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Men here, women there? Photo: AP
Men here, women there? Photo: AP
 
 

Court: No sex segregation in Mea Shearim

Judges criticize failure to enforce previous High Court ruling, express fear of further radicalization in haredi Jerusalem neighborhood

Aviad Glickman
Published: 10.17.11, 08:31 / Israel Jewish Scene

The High Court of Justice on Sunday ruled against attempts to separate between men and women in the ultra-Orthodox neighborhood of Mea Shearim in Jerusalem by setting up fences, stretching jute cloths and stationing private ushers on the streets.

 

The court also ordered the appointment of a contact person who would deliver residents' complaints to the police.

 

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The judges – Supreme Court President Dorit Beinish, Asher Grunis and Hanan Melcer – ruled that the sex segregation hurts the residents of the neighborhood itself, explaining that this was part of an offensive takeover by the neighborhood's minority which was affecting many residents.

 

This wasn't the first time the High Court was asked to discuss the matter, and according to the judges, "This situation is not normal and does not match the commitment given to the court."

 

The judges were referring to a High Court ruling issued last year, in which the police were instructed to enforce the law and prevent the separation between men and women in the neighborhood.

 

The sex segregation problem in Mea Shearim resurfaces during the holiday of Sukkot, as some residents do not approve of the arrival of women from outside the neighborhood to watch the Water Drawing Festival.

 

'Public domain belongs to everyone'

The State Prosecutor's Office representative told the court, "This is not an ideal situation, but it's a process – and we are making progress every year."

 

Beinish commented, "It seems all we are seeing is a radicalization trend. It began with buses, continued with supermarkets, and has now reached the streets. It doesn't look like we're headed to moderation, but rather the opposite. The haredi community is suffering from the segregation as well and from the hooliganism taking over the neighborhood."

 

Jerusalem District Commander Niso Shaham said during the discussion that the segregation was not the desire of the entire haredi public, or even the Eda Haredit faction – but the doing of several hundred extremists.

 

"I have been to Mea Shearim and I admit that it looks terrible and shocking," he said, adding that "we must keep the right proportions. We are talking about several dozen meters only, and I can guarantee that the sights we see next year will be less harsh."

 

The petitioners' representative, Attorney Aviad Hacohen, said that the State was avoiding enforcing the law in Mea Shearim.

 

Jerusalem Council Member Rachel Azaria, who petitioned the court on Friday, added: "This is a long process of fighting for the public of women in Israel and for democracy. We must not let extremists take over the public domain, which should belong to all of us."

 

 

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