Israelis Plan Protest Against Gender Segregation

Police and orthodox Jews continue to clash in the town of Beit Shemesh, near Jerusalem, as secular Jews plan a protest against the way orthodox men treat women.

Orthodox Jews in the Beit Shemesh are demanding stricter regulation for women’s dress, as well as stricter gender segregation.

Media outlets and state officials are calling these Orthodox Jews “extremists,” and contend that they do not represent the wishes of the state.

Israeli president Shimon Peres condemned the segregation tactics, saying that the rally, planned for Tuesday evening with an estimated turnout of 10,000 participants, would test both the people and the police.

“The religious, the secular, the traditionalists – we all must defend the nature of the State of Israel in the face of a small group that harms national solidarity,” Peres said.

 In reference to the Haredi radicals pushing gender segregation, Peres said: “They are not the masters of the earth.”

Israel’s Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu also condemned the campaign for women’s exclusion, saying in early December that “the place of women in public spaces must be ensured and equal.”

"The segregation of women clashes not just with the democratic principles that we know and cherish. It also clashes with Jewish tradition,” he added.

According to BBC News, an Israeli police officer was mildly injured Monday when Orthodox Jews hurled eggs and stones at officers after police tried to remove a sign promoting segregation.

An anonymous Orthodox activist issued a statement after Monday’s clashes, saying that although the orthodox community preaches peace, they blame the media for “the deliberate provocations in order to make the peaceful, quiet and tolerant residents, who live their lives according to their beliefs, look bad.”