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‘Is this Iran?’: Gender-segregated Modiin Illit park stops dads taking daughters

Report says fathers not permitted to escort young daughters at ultra-Orthodox settlement’s amusement playground due to illegally imposed separate hours

Illustrative: Ultra orthodox Jews visit an amusement park in Bnei Brak on August 08, 2012. (Yaakov Naumi/Flash90)
Illustrative: Ultra orthodox Jews visit an amusement park in Bnei Brak on August 08, 2012. (Yaakov Naumi/Flash90)

An amusement park in an ultra-Orthodox city told parents they could not accompany children of the opposite gender into the grounds due to gender segregation rules, despite directives from state officials forbidding such practices in public spaces, according to a report Thursday.

The amusement park in the West Bank settlement of Modiin Illit had separate hours for boys and girls, but parents of the opposite gender were not allowed to enter to look after their young children, Channel 13 News reported.

“This is terrible, is this Iran? It has never been like this,” a father of four young girls told Channel 13 after he was denied entry.

According to the report, even boys younger than five were refused access during the “hours for girls,” forcing them to wait outside until later in the day.

Illustrative — The ultra-Orthodox settlement of Modi’in Illit, February 18, 2019 (Flash90)

The current law forbids gender-based discrimination, though it does allow separation under certain extraordinary conditions such as in the case of a group with specific religious needs.

However, such segregation has been forbidden by the attorney general’s office at state or municipal-sponsored events, or events held in public spaces.

The park in Modiin Illit was in a public space according to Channel 13.

“I saw fathers who arrived with eight girls, the eldest was maybe ten years old, so at first they stood on the side until they cried and went home,” another witness told the network.

“It is not a private area, it’s a municipal area that the city hall rents out to the amusement park operators. How can they choose entrants like this?” he added.

No clear answer was given from the park in response to the allegations, however a representative told Channel 13 that he “thinks if a girl is four years old, they would let her in,” but added, “I don’t know.”

Amid controversy in 2019 over a number of men-only concerts, Attorney General Avichai Mandelblit published guidelines for authorities saying that gender-segregation could be permissible if the separation were voluntary and desired by the target audience, men and women had equal conditions, and separation did not unduly impact those opposed to it.

However, the statement clarified that the target audience for a gender-segregated event should not be children and families.

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