The Nazareth District Court on Sunday barred the Afula municipality from holding a gender-segregated musical performance planned for next week at a public park.
The ruling forbids organizers from seating men and women separately during the performance, saying it contravenes the principle of equality.
While Judge Jonathan Abraham said that individual attendees could decide on their own where to situate themselves at the event, he ordered security guards and ushers “to thwart any attempt [by organizers or members of the community] to place signs or barriers indicating segregation… and to intervene, with the assistance of police officers present, in the event of any attempt to segregate.”
In addition, Abraham ordered the Afula municipality to pay NIS 5,000 ($1,438) in damages to the petitioners from the Israel Women’s Network (IWN).
Responding to the ruling, the municipality said, “Out of 360 summer events being held this summer, the municipality had requested to put on one event for the ultra-Orthodox public to enjoy according to its customs. We are sorry that this was not possible. We will respect the court’s decision.”
Transportation Minister Bezalel Smotrich of the United Right called Israel’s legal system “stupid” in light of the decision. “I apologize, but despite my position I can’t find a more refined word [to describe the ruling],” he tweeted.
Smotrich went on to accuse a “weak” Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu of showing “zero leadership” in the face of “judicial activism.”
MK Moshe Gafni of the ultra-Orthodox United Torah Judaism party called the Nazareth court’s decision a “vicious one” that “will cause many people and teens not to attend the event.”
IWN director Michael Gera Margaliot praised the ruling, declaring that it marked “another significant step toward ensuring the status and right of women to be present and equal in any public space.”
Last month, the Afula municipality made headlines over a policy barring non-residents from entering its public parks, which critics said was designed to keep Arabs from nearby towns out of the Jewish-majority city.
Following an uproar, the city agreed to change its policy at the recommendation of the Nazareth District Court, where the municipality was being sued over the discriminatory policy by the advocacy group Adalah. Before the judge handed down his ruling, Afula officials told the court the signs banning nonresidents would be removed.