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Israeli Minister To Introduce Gender-Segregated Bathing Pilot In Natural Springs

Controversial program aims to accommodate religious groups while raising concerns of gender equality.

Israeli Environmental Protection Minister Idit Silman is poised to introduce this summer gender-segregated bathing times in some of the country’s natural springs, outside the official operating hours of the sites, according to Israel Hayom

The pilot program will initially include only two attractions run by the Israeli authorities: one in the Einot Tzukim Nature Reserve near the Dead Sea, and the other in Gan Hashlosha National Park near Beit She’an. 

The program, which touches on a sensitive issue as increasing numbers in religious circles call for segregated bathing hours while liberal groups see this as a slippery slope toward the sidelining of women, will not impact the existing arrangement at the sites, as it will take place only between 6 p.m. to 9 p.m. and later. Israeli natural springs are usually closed to bathers by 5 p.m.

Earlier this year, United Torah Judaism Knesset member Moshe Gafni introduced draft legislation that calls for at least 15% of such sites’ operating times to be allotted for gender-segregated bathing.

A previous attempt to introduce such a scheme at Ein Tsukim was struck down by the Justice Ministry as discriminatory. 

Gan HaShlosha National Park in northern Israel in 2019. Israeli Minister to introduce gender-segregated bathing pilot while saying that,”Israel’s natural resources belong to everyone,” including the Haredi population. ANAT HERMONY/FLASH/90.

Silman told Israel Hayom that “Israel’s natural resources belong to everyone, and therefore upon assuming office I put an emphasis on finding creative solutions to make public spaces and parks accessible to all publics, including the Haredi populations.” 

She added, “The pilot program will only run outside the official operating hours and will give more sectors the chance to enjoy the natural springs that have stayed away until now because of their lifestyle—but without impacting the members of the public who bathe there during normal hours.”

The natural springs have been a recreation destination since the days of the Roman Empire. Hamat Gader has a sulfur concentration of 4.7 percent, these thermal baths have been credited with having a therapeutic effect on the body.

“Athletes, people with joint problems or skin issues… the minerals in the water are good for everyone,” said Hamat Gader Resort General Manager Sharon to ISRAEL21c.

Produced in association with Jewish News Syndicate

Edited by Judy J. Rotich and Newsdesk Manager

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