Tuesday, December 27, 2011

// // 16 comments

Live from Beit Shemesh

by Reb Akiva @ Mystical Paths

I attended tonight’s “Protest against The Religious or Anti-Women Agenda or …”, well I’m not actually sure what the protest was against, and as far as I can tell the protest didn’t know either.

There were 2 groups with a massive presence: The security forces, who took the possibility of riots very seriously, and the press.  There must have been one reporter and cameraman for every 20 protestors, representing Israeli TV, foreign TV, newspapers, photojournalism, etc.  You could barely see the stage for the number of cameras set up.

The security forces prepared 2 rings of security around the protest area, blocking any possible interaction between the anti-religious protestors and the ultra-orthodox neighborhood.

(Photo – Outer Security Ring with regular police and border police.)

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While the security forces were doing their thing, the buses bringing protestors were dropping them off 2 blocks or so in the charedi neighborhoods.  This led to the odd vision of a busload of protestors with signs and attitude marching through groups of charedim standing by bus stops or along the street.  There certainly was potential for the odd scuffle or two, but I didn’t see any happen.

(Photo – Walk down to the main protest area.)

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The protest area was at the kikar (the traffic circle) in front of the Modern Jewish Religious Girls School which was the primary point of conflict.  Beit Shemesh has several large parks and an outdoor ampitheatre which would be great for a protest, but the organizers wanted to be “in the hood”, which has no green spaces to allow a protest gathering.

(Photos – Primary protest area & crowd.)

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The protest crowd was an interesting and perhaps unnatural mix.  About 49% dati leumi (modern orthodox Jewish), maybe 25% chiloni (non-observant Jewish Israeli), 25% anti-religious violently secular, and about 1% semi-ultra-orthodox or sephardi ultra-orthodox but not wearing hats or black coats.

And there was exactly 1 guy dressed charedi in the crowd, with a black hat, long black coat and long beard…me.

The signs were a strange mix of unrelated ideas.  “Take back Beit Shemesh”, “Bibi, I want an inexpensive apartment!”, “One Country, One Land, One People”, “Women are from the Kadimi (political party)”.  Some signs were homemade, some where professional.

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The speeches were similarly unrelated.  Stop the charedim, women’s rights, leftist political agendas, protect the girls. 

So what was the attitude?  The adults seemed happy to be there and that there was attention, and I had conversations with a few that confirmed this.  The older people seemed to glare a lot, angry that Beit Shemesh has changed.

There were two types of young people there.  Groups of dati leumi (modern orthodox) youth who were looking to assert themselves, to be pushy, to glare at me and be mildly threatening (after all I was dressed like “the enemy”), to stand up for their community.

The other type was chiloni and/or anti-religious.  They came looking for a fight, and if the attitude of the crowd had been negative or angry or the police presence less, they would have found one.  As it was the best they could find was cursing the charedim in the distance.  (In my case the only bad words I received during the night was from one such group, who informed me “hebrew pejorative for ultra-orthodox are pejorative for women who provide services for a fee”.)

Thank G-d, the protest basically was a bust.  The security forces did an excellent job.  Attendance was low (estimated at 500-3,000 maximum) and some sudden very cold temperatures meant many left after a short time, keeping numbers low even as more arrived.  There was no coherent theme. 

And the zealots, who had called for “defenders” throughout Beit Shemesh and Jerusalem, seemed to have nobody arrive. 

Again, as buses of arriving protestors mingled on the streets of the charedi neighborhood…nothing happened beyond a little bit of glaring at each other.  Not because of police presence, because there wasn’t any in those areas.  Because, thank G-d, brothers really don’t want to fight and most people are indeed decent.

as of 8:00pm, live from Beit Shemesh, this is Reb Akiva reporting.

16 comments:

Anonymous said...

Mystical Paths... Thank you for keeping us up on the latest there in Israel... when we hear... we will pray... it's the greatest weapon you have... outside of Torah!

yonatan said...

