Jerusalem

OpenCalais Metadata: Latitude: 
31.47
OpenCalais Metadata: Longitude: 
35.1

A large wooden wall painted gray and covered in hand-painted quotes trying to persuade UT students to support the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions movement stands in the West Mall. The BDS movement is a consumer, academic and cultural boycott of Israel. Thinly veiled as a nonviolent movement to further the Palestinian cause, the campaign is an acrimonious attack against the academic integrity and open dialogue on which our campus thrives. Open dialogue and education are the only way to achieve peace in the Middle East, and the BDS movement is in staunch opposition to that fact. The BDS movement takes an extreme position that is no way a reflection of Americans’ core ideas and values, and it has no place on the UT campus.

Leaders in Washington and on campus support a strong U.S.-Israel relationship. Specifically, President Barack Obama and UT Student Government President Thor Lund similarly understand that only through dialogue and education can we achieve peace in the Middle East.

Today, Obama arrives in Jerusalem to meet with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. Earlier this month, Lund joined 2,000 students at a pro-Israel conference in Washington, D.C to learn about the partnership between the two nations.

As hard as they try, the BDS organizers at UT can’t seem to cut off all ties with Israel. This week PSC members will screen the movie “5 Broken Cameras,” a film critical of Israel but co-directed by an Israeli, funded by Israeli organizations and Israel’s government, and nominated as an Israeli film for an Oscar. Boycotting Israel harms even Israel’s critics.

Support for a Palestinian state and support for the U.S.-Israel relationship are not mutually exclusive. Speaking in Cairo in 2009, Obama called the bond between the U.S. and Israel “unbreakable,” while also making a powerful statement that a Palestinian nation was in all party’s best interests. Addressing the Palestinian Authority and Israel alike he said, “The situation for the Palestinian people is intolerable,” concluding, “America will not turn our backs on the legitimate Palestinian aspiration for dignity, opportunity and a state of their own.” 

It’s certainly not Israel holding the Palestinian people back. The 1947 U.N. Partition Plan was the first time Israel accepted a Palestinian state only for it to be rejected by the Arab world. In 2005, Israel unilaterally withdrew all of its troops and citizens from the Gaza Strip. In 2008, Israel offered close to 98 percent of the West Bank and shared control over Jerusalem. None of these peace offerings have moved Palestinian leadership.

While waiting for a peace partner, Israel has become a “startup nation”, a progressive society that allows gays to serve openly in the military, women to comprise 23 percent of Israel’s new parliament and places no limits on freedom of speech or of the press. Israel offers greater freedoms to Arab citizens, who comprise 20 percent of the total population, than any other country in its region. Arab Israelis vote, are represented in parliament and sit on the Supreme Court. 

The partnership between the U.S. and Israel strengthens American businesses and security. Microsoft, Google and Apple, Inc. are a few of the approximately 100 companies with active branches in Israel and the countries exchange more than $78 million worth of goods and services daily. The U.S. and Israel are developing together the most sophisticated anti-missile defense systems and Israeli military innovations are saving American lives in Afghanistan and Iraq.

While not disregarding or distracting from Palestinian issues, the goal of Israel Peace Week is to accurately depict Israel, a nation that, since its founding in 1948, has never seen a second of non-democratic rule, a country that is unabashedly, unequivocally pro-American. 

Rather than divesting, our University has an opportunity to invest in dialogue. Our presidents have chosen the path towards peace, and we welcome you to join us. 

Frydberg is a Middle Eastern Studies sophomore from San Antonio.

A large wooden wall painted gray and covered in hand-painted quotes trying to persuade UT students to support the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions movement stands in the West Mall. The BDS movement is a consumer, academic and cultural boycott of Israel. Thinly veiled as a nonviolent movement to further the Palestinian cause, the campaign is an acrimonious attack against the academic integrity and open dialogue on which our campus thrives. Open dialogue and education is the only way to achieve peace in the Middle East, and the BDS movement is in staunch opposition to that fact. The BDS movement takes an extreme position that is no way a reflection of Americans’ core ideas and values, and it has no place on the UT campus.

Leaders in Washington and on campus support a strong U.S.-Israel relationship. Specifically, President Barack Obama and UT Student Government President Thor Lund similarly understand that only through dialogue and education can we achieve peace in the Middle East.

