A Lesson on How Not to Handle Religious Pluralism in Israel

On November 20, a tribute concert for Shlomo Artzi, the so-called “Israeli Bruce Springsteen,” was scheduled to take place in Tel Aviv, with the twin purposes of celebrating Artzi’s 70th birthday and raising money for Ezra l’Marpe, a non-profit that helps the sick obtain medical treatment. Yet Ezra l’Marpe’s founder, the ḥaredi rabbi and self-taught medical genius Avraham Elimelech Firer, canceled the concert abruptly after several performers protested over the fact that no female vocalist would be performing. At issue is the halakhic prohibition on men listening to women sing. Ruthie Blum comments:

[W]hen the organizers of the gala honoring Artzi discovered and revealed that no female vocalists would be able to perform, incensed women artists made a stink, and their male counterparts began to announce that they couldn’t possibly appear on stage under such circumstances. You know, out of “solidarity” and in “principle.” Which actually meant that they feared being accused of male chauvinism.

If anything illustrates the danger of viewing individual issues through an inflexible ideological prism, this is it. Firer has proved himself to be a selfless and heroic figure, who has done nothing but use his . . . gifts to help comfort and heal millions of people, without regard to their ethnic, religious, or gender identities.

The sanctity of life is but one of Firer’s religious principles. Another is refraining from listening to women sing. Allowing the latter to cancel out the former not only is intolerant and unjust, but exposes the kind of narrow-mindedness that feminists and fanatical secularists accuse the Ḥaredim of possessing. In this case, it also turned what would have been a blessed happening into an empty auditorium.

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More about: Israeli society, Judaism in Israel, Tolerance


For the Time Being, Palestinians Are Best Off under “Occupation”

Nov. 18 2019

Many who profess concern for the Palestinians agree that Israel ought to abandon its presence in the West Bank—which remains controlled by Jerusalem, even as most of its Arab residents live under the governance of the Palestinian Authority (PA). But, writes Evelyn Gordon, the Gaza Strip, from which Israel withdrew completely, provides a clear demonstration why West Bank Palestinians are beneficiaries of the status quo:

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More about: Gaza Strip, Palestinian Authority, Palestinian economy, West Bank