Hundreds of haredim riot in Beit Shemesh
Ultra-orthodox protesters throw stones, burn trashcans, 3 arrested; Yishai comes out against dividing city.
GIL HOFFMAN AND JPOST.COM STAFF
Police on Thursday dispersed hundreds of haredim (ultra-orthodox) throwing stones, blocking traffic and burning trashcans in Beit Shemesh.
Three people were arrested during the disturbance in the city that has become the focus of the Israeli media after a Channel 2 report revealed haredi extremists verbally attacking an eight-year old girl for failing to dress modestly.
No injuries were reported in Thursday's disturbance.
Earlier on Thursday, Interior Minister Eli Yishai came out strongly against splitting Beit Shemesh into separate haredi and non-haredi cities , telling a haredi radio station that such a move would be disastrous for the haredim.
Netanyahu's associates confirmed the the prime minister had discussed such a possibility with Yishai but said it was just one of many alternatives considered for the city and it was unlikely to be adopted.
When speaking to mainstream media, Yishai said he opposed the split because he did not want to divide the Jewish people, but when addressing haredi listeners, his reasoning was more candid.
"When I became interior minister in 2003, there had been a recommendation to split the city and already then I said it was not the right thing to do," Yishai told the radio station Kol Barama. "It would create a haredi city lacking income, property tax and other taxes, with no industry. It's not the right thing to do."
Yishai has spoken out against haredi extremists. He revealed that he had received threats in the past from the haredi extremist Sikrikim group.
Deputy Health Minster Ya'acov Litzman said Thursday that haredi extremists
have been sending him death threats in recent months. Litzman said the threats have forced him to travel with a guard for the past four months.
Sources close to Litzman blamed the Sikrikim, which they said is responsible for inciting the recent women's exclusion phenomenon. They said that as a deputy minister, he does not automatically receive the protection given to ministers, but after receiving the threats, his protection was increased.
Here is the Ha'aretz report, which contains a key fact the Post forgot to mention – that the haredi rioters were rioting against Zionism and the State of Israel:
Hundreds of ultra-Orthodox protesters riot in flashpoint town of Beit Shemesh
Protesters set fire to trash cans and hurl rocks; Police arrive in large numbers and arrest three.
By Oz Rosenberg • Ha’aretz
Hundreds of ultra-Orthodox Jews protested on Thursday evening on a Beit Shemesh street, throwing rocks, blocking the road and burning trash cans. Police arrived in large numbers and have so far arrested three of the rioters.
The incident began as a small local gathering of about 20 people, who waved signs with slogans attacking Zionism. Shmuel Fefenheim, who lives nearby, said that "this group has been coming out every night recently with signs. Today, because of the atmosphere and people under arrest, someone decided to set fire to a large trash can and things spiraled from there."
Earlier on Thursday, An 8-year-old girl who became the symbol of a recent public struggle against gender segregation and religious extremism returned to school for the first time since a violent incident that sparked a nation-wide protest movement.
Na'ama Margolese turned into a household name last week after Channel 2 broadcasted a segment in which the young girl's described being spat on and accosted by ultra-Orthodox men over what they deemed to be her indecent apparel.
The story soon became a focal point for a rising protest movement against the exclusion of women in the public sphere, with thousands of Israelis amassing in Beit Shemesh to speak out against gender segregation.
And here's Ynet's report:
Beit Shemesh: Hundreds of haredim clash with police
Religious disquiet plaguing Beit Shemesh grows as scores of city's ultra-Orthodox residents clash with police, stone officers and torch dumpsters
Omri Efraim • Ynet
Hundreds of haredim rioted and torched trash cans in Beit Shemesh on Thursday night. Police forces that arrived on the scene made efforts to disperse the crowd but were met with resistance from residents, who stoned the officers and blocked roads. Three people were arrested.
Beit Shemesh turned into the epicenter of the turmoil over hostility directed at women in ultra-Orthodox neighborhoods after media outlets reported that the seven-year-old Na'ama Margolis was harassed by haredim on her way to school. The attackers spat on the girl and yelled insults at her for not being dressed "modestly enough" in their opinion.
Thursday's riots took place next to the girl's school. A Ynet photographer sent to the scene was threatened by several haredim and had no choice but to leave for fear for his safety.
The demands posed by radical religious elements' to exclude women from the public sphere in Israel has been adamantly rejected by state officials across the political spectrum, and was denounced by Chief Rabbi of Israel Yona Metzger and Chief Sephardic Rabbi Shlomo Amar.
Thousands rallied in Beit Shemesh in protest of religious segregation on Tuesday. Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Internal Security Minister Yitzhak Aharonovitch have instructed the police to take a firm hand against such offenses, and the government is debating a series of counter measures.
On Thursday, Attorney General Yehuda Weinstein and senior State Prosecution officials met, at Netanyahu's request, to devise legal ways to combat exclusion offenses.
The panel began outlining a series of new directive focusing on indicting those suspected of verbal of physical exclusion offenses. Initial measures will include ordering state and public institution to apply a zero-tolerance policy should such offenses take place on their premises, as well as imposing hefty fines on offenders.
The Ministerial Committee on Legislation currently has before it a bill proposed by MK Nachman Shai (Kadima), which aims to deem exclusion offenses punishable by a mandatory three-year prison sentence.