Haredi Rabbis Cancel Pro Gender Segregation Protest
Shmarya Rosenberg • FailedMessiah.com
Beit Shemesh haredi rabbis canceled a planned protest against the government’s removal of signs posted on public property telling women to segregate themselves from men on public sidewalks.
Ynet reported that “haredi sources” claimed the planned protest was canceled because of the “sensitive timing, and the media's inclination to link the struggle over the signs with the violent acts” committed by some haredim against little Modern Orthodox girls in Beit Shemesh.
Harassment of women in the city – and especially the harassment of grade school girls – by haredim gained international attention after Israeli media aired video of an 8-year-old Modern Orthodox girl who was too afraid to walk a few hundred feet to her school after being shouted at and spit on by haredi men who called her a whore.
A large demonstration against haredi violence and mistreatment of women and girls was held two days ago in Beit Shemesh. The demonstration drew several thousand Israelis from across the country but had no haredi participants except for a handful of haredi college students from outside the city. No local haredim weree reported to have attended.
Leading haredi rabbis in Israel have not condemned the violence. A statement by Beit Shemesh haredi rabbis briefly condemned the violence but then spent paragraphs complaining about alleged media bias against the haredi community. The statement also attacked the government for removing illegal signs posted on public property by haredi leaders telling women to use separate sidewalks from men.
Yesterday, after weeks of silence, Agudath Israel of America issued a similar statement which claimed the root of the issue was modesty – not the violence:
Lost in all the animus and ill will, unfortunately, is the concept ostensibly at the core of the controversy: the exalted nature of tzenius, or Jewish modesty.
Judaism considers human desires to constitute a sublime and important force, but one whose potential for harm is commensurate with its potential for holiness.
In a society like our own, where the mantra of many is, in effect, "anything goes," many charedi Jews, men and women alike, see a need to take special steps - in their own lives and without seeking to coerce others - to counterbalance the pervasive atmosphere of licentiousness, so as to avoid the degradation of humanity to which it leads.
It would be tragic were the acts of violence to lead Jews to, G-d forbid, reject the culture of tzenius that has always been the hallmark of the Jewish nation, to regard Jewish modesty as something connected to violence and anger, rather than to refinement and holiness.
Two days ago, top haredi leader Rabbi Yosef Shalom Elyashiv issued a statement banning all secular studies and army service – even special haredi college programs and army programs that meet all haredi modesty and kosher food demands.
Elyashiv did not condemn haredi violence against children and women.
But Yated Ne'eman, the haredi newspaper under Elyashiv's control, did publish an editorial condemning – the government for its opposition to forced gender segregation.