Cops deny warning Beit Shemesh mayor of potential violence

City's mayor had claimed police warned him that opening national religious girls' school could lead to violence from haredi extremists.

August 30, 2011 23:55
2 minute read.
Religious school girls

Religious school girls 311. (photo credit: Marc Israel Sellem)

Beit Shemesh police never warned the city’s mayor, Moshe Abutbul, about potential violence if a local national religious girls school opens in the city this Thursday nor did it pass on any intelligence about such alleged threats, a Jerusalem District Police spokesman said Tuesday.

In a statement sent to The Jerusalem Post on Monday, the Beit Shemesh municipality said ‘the police have passed on intelligence saying that there are threats to the safety and security of the girls who will study in the building, due to the expected violent actions of extremists.”

The Jerusalem District Police told the Post on Tuesday “under no circumstances do we share any intelligence with any bodies outside of law enforcement.”

The spokesman said police held a meeting with members of the Beit Shemesh parents committee on Tuesday regarding their desire to gain a permit for a protest on Wednesday evening, during which he said he stressed the necessity for keeping the peace.

He said regardless of what the mayor or anyone else has said, the decision about opening the school is to be made solely by the Education Ministry, and whatever decision is made police will be there to keep the peace.

Hundreds of Beit Shemesh residents protested in the city on Monday against what they say is the city’s caving in to pressure from the local haredi population, which threatens to leave the doors of a local girls school shuttered come September 1. A number of residents of the city, both national religious and secular say the controversy is part of an ongoing effort by the haredi mayor and extremist members of the city’s haredi community to make the city more and more haredi, at the expense of the rest of its residents.

The Beit Shemesh parents committee said Monday that a week ago the municipality and the Education Ministry reached an agreement that the building will house the Orot Banot school for girls.

The mayor even sent a letter congratulating the committee, but days later it received a letter from the mayor’s office asking them not to have the girls study there on September 1, due to the threat of violence from haredi extremists. The committee said it then held a meeting with the mayor in which members said he felt his hands were tied by the extremists, and he asked them to settle on a compromise.

Locals say that a number of haredi extremists also broke into the building and began squatting there after it became apparent the school would open.

In a statement sent to the Post on Monday, the municipality said “the schoolhouse in question is located in a haredi neighborhood,” a point that is outright denied by non-haredi residents of the city.

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