Episode 2 Extreme Wives with Kate Humble


Episode 2

Kate Humble explores three diverse communities in Kenya, Israel and India. In this episode, Kate tries to access the intensely private ultra-Orthodox Haredim in Jerusalem.


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Transcript


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Wow!

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KATE HUMBLE: I've spent time in many different countries...

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What a place to be!

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..getting to know people from vastly different cultures.

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So, do the men sew as well?

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Will your husband sew?

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SHE SPEAKS OWN LANGUAGE THEY LAUGH

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And one thing that's often struck me...

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..is that the roles men and women play in society

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give great insight into their way of life.

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HE SPEAKS OWN LANGUAGE

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OK.

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And how the everyday roles of women, in particular,

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reveal a society's values, whether they be determined by religion...

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..status...

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..or tradition.

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As a white middle-class woman growing up in Britain,

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I'm aware that I am enormously privileged, free to make choices,

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state opinions, be independent.

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But for many of the world's women, perhaps the majority,

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circumstances are very different.

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THEY SPEAK OWN LANGUAGE

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So, in this series, I've travelled to three very different places

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where the roles of women are exceptional, complex,

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and even extreme.

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The Kuria tribe in Kenya, where women are caught up

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in the clash between age-old tradition and the modern world.

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THEY SPEAK OWN LANGUAGE

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Is this dangerous for you, Susan?

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The matrilineal Khasi people in northern India...

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..where it's the women who take on positions of power.

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You're like a very strict headmistress.

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SHE SPEAKS OWN LANGUAGE

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Hello.

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Now I'm in Israel, trying to access

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the intensely private, ultraorthodox Haredim...

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SHE SPEAKS OWN LANGUAGE

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..to find out what it's like for Haredi women to live by

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what appear to me to be restrictive and archaic religious laws...

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..and what happens to those who reject them.

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This is Mea She'arim, a Haredi area of Jerusalem,

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home to around 9,500 people.

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The Haredim see themselves as the nation's spiritual guardians.

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During the Second World War, almost all Haredim were murdered

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in the Holocaust.

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When the state of Israel was created in 1948,

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the government offered survivors protection,

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somewhere where the Haredim could rebuild their world

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of religious study.

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For months, we've been trying to access this community.

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But most reject the media and any intrusion into their lives.

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Hello. Do you speak English?

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Yiddish. Oh, I'm sorry.

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The Haredim are dedicated to following God's laws,

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known as Halakha, derived from their holy book,

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the Torah, and they're forthright about how visitors

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should conduct themselves.

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There's a sign up on the wall here.

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I don't think I've ever seen anything like this before,

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but it's very polite. It says, "To women and girls who pass through

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"our neighbourhood, we beg you with all our hearts, please do not pass

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"through our neighbourhood in immodest clothes.

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"Modest clothes include a closed blouse..."

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- I'm not sure whether I'm closed enough -

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"..with long sleeves, a long skirt, no tight-fitting clothes.

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"Please do not distress us by disturbing the sanctity

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"of our neighbourhood and our way of life,

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"as Jews committed to God and his Torah."

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I know so little about this world.

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I've heard that there's strict segregation between boys and girls,

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that women must wear a wig when they leave the house

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and that they're expected to have huge numbers of children.

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But how much of that is just hearsay?

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-I don't know whether...

-Stop filming.

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There's a lot of people looking at us and on the phone and stuff.

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OK. OK.

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OK, all right.

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Well, no-one promised you it's going to be easy.

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-That's very true.

-We said it's going to be hard.

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My translator, Alon, is a secular Jew, but knows this community well.

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Some of them see TV as the enemy.

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-Right.

-And they don't want to bring it home, because it's

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a bad influence, and many times they...

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They have experience with mostly local TV, that will criticise them.

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Yeah.

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So, they are very defensive.

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I mean, I tell you, one woman I talked to...

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she says, "Look, Alon, it's not a matter of me being nice,

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"or not being nice, or I think you're very nice.

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"But my girls could get thrown out of school if I go on TV."

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Really?!

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But other places, you know, it could mean your daughter is going

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to find it harder to find a husband,

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because she's been on TV and that's not modest.

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Many people tell me it's not modest for a woman to be on TV.

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-Don't point your finger at me!

-Kate Humble!

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A rabbi has agreed to meet me.

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Haredi people consult their rabbis about all aspects of their lives.

