print gohome
jpost
 
Print Edition
Photo by: REUTERS
Six haredim arrested for rioting in Beit Shemesh
By JEREMY SHARON AND MELANIE LIDMAN
26/12/2011
Two crews of journalists attacked, policeman lightly injured; thousands set to protest against religious coercion in city tonight.
 
Tension raged in Beit Shemesh for the second day in a row on Monday as extremist ultra-Orthodox protesters clashed with police.

Six Beit Shemesh residents were arrested for allegedly disrupting the peace throughout the day as hundreds demonstrated against the increased police and media presence.

RELATED:
PM: No place for harassment or discrimination in Israel
Metzger: Haredim have no right to force segregation on bus


The media attention focused on the city exacerbated the situation, with crews from Channel 2 and Channel 10 attacked by haredi men while filming in the area.

A policeman was lightly injured by a rock thrown at him on Monday and treated on the spot. Jerusalem police spokesman Shmuel Ben-Ruby said police have stepped up patrols in Beit Shemesh, as well as in the Jerusalem district, ahead of a large demonstration expected to attract thousands on Tuesday night.

One man was arrested for attacking a Channel 2 TV crew on Sunday. A journalist was lightly wounded in the hand during the attack, and their equipment was damaged.

The Beit Shemesh Municipality announced it would install 400 cameras in an effort to curb ultra-Orthodox violence. The cameras were already slated to be installed as part of a “city without violence” program. Ben-Ruby welcomed the cameras and said they had “a lot of advantages,” but cameras were not the only solution to the problem.

He stressed cooperation is needed between the city, the police and haredi community leaders in order to quell the violent extremism.

On Tuesday night, a solidarity protest is scheduled to take place next to the Beit Orot School, which is being organized by Yisrael Hofshit religious freedom movement and the Committee to Save Beit Shemesh, among others.

Thousands have already confirmed their attendance on social networking sites, and representatives from the haredi community are also expected to attend.

A number of haredi activists, politicians and rabbis from Beit Shemesh visited the home of 8- year-old Na’ama Margolis on Monday night to express their support and solidarity with her, following a Channel 2 report broadcast last Friday that showed her terror at being spat on and verbally abused by haredi extremists for being “immodestly” dressed.

City Councilor Eli Friedman, community activist Rabbi Dov Lipman and renegade Shas MK Haim Amsalem visited the Margolis home and presented Margolis with a prayerbook and a book of psalms.

“We must be steadfast in the struggle against this crazy extremism,” Amsalem said at the Margolis's home. “Na’ama, you are the symbol of the struggle, the proof that the little ones can also win this battle,” he continued and told her not to be afraid on the way to school “because the Jewish people, not just in Israel but all over the world, are behind you.”

Last week’s incident was one of numerous such attacks by ultra- Orthodox zealots in a dispute centered on the religious-Zionist Beit Orot elementary girls’ school. The school is located between the haredi neighborhood of Ramat Beit Shemesh Bet and the mixed neighborhood of Givat Sharet, and has drawn anger from extremist haredi groups who are opposed to the school’s location close to their community.

Among the organizers of Monday night’s event, which included a Hanukka lighting ceremony, was Lipman, a Beit Shemesh resident and teacher, and one of the founders of the Committee to Save Beit Shemesh communal activism group, which seeks to combat religious extremism in the city.

Lipman stressed the extremists involved in the campaign against the school are a small minority, but criticized the haredi political and religious leadership for failing to speak out against the phenomenon.

“When these incidents happen, we don’t see [Beit Shemesh Mayor Moshe] Abutbol coming down to the school to show solidarity with the girls,” he told The Jerusalem Post. “And haredi rabbis do not issue public statements condemning such behavior and calling for it to end.”

Abutbol reportedly requested to visit the Margolis home on Monday night but Na’ama’s parents refused. He nevertheless turned up uninvited at their house.

According to Lipman, who describes himself as “modern haredi,” the underlying issue is the construction of housing in Beit Shemesh “exclusively for the haredi sector.”

“The mayor and his colleagues have planned to build 20,000 housing units for haredim here. That’s the issue. If you turn Beit Shemesh into a haredi city, then the extremists feel that they can do whatever they want,” he said, arguing Beit Shemesh should be a pluralistic and heterogeneous city for everyone, haredi, religious-Zionist and secular alike.

Rabbi Shmuel Pappenheim, a resident with close connections to the Eda Haredit, lambasted Lipman, saying nothing of substance had changed or occurred in the past two months, and that he was simply trying to “incite” against the haredi community.

“This incident with Na’ama Margolis happened months ago, we know about it and we’re dealing with it, and the issue of violence in general,” he told the Post.

“[Activists] succeeded in getting Channel 2 to slander and incite against haredim, and everyone is following like a herd. We’re the ones who are actually suffering from these people, because of the damage they cause to our name.

But because of the incitement against us, the haredi community now sees the public as waging war against, and alienating the majority of us who want to have good relations with the other sectors of the population.

“No one in our community supports this violent minority, and our rabbis warn about them and speak out against them,” said Pappenheim.

In a statement released by his office earlier on Monday, Amsalem called on the legal authorities to take harsh measures against “violent extremists” who are “defaming” Judaism in the eyes of both the nation of Israel and the entire world.

On Sunday, Amsalem, along with MKs Tzipi Hotovely, Zevulun Orlev, Uri Ariel, David Rotem and Otniel Schneller, also called on chief rabbis Yona Metzger and Shlomo Amar to initiate an emergency conference of rabbis to “express its opposition to the shameful phenomenon of violent extremism in general and the growing exclusion of women from the public domain in particular.”

Last week, in an interview with Radio Kol Hai, Metzger called on the haredi community to stop the process of radicalization, criticizing those who create modes of religious behavior “that never existed in history,” and stated that such people should cease imposing their stringencies on the general public.

He also blamed the media for blowing the various incidents out of proportion.
print gohome
print
All rights reserved © 1995 - 2012 The Jerusalem Post.