Religious “Haredi” Jews clashed on Sunday with Israeli Policemen in Beit Shemesh, a city in central Israel that has in recent weeks become the flashpoint for conflict between secular/moderate majority, and minority of conservative religious Jews.Sunday’s protests began after several members of the Haredi Orthodox community were arrested by Israeli police for tax fraud and money laundering. Protesters say that the arrestees were deliberately targeted as a provocation against the Orthodox community in Beit Shemesh.
Among the detained was the personal assistant of Rabbi Tuvia Weiss, the leader of the Haredi community in Beit Din. He and other Haredi leaders arrested on Sunday were accused of misusing millions of shekels worth of donations to the community.
Protesters tried to set up barricades on several main roads in Beit Shemesh, and threw rocks at police officers when they attempted to intervene. Clashes were also reported in Jerusalem, with Orthodox Jewish youth throwing rocks at police. Four protesters were arrested in Beit Shemesh.
The tension between Israel’s orthodox Haredi community and the secular, moderate Jewish community has escalated in recent weeks, following reports that Orthodox Haredi Jews harass girls, some as young as 8 years old, using physical intimidation, threats and violence when the girls were deemed to be less than sufficiently covered. This was despite them wearing the national uniform for religious schools (including a blouse with long sleeves and a long skirt)
Hundreds of residents of Beit Shemesh protested last week against what they see as an invasion of their community by ultra-Orthodox elements, who the residents say are attempting to change the character of their city.