September 1: School Daze

"Article on the Orot Banot controversy made it seem as though national-religious school sits in midst of haredi neighborhood, which is not true."

August 31, 2011 22:22

letters. (photo credit: JP)

School daze

Sir, – Your article on the Orot Banot controversy (“School battle looms in Beit Shemesh,” August 30) made it seem as though the national-religious school sits in the midst of a haredi neighborhood, which is not true.

The Orot Banot building is located on the border of four national-religious neighborhoods and also borders a group of haredi apartment buildings. The majority of its students come from the national-religious neighborhoods. The site was officially designated for the national religious community a year and a half ago, and the building in question was designated to be the Orot girls’ elementary school since before construction began.

Your article implied that the small group of extremists who oppose Orot Banot’s presence have threatened violence, but didn’t mention that they have threatened to physically attack the students. These same extremists have spat upon and thrown rocks at non-haredi women who walk in the vicinity, and threatened to physically harm national-religious residents of apartments across the road from them because their televisions can be seen through the windows.

Mati Rozenzweig of the Beit Shemesh municipality likened the actions of the extremists to rocket attacks by terrorists. To the contrary, it is a form of bullying and hooliganism by a small group of people who oppose the idea that many types of Jews can coexist in the same community.

They’ve caused undue friction and sinat hinam (baseless hatred).

Our city can’t give in to the bullying that is destroying the quality of life of all residents, and should adopt the same zero-tolerance policy our schools have been encouraged to implement.


Beit Shemesh

Sir, – Your article missed several facts that are critical to understanding the issues in Beit Shemesh.

First, the school building in question is the second in a two building lot. The existing building is the Orot boys’ school. The Education Ministry’s plan was that the two Orot schools be together.

Second, the area in question is not in the middle of an ultra- Orthodox neighborhood. Orot would not want such a location.

The area is on the edge of Beit Shemesh, connected to several mixed-population neighborhoods and a lot of Anglo immigrants. It also abuts the ultra-Orthodox area of Ramat Beit Shemesh. But while Ramat Beit Shemesh is in many areas growing into adjacent fields, the Anglo neighborhoods of Beit Shemesh have nowhere else nearby to build a school.

Third, the general population of Beit Shemesh has not opposed the building of ultra-Orthodox schools, and many such schools have opened up in Ramat Beit Shemesh. All that is being asked is that the areas right near Beit Shemesh be used for the natural growth of the general population.


Beit Shemesh

Sir, – A haredi resident near my neighborhood is reported by the Post to have said, apparently straight-faced, that he can’t walk in a street where there are women in non-haredi dress – even if they are in modest, religious dress. How can anyone take this group seriously? I know that my friends and coreligionists in the mainstream haredi population do not share such a fanatical view, but it does capture the feelings of the handful who have threatened violence against the school. This is not merely a question of whose building it is. It is a struggle over the future of the city of Beit Shemesh.

Our struggle reflects a mood throughout the country. The working population grows weary of supporting an ever growing non-working population while getting very little or nothing in return. This is especially true for religious Zionist working people who are equally committed to Torah study as their haredi counterparts, but struggle to make extra time in their tight schedules to do so.

The respectable haredi population realizes this and shows encouraging signs of change.

But for a small handful of extremists to be allowed to put a parasitic chokehold on those who make their community possible is obscene.


Beit Shemesh

The writer is a rabbi

Smart wheels

Sir, – Regarding your editorial “Lower car prices” (August 29), who wouldn’t like to see that? But consider that the exorbitant price of cars reduces demand.

That’s significant when comparing the very high ratio of motor vehicles to kilometers of road in Israel (126) to those of other countries: France (39), Belgium (38), The Netherlands (62), Italy (83), etc.

The used car market is where buyers with less money purchase their cars. They, as well as new car buyers, would benefit if the vehicle importing industry were more open to competition. And taxes would drop automatically with lower prices.


Alfei Menashe

Sir, – Your editorial is way off.

As anyone who has ever tried to negotiate one of the main highways between the hours of 6 a.m. and 9 p.m. or tried to park in even a newly-built neighborhood can tell you, Israel has too many cars as it is. Increasing the number will only exacerbate the country’s transportation problems.

What needs fixing is the lack of efficient public transportation.

Instead of advocating for lower car and gasoline taxes, you should be advocating for a package that includes a.) limiting car ownership to those who can prove they have a place to put their car, as is the case in Tokyo; b.) imposing fees on cars that enter large cities, as London imposed a few years ago; and c.) earmarking taxes collected on car and gasoline sales to expand the scope and efficiency of public transportation, including the provision of bicycle lanes.



Paying the price

Sir, – Noam Schalit, father of kidnapped soldier Gilad Schalit, is now taking part in the social justice rallies and says: “Social justice isn’t only the right to have a home in Israel but also the basic right to live” (“Mass social protests resume across the country,” August 28). However, the basic right to live is negated when Schalit demands that our “leaders come together and pay the price needed to bring Gilad home.”

What about the right to live of those who will inevitably be murdered by the terrorists released in a swap? Will Schalit visit the shiva homes and be able to look into the eyes of the grieving families and tell them how it was necessary to save his son? There are many ways the government could have obtained the release of Gilad Schalit, but it has obstinately refused. Until the day we have a government willing to destroy our enemies rather than endure the ridiculous tit for tat, Schalit and all of Israel must accept the unfortunate situation: In the eyes of our neighbors, our basic right to live does not apply to any of us.



Sir, – Before we lose the hope to be a free people in our land, let us not lose sight of the fact that the entire people of Israel is allowing a soldier to rot in captivity barely 100 kilometers from his family. How can we allow a family to go through such profound and cruel suffering? We have to stop this indifference.

A country is not just borders; it is also a perspective and a way of life. As a result of the path we have chosen in relation to Gilad Schalit, we might as well fly the flag of Hamas and Palestine – in every way we are doing the work of our enemies.

I believe that a country that can wash its hands of a soldier, letting him go in the tempest and waves of the wild open sea and winds that are Gaza and the Arab world, will only bring upon itself the curse of ruin and destruction.



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