The specialists invited to speak at the conference included Prof. Neri Laufer, Prof. Shlomo Mashiach, Prof. Prof. Benjamin Bartoov, Dr. Hananel Holzer, Dr. Ron Rabinowitz, Dr. Refael Polack and Dr. Michael Nadjari.
The conference was held in cooperation with ultra-Orthodox organization Machon Yad Ramah, which is run by Rabbi Deitsch, and was attended by rabbis, religious judges, teachers, hospital rabbis and community rabbis. Women were not invited to participate in the panel and were excluded from the audience as well.
The decision not to include women in the conference contradicts the stand of the Israel Medical Association (IMA), which released a position paper on the issue in 2011, following incidents in which female exports were asked not to participate in different medical conferences.
"The Ethics Committee members are aware of the fact that this is a broad and deep social process of religious radicalization which goes beyond the medical framework," the position paper read. "Nonetheless, the committee members feel it is their duty to express a firm stance against the exclusion of women in general, and particularly in the medical system."
The document issued by the IMA further stated that "a doctor will not participate in any medical or scientific event which excludes women, whether they are patients or physicians."
Attorney Rabbi Uri Regev, CEO of Hiddush – Freedom of Religious for Israel, called on the IMA before the conference to forbid its members to attend the Jerusalem event and demanded that all the physicians cancel their participation.
"This conference proves how important it is to turn the exclusion of women into a criminal offense," Rabbi Regev said. "The idea that the Meuhedet HMO and the Shaare Zedek Medical Center would hold a gathering in which doctors and rabbis, who are all men, sit and discuss gynecology without a single female specialist is an unbelievable hallucination in a state which pretends to be Western.
"It turns out that the exclusion of women epidemic is a phenomenon which refuses to pass but raises its head repeatedly," he added. "It also turns out that there is no limit to Meuhedet and Shaare Zedek's willingness to butter up haredi zealots, and so the IMA and legislator should do it for them."
'Conference intended for a specific target audience'
Meuhedet Health Services offered the following response: "The HMO serves about half a million patients in the Jerusalem district, about 250,000 of whom are haredi. The HMO's policy (which is based, among other things, on the Health Ministry policy) is to make the services accessible to the entire population, while gaining broad cooperation from the public in a wide variety of examinations, treatments and the adoption of a healthy lifestyle. As part of this effort, Meuhedet holds a wide variety of activities to promote health among the entire public on a regular basis.
"The conference was intended for neighborhood rabbis (and was not open to the broad public), and its purpose was to strengthen the relationship with the public's rabbis in order to expand the cooperation between the rabbis and Meuhedet through an open dialogue with physicians specializing in gynecology.
"As the conference's goal was to create a dialogue with dozens of neighborhood rabbis (which hundreds of thousands of patients consult with), the nature of the gathering had to be adapted to the target audience it aimed to serve."