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Time to Extend Israeli Law to Meah Shearim

A woman is caught on tape detaching the feeding tube from her starving three-year old in Hadassah Hospital, after years of bringing the child in with unexplained medical conditions and bodily injuries. She is arrested by authorities for child endangerment and jailed. In response, her community backs her up, burns property and assaults police and social workers.

This story makes no sense until you add that the woman is haredi, a member of Neturei Karta sect in Jerusalem’s Meah Shearim.

As citizens of Israel look on in astonishment today as the streets of its capital are set on fire and innocent passersby are subject to a pogrom of stones and curses, we long-time inhabitants of Jerusalem are not surprised.

For years, police and government authorities have treated Meah Shearim, the hotbed of virulent haredi anti-Israel provocations, as the French have treated the Arab suburbs of Paris, the banlieues: as a separate country, afraid to engage with its inhabitants, to enforce the laws of the nation.

It is a no-go zone, where citizens take the law into their hands, and inhabitants are subject to mob rule.

I saw this personally when I was writing my play Women’s Minyan, which was based on the following true story: A haredi woman in Meah Shearim, mother of 12, found out her sexually abusive husband was having an affair with a married woman. When she finally stopped covering for him, and demanded he move out and give her a divorce, she found herself not only thrown out of the house, but attacked by armed haredi thugs who arrived at her doorstep.

Not finding her at home, they put her friend into the hospital. When she asked for child custody in the Rabbinical Courts, the Meah Shearim trained rabbinical judges colluded to ban her from any contact with her children
forever. We took this case to Israel’s Supreme Court, which turned out to
be absolutely spineless, sending it back to the Rabbinical Courts until the mother gave up in despair.

Members of Neturei Karta have actively befriended people like Arafat and Ahmedinijad. The fact that they live in this country and don’t send their children abroad (not true by the way) as one haredi apologist asserted today on television, doesn’t make them loyal citizens.

For years, Israel society has allowed Meah Shearim – like Tulkarem and Ramallah – to be off limits to Israeli law. If Israel authorities had asserted the law of the land on thugs who call themselves modesty patrols, perhaps the streets wouldn’t be burning today. If municipal authorities had torn down the signs warning women what they can and can’t wear on city streets, if the Ministry of Transportation had not given haredi thugs license to harass women passengers on public buses by caving in to absurd demands for “mehadrin” bus lines where women are forced to sit in the back, we wouldn’t be seeing these riots today. If the police would be willing to aggressively investigate and prosecute child abusers and sexual predators and rapists hiding behind black clothes in dark corners of this city, where citizens are afraid to report abuse for fear of becoming targets of haredi thug patrols, we wouldn’t be seeing this today. And if the Education Ministry would extend the laws of compulsory education and the basic curriculum to schools in Meah Shearim, we wouldn’t be seeing this today.

The time has come to say there is only one Jewish State, with one set of laws and rules of behavior for all its citizens. There are no banlieues, no no-go zones. All Israel’s citizens need to be subject to the same laws and
penalties, the same obligations. Whether the crimes they commit are in the name of Hashem or the name of Allah.

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