MK Betzalel Smotrich (Jewish Home) announced yesterday at the 9th Ramle Conference that he will be forming an official Knesset lobby on behalf of the family structure. (A Knesset lobby is a group of MKs seeking to enlist support for a cause or policy within the Knesset and government.)
The announcement dovetailed nicely with the conference, which was organized by the Komemiyut and Hotam organizations and dealt with challenges and dangers faced by the traditional family structure. Over 30 experts spoke on various aspects of what they all agreed is a critical issue in the public Israeli arena. The topics included feminism vs. familism, the "disappearance of 'family' from the public discourse and from national strategic policy, family-safe workplace environments, and more.
Social worker Ronit Smadar-Dror, founder of an organization named L'tzidchem (By Your Side), presented one aspect of the threat families currently face: "Contrary to common misconception, it is not mainly women who are the victims of male violence, but the opposite: In 50% of the cases of family violence, both spouses are violent, while in 26% of the cases, it is the woman who is violent; only in 24% is it the man who is violent. Yet the wrong picture is constantly promoted, in the media, in the many women's organizations, and everywhere."
"The problem with this misrepresentation of reality," she continues, "is that it causes men not to seek help, because they know they will be mocked, disbelieved, and/or likely distanced from their families by the police and courts – and thus the families continue to suffer. What is a child to do or feel when he sees his father being victimized, yet is taught everywhere else that men are violent?"
Michael Puah, father of 12 and a leader of the Manhigut Yehudit (Jewish Leadership) organization, told the audience that is "unfortunate that the religious-Zionist public does not take part in the struggle on behalf of the family the same way it did against the Oslo Agreements. There are forces at work that wish to dismantle the family structure. These forces soon concluded, however, that instead of destroying the family unit, which appeared to be impossible, they would simply … seek to replace the 'biological family' with the 'contractual family,' so that it can be dismantled at will…"
Workplace and Family
One of the Conference's two panel discussions dealt with the matter of work environments vis-à-vis the family unit. Rabbi Azriel Ariel agreed with some of the other speakers that the danger of extra-marital relationships is enhanced in mixed-gender work places: "Great caution is required. It must be remembered that while work is an important value, it is not an obligation – whereas adultery is a capital crime! One goes to work to support his family, and he must be careful that he does not do the opposite – causing the collapse of his family by what he does at work."
The rabbi enumerated some guidelines that must be adhered to, but fellow-panelist Police Brig.-Gen. Yael Idelman, the Police Department's first Advisor on Women's Affairs, disagreed: "When I agreed to sit on this panel, I had no idea that we would be talking about things like separation between men and women and the like. I view my role as creating the conditions to bring about equal opportunities for women serving on the police force, and to thus bring out their abilities – and I believe that we have done this successfully. Regarding marital infidelity and the like, this can happen anywhere, not just in the police force, and it is up to each individual."
Asked why male and female police officers serve together on night shifts, she said, "This is how it must be, because they sometimes have to deal with women who will only open up to a policewoman."
The conference organizers awarded plaques of recognition to two Israeli organizations for their success in imbuing and preserving family values: Internet Rimon, which filters out unacceptable internet sites and content, thus enabling families to use the internet without fear, and Binyan Shalem – an annual three-day seminar attended by 6,000 women and 1,000 men, with many dozens of classes on topics related to the Jewish family and its values, for the benefit of Jewish families around the country.