RELIGION

Ultra-Orthodox Jewish Protesters Smash Bus Windows In Beit Shemesh, Israel

08/01/2013 02:04 pm 14:04:49 | Updated Aug 20, 2013
AP

Ultra-Orthodox Jewish protesters attacked three buses in Beit Shemesh, a city 30 miles west of Jerusalem, in response to the arrest of a couple who reportedly asked a female passenger to move from the front of a bus to the back, according to The Associated Press.

Though ultra-Orthodox Judaism requires men and women to be separated in public, gender segregation is a voluntary practice on public buses. The issue is a heated one. Reuters noted recently that some Israeli lawmakers have called for public gender segregation to be abolished throughout the country.

According to Israeli news outlet Haaretz, the disruption began this week when one woman passenger approached another woman sitting at the front of a bus and told her to move to the back. After the bus driver reported the incident to local police, two arrests were made: The woman who had asked the passenger to move was taken into custody, as was the woman's husband. Protesters wielding hammers smashed the windows of the bus where the incident took place and attacked two other buses in the area, reported Haaretz.

Tensions are high between the ultra-Orthodox Jews who reside in Beit Shemesh and those who are secular or modern Orthodox Jews, largely because of disagreements surrounding women, according to The Associated Press.

Protests erupted in 2011 after a group of ultra-Orthodox men spat on an 8-year-old girl and called her a whore as she walked to school in her uniform.

In early 2012, a group of ultra-Orthodox men attacked a woman in Beit Shemesh as she was hanging up posters. The men pelted the woman with stones and slashed her car tires.

The prevalence of these types of attacks against women in the area have given rise to a movement of radicalized Orthodox women in Beit Shemesh. The New Republic notes in a cover story this week that women in the area are becoming increasingly feminist: "They have decided that they won't tolerate abuse anymore. Their quest for justice has thrown them into the arms of unlikely allies, feminist activists from the reform and conservative movements."

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