Today, Obama arrives in Jerusalem to meet with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. Earlier this month, Lund joined 2,000 students at a pro-Israel conference in Washington, D.C this month to learn about the partnership between the two nations.

As hard as they try, the BDS organizers at UT can’t seem to cut off all ties with Israel. This week PSC members will screen the movie “5 Broken Cameras,” a film critical of Israel but co-directed by an Israeli, funded by Israeli organizations and Israel’s government, and nominated as an Israeli film for an Oscar. Boycotting Israel harms even Israel’s critics.

Support for a Palestinian state and support for the U.S.-Israel relationship are not mutually exclusive. Speaking in Cairo in 2009, Obama called the bond between the U.S. and Israel “unbreakable,” while also making a powerful statement that a Palestinian nation was in all party’s best interests. Addressing the Palestinian Authority and Israel alike he said, “The situation for the Palestinian people is intolerable,” concluding, “America will not turn our backs on the legitimate Palestinian aspiration for dignity, opportunity and a state of their own.” 

It’s certainly not Israel holding the Palestinian people back. The 1947 U.N. Partition Plan was the first time Israel accepted a Palestinian state only for it to be rejected by the Arab world. In 2005, Israel unilaterally withdrew all of its troops and citizens from the Gaza Strip. In 2008, Israel offered close to 98 percent of the West Bank and shared control over Jerusalem. None of these peace offerings have moved Palestinian leadership.

While waiting for a peace partner, Israel has become a “startup nation”, a progressive society that allows gays to serve openly in the military, women to comprise 23 percent of Israel’s new parliament and places no limits on freedom of speech or of the press. Israel offers greater freedoms to Arab citizens, who comprise 20 percent of the total population, than any other country in its region. Arab Israelis vote, are represented in parliament and sit on the Supreme Court. 

The partnership between the U.S. and Israel strengthens American businesses and security. Microsoft, Google and Apple, Inc. are a few of the approximately 100 companies with active branches in Israel and the countries exchange more than $78 million worth of goods and services daily. The U.S. and Israel are developing together the most sophisticated anti-missile defense systems and Israeli military innovations are saving American lives in Afghanistan and Iraq.

While not disregarding or distracting from Palestinian issues, the goal of Israel Peace Week is to accurately depict Israel, a nation that, since its founding in 1948, has never seen a second of non-democratic rule, a country that is unabashedly, unequivocally pro-American. 

Rather than divesting, our University has an opportunity to invest in dialogue. Our presidents have chosen the path towards peace, and we welcome you to join us. 

Frydberg is a Middle Eastern Studies sophomore from San Antonio.

JERUSALEM — Israel’s national museum said Tuesday it will open what it calls the world’s first exhibition devoted to the architectural legacy of biblical King Herod, the Jewish proxy monarch who ruled Jerusalem and the Holy Land under Roman occupation two millennia ago.

The display includes the reconstructed tomb and sarcophagus of one of antiquity’s most notable and despised figures, curators say.

Modern-day politics are intruding into this ancient find. Palestinians object to the showing of artifacts found in the West Bank. The Israeli museum insists it will return the finds once the
exhibit closes.

About 30 tons of artifacts — including hundreds of tiny shattered shards pieced back together — are going on display at the Israel Museum in Jerusalem in a nine-month exhibition opening Feb. 12.

Museum director James Snyder said the exhibit, “Herod the Great,” is the museum’s largest and most expensive archaeological project to date.

“It’s a name that’s always on everyone’s lips,” Snyder said, “And yet there has never been an exhibit devoted to his material.”

Herod was vilified in the New Testament as a bloodthirsty tyrant who massacred Bethlehem’s male children to try to prevent the prophesied birth of Jesus. He is also said to have murdered his wife and sons.

Herod was also revered for his ambitious building projects, including his lavish desert palaces and an expansion of the Second Jewish Temple complex in Jerusalem. The Western Wall, today the holiest site where Jews are permitted to pray, was a retaining wall for the compound.

Herod’s final grandiose project was to prepare for death. Curators believe Herod constructed an extravagant, 80-foot-high tomb. Israeli archaeologist Ehud Netzer spent 35 years of his career searching for it.

In 2007, Netzer drew international attention when he announced he had found what he believed was the tomb at the Herodion, the ruler’s winter palace, located on a cone-like hill that still today juts out prominently in the barren landscape of the Judean Desert, near the West Bank city of Bethlehem.

