Jews like to complain, and Israeli governmental religious services are a soft target for their ire. One of the most frequent services that is criticized is the Mikveh system in Israel, which is overwhelmingly publicly-funded and administered.

What hasn’t been said? That the Mikveh Ladies are pushy, nosy and just plain mean. That they force stringencies that have no basis whatsoever in halacha. That the Mikvehs themselves are often in poor hygienic shape, with no access for the disabled or real aesthetic appeal.

Granted, many of the complaints come from people who have an anti-religious or at least anti-Orthodox agenda, and some stem from a misunderstanding of actual halacha. But granting that, I assume many are legitimate and bespeak a serious problem, one which unfortunately deters many women from regular Mikveh visits.

So I’d like to make the following modest proposals to improve the situation:

Pay for it Yourselves

Seriously. Women are the primary customers of Mikvehs, yet the overwhelming majority of funding for the upkeep of the Mikveh and for Mikveh personnel comes from local and national budgets. The fee that most women pay (brides are an exception) is symbolic and miniscule. Want better service? Put your money where your mouth is.

There are all sorts of arrangements that can help improve things at the Mikveh besides raising the fee. For instance, instead of sitting all day waiting for the government to fix up the Mikveh, put the Mikveh on a frum version of Kickstarter. Encourage women to pay a “ma’aser Mikveh” towards their Mikveh of choice. If it’s your money on the line, you’ll make a greater effort to see its spent properly.

Don’t Like the Balanit? Get Your Own

Let’s start by saying that before considering the option below, try actually talking with the balanit or her superiors in the municipality. Arbitration is generally better than open conflict. But assuming that this doesn’t work, there’s another option: the Buddy System.

Halacha requires that another woman be present during immersion to ensure it was complete; it doesn’t have to a balanit. There are arrangements abroad where women go in pairs to the Mikveh, picking up the keys going in and bringing them back when they’re done.

Another option would be to create a larger pool of volunteer balaniyot who would do rotation at the Mikveh so the whole burden doesn’t fall on one underpaid public servant. This would have the benefit of increasing female religious involvement beyond the shul.

Anyway, just my two cents.