SHLOMO Fuchs is a puzzled man. The ultra-Orthodox Jew from Jerusalem cannot understand why he was taken into custody earlier this week for “exercising his right to freedom of expression”.
After all, all he did was to abuse a female soldier, calling her a “slut, slut, slut!” for not taking a back seat on a bus.
Fuchs – a father of 12 – was arrested on Wednesday by the Jerusalem police for bad-mouthing Doron Matalon when she refused to sit at the back of an Egged bus travelling from the Neve Yaakov neighborhood to the Central Command base in Jerusalem.
Matalon said that after Fuchs called her a slut, he added:
You have no respect. You’re standing among yeshiva (religious college) students and it’s shameful.
Another female passenger who was approaching the front of the bus in order to pay the driver was told by Fuchs that:
A woman shouldn’t pass through the front of the bus to pay.
He then demanded she return to the back of the bus.
Fuchs’ attorney claimed his client’s behaviour did not constitute a criminal offense.
We live in a free country. We’re allowed to curse, it’s part of the freedom of expression.
A day later Fuchs was indicted for unruly behaviour and sexual harassment.
The indictment follows a warning issued by Israeli authorities saying they would not tolerate the exclusion of women from the public sphere or any acts of violence towards women.
State Prosecutor Moshe Lador stressed that:
The prosecution will work with the police to bring this radical phenomenon of haredi extremism to an end.
Jerusalem Magistrate’s Court released Fuchs under limiting conditions, forbidding him from using public transportation until the next hearing in his case, set for early January. The judge in the case said:
In light of this growing phenomenon of women’s exclusion and offending women who object their exclusion, I believe a dangerous cause exists here, because the aggravation of such a phenomenon endangers a democratic society when done forcibly.
The court also stated that sexual harassment does not only apply when the harasser demands something of sexual nature from the harassed, but also when the harassed is humiliated based on remarks relating to his or her sex. The judge ruled such was the case in this incident, since:
There is no dispute that Fuchs spoke bluntly and shouted harsh and humiliating words at the soldier aboard the bus, calling her a ‘slut’ three times.
In this report, Fuchs – a father of insisted:
I am not a sexual offender. If anything – she harassed me. I wanted to move away and she kept moving closer.
Unpleasant remarks are heard every day in Israel, including some which may be considered humiliating, and most of them are based on a person’s sexuality. Those who curse are never put on trial.
And his attorney said that, if the court does decide this is a sexual harassment case, then any man who calls a woman a “bitch” or other curse words would be considered a sexual offender.
Meanwhile, according to this report, Israeli Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman has condemned as “intolerable barbarism” efforts by hardline ultra-Orthodox Jews to segregate the sexes in public places.
It is inconceivable for the state to continue financing those who defy it and for the ultra-Orthodox to continue receiving subsidies, such as free (religious) schooling for their children.
His comments came after Israel’s chief military rabbi, Brigadier General Rafi Peretz, sent officers a memorandum condemning as “immoral” a slew of recent acts of discrimination against women and pledging that such behaviour would not be tolerated in the armed forces. Peretz said:
Of late, there is a grave phenomenon of discrimination against women both outside the army and within it. I’m working to ensure that radical, wrong notions, such as those which inspired the events in Beit Shemesh, will not permeate the army.
Beit Shemesh, a town of 80,000 near Jerusalem, has witnessed a string of clashes between ultra-Orthodox activists and other residents.