Protests over modesty sign rock Ramat Beit Shemesh Bet

Haredi Rabbi Daniel Bitton was reportedly overpowered when he tried to take the sign from police.

Haredim 298.88 (photo credit: Ariel Jerozolimski [file])
Haredim 298.88
(photo credit: Ariel Jerozolimski [file])
Ramat Beit Shemesh Bet residents have been holding disruptive protests since July 2, when the municipality removed a sign asking people to dress modestly. Some residents expressed opposition when the sign was first erected at the intersection of Rehov Nahar Yarden and Sderot Rabbi Yehuda Hanassi four years ago. Now, others are fighting to have it put back up. The owner of the building where the sign hung had refused to remove it, and, for a year, paid the municipality a daily fine. Residents of neighboring Ramat Beit Shemesh Aleph, also unhappy with the lack of modesty in the area, decided to hang up their own signs several weeks ago. In response, the municipality sent epresentatives to remove the ad-hoc signs, to fine those responsible, and - augmenting the original order - to remove the original, official sign hanging in Ramat Beit Shemesh Bet. This last decision sparked the current protests. Haredi Rabbi Daniel Bitton was reportedly overpowered when he tried to take the sign from police who had removed it from the wall. "The police just took him and threw him on the floor, and now he is in the hospital undergoing surgery," said Rachel Rotman of Ramat Beit Shemesh Bet. "The municipality here does not relate to us at all and does not help with any of our problems, and now they suddenly come and cause trouble by taking down our sign." That same day, five men were arrested for creating a disturbance. Local haredim cited a rumor, according to which police, acting on the orders of the municipality, said the men would remain in jail for six months before being allowed to have a trial, something which is obviously false. That triggered the rallies, which occur nightly at the intersection. Twenty to 50 people congregate to chant, throw rocks and burn garbage, causing the closure of several roads and disturbing residents' sleep. They plan to continue protesting until the five men are released. "These people are like terrorists who are making everyone else suffer," said one irate woman who wished to remain anonymous. "It's just not normal what they are doing. They obviously have nothing better to do with their time, and the violent way that they are reacting is not according to the Torah." "Yes, what they are doing is disruptive, but it is the right thing to do," Rotman said. "They're doing it for a reason, since there are young wives whose husbands are in jail, and the only way to get them out is to keep bothering the police until they give in. It's worked in the past."