After Separate Seating, Swimming – in Arab Town – Next on Agenda

The Bedouin city of Rahat in southern Israel. (Yossi Zamir/Flash 90)

Last week, separate seating at an event for chareidi concert-goers created a media firestorm – and this week, if could be separate swimming. But this time, the target is in the Arab sector, in the Bedouin town of Rahat. Attorney Itamar Ben-Gvir, who also heads the Otzma Yehudit Party, has told Deputy State Attorney Dina Zilber to enforce the law by requiring the Rahat municipality to institute mixed swimming hours – otherwise, he will take the case to the High Court, which will force the Justice Ministry to act.

The idea for the petition came a year ago, when Zilber’s office forced Beit El to institute mixed hours in its community pool, instead of the strictly separate hours that the town had voted on for its pool. In order to comply, Beit El had to set aside an equal number of hours for separate gender and mixed swimming.

At the time, Ben-Gvir demanded that Zilber also order the Rahat municipality to do the same. Zilber responded by saying that indeed Rahat was violating the law, and sent a letter to the city’s attorney, demanding that mixed hours be established.

However, on Motzoei Shabbos Kan News reporter Kalman Libskind, after investigating the situation, announced that Rahat was not following the law – and that Zilber’s office had taken no steps to enforce it, nor did it intend to. On Sunday, Ben-Gvir wrote to Zilber demanding that she enforce the law in Rahat as she did in Beit El and in other instances were gender-separate activities were ruled illegal. She has until Tuesday morning to begin actions to bring Rahat into line – and if she does not act, Ben-Gvir will get the High Court to force her to.

“Unfortunately, it appears that there is a ‘secret agreement’ here to allow Rahat to continue breaking the law,” Ben-Gvir wrote in the letter. “Under these circumstances I wish to inform you that I intend to appeal to the High Court against this violation of the law, as well as the discriminatory policies your office has imposed, in creating separate standards of compliance for religious and chareidi municipalities, and for Rahat,” he added.