They sound like mullahs in Iran, don't they?
In recent weeks, self-styled "modesty patrols" have been accused of breaking into the apartment of a Jerusalem woman and beating her for allegedly consorting with men. They have torched a store that sells MP4 players, fearing devout Jews would use them to download pornography.
"These breaches of purity and modesty endanger our community," said 38-year-old Elchanan Blau, defending the bearded, black-robed zealots. "If it takes fire to get them to stop, then so be it."
The violence of these zealots is especially troubling for women in Israel. Women have been stoned for wearing red shirts and a woman who wanted to leave her husband was beaten by a "hit man" who was paid $2000.
"There are eyes and ears all over the place, very similar to what you hear about in countries like Iran," says Israeli-American novelist Naomi Ragen, an observant Jew who has chronicled the troubles that confront some women living in the ultra-Orthodox world.
The violence has already deepened the antagonism between the 600,000 haredim, or God-fearing, and the secular majority, which resents having religious rules dictated to them.
The unidentified, 31-year-old woman had left the ultra-Orthodox fold after getting divorced, according to the indictment filed by the Jerusalem district attorney's office. The indictment said her assailant tried to get her to leave her apartment in a haredi neighborhood in Jerusalem by gagging, beating and threatening to kill her. He was paid $2,000 for the attack, it said.
Another woman was attacked for walking down the street with boys.
The government does all it can to accommodate these religious nutjobs so it's not surprising that they're getting bolder.
A 17-year-old who moved to Israel from New York five years ago said she was hospitalized after being attacked with pepper spray by a crowd of men outraged that she was walking down a Jerusalem street with boys.
"They can burn in hell," said the girl, who would identify herself only as Rivka.
The state, catering to religious sensitivities, subsidizes gender-segregated bus routes that service religious neighborhoods. Ragen and several other women challenged the practice in Israel's Supreme Court after an Orthodox Canadian woman in her 50s told police she was kicked, slapped, pushed to the floor and spat upon by men for refusing to move to the back of the bus.