Barbra Streisand is touring Israel right now and has broached a very delicate subject on her first major stop: the treatment of women by Orthadox Jews.
The iconic singer was there to receive an honorary doctorate in philosophy from Hebrew University of Jerusalem and will perform two concerts in Tel Aviv, as well as sing for Israeli President Shimon Peres’ birthday, but on Monday she spoke on behalf of women in the country when she talked about the way they’re treated during prayer hours.
“It’s distressing to read about women in Israel being forced to sit in the back of a bus or … having metal chairs hurled at them when they intend to peacefully and legally pray,” Streisand said. “Or women being banned from singing in public ceremonies.”
Streisand was referring to incidents in which ultra-orthadox Jewish men tried to prevent women from wearing prayer shawls, carry Torah scrolls, and pray at the Western Wall in Jerusalem, which is considered the holiest site of worship. They believe only men can do those things, and although a court has declared that women are legally allowed to don prayer garb and attend the Western Wall, some haven’t changed their attitudes towards females among their member.
Streisand admitted that in her own country, things aren’t as equal as she’d like them to be.
“I know that solutions don’t come easy. And they don’t in the United States, where women are still making 80 cents for every dollar that a man makes,” she said.
Streisand did praise the university for having a record number of female Ph.D. graduates this year and spoke highly of the academics program; the school has a building named after her father. Her performances this Thursday and Saturday will mark her first ever in Israel.