Hadassah Margolis, whose daughter was spat on and verbally abused by haredi
extremists in Beit Shemesh just for walking to school in clothing deemed
insufficiently “modest,” looked weary yet determined on Sunday.
plan on leaving,” she told The Jerusalem Post in her home. “We just wake up
every day thinking, what will be next?” Two days have passed since Margolis and
her eight-year-old daughter, Na’ama, shared their trauma on national
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Israelis watched Channel 2’s Friday evening news program with
astonishment as Na’ama cried and refused to take the short walk to the Orot
girls elementary school, fearing more abuse from grown men.
broadcast, “the phone has been ringing off the hook with people offering their support,” Margolis said.
“We are exhausted. I
hope this will bring change.”
The young mother said she did not view the
whole of the haredi community as villains, but added that the extreme elements
who harass her daughter are “evil people.”
“As a citizen of this country,
I’m looking at the government with an expectation to stop this evil,” she added.
When Na’ama sees haredi men “she still gets hysterical,” the mother
Margolis, an Orthodox woman who was born in the US and came to
Israel with her family as a young girl, lives on a street heavily populated with
Anglo-Israelis who have been bearing the brunt of the simmering confrontation
with the adjacent haredi neighborhood over the location of the girl’s
Haredi extremists claim the school is provocatively situated in
their neighborhood, and draws “immodestly dressed” girls and women to their
Miriam Marcus, a mother of three who lives in the same building as
Margolis, emigrated to Beit Shemesh from New York in 2007. She held back tears
as she recounted how she was spat upon in 2008 while waiting at a bus stop with
“My knees and elbows were covered up, but my toes were exposed
– I was wearing sandals,” she said. That was enough to prompt a spitting and
shouting attack,” she added.
“It was so unbelievable that I could not
react immediately,” Marcus added. “I never imagined when I moved here that we’d
be fighting other Jews.”
Marcus asked why no haredi leaders have taken a
public stance against the extremists.
“I’m actually afraid to cross the
street,” she said.
Moshe Friedman, a resident of one of the haredi
neighborhoods, told the Post
that claims of spitting on children were
fabricated, and were part of a homegrown “anti-Semitic” media campaign against
“They can bring Channel 2 here, but it won’t help them,”
he said. “There’s no spitting. There is yelling, because they decided to put the
school in our neighborhood.”
“We will continue the fight,” he added. “We
don’t want immodesty in our area.”
Friedman said there would be no
conflict if the school was situated elsewhere.
“We never dictate to them
how to live their lives. They shouldn’t tell us how to live either,” he
“What would happen if Arabs opened a school in a settlement?”
tensions in Beit Shemesh had not abated on Sunday, when a vehicle carrying a
Channel 2 crew was attacked with stones in a haredi area, smashing its
Shmuel Pappenhum, a former haredi community spokesman, has been
working to build a dialogue between the two communities. He blamed recent events
and intense media coverage for setting back progress made in recent
“We are in close touch with parents and teachers from the Orot
school, and we are trying to calm the girls down. We are explaining that haredim
are not opposed to the school. Only a violent minority is behind this,” he
“We thought we had reached sanity, but last week it all fell
apart,” Pappenhum continued.
Haredi rabbis, “even ultra-conservative
ones” from Beit Shemesh and Jerusalem, had met with national-religious community
representatives in the past and reached agreements, Pappenhum added. “Now it
will be harder to make progress. We hope sanity will prevail, and that the
extremists are restrained.”
Dov Lipman, a moderate haredi political
activist, praised Orthodox Anglo-Israelis for “leading this
Lipman, who heads the Emergency Committee to Save Beit Shemesh,
said “It is because of our efforts – and only because of our efforts – that this
has become a national story.”
Samuel Sokol contributed to this report.