Haredim in the Jerusalem neighborhood of Mea Shearim hurled concrete blocks from their balconies at police officers on Saturday. Several officers were lightly wounded and treated on the spot. Earlier on Saturday, police arrested one man on suspicion of disorderly conduct.
Clashes erupted after 20 members of the Free Israel Movement, who are opposed to gender segregation, were blocked at the entrance to Mea Shearim as they tried to hold a joint march for both men and women. They sought to uphold a High Court ruling banning gender segregation and were faced with an angry haredi mob which drove them away while hurling stones at them.
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Police forces were called to disperse the rioters using water canons. Several hours later residents hurled concrete blocks at the officers as they were leaving the neighborhood.
Haredim in Mea Shearim (Photo: Gil Yohanan)
Earlier this week, the High Court of Justice banned the use of fences, fabrics and ushers to separate men and women in Mea Shearim. The panel ruled that gender segregation hurts residents of the neighborhood explaining it was a case of a handful callously imposing their will on the majority.
Segregation between men and women during the holiday of Sukkot is particularly noticeable as some residents frown upon the arrival of women from outside the neighborhood who come to watch the Beit Hashoeva festivities.
Officers clash with haredim (Photo: Gil Yohanan)
Mickey Gitzin, director of the Free Israel Movement said: "Haredim hurled stones and urine-soaked diapers. We wanted to check that the High Court ruling which bans gender segregation is being upheld."
He added that "a state of segregation is against the law and therefore we are within our right to march as men and women together, in Mea Shearim as well."
One of the marchers said, "We managed to march several steps before we were violently attacked. Stones, glass bottles and diapers were hurled at us. It was life-threatening. We were chased and we escaped at the last minute. Those were moments of genuine fear."
Another activist, Eyal Yiski-Weiss added "Once the police entered to disperse the stone throwers they were pelted with very large rocks from the balconies. I was assaulted by two men who tried to take away my camera by force. We didn't come to cause provocation but to uphold the law. We intentionally came without signs and after Shabbat."
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