I’ll admit it: I’m afraid of the F-word. Not the one of the four-letter variety, but the one that’s tied to lipstick and mini skirts and the bra-burning of my mother’s generation. Feminism is one of those terms that raises the hairs on the back of my neck, just like spirituality, despite the fact that I believe in what each stands for. There’s just something scary about being labeled a feminist, like I might have to torch my collection of high heels or some other scary things.

That said, there are times when I’m willing to risk being labeled as such in order to express frustration with the way things work. A story put out by the JTA today falls into that category. According to the article, four women who have been serving in the Israel Defense Forces for the last two years have been asked to leave their posts in the Artillery Corps’ Battallion 55 to allow male yeshiva students to join. Because these men, Haredim, will not serve alongside women for religious reasons relating mostly to modesty concerns, the IDF has made allowances for them and is kicking the women out of the unit instead of putting the men in their own unit where no women have to be displaced. In short, these women are not being asked to leave their positions because their performance is unsatisfactory, but instead are being pushed around simply because they are female.

The women, who are serving three years instead of the required two for females in the IDF, called this order “humiliating and painful,” according to the JTA article. That’s putting it lightly, frankly. It’s outrageous. No woman should ever be forced out of her current position, regardless of what new opportunity is being offered to her instead, just because a man, religious or otherwise, is coming in. And it’s not just about male vs. female. Since when are accommodations made for newcomers by completely alienating those who have already settled into their positions, whether military or civilian? As MK Rachel Adatto said in an article in the Jerusalem post, “Women should not suffer so Haredim can enlist. Haredi soldiers can serve in their own units.”

I’m the first one to say various religious beliefs should be accepted and accommodated as much as possible across the board, so long as they don’t disrupt the sense of harmony within the organization. So I’m not saying the Haredi soldiers should be discriminated against or forced into positions that go against their religious beliefs. However, the whole matter comes down to a question of the greatest possible good for the greatest number of people. Can the Haredi serve in their own unit, or another one that doesn’t include women? Yes. Would their experience there be any different than it would in this unit from which the women are being extricated? No. Could the women therefore remain in their current positions without bothering anybody? Yes.

I don’t see how this is even in question. Nobody, regardless of gender identity, sexual orientation, religious belief, economic status or other factor should be displaced just because someone new is coming in and refuses to be around such a person. It’s like allowing a company to fire all of its homosexual employees just because a homophobe joined the staff. No matter who it is doing the displacing or being displaced, it’s simply not okay.

For further reading on the subject, check out this article in Arutz Sheva.

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I am officially a summertime resident of Long Beach Island as of 11 o’clock this morning! Getting back into the swing of life on the Island and as a professional reporter was a shockingly seamless transition this year, and I got a lot accomplished today–including, oddly enough, driving past a professor from school who was taking a run on the Boulevard.

Driving to work this morning, I was faced with the giant sign outside of the Surf City Police Department building, warning motorists of the new law requiring all vehicles to stop, not yield, for pedestrians crossing at intersections. It was chilling and a little bit surreal to see this active implementation of the law that was passed, in large part, due to the tragic death of my friend and colleague, Casey Feldman. Putting on my journalist hat like Casey would have wanted me to, I jumped on the opportunity to cover this law’s implementation as the pedestrian population of the Island balloons in anticipation of the upcoming holiday weekend.

My first round of research: a drive of the Island from end to end. Seeing so many pedestrian crosswalk signs diligently dispersed along the Boulevard in Surf City, I was curious how many signs lined the 18 miles of roadway down the center of the Island. From the northern-most point to the southern-most point, I counted 67 signs alerting motorists to pedestrian crossings (so I assume a total of 134 line the streets in both directions), as well as two flashing LED signs warning drivers of the new law and six life-sized wooden signs explaining the law and its penalties.

