Lord Sacks: Bet Shemesh intimidation has no place in society

Lord Sacks

Lord Sacks

Chief Rabbi Lord Sacks has condemned the violent clashes in the Israeli city of Bet Shemesh.

Thousands of protesters demonstrated on Tuesday as part of the escalating conflict within Israeli society over the exclusion of women.

The growing strictly Orthodox community has clashed with others and young girls attending a state-run school were spat at and called "prostitutes".

In a joint statement with Rabbi Baruch Davis of the United Synagogue's Rabbinical Council, Rabbi Sacks said: "We unequivocally condemn the intimidation of schoolchildren in Bet Shemesh.

"While recognising that this and other related events involved only a small minority of the communities involved, it is important to state that such behaviour has no place in a decent society, least of all by those who see themselves and are seen by others as representing Torah values, whose 'ways are ways of peace'.

"At a time when Israel faces grave dangers we should remember the lesson of Jewish history and what it teaches about the consequences of sinat chinam, baseless hatred and the divisions it inflames.

"Now is a time for leaders of all sectors of the Jewish public to seek peaceful ways of defusing tension and resolving the inevitable clashes that occur in a free society, which Israel blessedly remains."

There had been outbreaks of violence in the city last weekend when local authorities removed signs that had been hung in a strictly Orthodox neighbourhood instructing women not to walk on the same pavements as men, to dress modestly and not to loiter by the local synagogue.

Last updated: 2:54pm, December 30 2011