Four Modern Orthodox residents sued the City of Beit Shemesh for refusing to remove from public property haredi modesty signs ordering gender segregation and demanding certain types of "modest" dress.
Above: An illegal haredi modesty sign in Beit Shemesh ordering women to walk on the opposite side of the street from men
Updated at 11:43 am CST
Court Finds Against Haredi-Controlled City Government, Orders It To Pay Women Compensation After It Refused To Remove Haredi Modesty Signs
Shmarya Rosenberg • FailedMessiah.com
A Magistrates Court has just ruled against the haredi-controlled religiously-divided City of Beit Shemesh today, Ma’ariv reported.
Four Modern Orthodox residents sued the city for refusing to remove from public property haredi modesty signs ordering gender segregation and demanding certain types of "modest" dress.
The lawsuit was filed on behalf of the four women by Orly Erez-Lichovsky, an attorney for the Reform Movement’s Israel Religious Action Center.
Judge David Gidoni ruled that the city was severely negligent and ordered it to compensate the four women 15,000 shekels (about $3,750) each and pay court costs.
Gidoni said the haredi-controlled city government’s refusal to remove the modesty signs was a mortal blow to the rights of women in the city. He ordered the municipality to take down the signs and to compensate the four women because, he said, the distress the women were caused by the city’s refusal to remove the signs is severe.
The Sefardi haredi mayor of the city, Rabbi Moshe Abutbol of the Shas Party, has a long history of anti-secular and anti-Modern Orthodox behavior and statements, and a close advisor and other associates were arrested in a criminal conspiracy last year to throw the city’s elections to Abutbol. Israel’s High Court of Justice ordered the elections to be redone, but Abutbol won the revote. His advisor and other associates are awaiting trial.
Abutbol has long refused to remove the modesty signs, arguing that haredim will just repost them anyway and that removing the large, imposing signs costs the city too much money.
Update 11:43 am CST – The Jerusalem Post quotes extensively from Judge David Gidoni's ruling:
…“The signs were designed to restrict women from using public spaces simply because they were women... and constitute a severe injury to the rights of women to equality and respect. The signs are also humiliating,” Gidoni wrote in his ruling.
“The signs create the expectation that they should be adhered and are likely to create the expectation or understanding that the area where the sign is placed belongs, in effect, to one specific population group in which its norms are applicable.
“This expectation is likely in certain circumstances to encourage and assist the creation of a social atmosphere in which one could interpret the signs as obligating a person to obey them and even to bring about enforcement activities, sometimes through violence,” the judge wrote.
He said that from the facts brought to the court it appeared that the municipality and the mayor, Moshe Abutbul, accepted the presence of the signs and that they had not fulfilled their obligations to remove the signs.
“The municipality and the mayor chose not to take any steps to enforce the authority and obligations incumbent upon them to remove the signs... they absolved themselves from this obligation... and cannot be considered reasonable.”
Gidoni said the signs “bear an injurious and discriminatory message,” “ discriminate against women because they are women,” and cause “a severe injury to the dignity of man, equality and free choice and independence.” He added that the municipality’s behavior allowed the ongoing infraction of the rights of women, and allowed a situation in which sections of the city were not subject to the rule of law.
“This rewards violence and is likely to encourage further violence,” he added.…
[Hat Tip: Joel Katz.]