Only male lecturers are assigned

More gender segregation at universities and colleges, this time in Israel. (Sorry about that site – it sticks a share button on the margin where it blocks some of the text and you can’t move either the button or the text. Top notch design, there, Al-Monitor.)

Israel is trying to get more ultra-Orthodox to do some work besides poring over the Talmud, but there are complications.

The Council for Higher Education (CHE) reported to the Knesset in February 2014 that many ultra-Orthodox men would like to study in the coming academic year. However, it seems that most will not do so, because they refuse to study in institutions where men and women sit together in classrooms.

Girl cooties. Can’t go to university, can’t get higher education, because girl cooties. There is nothing worse than girl cooties. Starvation and being eaten by bears is preferable to girl cooties.

For more than a decade now, universities and colleges in Israel have offered various programs aimed at solving this problem. Tel Aviv University, Bar-Ilan University and the University of Haifa sponsor such projects and offer academic degrees to students of ultra-Orthodox colleges, which practice gender segregation. The students work from the campuses of those colleges, removed from the regular university faculty and students. In recent years, however, these universities have also offered such programs on their own campuses. The Israel Technology Institute and several universities opened college-preparatory study programs for men only, to which only male lecturers are assigned.

“Some of the ultra-Orthodox students will agree to continue on for their degrees in the regular mixed classrooms after a year of preparation in the college-preparatory program,” explains Orna Kupferman, the vice rector of the Hebrew University, charged with integrating ultra-Orthodox students. “Others can study in mixed settings on the condition that they have a spiritual support framework that helps them maintain their lifestyle, something that the Hebrew University offers them. True, the programs are not necessarily compatible with liberal values such as gender equality, but that is a price we are willing to pay to live in a multicultural society and enable the ultra-Orthodox to integrate into the labor market and society,” she said.

Who is “we”? What does it mean to “live in a multicultural society” where some people are systematically shunned and treated as contaminants? In what sense are the ultra-Orthodox [men] integrating into the labor market and society if they are shunning women in the process?

Some things are non-negotiable. Equality should be one of them. Treating people as contaminants should not be countenanced. Women’s right to participate should not be a bargaining chip.

…it seems that one of the key demands of ultra-Orthodox candidates for higher study is the enforcement of gender segregation in the classrooms. Among other things, this demand dictates that female lecturers will not teach male students, while male lecturers will be allowed to teach women.

See? That gives it away, doesn’t it. Male lecturers will be allowed to teach woman, because that still maintains the hierarchy, but female lecturers will not teach male students, because that would put a woman above some men, and that will not do.

People should stop paltering and bargaining with this shit. It is not ok.

According to Adina Bar-Shalom, an ultra-Orthodox activist who founded an ultra-Orthodox college and for which she will be awarded the Israel Prize this year, the non-ultra-Orthodox public puts the ultra-Orthodox in an impossible situation. She said, “On the one hand, society demands of the ultra-Orthodox population that any [male] who cannot study Torah all his life should go to work. This is a justified demand, and the ultra-Orthodox society accepts it. But … if [society at large] is not willing to allow the ultra-Orthodox public to study on its own terms, then the ultra-Orthodox will be consigned to the lowest-level jobs and to lives of poverty and squalor.”

That’s the nature of social life. To get its benefits, you may have to give up doing things on your “own terms” in every respect. Sometimes your “own terms” are the wrong terms and you just have to give them up. Other times your terms are better than the social norm, and then you should try to campaign for your terms to become the social norm. This is not one of those times.

Of course, this clash of values does not take place only in Israel. But, according to Noah Efron of Bar-Ilan University’s Science, Technology and Society Department, this dilemma does not usually play out on the background of long-standing culture wars. “The debate with the ultra-Orthodox is a continuation of the modernity and education discourse from the beginning of the 20th century,” Efron explained. “If the ultra-Orthodox want modernity, it is only for pragmatic reasons and without accepting the liberal values that go hand in hand with modernity. The truth is … that most of the secular public does not accept the ultra-Orthodox, and wants to turn them to be more like us.”

As it was in Little Rock and Birmingham, so it should be at Bar-Ilan and the University of Haifa.


