The attacks mark an escalation of the religious fanatics’ battle against what they refer to as the ‘promiscuity’ on the haredi streets and the infiltration of ‘fashion’ that often times does not correspond with the strict dress codes in the community.
Flyer reads, 'Tight outfits destroy sanctity of our camp; you've been warned' (Photo: Dudi Vaaknin)
For instance, clothes that may seem modest to most people are considered by religious extremists to be ostentatious if they have shiny or colorful elements to them. Similar claims are made against women who wear overly-tight outfits.
A vendor at one of the local clothing stores said she felt something wet dripping on her shirt as she was walking down the street. At first she thought someone poured water over her, but later realized that she had been sprayed with bleach.
“This is Bitul Torah (wasting time that could be spent on Torah study), “she said. “Don’t they have anything else to do but look at women and determine whether they are modest or not? I thought we should perhaps organize a demonstration and declare, ‘we are modest and do not want to be burned,’ but obviously this did not materialize.”
Until recently the religious zealots focused their battle against the clothing stores: Last week yeshiva students arrived at a women’s clothing store on Amos Street and destroyed thousands of shekels worth of merchandise with bleach. The store was shut down immediately and a men’s clothing store was set up in its place.
About six months ago a store from the same chain was set ablaze in Bnei Brak.
According to the salesperson who was attacked, last week a yeshiva student paid a visit to the store and demanded that she “stop selling immodest clothes” and even warned her that “stores are going to be set on fire tonight.”
'These stores are a spiritual hazard'
The woman said she responded by telling the student that she “has no problem with the clothes in the store” and that the store is “full of security cameras.” The following morning she learned that a women’s clothing store on Hagai Street, just two streets from where she worked, was set ablaze.
On the evening the store was set on fire a rally was held at Jerusalem’s Sabbath Square during which Rabbi Yaakov Sofer spoke of the “spiritual deterioration of the Geula neighborhood."
According to one participant, the rabbi said “those stores should be closed down – to show the entire world that we are Jews. This is the last place remaining on earth; if it is destroyed, the whole world will be annihilated.”
During the past few months the Geula residents’ committee has been engaged in a campaign against plans to build a shopping center in the neighborhood. A booklet published by the committee about a month ago read, “Life in the neighborhood has become intolerable due to the many stores that are opening here. These stores are a spiritual hazard, as they attract different characters that are detrimental to our children’s education.”
Some claim that those behind the attacks are members of the residents’ committee, but members have repeatedly denied the accusations.