Hundreds of police were gathering in Beit Shemesh Tuesday in preparation for a major rally against the recent incidents of protests against women in several hareidi religious neighborhoods of the city. Police intend to keep the protesters and their targets – hareidi residents whom the protesters accuse of attacking and harassing women – far away from each other, and are prepared to intervene if necessary to keep the peace, a police spokesperson said.
A spokesperson for the protesters, who are being organized by a wide range of secular and religious organization, said that in addition to protesting the recent incidents at the Orot girls' school in the Givat Sharret section of the city, in which students were harassed as they went to and from school – they would also try to get to neighborhoods in Ramat Beit Shemesh where signs requiring separation between men and women on streets and in places of businesses have been posted.
In an interview, Beit Shemesh Mayor Moshe Aboutbul said that he expected to speak at the rally; however, no official invitation has been given to him yet. Aboutbul said that if he was not invited, it would be a clear sign that the protest was being held not out of concern for women, but for political purposes.
Aboutbul blamed the media for much of the unrest in the city, saying that the media was blowing a few small incidents out of proportion and tainting all of the city's residents with the negative reputation that only a small minority really deserve. He added that a hareidi man who was seen on a Channel 2 TV report as spitting at a small girl and then justifying it to the cameras was an “idiot” and that he was now in “communal herem,” meaning that no one in his community was talking to him and that he was not to be included in a minyan (prayer quorum)