Good ol’ boys club: 7 things to know for August 15
Israel media review

Good ol’ boys club: 7 things to know for August 15

The High Court is mocked after nixing a gender-separated concert when it was almost over and Netanyahu appears to choose his bro Trump over US lawmakers Tlaib and Omar

Ultra-Orthodox Jews at a concert featuring Haredi singer Motti Steinmetz, in a show where men and women in the audience sat separately, in the northern Israeli city of Afula on August 14, 2019. (Meir Vaknin/Flash90)
Ultra-Orthodox Jews at a concert featuring Haredi singer Motti Steinmetz, in a show where men and women in the audience sat separately, in the northern Israeli city of Afula on August 14, 2019. (Meir Vaknin/Flash90)

1. Summer of Separation: Woodstock, Altamont Speedway, Newport Folk Festival and now — Afula amphitheater.

  • Almost 50 years to the day after the age of aquarius exploded into a mud-filled festival of peace and love in Bethel, New York, history was made some 7,000 miles away, as the age of ultra-Orthodox hegemony exploded into a political mudfest of gender segregation and court rulings.
  • The concert and a last minute decision by the city of Afula to allow gender segregation despite a court suggesting it’s a bad idea, and then a higher court placing an injunction on any gender segregation as the concert was drawing to a close, inserted some excitement into an otherwise humdrum news season. Not Jimi Hendrix playing the national anthem on a flaming guitar excitement, but excitement nonetheless.
  • The concert even featured an Altamont-style brawl, as Tiberias Mayor Ron Kobi, avowed enemy of Shas minister Aryeh Deri, showed up and was attacked by attendees before being booted by the police.
  • Israel Hayom writes that given all the hubbub around the concert and gender segregation in general, “the concert turned into an impressive show of force,” with thousands showing up on both sides of the gender barrier.
  • Yedioth Ahronoth finds one woman who showed up to the concert in pants (considered immodest dress by most ultra-Orthodox standards) but was still for the segregation.
  • “Everyone needs to be able to celebrate the way they see fit.”

2. Not black and white: Despite the High Court ruling banning the concert, many in the Haredi world play up the fact that the concert was able to go ahead at all.

  • “Whoever tried to coerce their lifestyle onto others lost today. They tried to impose their ways onto people who bought concert tickets according to their beliefs and in accordance with halacha,” Deri is quoted telling the crowd before the High Court ruling.
  • “District court overturns ruling banning gender-segregated concert,” reads a headline on the front page of ultra-Orthodox daily Hamevaser.
  • UTJ politician Moshe Gafni, though, is quoted on ultra-Orthodox website Kikar HaShabbat seeing the glass half empty after the High Court ruling: “This was expected. I was actually surprised that they even allowed the concert at first. All those statements that the court cares about minority rights are lies.”

3. What are we ruling for? In Yedioth, columnist Ben-Dror Yemini is critical of the High Court for making a decision that he describes as an “own-goal.”

  • “It’s not just that the concert had already happened, but that the decision invited criticism of judicial activism, and this time it wasn’t just annoying and unneeded, but also incorrect.”
  • On Twitter, Maariv reported Avishai Grunsweig jokingly asks if the judges should have ordered singer Beni Steinmetz to do the concert again, this time without a separator.

4. Marching forward: On the other side, Haaretz praises the court for its decision, even if it came as time expired.

  • “The High Court of Justice did well in its late-night decision to accept the petition from the Israel Women’s Network and overrule the Nazareth District Court. The justices halted the advance of gender segregation, for now,” the paper’s lead editorial reads.
  • After Channel 12 reporter Amit Segal tries to point out the irony of IWN, which he describes as a no boys club, pushing against gender discrimination, Labor MK Merav Michaeli hits back that it’s open to men and women (as part of a larger Twitter spat).
  • “You’re welcome to come to their club anytime,” she writes.

5. Squashing the squad: Israel looks set to separate itself from some other women: US lawmakers Rashida Tlaib and Ilhan Omar.

  • After initially announcing it would not ban the BDS-backing Congresswomen from visiting out of respect for the US, the government puts out a statement (without putting its name behind it) that it is considering banning them.
  • According to Channel 12 news reporter Dana Weiss, the decision to ban the two has already been made.
  • The reason cited for the move is reportedly “suspected provocations and promotion of BDS.”
  • The timing of the congresswomen’s intended visit has not yet been confirmed, though multiple Israeli reports say they were expected to arrive Friday. CNN says the trip is August 18-22.
  • Israeli officials are refusing to comment on the issue openly, but with the visit expected to take place in the next few days, a decision will likely need to be made soon (unless Israel actually wants them to get on a plane and be turned away at the airport).
  • Haaretz reporter Chaim Levinson makes fun of Netanyahu on Twitter for showing “decisive leadership” by “giving the bureaucrat stamping passports at the airport the authority to make the decision on whether to let the two members of Congress enter.”

6. Itinerary trouble: In its statement, the government said it had trouble with the visit “in its current format.”

  • Asked what that means and where the problems are, Jerusalem refuses to respond, CNN reports.
  • On Wednesday evening, Channel 13 reported that Israeli officials were preparing for the possibility that the two lawmakers may seek to visit the flashpoint Temple Mount in Jerusalem during their stay in the country.
  • The Washington Post reports that a senior Israeli official says that if “Tlaib, an American of Palestinian heritage, made a special humanitarian request to visit her family in the occupied West Bank, then ‘it would be considered favorably.”

7. Only hurting yourself: The report of the ban comes several days after Channel 13/Axios reporter Barak Ravid revealed that US President Donald Trump was pressuring Israel to ban the two.

  • Trump is widely seen as a major factor behind the decision, though pundits describe it as an Israeli mistake that will hurt the country in the long run.



  • Former US Ambassador to Israel Dan Shapiro, who has been critical of Tlaib and Omar, calls the move a “self own,” which is how Americans say “own goal.”


  • Ravid compares the affair to the black eye Israel got over the Mavi Marmara, a Turkish blockade busting ship heading to Gaza that it boarded in 2010, drawing harsh condemnation after 10 Turks were killed in a violent melee with troops, many of whom were also hurt.
  • “Who says Israel didn’t learn from the Marmara,” he jokes on Twitter. “This time Israel is going down a sure path of a major international hubbub over nothing without killing anyone.”
read more: