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Updated: Beit Shemesh

December 24, 2011

Update:  The original video report from Israel has been replaced with one with subtitles.  (HT:  Michael Pitkowsky)

beit shemeshFrom Haaretz:

In recent weeks, the central Israel town of Beit Shemesh has seen increased violence by ultra-religious men, attacking women and girls, who they feel have been dressed in an immodest manner.

These men have resorted to cursing, spitting, and even rock-throwing. Signs have been hung in the town center instructing women not to “dally in the street.”

The situation in the town was brought to the forefront of Israeli public discourse this weekend in a Channel 2 exposé, aired this Friday, about a 8-year-old girl who is afraid to go to her school – located a mere 300 meters from her house – because of the violence she had experienced by men, who felt the religious girl’s attire was not modest enough.

Here is the Channel 2 news story now with English subtitles.  It is worth watching to see what qualifies as “immodest dress” (at 0:52) and “modest dress” (at 4:37):

11 Comments leave one →
  1. December 25, 2011 4:23 pm

    The video has been updated to include English subtitles.

  2. Katherine permalink
    December 26, 2011 1:37 am

    The part at 5:09 where they said: “Women who walk in the street are a stumbling block for men”…that specific phrase (in the English subtitles, at least) brought me back to my youth group days where anything and everything we did as girls was potentially a stumbling block for the boys, and it was our responsibility to do less, be less, for their sakes.

  3. December 26, 2011 7:49 am

    What’s not shown in the video is something Harriet Sherwood reported on in late October 2011 (in the Guardian) —

    Some Haredim women in the city [of Bet Shemesh], appalled at the actions of the extremists, distributed flowers to the pupils of Orot Girls, telling them “sister to sister” that they were beautiful.

    Thanks for posting and updating the video. The confrontations of the extremists by the one woman seemed powerful, and very necessary, if painful. But the solidarity of women, such as Sherwood reports, is what may make for the most profound change.

    Thank you for relating your own experience of being shunned for being a males’ stumbling block. Did anyone confront the sexist attitudes when you were a youth?

    Invoking the courage of Deborah and of Huldah in the Hebrew Bible, there’s a woman in the US, who is confronting similar sorts of sexism in the Christian church. She says:

    There is indeed a holy discontentment brewing up a storm. I’m hoping it will mean a storm of women who are no longer willing to wait for their men to give them permission to freely move about the body of Christ, but will instead free themselves. I was listening to a Civil War historian on the radio who said that many slaves did just that long before President Lincoln issued the Emancipation Proclamation. They didn’t wait to be told they could be free. They abandoned the system of slavery and liberated themselves. So what would happen if women finally stopped being demure and polite and patient and quiet about it?

    Blogger Rahel (aka “a woman from Jerusalem”), back in mid April 2009, posted a video she filmed of a “Haredi woman [who] resists moving to the back of the bus.” This was more than two years ago, and was in Jerusalem, but such resistances by women, if painful, may precipitate change.

  4. December 26, 2011 12:47 pm

    The question, of course, as it is posed at the start of video, if this is a glimpse of Israel’s future. See for example this editorial from the Jerusalem Post.

    Look for the news of the breast cancer brochures in this editorial to see how mad things have become.

    According to Israel’s Central Bureau of Statistics, haredim will comprise a third of Israelis by 2059. Today: Beit Shemesh, Jerusalem, Bnei Brak. Tomorrow: Haifa, Tel Aviv, Ashdod?

  5. December 27, 2011 1:51 pm

    Today: Beit Shemesh, Jerusalem, Bnei Brak. Tomorrow: Haifa, Tel Aviv, Ashdod?

    As the population of extremists grows, I wonder whether women with differing views will just sit back in silence? How could they? Between Ashdod and Jerusalem, Tanya Rosenblit refusing to sit at the back of the bus has made a stir and has been called “Rosa Parks.” And beyond Israel, there’s this fledgling social movement for public rights for women:

    Jewish women in the Britain and the US are being urged to send photographs of themselves holding signs saying “women should be seen and heard” in a campaign against efforts by the ultra-orthodox to remove female images from advertising billboards in Jerusalem. The New Israel Fund (NIF) is planning to compile the photographs into posters to display in Jerusalem.

  6. December 27, 2011 2:34 pm

    By the way, this is the case in Brooklyn as well — there are segregated bus lines on the buses between Crown Heights, Boro Park, and Williamsburg. See, for example, this article. I’ve ridden on these buses, and it is quite uncomfortable. However, at least there was no spitting or calling women highly offensive names.

  7. Suzanne McCarthy permalink*
    December 28, 2011 8:34 pm

    Thanks for bringing this to our attention. This is so sad. Even without the violence, these attitudes are a violence in themselves. And they find echoes in Christianity. Recently a Christian blogger explained why a woman cannot read the scripture out loud in church. And the modesty issue is ongoing, even if nothing like what we read about here.

    But the notion that women must be subordinate in their behaviour is damaging to everyone.

  8. December 28, 2011 10:15 pm

    Well, I think that this situation and the Christian situation are somewhat different.

    I do respect the right of the haredim to observe their religion, but not at the cost of infringing on others’ freedoms. Also, I should note that this is by no means representative of all haredim; although “group-think” seems to be spreading tolerance for spitting and cursing throughout Beit Shemesh (and in parts of Bnei Brak and Jerusalem).

    I also think that the media and police have strangely turned a blind eye towards this for a long time; those signs were up for years.

  9. December 29, 2011 8:02 am

    this situation and the Christian situation are somewhat different

    No doubt the situations are very very different. And even “the Christian situation” has to be described plurally, as Suzanne does: “echoes.”

    Public harassments by extremist “Christians” occur regularly in the city where I live. At another blog, I posted about one encounter my spouse and our children had with one group. And groups of extremists have their own websites to organize: here, here, and here.

    The above examples are clearly public attacks by the extremist “Christians” on gays and lesbians and sometimes more subtly abuses against women and children. And yet the blatantly sexist “echoes” in American and Canadian “Christianity” come in the arguably more benign form of interpretation of what is considered holy scripture. In the post I linked to in an earlier comment in this thread, Pam Hogeweide writes:

    “But I get it. It’s not just about women. If one has been taught and trained their entire life that the Bible teaches that God has pre-ordained roles for men and women, then to change one’s mind about women is to bring a certain amount of tension upon how one has interpreted the Bible. I can understand that. I don’t like it, but I can understand it and sympathize with it.”

    BTW, I see that the Haderim, like the street preachers in my city, also make use of the Internet not only to “preach” separations but to effect them too:,7340,L-4160728,00.html,7340,L-4098443,00.html

  10. Suzanne McCarthy permalink*
    December 29, 2011 11:15 am

    Of course its different. But I do remember reheming all my skirts at the age of 14 so they would be at the knee and not one or two inches above the knee. Now, looking back I realize how completely creepy this was. It was not because of my parents, who had approved my original length, but because I was working in a summer mission with little kids, and the preacher asked me to rehem my skirts.

    The problem is that evidently that man, whoever he was, had time to obsess about my skirts. it is just disgusting and I don’t know how we lived with that kind of thing, but it was normal in my context. I didn’t know how to step back and say to myself, “he is just a dirty old man.” But now, of course, I remember how he always helped with the dishes when it was my turn, but not when his wife was doing the dishes. These old guys should be told how to behave and be put under observation themselves. They are the problem –

    At the time, I must have thought that God cared about the length of my skirts, but now I know better – that old guy had a problem in his life that needed to be dealt with and nobody clued into that. All of us women now, have memories of men being inappropriate but we didn’t know better at the time.

    It is not just the violence, but it is the notion that men have “authority” over females. Females are a commodity.

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