Four religious Jewish women from the city of Beit Shemesh have filed suit against the city for failing to prevent an extremist sect’s pressure on women to dress according to its own strict rules of modesty.
The suit centers on several signs put up by sect members declaring that “immodest” women are prohibited to walk in the area. One of the plaintiffs told Yediot Aharonot that when she took down one of the signs, a man affiliated with the sect saw her and began throwing stones at her.
“There’s a threatening atmosphere here due to the repeated violence against women who the attackers think are not dressed appropriately,” she said.
The city is being sued for failing to remove the signs. The women are seeking 25,000 shekels in compensation for emotional distress.
The suit was filed through the Israel Religious Action Center, the Reform movement’s advocacy group in Israel. The center has been involved in several controversial lawsuits, including an effort to ban gender segregation on public buses and an attempt to make full-time Torah (kollel) students ineligible for welfare payments.
Matanya Rosenzoig, speaking for the city, said, “There were multiple efforts to remove the aforementioned signs in coordination with the police. But new signs were put up immediately, and municipal supervisors do not have the power to deal with a situation like that.”
Religious tension in Beit Shemesh has repeatedly made headlines as members of an extremist hareidi sect target neighbors for behavior they view as immodest. Last year sect members harassed young elementary school girls for “immodesty" in a battle over the location of their school.