A woman looking to hang posters for a lottery in Beit Shemesh on Tuesday suffered light injuries when a crowd of haredi men surrounded her car, punctured her tires and threw stones at her. Police called to the scene arrested three men while the others fled.
Just over a month ago, a similar incident brought international attention to Beit Shemesh as an eight-year-old religious girl was spat on, cursed at and called a whore on her way to school by haredi men who disapproved of her knee-length skirts.
Part of a local conflict over real estate in a neighborhood where haredi and more modern Orthodox communities meet, the incident also sparked fierce debate over the treatment of women in haredi society and its increasing influence on general society. Gender separation on several bus lines used predominantly by haredi passengers also became a cause célèbre, as did the frequent defacement by haredim of posters and advertisements in which women’s faces were visible.
In response to intense media pressure on the subject, thousands of haredim demonstrated in Beit Shemesh, equating the criticism with anti-Semitic decrees and vowing to maintain their religious practices.
This latest incident also comes on the heels of two other major issues involving the haredi community. One is the discussion in the Knesset of the so-called “Tal Law,” allowing haredi yeshiva students to defer their military service while they continue their studies, which is now up for renewal by the Knesset. On Monday, the IDF’s chief of personnel told the Knesset that all citizens, including haredi yeshiva students, should be called upon to serve the country for either military or civil service.
The financial management of yeshivot has also come under scrutiny, with the Finance Ministry negotiating with yeshiva heads to institute reforms and the Education Ministry planning to hire investigators to covertly seek out possible irregularities in institutions receiving government funding.
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