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So, I'm hoping that Rabbi Gellis can help me meet and talk

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to some members of this very private community.

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-Thank you.

-Shalom. Shalom.

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Thank you.

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Wow, look at your view.

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HE SPEAKS OWN LANGUAGE

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So, all these people here that live here, they're your congregation?

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So, you can keep an eye on them?

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Temple, temple.

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-Another temple here?

-Yes.

-OK.

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-OK.

-Thank you.

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I confess, I've come here with preconceptions of Haredi life.

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The first thing I think I need to check,

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because I saw the sign on the street in Mea She'arim...

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..that women should be modestly dressed.

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Am I modest enough?

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OK, so maybe if I did this?

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Whoops. Like this?

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-Is that better?

-OK.

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OK.

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Is there anything I should know if I...

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..go into a Haredi house? I mean, I noticed that you made it

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very easy for me. I shouldn't shake your hand, that's right, isn't it?

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Should I just not touch anybody?

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What are you saying?

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OK. The word Haredi, does it mean anything?

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Does it have a particular significance?

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OK.

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I'm grateful for his help, but I'm rather taken aback that Rabbi Gellis

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thinks I'm on an important holy mission.

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There are many different groups among the Haredim,

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ranging from the most zealously hostile to secular society,

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to the more outward-facing Chabad.

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We're trying to get access to a woman within this group,

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so I can get some insight into their way of life.

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Even if they agree and say their husband agrees,

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and the rabbi agrees...

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..is there a risk to them that the rest of the community

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could turn on them, even though everybody said, yes, they can do it?

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People who do it are probably in a community they know won't...

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Be that judgmental against them?

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Won't be that judgmental.

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Three people agreed and then decided at the last minute to pull out.

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So, this is the fourth time lucky, I'm hoping.

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And this is apparently one of the more relaxed Haredi communities.

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The woman I'm meeting here is Miriam,

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and I'm hoping that she's going to let us in.

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Hello?

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Miriam, thank you so much.

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-Oh, hello.

-It's lovely to meet you.

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Welcome. I'm very happy.

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This is my husband, Rabbi Haviv.

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Hello, Rabbi Haviv.

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-My name is Kate.

-Haviv.

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Haviv. Lovely to meet you.

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-Thank you so much for having us in.

-Come.

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Oh, it's lovely and cool in here.

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Oh, thanks.

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-Shall I sit here?

-Sit, yeah, yeah.

-Thank you.

-Sit here.

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Just looking at your family photographs.

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-This is...

-This is your family?

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Especially my family.

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It's an amazing family.

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How... How many members of your family are there?

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-15.

-15?

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-15 child.

-Yeah.

-Yeah.

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-You have 15?

-Yeah!

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-Miriam!

-Eight girl...

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-Yeah.

-...and seven boys.

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Oh, my goodness!

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And do you have grandchildren as well?

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Yeah. 26.

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KATE LAUGHS

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26.

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SHE SPEAKS OWN LANGUAGE

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Can I ask something?

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You look very beautiful.

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But I didn't think that young Haredi women would wear make-up.

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Yeah, because...

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And your wife is being...

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Is very generous and inviting us into the home.

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Do you feel comfortable about us being here?

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Is it OK?

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Thank you.

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Miriam has already surprised me.

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She's so open and is now whisking me off on a shopping trip

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with her daughter, Aurelia, and husband Haviv.

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Every week, Haredi families prepare for Shabbat, their holy day,

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which begins at dusk on a Friday.

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But for Miriam and her family,

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groundwork starts days before in preparation for the arrival

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of up to 40 guests.

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So you couldn't eat an eel, for example? You know...

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Yeah, an eel. What's an eel?

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-Absolutely not?

-Absolutely.

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-Absolutely.

-Good, OK.

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I'm learning!

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I'm amazed that Miriam's hoping for relaxation on kosher laws,

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and wonder how she stands on other Orthodox rules.

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And there's one quite personal question I've been

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wanting to ask her ever since we met.

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I heard that, when a Haredi woman goes away from the house...

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..she needs to wear a wig.

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And your hair is beautiful and I can't tell whether it is

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a wig or not, and I don't know whether that is true.

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And I feel very rude asking you.

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With the epic shopping trip complete,

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Haviv joins a group of men in the supermarket prayer room.

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Jewish men are meant to pray three times a day, wherever they are,

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so prayer rooms, or synagogues like this, are found throughout Israel.

