This piece was first published on The Sisterhood blog at the Forward.
Israeli beauty queen Doron Matalon is a firm believer that good things can come from bad experiences. As a soldier in December 2011, she was sexually harassed by an ultra-Orthodox man on a Jerusalem bus. Now, as the first runner-up in the recent 64th Miss Israel pageant, she plans to use her newfound fame to help advance the fight for women’s rights in her country.
On March 5, the day that Matalon, 20, won second place in the national pageant, 44-year-old Moshe Fuchs of Beit Shemesh was convicted of sexual harassment by the Jerusalem Magistrate’s Court. Fuchs, who had called Matalon a “prostitute” and “shiksa,” claimed the incident was “trivial.” However, Magistrate Hagit Kalmanovitch rejected his argument, ruling that Fuchs’ misconduct was grievous. She emphasized that the defendant had “acted as part of a social practice of excluding women on segregated lines in particular and in public in general.”
“I don’t hate Haredim,” the secular Matalon, told the Forward by phone from her home in the Israeli settlement of Beit Aryeh. “But what happened to me really opened my eyes to the fact that we need to change things. These kinds of things don’t have to happen.”
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© 2014 Renee Ghert-Zand. All rights reserved.