Water Cut to Spring Near Jerusalem to Prevent Female Swimming

In several cases, women have said they endured violence or sexual harassment when they tried to get near or enter a spring

People gathered at Lifta Spring in Jerusalem to protest attempts to keep women away, June 2018.
Sergey Furman

Water cut to spring near Jerusalem to prevent female swimmingUnknown people blocked the water flow into a spring near Jerusalem last week, apparently to prevent women from swimming there.

For years, religious men have been trying to keep women away from springs near Jerusalem because the men want to use them for ritual immersion. The problem is worst on Fridays, when hundreds of religious and ultra-Orthodox men come to immerse themselves.

>> Men and Women, Religious or Not, Battle for Rights at Israeli Springs

In several cases, women have said they endured violence or sexual harassment when they tried to get near or enter a spring.

About two months ago, a group of young women from Jerusalem decided to fight women’s exclusion from these springs by visiting them in groups on Fridays, sometimes accompanied by men, so that they can’t be driven away easily. For the past few weeks, they have been focusing on the Ein Itamar spring south of Jerusalem, because it is the one where women have faced the worst problems.

Ein Itamar was “adopted” by a group of men, some of them Bratslav Hasidim, who upgraded the site and have been using it regularly for years. The women’s visits have regularly sparked protests and arguments, and sometimes they have even obtained a police escort for fear of violence.

Last Thursday, persons unknown used concrete to stop up the channel which brings water from the spring to a nearby pool, apparently to prevent the women from coming. They also emptied the pool of water.

Earlier, one of the men who regularly use the spring had proposed exactly this on Facebook. “I have a great solution,” wrote Eran Turgeman. “When they arrive (and believe me, they come with a lot of hatred in their eyes, I’ve seen it with my own eyes), we remove the plug and oops! There’s no water. Too bad.”

But Thursday night, one of the activists on the women’s side unblocked the channel and refilled the pool.

On Friday afternoon a fire broke out nearby, destroying 40 dunams of forest. Firefighters first thought it was arson, but now think it was caused by negligence of the hikers or others using the spring.