In 2008, the archaeologist approached the Israel Museum about creating an exhibit that would display artifacts from one of the greatest finds of his career. While surveying the Herodion site with museum staff, Netzer fell to his death. Museum staff pushed forward with planning the exhibit.

In 2011, the museum used a crane to remove dozens of half-ton columns and the roof of what Netzer identified as the top floor of Herod’s tomb, which he thought held his sarcophagus. Each stone was affixed with an electronic chip so it could be more easily put back together at the
Israel Museum.

Three sarcophagi were found at the site, and curators believe one was Herod’s. Although it bears no inscription, it is made of a special reddish stone, found smashed into hundreds of pieces. The Jewish zealots who took over the Herodion after Herod’s death likely smashed the sarcophagus to pieces, destroying the symbol of a man who worked with the empire they were rebelling against, curators said.

“It’s not 100 percent. But archaeology is never about 100 percent,” said co-curator Dudi Mevorah. “The circumstantial evidence points to one man.” The sarcophagus will also be on display.

Archaeologist Joe Zias, who did not participate in the excavation or the exhibition, said he believes the tomb was likely that of Herod.

“It’s a monumental tomb out in the middle of nowhere in a place he built for himself,” Zias said. “It’s as authentic as one could ask for.”

The museum exhibit also features a reconstructed throne room from one of Herod’s palaces in Jericho, and a full-sized replica of Herod’s theater viewing room at the Herodion, incorporating detailed fresco wall paintings and other decorative elements that museum staff collected on site.

There are still pieces of the puzzle left to assemble. At the museum’s lab Tuesday, workers were still rushing to fit together all the small stucco wall lining pieces found to display in the exhibit. One fresco wall painting, found in tiny fragments, has taken two and a half years to reassemble.

The museum’s exhibit is almost entirely made up of finds from the West Bank — a point of contention with the Palestinians.

In this Tuesday, Oct. 9, 2007 file photo, construction workers are seen at the E-1 construction site near the West bank settlement of Maaleh Adumim on the eastern outskirts of Jerusalem.

Photo Credit: The Associated Press

RAMALLAH, West Bank — The Palestinians will ask the U.N. Security Council to call for an Israeli settlement freeze, President Mahmoud Abbas and his advisers decided Tuesday, as part of an escalating showdown over Israel’s new plans to build thousands more homes on war-won land in and around Jerusalem.

Such construction will destroy any lingering hopes of setting up a Palestinian state, Abbas aides warned.

The plans include 3,000 more homes for Jews in the West Bank and east Jerusalem, as well as preparations for construction of an especially sensitive project near Jerusalem, known as E-1.

Israeli settlement construction lies at the heart of a four-year breakdown in peace talks, and was a major factor behind the Palestinians’ U.N. statehood bid. Since 1967, half a million Israelis have settled in the West Bank and east Jerusalem.

The Israeli plans for Jerusalem and nearby West Bank areas “are the most dangerous in the history of settlement expansion and apartheid,” Abbas and senior members of the PLO and his Fatah movement said in a statement after a meeting Tuesday evening.

Israel has rebuffed the international criticism, which put it at odds with some of its strongest foreign allies, including Australia.

Israeli Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman said Tuesday that construction plans would move forward, particularly in east Jerusalem and nearby West Bank settlements. “Israel makes decisions according to its national interests, and not in order to punish, fight or confront,” he said.

Printed on Wednesday, Dec. 5, 2012 as: Palestinians to ask for building freeze

Palestinians hold posters of Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas during a rally supporting the Palestinian UN bid for observer state status, in the West Bank city of Ramallah, Sunday, Nov. 25, 2012. The Palestinians will request to upgrade their status on November 29. The status could add weight to Palestinian claims for a state in the West Bank, Gaza Strip and east Jerusalem, territories captured by Israel in the 1967 Mideast war from Jordan. (AP Photo/Majdi Mohammed)

Photo Credit: The Associated Press

RAMALLAH, West Bank — The expected U.N. vote Thursday to recognize a state of Palestine will be far more than symbolic — it could give the Palestinians leverage in future border talks with Israel and open the way for possible war crimes charges against the Jewish state.


The Palestinians want the 193-member General Assembly to accept “Palestine,” on the lands Israel occupied in 1967, as a non-member observer state. They anticipate broad support.


For Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas, the U.N. bid is a last-ditch attempt to stay relevant as a leader after years of failed peace talks with Israel, at a time when his Islamic militant Hamas rivals are gaining ground.

The U.S. and Israel have tried to block the quest for U.N. recognition of Palestine, saying it’s an attempt to bypass Israeli-Palestinian negotiations that broke down four years ago.


The U.S. deputy secretary of state, William Burns, met with Abbas in New York on Wednesday, asking Abbas again to drop the idea and promising that President Barack Obama would re-engage as a mediator in 2013, said Abbas aide Saeb Erekat. Abbas told Burns it was too late.

Israel, meanwhile, appeared to back away from threats of drastic measures if the Palestinians get U.N. approval, with officials suggesting the government would take steps only if the Palestinians use their new status to act against Israel.


The Palestinians say they need U.N. recognition of a Palestinian state in the West Bank, Gaza and east Jerusalem, the lands Israel captured in 1967, to be able to resume negotiations with Israel.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s predecessors accepted the 1967 lines as a basis for border talks, with modifications to be negotiated, including land swaps that would enable Israel to annex some of the largest Jewish settlements. Those talks did not produce a deal, and the sides remained apart on other key issues.


Netanyahu rejects the 1967 lines as starting point while pressing ahead with settlement construction, leaving Abbas little incentive to resume negotiations. Israel goes to elections in January, and polls indicate Netanyahu has a strong chance of winning.

Israel argues that Abbas is trying to dictate the outcome of border talks by going to the U.N., though the recognition request presented to the world body calls for a quick resumption of negotiations on all core issues of the conflict, including borders.


It’s not clear if negotiations could resume even if Obama, freed from the constraints of his re-election campaign, can turn his attention to the Mideast conflict.

Abbas aides have given conflicting accounts of whether Abbas, once armed with global backing for the 1967 borders, will return to negotiations without an Israeli settlement freeze. About half a million Israelis have settled on war-won land.


A construction stop is unlikely, even more so after hawks in Netanyahu’s Likud Party scored major gains in primaries this week.

Israel has said it is willing to resume talks without preconditions.


Government spokesman Mark Regev affirmed the position on Wednesday. Regev said that by going to the U.N., the Palestinians violate “both the spirit and the word of signed agreements to solve issues through negotiations.”

Palestinian officials countered that their historic U.N. bid is meant to salvage a peace deal they say is being sabotaged by Israeli settlement expansion. “It is a last-ditch effort because we believe the two-state solution is in jeopardy as a result of these actions,” Hanan Ashrawi, a senior Palestinian official, told reporters in Ramallah on Wednesday.


The Palestinians expect that at least two-thirds of the 193 member states in the General Assembly will support them on Thursday, including a number of European countries, among them France, Spain, Norway, Denmark and Switzerland.

Those opposed or abstaining include the U.S., Israel, Germany, Canada, the Netherlands and Australia. Ashrawi urged the U.S. to at least abstain, saying that voting no “would be seen as being really pathetic by the rest of the world” and hurt American interests in the Middle East.


German Chancellor Angela Merkel said Wednesday that “in the long term, this region can only find peace through negotiations to resolve the Middle East conflict,” but she did not say whether her country would abstain or vote against.

“Nothing will really be gained either by unilateral Palestinian initiatives at the United Nations which aim for recognition nor by Israel’s continued building of settlements,” she said.


The vote comes at an important time domestically for Abbas. His Hamas rivals, who control Gaza, have gained popularity after holding their own during an Israeli offensive there earlier this month, aimed at stopping frequent Gaza rocket fire on Israel.

During the Gaza offensive, Abbas was sidelined in his compound in the West Bank, underscoring international concerns that the deadlock in peace efforts is weakening Palestinian pragmatists. Hamas, which seized Gaza from Abbas in 2007, argues that negotiations with Israel are a waste of time, but Hamas leaders have come out in support of the U.N. bid in recent days.


Other than creating leverage in negotiations, U.N. recognition would also allow the Palestinians to seek membership in U.N. agencies and international bodies, for example making them eligible for loans from the International Monetary Fund.

Perhaps most significantly, it could open the door to a new attempt to join the International Criminal Court and seek an investigation into alleged war crimes by Israel in the occupied territories.