  1. iknklast says

    It seems that, over time, if there were a consequence to gender segregation, such as males couldn’t compete in society, that might work to end the policy of gender segregation and move them toward the 20th century (maybe eventually toward the 21st). If we give in to them, it allows them to have no consequences of their action, and they can continue acting medieval.

  2. Seth says

    Of course, this only delays the problem for a few years; all of those good-paying jobs that the ultra-Orthodox want to go to school in order to be qualified to do? ALL of them have women who work at them. ALL of them have women in supervisory roles, on boards, etc. How far do the ultra-Orthodox expect wider Israeli society to bend to accommodate their bigotry? In ten years, will they be picketing outside of office buildings, demanding all-male divisions that they can work in? When does it end?

  3. karmacat says

    I think it is time we mock these Orthodox men. They are “so delicate” that they can’t deal with those scary women. And they are obviously insecure because they can’t tolerate the idea that women may know more than them. And what is with studying the Talmud. It is been studied for 5000 years. So after 5000 years these men don’t get it? In the US, if they want to be doctors, orthodox jewish men have to go to med school along with women students and women teachers. As far as I can tell they are not complaining about shriveled testicles.

  4. René says

    I chuckled reading the sidebar (from within Pharyngula): Only male lecturers are assigned by Ophelia Benson.

  5. RJW says

    I’m not sure if the attitude applies to all the ultra-orthodox, but some refuse to acknowledge the legitimacy of the nation-state that protects them and has, until recently, indulged the practise of their loony religion.


    Their behavior is not “medieval”, women had a higher status during the Middle Ages, it’s
    ‘Bronze Age’.

  6. Gordon Willis says

    I suppose that if you watch a female lecturer for more than some few minutes you (I’m talking about people, right?) you will have an erection, and although no one could be sure about this, God sees all, so women lecturers are bad things. And if you (I mean, people) sit in the same classroom as women, you will have an erection, and although no one could be sure about this, God sees all, so women in classrooms are bad things. Surely every human being — you know, people — will see that having women in proximity to them is pernicious and odious and disgusting and depraved and not at all what God wants. It’s so obvious. And wanting to be in a classroom with women is — it’s horrible even to think about this — is a sign of — a sign of — (retch) a sign of inexpressible depravity. Real people just don’t behave this way. It’s just…well, it’s just wrong. The thought that people could behave in this way…well, it’s just unthinkable. We have to keep the women out, don’t you see? or it will be the end of humanity as we know it, and God will be so very very cross…Oh God please noooo. Please forgive me. Those damnable women…Temptresses. Spawn of corruption.

    …enable the ultra-Orthodox to integrate into the labor market and society,” she said.

    But but…what is the point of being Ultra-Orthodox if you then go and — well, integrate? Noooo, not good at all. Ultra-Orthodox is pure, Ultra-orthodox is unworldly, Ultra-orthodox is beyond normal humanity, Ultra-Orthodox is ultra. That’s what ultra means. And orthodox, of course, which means we’ve got it right, and you haven’t. Ultra-Orthodox is a man who does God’s will, and a woman who does what I tell her. And what I tell her is…well, that’s what marriage is for, and that’s all I have to think about. Phew. But I just wish we didn’t have all these women spoiling it all.

  7. says

    And what is with studying the Talmud. It is been studied for 5000 years. So after 5000 years these men don’t get it?

    An Ultra-Orthodox man has the perfect sinecure. He gets to do nothing all day but study the Talmud while his despised wife does all the work and all the while he believes with perfect arrogance humility that the creator of the universe will divulge to him alone after five thousand years the meaning.

    And their wives go along with it. As long as this situation exists, women have no right to call men stupid.

  8. says

    You hit the nail on the head with the point about gender mixing being just fine as long as it’s a male teacher and female students.

    These people–! And they don’t see the hypocrisy!!

  9. resident_alien says

    Those Ultra-Orthodox are a massive problem in Israel. They demand that the Isreali military protect their illegal settlements on Palestinian lands, but they refuse to serve in that same military. They insist on studying the Tora instead of doing any work, prefering to live on welfare. They provoke and abuse anyone who isn’t one of them, even little girls get spat upon and such for “dressing unchaste”. They demand the whole damned country revolve only around them and their particular brand of Judaism, which they insist is the only valid one. Even in New York City, Ultra-Orthodox have called Michael Bloomberg an anti-semite (uh-huh, exactly…) for wanting to ban the custom of the mohel sucking the blood from a freshly circumcised baby’s penis with his mouth – this isn’t even a custom practised by most Jews, basically only Ultra-Orthodox do this.

