Despite segregation, Chabad event in Rabin Square goes on as scheduled

Protests started close to the beginning of the event.

By NAOMI GRANT
June 26, 2018 00:32
3 minute read.
Despite segregation, Chabad event in Rabin Square goes on as scheduled

DEMONSTRATORS PROTEST the segregation of genders at a Chabad event in Rabin Square in Tel Aviv, June 25, 2018. (photo credit: NAOMI GRANT)

 
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A gender-segregated event was held at Rabin Square in Tel Aviv on Monday night after a Sunday District Court ruling permitted the Chabad hassidic group to do so.

Attorney-General Avichai Mandelbilt had previously issued a decision allowing the municipality to prohibit gender segregation at events

The event did not require a public space, according to Mandelbilt’s rationale. Chabad could have found plenty of private spaces to hold the event if it wanted to do so with a mechitza, or partition, that Orthodox Jews use to separate men and women.

Protests started close to the beginning of the event. Though they intermixed with onlookers, other attendees and security, there looked to be roughly 25 protestors. They chanted and wore bumper stickers on their clothing and skin, some of which read, “Not modest? Don’t look” and “A woman of valor wears what pleases her” in Hebrew.

Aviram Batya who works for Israel Women’s Network was at the event protesting. She called Tel Aviv “the only last secular, liberal place in Israel that I can breathe—you know oxygen, mental oxygen.

“Separation between women and men is exactly the separation between mizrachim, ashkenazim...and it’s exactly like separation between black people and white people,” she said. “In the 10 commandments there is nothing mentioned about separating women.”

 One protester stood under the sculpture holding a sign that read, “As a woman, I stand by my right to be in every public place - especially in the city."

“Women shouldn’t be separated as though they are some risk for the men and they don’t make a scene, they’re just equal human beings and they should be treated as well as the men are,” Yaki Herz said. “It’s against the spirit of this city—as exactly as we the secular people will not come to K’far Chabad and make a mixed event, women with men, it shouldn’t be happening in Tel Aviv” with a mechitza.

But those in attendance and participating in the festivities expressed positivity toward the mechitza.

“It is proper that it be this way, with a mechitza,” Avraham Nachum said.  Achinoam Yueshorn said she thought the mechitza was “very good.”

“This is who we are,” she said, adding that it’s not good for men and women to sit together.

Aside from the protests, the event featured a concert for hundreds of people, separated with a white mechitza that divided that area of Rabin Square into roughly equal parts. Books and some light refreshments were sold on the outermost edges of the men’s and women’s sides.

“If it were separation based on origin, nationality or religion, everyone would cry,” Meretz MK Tamar Zandberg said. “This event is only proof that the struggle is far from over - the exclusion of women and gender separation are still accepted in Israel ... When I protested against a performance at the Mann Auditorium when I was a member of the council, I received calls from ultra-Orthodox women who told me, 'Thank you for fighting for us.'”

Tel Aviv Mayor Ron Huldai shared the sentiment in a statement released Thursday morning.

“Our town, Tel Aviv-Jaffa, in which the Declaration of Independence was read, has always been a pioneer when it comes to protecting human rights, equality and gender equality in particular,” the statement read.

Likud MK Yehudah Glick decried the mayor on Twitter last week for the issue, writing, “The mayor is not disturbed by the strippers, pimps and prostitutes. He is not disturbed by entire streets that have become prostitute centers. But a Chabad event that separates men from women, good heavens, hurts women’s dignity! Hypocrisy has never broken such a record!”

The event featured the slogan “faith, joy, redemption,” and was held on the Hebrew date of Tammuz 12, which marks both the 1902 birth date of Rabbi Yosef Yitzchak Schneersohn, the sixth Chabad-Lubavitch rebbe, and the anniversary of his 1927 release from a Soviet prison.

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