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I just wanted to ask you, when we were in the supermarket,

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you went away to pray while we were shopping.

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Was it to pray that the bill wouldn't be too high?

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So, when you married Haviv...

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..was he as domesticated then as he is now?

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How long have you... ? How many years have you been married?

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37 years!

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Haviv, she's a romantic, your wife!

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THEY LAUGH

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There are strict rules to enforce Shabbat,

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the seventh day of the week, which, according to Jewish Scriptures,

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God decreed as a day of rest.

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You can't cook from Friday night to Saturday night, is that right?

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Nothing?

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Would it be OK if I came back tomorrow?

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-Of course.

-Yeah? Is that all right?

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OK.

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-That would be wonderful. Thank you.

-Thank you.

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Thank you, thank you, thank you.

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I love the relationship between Miriam and her husband.

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That's the thing, I think, that has surprised me the most.

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I thought... I don't know, I thought it would be all rather dour and,

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you know, separate and a bit severe, and not a bit of it!

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They are this sort of wonderful couple,

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there's loads of banter between them.

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She absolutely rules him with a rod of iron.

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It was just a lovely, joyful family afternoon,

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and I've never had so much fun peeling potatoes.

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We're going to be next to the old city walls now.

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-So, down there is the Church of Gethsemane.

-Mm-hm.

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And that's the Mount of Olives. Mount of Olives up there.

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That's the Mount of Olives up there.

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And this is where Jesus is believed to have walked in

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and toppled down the money changers.

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Oh, OK.

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This, the Western Wall, is the most holy place of worship for all Jews.

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After the Holocaust, the new Israeli government viewed the Haredim

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as a minority in need of protection.

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But 70 years later, they're the fastest-growing Jewish group,

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making up around 10% of the overall population.

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And as the Haredim expand, so does their political power.

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This ability to lobby the government has created increasing tension

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with Israel's secular community.

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THEY SPEAK OWN LANGUAGE

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One of the most contentious issues is conscription.

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In Israel, young people, both men and women,

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must serve up to three years in the Army.

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The Haredim were always exempt from this national service.

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Not because they are pacifists,

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but so they could devote their time to studying religious texts.

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But in 2013, the government announced it wanted

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to change the law to include Haredi men.

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CHEERING AND APPLAUSE

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The community took to the streets in protest.

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The government pushed through the law to end the exemption in 2014,

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but just a year later,

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they decided not to act on it because of Haredi pressure.

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Here in Jerusalem, it's Friday afternoon,

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just hours before the start of Shabbat.

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This is another area of conflict, with the Haredim lobbying

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for more and more areas to adhere to the laws of Shabbat.

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Everyone is rushing to get their shopping done

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before businesses and roads must shut down for the holy day.

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Did you hear anything...

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..from Miriam? Do you think there's any chance we can film Shabbat

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with them?

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Hmmm.

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I think very low chance of filming Shabbat.

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It's sort of against the rules and...

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..I think they keep the rules, religious rules, pretty strictly.

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There's not...

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So, even though we're doing the work and we're not...

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The fact that they're being filmed

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would be against the rules, you think?

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It's the fact they're being filmed and the fact they will be seen on TV

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-on Shabbat.

-Right.

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So, it will seem to people like they have maybe worked on Shabbat.

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KNOCK ON DOOR

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-Shalom.

-Shalom!

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-Shalom, Shalom.

-Wow!

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-It's beautiful!

-I bought for you to say happy Shabbat!

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So, today, across the whole of Israel,

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there will be women making this bread?

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Very, very elegant.

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-Nice wig.

-Yeah?

-Yeah. I like it.

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It's very, very nice.

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-It's very nice.

-It's different.

-It's very different.

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So, Haviv and Miriam have asked that we don't stay,

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because they feel it wouldn't be appropriate for them or their family

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to be filmed celebrating Shabbat.

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So, we're going to leave them in peace,

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to all that lovely food, which I'm now missing out on!

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There are literally minutes until sunset and the start of Shabbat.

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Self-appointed Haredi men make sure that markets traders

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close up in time.

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Not to would be a violation of religious laws.

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They will be shut for business until Shabbat ends in 24 hours' time.

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Shabbat is over for another week.

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As well as being a day of rest,

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it also seems to be a celebration of family life

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and to reinforce what is required to be a good Haredi woman -

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a mother, a provider, the pivot around which the family revolves.