Thank G-d there wasn't any violence - I was worried about this.

Commenter Abbi said...

What was a bust about it? 5000 people is a nice number, considering it wasn't Jerusalem or Tel Aviv and was nearly impossible to reach due to the terrible roads.

This post explains your attitude to a T: http://www.rationalistjudaism.com/2011/12/spitting-on-girls-is-not-main-problem.html

"At every level in charedi society, there is a certain degree of intolerance towards non-charedim, which is never protested by those to their left in charedi society."

This protest was the beginning of a tikkun. You are part of the problem, even if you pretend you're not.

Anonymous said...

Rabbi Akiva, you have to get together with other rabbeim and make an organised statement to the press. The only people who support the thugs are the thugs themselves. This is obvious to us, but not necessarily to others. The failure of rabbis to get together and speak out publicly is also a chillul Hashem.

All it takes for evil to flourish is for good men to do nothing.

shimonmatisyahu said...

And why wasn't there a half decent representation from the Charedi community? Simply put, because what is happening here is not THEIR issue. And as long as this is the attitude, these zealots are able to continue their tirade.

Despite this though, there is a possible way of putting this to a holt. Without mentioning names, every effort should be made to contact the Rebbe of this group who resides in Yerushalayim, and explain to him the Chillul Hashem that his followers are creating. If this Rebbe wishes to do the right thing, his followers won't continue if they don't want to know what is good for them. But if this Rebbe refuses to take action, then other Rebbes and other Gedilei Yisroel should be contacted to pressure this Rebbe to start behaving like a Rebbe with Ahavas Yisroel.

Anonymous said...

Hi Reb Akiva, According to Rabbi Akiva from the Talmud "Do Not do to your neighbor that which is hateful to you" is the essence of the Torah - all the rest is commentary. Somehow that has been forgotten and has been replaced by guarding your eyes. Guarding Your Eyes from looking at women is a fence so that you don't fall prey to the evil inclination. It is not the essence of the Torah! But this is where you come in Akiva. You and all those around you need to stand with us and say - Bein Adam LeChavero. The commandments between Man and Man are more important than a stringency which you place upon yourselves. We are waiting for the Yeshivish/Chardal/regular good people to come and stand with us and tell the extremists that what they are doing is wrong! That was the reason for the protest and that was why you were there!

Anonymous said...

Thank you for being there and standing againts this madness. You cannot imagine the chilul Hashem that is being done by these extremists. Here in Australia it made the front page of the website of major news agencies. Perhaps the extremeists need to realise that they are on a world stage and not just in a small neighbourhood.

Neshama said...

So many anonymous comments, but I read familiar voices.

Anyway, you did an excellent service to those of us who live in Israel. Thank you. A few interviews would have been the "icing ..." the Haredim I think were told to stay away. But don't think they have given up their message. In NY I considered myself a Haredi Jewess, but here I do not like labels, and prefer just to be a Shomeret Shabbat Torah Jew. Labels should be abandoned, and each person should be identified by their name, or either their gender.
Returning 'individual' responsibility as the ikar.

Now, we await the myriad news analyses, coverage and pontifications.

Tzemer Upishtim said...

Commenter Abbi- For some reason or another each sect of Judaism feels this need to look down at the other for some reason or another.Some chareidim might look down at non-chareidim, dati leumi also look down at chareidim , chilonim at religious people all together. Please do not make it seem that Chareidim are the only ones who stick their noses up. There are definetely extemists in ALL groups.

Personally, I see myself as a Torah Jew and don't really like any label other than that.

For those who think that the Yeshivish/Chardal people should go to these people and say something. Do you really think that there is a point? These thugs do not want to hear rhyme and reason. They want to do what they want.

There is a chazal that says "Kol Yisrael Areivim Ze La Zeh" .The chillul Hash-m is also that this is being blown up in the media by the dati leumi community. There is NO reason why this had to make it to the international media.

josh said...

