Barbra Streisand is criticizing Orthodox Jews in Israel who are forcing women to sit in the back of buses, banning them from singing in public, and hurl metal chairs at them when they intend to peacefully and legally pray at the Western Wall, one of Judaism’s holiest sites, reported Reuters via Yahoo! News on June 17, 2013.
“It’s distressing to read about women in Israel being forced to sit in the back of a bus or… having metal chairs hurled at them when they intend to peacefully and legally pray. Or women being banned from singing in public ceremonies,” said Barbra Streisand at a ceremony at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem where she was awarded an honorary doctorate.
Barbra Streisand, the Oscar and Emmy-winning actress and singer who is Jewish, is in Israel to perform at a conference in honor of Israeli President Shimon Peres’ 90th birthday.
This is Brooklyn-born 71-year-old Barbra Streisand’s first time that she is performing in Israel.
Besides receiving an honorary doctorate award from Jerusalem’s Hebrew University for her humanitarian efforts and continuous dedication to Israel, Barbra Streisand is also planning on giving two more public concerts in Israel on June 20 and June 22 in Tel Aviv.
During the ceremony at Jerusalem’s Hebrew University which named its school of Jewish studies after Barbra Streisand’s father Emanuel, Barbra Streisand took the opportunity to speak up for the rights of women in Israel.
Orthodox Jews, especially ultra-Orthodox rabbis, are still exercising a strong historical political power in Israel. In some cities in Israel, the public bus system forces gender segregation and women are to sit in the back of the bus.
Some of the clerics are also opposing women who want to pray at the Western Wall. “The women wear prayer shawls and read aloud from the Jewish scriptures there, defying a tradition that only men should do so.”
Speaking up for the rights of women is not only part of Barbra Streisand’s humanitarian work but also her artistic work. In her 1983 film “Yentl,” Barbra Streisand played the role of a young Jewish woman seeking equality with men.
According to Barbra Streisand’s speech in Israel, gender inequality is not limited to Israel or other eastern countries but also still prevalent in the United States.
“I know that solutions don’t come easy, and they don’t in the United States, where women are still making 80 cents for every dollar that a man makes.”