Forcing men and women to sit separately at a city-sponsored meeting for parents in the Israeli city of Beit Shemesh might have sparked angry protests just a few years ago. But the ongoing protest by activists committed to religious pluralism against Beit Shemesh’s ultra-Orthodox mayor Moshe Abutbul increasingly appears to be a losing battle.
The announcement of the public meeting made clear that men and women would be separated during the discussion. At first it appeared that two separate meetings would be held but it was later clarified that while there would be a single meeting, the room in a community center would be divided into a men’s and women’s section completely blocked from each other’s view.
Gender separation in a public space at a state-sponsored event violates Israeli government directives, and, indeed some unhappy parents who are not ultra-Orthodox did complain.