  10. sc_770d159609e0f8deaa72849e3731a29d says

    …it seems that one of the key demands of ultra-Orthodox candidates for higher study is the enforcement of gender segregation in the classrooms. Among other things, this demand dictates that female lecturers will not teach male students, while male lecturers will be allowed to teach women.

    This seems to be an ultra-unorthodox definition of gender segregation anyway. Surely gender segregation means male students only have male teachers and female students only have female teachers. There’s a case for making allowances so religious loonies can acquire nonreligious education- it seems to discourage religious looniness, apart from anything else- but there’s no case for encouraging loony religious hypocrisy.

  11. Guess Who? says

    @2: I can tell you how the situation worked right in the USA: a few years back, I was in an IT job when all the women were called to the conference room and the door was closed. Our project had hired a sub-contractor. No problem–that happens all the time. But wait! We were not allowed to shake hands with him because his religion (ultra-Orthodox) forebade it–women cooties, you know. No problem; our office doesn’t routinely shake hands with each other. We’d manage.

    Then he arrived on-site. He, of course, got one of the few hard offices with doors, because he couldn’t sit in a cubicle where he might be next to filthy women. Not so cool. Suddenly women had to wait before entering the conference room for regular team meetings, because he had to arrive first and settle himself, and no woman could sit anywhere near him. The Friday afternoon pizza gathering? No longer allowed, because SOME WOMAN ordered pepperoni pizza, which was an offense to his tender sensibilities. Office promotion parties/wedding showers/baby showers? The women had to hang back until this man served himself of the cookies and punch, because he could not touch food if some filthy woman had approached the table first. Going through doorways? Women, fall back and let him enter and exit first.

    THIS is what kooky religious practices bring; complete and utter inequality of women.

  12. Guess Who? says

    @13: the situation at work became more and more Balkanized; the women became more and more second-class citizens at the complete mercy of this guy whose lunatic religious beliefs had to be accommodated at all costs. Minor uprisings by the women were strongly put down by management because we had to be “understanding” of this man’s faith and “behave ourselves”. The guy obviously got a real kick out of treating women like second-class citizens, and after a couple of months, the other male colleagues were enjoying the gender apartheid, too. Most of the women left.

  13. johnthedrunkard says

    A democracy problem too. Israel has had such a proliferation of political parties (we should have more of this problem in the US) that all governments have ended up being coalitions of clumps of parties. This has given tiny Ultra Orthodox groups, or their sympathizers who deign to participate in government, the ability to wield veto power over legislation that no election could give them.

    Druze citizens of Israel serve in the military fer Hashem’s sake. But not the Haredis. They are a boil on the ass of Israeli democracy. And they are completely contemptuous, both of the Israeli state, and the process of democracy. A Taliban without Stinger missiles…yet.

  14. sc_770d159609e0f8deaa72849e3731a29d says

    Most of the women left.

    Surely some of them must have insisted on kissing goodbye to the religious chap on their way out- or did he lock himself behind his door?

  15. Guess Who? says

    @17: I personally went into his office and put my hands all over his chair, keyboard, and mouse, then one of the guys in the office brought in several boxes of pepperoni pizza and we all sat in the conference room and had a really loud party.

    Here’s the thing; if this guy was just any guy off the street who came in and said, “I refuse to have anything to do with women–they’re icky and they have cooties”, then he would never have stayed in the office. He certainly wouldn’t have been able to demand (and get!) an escalating apartheid were women had to walk behind, wait to eat until the food was picked-over, forbidden to go places he might go. But because he claims religion, suddenly we all have to accomodate him?!?

    If this level of dehumanization was allowed in the USA, just think what’s going on in Israel. Actually, we don’t have to imagine–there are always stories of women getting beaten up on the bus, little girls being spit upon and called whores because they dare go to school, entire sides of the street where people with the double-X chromosome are not allowed to be. Why? Because some misogynist filthy old men who lived thousands of years ago thought it should be so?

  16. Guess Who? says

    All the Abrahamic religions treat women like dirt. Look at the Christian Taliban; aka the Dominionists and Quiverfulls.

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