"The bottom line is that we are asking state-funded authorities to refrain from becoming involved in women’s personal reasons for wanting to immerse themselves in a mikva, and to recognize that each woman has the right to choose for herself.”
State-Funded Ritual Baths Bar Single Women To Prevent Extra-Marital Sex
Shmarya Rosenberg • FailedMessiah.com
At the direction of Israel's haredi-controlled chief rabbinate, Israel's state-funded mikvaot, ritual baths, are barring single women.
The vast majority of women using mikvas are married. They use the mikva to "purify" themselves after menstruation, allowing them to have sex with their husbands – which would otherwise be prohibited according to Jewish law.
Except for converts who immerse as part of the conversion process, single women have been barred from immersing by the chief rabbinate, which cites a 10th Century CE halakhic ruling forbidding single women from immersing in mikvas. The ruling was made primarily to help put an end to premarital sex, relationships with concubines and ad hoc conversions done to convert local servant girls for the purpose of marriage or concubinage.
Kolech, the Center for Women’s Justice, petitioned the High Court of Justice to force mikvas to allow single women to immerse. It cited reasons beyond sex that could cause a single woman to want to use the mikva. Among those reasons is visiting the Temple Mount, which by Jewish law requires immersion in a mikva, something Zionist Orthodox rabbis often allow but haredi rabbis usually forbid.
But haredi and even many Zionist Orthodox rabbis refuse to allow single women to immerse for the purpose of visiting the Temple Mount, because the rabbis fear that doing so would lead to immersion for extra-marital sex.
Another reason cited by Kolech is immersion before Yom Kippur.
Susan Weiss, Kolech’s founding director told the Jerusalem Post that the state has no legal right to impose values on women:
The state has no right to impose its values on these women.
This issue is also a microcosm for the many human rights problems women face in this country and highlights the egregious power the rabbinate has over women. It is right that they should have to account and justify their power over us proves how egregious.
The bottom line is that we are asking state-funded authorities to refrain from becoming involved in women’s personal reasons for wanting to immerse themselves in a mikva, and to recognize that each woman has the right to choose for herself.
Before the 10th Century CE, especially during the period that the second Jerusalem Temple stood, single women are believed to have commonly immersed in mikvas.
Kolech argued in its petition to the High Court that the state-funded mikvas' attendants had no legal right to question women seeking to immerse to determine why the women want to use the mikva, or to ban those who are single from immersing.
The High Court gave the Religious Services Ministry 45 days to account for its ban.
[Hat Tip: Seymour.]