After 20 months of attacks and a quarter million shekels in damage, a religious
bookstore in the ultra-Orthodox Mea She’arim neighborhood of Jerusalem decided
on Monday to accede to the demands of extremists responsible for the
Under the terms of the compromise, Ohr Hachaim/Manny’s put up a
large sign requesting that all customers dress modestly. A mashgiach, who checks
the store’s inventory to make sure there are no controversial books, will go
over the books in the coming week and require that some books be removed from
the shelves, though they will not be permitted to remove any English books, said
Marlene Samuels, one of the store’s managers.
A haredi group called
Sikrikim deemed the store as “promoting immodesty,” and since Manny’s opened in
March 2010, the group has smashed its windows more than a dozen times, glued its
locks shut, thrown tar and fish oil at the store and dumped bags of human
excrement inside. The owners were also personally threatened multiple
At the end of September, police arrested one of the central
figures responsible for the attacks. Since the arrest, and with the construction
of steel shutters to protect the store at night, violence against the store has
decreased. However, a large demonstration outside the store on Sunday night
convinced the owners of the bookstore to meet with the Sikrikim to come to a
“Even though it looks like things have quieted down there
were still problems looming,” said Samuels. “The truth is it’s very hard to get
the better of these people… you can never beat them.”
Samuels said the
damage caused by the attacks, including hiring security guards to watch the
store, has cost more than NIS 250,000 over the past year-and-a-half.
store is popular with Anglo residents and tourists and carries many
English-language holy books and Judaica items in addition to Hebrew books. The
harassment stems from the bookstore’s past refusal to accept demands made by the
neighborhood extremist group, which would require all businesses to observe
specific “modesty standards.”
The Sikrikim, a small, violent group that
numbers less than 100 families, had previously demanded that all English books
be removed because the store attracted many tourists who were not properly
dressed. They also condemned the store for carrying Zionist books and demanded
the store shut down its website to avoid attracting foreigners.
store owners in the area have called the Sikrikim the “Mea She’arim mafia,” and
said it was pointless to try to beat them. Almost all of the stores in the area
have the same sign requiring customers to wear modest dress, and other
bookstores said they allow Sikrikim mashgiachs to check their inventory to
remove “non-kosher” books.
Manny’s provoked the ire of the Sikrikim by
refusing to acquiesce until this week.
“In the beginning, the owners
thought it would stop, that it was temporary, but it didn’t stop, it got worse
and worse,” said Samuels. In September, after multiple complaints to the police,
the bookstore appealed to the media, including The Jerusalem Post. Samuels said
pressure from the media spurred the police to arrest one of the central figures
responsible, which frightened the extremist group.
“[When] the police
started to make arrests and became more active, it quieted them down, but it
didn’t stop them, and it’s never going to end 100 percent,” said
However, the arrest and police pressure gave them “bargaining
power,” said Samuels, frightening the group into accepting a compromise rather
than the extremists dictating the terms.
“It’s such a losing battle… So
much money was lost in the damages, they realized they needed to come to a
compromise,” she said of the owners. “It’s not going to be that terrible,” she
“They might continue demonstrations, but the demonstrations will
The name “Sikrikim” comes from the Latin “Sicarii,” a term
applied – in the decades immediately preceding the destruction of Jerusalem in
70 CE – to an extremist splinter group of the Zealots who tried to expel the
Romans and their partisans from Judea using concealed daggers.