Following several years of active opposition to gender-separate sidewalks on Mea
She’arim Street during the Succot holiday, Jerusalem Police said this week that
they are satisfied with the arrangements for the busy thoroughfare this
In recent years, haredi communal leaders and hassidic yeshivas
along Mea She’arim arranged for stretches of the road to be divided into
separate sections for men and women during Succot to prevent intermingling –
particularly during the evening, when traditional Simhat Beit Hashoeva parties
are staged and thousands of people throng the neighborhood.
high barriers covered with cloth were used to divide the men from the women,
while private stewards directed genders to the appropriate part of the
However, the High Court of Justice previously ruled that such
arrangements are illegal and last October insisted that the police prevent
gender-separation from 2012 onwards.
This year, a barrier without a cloth
cover is erected every night along one sidewalk, during the evening hours only,
from the corner of Mea She’arim and Shivtei Yisrael streets down the
approximately 20 meters of Mea She’arim Street which runs in front of the Toldos
Stewards have not been present.
Ahead of this
year’s holiday, haredi community leaders agreed with representatives of the
police and Jerusalem Municipality that a fence would be set up to preserve order
during the Simhat Beit Hashoeva festivities, but that segregation would not be
Jerusalem deputy police spokeswoman Shlomit Bajshi told The
Jerusalem Post on Tuesday that all of the yeshivot along Mea She’arim, including
that of the ultra-conservative Toldos Aharon Hassidim, are upholding the
conditions required by the High Court of Justice last year.
Israel secularist movement, which has lobbied strenuously for the
gender-separation arrangements to be banned, said that the situation has
improved, but that the movement still believed that such separation is being
Free Israel director Mickey Gitzin said that the High Court
ruling called for no barriers at all and that the ruling should be adhered
Asked whether his organization would take further action, Gitzin said
that Free Israel would keep working with city council members and would see how
the mayor wants to deal with the issue.
Shmuel Pappenheim, a prominent
member of the haredi community and a Toldos Aharon hassid, said that the
community did not want fights and confrontation, but added that they
nevertheless objected to “outside interference.”
“We’d prefer it if the
High Court and the secular activists didn’t interfere with the way we want to
live. We don’t want their values because ours our stronger and higher,” he
Speaking to the Post outside the Toldos Aharon yeshiva on Wednesday
a hassid from the school, Haim, said that his community was “in favor of
holiness” and that they should be allowed to erect the separation barriers if
they so wished.
“Why do they care what happens here?” he asked. “We don’t
interfere with them where they live, and this is what our community wants to
do.” On Monday night, between 15 and 20 members of Free Israel went to Mea
She’arim to check if the High Court ruling was being enforced, the movement
According to Gitzin, police insisted that the whole group not walk
down the road and arranged for two Free Israel activists to accompany two police
officers along with a Yediot Aharonot photographer and a journalist from Channel
When they arrived in front of the Toldos Aharon yeshiva, stones were
thrown apparently by extremist haredi men protesting the visit.
the stones struck Yediot photographer Ata Asivat in the head. He was taken to
Hadassah University Medical Center in Ein Kerem with light injuries and remained
there overnight for observation. A policeman was also lightly injured in the
affray, but no arrests were made.
Deputy Mayor Yossi Deitsch of the
haredi United Torah Judaism party condemned the incident calling it “a
desecration of God’s name.”
“This is not the way of the Torah,” he told
“We’re talking about extremists who threw stones, but the
people of Toldos Aharon have complied with all agreements.”
that the entry of the Free Israel activists into the neighborhood was “an
Melanie Lidman contributed to this report.