The Jerusalem Post today reports on Israel's "Murky Waters" (a rather distasteful headline for a report on why an Orthodox feminist group urges wives to stop sex with their husbands unless state-employees at their ritual mikve purification baths get back pay.)
According to Jewish law, a woman must immerse herself in a mikve after menstruation before she can have sexual relations with her husband. Abstaining from going to the mikve is tantamount to abstinence from sex.
Attorney Batia Kahana-Dror, a leading member of Kolech, a feminist Orthodox organization, sent out a "no pay, no sex" message in an opinion piece on the organization's Web site this week calling on women to stop going to the mikve in protest against delays in paying salaries to hundreds of mikve attendants.
"Let's drive them crazy, all those who wait restlessly for the night that their woman to go to the mikve. All those who make up the majority in the religious councils, the Treasury, the Religious Services Ministry and the Knesset, the rabbis and the leaders. Stop. No more sex. Let's face it, no one is going to die from it."
However, rabbis and the mikve attendants said that it was forbidden by Jewish law for a married couple to refrain from sex as a means of protest....opponents of the call for celibacy said it was inappropriate and immodest for women to publicize the fact that they were not going to the mikve.
A mikve attendant in Jerusalem who preferred to remain anonymous said she had not been paid for two months. Nevertheless, she said she opposed striking in protest.
"We do sacred work and it cannot be interrupted," the attendant said."If we were to strike some of these women would be with their husbands without going to the mikve. I can't have that on my conscience.
...there are at least 400 mikve attendants and pensioners in Jerusalem who have not been paid for two to three months.Cash-strapped municipalities regularly default on their payments to the religious councils, which receive 40 percent of their budgets from the Religious Services Ministry and 60% from the local government.
As a result, mikve attendants, rabbis, kosher supervisors and clerks have suffered chronic salary payment delays. Kahana-Dror is hopeful that promises to pay salaries before Pessah will be honoured.
"But if attendants don't get paid, I'm not going to the mikve. And don't ask me what my husband thinks about that."
In the mikve's chest high water, a woman immerses until water covers every last hair and then recites the blessing after she emerges. An attendant watches carefully to ensure that each immersion is complete according to Halacha (Jewish law). She pronounces each immersion "Kosher", and a woman departs renewed and purified ritually, ready for marital relations.