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.
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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.
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
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
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
Thousands have already confirmed their attendance on social
networking sites, and representatives from the haredi community are also expected to
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.
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
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
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
“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.”
reportedly requested to visit the Margolis home on Monday night but Na’ama’s
parents refused. He nevertheless turned up uninvited at their
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
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.