Participants at Friday’s rally at the Tel Aviv Cinemateque against ult - Moti Milrod - December 2011
The Cinemateque in Tel Aviv. Photo by Moti Milrod
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Emil Salman
Former Deputy Health Minister Yaakov Litzman Photo by Emil Salman

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is to meet today with ultra-Orthodox politicians to ask them to speak out against the segregation of women in public places by extremists in the Haredi community.

Netanyahu will be meeting with Deputy Health Minister Yaakov Litzman and representatives of United Torah Judaism including MK Moshe Gafni.

Sources in the Prime Minister's Bureau said Netanyahu will be speaking over the next two weeks to ministers from the ultra-Orthodox Shas party, the chief rabbis and other prominent rabbis. "We will not allow extremist groups to hurt women's rights in the public space, which must remain open to everyone," Netanyahu said yesterday.

He asked Public Security Minister Yitzhak Aharonovitch to order the police to take firm action against the exclusion of women from the public space.

Netanyahu also asked Attorney General Yehuda Weinstein to determine whether the laws against segregation of women were being enforced by municipalities. He asked Weinstein to examine whether signs in streets instructing women to use the other side of the street were legal. Sources close to Netanyahu said if such signs proved to be illegal they would be taken down.

Sources in Netanyahu's office said the prime minister was "furious" over the recent cases of segregation against women and that he planned to speak out on the matter whenever possible. At the Hanukkah candle-lighting ceremony at the Prime Minister's Office last week, he made a point of being photographed with the woman singer who performed there.

The ministerial committee on the status of women last week appointed an interministerial team to examine the recent incidents and submit recommendations within 60 days, including sanctions on municipalities where such segregation occurs.

In the third demonstration in recent weeks in Jerusalem, some 300 people marched on Friday against the segregation of women. The protesters marched from Paris Square near the Prime Minister's Residence to Hamashbir Square in the center of the city.

The march was initiated on Facebook by Liron Shish, a 23-year-old student at Ben-Gurion University in Be'er Sheva. Protesters also called for equal pay for women and against the exploitation of women by employment contractors.

Meanwhile, in Tel Aviv on Friday, hundreds of people, including public figures from across the political spectrum, held a rally at the Cinemateque, initiated by WePower, a women's empowerment group.

"When God said 'it is not good for man to be alone' and made him a helpmeet, this is not what He intended," said Adina Bar-Shalom, daughter of Shas' spiritual leader, Rabbi Ovadia Yosef.