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Wednesday, October 23, 2013

Meet the Haredi feminist fighting for a political voice

Jerusalem - A 32 year-old Haredi feminist has a November 6 hearing with the High Court of Justice, during which she will attempt to persuade it that the current system—-under which the state continues to fund religious political parties—-is essentially promoting gender discrimination by preventing ultra-Orthodox women from running for political office.

HAARETZ reports that Ruth Colian, a married mother of four who is currently in her second year of law school at the Ono Academic College Haredi campus, narrowly missed getting on the Petah Tikva city council ballot in the upcoming elections due to failing to meet the number of signatures required to register a new party.

Colian said she is determined now—-through her campaign which she has dubbed the “Haredi Spring”—- to level the playing field within the current patriarchal system.

“I believe the Haredi Spring has arrived, and it begins with women,” said Colian. “I truly believe that it is only a matter of a few years before Haredi women are able to run for election on Haredi lists in this country.”

When asked why she hasn’t joined a secular list that would more openly accept her, Colian bristled, saying, “I didn’t consider joining other lists, because I’m Haredi and it was important for me to run as part of a Haredi list in order to show a different side of religion and the Haredi world. It was very important for me to break the glass ceiling, and if I had joined a secular party I wouldn’t have been able to make the statement I wanted to make.”

Colian believes the High Court will see things her way and that the ultra-Orthodox parties will follow suit once the ruling comes down.

“They keep saying that it’s a matter of principle for them not to have women on their lists. I believe that once this principle of theirs will start costing them money, it will go out the window,” Colian said.

“Yes, I’m very much a feminist,” Colian said of her mission. “It may make others laugh and sound like a contradiction in terms, but I’m a proud Haredi feminist.”

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