Hundreds of secular Israeli Jews protested against illegal gender- segregated prayers in public spaces in Tel Aviv and other cities in Israel on Yom Kippur.
On Friday, the Supreme Court upheld a ruling by the Tel Aviv municipality, stating that gender-segregated prayers in public places in the city are illegal. Police, however, failed to adequately enforce the ban.
The biggest clashes were seen on Dizengoff Square in central Tel Aviv on both Sunday and Monday evening when Rosh Yehudi, the yeshiva organising the prayer, defied a Supreme Court ruling and began preparing a large gender-segregated prayer session.
Hundreds of demonstrators removed chairs and barriers set up to divide men and women, while chanting “shame” at the Orthodox organisers. Police, meanwhile, was filmed doing nothing to stop the illegal prayer, while arresting at least one protester.
An illegal gender segregated prayer was also underway in Habima Square in Tel Aviv, which was met with similar protest. Similar clashes took place in Ramat Aviv, Givataym, Haifa, Herzliya, Hod Hasharon and Zichron Ya’akov, with demonstrators succeeding in disturbing the events.
Secular Israelis protesting a gender segregated (and illegal) prayer in central Tel Aviv. Credit: Alex Parfouri pic.twitter.com/3whXHnC0z4
— Jotam Confino (@mrconfino) September 25, 2023
Police were documented asking both men and women in other parts of Israel to leave the areas illegally designated for men and women during the Yom Kippur prayer.
Immediately after Yom Kippur ended on Monday night, lawmakers from all across the political spectrum voiced their opinion on the highly sensitive issue, which illustrates the deep division in Israel over religion’s role in society.
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu was accused of incitement after he shared a picture (without giving credit to the Haaretz photographer) of the event in Dizengoff Square, calling the protesters “left-wing rioters.”
“The people of Israel sought to unite on Yom Kippur by asking for forgiveness and unity among us. To our astonishment, specifically in the Jewish state, on the holiest day for the Jewish people, left-wing demonstrators rioted against Jews during their prayer,” Netanyahu said.
“It seems that there are no boundaries, no norms and no limitations on hatred from the extremists on the left. I, like most Israeli citizens, reject this. Such violent behaviour has no place among us,” he added.
National Unity party leader, Benny Gantz, immediately fired back, calling Netanyahu “the biggest generator of hatred, and is the one who now chooses to fan the fire.”
Opposition Leader Yair Lapid also weighed in, saying: “The Orthodox ultra-nationalist nucleus that came to the neighbourhood decided to bring the war to us as well. They make sure to explain to us that there is only one version of Judaism, their version. They demand that in the name of tolerance, even in our neighbourhood, they will decide what is allowed and what is not allowed.”
Other far-right lawmakers were more aggressive in their tone. Likud Lawmaker Boaz Bismuth made an absurd claim, saying: “Not allowing Jews to pray – in all my years in Europe as a journalist I have never seen such anti-Semitic plays.”
Lawmaker Tali Gotliv echoed her colleague from Likud, sharing a video of the clashes, saying: “What a horrible sight. Hatred…. anti-Semitism.”
Yisrael Beitenu leader, Avigdor Lieberman, accused the “messianic” government of trying to “turn Tel Aviv into Tehran,” warning that the next step will be the establishment of a “morality police” in Israel.
National Security Minister Itamar Ben-Gvir also added fuel to the fire by announcing he would arrive in Tel Aviv on Thursday to participate in a public prayer.
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