Elections 2015

Ultra-Orthodox women unveil trailblazing protest party

Denied slot in Haredi factions, trio announce ‘Bezchutan’ party for Knesset run; chairwoman had petitioned High Court against discriminatory lists

Marissa Newman is The Times of Israel political correspondent.

Bezchutan party leader Ruth Colian (photo credit: YouTube screenshot)
Bezchutan party leader Ruth Colian (photo credit: YouTube screenshot)

A trailblazing ultra-Orthodox female protest party, headed by a social activist, was unveiled on Monday and was set to run in the March 17 elections.

The party, named “Bezchutan” (In their merit), was launched in protest against the exclusively male ultra-Orthodox parties, Shas and United Torah Judaism. On the party list are activist Ruth Colian; Noah Erez, a clerk at the State Attorney’s Office; and Keren Mozen, a 21-year-old business student.

“After years of watching talented women be pushed aside, and not be appointed since they are women, we decided to stop watching from the sidelines. Our conscience won’t allow us to continue to remain silent, to go on with our lives as if this has nothing to do with us, and think that someone else will finish the job,” Colian said in a press conference on Monday, according to the Hebrew NRG website.

The party leader said that if the ultra-Orthodox parties agree to include female candidates on their lists, they will drop their campaign, Israel Radio reported.

It was not immediately clear when “Bezchutan” registered the party with the Knesset, as the deadline to add a new party passed several weeks ago.

Colian was previously loosely affiliated with the Shas party, but after she was turned down by the party to run in the municipal elections in 2013, she petitioned with the High Court — unsuccessfully — to cut funding to political parties that discriminate against women. She also sued the Shas party for distributing on a CD a song she wrote about the death of Shas spiritual leader Ovadiah Yosef without her permission. The 33-year-old mother of four was also a vocal proponent of animal rights, protesting the Tnuva dairy company after it was charged with mistreating cows, and appealing to Kashruth authority Shlomo Mahpud to pull the kashruth certification from companies that abuse animals.

The Bezchutan party is not linked to a campaign by Haredi women to boycott the elections if no female candidates are added to the ultra-Orthodox party lists. A statement from the “No Representation, No Vote” activists said it would continue to press the Haredi parties to incorporate female candidates.

No ultra-Orthodox female candidates have ever run on the Haredi parties’ lists, but Tzvia Greenfeld ran on the Meretz party list in 2008, becoming the first female ultra-Orthodox Knesset member.

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