Israel Army rabbi slams religious segregation

Beit Shemesh, a town of 80,000 near Jerusalem, has been witnessing a wave of clashes between ultra-Orthodox activists and other residents.

Updated: Dec 30, 2011, 15:00 PM IST

Jerusalem: Israel`s chief military rabbi has
condemned ultra-Orthodox Jews who discriminate against women
and pledged such behaviour will not be tolerated in the armed
forces, media reported on Friday.

Radio stations and websites said Brigadier General Rafi
Peretz had sent officers a memorandum denouncing as "immoral"
a slew of acts such as the verbal abuse of a young female
soldier for refusing to sit at the back of a public bus and
attempts to segregate a town`s pavements.

"Of late there is a grave phenomenon of discrimination
against women both outside the army and within it," public
radio quoted him as saying.

"I`m working to ensure that radical, wrong notions, such
as those which inspired the events in Beit Shemesh, will not
permeate the Army," he wrote according to news website Ynet.

Beit Shemesh, a town of 80,000 near Jerusalem, has been
witnessing a wave of clashes between ultra-Orthodox activists
and other residents.

Yesterday night, hundreds of activists there torched
refuse bins, blocked streets and stoned police sent to
disperse them, police spokesman Micky Rosenfeld said.
"There were several hundred who took part in the
disturbances," he said. "Three people were arrested."

Rosenfeld said that there were no reports of any new
trouble so far today morning.

"It`s coming back to normal," he said, there`s a strong
police presence in the area."

There have also been contentious incidents within the
army, with religious male soldiers walking out of official
events where female troops sing, and women at celebrations are
asked to move to segregated enclosures.

An orthodox Jew was charged with on Thursday with sexual
harassment after he allegedly verbally abused 19-year-old
soldier Doron Matalon for refusing to comply with demands to
sit with other women in the rear of a bus.

Shlomo Fuchs, a 44-year-old father, was charged with
allegedly calling her a "whore".

"The increasing phenomenon of discrimination against
women endangers democratic society," a court hearing at which
the suspect was charged was told.

He was granted bail of 20,000 shekels (USD 5,260, 4,000
euros) until his case is heard, but he was unable to pay and
was remanded in custody.

PTI