Smotrich urges end to ‘insane secular coercion’ as gender-segregated event nixed

MK vows legislation to end attempts to ‘reeducate the religious public’ after Holon municipality compelled to allow mixed seating at Holocaust Remembrance Day ceremony

National Union MK Bezalel Smotrich, at the Supreme Court in Jerusalem on March 27, 2019. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)
National Union MK Bezalel Smotrich, at the Supreme Court in Jerusalem on March 27, 2019. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)

MK Bezalel Smotrich of the Union of Right-Wing Parties called on Wednesday for an end to “insane fundamentalist secular coercion,” after the Holon municipality nixed plans for a gender-segregated event to mark Holocaust Remembrance Day.

The municipality’s official Wednesday evening event, with the mayor in attendance, had been planned to take place with full separation between men and women. This despite such separation being forbidden at official state-sanctioned events.

This led Deputy Attorney General Dina Zilber to instruct the city on Tuesday to cancel the planned separation. The municipality explained that the event was intended for a largely religious audience but complied with the directive.

Smotrich, who heads the National Union faction of the URWP and is No. 2 on the alliance’s slate, said: “Here’s another reason I want the justice portfolio [in the next government] — to stop the insane fundamentalist secular coercion by Dina Zilber, who condescendingly wants to reeducate the religious public, and prevents it from holding events that agree with its religious beliefs.”

He said he planned to demand legislation in the next government to allow gender segregation for religious reasons.

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

Smotrich said Zilber was choosing a “hyper activist” interpretation of the law.

In March Rabbi Aviezer Filtz, a prominent ultra-Orthodox figure, compared Israel unfavorably to Nazi Germany over the Jewish state’s failure to recognize the importance of separating men and women in public.

“Even the Nazis, may their names be erased, understood that there has to be separate housing for women and men, but here [in Israel] it’s forbidden!” he said.

Channel 13 reported in March that Education Minister Naftali Bennett had decided to allow for more gender segregation in academia following pressure from the ultra-Orthodox community in support of the move.

The news led to criticism of Bennett in secular circles.

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