Injustice rears its head on both the national and local levels

Hiddush in the legal trenches

Hiddush legal advocacy ranges from cases dealing with the abuse of religious IDF draft exemptions for young women to elderly hot dog vendors who legally operate their carts in Jerusalem on Friday night.

Female IDF soldiers practice shooting, source: WikipediaFemale IDF soldiers practice shooting, source: Wikipedia

Yesterday, the State submitted a response to the Supreme Court, following Hiddush's petition regarding the inaction of the State in the face of thousands of fraudulent affidavits submitted by young women to declare their supposedly religiously lifestyles and beliefs in order to avoid being drafted. The State responded that the Minister of Defense (PM Netanyahu) finally appointed the committee, which may now finally review the evidence regarding such fraudulent declaration and revoke the exemptions.

(Hiddush initially submitted a petition against the Ministry of Defense and the Knesset's Foreign Relations and Security Committee to pass regulations in order to allow the IDF to act administratively against the women who make false claims of having particular religious beliefs and lifestyles in order to be exempted from military service.)

This is hopefully the last step necessary in implementing Israel's draft law and preventing its abuse by women who invoke false religious identities in order to avoid the draft. Hiddush will now be carefully monitoring the actual work of the committee, for it took a petition to force the State to issue the requisite regulations; and it took a second petition for it to form the committee mandated under these regulations. It is our hope that it won't take a third petition to ensure that the committee actually does its work. Clearly, this has not been merely an administrative failure, but rather inaction motivated by long time submission to the dictates of the fundamentalist religious political players who want to prevent women's military service altogether.

The municipal permit, which our pro bono client holds, explicitly allows him to operate the stand between midnight and 4:00 AM. It does not explicitly refer to limitations on the Sabbath.

In another recent action, Hiddush is challenging the Jerusalem municipality, regarding a gross breach of authority and misconduct by municipal inspectors who confiscated a hot dog stand that was operating at 2:30 AM on a Friday night in downtown Jerusalem. The 70-year-old owner has been operating his stand for many years. Sometimes, such as on the Sabbath, he employs an Arab worker who was operating the stand when it got confiscated. The municipal permit, which our pro bono client holds, explicitly allows him to operate the stand between midnight and 4:00 AM. It does not explicitly refer to limitations on the Sabbath. As is widely known, following past battles, the sale of food in restaurants and coffee shops is allowed on the Sabbath; one would find it difficult to understand why the operation of a hot dog stand would be different. Three inspectors in plain clothes confiscated the stand on June 29, without issuing the owner a citation. Also, the confiscation form did not specify the legal reason for this action. Our pro bono client received the permit many years ago, as part of ex-prisoner rehabilitation efforts, and this is the only source of his income.

Hiddush communicated on his behalf with the municipality, demanding the release of the stand, as well as information regarding the legal basis for the inspectors' actions and the offense that they attributed to the hot dog stand owner or employee. Not only have they not responded to these demands, which challenge their authority to confiscate the stand, but also - even though confiscations are legally limited to 30 days, the stand was not released even after that period. Hiddush will be taking further legal action against the municipality next week, seeing once again that the Jerusalem Haredi-dominated municipality seems to be more over-zealous when it comes to Shabbat than it is when it comes to providing social services and equitable treatment of minorities and underprivileged groups.

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