Defying Government Decision, Israeli City to Host Gender-segregated Event in Public Park

Israeli cabinet had banned gender segregation in 2014 under resolution called ‘Prevention of the Exclusion of Women from the Public Domain’

Noa Shpigel
Noa Shpigel
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The Afula municipal park, July 11, 2019.
The Afula municipal park, July 11, 2019.Credit: Gil Eliahu
Noa Shpigel
Noa Shpigel

A gender-segregated musical performance is scheduled to take place at the Afula municipal park, and will be open to residents of neighboring towns, too. For most of the summer, the city had sought to ban non-Afula residents from the park, and only relented under legal pressure. The city’s involvement in a gender-segregated event contradicts a cabinet decision and the law that bans discrimination in connection with goods and services

An ad for the August concert appeared in the local Afula paper “Index.” The ad included the municipality logo and that of Shehakim, the company that runs local community centers. The ad states, “The event is for families, with full [gender-]separation.” The event will include play areas, food stands and other activities.

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In 2014, the cabinet passed a resolution called “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.” A musical show and amusement park activities for children are not religious ceremonies.

The law banning discrimination in the provision of goods and services also prohibits irrelevant distinctions between men and women. The law allows for separation on two conditions: if a lack of separation would prevent the provision of the service to a group that insists on separation, and if the separation is related to the nature of the service or the product.

The Afula municipality recently tried to keep the city’s public park closed to nonresidents, and only relented following the intervention of the Nazareth District Court in response to a petition from Adalah – The Legal Center for Arab Minority Rights. In his election campaign, Afula Mayor Avi Elkabetz had called for preserving the city’s “Jewish character” and had also joined a protest in the city against the sale of a home to an Arab family. Yet he claimed that the decision to close the park to nonresidents was not directed against Arabs and had no racist motive.

Regarding the August event, the municipality commented: “This is a commercial event that was planned before as part of the summer program and as with every major production that is held in Afula, the entire public is invited to buy tickets and to attend. There will be full gender separation in the amphitheater, as is the practice at events for the haredi sector across the country.”

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