Benzion Hakohen “Benny” Friedman, one of the organizers of the Moshiach in the Square rally scheduled to take place in Tel Aviv next Monday, said Tuesday that the separate-seating event would be held as planned despite the Tel Aviv Municipality’s announcement that it has been cancelled.
The Chabad Hasidic movement is responsible for organizing the rally at Rabin Square, one of the city’s most prominent locations.
“The event will take place as scheduled,” Friedman assured during an Ynet interview.
The Lubavitcher Rabbi’s followers asked to hold an event honoring the rabbi under the title of “Faith, joy, redemption” at the famous Rabin Square in Tel Aviv. Singer Ariel Zilber and a children’s’ choir were planned to perform at the event.
But when the municipality found out that the women attending the rally would be obligated to sit in a separated area from the men, women’s organizations and City Council members demanded that Tel Aviv Mayor Ron Huldai call off the event.
The municipality announced last Monday that it would not allow gender-segregated events in its public spaces. According to the attorney general, the municipality is entitled to decide not to hold events with gender segregation.
“Our city Tel Aviv, in which the Declaration of Independence was read, has always led the protection of human rights, equality and gender equality in particular,” Mayor Huldai said.
“The decision (not to hold the event) is in line with the State of Israel’s values that seek equal rights to all, while eliminating the grave phenomenon of exclusion of women in public space,” he elaborated.
The municipality stressed that the event scheduled to take place at Rabin Square was not of a clear religious character. Therefore, a gender-segregated event is likely to be called off.
The municipality also stated the organizers had been given the opportunity to voice their arguments before a final decision was made.
Nevertheless, Friedman insisted the rally would be held as planned. “The event hasn’t been canceled. The municipality didn’t announce the cancelation of the event, rather they intend to ask us to cancel the segregation.
“Obviously we are not going to cancel it since it is a praying rally focusing on the blessing of the new moon,” he explained.
“Deputy Attorney General Dana Silber has said in the past that a praying event will naturally be segregated. Religious women desire (the gender segregation) as well,” he claimed.
Attorney Michal Gera Margaliot, director of the Israel Women’s Network—a feminist non-partisan civil society organization, explained her organization was not interested in the event’s cancellation.
“The event was not canceled and we don’t want to cause its cancelation. The attorney general and Mayor Ron Huldai said the same. (However), gender segregation is not allowed,” she added.
“This is not a religious event. It’s an event with religious characteristics, but first and foremost it’s a cultural event,” she opined.
“It’s true that it’s a private event, but the minute it’s held in the city’s square it has a real public significance.
“The law that prohibits discrimination in products, services and entry to entertainment and public places does not distinguish a public event from a private one,” Margaliot went on to say.
“The law prohibits exclusion based on gender when participating in a public event, not including extremely unusual cases,” she elaborated.
“If the crowd (participating in the event) desires separation—it can have it, but not an established gender segregation with partitions,” she said.
“The Tel Aviv Municipality has set the proper standard and determined unequivocally it would not allow gender segregation in events taking place in public spaces. We call on Israel’s 256 local authorities to join Tel Aviv Municipality and declare they are committed to battling gender discrimination,” she concluded.
Friedman stressed Chabad is a movement spreading the love of Israel. “We invite all the people of Israel, everyone that wants to, men and women alike to come and enjoy the love and the joy.
“The point being that each Chabad house that holds events—which are not defined by the freedom of religion and worship law as religious events—is allowed to have them according to the Halacha (Jewish law),” the rally’s organizer stated.
Attorney Reuven Ladiansky, a Tel Aviv city councilman, said he had approached Huldai two weeks ago and demanded him to bar the rally organized by Chabad amid the inappropriate gender segregation.
“The municipality’s announcement saying it would not allow gender segregation in the event is an important step,” he asserted.
Tel Aviv Councilwoman Zippi Brand urged Huldai to cancel Chabad’s “disgraceful” event in Rabin Square.
“The Moshiach in the Square rally was supposed to take place with the attendance of rabbis, public figures, and artists. I’m all in favor of having diverse events accommodating each sector, events which represents Tel Aviv’s magnificent pluralism, but we cannot remain silent while an event being held in our public spaces excludes 50 percent of Tel Aviv’s residents,” she explained.
“The days of women exclusion in public spaces are over!” she assured.