This was probably the most mind-blowing day of our trip. We met 36-year-old Tzippy Yarom, a woman in the Haredi community. She talked to us about “Haredim Mibifnim,” meaning the “Ultra-Orthodox from Within.” This was an incredible experience because she shattered all my preconceived notions about women in the ultra-orthodox community.
Some things about Yarom: she is a mother of three (and wants an even bigger family); she has been a journalist for the last 15 years, primarily writing about politics, international affairs, and science/tech; she studied software engineering in university.
Yarom’s work background is on par with the rest of the Haredi community because most families live on one salary. About 87% of women in the Haredi community are working, compared to only about 50% of men. This is mainly because they believe the men should focus on religious study.
With so many issues of gender and wage inequality around the world, the Haredi community is “probably the only community that women are earning more than men,” Yarom said.
Yarom also took us around her community, where we saw local shops and synagogues. The Haredi community makes up about 10% of the population in Israel, but there is also diversity within this group. Like everything else, it’s important not to generalize or have stereotypes. One thing we are all surprised by was the number of cell phone shops – I saw maybe six or seven on one street. Many sold kosher phones; yes, kosher phones exist. Yarom said often these were just phones with texting/calling and maybe restricted internet usage.
My favorite moment of the day was when Yarom was telling us about an incident on the bus where a man was giving her sass (some issue for where she was sitting), and she responded with
“First of all, don’t talk to me, you’re not my husband.”
For the most part, Haredi women don’t socialize with men after age 12, except for their family members or husbands.
Below: Professor Perez stops by a shop in the Haredi community in Jerusalem.
After our tour of the Haredi community, we visited Yad Vashem, which our organizers warned us would be an emotional experience.
Yad Vashem is the Holocaust museum in Jerusalem. It was a reminder of the worst crimes of mankind. The most horrifying part is that not only did people actively persecute and kill millions of Jews, gypsies, the disabled; but there were so many people who just reacted with apathy. Regular bystanders just looked away as their neighbors were taken, and entire nations failed to intervene, calling it an “internal/domestic issue.”
“A nation that doesn’t remember its past has no future.”