Haazinu- weekly Torah portion

We have almost completed the yearlong cycle, reading the one before last weekly portions of the Torah. Moses calls, “Give ear, O heavens, and let me speak; And let the earth hear the words of my mouth.” He is talking to the Israelites but understands that those standing before him will perish sooner or later, just like he will. They are there today but their day of departure from the world will arrive to each and every one of them. It will be the heavens and earth that will be there forever to echo his words. He counts on that worldly stage to be the platform for his final words. In actuality he takes notice that people do not really listen and predicts, “You are grown fat, thick, and sleek— Then he forsook God who made him,… They sacrificed to demons who were not God, To gods whom they have not known, New gods who came lately, Whom your fathers did not dread.” Moses demands “Give ear” because he realizes that a People does not always listen.

Yesterday, Thursday, a verdict was handed down in the District Court of Jerusalem by the honorable Judge Gila Knafi-Steinitz, and deal with issues of broadcasting voices and the ability to listen to them. It was a case brought against a Haredi broadcasting station Kol Berama that would not have women’s voices broadcast at this radio station. The law suit itself was brought by a NGO called “Kolech” of orthodox women who felt discriminated against by the polices adopted by the radio station. Representing the plaintiffs were lawyers Assaf Fink and Orly Erez-Likhovski of the Israel Reform Action Center (IRAC). The court established that at least forty thousand women have been adversely affected by the discriminating policies of the radio station. The court realized that these women never got the opportunity in these broadcasts to call “Give ear” in a pledge to listen to what they have to say. The judge decided that “discrimination of women by the radio station was a callous gender-based discrimination that is against the law, and is against women’s lawful right to dignity, equality and freedom of speech, carries a negative message regarding the women’s status in society and damages society as a whole of being based on values of equality, justice and tolerance. The discrimination prevents women from enjoying equaliy a public resource as a woman listening to the station does not see herself reflected in such media that is central to the sector to which she belongs to.”

Moses, when he describes God in his address he says, “The Rock! His work is perfect, For all His ways are just; A God of faithfulness and without injustice, Righteous and upright is He.” When he points out the failure in the relationships between God and his People, Moses, among others, notes, “his children have a defect, they are a perverse and crooked generation.” It is as if Moses anticipated the reply of the women discriminating defendant that claimed that it was established for the purpose of “answering the needs of the Haredis” who are a “group that is completely discriminated against in the ability to participate in the Israeli discourse and the broadcasting market.” The judge did well by pointing out to this crooked line of argument by establishing that “the defendant acted in exactly the same way towards half of those it claims to be discriminated against.”

The court not only ordered the broadcasting station to allow women to have their voice be heard but also levied on it a one million new sheqel fine to be used for the purpose of empowering women of that sector of society. Moses says, “Would that they were wise, that they understood this, That they would discern their future! How could one chase a thousand, And two put ten thousand to flight”. Sometimes it seems that those who do the despicable work of discrimination just do not get it and understand that this evil shall tumble down. Everyone deserves an equal opportunity, an opportunity to have her or his voice heard, the opportunity to call “Give ear”. This last result is yet another achievement of IMPJ’s IRAC, with the support of women and men from around the globe. As a Movement we shall continue to drive forward demanding justice and freedom so that the values so well-articulated by our prophets be forwarded. Now that Yom Kippur is over, we have a full year ahead of us where we call “Give ear” and we also act on the call.

Shabbat Shalom and Gmar Chatima Tova.

Reuven Marko, 21 September 2018, 13 Tishrei, 5779

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