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None of which is a bad thing, but it's the expectation

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that a woman wouldn't want or choose to do anything different

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that I find difficult to contemplate.

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I wonder how Miriam's daughter, Tehila, feels about

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being next in line to pursue this particular path of womanhood.

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SHE SPEAKS OWN LANGUAGE

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Is it possible for a young Haredi woman, like you, to either

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decide to get married later or even to not get married at all?

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Have you met anybody yet?

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Have you had any meetings with a potential husband yet?

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Do you sit in your bedroom like this,

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or maybe go to a friend's house and talk about, I don't know,

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what it might be like to get married?

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So, you do have, I mean, what we would call sex education?

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-ALON:

-She'd rather not answer in front of the camera.

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-That's completely fine.

-She can tell you privately.

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I completely understand, yeah. We can have a girlie chat later.

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So, can you just meet somebody and spend some time with them

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before you have to make the decision that, "Yeah, this is...

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"I'm definitely going to marry him"?

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Once you have established that you have the same aims in life,

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do you also want your future husband to be very handsome?

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Tehila's clearly given a lot of thought to her ideal husband.

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I hope, one day, she'll find him.

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When Haredi women marry, there's a whole new set of rules

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that must be addressed.

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Gali?

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-Hi.

-Hi!

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This is a shop devoted to wigs.

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-Hi, hello.

-Hello.

-I'm Kate. Lovely to meet you.

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-What's your name?

-Elisheva.

0:31:500:31:52

Elisheva. And, Elisheva, why are you at Gali's salon today?

0:31:520:31:56

SHE SPEAKS OWN LANGUAGE

0:31:560:31:58

Ah-ha. OK.

0:32:010:32:02

Very exciting.

0:32:060:32:07

It looks, Gali, very realistic.

0:32:130:32:16

Are the wigs made out of human hair, or...?

0:32:160:32:20

What are they made out of?

0:32:200:32:21

SHE SPEAKS OWN LANGUAGE

0:32:230:32:25

Does Mum think it's good?

0:32:400:32:43

I think it's very...

0:32:430:32:45

-You think it's too long?

-Yes.

-Do you?

0:32:450:32:47

Oh, look.

0:32:490:32:50

That's really beautiful.

0:32:510:32:53

So, once you're married...

0:32:560:32:57

...when do you...? When can you take off your wig?

0:32:590:33:02

When can you just show your hair?

0:33:020:33:05

Do you think, if your mother is a little worried,

0:33:220:33:25

that your husband is going to think this is too long?

0:33:250:33:28

What do you think?

0:33:290:33:30

-It's not a lot longer than your own hair, is it?

-No.

0:33:450:33:48

No. So...

0:33:480:33:50

I think that's a safe argument.

0:33:500:33:51

You can have your first argument with your husband.

0:33:510:33:54

"It's the same length as my hair.

0:33:540:33:56

"That means I can keep it!"

0:33:560:33:57

-ALON:

-Do you want a wig?

0:34:020:34:03

Me?

0:34:030:34:05

I don't...! Ooh!

0:34:220:34:25

OK, I'm getting your style wig.

0:34:250:34:26

Oh, I quite... Oh, I quite like this!

0:34:260:34:29

I don't feel very modest, I have to say.

0:34:290:34:31

Ooh, I feel a bit rock star!

0:34:320:34:35

Oh, I've got an ABBA flick.

0:34:350:34:37

That's... I...

0:34:370:34:39

I've wanted one of those since I was eight.

0:34:390:34:41

That's fantastic.

0:34:430:34:45

This is good!

0:34:490:34:50

Thank you.

0:34:520:34:53

I feel suddenly like someone's put the air conditioning on.

0:34:530:34:56

While wig length might be in dispute,

0:35:040:35:07

one thing is certain across the Haredim -

0:35:070:35:10

once married, it's important to have lots of babies.

0:35:100:35:14

Through Rabbi Gellis, we've managed to secure a meeting with Malkit,

0:35:200:35:24

a woman who struggled to conceive.

0:35:240:35:27

-Hi!

-Shalom.

-Shalom.

0:35:270:35:29

How are you? Lovely to see you.

0:35:290:35:31

Thank you so much for inviting me around.

0:35:310:35:34

Who are these people down here?

0:35:340:35:37

Can I come and meet your family?

