Israeli City Retracts Ads for Gender-segregated Concert Following Petition

Israel Women's Network and city council member filed a petition claiming gender-segregated events in public venues defy government resolution

The park in Afula, July 13, 2019.
Rami Shllush

The city of Afula in northern Israel said it would retract ads for a gender-segregated musical performance at the city's municipal park, which was petition by a feminist organization. However plans for the event will continue.  

Ads for the performance appeared in Index, the local Afula paper, and included the logo of the municipality and that of Shehakim, the company that runs local community centers. The ad stated, “The event is for families, with full gender separation.”

The municipality told the Nazareth District court that it would remove the ads publicizing gender segregation at the event.

A statement by attorney Avi Goldhammer, who represents the municipality, said that the "ultra-Orthodox community is an inseparable part of Afula's social fabric, and therefore [they] are entitled to culture and family events as are all of Afula's residents.The municipality has accepted the attorney general's stance, thus allowing removal of ads promoting gender segregation."

The Israel Women's Network and city council member Noga Sharon filed a petition against the ads with the court following Haaretz report on the matter.

In 2014, the cabinet passed a resolution titled Prevention of the Exclusion of Women from the Public Domain, thereby adopting a comprehensive report on the issue. The resolution stated, “No government ministry or other public authority is permitted to organize a public event in which measures shall be taken to effect separation between men and women.”

The report recommended that public events should have “no signs, barriers or other measures designed to direct the audience to separate seating areas.” The only “narrow and limited” exception is for “an event that is essentially a religious ritual or religious ceremony.” Musical show and amusement park activities for children are not religious ceremonies.

In July, the municipality agreed to backtrack on its decision to close the city's park to nonresidents, after a district court said that closing off a public area and charging an entrance fee is illegal.

The municipality agreed to reopen the park at the order of the court after a petition filed by rights group Adalah, which claimed that the park was closed to deny access to Israeli Arab from nearby villages.