Israel's High Court of Justice has ordered the ultra-orthodox Agudat Yisrael Party to remove a clause in its bylaws that forbids women from obtaining membership in the run-up to the 9 April Israeli elections, according to Haaretz.
The court ruled that the party’s charter should be amended within 21 days in order to remove all women-related restrictions, saying that "there will not be any rules preventing acceptance of a woman as a party member" and that "from a legal standpoint the appeal process has been fulfilled".
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Under the ruling, if the party regulations aren't amended and a woman is blocked from joining the party, she may file a petition to the High Court.
Haaretz cited an unnamed Agudat Yisrael member as saying that the party will "respect the High Court’s instructions to change the party's constitution because it’s a matter of semantics that has no practical meaning".
"Even the group of women who speak about a lack of women's representation in the party know that this won't change in the decades to come, and still they know that Agudat Yisrael is a party that will see to the needs of all Haredi Jews," he said.
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In this vein, the groups asked the High Court to clarify whether a change in the rules "would effectively open the gates to women to join the party".
Founded in 1912, Agudat Yisrael mainly represents the Hasidic branch of the ultra-orthodox community, joining with the Degel Hatorah Party to form United Torah Judaism (UTJ), which has a total of six seats in the Knesset, Israel's parliament. Neither group has ever fielded women candidates for Knesset or municipal elections.