Abbas’ self-rule government, the Palestinian Authority, unilaterally recognized the court’s jurisdiction in 2009 and pressed prosecutors to open an investigation into Israel’s previous Gaza offensive. Prosecutors noted at the time that the court’s founding treaty, the Rome Statute, is only open to states. Israel has not signed the statute and does not recognize the court’s jurisdiction.

Ashrawi on Wednesday avoided explicit threats to take Israel to court, but suggested it’s an option. “If Israel refrains from settlement activities ... there is no immediate pressing need to go,” she said, adding that this could change if “Israel persists in its violations.”

Israel would respond “forcefully” if the Palestinians try to pursue war crimes charges against Israel at the ICC, said an Israeli government official who spoke on condition of anonymity to discuss policy considerations. If the Palestinians use their upgraded international status “as a tool to confront Israel in the international arena, there will be a response,” he said.


Until then, he said, Israel will be bound by its obligations to the Palestinians under existing peace agreements, but won’t necessarily go beyond them. Earlier there was talk of Israel retaliating by canceling partial peace accords dating back to the 1990s.


In the West Bank, the view of Abbas’ quest for recognition was mixed. Many were bitter, saying they’ve heard too many promises that statehood is near and don’t believe a nod from the U.N. will make a difference.

“Nothing will come of it,” said Arwa Abu Helo, a 23-year-old student in Ramallah. “It’s just a way of misleading the public.”


Yousef Mohammed, a bank teller, said Abbas was trying to “gain the spotlight after Hamas said it won in Gaza.”

Hurriyeh Abdel Karim, 65, said she was willing to give Abbas a chance. “If he succeeds, maybe our life improves,” she said.

___

Associated Press writers Mohammed Daraghmeh in Ramallah and Josef Federman in Jerusalem contributed.

“Twenty-eight minutes ago — sirens in Jerusalem. Ran to shelter. Now we are out and on the way to a shiyur [educational field trip]. The rocket landed…”

I didn’t expect that text when my best friend and I walked the graduation aisle in May. Since we can’t change events overseas, what frustrates me most is closer to home: that the Daily Texan coverage reflects a very different story. After Monday’s article titled “Gaza civilians killed in deadliest day,” the Texan’s Tuesday primary international story picks stats selectively. Noting 56 Gaza civilians killed to three Israelis, the story fails to mention that Israel receives much more fire; its people merely suffer fewer casualties because of the Iron Dome defense system — an extremely expensive but effective combination of radars and intercepting missiles. Tuesday alone, as of 2 p.m. Hamas has fired 147 rockets in Israel. Ninety-four exploded; 51 were intercepted by Iron Dome. Yet our coverage of Israel discusses museum artifacts?
If the Daily Texan gives itself free reign to compile AP stories, it should properly aggregate the information to reflect what the page says it holds — the world, not one nation.

Though the front page story discusses students advocating across the spectrum, the sole professor quotation is problematic.

But opinions belong on the Opinion page — not the News section, nor World & Nation. If the Daily Texan compiles its AP stories, it should balance viewpoints presented to accurately reflect both sides of the conflict.

—Jori Epstein, Plan II and journalism freshman, and Daily Texan copy editor and sports writer

East Jerusalem

A general view of the unauthorized West Bank settlement outpost of Bruchin taken in July 2008. Israel legalized three more on Tuesday.

Photo Credit: The Associated Press

JERUSALEM — Israel legalized three unsanctioned West Bank settler outposts and was trying to save another on Tuesday, infuriating the Palestinians as the chief American Mideast envoy was in the region laboring to revive peace efforts.

The decision fueled suspicions that Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s hardline coalition would try to legalize as many rogue settlement sites as possible to cement Israel’s hold on occupied land the Palestinians claim for a state.

Netanyahu faces stiff pressure from pro-settler hardliners within his own coalition to fend off legal challenges to the unauthorized construction. Some hardliners have even warned that the coalition, which until now has been remarkably stable, could unravel over the issue.

Palestinians claim all of the West Bank and east Jerusalem as the core of their hoped-for state, and see all Israeli settlement as illegal encroachment on those lands. They have refused to restart peace talks until construction halts.

“We call upon the Israeli government to immediately stop all unilateral acts,” said senior Palestinian official Nabil Abu Rdeneh. “Netanyahu is pushing things into deadlock once again.”

A string of Israeli governments have pledged not to build any new settlements. But critics say the settler movement, with quiet support from the government, has used the outposts to grab more West Bank land. Dozens of clusters of houses or mobile homes dot the West Bank, in addition to more than 120 authorized settlements.

