The writing on the wall

Is Israel headed toward a religiously extremist future?

The latest report about growing religious extremism (having nothing to do with nationalism or politics) in Israel comes from, of all places, Abu Dhabi’s The National newspaper:

Faced with what they see as the threat of modern culture, sections of the Haredim are demanding a more rigorous enforcement of Jewish religious laws, or halakha. Under the label of “modesty patrols”, groups of ultra-Orthodox men are turning into vigilantes, targeting in particular Haredi women whose behaviour they disapprove of.

Reports of women being attacked on the street or in their homes have been steadily rising in the local media.

In one widely publicised incident over the summer, a 14-year-old girl from Upper Beitar, a large ultra-Orthodox settlement in the West Bank south of Jerusalem, had acid poured on her face and body in what is believed to have been the work of a modesty patrol.

The girl told a paramedic treating her that she had been repeatedly threatened before the attack. According to local media, the girl was wearing loose-fitting trousers at the time of the attack.

Several rabbis have denounced women as immodest for wearing trousers. One of the most prominent, Rabbi Shlomi Aviner, ruled last month: “In general, a woman must always wear modest clothes even when she is alone and in the dark.”

Last week an ultra-Orthodox man, Elhanan Buzaglo, was indicted on suspicion of breaking into the home of a woman in an ultra-Orthodox neighbourhood of Jerusalem along with six accomplices, armed with a bat and tear gas. The woman, divorced from a Haredi man, was beaten and told that she would be killed if she did not leave the area.

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