11/21/2011 04:00 pm ET

Jerusalem Dance Company Protests The Exclusion Of Women

Jerusalem is home to great tension between the traditional and the liberal, the religious and the secular, the ancient word and ideals of Western civil rights. Gender is a major area of contention, as practices still upheld in Jerusalem—such as gender-segregated grocery lines and vandalized advertisements featuring women—become more and more foreign to other developed nations. The Kolben Dance Group, the last professional dance group in Jerusalem, is about to take a stand against the gender inequality, specifically the exclusion of women from public spaces.

Jewish religious laws of modesty dictate that the legs, hair, and singing voice of women are not to be publicly displayed, as they may incite sexual excitement. Understandably, then, co-ed dance has not been welcomed by the Orthodox population. The Kolben Dance Group has a rehearsal space located in Gerard Bechar Center in the Nahlaot neighborhood of downtown Jerusalem. This space was equipped with windows so neighbors could watch rehearsals as they pass; the group covered their windows from street view after receiving threats from Orthodox passersby. They also removed all human figures from their advertisements after the women appearing in them were vandalized.

Yet this Sunday the Kolben Dance Group will raise the curtains, allowing the dance rehearsals to be seen by all, religious and secular alike. The opening, planned alongside Yerushalmim, a movement against the exclusion of women, will contain festive performances including part of its work 'Babylon.' Regarding the importance of the event, the director of the company's school explained:

"The idea is for the public to be exposed to this welcome activity in the center of town. No one has the right to exclude us in this way. All we want to do is open the curtain. Everyone is invited to come and see that this is a matter of culture and we have no reason to be ashamed and hide."

It remains to be seen whether or not the religious population will agree with the director's statement that it is "just a curtain," and what the reaction or backlash, if any, will be. The group has already received threats in preparation for the ceremony surrounding the curtain's opening. However, without active intervention many predict that gender segregation is not going to improve anytime soon. Chief Justice Dorit Beinisch said regarding segregation in September: "It's not going away, just the opposite.''