More than 1000 haredim protested tonight in Mea Shearim, many wearing yellow stars and Nazi death camp uniforms. They accused the media and the State of Israel of persecuting haredim and compared them to Nazis, claiming that the upraor in Israeli society over haredi violence against women and children they deem to be "immodestly" dressed or against women who refuse to move to the back of public buses, is nothing more than persecution of haredi culture.
Haredi use of Holocaust symbols denounced
Tzipi Livni says 'no protest in the world' can justify making children wear yellow patches. Meanwhile, Rabbi Yosef condemns haredi violence
The latest haredi protest in Jerusalem has caused a stir after kids participating in the demonstration were seen wearing yellow patches and striped pajamas like those Jews were forced to wear during the Holocaust.
Avner Shalev, Chairman of the Yad Vashem Directorate said in response: "I condemn the use of Holocaust symbols in a protest of any kind. This is reprehensible. The Holocaust is nothing like what goes on in Israel. "
Shortly after the demonstration, Shas' spiritual leader Rabbi Ovadia Yosef commented on violent acts by haredim in connection to women's exclusion and said, "There are people who do things which our Torah forbids and they must be condemned."
He said that the Torah advocates peaceful behavior and not violence. Speaking in his weekly class, he said: "We do not hate seculars. On the contrary – we love them."
He added: "The behavior of a handful of people who spread hate among haredim and non-haredim is an act of blasphemy."
Opposition Chairwoman Tzipi Livni also commented on the protest on her Facebook page. "There is no protest in the world that can justify this. Even within the debate we are holding there are boundaries that cannot be crossed. I hope that haredi leaders will condemn these acts."
The protesters, on their part, claimed that they were the ones being victimized. "We are the ones who are afraid to walk down the street. We feel like in pre-war Germany in Israel," one protester told Ynet. "It was there too that the media started the incitement."
Another protester added, "We live in the shadow of secular incitement. It hurts to wear the yellow patch. If our kids are being beat up don't be surprised we dress them with yellow patches. That's how we feel."
One of the demonstrators was angry that the media fails to report incidents where haredim are being attacked. "I'm a haredi soldier. While on uniform I was attacked by seculars in the Central Bus Station a few days ago. They called me a 'smelly haredi.'"
Many protesters defended the use of Holcaust symbols. "Maybe the use of children will irk the seculars," one of them said. However, not all endorsed the step. "In my opinion displaying the kids like that was wrong," one protester admitted.
"Most haredi people don't want segregation. Those who organized the protest are only a handful. You can see that the majority of haredim don't have a problem with this. Whoever spits on a little girl has a mental condition, he's a deviant," Yehuda, a haredi man from Mea Shearim said.
Boaz Fyler, Kobi Nahshoni, Polina Perlman and Moran Azulay contributed to this report.