Beit Shemesh protest 311.
(photo credit: REUTERS/Baz Ratner )
Natalie Mashiach and Hadassah Margolis, recent victims of extremist ultra-
Orthodox violence and intimidation in Beit Shemesh, drove in a small convoy with
other activists to the Prime Minister’s Office in Jerusalem on Sunday to call on
the government to tackle the extremist tendencies of sections of the haredi
community in their city.
“Can someone in the government wake up and
please do something?” Mashiach asked, addressing the press outside the Prime
“We residents are held captive, but we’re not going to
give up on our city. Together – secular, traditional, national- religious and
moderate haredim – we will not flee. We will fight for our homes and we
will fight for our city.”
Mashiach was attacked by dozens of
last month while hanging up flyers for the national lottery.
Margolis is the mother of eight-year-old Na’ama, who was subjected to an attack
involving spitting and verbal abuse
from ultra- Orthodox extremists who objected
to the positioning of the girls school she attends close to their
An increasing ultra-Orthodox population in Beit Shemesh,
along with limited space for schools and residential construction, has led to
tensions between the haredi community and the other sectors of the city in
This has included a campaign of intimidation waged by
haredi extremists against the national-religious Orot Banot elementary girls
school, protesting its location next to the ultra-Orthodox neighborhood of Ramat
Bet Shemesh Bet.
Mashiach continued her address by reading out a list of
violent incidents involving haredi extremists that have taken place over the
past 10 years.
Public Diplomacy and Diaspora Affairs Minister Yuli
Edelstein arrived at the protest to express his support and spoke with Hadassah
She said that there have been no incidents of spitting and
intimidation outside the school since December, but added that non-haredi
residents still do not feel safe walking in the ultra-Orthodox neighborhood,
pointing to the attack against Mashiach as an example of ongoing
“This needs to change. We want the government to do something
so we will feel safe when we go into these neighborhoods,” Margolis
Edelstein told her that the only solution is through police and
judicial action, although he admitted that the progress has been
Mashiach interrupted him, accusing the government of doing too
little to solve the problem of extremist violence.
“This is my city,
where I was born. I don’t understand how the State of Israel can allow this to
happen,” she told Edelstein.
“This kind of extremism cannot be accepted
in the state,” she told The Jerusalem Post later. “These people’s approach is
violent, aggressive, and everything is done with coercion. They force people to
do things they don’t want to do; they force people to the Torah, but it’s not
acceptable,” she continued.
“This violence has been going on since 2002
and no one has done anything to deal with it. No one lifts up their hand and
says, ‘I’m going to deal with it.’ Everyone just chucks [responsibility] to
someone else. The mayor [of Bet Shemesh] passes it on to the police, the police
throws it to the government, nothing gets done.”