The ultra-Orthodox radio station's special programs for women are presented by men, and female listeners are asked to send in recipes and questions by fax. Now the government is finally forcing the ultra-Orthodox station to include special programs presented by women in its schedule.
Haredi radio to play women's voices?
According to compromise reached with Second Authority for Television and Radio, Kol Barama station will broadcast special programs presented by women. But radio official states, 'We'll let women speak only under certain conditions and in times of emergency'
Kobi Nahshoni • Ynet
Ultra-Orthodox radio station Kol Barama will soon start playing women's voices on its programs, The Second Authority for Television and Radio decided during a meeting last week.
The issue was addressed following complaints filed with the Second Authority against the station's refusal to have women present programs or call in as listeners.
According to a recent Ynet report, the radio station's special programs for women are presented by men, and female listeners are asked to send in recipes and questions by fax. Now the station is being obligated to include on its broadcasting schedule special programs presented by women.
Moment before sanctions
In a discussion held by the chairman of the Authority's radio committee, journalist Yossi Elituv, the committee said it viewed the haredi station's proposal as the beginning of a positive move, and that it was important to resolve the issue through a dialogue and avoid sanctions.
Kol Barama operates as part of a Second Authority franchise and is one of two haredi radio stations (along with Kol Hai Radio). It is defined as a "religious Sephardic" station.
Dr. Ilan Avisar, chairman of the Second Authority, said he would suggest to its members to accept the radio committee's recommendation. He added, however, that the station would have to provide clarifications for implementing the approved plan with specific schedules, within four months.
'If needed, we'll reexamine decision'
But a Kol Barama official rushed to lower expectations, saying that women's voices would be heard on the radio "in two very specific cases: In times of emergency, and on a single weekly program which will allow women to call in and express their opinion on different issues."
This move, the official said, will be done "in a gradual and controlled process, aimed at examining the effect of this sensitive move on the station's wide audience. If needed, we'll reexamine the issue and possibly return to the current situation."
According to the station, the move was the result of "secular and Reform organizations' appeal to the Second Authority. Following negotiations with the Authority, and a recommendation from the station's spiritual committee, it was decided to permit the broadcasting of a woman's voice," although under very limited conditions, as stated.
"Kol Barama was founded to provide appropriate service to all factions of the haredi public, and it will continue to maintain the principle of 'All glorious is the princess within her chamber'."
The radio committee accepted the compromise, and will vote on it along with the Authority chairman's recommendation. According to estimates, the proposal will be given a seal of approval.
About two months ago, Shas' spiritual leader Rabbi Ovadia Yosef ruled that the voice of a woman talking can be heard on the radio. Kol Barama said at the time that no appeal has been made to the rabbi on its behalf and that there would be no change in the station's policy on the matter.
Jewish law does not prohibit men from hearing women's speaking voices. It does prohibit under many circumstances men from hearing women singing. But according to some rabbis, this prohibition does not apply to women singing on the radio or women singing religious songs – like the bentching, [birkat hamazon, blessing after meals liturgy], for example.
Kol Barama's previous refusal to allow women to call in with questions or host shows appears to be another example of ultra-Orthodox "modesty" run amok.