Women in Israel

Can women's attendance at funerals cause disasters?; AIDS offers impetus to legalize prostitution 

Can Women’s Attendance At Funerals Cause Disasters?

Recently two chief rabbis of the town of Migdal Haemek in Israel imposed a ban against women attending funerals in that town because this practice was thought to be responsible for the abnormally high number of deaths recently suffered there.

The women were thought to be not observing the religious laws of “family purity,” therefore to be “unclean” and unfit to be in the presence of men. (These laws demand that a woman abstain from sexual contact with her husband while menstruating and for some days after, and that she immerse herself in a ritual bath before resuming sexual relations each month.) They were ordered to stand back from the burial and allowed to visit the grave only after the men had left. At one funeral, the women involved included not only friends but the daughters, granddaughters, and sisters of the deceased, who was also a woman.

One of the two rabbis involved. Rabbi Yitzhak David Grossman, was quoted as saying, ‘The public demanded that we do something about all these disasters, and since it is written in the Zohar (a 13th century mystical work) that women’s attendance at funerals can cause disasters, we decided this was the best course of action.” The other rabbi, Avraham Menahem, had no comment. After a flood of protests castigating the rabbis as “primitive and pagan” and “fanatical,” Rabbi Grossman declared that his views had been misrepresented in the media.

AIDS Offers Impetus To Legalize Prostitution

As many as 30 percent of prostitutes in Israel carry the AIDS virus, according to recent investigations.

Thus, MK Ora Namir appealed for the legalization of prostitution in Israel as a means to control the spread of AIDS and other diseases, as well as out of concern for the health and welfare of prostitutes themselves. Namir, who chairs the Knesset’s Labor and Social Welfare Committee, said she spoke to prostitutes, “who, after all, are human beings and deserve protection and rights,” and almost all of them favor licensed premises from which they could offer their services in a sheltered, controlled environment.

Namir quoted rabbinical authorities on the recognition of prostitution. She recalled that a Cabinet appointed committee several years ago recommended legalizing prostitution as a means of controlling it.