Beit Shemesh ultra-Orthodox Jews clash with police
- 27 December 2011
- From the section Middle East
Ultra-Orthodox Jews have clashed with police in the Israeli town of Beit Shemesh, near Jerusalem.
One police officer was slightly hurt and a number of Orthodox Jews detained, say reports.
The town has become a focus of friction between secular Jews and ultra-Orthodox men demanding strict gender segregation and "modest" dress for women.
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu vowed on Sunday to end attempts to enforce segregation of the sexes.
The latest clashes came as police attempted to remove one of several signs in the town ordering segregation between the sexes.
Some 300 ultra-Orthodox residents pelted the police with stones and eggs, slightly injuring one officer, and rubbish bins were set on fire.
A television crew attempting to film in the town were also surrounded and harassed - the second alleged attack in two days on journalists.
On Sunday, a crew from Channel 2 news were attacked as they were filming, say reports, with rocks allegedly thrown at their van.
The alleged assault came days after Channel 2 aired a story about an eight-year-old American girl, Naama Margolese, who said she was afraid to walk to school because ultra-orthodox men shouted at her.
The broadcast has inflamed secular opinion, with activists planning to hold a rally in Beit Shemesh on Tuesday to counter what they say is intimidation by sections of the ultra-orthodox community.
Some ultra-Orthodox Jews will also reportedly be joining the rally in an effort to distance themselves from "extremists".
Unnamed ultra-Orthodox activists from Beit Shemesh issued a statement condemning the violence, but also accusing the media of initiating "deliberate provocations in order to make the peaceful, quiet and tolerant residents, who live their lives according to their beliefs, look bad".
Such clashes have become more frequent in Israel in recent years as the authorities have challenged efforts by ultra-Orthodox Jews to segregate women in public places.
Other recent points of contention include demands for separate seating areas for women on buses and a recent case of some soldiers who refused to remain at a performance by female singers.
Mr Netanyahu has ordered a crackdown on segregation, saying harassment and discrimination have no place in a liberal democracy.
Ultra-orthodox Jews make up 10% of the population in Israel. The community has a high birth rate and is growing rapidly.