Dozens of ultra-Orthodox Beit Shemesh residents assaulted a Channel 2 news crew yesterday, throwing a cameraman to the ground and grabbing the soundman by the throat when they attempted to record footage of a sign that instructs women not to walk past a synagogue, the news crew said.
Later in the day, several dozen residents called the police "Nazis" when municipal inspectors, accompanied by a large police contingent, took the sign down. At least one threw rocks at the police and fled.
The cameraman, Danny Zion, was lightly wounded in the hand, but no other injuries were reported. No arrests were made.
"After about a minute, we heard shouting, and within another half a minute, we were pushed," said Channel 2 reporter Shai Golan, one member of the three-man television crew filming in the ultra-Orthodox Menuha Venahla neighborhood yesterday. "Within seconds we were surrounded by dozens of people."
Gal said the yelling and insults quickly turned into a physical attack that went on for several minutes, until police intervened.
"They started to grab the camera and to hit us, and threw the cameraman to the ground," said Gal.
The crew got back into their vehicle, but the crowd didn't immediately let them drive off. The rioters threw large paving stones, breaking the windshield and causing dents.
"It was scary," said Gal. "The most amazing thing was that the whole street filled up with people and no one did anything to try to help us."
Soundman Yaakov Hershkowitz later recapped the events in the Beit Shemesh police station.
"It was a real lynch," Hershkowitz said. "We were scared to death. They ran to us, someone grabbed me by the throat, another one was stabbing me in the back with his umbrella again and again, and I couldn't do anything. At a certain point I slumped down on the ground; I had no strength to resist anymore."
He said some of the rioters tried to pull one of the car doors off its hinges, while others opened the trunk and started to pull out and damage the photographic equipment inside.
Less than two hours after the sign was removed, Beit Shemesh residents put up a new one. They said it had to stay up since it had been posted on the orders of the neighborhood rabbi.
Binyamin Jacobs, who lives near the site, said the point of the sign is to keep women from dawdling on the sidewalk in front of the synagogue, not to keep them off the street altogether.
"That's because there's an events hall near the synagogue," Jacobs said. "Women often gather near the entrance and block [the street], that's it. But they're obsessed with this sign."
Jacobs said that every few nights, secular youths from outside the neighborhood come to deface the sign, and in the morning the ultra-Orthodox residents clean it off.
Jacobs said the sign is the work of extremists who do not represent most the neighborhood residents, but said the residents prefer to avoid confrontations, "so that we can also have some quiet."
Meanwhile, David Eisenbach, an ultra-Orthodox man suspected of spitting at Naama Margolese, an 8-year-old girl attending the religious Zionist girls school Orot Banot in the city, was ordered yesterday to stay out of Beit Shemesh for seven days. He was arrested Saturday and released under restricted conditions yesterday.
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