A commotion ensued during a Yom Kippur prayer service in a central Tel Aviv square Sunday after organizers used Israeli flags to set up an improvised barrier to separate male and female worshippers in defiance of a Supreme Court order.
An estimated 200 protesters arrived at Dizengoff Square, sparking angry exchanges with the service organizers. One protester even tore down the makeshift barrier. He was detained by police and released soon after.
The service was halted due to the clashes and worshippers resumed prayer in nearby synagogues.
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu harshly criticized the protesters.
“To our astonishment, specifically in the Jewish state, on the holiest day for the Jewish people, left-wing demonstrators rioted against Jews during their prayers. It seems that there are no boundaries, no norms and no limitations on hatred from the extremists on the left. I, like most Israeli citizens, reject this. Such violent behavior has no place among us,” he said.
While Netanyahu decried the protesters, opposition leader Yair Lapid slammed the religious sector for pushing observance on secular Tel Aviv.
“They make sure to explain to us that there is only one version of Judaism—their version,” he said. “They demand that in the name of tolerance, even in our neighborhood, they will decide what is allowed and what is not allowed,” he added.
Tel Aviv Mayor Ron Huldai vowed to protect the “nature” of Tel Aviv.
“I want to clarify clearly—I will not let the nature of our city be changed,” he said. “In Tel Aviv, there is no place for gender segregation in the public sphere. Those who don’t respect the municipality’s instructions and the law won’t be given approvals for activities in the city’s public spaces.”
The Supreme Court on Friday rejected a petition to allow a gender-segregated service in Dizengoff Square, ruling in favor of the Tel Aviv municipality, which forbade the separation.
Originally published by Israel Hayom.