It was reported last week that a group called “Council for the Purity of the Camp” in Israel arranged for men-only driving lessons in Israel, thus sparing Chareidim from having to take driving classes with immodestly clad (secular) women. I personally don't have a problem with that. If they want to take segregated classes, that's fine and well. However, there was an interesting coda to the article:
[Rabbi Yitzchok] Ayneh Also told the Jpost that there was no need for a special women-only course since “Chareidi women are not supposed to drive.”
“In America it is accepted that Chareidi women drive. But in many communities here in the Holy Land, if a woman drives her husband is kicked out of the synagogue.”Over on Yeshiva World, the discussion pretty much ignored the idea of sex-segregated classes (which was the point of the article) and focused on the last point. One commentator suggested that banning women from driving was a "beutiful (sic) hidur of tzinius" and should be emulated. When pressed for some halachic justification for banning women from driving, he came up with this:
the chazon ish who said that a car is a keli ish and that therefore women should not be driving it.
Now, I don't know if the commentator is correct. I don't know if the Chazon Ish really made such a ruling or if it really serves as the justification in those communities today. However, *if it does*, it provides a great example to my "frozen in time" point.
The Chazon Ish died in 1953. The world is 1953 (which was 55 years ago) was a much different place than it is today. Back then, cars were much more expensive (relative to the yearly earnings of an individual) and *very few* families had more than one car*. Because of the nature of the society in which we live, most often it was the man of the family who drove the car. As a result, there was little need for most women to learn to drive. Consequently, the number of female drivers was very low compared to the number of male drivers. That being the realia of the situation, the case could be made that a car was a k'li ish.
However, that is not the world that we live in today. Today many families own two (or more) cars. Today, many more women drive -- even with their husbands sitting next to them in the passenger seat. One would be hard pressed to make the case today that a car is exclusively (or even predominantly) a k'li ish. That's just not the society that we live in. Today, cars are driven in large numbers by women and, in fact, cars are *specifically marketed* to women. The world has changed -- but yet certain sectors of our community still seem to be frozen in time.**
* The same could be said of many products. Remember the line in Back To The Future when Marty tells his mother and grandfather that he has three televisions in his house? His grandfather thinks he's kidding because no one had more then one back in 1955.
** What's even odder is that given the fact that these same communities accept nishtanu hat'vaim (that nature has changed) to explain discrepancies between Chazal's science and ours, you'd think they'd be open to the idea of society and the world around them changing.