0:35:370:35:39

-Hello, girls.

-Shalom.

0:35:390:35:41

Shalom. Oh, what are you doing down here?

0:35:410:35:44

Let's have a look.

0:35:440:35:46

So, you have four boys.

0:35:460:35:48

Five girls.

0:35:500:35:51

Nine children.

0:35:510:35:52

SHE SPEAKS OWN LANGUAGE

0:35:520:35:55

So, were you very worried that maybe you couldn't have children?

0:35:590:36:03

Malkit had her twins and quadruplets through fertility treatment.

0:36:160:36:20

Are you allowed to make a decision not to have any more children?

0:36:400:36:45

Are you allowed to use contraception, for example?

0:36:450:36:48

Do you plan to have any more children?

0:36:560:36:58

But I'm wondering how a family like Malkit's copes

0:37:070:37:09

with the expense of so many children.

0:37:090:37:11

Does your husband work?

0:37:200:37:22

So, does what he earns support all of you and all of the children?

0:37:410:37:47

-I'm a teacher.

-You're a teacher.

0:37:470:37:49

-Special children.

-Mm-hm.

0:37:530:37:55

The Haredim have always received state benefits,

0:38:010:38:04

including subsidies allowing men to pursue religious study.

0:38:040:38:08

But as the population continues to grow, the government is making cuts.

0:38:080:38:13

In 2013, it reduced child benefit,

0:38:130:38:17

which has really hit the Haredim's large families.

0:38:170:38:20

Nearly 50% of Haredim live below the poverty line,

0:38:220:38:26

so many more women are going out to work.

0:38:260:38:29

Clearly, the women who work...

0:38:310:38:33

..bring in some money, but if you are...

0:38:340:38:38

a part-time teacher, or even a full-time teacher,

0:38:380:38:42

in a Haredi school, I can't imagine that the salary is enormous.

0:38:420:38:47

Yeah, but now they are, I think,

0:38:470:38:50

the work market is opening up for Haredi women tremendously.

0:38:500:38:55

And a lot of them work in hi-tech.

0:38:550:38:57

They even have sort of special hi-tech facilities,

0:38:570:39:03

where only Haredi women work.

0:39:030:39:05

-OK.

-So they don't have to mix with other people.

0:39:050:39:08

Is there any state income they get?

0:39:080:39:10

Some money from the government for learning...

0:39:100:39:13

-..the Torah, so there is some allowance.

-OK.

0:39:140:39:16

And it is that unique to the Haredi?

0:39:160:39:18

Does any other religion or any other people in Israel get money

0:39:180:39:24

from the government, simply for studying?

0:39:240:39:27

Not that I know of.

0:39:300:39:31

While half of all Haredi men continue with their studies

0:39:340:39:37

well into adulthood, it's left to the women to go out to work,

0:39:370:39:43

and Miriam is no exception.

0:39:430:39:44

Teaching is a popular career choice.

0:39:460:39:48

Girls and boys are taught in separate classrooms

0:39:480:39:51

from the age of three.

0:39:510:39:53

Surprisingly, Miriam teaches boys.

0:39:530:39:55

The focus is on reciting religious texts.

0:40:000:40:03

THEY SPEAK OWN LANGUAGE

0:40:030:40:05

Why is it important for children to be taught separately?

0:40:150:40:19

When you say that boys and girls are taught slightly different things,

0:40:290:40:34

would girls learn sort of other subjects, other than the Torah?

0:40:340:40:40

According to state law, boys are meant to study up to 11 hours a week

0:41:050:41:10

of maths, literacy and science.

0:41:100:41:12

In 2014, the government cut funding for schools

0:41:140:41:18

that didn't adhere to this.

0:41:180:41:20

But, once again, under pressure from the Haredim,

0:41:200:41:23

the law was overturned in 2016.

0:41:230:41:27

Haredi men's education is intellectually demanding,

0:41:270:41:31

but entirely focused around the discussion of Jewish text.

0:41:310:41:35

Unsurprisingly, few young men qualify for secular universities.

0:41:350:41:39

This is a real eye-opener.

0:41:560:41:58

Boys, it seems, have much less of a choice in education than girls.

0:41:580:42:03

With a broader, more secular education,

0:42:050:42:08

women have more employment opportunities.

0:42:080:42:11

In fact, up to 75% of Haredi women are in paid work.

