A woman who led the protests against the exclusion of women from bathing in some natural springs in the Jerusalem area has announced she will stop her protest for fear of violence.
Eliana Barbel wrote on Facebook that in a meeting with male bathers at these springs, held at a police station, one of them told her that her name was “on the lips” of criminals who frequent the site.
The protest began three months ago after a series of violent incidents, sexual harassment and humiliation of women who came to enjoy the springs. Supporters showed up in large numbers on Friday, intending to afford women bathers a sense of security.
The most sharply disputed spring is Ein Itamar in southern Jerusalem, where a large group of Orthodox men go regularly. Many women reported being assaulted or harassed there.
- Men and women, religious or not, battle for rights at Israeli springs
- Water cut to spring near Jerusalem to prevent female swimming
The protests caused some sharp reactions by male bathers. A few weeks after the protests began, police organized a meeting between organizer Barbel and Sharon Kalimi, one of the leaders of the male group that frequents the spring.
The meeting took place at the Moriah police station, and included the commander. The two sides agreed that the protests would stop, with Kalimi promising that women at the spring would face no violence.
But last Friday, there was another incident. A couple and their three children went there, and several men undressed, facing the woman and her children. One 60-year-old naked man yelled at one of the girls.
Shortly before that a religious couple arrived there.
“We finished cooking and cleaning up before the Sabbath and decided to have coffee at the spring. We innocently chose that location,” recalled Netanel Bendel.
“As we approached we saw some people there but we didn’t read the situation. They started yelling at us to go away. When we got closer we saw some naked men. My wife told them to have a dip while we made coffee and that we’d bathe later, so everyone could enjoy the water. They continued trying to humiliate us. When we finished the coffee my wife went to test the water and was subjected to yelling and sexual innuendo. ‘She has no man in the house so she came here to see naked men and to have some pleasure.’ There was violence in the air,” he said.
Responding to these events, Barbel’s Facebook post noted that she had realized that some of these regulars were real criminals and members of organized crime families. “At the meeting [at the police station] Kalimi made it clear that if we continued with our protests things would blow up, and that my name was known to all the criminals who went there.” Barbel said he was threatening her, but Kalimi replied that he was only explaining the situation.
Police said: “We operate in that location trying to prevent incidents. The two sides were summoned to a meeting and reached some understandings. Any complaint will be addressed. Questions regarding arrangements at the site should be addressed to the Nature and Parks Authority.”