Police delay to gender-separate event causes consternation

Despite official police denials, Degel Hatorah council member and Deputy Mayor Yitzhak Findrus alleged that the police had halted the event because of the generation which he strongly denounced.

October 25, 2016 18:40
2 minute read.
Simhat Torah

An Ultra-Orthodox Jewish Rabbi carries Torah scrolls as others dance during Simhat Torah celebrations in a synagogue in Bnei Brak. (photo credit: REUTERS)

Police intervention that delayed a gender-separate concert in the capital’s Kraft Stadium on Monday night has caused consternation among religious members of the Jerusalem Municipal Council.

Despite official police denials, Degel Hatorah council member and Deputy Mayor Yitzhak Pindrus alleged that the police had halted the event because of its gender separation, a step he strongly denounced.

Pindrus told The Jerusalem Post his chief of staff spoke with the police officer in charge of the event who told him that the problem was with the barrier.

The event in question was billed as hakafot sheniot, the traditional post-Shmini Atzeret party recreating the celebrations conducted on the Shmini Atzeret holiday itself, with popular Jewish-music singers Aharon and Yonatan Razel.

The hakafot sheniot dancing, however, was delayed by police for an hour and a half due to a fence that had been erected at Kraft Stadium to separate between men and women, according to Channel 2.

Regulations regarding gender separation in public state that such separation may only be carried out at a religious event, such as a prayer service or ceremony, but not at concerts.

The exact nature of hakafot sheniot is somewhat blurry, since it mimics the religious ceremony of Shmini Atzeret but is not itself a religious service.

At the same time, the live music played at the event could be interpreted as more akin to a concert than a religious service.

Pindrus said the regulations outlawing gender-separate public events “has no legal standing” and was based on an position paper issued by the Attorney General’s Office in 2013. “This position should now be put in the trash, because you cannot prevent Orthodox religious people from attending events such as this. Religious people should not have to act like marranos and hide the fact that they are Jewish,” Pindrus said.

The Attorney General’s Office issued a statement saying that it was not in any way involved in the decision to delay the event.

Following the intervention of Pindrus, Kalmanovitz and others, the police eventually allowed the event to go ahead, claiming however that delay had been due to “security concerns” and not related to the separation barrier.

According to sources in the municipal council, there were no formal instructions from the Jerusalem Legal Adviser’s office to the police instructing them to halt the event due to gender separation.

Bayit Yehudi council member and Deputy Mayor Dov Kalmanovitz accused pluralist groups of creating an atmosphere of “secularist coercion” which prevented the religious public from enjoying cultural events tailored to their needs.

“Religious people who don’t want to be part of mixed-gender events, listen to women singing, and similar also deserve cultural events in the city and elsewhere,” he said.

Kalmanovitz described the hakafot sheniot as “religious in character” and said that those participating in such events want gender separation at them.

“Anyone who wants a mixed [hakafot] event has such events around the city,” he said, adding that it was “unthinkable” to try and impose a mixed-gender event for people who want a separate one.

“Pluralist groups who say they are open and inclusive have created an atmosphere of secularist coercion,” Kalmanovitz said. “But you cannot call yourself pluralist when in reality you are simply anti-religious.”

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