Haredi Jews clashed with police on Monday in Beit Shemesh, Israel, leaving one policeman wounded, over the issue of segregation of women. They shouted “Nazis!” at the police. The Haredim are the Salafis of Judaism, and many insist on strict separation of women in public. Some forbid women to visit deceased relatives in cemeteries or walk on public sidewalks. Although gender segregation is asociated with Islam, it is also common among conservatives of other religious traditions, including Hinduism.
Part of the conflict is over the establishment of a national-religious school for girls in the town, which the Ultra-Orthodox activists say is full of “prostitutes” and of non-Jewish loose women (“shiksas”). Some have been spitting on the girls, and have beaten up non-Haredis who support the school.They complain that Zionists have invaded their neighborhood (most Haredis reject Zionism or Jewish nationalism on the grounds that it is impudent for Jews to establish a state before the Messiah comes.)
One of the victims who was spat on is an American little girl, Na’ama Margolies, whose plight has enraged secular Jews.
Haredim are about 10% of the Israeli population, and are growing rapidly because of large families. They are an important part of the coalition led by the ruling Likud party, so that this controversy has put the government in an awkward position. It has responded with verbal condemnation of extremism but no practical action.
Ironically, the more hardline Haredis do to secular Zionists what the Zionists do to Arabs, generalizing, stereotyping, and Nazifying them. See e.g. Ben White. And while Na’ama Margolies’ ordeal is heartbreaking, so is that of Palestinian children in al-Khalil / Hebron, who suffer restrictions from the occupying Israeli troops (h/t Ali Abunimah)