Who wants modesty in capital’s Sheikh Jarrah neighborhood?

Signs resembling those hung by haredim may be the work of disgruntled left-wing demonstrators.

sheikh jarrah jews 311 (photo credit: Sarah Levin)
sheikh jarrah jews 311
(photo credit: Sarah Levin)
While strange twists and turns in the east Jerusalem neighborhood of Sheikh Jarrah are nothing new for the oftentense and tumultuous enclave, the appearance of a series of “modesty signs” in the neighborhood over recent days have apparently left all residents of the community – Arab and Jewish alike – scratching their heads.
The signs, which are similar to the posters put up by the Eda Haharedit beseeching female passersby not to wear immodest dress in haredi enclaves such as the capital’s Mea She’arim, sprung up suddenly in Sheikh Jarrah this week, mysteriously appearing on road signs, the walls of buildings and other conspicuous locations.
While the posters proclaim to be signed by “the neighborhood’s residents” – a loaded term, as the neighborhood is starkly divided by its Arabs and Jews, who continue to fight over real estate in the area on a house-by-house basis – all of the neighborhood players on Wednesday were shying away from the signs, telling The Jerusalem Post that they had not been the ones to post them.
“It was definitely not the Arab residents, but it could have been the settlers who are living there,” said one left-wing activist, who periodically lives with Arab families in the neighborhood and is involved with the Sheikh Jarrah Solidarity organization that sponsors the weekly protests there.
“But it could have also been a group of haredim. No one really knows who put them up, it could have even been a stupid joke.”
These weekly demonstrations, which have gone on for nearly a year, are against the eviction of Palestinian families from homes in the neighborhood after lengthy court battles with Jewish claimants regarding the rightful ownership of the properties.
The activist, who asked not to be named, did note that, “When summer came, a lot of protesters began showing up for the Friday demonstrations in shorts and tank tops. This apparently offended the sensibilities of some of the neighborhood’s more religious Muslim residents, and demonstration organizers asked the protesters to be more respectful, and dress more modestly.”
The activist said that a recent debate has erupted between the two camps within the Sheikh Jarrah protest movement – those who feel they should acknowledge the religious sensibilities of the neighborhood’s residents, and others who see it as a bow to chauvinism.
“It could be that someone, or a group of people who are upset about this issue, put up the signs in a mocking manner, as a form of protest – but I really hope not.”
Nonetheless, the Jews who live in Sheikh Jarrah were of this opinion on Wednesday, putting the blame for the signs on “leftists who are fighting amongst themselves,” as the “only plausible reason” for the signs to have gone up.
“I can tell you for sure that we didn’t put them up,” Yonatan Yosef, the spokesman for the neighborhood’s Jewish residents, told the Post on Wednesday.
“But if you go onto the leftist Web sites, you can see that in recent weeks they have been fighting amongst themselves about the issue of wearing modest clothing to their protests in the neighborhood.
“That’s the only plausible reason I could see for someone to put the signs up,” he continued.
“An internal fight between themselves. Those who are refusing to come in modest dress are doing it as a provocation.”
Asked if the signs couldn’t be attributed to one of the many groups of haredi men who frequently pass through the neighborhood to pray at the nearby tomb of Shimon Hatzaddik, Yosef rejected the theory.
“The haredim who [put up signs like that] are from very extreme groups, and while they might be in favor of doing something like that in a Jewish neighborhood, they’re certainly not in favor of making provocations such as those in an Arab neighborhood.
“I don’t believe it was haredim, and I know it wasn’t us,” he said. “So who else could it be?”