Ramat Aviv gears up for unholy battle between residents

"Just as they try to get us into their world, it is our right to introduce them to our world," say secular residents of their haredi neighbors.

Residents of upmarket Ramat Aviv are gearing up for a fight against what they say is an attempted haredi "takeover" of their neighborhood, reports www.mynet.co.il. About 100 residents met last week to protest, and say that one of the ways they will fight haredi activities to encourage greater religious practice is by trying to entice them into the secular world. According to the report, Ramat Aviv's residents have been angered by the opening of several haredi institutions in the neighborhood recently, including a kollel (Torah study center) and kindergartens, as well as by activities to increase religious practice among the general population. Former journalist and current Knesset member Nitzan Horowitz (Meretz) and Meretz city councilor Tami Zandberg participated in the neighborhood protest last week. The report said the group decided on a number of concrete steps, including: locating booths that distribute religious information and calling in municipal inspectors to remove them; urging businesses to prevent the haredim from setting up stands for the laying of tefillin outside their premises; and setting up parental watches outside schools, especially the Alliance high school, to stop them from handing out religious information or encouraging the laying of tefillin there. Perhaps most controversially, the group decided to map apartments in which haredi residents currently live, and encourage them to rent the apartments out to secular residents instead. And city councilor Zandberg said she would form a lobby of secular councilors to object to business license applications for haredi bodies such as kindergartens. The report also said the group decided on the "absurd" step of trying to entice the haredim to taste the secular world, with a spokeswoman saying, "Just as they try to get us into their world, it is our right to introduce them to our world." No details of how this might be done were mentioned. "The takeover by the haredim is targeted, systematic and comes by direct instruction," a spokesman said at the meeting. "For every person they bring into religious practice (hazara betshuva) they get $500. They have nothing in their minds except to create a state ruled by halacha (Jewish law)." MK Horowitz agreed, saying there were "no innocent intentions" among the haredim. "There are those who will say we are racist or anti-Semitic, and that everyone has the right to live where he wishes," Horowitz said. "But this is not true, because a takeover like this changes the character of the neighborhood, lowers the value of apartments, turns secular youths religious, and is likely to close entire streets on Saturdays and places of entertainment on Friday nights." No comment was reported from any religious representative.