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Protecting Tolerance in Israel

Beit shemesh confrontations 2011 2012 - JTA photos

See photo credits below

The Jewish Federations of North America expresses strong condemnation of a recent wave of religious extremism and violence in Israel.

The situation has been highlighted in the media in incidents including the verbal abuse of an eight-year-old girl in the city of Beit Shemesh by a group of ultra-Orthodox men, the forced segregation of genders on some public bus routes despite the fact that the Israeli Supreme Court has outlawed this practice, and the unofficial ban on any female image in advertising in some areas.

“We unite today to strongly condemn, with one clear and loud voice, all acts of violence, intimidation, coercion and extremism, especially those that are undertaken, incredibly, in the name of Judaism,” said Jerry Silverman, president and CEO of JFNA. “We stand firmly and resolutely behind the voices of reason and moderation in Beit Shemesh and throughout Israel.”

A recent briefing by the Rabbinic Cabinet of the Jewish Federations noted that"no money collected by Jewish Federations and sent to Israel via JFNA goes to fund ultra-Orthodox yeshiva studies. In fact, the programs that Federations are funding, and which impact this population, are designed to promote greater diversity by aiding them to enter the workforce and to serve in the IDF."

Many members of the Israeli Government, including Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, have spoken out publicly to condemn the extremist behavior.

Rebecca Caspi, Senior Vice President, Israel & Overseas and Director General of the Jewish Federations in Israel, added that "leaders from across the country – including from within the mainstream Orthodox and ultra-Orthodox community – are now speaking out strongly against these acts and the extremists who perpetrate them. “

The Jewish Federations of North America will continue to keep the community informed through briefings and media reports.

Jewish Federation News:

• Jewish Federations Condemn Acts of Extremism in Israel (Feb. 2, 2012)
• Jewish Federations Condemn Wave of Religious Extremism and Violence in Israel (Dec. 27, 2011)
• Letter From Jerusalem - January 6, 2012 
• JFNA Rabbinic Cabinet: Statement about the acceptance of all Jews within all streams of Judaism (Jan. 17, 2012)
• JFNA Letter to Minister of Absorption on Controversial Ads (Dec. 2, 2011)
• JFNA Welcomes Six-Month Delay on Conversion Bill Issue (July 2010)
• JFNA Israel&Overseas homepage, for more information about JFNA's Israel agenda

Govt. Statements:

• PM Netanyahu's Speech at the Knesset (12/28/11)
• PM Netanyahu Speaks with Public Security Minister Aharonovitch about Attitudes toward Women in the Public Sphere (12/24/11)

News & Analysis:

Israelis should stand up to haredim (YNet)
IDF to draft more ultra-Orthodox in bid to counter decline in recruits (Haaretz)
• The haredi issue: forget the army, send them to work (JPost blog)
Of marriage and military service (Times of Israel blog)
Green light, red light: TA okays buses on Shabbat, fears brakes to be put on plan (Haaretz)
Ingathering and inclusion (JPost Op-ed)
IMF: If Arabs and Haredim worked, GDP would grow by 15 percent (Haaretz)
MKs denounce segregation in maternity wards (JPost)
Israeli Court Invalidates a Military Exemption (NY Times)
Israeli ultra-Orthodox confident yeshiva students won’t be drafted to IDF (Haaretz )
FM: Efforts to extend Tal Law ‘pointless’ (YNet)
Extremist Ultra-Orthodox acts in Beit Shemesh are not the norm (Washington Post letter to the editor)
The remarkable good news about the haredim (Times of Israel commentary)
• Montgomery delays Israeli sister-city partnership following ultra-Orthodox controversy (Washington Post)
• It is time (JPost commentary, Dov Lipman)
• 'Appoint non-Orthodox Jerusalem rabbi' (YNet)
• Anti-racism protesters must compete for Israelis' attention (Haaretz)
• Rabbis hold first mixed-prayer service in Knesset (JPost)
• Woman in Beit Shemesh attacked by ultra-Orthodox extremists (Haaretz)
• It’s time to end Israel’s war of culture and religion (Ha’aretz op-ed, Tanya Rosenblit)
• A ray of sunshine for embattled Beit Shemesh (JPost)
Poll: 51% say 'kosher buses' legitimate (YNet) 
Can religious women bridge IDF rifts? (YNet)
Beit Shemesh women dance for change (Ynet)
The response to extremist Judaism lies within Judaism (L.A. Jewish Journal op-ed by Elisheva Mazya)
A Civil War Nobody Wants (Joint Media News Service op-ed by Dr. Erica Brown)
Doctors ordered to pull out of gender-separated conference (JTA)
Haredi women publicly denounce extremists (Forward’s ‘Sisterhood’ blog)
‘Israeli Rosa Parks’ receives death threats after refusing to move to back of ultra-Orthodox bus (Haaretz)
Everyone is fighting a different battle in Beit Shemesh (Jerusalem Post op-ed by Natan Slifkin)
Will Beit Shemesh lead to erosion on Capitol Hill? (L.A. Jewish Journal op-ed by Doug Bloomfield)
Where do Israeli haredim stand on haredi violence? (JTA)
The Audacity of Nope (Shalom Hartman Institute)
Our World: Is Israeli Society Unraveling? (JPost opinion)
Prophets and Guardians (Dispatches from an Anxious State blog by Daniel Gordis)
We Can't Say This (Forward editorial)
Steinhardt: A response to the fundamentalists in our midst (Fla Jewish Journal)
State of Her Own (eJewish Philanthropy)
Come visit Israel. Before it's gone. (Haaretz opinion)

Photo credits for images atop this page, from left:

• Haredi Orthodox men argue with secular Israelis in Beit Shemesh following demands that authorities crack down on religious extremists who want stricter gender segregation in the city, Dec. 26, 2011. (Kobi Gideon / Flash90 / JTA)
• Some of the hundreds of Israelis demonstrating against the segregation of men and women on buses in certain neighborhoods of Jerusalem, where the women must sit in the back. (Miriam Alster/Flash 90 / JTA)
• Dov Lipman, left, a Modern Orthodox leader in Beit Shemesh, and a haredi Orthodox man, Moshe Friedman, engage in a shouting match near the Banot Orot school. (Michael Lipkin for JTA)