by Reb Akiva @ Mystical Paths
It’s Yom Simchasaynu, the time of our rejoicing. One of the unusual aspects of this time in Israel is that much of the country is on internal vacation for the week. This means you run into yeshiva bochrim and Tel Aviv businessmen hiking and visiting attractions with their families – together, in the same place at the same time.
One of the most interesting examples of this is in Meah Shearim. Meah Shearim is the most strongly cloistered ultra-orthodox Jewish community in the world. While it’s physically part of Jerusalem, crossing it’s boundary is literally crossing into another world. One of yeshivas and shuls, chassidic rebbes and their courts, charity organizations and individualized services (tailors, clothing makers.
This leads to massive crowds as people, mostly religious Jews of all variety but also numbers of all types just interested in checking it out or joining the fun, stream into a very cramped and narrow neighborhood. (How cramped and narrow? Many streets are walking-only alleyways. The biggest streets in the neighborhood are 1-way and have room for a compact car. When a bus comes down the street people have to duck into stores to make room for it to get by.)
Now this is, as mentioned, the ultimate ultra-orthodox community in the world. They’ve happily invited the world to join their celebration in honor of the Torah. But as crowds have grown and more varieties of people have been coming and partying (in all aspects of that word), things are getting a little out of control in the streets.
So to try to keep the situation under control and prevent inappropriate activities, they attempted to segregate the street into male and female walkways (with actual fences or tarps spread down the street. It’s been a bit of a mess, the areas are narrow and access to stores and stuff – as well as the different shul or yeshiva entrances, make it rather problematic.
They’ve adjusted the system over a few years to try to make it somewhat workable and meet their goal of preventing face to face gender mixing in the street – and it’s gotten a bit better. And hey, it’s their neighborhood and their party, so if that’s the way they want to run it – if I don’t like it I won’t go.
So naturally someone from Tel Aviv got upset at this. They wanted to walk through the narrow street in the ultra-orthodox community in the midst of a religious festival hand in hand. In response to not being able to do what they wanted to do…they filed a court case with the Israeli Supreme Court.
And the court ruled…no gender segregation on a public street.
Once again it’s come up and the court is yelling at the police to go do something (so this one Tel Aviv couple can stroll through the middle of an ultra-orthodox neighborhood during a religious festival hand-in-hand).
I wrote this response to the newspaper article and Tel Avians who insist on their rights…
Guess what, the court can't simply rule by fiat! They open their neighborhood for a festival – their private and privately funded celebration, where they are happy for EVERY Jew to join them in celebration of the Torah.
But it's their neighborhood and they have a few simple rules if you're going to join them. If you don't like the rules, fine, don't come.
If you think you're going to sit like a priestess on a pedestal and tell them how to run it...fine, they’ll just close the doors to the yeshiva's and synagogue's (where it's all held) and you can just go away.
NOTE – THEY gain NOTHING from you being there. THEY”RE giving away FREE FOOD, FREE DRINK, providing LIVE MUSIC. No donations are taken, no payment expected. They’re sharing their joy out of their kindness to their fellow Jew.
Would you force them to close their doors to you? (And then turn around and scream about their closed doors and separation from Israeli society?) Hashem Yerachem (G-d have mercy), apparently so.