A senior municipal official admitted Tuesday that Jerusalem has failed to take sufficient action against vandalism by religious extremists who deface images of women on billboards and posters in public spaces.
In the wake of a legal petition by the Israel Religious Action Center – the advocacy arm of the Reform movement in Israel – accusing the city of “failing to take appropriate action against the vandalization of women’s images on signs and billboards on the streets of Jerusalem,” Deputy Mayor Fleur Hassan-Nahoum told Haaretz that the municipality “has not done enough because it’s not high on the priority list and because they consider the people doing this as crazy extremists.”
“This is a battle I’ve been fighting for five years,” she stated. "We live in a free society of equality of men and women and not in Tehran."
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Hassan-Nahoum added that while the vandals, who justify their actions as an attempt to enforce their increasingly stringent modesty standards, are not members of the mainstream ultra-Orthodox community, they "need to be made an example of."
"When you erase women from the public space, you erase them from society and erase their voices," she argued.
The Israel Religious Action Center filed its petition on Sunday following the repeated vandalism of a photograph of a female Holocaust survivor exhibited at Safra Square, outside the municipality building.
"The desecration of Peggy’s photo is not a unique incident," the group said in a statement. "There is a widespread trend of vandalizing women’s images in the public domain in Jerusalem."
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"Women’s faces are scratched out, torn, or painted over throughout the streets of the city," it added. "This is humiliating and insulting to the women featured in the vandalized photos and sends the message that there is no room for women in the public domain."