Court cancels Haifa public event limited to men

Judge Avraham Elyakim of the Haifa District Court said that “there was no argument that this is an event for men only.”

By
August 27, 2019 03:55
2 minute read.
Downtown Haifa

Downtown Haifa. (photo credit: ZVI ROGER/WIKIMEDIA COMMONS)

The Haifa District Court on Sunday ordered the Haifa municipality to cancel a publicly funded men-only event catering to the haredi sector which had been scheduled for Monday.

Following the reasoning of Attorney-General Avichai Mandelblit from last week, the court said that the municipality and the event organizers had failed to demonstrate the need for a men only event, given the obvious harm to the ideals of equality embedded in Israel’s quasi-constitutional basic laws.

The ruling set off another bout of political recriminations, as it did in a similar ruling regarding Afula two weeks ago, with left-wing and liberal parties and organizations celebrating what they described as a blow against creeping religionization of the public domain, and right-wing religious groups denouncing it as “judicial coercion.”

Judge Avraham Elyakim of the Haifa District Court said that “there was no argument that this is an event for men only,” and said that there had been “a crass effort to hide information about the event” from the court.

“The fact that there are hundreds of other [non-gender separate] events does not justify holding another event, in which the rights of women are injured,” he wrote in his ruling.

Last week, Mandelblit put out two legal opinions on the question of gender separation in the public sector, in which he came out with polar opposite conclusions in two different cases.

While in his general legal opinion, Mandelblit showed support for gender-segregated events in some circumstances – which include both men and women, but enforcing a separation between the sexes – in the Haifa case, the attorney-general opposed the event.

Essentially, Mandelblit said that a strong need had to be shown to justify the harm to equality and an attempt needed to be made to mitigate the harm to equality.

Whereas Mandelblit and at least one judge thought this balance was struck in a recent event in Afula, both he and the Haifa court were opposed to holding the men only event in Haifa.

The Israel Women’s Network, which filed the motion against the event in the Haifa court, welcomed the decision and said that “discrimination against women in the public domain is a monster that will never be satisfied.”

“Equality is the living breath of public administration. Women are not and will not be second class citizens,” said the organization’s attorneys.

Rabbi Gilad Kariv, head of the Reform movement in Israel and a candidate for the Democratic Union, said the ruling was a “fitting riposte to efforts to increase gender separation and to allow discrimination against women,” adding that the increasing number of efforts to hold such events means that legislation is required to stop the phenomenon.

Deputy Education Minister Meir Porush of the ultra-Orthodox United Torah Judaism Party said however that the ruling meant the religious community needed to “wake up” and “express its determined stance against the coercion of judges on the public.”

Porush added an implied threat of legislative change to the standing of the courts, saying that “Judges must know that they are pulling the cord right until the end, and they will bear the results of the change in their status.”


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