0:42:110:42:16

I'm slightly in awe of these women,

0:42:200:42:22

how they juggle being the main breadwinner

0:42:220:42:24

and raise enormous families.

0:42:240:42:27

It's very impressive.

0:42:270:42:28

But it's been so difficult to speak to anyone about the negative aspects

0:42:360:42:41

of this very prescriptive culture.

0:42:410:42:43

So I've come to an organisation called Hillel in nearby Tel Aviv.

0:42:450:42:49

-Hello!

-I'm Kate. Are you Aviva?

-Aviva.

-It's lovely to meet you.

0:42:490:42:53

Every year, one in ten women leave the Haredi way of life.

0:42:530:42:58

This charity offers them support.

0:42:580:43:01

Shall I come here? Hi, ladies.

0:43:010:43:02

-Hello. Sorry, I'm a little bit late. ALL:

-Hi!

-Hi!

0:43:020:43:06

So, have all of you left a religious community?

0:43:060:43:11

-Yes.

-All of you?

0:43:130:43:14

SHE SPEAKS OWN LANGUAGE

0:43:140:43:16

And you're all nodding.

0:43:310:43:32

Is that your...? Did you all feel that?

0:43:320:43:35

The girl's supposed to take care of the house and the children,

0:43:350:43:39

the boys and adults.

0:43:390:43:41

We have eight boys and they're like kings.

0:43:410:43:44

They never do anything.

0:43:440:43:46

-Everyone agree with me.

-Is that true?

0:43:460:43:49

SHE SPEAKS OWN LANGUAGE

0:43:490:43:51

Did you...? This is a very personal question.

0:44:090:44:11

I'm sorry, cos we've only just met.

0:44:110:44:13

Do you feel able to tell me what it was about the marriage

0:44:130:44:19

to your husband that made your life so difficult?

0:44:190:44:22

Wow.

0:45:240:45:26

Aviva's ex-husband has denied her allegations.

0:45:500:45:53

For legal reasons, I can't tell you so many things the women shared

0:45:560:45:59

with me, but they left me shocked and horrified.

0:45:590:46:03

My head...

0:46:080:46:09

..is just spinning. I don't...

0:46:110:46:12

I can't quite believe some of those stories that I heard tonight.

0:46:140:46:18

I have... I don't think I've ever been so...

0:46:180:46:22

..moved, shocked, inspired by a group of women, ever.

0:46:230:46:27

The strength of them, the...

0:46:290:46:32

dignity of them...

0:46:320:46:33

..it's just... It's just...

0:46:360:46:38

..incomprehensible what they've been through.

0:46:400:46:43

If a Haredim person rejects their faith,

0:46:440:46:47

it seems it's tantamount to a rejection of their whole identity.

0:46:470:46:52

But my goodness, I have never, ever felt so grateful

0:46:520:46:56

to have grown up the way that I did.

0:46:560:46:58

The charity I visited is viewed with suspicion by many

0:47:090:47:12

in the Haredi community, but I feel my relationship with Miriam

0:47:120:47:17

is strong enough now to get her take on what happens to people

0:47:170:47:21

who come into conflict with their faith.

0:47:210:47:23

What happens if somebody, whether they're a child or even as an adult,

0:47:240:47:30

somebody starts to question their faith?

0:47:300:47:35

Is it possible for...

0:48:200:48:21

..for Haredi couples to divorce if that's the last resort?

0:48:230:48:26

And is there any stigma attached to either a person who's got divorced,

0:48:470:48:53

or the family of the person who's got divorced?

0:48:530:48:56

I don't want to be too confrontational with Miriam.

0:49:100:49:12

I don't want to jeopardise our relationship,

0:49:120:49:14

and I certainly don't want to be disrespectful towards her

0:49:140:49:17

in any way.

0:49:170:49:20

But I did find that frustrating.

0:49:200:49:23

I just felt she was really evading the kind of true meaning

0:49:230:49:27

of my questions and just sort of wriggling round them.

0:49:270:49:31

She would acknowledge that, yes,

0:49:310:49:33

there are problems within the community sometimes.

0:49:330:49:37

But there was always a kind of happy solution to those problems.

0:49:370:49:42

And I know, I've seen evidence, that that's not true.

0:49:420:49:46

This has been one of the hardest communities to access

0:49:480:49:51

that I've ever encountered.

