Last Thursday, I took my granddaughter into the centre of Jerusalem. We wanted to go to the shuk and I thought it would be fun for a six-year-old to see the Sukkot parade, with all the colourful costumes and flags.
We did have a lovely time together but there was one huge disappointment: my granddaughter did not get a flag.
She was offered many and she did accept a beaded bracelet in the South African national colours. However, the flag she wanted was simply not available. This little girl wanted a flag for Simchat Torah on Sunday night, a flag with colourful pictures and lots of glitter, that she could display proudly and wave in her Beit Knesset and in the street, when the celebrations and dancing were taken outside.
But there was no such flag. We looked everywhere and asked all the vendors.
There was not one flag for Simchat Torah with a picture of girls. They were all boys.
Hasn’t this whole thing gone too far?
It is OK with me if charedim do not want pictures of girls or women in their private homes. They can even have their newspapers or magazines that do not include pictures of women. Private businesses have the right to display or not to display what they choose.
However, I am talking about the public domain and the right of 50% of the population to see themselves reflected in posters and merchandise. I am talking about NOT inculcating half our children with the idea that they should not be seen.
Mothers and grandmothers, did you notice that your daughters and granddaughters were erased?
When I was a child, our flags had girls and boys on them – sometimes even together! Was it an affront to decency to wave them in the Synagogue? Of course not.
The Torah testifies itself that it is a heritage for men and women alike. We stood at Sinai together. Fortunately, women’s access to Torah learning is greater now than ever before and women have discovered that they can touch and hold a Torah scroll.
What a disgrace that in modern Jerusalem, the suggestion made visible in the illustrations was that only boys and men should celebrate the Torah on the day in the calendar set aside for that purpose! My consolation is that, in reality, more women than ever danced with Torah scrolls in their arms. Women were present, women were celebrating and women will be seen!
Next year, l’shana haba’a, in a Jerusalem rebuilt to include everyone – and with the flags to show it!