Ultra-Orthodox report attacks against children

11-year-old boy approached by two secular men while waiting at a bus stop, struck in the face, Kikar Hashabbat reports.

By MELANIE LIDMAN
January 4, 2012 09:43
4 minute read.
Haredi man near a bus

Haredi man near a bus 311. (photo credit: (Marc Israel Sellem/The Jerusalem Post))

 
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At least two abusive attacks against ultra- Orthodox children were reported to the police this week According to a report from the haredi news website Kikar Hashabbat, on Tuesday morning an 11-year old boy, referred to as David L., was physically assaulted by two secular men.

While waiting at a bus stop in the ultra- Orthodox Jerusalem neighborhood of Sanhedria, David was approached by two men he described as “big, and without yarmulkes or pe’ot [sidelocks].”

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According to the boy’s mother, Malka, the men began shouting at him, and struck him in the face several times. They also tried to prevent him from getting on his bus. He eventually succeeded in boarding by sticking close to a group of people also getting on the bus.

Jerusalem police spokesman Shmuel Ben- Ruby said the boy and his mother came to a police station and filed a complaint later that day. The police opened an investigation.

On Monday, an 11-year-old girl told police that she was attacked on a bus by a secular man. The girl said the man spit at her, shoved her and shouted, “Haredim are cursed,” and that they should not travel on buses any more. Police opened an investigation.

On Sunday, Kikar Hashabat launched an e-mail hotline for members of the ultra- Orthodox community to report any violence or verbal assault against them. Since the hotline was established, the website has reported on numerous alleged attacks against haredim.

Ben-Ruby said he did not believe that the two similar incidents were the beginning of a strong backlash against the ultra- Orthodox.



“We’re investigating a few incidents, I don’t know if it’s a wave, but we are investigating them,” he said.

An editorial on the Kikar Hashabbat website last month said it would open the hotline in light of “media incitement” against the haredi public and because “as a haredi media outlet, we can no longer sit on the sidelines and watch the fire of hate that is spreading.”

The ultra-Orthodox world has come under criticism in recent weeks over a series of incidents involving perceived discrimination against women, as well as extremist agitation against the Orot Banot national-religious girl’s school in Beit Shemesh.

The Yisrael Hofshit religious freedom activist group, which has campaigned to bring the issue of discrimination against women to public attention and was one of the main organizers of last week’s protest in Beit Shemesh, issued a statement on Facebook on Tuesday condemning “all forms of violence and verbal abuse against the ultra-Orthodox public.”

“There is no place [to attack] the haredi sector as a whole,” the statement read. “In every community and society there is good and bad, moderates and extremists. Our obligation as citizens of the state is to oppose extremism, violence and religious coercion, and to preserve the values of freedom and equality in the State of Israel.

Yisrael Hofshit director Mickey Gitzin told The Jerusalem Post that the organization was nevertheless persevering with its campaign to ensure that the government and police acted against discrimination towards women.

“It’s not about us and them, we’re not working for any particular sector, we want the law to be enforced,” he said, adding that many complaints he received regarding discrimination against women come from ultra-Orthodox men and women.

In a conversation with the Post last week, MK Yisrael Eichler, chairman of the United Torah Judaism faction in the Knesset, rejected claims that the ultra-Orthodox world was becoming more extreme.

“There is no radicalization in the haredi sector,” he said. “What’s happening is that there is radicalization in the secular world against our community, and it’s simply got worse in recent years.”

Eichler also denied that there was widespread coercion of women to sit at the back of buses, saying that haredi men and women voluntarily segregated themselves.

The MK cited a study, presented last week to the Knesset Economic Affairs Committee on which he serves, in which 1,150 checks were carried out in 2011 by inspectors from the Transportation Ministry on 55 bus lines that had been flagged as gender- segregated.

The inspections were carried out according to a High Court of Justice directive in which the male or female inspector sat in the “wrong” section of the bus.

In 56 instances, the inspector was asked to move to the “appropriate” section, and in 15 cases the inspector complied with the request due to concern that a physical confrontation might have ensued.

Eichler said that these numbers contradicted claims that coercive gender segregation on public buses was widespread.

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