An Israeli advocacy NGO has asked Israel’s Supreme Court to protect women’s rights at the mikveh, or ritual bath.
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The ITIM Advocacy Center filed a complaint with the court Sunday on behalf of 13 married Orthodox women against the Chief Rabbinate and the Jerusalem Religious Council, calling for women to be allowed to use the mikveh according to their personal customs and without supervision or with their own attendant if they wish.
The organization charges that Israel’s Chief Rabbinate is not implementing directives passed last year that enable women to use the mikveh facilities without being asked probing questions by mikveh attendants.
In one case, a woman was prevented from using the mikveh because of her hairstyle even though she had invited the mikveh attendant to consult with her own rabbi. In another, a woman was asked how many times she planned to immerse herself, and when the answer was unsatisfactory to the attendant, the woman was prevented from using the public facility.
“The mikveh is an incredibly vulnerable place,” Rabbi Seth Farber, director of ITIM, said in a statement sent to JTA. “Women have rights there as well.
“There is no other public service that demands that individuals – women or men – submit themselves to this kind of inspection. mikvehs around the world – in most cases – respect the privacy and rights of women. Ironically, only in Israel are individuals subject to violations of basic rights.”