Saturday, December 31, 2011

Extreme Jews wear yellow stars in protest 

The bearded men and young boys in Jerusalem's ultra-Orthodox Mea Shearim neighbourhood on Saturday were ostensibly gathered to protest about the jailing of a member of their community for leading vigilante attacks against a local religious bookshop, which was considered not religious enough by hardliners.

But ultra-Orthodox news website Kikar Hashabbat said that the main purpose of the rally had become that of fighting back against "incitement against the ultra-Orthodox public".

During World War II, Jews in Germany and countries occupied by the Nazis were forced to wear yellow stars to identify themselves in public.

Kikar Hashabbat said the wearing of them at Saturday's rally was "an exceptional protest measure".

A witness said that a television news crew had been shoved by protesters but police spokesman Micky Rosenfeld said there had been no incidents or arrests.

Israeli TV channels have screened images from the town of Beit Shemesh, where hardline residents are waging a sometimes violent gender-segregation campaign. The images showed an ultra-Orthodox man in Beit Shemesh spitting at a woman and others hurling verbal abuse at an eight-year-old schoolgirl.

The scenes have prompted outraged newspaper editorials and vows from politicians to get tough with troublemakers.

"The phenomenon of the exclusion of women from ultra-Orthodox streets is an act of intolerable barbarism," Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman said in an interview published on Friday by Israel's top-selling Yediot Ahronot newspaper.

"It is inconceivable for the state to continue financing those who defy it and for the ultra-Orthodox to continue receiving subsidies, such as free (religious) schooling for their children," he said.

Beit Shemesh, a town of 80,000 near Jerusalem, has witnessed a string of clashes between ultra-Orthodox activists and other residents.

On Thursday night, hundreds of activists torched rubbish bins, blocked streets and stoned police sent to disperse them, police said.


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