December 26, 2011
Removal of modesty signs in Beit Shemesh sparks riot
Haredi Orthodox men rioted against police in Beit Shemesh to protest a crackdown on the exclusion of women in the public sphere.
The clashes occurred Monday afternoon in two neighborhoods of Beit Shemesh, a northwestern suburb of Jerusalem with a population of 80,000. Two residents were arrested.
About 300 haredi Orthodox men threw stones at police and burned trash cans after the police removed a sign calling for the separation of the sexes on city streets, Haaretz reported. The signs had been replaced after being removed the previous day.
Rioters on Sunday reportedly surrounded and threw stones at the city workers who removed the signs. Some reportedly called the police who came to break up the riot “Nazis.”
One sign called for women to cross the street in front of a local yeshiva; another called for women to dress modestly in public. The sign removal began Sunday evening, when it was assumed that residents would be in their homes lighting Chanukah candles, Ynet reported.
Following media reports of attacks on women by haredi Orthodox men, the Beit Shemesh municipality said it would install hundreds of security cameras in areas where harassment of women was occurring.
News teams from two Israeli television channels were attacked by haredi Orthodox men attempting to film in the city on Sunday and Monday.
Meanwhile, more than 4,000 people have responded to a Facebook group organizing a march in Beit Shemesh this week to protest the treatment of women in the city and the increasing haredization of the city, Haaretz reported.
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu over the weekend called on the Israel Police to act aggressively against violence against women in the public sphere.
The order came from Netanyahu Saturday night through Public Security Minister Yitzhak Aharonovitch following a television expose the previous evening showing an 8-year-old Modern Orthodox girl who said she was afraid to walk to school because of harassment from local haredi Orthodox men.
Netanyahu reportedly also spoke with Attorney General Yehuda Weinstein to make certain that laws against excluding women from the public space were enforced.