Photo Credit: Kan Israel Public Broadcasting Corporation
Hasidic vocalist Motti Steinmetz

A much-anticipated performance by world-renowned Hasidic vocalist Motti Steinmetz scheduled for Wednesday in the Afula Municipal Park, has been canceled by the artist following a ruling by the Nazareth District Court prohibiting agreed-upon gender separation at the event.

The ruling came in response to a petition by the “Women’s Lobby” which challenged the separate seating that was to take place at the performance, the sole event of the summer programmed for the strictly-observant, Orthodox Jewish public.

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“Out of 360 summer events, the authority sought to produce an event for the hareidi-religious public to celebrate and enjoy according to its customs,” the Afula municipality said in a statement issued in response to the Court ruling. “We regret that was not possible.”

Menachem Perla, one of the producers of the event, told the Orthodox B’Hadarei Haredi website there was a huge demand for tickets to the event.

“We were actually taken aback by the demand,” he said. “People called and said if the event was not completely segregated they couldn’t come. We set up a really amazing event – for one ticket, you would receive entry to a four-hour event with inflatables, facilities, performances, Torah lectures . . . we were inundated by thousands of calls from people all over the north – from Beit Shean, Karmiel, Haifa, Kiryat Ata, Migdal HaEmek, Kfar Gideon, and more.

“We were really getting kudos on this event – and then came the Women’s Lobby in Israel, calling to abolish the separate seating. It’s not just the cancellation of the event that is expensive – not just the loss of the money – but of cultural and leisure activities for the families that is at issue here,” he said.

“There are entire Hasidic, Lithuanian, Sephardic, and National Religious communities in the northern region who wanted to go out to a family event, and who require separation as part of their way of life. In the name of equality, not only women, but also men are removed. Canceling this event leaves all these families at home.”

Transportation Minister MK Betzalel Smotrich called the ruling a “grave and outrageous judgement that joins a chain of rulings reflecting the court’s bias together with those who place themselves against Judaism and the religious public and who seek to impose their distorted values and re-educate them.”

Speaking in response to the decision, Smotrich said that cancellation of the event was tantamount to a robbery from the religious public that had demanded “so little” from citywide public venues and public budgets, in accordance with its insular values and world outlook. “Tell us more about religious coercion,” Smotrich said with deep sarcasm.

“If only I could expect from the prime minister to come out and defend the religious public and to call upon the attorney general, whose staff lead the coercion of these secular fundamentalists, to order. But he is busy seeking their mandates and he has no time to address their struggles.

“I call upon all the religious political parties to immediately inform the prime minister that they will enter his government after the elections in order to make the necessary legislative amendments to end this secular coercion and to allow the religious public to be able to live according to their faith.”

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