JERUSALEM (VINnews) — During the course of Israel’s coalition negotiations, UTJ and Religious Zionism have demanded that the agreements with Likud will include a declaration that gender separation at public events and public services will not be deemed discrimination. Israel’s current discrimination law allows for separation of genders in education and on beaches but not at public events – a situation which has led to concerts for chareidim being deemed discriminatory and illegal because they were held with gender separation or only for men.
In recent years, Motti Steinmetz was forced to cancel concerts after the deputy attorney-general refused to allow gender segregation and similar issues arose when Chabad held a separate public event in Tel Aviv.
Outgoing Prime Minister Yair Lapid compared the proposal to the theocratic policies of Iran.
“At a time when brave women in Iran are fighting for their rights, in Israel Smotrich and his ultra-Orthodox nationalists are trying to place women behind barriers and legalize separating men from women. Where is Likud? Why are they being silent? This isn’t Iran,” Lapid said.
Labor party leader Merav Michaeli similarly denounced the move, saying it was anti-democratic.
“We warned that a coalition without women would harm women, and they are already demanding that not only they but also the law will be able to put women in the back. Women are no less equal. Nobody has the right to decide for anyone else where they sit, what they wear, or whether or not to terminate a pregnancy. This is the fight for our democracy,” she said.
Likud leader Netanyahu in the past expressed his opposition to segregation on buses.
Even some chareidi females expressed reservations about the demand for gender segregation. Esti Shoshan, founder of a chareidi women’s movement calling for feminine representation in leadership positions, said that “segregation has the power to expand. For example they might think of opening a radio where only men can speak, such as occurred with Kol Baramah when it started. This has nothing to do with halacha, as was proved after the Supreme Court ordered them to change the situation and add women and this was totally fine.”
However Matan Kahana, a religious MK from Benny Gantz’s National Unity Party, said that accepting such gender segregation is necessary if the government is truly interested in bringing chareidi Israelis into general society.
“There are populations for whom gender segregation is a way of life. Forbidding these populations from having public events with gender segregation is itself an imposition. No Israeli citizen will be required to partake in these events or to study in institutions where separation is practiced. Whoever values integrating Haredim into Israeli society cannot impose their way of life on others.”
MK Simcha Rothman (Religious Zionism) stressed that the current situation is causing “illegal secular coercion.” He added that “Israel doesn’t need to be Iran in which the ideology of the attorney-general is foisted on the chareidi public and those who keep Mitzvos.”