Israelis in Kiryat Ono praying on Yom Kippur (Photo: Tzohar)

Thousands of worshipers intend to arrive on Tuesday evening and Wednesday morning for the Jewish prayers that will be held in Tel Aviv in honor of Israelโ€™s Independence Day, but the Tel Aviv municipality took away much of the enthusiasm and informed the organizers that physical separation between women and men, as necessary for prayer in accordance with Jewish traditions and Halacha, will not be allowed.

"There will not be any gender segregation by physical means," wrote Robi Zaloff, the deputy director general of the municipality of Tel Aviv to the organizers of the event. This instruction comes only two days after a huge Muslim Eid al-Fitr prayer was held in the streets of Tel Aviv with separate sections for both genders.

The organizers of the prayer say that in recent years the prayers were held as usual with separation, but as mentioned, this time the Tel Aviv municipality decided to change the practice and order the removal of the partition on the grounds that it is a "public space".

Attorney Michael Litwick issued a letter to the Tel Aviv Municipality in which he calls on it to retract the outrageous decision and allow the celebratory ceremony to take place or, alternatively, to cancel a women-only race that is expected to take place in the city the following week.

"On May 4, 2023, there will be a women-only race in collaboration with the Tel Aviv Municipality and โ€˜Super Pharmโ€™, in the public space of the municipal territory of the Tel Aviv Municipality, while the municipality is sponsoring the event. The advertisement for the race refers to female participants only and in practice it is a completely segregated event with the complete exclusion of men," he wrote.

"On the other hand, it is surprising to discover this policy, when days prior to that, the municipality of Tel Aviv chose to prevent a solemn prayer event on the occasion of the 75th Independence Day of the State of Israel. There it is a prayer event held privately with the participation of both sexes when the separation between the sexes is done due to the wishes of the worshipers and since in a prayer event of a religious nature where the separation is done in accordance with Jewish law. I will remind you that the deputy to the ombudsman for the State of Israel as well as the ombudsman unequivocally stated that it is possible to hold separate sections for prayer events," he added.

Shai Glick, CEO of the human rights organization โ€œBtsalmo", said in response to the Tel Aviv Municipality's decision: "This is prohibited discrimination. While the Arab public can hold separate events and a women's race is held, only the religious public does not get to receive the human rights of freedom of religion and worship. We call on the deputy to the Ombudsman to intervene in the matter immediately and instruct the mayor of Tel Aviv that he must not infringe on the rights of the religious public in the city to live and enjoy the public space like any other citizen in the city."

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