Barbra Streisand touched a sensitive issue at a ceremony held at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem on Monday, June 17. The 71-year-old singer and actress took aim at Orthodox Jews' treatment to women at the ceremony in which she was awarded an honorary doctorate in philosophy.
"It's distressing to read about women in Israel being forced to sit in the back of a bus or...having metal chairs hurled at them when they intend to peacefully and legally pray. Or women being banned from singing in public ceremonies," Streisand said, as quoted by Reuters.
The singer, who was born in a Jewish family, referred to incidents in which ultra-orthodox men forced women to sit separately and a more serious conflict in which men tried to prevent women wearing prayer shawls and holding Torah scrolls from praying at the Western Wall in Jerusalem. The Western Wall is the holiest pray where Jews can worship. Traditionally, only men are allowed to wear prayer shawl and handle Torah scrolls.
In her speech, Streisand also praised the university for a record number of female Ph.D graduates this year, CBS News reported. It was the first time female students made up the majority of the degree's graduates. The multi-talented singer, who collaborated with Celine Dion in 1997's song "Tell Him", stressed the need to promote gender equality in the country.
"I know that solutions don't come easy. And they don't in the United States, where women are still making 80 cents for every dollar that a man makes," said the singer, who was scheduled to perform at two concerts and attend Israeli president Shimon Peres' 90th birthday during her visit in the Middle-East.