Gender separation at Orthodox events must not be deemed discrimination by law, religious parties demand

The measure is intended to allow the ultra-Orthodox and religious public to hold events and studies in accordance with their lifestyle, not to impose on the general public.

By World Israel News Staff

A new demand by the Religious Zionism and United Torah Judaism parties in the ongoing coalition negotiations with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s Likud party is that a separation of sexes at religious and ultra-Orthodox public events not be considered discrimination by law, Hebrew-language Israel Hayom reported Sunday.

Sources pushing for the measure emphasize that they have no desire to bring gender segregation or the exclusion of women among the general public; rather, it would allow the ultra-Orthodox and religious public to hold events and studies in accordance with their lifestyle.

The origin of the legal issue of gender segregation, Israel Hayom explains, is the law prohibiting discrimination in products and services, which states that it is forbidden to discriminate in the provision of a public service or in the operation of a public place, among other things, due to gender.

Over the years, a series of petitions were filed against gender segregation. In August 2019, for example, Israel’s High Court overturned a lower court ruling that had allowed the Afula municipality to hold a concert geared for the ultra-Orthodox community with separate seating for men and women, upsetting religious lawmakers.

“The court said no to the fundamental rights of the haredi public,” said Eliezer Ruddin, who represented ultra-Orthodox Shas party MK Moshe Arbel. “The court perpetuates secular extremism and interference with values ​​that are important to minority communities.”

Former attorney-general Avichai Mandelblit had submitted a summary of guidelines and conditions according to which local authorities could hold a public event with gender segregation, among them a situation where mixed seating would prevent a certain public from participating. Another condition is that the segregation must be voluntary rather than forced.

Former deputy attorney-general Dina Zilber, together with feminist lobby groups and others, had fought against gender segregation.

“While in Iran brave women are fighting for their rights, in Israel Smotrich and his chardalim (ultra-Orthodox nationalists) are trying to send women behind the barriers and put into law the separation between women and men,” Prime Minister Yair Lapid commented.

“Where is Likud? Why are they silent? Iran is not here,” he added.