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Missing at Women’s Health Conference: Women

But Haredi rabbis and male doctors welcomed at Jerusalem event

Tal Trachtman Alroy
April 28, 2015

Remember that medical conference on the future of gynecology, where doctors, medical experts, and rabbis—all men—got together to discuss what might be best for women and their bodies?

That same women’s health conference, which barred all women, including female medical experts, from participating?

This splendidly progressive event took place today at Jerusalem’s Shaare Zedek hospital.

As first reported by YNET, the conference, co-organized by Meuhedet, a government-funded HMO, and Yad Haramah, an ultra-Orthodox medical institute, focused on innovation and research in women’s health.

But women were not only barred from attending the event; they were also completely absent from the roster of speakers and panelists, a spokesperson for the conference told YNET.

According to Rabbi Uri Regev, a lawyer and the director of Hiddush, an organization dedicated to promoting religious freedoms in Israel, this conference proves that the exclusion of women should become a criminal offense.

“The idea that Meuhedet and Shaare Zedek Medical Center would hold a conference where doctors and rabbis who are all male would sit and talk about women’s health without a single female expert present is absurd,” Regev wrote to me via email. “It’s difficult to imagine this could take place in a country that considers itself Western.”

Regev also said that the Haredis are not solely to blame for exclusion of women from the conference, but that blame should also fall on the shoulders of the doctors and Meuhedet which let them get away with this.

“The participation of senior medical experts in this conference is a serious violation of the decision made by Israel’s Medical Association which prohibits the exclusion of women and states that doctors will not participate in medical events that exclude women,” he said.

Regev added that the “epidemic of excluding women is not a passing phenomenon but rather appears anew each time,” while accusing Meuhedet and the Shaare Zedek hospital of sucking up to the Haredi community.

In response, Meuhedet issued a statement saying that approximately 250,000 of its half a million clientele in Jerusalem were from the Haredi community. The statement, according to YNET, stated:

“This conference is for the rabbis of these neighborhoods (it is not open to the general public) and it is aimed at strengthening relations with these rabbis in order to expand cooperation between Meuhedet and the rabbis by open dialogue on the subject of gynecology.”

Meuhedet went on to say that since the conference was aimed at strengthening ties with Haredi rabbis, it was necessary to make it suitable to their character.

Unfortunately, this is not the first or last time that Israeli government institutions have played puppet to the Haredi community.

Tal Trachtman Alroy is an intern at Tablet.