rabbi has ventured into the divisive question of gender segregation, saying such practices, adopted by some devout Jews, are not required by Jewish law.
Rabbi Shlomo Amar spoke on Monday after U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton was quoted by Israeli media as expressing shock over segregated buses and other practices adopted by ultra-Orthodox religious activists.
In a radio interview, Amar criticized these relatively new and controversial practices. He says people do these things for their own sake, but “it’s not Jewish law.”
In recent months, radical activists have also cowed advertisers into removing images of women from billboards, shunted women onto separate sidewalks and walked out of military events were women were singing.
Amar is the spiritual leader of Jews of Sephardic — or Middle Eastern and North African — descent. Israel has a second chief rabbi who serves the Ashkenazi, or European-descended Jewish population.
With his comments, he became the most senior religious leader to step into an contentious debate over the nature of Israeli society, where ultra-Orthodox extremists have increasingly tried to impose their values on mainstream society. Ultra-Orthodox make up some 9 percent of Israel’s 5.9 million-strong Jewish population, which is overwhelmingly secular.
Clinton caused a furor in some circles over remarks she reportedly made in a closed-door session over the weekend expressing concerns over Israel’s democracy. According to Israeli media, Clinton was also appalled by the segregation of women by some elements in the ultra-Orthodox community.
Israel’s Supreme Court has outlawed gender segregation on buses and sidewalks, but some transit routes and public spaces remain segregated in practice.
Amar said Clinton’s knowledge of the situation was incomplete.
“If she were to learn from the right people ... she would know that the people of Israel respect women and turn them into veritable queens and princesses,” he said.
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