A group of young women were allegedly attacked and chased by dozens of ultra-Orthodox men in Beit Shemesh on Sunday over their “immodest” clothes, in the latest clash between secular and Haredi residents in the town.
Video of the incident, which was posted to Facebook on Tuesday, shows a woman in shorts and a t-shirt running down the sidewalk as a large group of screaming ultra-Orthodox men run after her.
“Horrible. Two nights ago there were mass riots against an ‘immodest’ girl walking around” in the Ramat Beit Shemesh Bet neighborhood, wrote Miri Shalem, a women’s activist who shared the video.
In recent years, Beit Shemesh has seen frequent conflict between ultra-Orthodox, non-ultra-Orthodox, and secular residents over restrictions on women’s dress and gender-segregated seating on public buses. In a widely publicized incident in 2011, an 8-year-old Orthodox girl was spat on by ultra-Orthodox men on her way to school for her perceived immodest dress.
One of the young women who was chased told Hadashot TV news she was with her sister and two friends when they were spotted by the group. “They saw us and started running after us. We started running,” said Hadassah, who did not give her last name.
'#זוועה , שלשום בלילה התקיימו פרעות המוניות נגד בחורה 'לא צנועה' שהסתובבה ברמת בית שמש ב עד שלא תהיינה פגיעות בנפש זה לא יפסק.
Posted by Miri Shalem on Monday, 16 July 2018
After running to their apartment building, Hadassah said, “My sister entered with bloated and red eyes. She was sprayed with pepper spray.” “After a while we tried to go out and see if the situation had calmed down, but there was chaos.”
They said police arrived at the scene but were unable to control the ultra-Orthodox men.
Hadassah said she was wearing a dress at the time, while the young women in the video was in shorts and a t-shirt. “For some reason this angered them when they saw us,” she said.
Hadassah said she and many of her friends no longer live in the largely ultra-Orthodox neighborhood and that her parents will soon leave as well. “It is easier to leave and move to another neighborhood,” she said.
— יערה שפירא (@yaara_shapira) July 17, 2018
A resident of the neighborhood told the Haaretz daily there have been a number of clashes over the past month between the so-called “modesty police” and the young woman in the video and her friends.
“For a month members of the modesty guards have been standing under the family’s house and yelling for them to leave the neighborhood,” said the Ramat Beit Shemesh Bet resident. “I always say that the ultra-Orthodox are wrong, with the [modesty] signs and everything, but this time not so much. These youths walk with dogs and scare children.”
JTA contributed to this report.