When I was a child, I played basketball in the women's team of Hapoel Haifa. I was a promising player and even received a trophy in one of the tournaments where I was announced an outstanding player. Although I was already short at that time, if Muggsy Bogues had a career in the NBA with only one hundred and sixty centimeters, then anything is possible.
Unfortunately, my basketball career was shorter and ended at the end of the 7th grade, as the league games were held on Saturdays, and I had to retire. Since then, I continued to play basketball only recreationally. It's clear that as a child, it caused me some disappointment, but I had no doubt that the Sabbath was more important, and it never occurred to me to ask the league to change the game days for me.
Another story: About sixteen years ago, I was studying communications studies. As part of our studies, there was a retreat held in a non-religious settlement for a weekend. I made sure to bring kosher food for myself. Since there was no eruv in the settlement, and my infant daughter was with me (so she could nurse), I was prevented from leaving the room where the retreat was held throughout the entire Sabbath (otherwise, it would be considered "carrying" on Shabbat).
It's obvious that I was uncomfortable and had to make a significant effort to observe both Shabbat and kashrut fully. My secular friends were not aware of all the efforts I needed to make, but for me, the most important thing was that I could continue my studies without compromising the religious principles that were important to me.
Not all the public is interested in separation
Last week, the pilot project initiated by the Minister of Environmental Protection, Idit Silman, for separate bathing in the springs was supposed to begin. At first glance, why not? There is a significant portion of the public that values separate bathing. The separation is intended to take place only after the existing bathing times, and Silman herself claimed that the initiative is based on the principle of "one side gains without the other side losing anything." However, I would like to present a few reasons why I oppose gender segregation in the springs:
For years, the public has been requesting that the Nature and Parks Authority extend the bathing hours beyond 5:00 PM. The most pleasant time to bathe is in the afternoon, when the sun is no longer scorching, allowing people to immerse themselves in the water after working hours. These requests have been repeatedly denied, citing the animals' need for quiet daytime hours. It's either they've been fooling us all these years, or they are knowingly harming the animals.
Especially in a difficult time of division within the nation and a significant crisis of trust, and even during "normal" days, it's important to ensure that any change in status quo is carried out in a balanced manner. If changes are made to the current situation in favor of the religious public, there needs to be consideration for the secular public as well. Two hours of public transportation on Saturdays, as a gesture of reciprocation for the two-hour separation at the springs, is one option, for instance. Otherwise, the feeling is that all the changes are benefiting only one side.
It is important to emphasize that not all the religious public and not even all the ultra-orthodox public are interested in this separation. I live in Emek HaMaayanot and come a lot to the Sachne, Nachal HaKibbutzim and Ein Moda. I see many ultra-Orthodox families come and wade in the water to their enjoyment. I even heard from several ultra-Orthodox women that they hope the legislation will not pass, because today they can come with their family members to the springs, find a private corner and spend precious family time together. After the legislation is passed, they will be forced to be more strict than they used to be and spend the time apart from their spouses and sons.
Why would they be satisfied with only two hours, why wouldn't they later demand a longer time? And why would they settle for springs, why wouldn't they also ask for segregation on buses and sidewalks (as is already happening in certain neighborhoods in Jerusalem). There is no end to this. It is a fact, in the past they established separate beaches and now they want to extend this to the springs as well.
They have no problem demanding consideration, even if it leads to blasphemy
Above all, my religious view is that, being a religious woman, I am obliged to the principles and many actions that I have chosen to take upon myself. In no way will I demand that others change their lifestyles and "accommodate" me so that I can meet the commitments I have made. It is a privilege to be a religious woman and to demand more from myself, it does not allow me to demand anything from others.
Here is the fundamental difference between my religiosity and those who claim to represent religious Zionism in the Knesset. They have no problem demanding from others to "respect" even if it might lead to desecration of God's name and hatred towards religion and religious people. Their approach is patronizing, assuming that it's not a big deal if they push secular individuals to observe a few commandments since they are already obligated to do so; they should be thankful they aren't required to do more. On the other hand, I believe that we need to learn from the Almighty: just as He allows each of us to choose and respects our choices, so should we behave.
Pasit Siach is a former principal of a democratic, Jewish-pluralistic high school. Currently, she mentors school administrators, teaches Jewish thought, and treats people using Li.c.b.t. She is a graduate of the Ulpana in Kfar Pines and Midreshet Lindenbaum.