Scores of police in Jerusalem backed up by officers on horseback trying to break up an ultra-Orthodox street protest Saturday got some help from an unexpected quarter — women who took their tops off, driving away the protesters, who are religiously forbidden from looking at them.
Hundreds of ultra-Orthodox men and boys clashed with police Saturday afternoon, blocking traffic and attacking officers during a protest against Shabbat transgression by workers preparing the Eurovision Song Contest final in Tel Aviv on the Jewish day of rest.
As protesters blocked roads beside an ultra-Orthodox area in the center of the city, at least four women stripped down to their bras, forcing the protesters to leave the area due to the prohibition against looking at women in dress deemed immodest.
Ultra-Orthodox men protest in smaller numbers every Saturday in that part of Jerusalem, where a few cafes and restaurants are open on Shabbat, and the women who confronted them work in those establishments.
Although the broadcast of the Eurovision finale started after the Sabbath, rehearsals and production preparations took place earlier in the day. The issuing of work permits for the event led an ultra-Orthodox political party to temporarily suspend coalition negotiations and sparked the Saturday protest in the capital.
— Tom Bateman (@tombateman) May 18, 2019
Ultra-Orthodox Jews strictly respect religious law prohibiting work on Shabbat, the weekly day of rest, from sundown Friday until nightfall Saturday.
Ahead of the Eurovision final, one of Israel’s chief rabbis called for those who keep Shabbat to extend their observance of the holy day by 20 minutes in response to the “great desecration.”
Some ultra-Orthodox Jews object to photos of women, even when clothed, in public places or media on grounds of modesty. For decades there have been repeated incidents of posters featuring women defaced in the capital and other cities.