Mea Shearim 311.
(photo credit: Marc Israel Sellem)
If a haredi group in Mea She’arim has its way, women will not be able to walk
down the neighborhood’s main thoroughfares during Succot.
for the Purity of the Camp, a haredi group which seeks to enforce strict
adherence to Jewish law in ultra-Orthodox neighborhoods, this week issued a
decree outlining guidelines for those participating in the festive Simhat Beit
Hashoeva parties that are staged every year during Succot.
the various guidelines is a clause calling on women from the community to not
walk down the main thoroughfares in Mea She’arim, principally the neighborhood’s
The sixth provision of the guidelines reads: “Women
belonging to the holy congregations in Mea She’arim and the neighborhood are
requested to use alternative roads on their way to their homes and synagogues,
and to try to not pass through Mea She’arim street in order to prevent
In recent years, communal organizations have required men and
women to walk on separate sides of the narrow street due to the huge number of
visitors to the neighborhood who go to watch the Simhat Bet Hashoeva spectacle.
The overcrowding of the main roads in the neighborhood led communal leaders to
insist on dividing Mea She’arim street so as to prevent intermingling between
men and women.
Last year, the committee attempted to completely ban women
from Mea She’arim Street and also erected screens to separate the men and women.
After meeting with the police, the group issued a statement saying that the
street would, in the end, be open to women, although the separation barriers
The High Court of Justice was petitioned on the issue and ruled
that such enforced separation was illegal.
The committee’s provisions
this year appear to fall short of an outright prohibition on women using the
roads in question and are directed at the women of the haredi
According to Shmuel Poppenheim, an unofficial spokesman for
the haredi community, the streets will be open to female visitors in general,
although groups such as the Toldot-Aharon hassidic sect are discouraging women
not belonging to their community from attending their Simhat Bet
“These regulations don’t harm anyone,” Poppenheim
“We’re talking about very cramped conditions with very narrow
streets and thousands upon thousands of people passing through them,” he told
The Jerusalem Post.
“It’s not an extreme measure, it’s a moderate way of
ensuring that the spiritual nature of the Simhat Bet Hashoeva is maintained.
There is no need to make a big drama out of it.”
Other clauses included
in the decree stipulated that women’s galleries in the various synagogues are
reserved only for women wishing to pray; the Smahot Bet Hashoeva should finish
by midnight; and that loudspeakers should not be directed towards the streets so
as to prevent tourists from being drawn to the neighborhood.
regulations are enacted, say the communal notices posted around the
neighborhood, “because the large numbers of people cause a huge amount of [male
and female] intermingling and because many of the visitors are not appropriate
for the holy spirit of our neighborhoods.”
The Free Israel movement,
which lobbies against the imposition of religious standards on public life, sent
letters to Jerusalem Mayor Nir Barkat and the Jerusalem district police
commander Nissan Shaham calling on them “to take the necessary steps to prevent
gender segregation this year,” and threatened to take the issue to court if such
moves were not forthcoming.
“The exclusion of women from public life in
Jerusalem is a despicable phenomenon that is gaining strength among the haredi
public, and, shamefully, is answered by the free public with capitulation to the
dictates of the extremists.
“We in the Free Israel movement see how the
police and other supposedly- responsible parties choose again and again to turn
a blind eye and allow the blatant violation of the law in the heart of the
capital, and the outrageous injury to the rights and status of women despite the
High Court ruling on the issue.”