The Beit Orot elementary girls’ school in Beit Shemesh was again the focus of tension on Monday when a group of about 15 haredi extremists arrived at the school during the afternoon and reportedly shouted insults at the classrooms and attacked an activist photographing the incident.

According to resident and local activist DK – who preferred not to be named – the men turned up at the school at approximately 1 p.m. and shouted various slogans at the classrooms, including “Zionists are defiling our neighborhood,” “get out of our neighborhood,” and “woe to immorality.”

According to DK, as he was taking photos of the event, two of the extremists attacked him and threw him to the ground, before a second activist intervened and the men fled to the adjacent neighborhood of Ramat Beit Shemesh Bet.

Police arrived at the scene 30 seconds after the men had fled and took the incident very seriously, said DK. He subsequently submitted an official complaint to the police.

The religious-Zionist Bet Orot School, located between the haredi neighborhood of Ramat Bet Shemesh Bet and the mixed neighborhood of Givat Sharet, has drawn anger from certain haredi groups who are opposed to the school’s location close to their community. There is also a severe shortage of classroom space in the city.

Speaking to The Jerusalem Post, DK said that the extremists involved in Monday’s incident were not ones he recognized from previous disturbances.

“It’s not clear that the municipality is dealing with the problem properly and it hasn’t given us reason to believe that it will be dealt with seriously,” he said. “But we’ve had a month or two without problems, so hopefully the issue will die back down again.”

Rabbi Dov Lipman, who heads the Or Hadash activist group seeking to combat the radicalization of certain haredi groups in the city, said that Beit Shemesh Mayor Moshe Abutbul’s efforts to resolve the ongoing tensions in the city through peaceful means have not worked.


“His ‘darkei shalom’ [ways of peace] have merely brought more violence,” Lipman said.

“There is one clear conclusion here: If the mayor will continue to bring more and more extremist haredim to the town, we will see more violence from these thugs and law breakers in the name of religion, and we will also see more religious coercion against the peaceable population – the moderate haredi, religious-Zionist and secular communities.”

Ben Hartman contributed to this report.

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