0:49:510:49:53

Clearly, there are so many differences between the way

0:49:530:49:56

Miriam sees her life and the experiences of the women

0:49:560:50:00

who've left the community.

0:50:000:50:01

Before I leave Israel, I'm hoping to get one more perspective.

0:50:070:50:11

We've made contact with a Haredi radio station,

0:50:210:50:24

where one of their presenters has a daily phone-in show.

0:50:240:50:28

SHE SPEAKS OWN LANGUAGE

0:50:280:50:31

-Are you on air? No, it's OK.

-It's OK.

0:50:460:50:49

Thanks, Rachel. Lovely to meet you.

0:50:490:50:50

Lovely to meet you, too.

0:50:500:50:52

I'm Rachel.

0:50:520:50:54

Rachel!

0:50:540:50:55

I didn't think a Haredi woman would even be allowed to be a broadcaster.

0:50:570:51:01

Does your husband approve of your profession?

0:51:010:51:06

Did you have to ask his permission to do the job that you do?

0:51:060:51:10

Have you been through something very emotional and difficult

0:51:160:51:20

in your life that makes you feel an empathy with the women

0:51:200:51:24

that you talk to?

0:51:240:51:25

It has been implied to me that there is violence against women.

0:51:500:51:57

Is it a big problem in Haredi society?

0:51:570:52:00

Is there abuse against women?

0:52:010:52:03

I understand that there are things that can't be seen or spoken

0:52:310:52:37

by Haredi people. Can you just tell me what those things are?

0:52:370:52:41

The one thing I've heard - again, it may not be true -

0:52:540:52:58

but that Kate Middleton is something of a Haredi...

0:52:580:53:02

..icon for Haredi women.

0:53:040:53:06

How do they even know about her if they've never seen an image

0:53:070:53:11

-of a woman?

-OK...

0:53:110:53:13

That's wonderful.

0:54:030:54:04

I would never, ever, ever have expected any Haredi woman

0:54:220:54:29

to be like that.

0:54:290:54:30

There's a lot. There is a lot like that.

0:54:320:54:34

You know, not exactly like that, but...

0:54:360:54:38

There's a lot of more modern Haredi women.

0:54:400:54:43

You know, her comment when she said,

0:54:430:54:46

"If I had to ask my husband's permission,

0:54:460:54:48

-"I wouldn't have married him."

-Yeah.

-That's...

0:54:480:54:51

That seems like a really big deal to me,

0:54:510:54:53

a big thing from an Haredi point of view.

0:54:530:54:56

During my time in Israel, I've discovered that the

0:55:030:55:06

Haredi community is full of contradictions.

0:55:060:55:09

Rachel manages to get glimpses of Kate Middleton...

0:55:140:55:16

..and Miriam is happy to be filmed promoting her religious beliefs.

0:55:180:55:23

Clearly, there are tensions when an age-old religion

0:55:250:55:28

brushes up against the modern world.

0:55:280:55:31

Rabbis guided by ancient books have the final word

0:55:320:55:35

on life's most intimate decisions, from birth control to divorce.

0:55:350:55:40

I've met women who could no longer live by the book, and those,

0:55:410:55:46

like Miriam, who want to tell the world all about it.

0:55:460:55:49

Shalom!

0:55:490:55:51

Hello!

0:55:510:55:52

So, Miriam...

0:55:550:55:56

..I can't believe how generous you have been with your time.

0:55:570:56:02

Have you had anyone, any of your friends saying,

0:56:030:56:06

"Miriam, you're mad!

0:56:060:56:08

"What are you doing letting these people into your house?"

0:56:080:56:11

Well, will you please let me know if your daughters let you down, ever,

0:56:250:56:30

with preparing food for Shabbat, and you need somebody

0:56:300:56:33

to peel potatoes, just call me! I'll be here!

0:56:330:56:35

Miriam!

0:56:440:56:45

Thank you, thank you, thank you.

0:56:470:56:49

I think many of us think, as Western women, that we kind of have it all.

0:56:520:56:56

We have the ability to have careers, to have great education,

0:56:560:57:00

to choose whether we have children, to get married.

0:57:000:57:03

We can be gay or straight, we can even choose our gender,

0:57:040:57:08

and it's not going to shock anybody any more.

0:57:080:57:10

But are we happier for all that choice?

0:57:120:57:15

We may not all choose to live by a strict set of rules,

0:57:170:57:21

governed by ancient laws, and may even think they're wrong.

