Health charity concert canceled after refusing to include female artists

The tribute concert planned for celebrated Israeli singer and music artist Shlomo Artzi has been canceled by the organization planning it because of demands to include female singers.

The proceeds of the event were to be donated to the Ezra LeMarpe medical support organization NGO which is managed by Rabbi Avraham Elimelech Firer, who was supposed to attend the event. Firer, who is from the ultra-Orthodox community, had requested that perform at the event since Jewish law largely prohibits men from , especially at live performances.

Following the revelation that the organizers had asked that women not sing, the Israel Philharmonic Orchestra announced it would not perform at the concert, as did Avi Singolda, Artzi’s lead accompanying guitarist, and the woman slated to host the event, Orly Vilnai.

The organizers and Artzi himself came under heavy criticism for excluding female artists from the concert, while those supporting Firer denounced what they described as “liberal terrorism” against the rabbi, noting that the charitable work he has undertaken with his organization benefits all of Israeli society.

Firer wrote a letter to the director of Ezra LeMarpe on Monday canceling the event, Channel 12 News reported, saying that “I draw my strength from Jewish law, I am proud of my lifestyle and cling to my life mission: saving lives, and loving others and those who are different.”

The Israel Women’s Network said in response to the decision that it “thanks Rabbi Firer for his work over the years” and “welcomes that he chose not to hold the event in its format without female singers.”

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The organization said that, “we cannot accept any instance of the exclusion of women in the public domain, since the phenomenon influences and has consequences on the status and place of women in all fields of society – from academia to the army and the workplace.”

Deputy Mayor of Jerusalem Hagit Moshe denounced the decision as “one of the darkest hours of feminism in Israel,” and said that the furore over the concert had “turned the welcome idea of women’s independence into a spade designed to destroy the wall of unity and mutual respect of the Jewish people.”

The religiously hardline National Union Party, part of the Bayit Yehudi Knesset faction, also denounced the decision, saying “liberal terrorism has won.”

“The cancellation of the tribute concert to the amazing benevolent work of Rabbi Firer is a low point in Israeli society,” said the party, which is headed by Transportation Minister Bezalel Smotrich.

“All citizens of the country should feel ashamed at the humiliation of a great doer of charitable work, who has saved hundreds of thousands of lives without discrimination, and whose only sin was the lifestyle of a religious person who acts in accordance with Jewish law.”

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