Netanyahu says the issue of settlements should be resolved through peace talks, which broke down more than three years ago over the settlement issue. Israel began settling the West Bank and east Jerusalem immediately after capturing them in the 1967 Mideast war, and 500,000 Jews now live there. The international community widely condemns the construction.

In Washington, State Department spokeswoman Victoria Nuland said the U.S. was concerned about the decision. “We have raised this with the Israeli government, and we are seeking clarification,” Nuland told reporters. “We don’t think this is helpful to the process, and we don’t accept the legitimacy of continued settlement activity,” she said.

The Israeli announcement came as U.S. envoy David Hale was in the region, on a new mission to restart negotiations.

The Israeli government’s formulation of its decision was that it was “formalizing the status” of Sansana, Bruchin and Rehalim, three longstanding enclaves that are home to hundreds of Jewish settlers.

A government official denied they were outposts, insisting their establishment was authorized by previous Israeli Cabinets. He said Monday night’s decision merely addressed technical and procedural issues and did not change the situation on the ground.

Despite the claim, two of the enclaves, Bruchin and Rehalim, were identified as unauthorized outposts in a 2005 government report. The Netanyahu government has reopened that report, saying the objectivity of its author, then-state prosecutor Talia Sasson, is now in question because she later joined an anti-settlement political party.

The official also acknowledged the third enclave, Sansana, was supposed to have been built within Israel proper.

In a related development, Netanyahu said Tuesday that he would ask Israel’s Supreme Court to defer next week’s deadline for demolishing five apartment buildings erected illegally in another unauthorized outpost.

The court has ruled that the buildings, which house 30 families in the Ulpana outpost outside Jerusalem, must be razed by May 1 because they were built on privately owned Palestinian land.

Netanyahu said his government is looking for “legal” ways to prevent the buildings from being demolished.

It is not clear if the court would agree to a delay. Decades ago, the court outlawed settlement construction on privately owned Palestinian land.

Netanyahu disclosed his plans in a set of rare interviews given to Israeli radio stations on the eve of Israel’s Memorial Day, which begins Tuesday night.

Some members of Israel’s ruling coalition have warned the government would fall if the buildings come down.

Printed on Wednesday, April 25, 2012 as: Israel legalizes settlements built on Palestinian lands

JERUSALEM — Israel cut working relations with the United Nations Human Rights Council on Monday and will bar a U.N. team from entering Israel or the West Bank for a planned investigation of Jewish settlements, the Foreign Ministry said.

Israel accuses the council of having a pronounced anti-Israel bias because of what it says is its disproportionate focus on Israeli policy toward the Palestinians.

Israeli leaders have been in an uproar over the council’s adoption of a resolution last week condemning Jewish settlement construction in the West Bank and east Jerusalem and its decision to send a fact-finding mission to investigate.

“It means that we’re not going to work with them. We’re not going to let them carry out any kind of mission for the Human Rights Council, including this probe,” said Foreign Ministry spokesman Yigal Palmor.

Palestinian Foreign Minister Riad Malki said he was not surprised by the Israeli move.

Published on Tuesday, March 27, 2012 as : Israel denies human rights probe over UN partiality to Palestine

On Monday, an ultra-Orthodox Jewish man is reflected on a bus window in Jerusalem. Images of women have vanished from the streets of Israel’s capital. Buses and health clinics have been gender-segregated, and the military has considered reassigning female combat soldiers.

Photo Credit: The Associated Press

Posters depicting women have become rare in the streets of Israel’s capital. In some areas women have been shunted onto separate sidewalks, and buses and health clinics have been gender-segregated. The military has considered reassigning some female combat soldiers because religious men don’t want to serve with them.

This is the new reality in parts of 21st-century Israel, where ultra-Orthodox rabbis are trying to contain the encroachment of secular values on their cloistered society through a fierce backlash against the mixing of the sexes in public.

On the surface, Israel’s gender equality seems strong, with the late Golda Meir as a former prime minister, Tzipi Livni as the current opposition leader and its women soldiers famed around the world.

Reality is not so shiny. The World Economic Forum recently released an unfavorable image of women’s earning power in Israel, and in 2009, the last year for which data are available, Israeli women earned two-thirds what men did.

