When a cobblestone whizzed past her during her morning run, it took Atara Kramer
a few seconds to register that she had been attacked by a bearded man in his
20s, dressed in traditional hassidic garb.
The mother of four was 35
minutes into her run on September 21, and enjoying the view of the rolling hills
in her home city of Beit Shemesh, when she was stoned.
leaned over, picked up the stone and threw it back,” the mother of four
Far from being deterred, the man threw two more stones in her
Scared, Kramer ran away, fell and grazed her back. The man
fled down the alleyways of the haredi Nahala Umenuha
Bruised but otherwise unharmed, Kramer (not her real name)
called her husband and the police. When the police arrived 10 minutes later, she
described the incident and showed them the rocks before jogging back
Later that day, she sent an e-mail to members of the Beit Shemesh
Running Club, warning other female runners and advising them to bring cell
phones with them, which could be used as cameras should they too be
Kramer has used the same running route for 12 years. This was
the third time she had been abused by haredim, whether stoning, spitting or
verbal slurs, in exactly the same location.
“What I was wearing at the
time of the attack is utterly irrelevant,” comments Kramer. “Even if I had been
wearing a bikini, I still didn’t deserve to have stones thrown at me. Nobody
Last month’s attack was the first time she notified the
A police spokesperson said that very few attacks of this kind
have been reported over the past year.
“Women should continue to run
wherever they please; it’s a free country. However, we stress that citizens must
report the use of violence to the police immediately. Only then are we able to
respond quickly and efficiently.”
But a number of Beit Shemesh runners
said they had not always reported such incidents to the police because it seemed
futile to do so.
Katherine Aron-Beller, 44, who runs five times a week
between 6 and 7 a.m., says she has been attacked three times in the past five
years, in the same area as Kramer.
In the first incident, in 2005, she
was running with another woman, when they were spat at by “a young haredi male
adult wearing long white socks.” They went to the police station to report the
incident and were handed a photo album of 200 suspects, but were not able to
identify the attacker.
Aron-Beller says she was so discouraged that she
didn’t report the next two attacks.
“I didn’t contact the police
following either of the other attacks, when I had stones thrown at me in 2008
and then earlier this year, when I was called a shikse [a non-Jewish woman] by
haredi youths, because I didn’t see what they could do to help. By the
time the police would turn up, the attackers would surely have fled.”
took her a couple of weeks to get over the shock of each incident, says
Aron-Beller, but it did not stop her from using that route.
hit me, spit doesn’t do any lasting damage and I sense there is a boundary they
won’t go beyond.”
Rachel Falkin, 48, has been the victim of five verbal
and spitting attacks over seven years, also in the same location, at a time when
the roads were pretty empty. She has been called a shikse on a number of
occasions. The last time she was spat at, she turned and chased the man while
shouting, “Come here, motek [sweetie], I want to be with you!” before he
disappeared into a maze of residential buildings.
But the attacks have
not swayed any of the three women to change their route, which offers stunning
scenery as opposed to the rather dreary inner-city streets.
the spiritual leader of the Nahala Umenuha community, refused to
Shmuel Greenberg, a haredi representative on the city council,
was astonished that someone had acted this way and did not understand why they
would do so.
But Yehonasan Easton, a hassid living in the neighboring
area of Ramat Beit Shemesh Bet, says, “Unfortunately, there is a small
percentage of residents of haredim who believe that violence, intimidation and
anger will preserve their understanding of the Torah.
“However, many of
us living here believe that it is against the will of Hakodesh Baruch Hu [God]
to intimidate, scream and act violently toward another Jew. If we want to be
closer to Hashem and bring Moshiah [the Messiah], we must act with hessed
[kindness] and achdus [unity].”
Local activist Dov Lipman says it is
important for the women not to bow to the violent demands of a few
“The group of extremists who will say or do anything to
female runners is relatively small – no more than 50 men. But that is all it
takes to terrorize our women,” he says.
“The best thing the women can do is
continue to do whatever they have always done – before these extremists moved in
– and continue to demonstrate that this is not their neighborhood but ours!”