Deputy Health Minister (Yahadut HaTorah) was the target of criticism when he walked out of officials events that contained kol isha. At that time, he proudly explained that he did so quietly, not seeking to create a stir, adding that he proudly exercises his right to religious freedom, to practice his yiddishkheit as he must.
The deputy minister is in the news again, this time for not shaking the hand of a female diplomat at an event in Geneva on Wednesday, 2 Sivan 5772.
The minister was attending the annual World Health Organization conference, and during this event declined to meet the extended hand of the Belgian health minister.
The official Belgian Health Minister Facebook page quotes Minister Laurette Onkelinx saying she was “profoundly troubled” adding “My hands were clean. I don’t get it”.
“This is the second time a minister refuses to shake my hand because I am a woman. The first was Iranian. The second one was the Israeli health minister here in Geneva. This kind of fundamentalist attitude, connected to a certain perception of religion and women, profoundly troubles me.”
“The minister’s childish reaction demonstrates her ignorance,” said Michael Freilich, editor in chief of Joods Actueel, Belgium’s largest Jewish publication. In the paper’s report on the incident it said “Mr. Litzman’s refusal to shake Ms. Onkelinx’s hand had nothing to do with any view on women or impurity. Ultra-Orthodox women are also forbidden from touching members of the opposite sex. It’s the custom. A more seasoned politician would have been aware of this sensibility in advance.”
(YWN – Israel Desk, Jerusalem)