The voices of women will not be heard from the stage at a musical gathering scheduled to take place at Tel Aviv’s Rabin Square ahead of Yom Kippur. City hall has approved the event but is not sponsoring it.
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The organizer and producer is singer Assaf Amdursky, who will appear together with singers who include Shlomi Shabat, Shlomi Shaban, Eviatar Banai, Shuli Rand, Israel Gurion and Ishay Ribo.
“The best Israeli performers will open the year with songs coming from their souls,” crows the concert poster.
Produced by Azrieli Productions, the performance is sponsored by organizations including the World Zionist Federation, groups that promote religious-secular dialogue such as Hamakom, Channel 20 television and some radio stations.
Israeli “Big Brother” reality series co-host Korin Gideon is to be the emcee, according to the poster, but Gideon has said she is not involved in the event.
Municipal officials said the city’s criteria for approving such events are limited to issues such as security, traffic issues, handicapped access and whether the selected location is compatible with the character of the event.
“Rabin Square is the square of democracy. There are rallies and demonstrations, as well as other festive events there all year around, involving people of all stripes,” the city said in a response. “The city is not cooperating with this one due to the exclusion of women. We fail to see how bringing people closer together sits well with excluding women. The public is wise enough to decide whether to take part.”
Amdursky told Haaretz that he didn’t choose the performers, who were already selected when he came on board. “The funder is religious and he has his considerations, which I respect. I work with all sectors, including religious, secular and gay people, as well as the Arab minority. I don’t wish to dictate to others how they want to do things, I just want to do it in style,” he added. He refused to say what he thought about the exclusion of women from such a large event taking place in a public setting.
Shiri Raveh, the public relations manager of the event, said “this event is one of singing and bringing together the people of Israel. The performers were carefully selected for the audience, with no attempt to discriminate. The aim is to bring people’s hearts closer to each other, to impart a message of forgiveness, compassion and unity in Israeli society, perhaps benefiting from an evening in which anger and confrontation are put aside. We’re sorry there are some people who want to drag politics into this, to an event based on love and unity, looking at the negative instead of the positive. We call on everyone to desist from unwarranted inflammation of the situation and from cynicism, to come and experience a unique evening with us.”
City council member Mickey Gitzin, the head of Be Free Israel, objects to the exclusion of women, calling such events illegitimate. “Organizers are excluding women from singing in Tel Aviv’s main square. No religious or social conception can sanction this, and it rankles that some of the media are cooperating with radical elements which silence women as an ideology. I hope state agencies taking part in this will demand that women’s voices be added to the event or retract their support,” he said.