Orthodox modesty concerns spark two Israeli protests

Orthodox modesty concerns spark two Israeli protests

JERUSALEM – Women and yeshivot were at the heart of two separate protests in Israel this week.

In the first incident, police were called in to quell a clash between parents of students at a new national religious school for girls in the Jerusalem District and haredi Orthodox protesters who sought to prevent its opening.

The confrontation at the Orot Neria school in Beit Shemesh began Monday afternoon, when hundreds of parents confronted the protesters, who had been sitting in at the school since Sunday night. Police came in to separate the groups when the confrontation became physical.

The school has not opened, forcing the students to begin the term at other schools. Moshe Abutbul, the haredi Orthodox mayor of Beit Shemesh, said he could not guarantee their safety following threats from the protesters.

The Education Ministry was adamant, however. “The Orot Neria school will open this school year just like other schools in the government educational system,” a statement said. “The Education Ministry has approved opening the school in its new building.”

The school is located in an area near a haredi Orthodox neighborhood of neighboring Ramat Beit Shemesh. The residents object to a national religious girls school because they say it will not meet their modesty standards, according to the news outlet Israel Hayom.

In the second incident, four women Israeli combat soldiers protested orders to leave their unit because male yeshiva students were to join it.

The four women – three commanders and a combat soldier – are serving three years in the Israel Defense Forces just like men, instead of the two years required, in order to be in the Artillery Corps’ Battalion 55. They have served in the unit for two years. The yeshiva students, on the other hand, will spend only eight months in the unit and a total of 16 months in the army.

The women were offered alternative positions, including command roles in the commander’s course, according to Israel Hayom.

In a letter read on Israel Radio, the women soldiers said the decision to remove them is “humiliating and painful.”

“We are commanders, combat soldiers; we carry out our work with all our soul and the greatest motivation, and are proud to be part of the Artillery Corps,” they wrote. “They are kicking us out, not because we are not good enough, but because we are women.”

The women added that “there are battalions in the IDF that have no women in them, and these soldiers can be placed there.”

An IDF spokesman said no final decision had not been made regarding the transfer order.

JTA Wire Service

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