Yom Kippur prayers in Tel Aviv
Yom Kippur prayers in Tel AvivRosh Yehudi

Following the Tel Aviv Municipality's decision not to allow partitions between men and women during the Yom Kippur prayer at Dizengoff Square, an urgent administrative petition was filed against the municipality.

"The decision marks a new low in the annals of the respondent, in the annals of the state. Since the rule of the British Mandate and disturbances in the Jewish settlement [of Israel], there has not been heard in the Land of Israel a ban on Jewish prayer accessories, on a partition - until now. Until the Tel Aviv municipality was established," reads the petition signed by the "Israeli Forum for Human Freedom and Dignity."

The phrase "since the rule of the British Mandate" is a reference to an incident on Yom Kippur of 1928, when British police resorted to removing by force a screen used to separate men and women at prayer at the Western Wall. Women who tried to prevent the screen being dismantled were beaten by the police, who used pieces of the broken wooden frame as clubs. Chairs were then pulled out from under elderly worshipers. The episode made international news and Jews the world over objected to the British action.

The petition added that "the prayers became a magnet for a wide and diverse public. Religious, traditional, secular - everyone who looked found their place in the moving prayer on the street of a city... The prayers were held every year using a partition, according to Jewish law and tradition from generation to generation."

The petitioners claimed that when it comes to the Muslim population - the municipality of Tel Aviv allows the existence of segregation - and even carries it out.

"This is the place to point out, that Muslim prayers are held in the city separately, using a partition, without interference (and they are held legally. Not long ago, a mass prayer and sermon event was held in the city park - Charles Clore Park - in honor of the Muslim holiday of Eid al-Qorban. The fences of none other than the Tel Aviv municipality were used as a partition in the location."

"The mass prayer in honor of the Muslim holiday is held every year, in the same format, that of [gender] separation, in the same city park, using the same fences of the municipality as a partition. Prayers in a similar format are also held on the occasion of Eid al-Fitr. Needless to say, these regular prayers are well known to the municipality."

"The Tel Aviv municipality's attempt to ban Jewish prayer, using a partition, according to the rules of Jewish law and according to Jewish tradition - is invalid. The municipality lacks the authority to create such a ban, out of nowhere."

It was further clarified that "the decision of the municipality that is the subject of this petition was made without authority and is therefore illegal and should be annulled."

"The ban on the use of a partition in Jewish prayer (and specifically Jewish) is not only illegal but also unconstitutional. The ban on holding Jewish prayer according to Jewish law and tradition violates a series of fundamental rights of those who wish to pray, including the rights to freedom, dignity, autonomy, freedom of religion and equality."