Mikve closure triggers stormy protest [pg. 6]

The closure of a mikve in Ramat Beit Shemesh on Tuesday led to demonstrations by haredim, with protesters throwing stones and eggs at police and municipal workers implementing a court order to seal the ritual bath. Ch.-Supt. Oz Eliasi, commander of the Beit Shemesh police station, said some 65 police officers kept 150 demonstrators away from the building and allowed the city workers to seal the mikve, which is located below the home of Rabbi Naftalie Tzvi Rotenberg. Police arrested five demonstrators. No one was injured, although one patrol car was damaged. The protesters left but returned in the afternoon to try and break the seal on the mikve. Some of them broke into the home of a neighbor they suspected of filing a complaint about the mikve and leading to its closure. They entered through a window and damaged property inside the building, said Eliasi. The police also returned to the scene and, with the help of local rabbis, convinced the protesters to leave. "I spoke to the rabbis and requested that they calm the situation so that we wouldn't have any illegal protests. They understood the message, and the rabbi that owns the mikve asked the protesters to leave and not cause problems," said Eliasi. Beit Shemesh municipal council spokesman Yehuda Gur-Ariea said the court ordered the closure of the mikve as it was being operated without the necessary permits. Eliasi said Rotenberg had been given the opportunity to close it on his own but hadn't done so. Rotenberg couldn't be reached for comment by press time.