Guggenheim, Noga and Orit Taubman – Ben-Ari. “Women as a Key to Enhancing Road Safety in Ultraorthodox Communities in Israel.” Transportation Research Part F: Traffic Psychology and Behaviour 30 (2015): 22-29.
The ultraorthodox sector in Israel, while an integral part of society, has unique cultural characteristics along with limited media exposure. Both these features impact the perceptions of driving and road safety, as well as the ability to influence them. In view of the scarcity of research literature on these issues, the present study sought to gain further insight into the community in an attempt to find a creative way to leverage road safety among ultraorthodox road users in Israel.
Using the phenomenological qualitative method, 60 face-to-face in-depth interviews were conducted with women and men of different ages and backgrounds from the major ultraorthodox communities. Findings reveal that for the ultraorthodox, driving is a controversial subject that represents much more than its normative practical function in modern Western societies. It is subject to sociocultural restrictions that are reflected, inter alia, in limited public discourse on road safety. Moreover, the findings highlight the prominent educational role of women in this sector: they are exclusively responsible for raising young children, and are the sole educators of girls of all ages. In addition, as people tend to marry young, and men do not generally drive before marriage, women can influence the safety habits of their spouse as well as their children. The authors suggest building on this potential to increase awareness of road safety by empowering ultraorthodox women to serve as agents of social change in their family and community.
The twentieth century witnessed an array of fresh models of Jewish women’s educational and religious leadership. Quite understandably, the majority of the scholarly focus has been on burgeoning egalitarian trends featured in the new roles for women within liberal Jewish denominations and among the Modern Orthodox. Yet increased appreciation for gendered perspectives within Jewish studies has also led to recognition that seemingly conventional female roles, once viewed as purely supportive in nature, have evolved into platforms for voicing uniquely feminine styles of Jewish authority. This article offers an initial portrayal and analysis of a relatively new phenomenon: the American female non-hasidic Haredi outreach activist. It does so, first, by locating these figures within overall trends of American Haredi Jewry as well as in relation to the broader phenomenon of Orthodox feminism. The central contention is that inasmuch as American Haredi Orthodoxy vehemently opposes many of the changes advanced by the Modern Orthodox sector, a “silent” revolution is actually taking place within its own elite frameworks. The instigation for the emergence of new religious leadership roles for Haredi women is the increasing focus of this sector on outreach to the non-observant, and the recognition that woman can be especially effective in these capacities. Yet such activities demand types of public behavior, often in mixed gender settings, that are inconsistent with the messages of strict modesty put forward within Haredi female education. Moreover, some of the female Haredi figures have begun to advance the notion that their functions are not merely vehicles for increasing engagement with Judaism, but actually represent a new empowered model of Orthodox women’s leadership and activism.
This study seeks to gain insight into a unique group, ultraorthodox women in Israel, and their views and attitudes on driving and road experiences. Ultraorthodox women are generally contending with spatial and mobility restrictions due to stringent gendered spaces and social norms in their communities. Specifically in Israel, throughout the ultraorthodox sector, women are strictly forbidden to drive. In this research, we put the emphasis on driving dilemmas that have received marginal attention both socially and empirically. A qualitative method was used, based on face-to-face in-depth interviews, with women from three major ultraorthodox communities. The findings reveal that the driving ban for ultraorthodox women in Israel generates ambivalence and conflict, and exacts a heavy social price. Moreover, in line with approaches of feminist geography, it raises issues of gender relations and cultural implications, such as restricting the space and the mobility of women in order to keep them in a subordinate position. The results are discussed in terms of gender roles, cultural exclusion, and spatiality, on both the practical and emotional levels. The study opens a window to a unique sector of the Israeli population, revealing unique dilemmas with which ultraorthodox women grapple daily in their community.