Israeli Ultra-Orthodox Radio Station Fined 1 Million Shekels for Keeping Women Off the Air

A class action lawsuit was filed against an ultra-Orthodox radio station by multiple women for not being able to hear women's voices on the radio station

Kol Barama's studios. Listeners said they felt 'a sense of indecision, idleness, worthlessness and silencing.'
Alon Ron

An Israeli court on Thursday awarded one million shekels (about $280,000) in damages in a class action suit brought against an ultra-Orthodox radio station that refused to put women on the air.

The suit was filed by Kolech, a group of Orthodox feminists, on behalf of ultra-Orthodox women who, as a result of this practice, could not hear the voices of women on Kol Barama, an ultra-Orthodox radio station. Representing Kolech in the case were Orly Erez Likhovsky and Assaf Fink of the Israel Religious Action Center – the advocacy arm of the Reform movement in the country.

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The suit, which was filed in 2012 in the Jerusalem District Court, is the first class action suit on civil rights in Israel.  In September 2014, the court approved its class action nature and determined that the radio station had operated in a discriminatory fashion. Kol Barama contested the decision in the Supreme Court, but its appeal was rejected a year later.

The studios of Kol Barama, an ultra-Orthodox radio station.
Alon Ron

Since then, the Jerusalem District has convened several hearings to determine the amount of damages to be paid.

Responding to the court decision, Erez-Likhovsky said: “It is an important milestone in the struggle against discrimination in general and the exclusion of women in particular. It also underscores the importance of class action suits in achieving social justice.”

It is rare, she said, for a class action suit not to end in a settlement between the sides.  “On this count as well,” she said, “this case represents a breakthrough.”

Established in 2009, Kol Barama is based in the ultra-Orthodox town of B’nei Brak.

Two years after the suit was filed, Kol Barama lifted its blanket prohibition on putting women on the air, although its still does not allow women singers to be heard. In recent months, several new programs featuring female broadcasters have been launched at the station.

The Jerusalem District Court ruled that the one million shekels in damages would be distributed to programs that help empower religious women.