Uproar over men-only road to Meron

May 25, 2016  

The traditional ‘Hilula’ celebration will be held Wednesday night at the tomb of Rabbi Shimon Bar Yochai, located at the foot of Har Meron, in honor of Lag Ba’Omer. 

Hundreds of thousands of people are expected to attend the celebration, which involves singing, dancing, and gathering around the traditional Lag Ba’Omer bonfires. 

But the celebration has been mired somewhat by controversy between local authorities and the State. 

On Tuesday, the State Attorney for the Ministry of Religious Affairs, Yisrael Pat, called on chairman of the Hilula event, Rabbi Mordechai Halperin, to allow women to cross a bridge that usually only brings men to the event. The reason: that there is no legal basis for segregation between the sexes. 

“That way is open for men only,” Halperin said in an interview with Walla! News. “Now I’m interested to see what women want to go there. That is why I believe they would need to bring at least a tank brigade to protect them [if they do].” 

“It’s a laugh, that someone’s turning Lag Ba’Omer into Purim,” he added. “A great deal of the men will be unhappy.” 

The ‘segregated bus bridge’ to the tomb was enacted about four years ago; the Tourism Ministry has invested hundreds of thousands of shekels into building the bridge and ensuring it is safe for public use. 

Over the years, despite the Religious Affairs Ministry statement that the bridge will be used by both sexes, only men were actually allowed to cross the bridge, and signs demanding the segregation were set up at its entrance. 

The current opposition began about ten days ago, when the Women’s Justice Center for women’s rights in Rabbinic courts demanded to know on what legal grounds women were banned from crossing the bridge. In response, the State Attorney released a statement promising that the bridge, “which is the proper, most convenient, and shortest route, is used by the general public, and no woman will be excluded.” 

He added that he received a guarantee from the administration of the National Center for Development of Holy Sites, which is in charge of national Lag Ba’Omer events, that the bridge is open to everyone and that women would not be banned from the road. 

“It should be noted clearly on the road that it is open to all interested parties,” he emphasized. 

The haredi sector raised an uproar over the ruling, as did Rabbi Halperin, who claimed that the road is a private road not subject to anti-segregation laws. 

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