Above: File photo of an illegal haredi modesty sign in Beit Shemesh
“We Won’t Let Beit Shemesh Turn Into A Taliban City!”
Shmarya Rosenberg • FailedMessiah.com
After the City of Beit Shemesh repeatedly refused to remove illegal haredi modesty signs from public streets and other locations, four local women sued the city and won. Each woman was awarded NIS 15,000 (about $3,800), and the city was ordered to remove the signs – which doesn’t appear to have yet happened.
But the four women – Nili Philipp, Miriam Zussman, Rachely Schloss and Dr. Eve Finkelstein – got their cash last month and have decided to use to further their fight against discrimination against women, Ynet reported.
"We will donate the money for causes in favor of the public and women of Beit Shemesh. Many things can be done with such a sum. It's a shame we don’t have a million shekels,” the women said in a statement.
The first thing they intend to do is fight haredi newspapers which refuse to publish photos or drawings of any females, no matter how modestly clothed, no matter how young or old.
“There are female real estate agents who are not allowed to include their picture in their [newspaper] ads, as real estate agents [normally] do. It hurts their business. Agents include their picture in their ads for a reason – it has a psychological effect. It gives the client a sense of familiarity and security," Finkelstein told Ynet.
She said haredi newspaper editors claim they exclude females in this way because they are being threatened. But, she noted, the editors refuse to clearly say who is threatening them. So the women decided to openly “threaten” the editors with something tangible.
"They say they are being threatened? Well, we'll threaten them with the law," Finkelstein said.
Violent haredi extremists are rarely arrested, let alone prosecuted, and so-called mainstream haredi rabbis almost never publicly condemn them.
In most First World countries, the state would prosecute cases of discrimination or extortion in order to protect the rights of women or other minorities and to stop lawbreaking. But in Israel, the political system is so fractured that coalition politics – not the law, not the rights of women or minorities – is what matters. And in those coalition politics, haredi political parties play an outsized and often corrosive role.
Because of this, private citizens and nonprofits have to bring suit in the High Court of Justice to try have their rights protected. Because financial penalties and judicial awards for breaking the law are so small, the ability to bring suit is greatly diminished. At the same time, the government frequently fails to fully enforce High Court rulings.
Several weeks ago, the four women published an ad in local newspapers depicting a girl asking her mother, "Why was that girl's face erased?" Under that was a red stop sign bearing the caption, "It's time to stop the insanity."
Since they went public, the four women say they have been inundated with pleas for help from other women who say they have been discriminated against by haredim.
"We won't let Beit Shemesh turn into a Taliban city," the four women said.