The Nazareth District Court on Wednesday ruled that the Afula municipality is authorized to decide whether to hold a segregated Haredi concert in the city’s public park. The concert, featuring singer Motti Steinmetz, is scheduled for tonight (See: Shas to Petition Court over Ban on Separate Seating at Afula Concert).
Judge Attif Ailabouni annulled the municipality’s earlier decision, which consented, under the court’s pressure, not to separate men and women at the event, and ruled that “the matter be returned to the municipality’s examination to make an informed decision in this matter.”
Afula Mayor Avi Elkabetz said in Wednesday’s hearing that he had been wrong in agreeing to ban gender-based segregation at the concert.
“In the first place, we wanted the event to be segregated, and it was clear to me that segregation was allowed,” the mayor said. “When the issue came up in court and I was told that I shouldn’t, I agreed,” he said. “I admit I was wrong. There are women here who are strengthened by the separation, so they can enjoy themselves,” the mayor added.
Women’s Lobby CEO Michal Gra Margaliot, who started the chain of events by suing the city, told the court that the value of equality in the public sphere supersedes consideration for the feelings of the Haredi community.
But city social worker Bat El Magor told the court the Haredi women favor the segregation.
MK Bezalel Smotrich, who earlier this week said the original judge in the case was an idiot, tweeted in response to today’s ruling: “When praise is due, you praise. Thank you to the honorable Judge Attif Ailabouni. This time around, justice and common sense prevailed. Congratulations to the residents of Afula and to the people of Israel.”
Shas, which launched the appeal of the decision to ban segregation at the concert, also declared that “common sense prevailed in court today,” and added: “We have struggled and succeeded in ensuring that every person can live by his faith and way of life and without any coercion.”
AG Avichai Mandelblit advised the court that there may be special circumstances in which a municipality can hold a gender-based segregation event for the Haredi public. The AG told the court he intends to plan the matter urgently in order to set standards for the segregation.
At the start of the hearing Wednesday, Judge Ailabouni offered a compromise, suggesting the audience at the event would be divided into three parts: men, women, and a mixed wing. But Shas opposed the compromise, announcing through its Attorney, Israel Bach, that “because it didn’t occur to us to force Haredi standards on all the 360 [summer events in Afula], we oppose the compromise proposal and want the event to take place under complete segregation.”
Judge Ailabouni told the Women’s Lobby that the non-segregated option does not fit the nature of the Haredi community, and therefore the Lobby must prove that the ban on segregation would not damage Haredi women who wanted to attend the concert.