Dei'ah veDibur - Information & Insight

A Window into the Chareidi World

17 Elul 5765 - September 21, 2005 | Mordecai Plaut, director Published Weekly










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Shema Yisrael Torah Network
Shema Yisrael Torah Network











Betzedek Petitions to Allow Demonstrations Outside of Missionaries' Homes

By Betzalel Kahn

Betzedek petitioned the High Court for permission to hold demonstration outside the private homes of missionaries, just as the law permits demonstrations outside the homes of public figures. The organization claims that because missionary activity harms the general public, the public should have the right to voice its opinion wherever missionaries are found rather than restricting the right to demonstrate to certain public places.

For years Arad residents have been battling against missionaries who live and operate in the city, claiming many victims. These missionaries even publicized their successes in bringing Jews to convert, Rachmono litzlan, and spreading their beliefs among the general population. Ever since their activities became known, Arad's chareidi residents have been holding protest vigils, gatherings and demonstrations outside the missionaries' homes several times per week.

Six months ago the commander of the Arad police station promised the missionaries that he would restrict the demonstrations held outside the home of one of the most prominent of the missionaries and indeed he then rejected a request to hold a large-scale demonstration at the site. Instead he agreed to allow the demonstration to be held 800 meters (half a mile) from the home. The police said the decision was based on concerns for the privacy of the missionary activist and her neighbors.

When Arad anti-missionary activists turned to Betzedek, which was founded by Agudas Yisroel of America, Director Attorney Rabbi Mordechai Green filed a High Court petition against the unreasonable decision, which infringes on the fundamental right of freedom of expression and the right to demonstrate.

In an extended hearing Betzedek claimed that most of the missionary activity originates from the woman's residence. In his arguments Attorney Green rejected the State's claim the demonstrations should not be permitted outside the home because of the harm it causes to the woman and her neighbors. He asserts individuals are also exposed to public criticism and the public should be allowed to demonstrate everywhere, as a previous ruling determined.

Attorney Green also says the missionary activity disturbs the entire public, across the spectrum and also that the police are not authorized to take any account of the substance of the matter being demonstrated against. Therefore the police should remain within the technical confines of the power legally vested in it, i.e. just to maintain the public order and safety. Thus the public should not be prevented from having its say and expressing its opinion on a matter that touches the essence of Am Yisroel's existence.

According to Betzedek in several rulings the High Court has determined that although public figures do their work in a government office or another public place, demonstrations can be held outside their private homes based on the fundamental right to freedom of expression, which is a central element of the Human Dignity and Freedom Foundation Law.

The missionary woman admitted working out of her home at various times, but claimed that this activity ceased long ago. In order to impress the court she brought in her two sons, saying they serve in the IDF.

One of the neighbors, representing the other neighbors as well, claimed the demonstrations detract from their quality of life, infringe on their right to privacy and reduce property values. He described himself as a Holocaust survivor and claimed the speeches during the demonstrations stir unpleasant feelings in him.

The State's counsel said that recently chareidim have been holding numerous demonstrations and protest vigils for which they did not need a permit and that when considering granting a permit for a large demonstration, all of the protest activity should be taken into account. She also tried to defame the demonstrators and depict them as violent individuals who transgress the law and are a nuisance. She said recently that the missionaries have filed numerous complaints, leading Arad police to open 16 investigations against the demonstrators.

Attorney Green rejected these claims saying the complaints against the demonstrators' conduct are unfounded, perhaps even at the initiative of police officers to help them uphold their reputation when the matter came before the High Court.

Judges Barak, Naor and Jubran leaned toward accepting Betzedek's arguments and immediately stated that demonstrations should not be prevented from taking place near the missionary's home. They tried to negotiate an agreement between the two sides regarding the frequency of demonstrations and the number of participants. After the negotiations between the two sides broke down due to inexplicable obstinacy on the part of the missionary woman and her neighbors with the encouragement of the State's Attorney, the High Court decided to issue a ruling based on the material presented.


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