The Ultra-Orthodox Rabbinate’s monopoly over personal status issues for Jews in Israel leaves many Jews -- those who cannot or do not affiliate with other streams of Judaism -- in a situation where their rights are infringed upon.
NIF believes that freedom of – and from – religion are crucial to the survival of a just and democratic Israel. We fight for religious pluralism, and work to oppose the rabbinic hierarchy’s exclusion of women.
In 1997, for example, demands began for gender segregated services on public buses between Jerusalem and Bnei Brak; at one point, there were 50 ‘mehadrin’ lines, that is, where women were forced to sit at the back of the bus, and those who resisted were subjected to harassment and intimidation. This soon extended to segregation in health clinics, post offices, and even sidewalks on Jerusalem streets.
Spotlight: Israel Religious Action Center (IRAC)
IRAC has been a recipient of NIF funds for 25 years. It works by using strategic litigation to ensure women are not disadvantaged or discriminated against.
For example, in 2007 IRAC won a ruling in the High Court of Justice which stated that segregation of women on public buses in Israel is illegal. Each public bus must now carry a sign which ensures compliance with the law.
IRAC’s work has brought increased attention to the issue of the status of women in Israeli society, as well as to the broader issues of religious pluralism and tolerance.