The Israeli city of Beit Shemesh was in for a surprise when a court ordered it to pay damages for threatening “modesty signs” displayed all over the city by its ultra-Orthodox Jewish community.
The lawsuit was filed by four female campaigners who themselves had been targeted or intimidated by male inhabitants of their ultra-Orthodox community. The women had all been called names and insulted for their choice of clothing or for being at a place where women are not allowed by the rules of the Jewish community.
One of the main reasons Judge David Gidoni ruled in the favor of the women is because the signs are illegal. The city was repeatedly ordered for two years to remove the threatening signs. Failing to comply handed them a courtroom lose and the four women each 15,000 shekels ($3,814) in reparation.
The threatening signs are placed all over the city, barring women from entering certain buildings, warning them from walking down some sidewalks and even instructing them on modest dressing. Women are also warned against “slutty clothing worn in a religious style” by some of the billboards.
The judge ruled that the “hurtful, degrading and discriminatory signs put up by ultra-Orthodox radicals delivered a mortal blow to the rights of women in the city.” He instructed Beit Shemesh to compensate the women for their “mental anguish.”
This is the first time that the court has ruled in favor of the campaigners combating gender segregation in Israel’s ultra-Orthodox Jewish communities.