Jerusalem municipality has okayed the use of public money for a mass, men-only gathering for the ultra-Orthodox Shas Party in the capital, allegedly without following correct procedure to approve the funding.
Channel 2 television reported Wednesday that the bash at the open-air Sultan’s Pool venue beneath the Old City walls on October 19 will cost NIS 650,000 ($172,270). It is officially being organized by El Hama’ayan, Shas’s educational arm, which will contribute just 10 percent of the overall price of the event.
According to the religious radio station Kol Hai, organizers are hoping to lay on transport from all over Israel to the event.
Channel 2 said that the money was transferred without any discussion by the full city council or the committee charged with approving such financial support.
Jerusalem Municipality denied this claim, saying it was a Shas tradition to hold an event of this kind and that all permits were available on its website.
Yossi Havilio, a former legal adviser to the municipality who today chairs Tsahor, an organization promoting social justice and equality in Jerusalem, said El Hama’ayan was a political body affiliated with Shas and that it was inappropriate for Jerusalem Municipality to use public funds for one of its events.
Following a similar Shas event at the city’s Arena sports hall last year, Tsahor petitioned the district court to prohibit the municipality from transferring funds to El Hama’ayan, on the grounds that the event was political and that the municipality had not fulfilled the criteria set out for awarding funds to non-municipal bodies, which include giving other organizations the chance to bid for the funds as well. The court rejected the first claim and accepted the second. Havilio plans to petition the court again over the Shas event.
A performance featuring top Israeli singers that was planned for Tel Aviv’s Rabin Square was cancelled 10 days ago after the public protested the decision of the event’s religious sponsor to ban women singers from taking part.
The Tel Aviv Municipality had approved but not funded the event, Haaretz newspaper reported.