Court: Haredim cannot hold gender-segregated musical event in public park

Gafni says decision fits with destruction theme of Tisha Be’av

Hassidic Jews arrive at a mass gathering in Brooklyn (photo credit: REUTERS)
Hassidic Jews arrive at a mass gathering in Brooklyn
(photo credit: REUTERS)
The Nazareth District Court ruled on Sunday that the haredi (ultra-Orthodox) community may not hold a gender-segregated musical event at a public park in Afula.
While the Afula municipality had supported the haredi event featuring vocalist Motti Steinmetz, saying that out of hundreds of public events, they were entitled to hold one event according to their customs, it said it would respect the court’s ruling.
The decision does not mean that haredim cannot hold the August 14 musical event in which those males and females who want to sit separately could choose to. Rather, it means that the event organizers cannot force non-haredim attending the event or passing through to observe the gender-segregated measures that haredim might impose on themselves.
Along those lines, the court wrote that organizers and police must ensure that no forced gender segregation occurs as well as prevent the posting of signs which might pressure non-haredi attendees to sit in a gender-segregated manner. Furthermore, the court said that police would be expected to aggressively pursue any complaints of gender segregation.
The court ordered the city of Afula to pay NIS 5,000 in legal fees to local feminist activist Noga Sharon and the Israel Women’s Network NGO, who sued the city for sponsoring the event.
Following the ruling, the intended featured performer reportedly canceled his performance.
Senior United Torah Judaism MK Moshe Gafni described the ruling as “evil” and “appropriate for Tisha Be’av, the day of the destruction, and it will cause many people and youth not to participate in the event.” He also called on anyone going to the event to voluntarily separate along gender lines.
Transportation Minister and senior United Right member Bezalel Smotrich called the court system “stupid” following the decision. “I am sorry that, despite my senior position, I did not find a more delicate word,” he said on Twitter. “Progressive, fundamental stupidity,” he said.
Smotrich later tweeted: “And the fool judge [who made the decision] has a name and photo: Yonatan Avraham,” he wrote, including a photo of the judge. “And there’s [deputy to the attorney-general] Dina Zilber, who has led the madness in the Justice Ministry in the past few years, and [Attorney-General] Avichai Mandelblit, who knows that he is acting against the law, but he is afraid to deal with her [Zilber] and with pro-women organizations... The public should know the truth,” he wrote.
Smotrich then called on all religious parties to tell Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu that they are joining a coalition only on condition that legislation is passed which would allow gender-separate publicly-funded events, “to put an end to secular coercion and to allow the religious community to live according to its beliefs.”
Democratic Union co-chairwoman Stav Shaffir in return blasted Smotrich’s comments, saying that “he and his messianic ideology spell destruction for the legal and justice system,” and that Netanyahu was giving the religious parties control of the state “in return for the greatest political bribe in history – allowing him to escape from the law.”
Blue and White leader Yair Lapid welcomed the court’s decision. “We will keep fighting for a Jewish, democratic and liberal state,” he said. “This is not Iran.”
In a highly unusual move, the High Court announced, “The criticism being cast is shameful.”

Jerusalem Post Staff contributed to this report.

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