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Ruth Colian

Ruth Colian, head of the first ultra-orthodox Jewish women's party Uvizchutan, is campaigning in Beit Shemesh in March ..
(photo credit: RONEN ZVULUN / REUTERS)

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    The Shas party has formally stated to the High Court of Justice that its party regulations do not prohibit women from joining as a member, which in theory means that women as candidates for elected party could join the party.

    Shas' statement comes in response to a petition filed in 2016 by Ruth Colian, a haredi activist for political representation of women within the Haredi community, through the women's rights organization Rackman Center.

    The director of Rackman Center, lawyer Keren Horowitz, said that although the verdict in practice does not mean that Shas will nominate a female candidate on her electoral lists, municipal or national, her response to the High Court is still an important declarative step in which the party has formally stated that women can serve as politicians in the haredi community.

    Persistent failure by Shas to appoint a female candidate could lead to further lawsuits against the party based on her statement that she does not discriminate against women for party membership.

    Women have been excluded from representation in haredi parties since they were founded because of claims that Jewish law prohibits the leadership of women for various reasons.

    In recent years there have been several attempts by haredi activists to place places on the electoral lists of Shas and United Torah Judaism, so far unsuccessful.

    The petition against Shas noted that the regulations of the party refer to candidates for membership of the party only in the Hebrew male form, and also specifically states that women can join the "Women of Shas" organization that is separate from Shas , but is tied to it organisationally.

    The Rackman Center claimed that these two clauses meant that Shas discriminated against women in its regulations, which is prohibited by Israeli law, and that the Supreme Court should therefore instruct the party to change the rules.

    In the decision of the High Court, published on Monday, the judges noted that Shas' lawyer explicitly stated in response to the petition that "Shas regulations do not distinguish between a man and a woman", and that the use of the Hebrew male form refers to both men and women, as explained in the 1981 Interpretation Act, which states that general use of the male form also includes women.

    "This means that the party itself accepts the absence of gender discrimination in its regulations," wrote the Shas lawyer.
    He also stressed that, unlike a similar petition against Agudat Yisrael who specifically stated that only men can be members, Shas & # 39; Regulations never made such specific discrimination.

    And he argued that the clause on the ability of women to join Women & Shas & # 39; do not exclude them from participating in the entire Shas party.

    Colian and the Rackman Center told the court that they were therefore convinced that the party allowed women to join and that they would therefore withdraw their petition.

    Horowitz noted that Shas currently does not accept members, male or female, and that there is currently no path to membership for women other than by appointment as a candidate through the political and rabbinic leadership of the party.
    "We see this as a new positive step in which a Harei party expressed itself as follows:" We do not discriminate against women, "Horowitz told The Jerusalem Post.

    "A haredi party says women can be politicians and represent their community, it's a first step, and hopefully Shas will designate women in the near future as part of his list of candidates."

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