A prominent ultra-Orthodox rabbi, who has been involved in reaching out to non-observant Jews, delivered a lecture last week in which he came out against women driving motorized vehicles, the Haredi website Kikar Shabat reported.
In the course of the lesson, the rabbi, Amnon Yitzhak, cited Rabbi Shmuel Halevi Wosner, a prominent interpreter of Jewish law, to support his assertion that women shouldn't drive, the website reported. "After all, what is a car? It's a replacement for a carriage. There never were women carriage drivers," Yitzhak reportedly said. In response to a question by a woman in the audience, he reportedly added that it is immodest for women to drive.
Yitzhak is said to have referenced an assertion made by the 100-year-old Wosner in which he claimed that he had learned from experience that women should be banned from driving, because in learning to do so, "in the marketplace and on the street," they are exposed to influence which leads to promiscuity.
Rabbi Yitzhak set up a political party, Koah Lehashpia ("Power to influence"), which fielded a slate in January's Knesset elections although the rabbi was not a Knesset candidate himself. The party failed to make it into parliament.
Wosner spoke out against the use of the Internet in a gathering in New York City in 2012.
A campaign to allow women to drive is already the touchstone of the struggle for women's rights in Saudi Arabia, the only country in the world that bans women from driving.
The ban is rooted in the kingdom’s hard-line interpretation of Islam known as Wahabbism, with critics warning that women driving could unravel the very fabric of Saudi society.
Though no laws officialy ban women from driving in Saudi Arabia, authorities do not issue them licenses.