The Israeli High Court of Justice today ruled against separation between men and women on the sidewalks of Meah Shearim. The court also disallowed the positioning of “modesty guards” from the neighborhood committee to enforce the separation.
In addition, the court ruled, women will be allowed to hold a protest march in the neighborhood tomorrow in protest of the discrimination between men and women. Yerushalayim Police was ordered to allow and guard the procession.
It had been proposed to block Mea Shearim’s Rechov Mordechai to women for Yom Tov, but following protest from women’s organizations and police demands, leaders of the community said the road would not be blocked to women.
On Monday, two City Council members petitioned the High Court on the issue. Their representative, Attorney Aviad Hacohen, said that screens to separate men from women had been set up and “guards” positioned to enforce the separation.
The State, in its response this morning, said there was no place for “pirate” separation in public spaces such as streets, and promised it would prevent this and forbid “guards” from operating in the area. The court accepted the State’s announcement, which supports the petitioners.
Yerushalayim City Council member Rachel Azaria (Tnuat Yerushalmim) said the court’s ruling meant there should be no separation in any public space in the State of Israel. “Any such separation is illegal,” she said, “which means that all sorts of unspoken agreements made with the charedi community will not happen again. This is another stage in the struggle to ensure that public space in Israel is open to men and women alike, just like the struggle against separation on buses.”
The petition was submitted by ELLA-Israeli Feminist Group, Azaria and Laura Wharton (Meretz), who is also a Yerushalayim City Council member. They demanded the police stop the separation immediately throughout Yerushalayim and especially in Meah Shearim, protesting police lethargy in acting against it.
The two petitioners related their own experience when they tried to pass the road in a mixed group. “The women were asked to go to a narrow sidewalk, which hardly had space to pass,” they said. “The men were given the center, with the entire width of the road.”