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Egalitarianism, Halakhah, and the Jewish Family

Sept. 14 2017

In his book Gender Equality and Prayer in Jewish Law, Ethan Tucker argues that halakhah should permit counting women in a minyan (prayer quorum) and allowing them to participate in all synagogue rituals on equal footing with men. He grounds his argument in traditional rabbinic works, claiming that ancient and medieval rabbis made their decisions about these issues based on the role of women in their own societies—not on intrinsic differences between the sexes. Had these sages lived today, they would have ruled differently. Yoav Sorek writes in his rejoinder:

Tucker is so captured by his egalitarian approach that he does not really consider its own biases. . . . I believe that he is right and that many of the halakhic rulings regarding women are a function of their legal and economic status in ancient times; but this is not the full picture. Halakhah thinks that men and women are not identical, and sees them as having different roles in a way that is essential for family and society. God could have created humanity as a single sex. He did not do so.

Where should we draw the line? Which rulings are based on social status and which have to do with the positive differences between men and women? I don’t know. . . . My personal inclination is to count women in a minyan, and I think this will [eventually become the norm]—but I am not sure. . . .

[Ultimately, the question is this]: do we accept automatically the contemporary tendency to treat traditional institutions as oppressive while ignoring their benefits?

Read more at Book of Doctrines and Opinions

More about: Egalitarianism, Family, Halakhah, Synagogue

Why Israeli Arabs Should Drop Their Political Parties

Sept. 20 2017

Even as Israel’s Arab citizens enjoy rights, freedoms, and economic opportunities unrivaled in the Arab world, their political leadership is more intent on undermining the Jewish state than on serving their actual interests. Moshe Arens, a former Israeli defense minister, comments. (Free registration may be required.)

[T]he Knesset members of the [Arab] Joint List have nothing but criticism for Israel and praise for its enemies, be they Iran, President Bashar al-Assad in Syria, Hizballah in Lebanon, Hamas in the Gaza Strip, or Palestinian terrorists. . . . Although spanning the ideological spectrum from Communism (aside from the North Koreans, the only Communists still around), the Muslim Brotherhood (called the Islamic Movement in Israel), and Baathists (the Balad party), they are united in their hatred of Israel. Naturally, they do not call for Arab integration into Israeli society.

Those who oppose the polygamy rampant in the Arab community oppose Israeli measures to curb it. Those who are against the abuse of women and so-called honor killings think these are “local problems” that should be handled by the Arabs themselves. Nor do they want the Israel police to handle the crime running wild in Israel’s Arab towns. Keep Israel out of your lives, is their common motto. They oppose young Arabs volunteering for either military or civilian national service. . . .

Within Israel’s Arab community there is a struggle between those who insist on rejecting everything Israel stands for while supporting its enemies and those who want to integrate into Israeli society and take advantage of the opportunities it offers. . . . Can Israel’s Arabs become a beacon of democracy and modernity for the Arab world, or will they provide proof that Arabs are not yet prepared to enter the 21st century? . . .

[E]ach year, growing numbers of young Arabs volunteer for national service and join the ranks of Israel’s military and police. At the moment, the only way this trend can express itself politically is for these individuals to drop their support for the Joint List in favor of Israel’s existing political parties, and for these parties to welcome Arabs into their ranks.

Read more at Haaretz

More about: Israel & Zionism, Israeli Arabs, Israeli politics, Joint List