Jerusalem Council Member Rachel Azaria petitioned the High Court of Justice on Friday against the Israel Police and Jerusalem Municipality, which she said were allowing extreme ultra-Orthodox elements to illegally impose sex segregation on the streets of Mea Shearim during the holiday of Sukkot.
Azaria claims that the sex segregation in a public space, by "ushers acting like a sort of militia," seriously violates the dignity, freedom and freedom of movement of the passersby, and dishonors the court, which accepted the claim on this matter last year and ordered the police to fulfill their duty and enforce the law.
The petitioner, who warned before the holiday that haredi elements were planning to separate between men and women in their neighborhoods, is demanding an urgent court discussion so that the ruling can be implemented before the end of the holiday.
She clarifies, however, that "in light of past years' experience, the petition applies to all days of the year, not just the Sukkot holiday."
Azaria describes the legal proceedings held last year, which ended with a police obligation to enforce the law in the neighborhood. Now, she claims, "life goes on" as the police and municipality "are not lifting a finger" to prevent the phenomenon from repeating itself, despite warnings.
"If this isn't a case of mocking and ridiculing the law – then the rule of law has never been disgraced," the petition states.
Mea Shearim. 'Life goes on' despite ruling (Archive photo: AP)
According to the petitioner, talks with haredi residents and their representatives in the City Council reveal that they are interested in maintaining the status quo as well, and not giving into the violence of extremists.
Azaria stresses that she respects the lifestyle and tradition of Mea Shearim's residents, but that these norms must not be imposed on passersby in a public domain.
"Even if the segregation arrangements are aimed at excessive maintenance of the modest rules, in order to allegedly allow the Water-Drawing Festival, in its current form it seriously hurts other people as a 'religious act which involves committing a felony,' which is forbidden by Jewish Law and strictly contradicts 'the values of a Jewish state.'"
The petition slams the police and municipality, claiming that "in recent years, and especially on the days of Sukkot, Mea Shearim has been turned into a sort of 'ex-territory.' Police forces and municipality inspectors hardly enter the neighborhood during the Water-Drawing Festival."
Azaria said after filing the petition, "Mea Shearim in particular, and the haredi public in general, are not above the law. Although the extremists in the haredi sector are finding it difficult to understanding that, sex segregation in the public domain is immoral and illegal.
"I call on the court to intervene immediately in what is happening in the haredi neighborhoods and ensure that women feel comfortable walking anywhere in the State of Israel. If Rosa Parks succeeded in racist US of the 1950s, we in democratic Israel of 2011 must succeed too."