After separating the sexes in every possible place, from beaches to busses, the ultra-Orthodox community is taking a further step in its quest for "disengagement." The sidewalks on one of the main streets in the ultra-Orthodox neighborhood of Beit Shemesh have been divided – one for men and one for women.
During recent years, a large ultra-Orthodox community has moved to Beit Shemesh. The community has settled in a new area of the city but is gradually taking over older parts as well. The community comprises hundreds of religious families who left the Mea Sheraim neighborhood in Jerusalem due to lack of housing.
Members of the ethnic groups are very strict about modesty and are taking the entire orthodox community of Beit Shemesh along with them.
They recently protested against businesses at the commercial center and demanded that proprietors hang up signs ordering clientele to dress modestly. When the Ha'meuchedet health clinic refused to abide by this order a public protest was held on the streets.
In addition, ulta-Orthodox members are conducting a violent protest against Egged busses, arguing that they are not modest enough. Two weeks ago they stoned a bus carrying mixed passengers and the driver was forced to fire into the air to escape the crowd.
Oy Vey! Women!
Now their modesty initiatives are reaching new heights. There are several synagogues in the Nachala Menucha neighborhood where men flock to pray. The problem is that while they head towards their place of worship they encounter women taking their children to the adjacent health clinic.
Fearing that the rules of modesty will be broken, lust will become rampant and the messiah will not come, it was decided to impose complete segregation.
Women are permitted to walk on one side of the sidewalk while men on the other. Signs have been posted on the men's side of the street instructing women to leave the sidewalk and to cross over to their side:
"Women are instructed to go to the other sidewalk, not to pass by the synagogue, and not to dawdle on the sidewalk leading to the synagogue."
The sign includes an arrow directing women to the other side of the street. To add fuel to the fire, during certain hours of the day a synagogue custodian is stationed outside to make sure the rules are adhered to.
The ultra-Orthodox community's activities are infuriating the secular residents of Beit Shemesh. "They are putting up illegal signs, running wild and throwing stones," one of the residents said Monday, "and no one is doing anything to prevent this. The municipality and the police are powerless."