The sight of children in a public playground is too “immodest” for haredi eyes to see. So haredim covered the playground walkways with tar, removed benches (so men and women would not be able to sit next to each other), and destroyed equipment. In response, the playground was shut down by the city. No arrests were made. Instead, a privacy fence was erected to shield the haredim from seeing the "immodest" children.
Government, City Of Beit Shemesh Put Up Modesty Fence To Wall Off “Immodest” Little Children In Playground And Protect Haredim From Temptation
Shmarya Rosenberg • FailedMessiah.com
The sight of children in a public playground is too “immodest” for haredi eyes to see.
So to shield those haredi eyes from ‘sin,’ a fence surrounding a new public playground in the disputed but haredi-controlled City of Beit Shemesh was covered with blue jute cloth after local haredim claimed children playing there were “immodest,” Ynet reported.
Before the jute covering was put up, haredim covered the playground walkways with tar, removed benches (so men and women would not be able to sit next to each other), and destroyed equipment. In response, the playground was shut down by the city. No arrests were made. Instead, a privacy fence was erected to shield the haredim from seeing the "immodest" children.
The playground was built by the national government’s Construction and Housing Ministry, which convinced the city that the playground could be fenced in a way that shielded it from view and would therefore, at least in theory, appease haredim. (That type of fencing endangers children, however, and makes bullying and sex abuse more likely – things the haredi-controlled city government and the Construction and Housing Ministry apparently did not think of.)
Secular and Zionist Orthodox residents are protesting the new fencing, arguing there should not be any "separation walls" in the city.
"We have experience from the erection of a 'separation fence' between seculars and haredim in a local school. This is being repeated now, and we don’t like it. We think the key to success is for all populations to live together.…We have appealed to the municipality to remove the covered fence. It's creating a buzz in the city. I see the way this is being handled. It bothers me as a resident, not as the chairman of the parents' leadership, because this is a playground which is intended for the entire public. There is no room for separation walls and fences in Beit Shemesh,” Yaniv Fogel, chairman of the municipal parents' leadership, told Ynet.
Another local resident claims he complained to the city government about the fence but got no response.
"Three separation walls have been built in Beit Shemesh so far. One of them is made out of concrete, in the area where a cultural hall is about to be constructed, near a haredi neighborhood. People have not been exposed to this wall yet because it is covered by the construction site's fence. The second fence is in the Languages and Cultures School [half of which was given by the city to a haredi school, leaving secular students with limited access to bathrooms and other amenities – and a new separation barrier], and this is the third fence. There is no separation or jute cloth in the park building inside the haredi neighborhood. The only thing is a fence preventing children from reaching the road,” Zion Sultan said.
"The jute cloth they placed here is meant to hide those sitting inside the playground,” Sultan continued. “The fence also hides the view from within the playground. Part of a garden's beauty is the landscape, which has now turned into blue jute. How can there be anything immodest about a playground?…[Residents of the adjacent haredi neighborhood] should put a jute cloth on themselves, and cover their eyes instead of fencing us. None of us enters their neighborhoods and tells them what to do. Why are they doing it in our neighborhood?"
The city government confirmed the complaints were in fact real, but blamed the Construction and Housing Ministry for building the playground next to a haredi neighborhood.
"The playground was built by the Construction [and Housing] Ministry and is located between a haredi neighborhood and a secular neighborhood, creating friction between the populations. Following a recent dialogue between representatives of the two neighborhoods, it was decided that the park would only serve the secular neighborhood and that the entrance from the haredi neighborhood would be closed. It was also decided that the fence facing the haredi neighborhood would be covered with jute cloth,” the city government claimed, adding that it "supports the agreement between the residents of the two neighborhoods and the Construction Ministry, so that everyone will be able to live in dignity side by side. It's a shame that there are people who don't live in the area and are trying to incite and stir up emotions for no reason. This will not help anyone and will not contribute to the city's image."
The Construction and Housing Ministry, which is headed by Uri Ariel of the right-wing Zionist Orthodox HaBayit HaYehudi Party – a party that has been notedly unconcerned about the needs of secular Israelis and moderate Zionist Orthodox and Modern Orthodox Israelis like those being fenced in in Beit Shemesh – claimed it had no idea the special jute fencing was causing a problem. In fact, the ministry said it didn’t even know the jute had been put up to cover the “immodest” children.
“During the construction stage, the municipality asked to cover the playground's fences for safety reasons so as not to bother the residents living next to the garden, and that's how the work was conducted by the contractor. We are unaware of the circumstances described in the complaints,” the ministry reportedly said in a statement.