"We started the show and already felt something strange," said Gil Ron Shama of the Diwan ensemble, adding that soon "a representative of the festival production walked over to the singer and asked her to get off the stage."
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"I didn’t know what it was all about but would not allow it and we went on with the performance. We later realized that haredim were threatening that if the singer does not leave the stage, they will disrupt all other events in the festival."
The ensemble was scheduled to perform four times during the four-day festival, but following the first performance, singer Liat Tzion was asked not to return to the stage, and left the festival.
Launched last year the festival introduces various musical styles into the streets of Jerusalem's old city.
Among the ensembles was also Marsh Dondurma, consisting of 15 musicians, two of whom are women. A few days before the ensemble was scheduled to perform, festival representatives asked that the women not go on stage.
"Several days before the show, people with the production demanded that we perform without the women," said Dotan Yogev, adding that he was offered male musicians to replace the women.
"I was told that the issue was a problem since the event was taking place in the Old City's Jewish Quarter. I was stunned. I said that the request was absurd and that I will not back down. After two days of nonstop phone calls I was told that the performance was to go on as scheduled."
Once on stage, Yogev recounted the events preceding the ensemble's performance to the audience, but his microphone was turned off.
Jerusalem Councilwoman Rachel Azaria criticized the incidents saying "This is insufferable – that in the old city of Jerusalem, to which the entire Jewish people long, this immoral, un-Jewish and illegal act of excluding women will occur. The mayor of Jerusalem must ensure that no sign of exclusion appears in cultural events and fight haredi lobbyists who promote such exclusion."
The Jerusalem Municipality said that "Many women performed in the festival, singing in many places in the Old City. Those specific incidents were an error in judgment made by the festival's artistic manager, without the municipality's knowledge, and are not indicative of the festival as a whole."
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