(Page 2 of 2)
Tel Aviv — Shapira rejected this logic. “We say that there isn’t any religious prohibition against hearing women talking on radio. The whole thing is just trying to be more extreme in how you keep Torah and Halacha.”
Yashar said that the prohibition against women talking on radio stems from a verse in Psalms: “The honor of the king’s daughter is within.” This is interpreted to mean that Jewish women should not be given public exposure. He acknowledged that not all rabbis interpret the verse in this way, but claimed that the station must follow its own rabbis’ interpretation.
He also argued, “By forcing [the station] to change, people will stop listening.” Listeners from this part of Israeli society want a predominantly men-only output, he explained, and would mistrust the overall integrity of the station and the suitability of its programming if the station were to defy its rabbis on gender.
But Kolech claims to have identified opposition to the men-only practice among listeners. After commissioning the Sarid Institute for Research Services to survey attitudes of female listeners, it found that 32% are opposed to the policy, to varying degrees. In fact, it based its claim for damages on this poll, demanding 1,000 to 2,000 shekels for each female listener who is opposed, depending on the strength of her opposition. Kolech rejects the idea that dissatisfied listeners should simply change stations. Doing so, the group argues, is actually not an option, because Kol Barama is the only broadcaster approved by the top rabbis of the Sephardic Haredi community. For Sephardi Haredim, it is the only kosher listening option, Kolech says.
Kol Barama rejects the polling data, saying that many female listeners have expressed support for the policy.
Kolech also accuses the state regulator of complicity in the inequality on Kol Barama. The concessions that the station made to the regulator in April were part of a deal that allowed women to remain excluded in all other parts of programming. According to Kolech, the regulator — the Second Authority for Television and Radio — has thereby rubberstamped the violation of a 2000 law prohibiting discrimination in goods and services. “Their role is to guarantee radio stations are keeping the law, and they cannot give permission to break the law,” Shapira said.
Meytal Segev, spokeswoman for the broadcast authority, responded that “The women’s organizations don’t see the whole picture that we see; they don’t see the place that Kol Barama comes from.” She said that the concessions in April were significant in view of the culture of the station. “This is not the end of the way,” Segev said. “We still expect more to happen. But it’s a long process, because you are talking about a closed society.” She declined to say what the regulator’s final target is.
Contact Nathan Jeffay at firstname.lastname@example.org