A court in the city of Afula ruled on Sunday that a chareidi-sponsored musical event which required separate seating for men and women could not be held as planned.
The decision of Judge Jonathan Abraham of the Nazareth District Court was made in response to a petition filed by the feminist Women’s Lobby.
According to the court, people attending the event on August 14 may choose to sit separately, but the policy cannot be forced on them, and the judge instructed police to be on hand to ensure that the court’s ruling be heeded. The posting of signs pointing to separate sections for men and women was also banned.
The Afula municipality had reportedly endorsed the event, saying that out of hundreds of public events being held in the city during the summer, they were entitled to hold one according to their customs. Afula is a city in the north of Israel of about 50,000 people.
United Torah Judaism MK Rabbi Moshe Gafni denounced the ruling as “evil” and “appropriate for Tisha B’Av, the day of the destruction, and will cause many people and youth not to participate in the event.”
He called on anyone going to the event to voluntarily separate along gender lines.
Transportation Minister and United Right leader Bezalel Smotrich similarly condemned the decision as “outrageous” and said it placed the courts “against Judaism and the religious community,” and which he said were “seeking to force upon them its twisted values and re-educate them.”
Smotrich urged the religious parties to inform Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu that they will make joining any coalition with him in September contingent on a commitment to pass legislation which would allow gender-separate publicly funded events “to put an end to secular coercion and to allow the religious community to live according to its beliefs.”
Following the ruling, the publicized featured performer reportedly withdrew from the bill.