One year after the issue of women's exclusion from the public sphere made headlines in Israel, it appears as if not much has changed. Despite the statements made by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and other ministers calling to remove public signs advocating segregation between men and women in Beit Shemesh, many of those signs are still standing.
Beit Shemesh resident Nili Philip, who leads a religious lifestyle, said that lately additional signs have been put up calling for women to walk down the street in modest clothing.
Philip turned to the municipality and later on filed a report with the police. According to Philip, several days after filing the report, she received a notice stating that the case would be closed due to insufficient evidence.
Orly Erez-Lachovski of the Israel Religious Action Center, who was also enraged by the lack of progress in Beit Shemesh over the past year, recently wrote a letter to the Mayor of Beit Shemesh Moshe Abutbul and to the city's legal advisor Mickey Gastoirat, inquiring about the removal of the modesty posters from city streets.
Sign calling on women not to linger by synagogue (Photo courtesy of Israel Religious Action Center)
According to Erez-Lachovski, at the entrance to one of the city's neighborhoods a huge poster has been put up calling on women to dress modestly, with a closed long sleeved shirt and a long skirt. Women are not allowed to wear pants or any revealing clothing.
After the media hype surrounding women's exclusion in Beit Shemesh began to dissipate, signs excluding women from certain areas in town were also put back up, including one that calls on women not to linger by the local synagogue.
In the letter, Erez-Lachovski said that hanging the offensive signs breaks the city's by-laws which state that every sign must be approved by the municipality. The signs further break the basic law of man's dignity and freedom. She added that by not enforcing the law, the city is "cooperating with law-breaking citizens."
Sign calling on women to dress modestly (Photo courtesy of Israel Religious Action Center)
According to Beit Shemesh's municipality, the city council has attempted to remove the signs countless times, while simultaneously facing threats from radical groups who want to keep them up.
"The municipality cannot deal with this complex issue on its own, and we call on the police to intervene and enforce the law and the public order," the municipality's statement read.
A statement released by Israel Police said that "removal of the signs in Beit Shemesh is not under the police's jurisdiction."