Women Made to Watch Public Events on Screens as Israeli City Doubles Down on Gender Segregation

The state is funding cultural events for the ultra-Orthodox community where gender segregation is enforced by seating women in separate spaces where they can only watch the performance on screens.

Until now, separation of men and women — which was the focus of litigation and public debate last summer — was usually carried out by using a partition to divide a space into two sections. But gender separation in the city of Beit Shemesh is more stringent, Haaretz found, as it seemingly strives to remove women entirely from the shared public space.

A few weeks ago, Israel’s attorney general, Avichai Mendelblit, issued a controversial written legal opinion acquiescing to segregation between men and women at publicly funded events under certain conditions.However, the statement did not take into account this form of exclusion — apparently because that option did not even occur to the jurists who took part in the discussions.

This past week, posters for Simchat Beit Hashoeva (a water-drawing celebration observed at Sukkot) started to appear around Beit Shemesh. Ultra-Orthodox men were invited to participate in several events, including some involving dancing and singing.

At least two of the ads bear the logos of the Negev and Galilee Development Ministry and Beit Shemesh municipality, and note that the events are funded by the ministry (which is headed by Arye Dery, from the Sephardi ultra-Orthodox Shas party).