Jewish Morality Squads
IslamOnline.net & News Agencies
The Jewish "modesty squads" have become increasingly violent in Jerusalem recently. (Google)
OCCUUPIED JERUSALEM — Wearing black coats and wide-brimmed hats, Israel's ultra-orthodox vigilantes roam the streets, harass women dressed in "immoral" clothing and attack music shops.
"I don't know why I was treated this way. What has my life got to do with those guys," M., who just two weeks ago became the latest victim of the Jewish morality squads, told Agence France Presse (AFP) on Monday, September 15.
The 28-year-old woman, who refused to tell her name for fear of reprisal, was brutally gagged and beaten at the hands of two members of a Jewish modesty patrol.
"They beat me up, tied me up and threatened to kill me," M. said, holding back her tears.
They threatened to kill her if she did not move out of the ultra-Orthodox Maalot Dafna neighborhood of Jerusalem.
Shaking as she recalled the beating, M. says she will move out because she fears for her life.
"Who will prevent them from killing me?"
M. is not the only victim of the Jewish self-styled modesty squads.
In June, a 14-year-old resident of Mea Sharim neighborhood was taken to hospital with burns after an attacker hurled acid at her.
Israeli media said that at the time of the attack the girl had been wearing loose-fitting trousers and a short-sleeved shirt, enough to provoke the ire of modesty patrols.
Ultra-Orthodox Jews, also known as Haredim, follow strict interpretations of Jewish religious laws.
Their life revolves around a strict dress code that has men sporting black coats, hats and long beards and women covering their heads, arms and legs.
Haredim Jews, who make up 8 to 10 percent of Israel's population, have been active in Israel for the past decade.
The Jewish morality squads have become increasingly visible in Jerusalem recently.
"For some weeks we've been seeing excesses," asserted Meny Schwartz, who heads the religious Kol Haredi radio station.
In the neighborhoods dominated by the Haredim, streets are sealed off for the Jewish day of rest and satellite dishes are considered a sign of heresy.
The ultra-Orthodox Jews have also led violent protests against swimming pools, cinemas and other establishments they consider immoral.
Failing to segregate the sexes is also unacceptable according to the Haredi rules.
They operate scores of gender-segregated bus routes whose buses move the ultra-Orthodox between Jerusalem neighborhoods.
In 2006, a 50-year-old American tourist on holiday was attacked because she refused to go to the back of a bus along with other women.
Police have recently detained a man accused of torching a store for selling what some residents considered "immoral" clothing.
David, a salesman at a store that sells MP4 players, says they have been targeted by the morality squads who have picketed outside the shop for weeks.
"They burned down our stocks," he said, declining to give his family name for fear of being singled out for attack.
"[They] are spreading terror in the neighborhood. Nothing will stop them."