Sara and Yehuda Ganot had owned and run a gym and health center for a decade in Bnei Brak, Israel, catering to the city’s predominately ultra-Orthodox Haredi Jewish population, but when they decided to open up a separate gym exclusively for women, local residents turned on the couple. Concerned about promoting immodesty and the presence of more women on the street, a rabbi living near the new gym sent a letter saying that the new project “is arousing great concern of spiritual harm to the families living in the area and their descendants.” The gym is regularly vandalized, often by children, and the locals distribute and post flyers warning against attending the facility. The greatest weapon being used against the Ganots is the city’s bureaucracy, which has issued them a stop work order and eviction on the grounds that the area is residential, despite the presence of other homes in the area also containing businesses. The Ganots have tried to sort things out with the municipality, but say they were told by the mayor of Bnei Brak that he will not approve anything that could allow them to stay at the site.
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