J’lem mayor fires coalition member over court petition

Nir Barakat fires councilwoman Rachel Azaria over High Court petition to remove barriers separating men from women in Mea She’arim.

Rachel Azaria 311 (photo credit: Marc Israel Sellem)
Rachel Azaria 311
(photo credit: Marc Israel Sellem)
Jerusalem mayor Nir Barkat fired Rachel Azaria (Yerushalmim) from his coalition on Tuesday in response to the liberal councilwoman’s petition to the High Court of Justice last week to remove barriers that separated men from women in the ultra-Orthodox neighborhood of Mea She’arim.
Azaria, who has long been active in the fight against gender separation on buses and sidewalks in ultra-Orthodox neighborhoods, was also stripped of her portfolios of early childhood education and community councils.
The municipality said that while it is opposed to gender separation, a member of the coalition cannot file a petition against the city. Azaria petitioned the High Court over canvas barriers erected in Mea She’arim when many tourists come to the area to see the traditional celebrations during the intermediate days of Succot.
The court agreed to consider her petition and ruled that the barriers were illegal.
Azaria told The Jerusalem Post that both the court and the police thanked her for the petition, which brought the issue to the public arena.
“The Municipality of Jerusalem is against separating genders in public areas and will continue to assist the police with this issue as much as possible,” a municipal spokesman told the media.
“I am very sorry to see Barkat giving in to extremist haredi members of the coalition and going against the High Court of Justice,” Azaria said on Wednesday. “It raises concern about who is really running the city. I will continue to work for the things for which I was elected.”
The firing of Azaria came just a few months after she was seriously considered for a promotion to a deputy mayoral position. Haredi coalition members staunchly opposed the move as they felt Azaria, a member of the national religious community who has long clashed with the ultra- Orthodox over social issues, to be anti-haredi.