Tales of the Haredi Zone: Resurrecting “Jim Crow Laws”

The “Jim Crow Laws”  remind us of one of the most shameful chapters of American history, a time when many Southern states enacted laws designed to keep Afro-Americans from enjoying the same civil liberties and rights that blacks enjoyed in the Northern states.

Intimidation tactics were routinely carried out for several decades until the last of the Jim Crow laws were banned once and for all by 1971, In 1971, the Supreme Court, in Swann v. Charlotte-Mecklenburg Board of Education, upheld desegregation busing  of students to achieve integration.

Of course these laws also affected poor and illiterate Americans. Jews, blacks, and Asians could not purchase homes in certain restrictive neighborhoods until 1948, when the Supreme Court outlawed some forms of private discrimination in Shelley v. Kraemer 334 US 1 (1948).

Who would ever suspect that Jim Crow Laws would find a comfortable new home among the Haredim?  But this time the Haredi Jim Crow Laws target women. Consider the following examples:

Over the past few months, Israeli society has witnessed a whole series of newly constructed practices for what are undoubtedly extreme views of the need for gender segregation:
•  Separate sides of the street designated for a Sukkot holiday public festival in Jerusalem.

•  The corpse of a woman removed from its burial place because it was next to a man in Tiberias

•  Separate cashiers at the supermarket for men and women in Ramot.

•  Separate public buses for men and women in Bnei Brak, Jerusalem, and more

•  Separate El Al airline flights for men and women

•  Separate offices for men and women in Modi’in Illit (some companies will not hire women in a company where men work)

•  Separate exit times from synagogue in Safed (women were locked inside until all the men left)

•  Banning of women from cemeteries in places including Elyachin, and silencing of women’s cries of mourning.

•  The removal of all pictures of women from public advertisements – even women politicians, like Kadima head and former prime ministerial candidate MK Tzipi Livni

•  The Photoshopped “erasure” of women cabinet members from Orthodox newspaper photos

•  The covering up of dancers during a bridge opening ceremony in Jerusalem.

•  Soldiers walking out of an army convocation ceremony because women were singing.

•  Separate sections in the pharmacy for men and women in Bnei Brak.

More recently, women wearing prayer shawls also got arrested because they wanted to worship at the Western Wall.

Obviously, we cannot become a light unto the nations until we first become a light unto ourselves.


Invisible Girl (apologies to Esther)Some rabbis curse me, some bochurim [in the modesty squad] mug me
I think they’re “oy vey”
If they don’t give me derech eretz

I just walk away

They can daven and they can learn
But they can’t see the light, that’s right
’cause the bochur with the cold hard neshomeh
Thinks he’s Rabbi right, ’cause we are


Living in a spiritual world
And I am an invisible girl
You know that we are living in a spiritual world
And I am an invisible girl

Some bochurim photo-shop, some bochurim simcha dance,
That’s not right with me
If they can’t acknowledge my existence then I Have to flee

Some rabbis schrei and some rabbis lie but
I don’t let them pray
Bochurim who enslave their women
Make a rainy day, ’cause they are


Living in a spiritual world [material]
Living in a spiritual world

Chumrot come and chumrot go
And that’s a blight, you see
Experience has made me cynical
And now they’re after me, ’cause everybody’s


A cynical, a cynical, a cynical, a cynical world

Living in a spiritual world [cynical]
Living in a spiritua; world
(repeat and fade)

Posted by: Yochanan Lavie |

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