The newly enforced separation is felt most strongly in Jerusalem, where ultra-Orthodox Jews are growing in numbers and strength. The phenomenon is starting to be seen elsewhere, though in the Tel Aviv region, Israel’s largest metropolis, secular Jews are the vast majority, and life there resembles most
Western cities.

Still, secular Jews there and elsewhere in Israel worry that their lifestyles could be targeted, too, because the ultra-Orthodox population, while still relatively small, is growing significantly. Their high birthrate of about seven children per family is forecast to send their proportion of the population, now estimated at 9 percent, to 15 percent by 2025.

“The stronger the ultra-Orthodox and religious community grows, the greater its attempt to impose its norms,” said Hannah Kehat, the founder of the religious women’s forum Kolech. Their norms, she said, are “segregation of women and discrimination against them.”

Ultra-Orthodox Jews around the world have long frowned upon the mixing of the sexes in their communities, but the attempt to apply this prohibition in public spaces is relatively new in Israel.

Israel’s ultra-Orthodox began testing gender segregation years ago when ultra-Orthodox men started ordering women on certain bus lines to sit at the back of buses traveling through their neighborhoods.

The practice, also adopted in some ultra-Orthodox communities in the United States, was successfully challenged in Israel’s Supreme Court, and Kehat says women have been filing far fewer complaints about their treatment on buses. The vast majority of Israeli bus lines have never been segregated.
But buses weren’t the last stop on the gender-segregation ride.

Some supermarkets in ultra-Orthodox communities, once content to urge women patrons to dress modestly with long-sleeved blouses and long skirts, have now assigned separate hours for men and women — another practice seen in ultra-Orthodox communities in the U.S. Some health clinics have separate entrances and waiting rooms for men and women.

Meni Shwartz-Gera, an ultra-Orthodox journalist, says strict observance of modesty is a pillar of ultra-Orthodox Judaism and is being “wickedly” misrepresented as demeaning to women. People who dislike it can choose different options like supermarkets without special hours for men and women, he said.

“The purpose is not to denigrate women,” he said.

Israel’s Supreme Court disagrees.

Last month, the court ordered the dismantling of barriers erected in Jerusalem’s ultra-Orthodox Mea Shearim neighborhood meant to keep women and men from walking on the same sidewalk during a religious ceremony that drew tens of thousands to the enclave’s narrow streets.

Gender segregation “began with buses, continued with supermarkets and reached the streets,” Chief Justice Dorit Beinisch was quoted as saying during the court hearing. “It’s not going away, just the opposite.”

The Jerusalem city councilwoman who brought the case before the court, herself a religious Jew, was fired by secular Mayor Nir Barkat.

Barkat, who rose to power vowing to scale back the growing influence of an ultra-Orthodox population that accounts for one-third of the city’s 750,000 people, said he dismissed Rachel Azaria because she sued the city, not because she faced off against the ultra-Orthodox.

For years, advertisers have been covering up female models on billboards in Jerusalem and other communities with large ultra-Orthodox populations. Ultra-Orthodox have defaced such ads and vendors faced ultra-Orthodox boycotts of companies whose mores they deplore.

Recently, the voluntary censorship has gone beyond the scantily clad: Women are either totally absent from billboards, or, as with one clothing company’s ads, only hinted at by a photo of a back, an arm and a purse.

Over the summer, Jerusalem inaugurated a long-awaited light rail with a major outdoor advertising campaign. The rail line is touted as a marvel of 21st-century technology, but there are no women’s faces on any of the billboards affixed to its sides.

Advertisers acknowledge ultra-Orthodox pressure.

A private radio station went so far as to ban broadcast of songs by female vocalists and interviews
with women.

Ohad Gibli, deputy director of marketing for the Canaan advertising agency, confirmed Monday that his company advised a transplant organization to drop pictures of women in their campaigns in Jerusalem and the ultra-Orthodox town of Bnei Brak for fear of a violent backlash.

“We have learned that an ad campaign in Jerusalem and Bnei Brak that includes pictures of women will remain up for hours at best, and in other cases, will lead to the vandalization and torching of buses,” he told Army Radio.

Barkat told reporters recently that “It’s illegal to forbid” advertising women. But “in Jerusalem, you’ve got to use common sense if you want to advertise something. It’s a special city, it’s a holy city with sensitivities for Muslims, for Christians, for ultra-Orthodox.”