On first glance, this looks like a job well done. After all, if the signs were all distributed equally across the Island, it would work out to about one sign every quarter mile. Not so. Though I didn’t break down my mental tally by township, I think it’s fair to say at least 80 percent of these signs showed up in Surf City and Harvey Cedars. Surf City definitely wins for most diligent enforcement: every single intersection on the Boulevard in the township has a crosswalk, and every crosswalk has a bright yellow sign alerting motorists to the possibility that a pedestrian could be crossing. Maybe it’s a little bit of overkill, but it’s consistent. And certainly, in an issue that could very well boil down to life or death, it’s better to be over-signed than under-protected. Though Harvey Cedars doesn’t have a sign on every intersection, there are a healthy distribution of crosswalk street signs. Beach Haven? I counted three. Most of Long Beach Township doesn’t even have crosswalks, let alone signs alerting drivers to their existence. The same goes for Ship Bottom.

Perhaps if Surf City hadn’t done such a diligent job, and perhaps if Surf City wasn’t the first full town a north-bound driver passes through, the other towns’ failings wouldn’t be as apparent. As it stands, however, this “new law” passed on April 1, and tomorrow, nearly two full months later, the population of the Island is going to surge with non-New Jersey natives and many people not used to being pedestrians–or driving in a place with hundreds of people shuttling on foot between oceanside and bayside. Both pedestrians and motorists are going to need all the reminders they can get to have a safe Memorial Day weekend, and it seems as though only those living in the .7 square miles of Surf City are going to be fully prepared.

For those still unaware of the new law, those motorists failing to stop fully for pedestrians crossing at an intersection are subject to fines of $200, insurance surcharges and two points on their licenses. It’s not worth the risk–just stop. After all, you’re at the beach: what’s the hurry?

Image courtesy of Oradell Police.

For the record, the fine for jaywalking is $54.

Perhaps the most important lesson I learned as a reporter on the Jersey shore last summer was not to wear stilettos on the day my assignment was to scope out beaches. You might think a city girl like me would know by now to always always always carry a second pair of shoes, especially when I have a car at my disposal, but the motivation for showing off the kicks invariably beats practicality.

Next week, I will begin my second season as a newspaper writer on Long Beach Island. I have a lot to learn this summer–like, for instance, whether I really do want to become a professional journalist. As my soon-to-be newly-minted Fordham University alumni friends scatter across the country in pursuit of even higher education or exciting new professions, I’m left in anticipation of my final year in college, anxious to prepare graduate school applications, job applications, and even rental applications. The biggest problem? Some of journalist’s most frequently asked questions: for what, where and how?

These questions, however, are months from being answered. For now, I have more pressing concerns. Like how to dress for the shore after nine months of traipsing the concrete of Manhattan, or what to cross off my list of summertime goals first. Though I’m no stranger to blogging, working for Jewcy Magazine and serving as the editor of The Observatory, it has indeed been a long time since I’ve regularly updated a personal blog. I was inspired by friend, classmate and colleague Mathew Rodriguez, who recently launched Love, Loss and What I Read in an effort to chronicle his self-transformative journey this summer, to do a little of the same. I, too, have literary goals–to read twenty books of poetry and twelve novels–but I have a few other intentions, too. Some are dorky–dorkier than admitting to owning more than twenty books of poetry, I promise–like doing enough crocheting to liquidate some of my bottomless yarn stash, while others are just a little more academic, like breaking a 1400 on the GRE in anticipation of looming Ivy League graduate school applications.

Beyond the corporeal and quantifiable goals, however, I’m looking for more this summer. I’m eliminating the crutch of “hopefully” from my vocabulary, as a mentor once advised me, and I’m going to live this life I have now, forgoing the awful process of feeling like each stage in life is merely the waiting room for or corridor to the next.

“I waited for my life to start
for years, standing at bus stops
looking into the curved distance
thinking each bus was the wrong bus;”
–from “Waiting for My Life” by Linda Pastan

I have no idea where I’ll end up, building sandcastles in stilettos and sorting my life out one book of poetry, ball of yarn and article on deadline at a time, but I hope you’ll stay along for the ride.

Begin at the Beginning

“With that one leaf twittering / Now darkly, now luminously”