Tue, 06 Dec 2022

Religious parties have reportedly urged Prime Minister-elect Benjamin Netanyahu to introduce the policy at publicly funded events

Several religious parties in Israel's coalition government have reportedly called on Prime Minister-elect Benjamin Netanyahu to introduce legislation that would allow gender segregation at publicly funded events. The suggestion came under fire from the opposition, with outgoing premier Yair Lapid likening such policies to those enforced by religious authorities in Israel's arch enemy, Iran.

In its report on Sunday, the Israel Hayom daily newspaper claimed that during ongoing coalition talks the Orthodox United Torah Judaism and Religious Zionism parties demanded that a workaround be developed to circumvent existing anti-discrimination laws.

At present, separate male-female seating arrangements at government educational facilities, public events and in public transport are explicitly prohibited in the country.

Some religious Israelis, however, argue that the government effectively discriminates against them by banning gender segregation, which they consider to be a religious commandment. They claim that the current anti-discrimination legislation denies such individuals the right to participate in public events.

According to the report, these ultra-orthodox parties made several other demands of Netanyahu, including dramatic restrictions on Israel's immigration policies and the revocation of recognition of non-orthodox conversions to Judaism.

Meanwhile, outgoing Prime Minister Yair Lapid argued that attempts by the "ultra-orthodox nationalists" to "place women behind barriers and legalize separating men from women" are particularly outrageous at a time when "brave women in Iran are fighting for their rights."

Labor party leader Merav Michaeli, in turn, slammed the proposals as anti-democratic.

"Nobody has the right to decide for anyone else where they sit, what they wear, or whether or not to terminate a pregnancy," he proclaimed, adding that "this is the fight for our democracy."

According to the Times of Israel media outlet, back in 2019 religious parties already called on Netanyahu's Likud to allow gender segregation, with the latter reportedly agreeing to the demands. Back then, the coalition, however, eventually failed to produce a government.

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