The central Israeli city of Ramle held a men-only event at the municipal country club, in violation of orders handed down by Attorney General Avichai Mendelblit.
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The city announced that the municipality’s culture department would hold the event on Friday afternoons and Saturday nights after Shabbat. Mayor Michael Vidal and his deputy, Maor Ashash, signed the public invitation. Until recently, Ashash had chaired the city’s committee on the status of women. Last year, Mendelblit forbade events in which there was not equality between the sexes.
The municipality commented that it was only holding two such events for Ramle’s Haredi community this year on Fridays. “It should be noted that the Ramle country club operates year-round,” the city stated. The first such event was held last weekend, while the second will take place this Friday and Saturday. Some female residents who weren’t aware that women were excluded showed up to the first event with their children and were barred from entering.
“Any normal community center that wanted to segregate does so at set times and dates, and in egalitarian fashion,” said Daniella Shilat Danino, a Ramle resident who came with her children. "It’s summer vacation now. Parents don’t work Fridays, and we are looking to keep the children busy in a city that doesn’t have a lot of activities for kids. Where do you want us to go? Should we be forced to search outside the city?” She added, “I have no problem with sex-segregated swimming for the religious community, but it should be egalitarian.”
Tammy Bublil, another Ramle resident, said that she wanted to go to the pool with her grandchildren, but could not because of gender segregation. “It’s one thing for them to do it midweek. That’s how it works in many cities, but you can’t decide that Friday is for men only,” she said. “We work hard all week, wait to be with and to do nice things with the grandkids, and suddenly I hear that it’s a pool just for men. I have no problem with the Haredim, on the contrary. I have nephews in Bnei Brak. I called to make sure it was correct, and they said yes. I told the grandchildren that I’d make a small pool for them at home. What can I do? I also don’t understand why they didn’t give separate hours to the women.”
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Mayor Vidal commented: “There is a Haredi community in Ramle, and they also deserve the best. These isolated events are held in many cities across the country, and it’s nothing new. The municipality will continue its activities for the general public as befits a multicultural city.”