Regev Responds

The Haredi political parties' mixing of politics and religion harms democracy

Leading Ashkenazi Rabbi rules: Women should not be allowed to drive

Often we are reminded of the outlook at the core of the ultra-Orthodox political parties' actions. While they may appear to share our respect for a democratic society oriented toward civil liberties, the truth is that their motivations are anything but.

A female driverA female driver

As we have pointed out before, the ultra-Orthodox political parties' mixing of politics and religion creates a harmful abuse of democracy, rather than a constructive reflection of the values of democracy. This time, the reminder takes us to the question of women's rights in society.

In particular: the right of women to drive cars.

This issue has been taken up by a leading rabbinic authority, Rabbi Yitzchok Zilberstein [Heb. link], a member of the Council of [great] Torah Sages - United Torah Judaism's leading council, which instructs its Ministers and Knesset Members. Rabbi Yitzchok Zilberstein, as is common in traditional religious writings and rulings, provides a reference to the prior ruling of the late Rabbi Shmuel HaLevi Wosner z"l - one of the most important halakhic authorities in this sector in recent times.

Driving a car is totally against the [halakhic] rules of modesty for a woman.
    Rabbi Yitzchok Zilberstein: "All the other alternatives of traveling by bus, taxi, and on foot, do not violate the rules of modesty, but a woman must be careful in how she drives on the road, for she might cause herself to sin (literally: put a stumbling block before herself). Driving a car is totally against the [halakhic] rules of modesty for a woman, who must interact with men, and many other stumbling blocks this causes, and the great rabbis of Israel have already forbidden women from driving cars."
    Rabbi Shmuel HaLevi Wosner z"l: "Regarding women who learn and become used to driving cars, from experience I've learned that this is a matter to be utterly forbidden, for this learning has caused and causes wantonness, and utterly undoes the honor due the daughter of a king whose honor is within [meaning: women should stay out of the public sphere]. A woman [thus] reveals herself in the markets and the streets for all to see, puts an obstacle [leading to sin] before herself and others; and traveling by 'carriage' is not a woman's way, as is expounded upon in Tractate Pesachim [of the Babylonian Talmud]..."

We find similar views on women driving a car in -not surprisingly- the fundamentalist Muslim outlook, as evidenced by Saudi Arabia's Deputy Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman's comment on women driving cars: "So far the society is not persuaded - and it has negative influence - but we stress that it is up to the Saudi society" [link]. Saudi Arabia is the only country on the planet that still bans female drivers.

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