Barbra Streisand has taken a swipe at ultra-Orthodox Jews for treating women as second class citizens in Israel, during her visit to the Holy Land.
Accepting an honorary degree from Hebrew University in Jerusalem, the singer let loose on how she felt, saying: “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 being banned from singing in public ceremonies.”
A spate of incidents in recent years has seen both people and property attacked, while some Israeli cities operate a public bus system that enforces gender segregation.
“I know that solutions don’t come easy,” said Streisand, who compared the situation with the United States “where women make only 80 cents on the dollar compared to men”.
Her remarks come at a sensitive time, after women’s rights groups who have been fighting for the right to pray alongside men at the Western Wall were recently targeted and harassed by ultra-Orthodox groups.
The issue is close to Streisand’s heart and her comments come 30 years after she starred in the 1983 movie Yentl, which portrayed the struggle of Jewish women to achieve equality with men.
The 71-year-old star, who is performing two Tel Aviv concerts during her visit, is schedule to perform for Israeli President Shimon Peres on his 90th birthday.[divider]
The Women of the Wall group, a non-orthodox, feminist organization based in Israel, welcomed Streisand’s remarks.
“How embarrassing it is that such an important guest from abroad needs to come and say what should be obvious,” the group said in a statement. “We hope that the words of Barbara Streisand reached the ears of Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu and the relevant ministers, and that they will take immediate action to correct the distortion with respect to the exclusion of women in general and at the Western Wall in particular.”