0:57:210:57:26

All I know is that,

0:57:260:57:27

wrapped up with all those choices comes an awful lot of angst,

0:57:270:57:35

comes identity crises, comes insecurities,

0:57:350:57:40

comes desperate unhappiness.

0:57:400:57:42

Who's to say that living a life that is structured from day one,

0:57:440:57:50

laid out for you right from the start,

0:57:500:57:53

maybe that's something that we in the West would envy?

0:57:530:57:56

-Hello.

-Hi!

0:57:580:58:00

Next time, I'm in India, with the matrilineal Khasi people.

0:58:010:58:06

So, if you need money, do you have to ask Shitoah for that money?

0:58:060:58:10

HE SPEAKS OWN LANGUAGE

0:58:100:58:12

A community that puts women at the forefront of society.

0:58:140:58:18

SHE SPEAKS OWN LANGUAGE

0:58:180:58:20

But how are they coping as the modern world encroaches

0:58:230:58:26

on their very traditional way of life?

0:58:260:58:29

Gosh, that's quite a chink in your

0:58:290:58:31

matrilineal utopian system, isn't it?

0:58:310:58:34

Yes, not so utopian.

0:58:340:58:35

Kate Humble travels to three countries - Kenya, Israel and India - where the roles of women are exceptional, complex and sometimes extreme.

In the second episode, Kate tries to access the intensely private ultra-Orthodox Haredim in Jerusalem. After the Holocaust during World War II, the State of Israel was created to offer sanctuary to the survivors and somewhere where the few remaining Haredim could practice their religious studies freely. Kate knows very little about this community, so she begins in a Haredi area of Jerusalem called Mea She'arim. The Haredim reject media intrusion, but after months of attempts to access the community by the production team, a Rabbi has agreed to meet Kate. He gives her vital advice about how she should conduct herself and insight into the society's values including modesty for women.

Finally, a woman agrees to open the doors to her home so Kate can learn about her day-to-day life. Miriam and her husband Haviv are part of the more outward-facing Habad group of the Haredim. They have 15 children and 26 grandchildren - having a large family is one of the key roles a Haredi woman must aim to fulfil. They invite Kate to join them in preparation for their holy day of Shabbat. During a supermarket shop to prepare for a meal of up to 40 guests, Kate learns that there are strict rules to enforce Shabbat, a day of rest, which begins at dusk every Friday.

Kate and Miriam also discuss how women must cover their heads with wigs or scarfs once they are married. Back at home, Kate helps the family prepare the meal until she and the crew must leave so the family can celebrate in private. No work is allowed during Shabbat, so businesses, restaurants, markets and roads in Haredim areas must all shut for 24 hours.

Women are expected to marry and bear large families, so Kate speaks to one of Miriam's daughters about the rules around how to find a husband. Once married, there's another set of rules to adhere to, including wearing a wig to cover their natural hair, so Kate visits a specialist wig shop to chat with a girl who's having a fitting before her impending wedding. She also meets a married woman who has undergone fertility treatment in order to have children.

The Haredim population is growing fast and as their numbers expand so does their lobbying power, which has created tension with Israel's secular community. The Haredim have always received state benefits, including subsidies allowing men to pursue religious studies. However, some benefits, including child benefit, are being reduced, which is hitting the community hard. It's said that 58% of Haredim live below the poverty line and many more women must go out to work.

Kate accompanies Miriam to her job as a schoolteacher. Girls and boys are taught separately from the age of three, with boys' focus being on the study of religious texts. Kate is surprised to learn that with a more general secular education, women do have greater employment opportunities. In fact, twice as many Haredi women are in paid work compared to men. Kate admires how these women juggle being the main bread winners and raising enormous families.

Miriam has been very generous with her time but Kate is frustrated at not being able to discuss the more negative aspects of living in what she sees as a very prescriptive culture. In nearby Tel Aviv, she visits an organisation called Hillel, which offers support to women who leave the Haredi way of life. She hears distressing stories of abuse and speaks to a women who, having left the community, is banned from seeing her children. This has been one of the hardest communities to access that Kate has ever encountered. Before she leaves, she manages to secure one final meeting with a woman whose experience perhaps bridges the gap between Miriam who promotes her way of life at every turn and those women at Hillel who have chosen to leave the community. Surprisingly, Rachel is a radio broadcaster, who claims Kate Middleton as her role model.


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