The Knesset Committee on the Status of Women and Gender Equality met with protests as it toured the city of Beit Shemesh Sunday. The committee members expressed their opposition to the modesty signs posted at the entrances of some of the city's predominantly haredi neighborhoods.
Two weeks ago, the Supreme Court ruled that the Beit Shemesh municipality must remove the signs. Last week, city employees came to the neighborhood, accompanied by the Beit Shemesh police, and removed the signs. However, the signs were posted again almost immediately by a group of residents acting without authorization from city hall. Last Wednesday, the municipality again removed the signs.
Last weekend, MK Yisrael Eichler (United Torah Judaism) tried to cancel the Knesset committee's tour, arguing that the visit would be a "provocation." However, the tour proceeded as planned.
In addition to the committee members, representatives of the Ministry of Justice, the Ministry of Public Security, the Ministry for Social Equality, the State Attorney's Office, the Beit Shemesh Municipality and the Reform Center for Religion and State were also invited to participate in the tour.
The committee members encountered signs which read: "Please walk here only when dressed modestly," "Men on the right side of the stairs and women on the left." During the visit, verbal confrontations were recorded with residents of the neighborhood who protested the committee's tour of the neighborhood.
Committee chairperson MK Aida Touma-Sliman (Joint List) said at the start of the tour: "It's important for me to say that we are not here to defy or to cause provocations, and if there are any, they will not be on our side. We are here because we are doing our job, going to places where women have told us that they feel deprived, and that they are oppressed and excluded."
Addressing the women of Beit Shemesh, she said: "If this is the resistance that we endured only because we wanted to go on a study tour [on behalf of] the State, then I can only imagine what you've been going through for years. WAe are here to let you know that you are not alone."
MK Ksenia Svetlova (Zionist Union), who participated in the tour, said that "the municipality of Beit Shemesh needs to do much more so that all the residents of the city can live in peace and move through the city without being exposed to harassment. The municipality distributed 700 reports, But from what we have heard from residents and residents of the city and from the organizations, none of the reports have had any effect."
"The criminal exclusion from which the women of the city suffer, as well as women everywhere in Israel, must stop. Beit Shemesh belongs to everyone, and no one has the right to do otherwise," she said. "The municipality should do more, and the interior minister must intervene urgently in this matter."