'Talibanized' dance troupe to sue J'lem

Group's lawyer to sue municipality for NIS 0.5 million over forcing dancers to cover hair during show.

bridge dancers 224.88 (photo credit: Amos Ben-Gershom/GPO)
bridge dancers 224.88
(photo credit: Amos Ben-Gershom/GPO)
The Jerusalem girls' dance troupe told to wear hair coverings and long clothing for its performance at the inauguration of the bridge at the capital's entrance is planning on suing the Jerusalem Municipality for NIS 500,000, an attorney for the group said Wednesday. The clothing controversy, which led to screaming headlines in the Hebrew press such as "Iran is here," brought the sensitive issue of alleged religious coercion by the capital's haredi-run city hall to a fore in an election year, and galvanized the main opposition party in the city. The girls, who ranged in age from 13 to 16, were informed by production organizers several hours before the event that at the municipality's instruction they had to change their dress. The spectacle of the young secular girls wearing black ski caps and cloaks on a balmy June evening provoked outrage among organizers, the girls' parents, and secular as well as traditional residents of the city. "In contrast to the agreements and the contract that were reached between the two sides... you instructed the girls to wear hats which made them in appear in a shameful and grotesque manner," read a five-page July 21 letter from the troupe's attorney, Nadav Haetzni, to Jerusalem Mayor Uri Lupolianski and Deputy Mayor Yehoshua Pollack. "As a direct result of your actions, my client's reputation has been badly damaged," the letter continues. The letter concludes with a demand for half a million shekels in compensation, and a warning that failure to reach a settlement could lead to a legal suit. Lupolianski spokesman Gidi Schmerling said that the mayor had not been involved in the instructions to the dance troupe and had even condemned his deputy's public stance on the issue. "This is a petition that is rooted in politics, since the dance troupe wore the some cloaks in several previous performances in which the city was not involved," the mayor's spokesman said in a statement. Pollack said previously that Lupolianski had "fully supported" his demand that the girls wear modest clothing at the state-sponsored event. Opposition leader Nir Barkat, who has lambasted the municipal move as "religious coercion," said Lupolianski could not act as if he were a neutral player in the event. "The role of the mayor of Jerusalem is not to be a UN representative and to evade responsibility, but to lead and make decisions with [the state's welfare in mind]," Barkat said in a statement Wednesday. "The treatment of the dance troupe shamed not only the girls, but the entire city," he said. The bridge's NIS 2 million inaugural bash last month had itself been the subject of stinging criticism by the opposition leader over excessive waste of public funds, and came amid months of complaints over repeated delays in the bridge's construction and the project's skyrocketing budget, and claims of structural flaws and cracks.