(photo credit: Ariel Jerozolimski )
Highlighting what may be a growing trend in fanaticism, a 28-year-old resident of Jerusalem's Ramot neighborhood has been arrested for attacking a woman as part of his activity in the "tznius patrol" or modesty police.
Elhanan Buzaglo appeared in Jerusalem District Court on Sunday to answer charges stemming from a June 2008 home invasion in which a young woman was reportedly beaten by a group of ultra-Orthodox young men.
The woman had apparently been seen in the company of married men from the community.
Details of the investigation, which began a month and a half ago, reveal that members of the tznius patrol entered the woman's home and demanded that she move out, telling her that residents of the neighborhood had complained about her.
After the woman refused to do so, Buzaglo and two other men from the patrol allegedly attacked her. In addition, a third member of the patrol is suspected of stealing two cell phones from the woman's apartment during the fray.
Buzaglo was arrested after his fingerprints were identified inside the woman's apartment, while a number of separate complaints from other women have been made about him as well.
Ranging from verbal harassment to an incident in which Buzaglo allegedly attempted to run a girl over with a car, there are at least 10 possible charges facing him.
Buzaglo's attorney, Ariel Atari, maintained his client's innocence, saying Buzaglo isn't even a member of the patrol.
"My client has no relation to the modesty police," Atari told The Jerusalem Post on Monday. "Because he wears hassidic clothing, the police are trying to pin every instance of haredi violence on him. The fact that his fingerprints were taken from the scene of one of these alleged incidents is the only relation my client has to any of the cases. They have not yet proven anything concrete."
Speaking about Buzaglo's case, Jerusalem City Council opposition head Nir Barkat told the Post: "We have to uproot this despicable phenomenon of violence. I call upon the police to deal with this issue and guarantee the personal safety of the residents of Jerusalem."
The use of violence by modesty patrols in ultra-orthodox areas, however, is not a new occurrence.
Also in June, a 14-year-old girl in Betar Illit had acid spilled on her face and body, causing light burns. That incident was attributed to a similar modesty patrol in the town.
In a graver incident that took place in November 2006, Miriam Shear, an orthodox woman from Canada, was allegedly beaten on the floor of an Egged bus when she refused to give up her seat as she rode to the Western Wall.
That episode underscored recent cases of ultra-orthodox men requesting "mehadrin" or kosher bus lines in which the sexes are separated - women in back and men up front. While the bus that Shear rode on was not a mehadrin line, she was reportedly told to move to the back of the bus by an ultra-orthodox man and was spit on, kicked and punched by a group of men when she refused.
The Egged driver in that case has repeatedly denied that violence took place on his bus, but an eyewitness on board who confirmed that an unprovoked "severe beating" took place has substantiated Shear's account.
"I had heard a lot of rumors about [modesty police], but I didn't really believe they existed," said an orthodox Jerusalem resident who wished to remain anonymous. "Then a relative of mine told me that she was walking out of a store with a dress she had just purchased and a woman came up and sprayed it with white spray paint, ruining it. My relative is religious," the man continued, "But I guess the clothes she had decided to buy were not modest enough for the other woman."