An Israeli court has ordered a city municipality in the country to financially compensate four women over its refusal to remove illegal and sometimes threatening signs, which demanded that women dress “modestly” in public, according to reports.
The signs, posted in the city of Beit Shemesh, were “hurtful, degrading and discriminatory” toward women, Judge David Gidoni ruled, adding that the women who brought the case were to be paid 15,000 shekels (approximately $3,800) in compensation for the mental anguish they suffered, Israel Hayom reported.
The signs in question include “warnings” to women to stay out of certain buildings and avoid walking on sidewalks in some areas of the city of 80,000, in which 45 percent of the population are ultra-orthodox Jews. According to the Guardian, one billboard read: “Dire warning: It is forbidden to walk on our streets in immodest dress, including slutty clothing worn in a religious style.” It was signed, “Residents of the neighborhood."
Nili Phillip, a Beit Shemesh resident who was one of the plaintiffs in the case, told Israeli newspaper Haaretz: “We can’t count on our city government to enforce the law in Beit Shemesh. I’m glad we have the courts to stand up for our rights, but as I see it, it’s a sad state of affairs that we had to go to court at all.”
Authorities in Beit Shemesh said that they had previously removed the signs on several occasions but they were replaced, often “within minutes” of being removed. They added that the signs' removal had led to violence in the past, the Jerusalem Post reported.
Beit Shemesh, which is about 19 miles from Jerusalem, has in the past been a flashpoint for conflict between ultra-orthodox and secular residents over religious issues, the Times of Israel reports. In a high-profile 2011 incident, an 8-year-old girl was spat on by ultra-orthodox men over her perceived immodest dress, the paper added.
Ultra-orthodox Haredi Jews follow strict laws that call for the separation of genders in some circumstances. This has often led to conflicts between members of the community and others. For example, a recent flight from Tel Aviv to New York was delayed because an ultra-orthodox man refused to sit beside a female passenger.