On Saturday night, the ultra-Orthodox community staged a demonstration in Jerusalem’s Kikar Hashabbat (Sabbath Square), where they dressed in prisoner uniforms with yellow badges with the word “Jew” written in German, to protest at what they see as their exclusion from Israeli society. The demonstrations have been sparked by secular Israelis refusing to accept gender separation as demanded by the Orthodox.
One ultra-Orthodox man was charged with sexual abuse after he spat at a female soldier on a bus, called her a “prostitute” and demanded she move to the back of the vehicle.
The dispute plumbed new depths on Monday when images of Jerusalem police commander Niso Shaham Photoshopped as Adolf Hitler appeared online. Accompanying the images of Shaham, dressed in SS uniform, was a caption that read: “Adolf Niso Shaham: mass murderer.”
About two weeks ago, Shaham spoke at the entrance to the Meah She’arim neighbourhood, saying Jerusalem police would not tolerate the exclusion of women. “The act of excluding women is terrible,” said Shaham. “Anyone who acts to exclude women from the public sphere will be stopped, even if it is embedded in their DNA.” According to Shaham, police entering Mea She’arim were attacked by residents standing on balconies, who shouted “Nazis”, poured water on them and threw shreds of paper at the officers.
Minister-without Portfolio Yossi Peled, who is a Holocaust survivor, said: “Some things are inconceivable, like taking the horrifying picture of the little boy facing the Nazis with his hands up. Regardless of whether the struggle is justified or not, it points to something insane, irrational, immoral. I saw the picture and the blood froze in my veins. We’ve lost something in our moral barriers. We’ve lost shame.”
The head of Germany‘s Jewish community on Tuesday expressed “shock” and “shame” at the demonstrations. Dieter Graumann said the protests were all the more disturbing coming from Jews. “The pictures shocked me. And I was even ashamed that Jews of all people should do such a thing, giving a distorted image of the Holocaust. Jews in Germany always say one should never abuse the memory of the Holocaust. If now Jews are doing that, it is particularly disgraceful.”
The Anti-Defamation League expressed outrage at the use of Holocaust imagery, saying: “The costumed demonstrators violated basic decency and good sense which bind societies together.”Learn more »