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Monday, December 04, 2017 

Court again orders Beit Shemesh mayor to have modesty signs removed

The court in charge of the case of Haredi extremists putting up modesty warning signs in Beit Shemesh has once again given Moshe Abutbol the order to take down the signs before December 18:
The High Court of Justice issued the final ruling on Monday in a five-year-long battle over women’s rights in Beit Shemesh, ordering the mayor to tear down all of the "offensive" modesty signs plastered around the city.

Mayor Moshe Abutbul was given until December 18 to remove all the eight signs remaining in the city.

To ensure that new signs were not put up as soon as existing ones were taken down, as has occurred in the past, the High Court ordered police to stand guard around the city in the next few weeks.

Some of the controversial signs instruct women how to dress, requiring them to wear long sleeves and long skirts and no tight-fitting clothing. Others admonish women to keep off the sidewalks near synagogues and yeshivas, where men tend to congregate.

In 2013, the Israel Religious Action Center, the advocacy arm of the Reform movement in Israel, filed a suit against the municipality and the mayor on behalf of four Modern Orthodox women, all residents of Beit Shemesh, for refusing to remove the signs, as required by a government report published that year.

The population of Beit Shemesh is largely split between Modern Orthodox and ultra-Orthodox, or Haredi, Jews.

In their suit, the plaintiffs argued that not only were the signs offensive and humiliating, but they also encouraged harassment and violence against women who chose to ignore them.

The Beit Shemesh Magistrate's Court ruled in favor of the plaintiffs in January 2015 and ordered the municipality to pay the women damages for its negligence in handling the matter. Despite that ruling, the signs were not removed, and the plaintiffs were forced to take their suit to a higher court.

In June 2016, the Jerusalem District Court gave Abutbul three weeks to remove the illegal signs and to act more vigilantly against offenders. After the mayor did not comply with that ruling either, this past June, the Jerusalem District Court responded to a request submitted by IRAC and declared him in contempt of court. It ordered the city to pay 10,000 shekels ($2,860) a day in fines until all the signs were removed.

Abutbul tried to get the High Court to overturn this decision but failed, with the justices declaring on Monday, as they read their ruling, that the exclusion of women will not be tolerated in any city in Israel.

“We who stand at the forefront of the war against exclusion of women in Israel see in this decision to remove all the modesty signs a major victory for the rule of law and for the rights of women to respect and equality,” said attorney Orly Erez-Likhovski, head of IRAC's legal department. “We will continue to monitor and fight against all attempts to exclude women in Israeli society.”

The High Court of Justice is scheduled to reconvene in late December and determine whether the mayor has complied with the latest ruling. Only then will it decide whether the city will be required to pay any of the fines previously imposed on it.
I hope they do make sure Abutbol and company pay very serious sums. Their lawbreaking is stunning, and he's already proven himself an extremist sympathizer.

Shoshanna Keats Jaskoll gives more insight on the case:
In the culmination of a five-year battle begun by four Orthodox women, each of whom had been physically assaulted in proximity to the signs, and during which the city repeatedly reneged on its promises, the judges made clear that further stallings and excuses would not be tolerated.

According to the ruling, the signs, some of which dictate how women must dress and others that tell women where they can and cannot walk, must come down by December 18th, or Mayor Moshe Abutbol can be jailed for contempt.
By all means, he should be. Especially after he was caught giving a bigoted radio speech:
Mayor Abutbol, in response, said in an interview with radio station Reshet B: “The women must respect the sensitivities of residents of a private neighborhood. There is no room for provocations.”
So let's get this straight. The neighborhood is "private" rather than the home? What a disgrace. With that statement, he basically proved where he stands, and his thinking patterns.
Judge Shoham said in the hearing, “Now they are asking for long sleeves and long skirt. What will they ask for next?” (He then passed his hand in front of his face to imply veils.)

Before suggesting that this is hyperbole, it should be noted that what used to be four street signs, at the start of this lawsuit, are now eight. As a Beit Shemesh resident myself, I have watched the extremism grow worse. In a significant escalation, this year, teens walking through these areas on Shabbat to their volunteer assignments were met with insults and projectiles by dozens and at times hundreds of men, women and children. Not until their institutions and illegal buildings were threatened did the assaults stop.
It would not shock me if one day, if something isn't done and messages aren't made clear, the most extreme cults of Haredis will indeed decree that veils not unlike the Islamic religion's will be considered the next step in their backwards journey into darkness and madness. That's why a serious demand must be made for Haredis to reeducate their subjects, and in fact, they should practically be discouraged from leading such lifestyles. Otherwise, the danger of extremism of this sort still lurks.

And Abutbol should go to jail if he won't comply with the law.

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