Tensions between Israel’s minority ultra-Orthodox (Haredi) and majority moderate communities have recently burst onto the international stage following two incidents: an 8-year-old girl on her way to school was spat upon by grown men and a 50-year-old woman was badly beaten on a public bus. In each case, the justification for these actions stemmed from the notion of zealous Haredis that the victims had broken religious “standards of modesty.”

Battle for Jerusalem follows the struggle of young, fearless City Council member Rachel Azaria, who is fighting to save both her city and her career from the grip of Haredi extremists, some of whom wish to force her out of office and impose a strict religious lifestyle over the entire population.

Despite protests and attacks by extreme Haredi groups, Rachel and a new wave of young activists are working to keep Jerusalem democratic and religiously tolerant. Among the Haredi practices that they oppose is forced gender segregation in public spaces, such as women being pressured to sit in the back of buses that run through Haredi areas. Another is the establishment of gender-segregated sidewalks in Haredi neighborhoods. In that regard, Jerusalem’s Mayor recently stripped Rachel of her municipal committee leadership positions after she went over his head to the High Court of Israel and obtained a favorable ruling in her opposition to this practice.

Rachel’s standing on the City Council now hangs by a thread, along with the issues that she has supported so vigorously. However, she still strives to work with the Haredi community, instead of against them, to improve the city for all of its citizens. The film follows the end of her first term and her uphill battle for re-election.

Why is this story so crucial? At a time when millions are taking to the streets across the Middle East in support of democracy, the region’s most stable democratic state is threatened from within. The outcome of the struggles of Rachel and her peers could determine the future of Israel’s complex capital city and beyond.

Supporting Characters

Jerusalem Unfiltered

This project also includes Jerusalem Unfiltered, an immersive website and location-based mobile app that let viewers explore contemporary Jerusalem by interacting with video profiles of its dynamic young political, social, and cultural leaders.


 Banner design by Gadi Rouache. Egged bus image courtesy of Oren Hirsch.

©2010 Battle for Jerusalem. All rights reserved.