Machane Yehuda, the collection of stalls that are at the heart of one of the most well known and the busiest shopping areas of Jerusalem, is slated to get some competition. Seems that some individuals are in the process of creating a competing market place that will be totally segregated by gender. Men will shop in one area, women in another. Men will be served by men and women by women. The genders will not cross paths in this new market. This is an interesting and strange concept. It is halachically unique there being no source for this type of separation nor any documented and accepted religious opinion for this. It is also historically unique in that, as far as I have been able to determine, it has never happened prior.
My grandparents who resided in the town of Sarospatak in Northeatern Hungary owned a dry goods store for many decades in the late 19th and early 20th centuries. My fathers’ mother ran the store which sold foodstuff, spices, grains and so forth while my grandfather tended to their other business, winemaking. Both men and women, all of whom would be labeled by todays standards as chareidi, were served in the store by grandmother. This is not a rare occurance as the Talmud tells stories of both men and women interacting in the marketplace.
Certainly people are entitled to their own beliefs as long as they harm no one. But, given the nature of this new trend to separate in extremis, I think a closer look at this from a psychological perspective is warrented.
When speaking of food a very chariedi friend of mine is fond of saying “the greater the supervision the lower the quality and taste.” Speaking of inverse relationships – my take on the new proposed project is – The greater the separation of the sexes the worse the ability to interact properly. This is in fact a given. In The Shidduch Crisis: Causes and Cures I report on data that shows when men and women are not allowed to interact they tend to be awkward around one another or worse, they can even be abusive to one another. It is not surprising when one looks at the increasing rates of domestic violence that are apparently correlated with fewer occasions for boys and girls to socialize. Also, it should come as no surprise that divorce rate have skyrocketed. When genders are reared apart and have no chance to interact initial awkwardness often leads to misunderstandings, anger, violence and divorce. But these are the measurable things. I have a curious vision of how a gender separated marketplace may operate along with what may be sold, which only time will confirm or deny.
The Mens side: Steak, smoked and cured meats, 400 varieties of beer, twelve liquor stores specializing in bourbon and no toiletries.
The Womens side: Fish, humus, techina, baba ganoush, vegetables and fruit. No alcoholic beverages, three varieties of perfume.
The Mens side: Three functioning restrooms. An area for smoking, Five falafel stands and chulent five days a week.
The Womens side: One restroom with a series of rope lines.
The Mens side: Several seforim stands, Hamodia, Yated Neeman and a few approved audio tapes.
The Womens side:
The Mens side: Hat cleaning and blocking services, Massages (by highly qualified men), Shoe polishing.
The Womens side: Two sheitel machers.
The Men’s side: Music playing over loudspeakers, Daf yomi offered three times daily.
The Womens side:
Time will tell!