I heart the dati-leumi group but they formed an alliance with the devil last night (the explicitly secular Yisrael Hofshit (against religion)) and Kadima, and basically sealed their fate. A main proponent, Rav Lipkin mentioned to the Kol Chai radio station that all media inquiries need to go through the PR firm the family hired. Rav Lipkin is part of a group calling for 'Set Beit Shemsh Free' basically calling for the separation of BS and RBS. I really heart for the family, but what we see here is now a lost cuase.

My advice is for the dati-leumi and seculars to repent (for a bad strategy), cut their losses, and leave. Learn from the lessons of Elad where a supposed haredi and dati-leumi city was planned and quickly became a majority haredi place with the dati-leumi families under a relative siege (no outdoor public Yom Haatzmaut celebrations, women not recommended to jog with pants). There is nothing to be done. The haredim multiply faster than 'green-line' religious people and need more space in the near future. Baruch Hashem, the BS real estate has no gone down, since there is a demand from the growing haredi sector.

The haredi rabbis do not support anything that has something to do with 'mizrahi'. Even if a new generation of dati-leumi has risen, graduates of yeshivot and more stronger torani, the haredi rabbis have not been explained this fact and still think we are all dancing mixed hora at Bnai Akiva meetings. If only the haredi rabbis did understand they have a new torani partner with the new dati-leumi generation, the religious Jews in Israel would be able to attract much more appreciation.

Tzemer Upishtim said...

Josh- there are dati leumi who do dance in mixed settings. The woman who spoke on Israel National news in English made a dance flashmob for diabetes in the middle of Tachana Mercazit in Yerushalayim and there were MEN joining in with them.

Anon1 said...

Important news:
"Heart" is not a verb!

y said...

perhaps an opportunity here is for the real charedim who understand ahavat yisrael to stand up and be counted. unfortunately, the antireligious media may not want to 'talk' to them.

how can we focus media attention on the truth..that jews want to practice ahavat yisrael..not the lie that's being broadcasted?

josh said...

Tzemer,
I know, there are still many DLs like this. Demographics and Mafdal votes show this number is reducing all the time while the torani are increasing and spreading out around the country through the garinim.

Anon1,
get with it homey. Microsfot now allows you to install English (American), English (U.K.), and now English (internet).

Dov Bar-Leib said...

OMG- I live in a Dati Leumi community called Abir Yakov with 450 families beyond the Green Line next door to a Chareidi city called Tel Tzion with 900 families. Together we are called Kochav Ya'akov. I have not seen hide nor hair of mixed dancing anywhere in these parts. And most of the Dati Leumi families are Sepharadi here with only 10% Ashkenazim. Tel Tzion is about 60% Sepharadi and 40% Ashkenazi. Somehow we have pulled off a very peaceful coexistence here with no hard boiled eggs or spitting. There are no cars on Shabbat on the yishuv except for the Security vehicle with the flashing orange light and some Army humvees that come down from the Ramallah/ Yerushalayim overlook at the high point on the Yishuv. Our greatest argument was whether the 143 bus should stop at Tachanat Delek at the bottom of the hill. Apparently some rowdy secular teens from other Yishuvim who transfer to other buses at the gas station have taken to tossing balloons made of certain paraphernalia around the 143 bus. The Chareidim are outraged at the sight of the paraphernalia being tossed around like balloons. So they want to ban the stop. The problem is that that stop serves Migron and Psagot too. So closing that stop would be cruel to passengers going to those communities. Psagot only gets 2 direct buses per day and Migron residents have to tremp up the adjoining hill with no direct bus service. So we are working out a psharah (a compromise), Heaven of Heaven, L-rd of L-rds, is such a thing possible in the Holy Land? Well I hope so, and so is the Egged Bus company.

sumon220 said...

What a great post i like it.

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