The Eda Haredit's consideration to bar women from the main street in the haredi Jerusalem neighborhood Mea Shearim during the Sukkot
holiday has sparked a secular-religious clash that is likely to peak over the holiday.
A group of Jerusalem women announced that it will hold a demonstration in the epicenter of the extremist haredi stronghold in the city in protest against the increasing radicalization and damage to haredi women's status within the community.
The affair was incited by last week's Eda Haredit board meeting during which representatives of the sects represented in the body sought ways to bolster modesty in their neighborhood. According to them, the water-drawing festival held during the intermediate days of the Sukkot holiday at local synagogues draw large crowds from outside the neighborhood, which causes many young men and women from the outside to gather together immodestly around the event, not in keeping with local codes.
Separate entrances for men and women. Sukkot in Mea Shearim (Photo: Haim Zach)
Thus, a proposition was raised during the meeting to close off the main street to women during the holiday, allowing them to arrive at the festivities only via side streets. However, it was ultimately decided that the various Hassidic streams would merely not allow women who are not part of the community to participate.
A number of haredi internet sites were too quick to publish the initial proposal that was ultimately rejected as a final decision made by the Eda Haredit board, prompting various pluralistic groups to wage a fight.
The protest with the most potential for volatility is being launched by a group of women calling upon the public to join them in a march through the haredi neighborhood on Friday morning.
"The march is not meant to be a provocation against anyone," emphasized one of the protest organizers. "Our intentions are to strengthen the status of women via a quiet and dignified parade to show the fanatics that the public domain is not without owner."
However, the group announced that the event will take place even without a police permit.
"This extremist declaration is joined by a long list of moves made by rabbis and businessmen from the haredi public that violate the basic rights of women," a statement published ahead of the protest reads. "They forbid women to pursue higher learning, except for teaching degrees, shove them to the back of the bus, stipulate the most stringent dress code standards, and now are declaring that entire streets will be 'frauenrein' – free from women.
"This bully behavior cannot be disconnected from the degrading treatment by these same fanatics of Mizrahi communities, immigrants from Ethiopia, Arabs, and any other minority. A group of Jerusalem women decided to address this dangerous deterioration, and instead of ignoring the recent declarations, will hold a parade to strengthen the women.
"Both men and women alike are invited to take part and take a clear stand against the radicalization and damage to woman's status. A free and democratic country cannot allow a small faction of men to terrify entire neighborhoods."