Thursday, September 08, 2011


At a Social Battle in Beit Shemesh

by Reb Akiva @ Mystical Paths

Israel’s political style and social style seems designed to bring internal groups into conflict.  Every election is 'if we win we get all the money and take it all away from the other side'.  Whether it's city or national, when you're not in the majority position the ONLY way to get government response to your issues is to come out in numbers and be a pain.  So in effect the government trains it's citizens to protest big time.  The ultra-orthodox take this a step farther as they’ve been a small minority that’s historically been somewhat persecuted by the governments of the past.  This has led them to take the feeling a bit farther and institutionalize a feeling of alienation, even though governments are no longer acting that way AND they’re no longer a non-influential minority.

In Beit Shemesh, a series of twin-home neighborhoods primarily occupied by American and English speaking Jewish modern-orthodox immigrants (locally called “anglos”) abuts a growing high density ultra-orthodox Jewish neighborhood known as Ramat Beit Shemesh B.  On the seam line between the two neighborhoods, the Ministry of Education built two elementary school buildings targeted at children from the anglo community (a boys and a girls).

The ultra-orthodox community presents two complaints about this.  First, their schools are significantly over capacity with children learning in hallways and trailers yet new spacious facilities are being given to a community segment without that overcrowding.  Second, and this is their loudly presented argument, it results in a group of girls who don’t keep to their community standards traipsing through (along the edge of actually) community.  [The fact that they moved into buildings facing another community with a  different standard is besides the point, they’re there and it causes them a problem.]

Now with a cultural proclivity to protest to have impact, and add some zealots with a ‘holy cause’, and you’ve got a hot situation.  The ultra-orthodox zealots of Ramat Beit Shemesh B have been actively and forcefully protesting the presence of the school – taking it to the point of harassing the elementary school age girls as they pass by on the way home.

In response the parents, some of their community members and various supporters have been lining up to guard the girls way home and block the actions of the zealots.  Unfortunately the police were not sufficiently responsive in the past (though that seems to have changed today).  I joined today’s protests to help defend school age Jewish girls from any type of abuse (verbal or G-d forbid worse) regardless of the reason as well as to SPEAK to the zealots to hear them out.  Below are pictures and video from the event.  The video is key as a young charedi zealot argues with me that I’m standing on the wrong side, while I calmly challenge his position and what’s he’s doing to the face of Torah.  (It’s hebrew and hard to hear, unfortunately.)

That such a thing is happening and zealots are taking advantage of a neighborhood conflict to turn it into a holy war among brothers is a disaster for the month of Elul and the Jewish people right before Rosh Hashana.

#1 Defenders line the street to protect the girls returning from school.
#2 Police inform the zealots they may protest from the side but not enter the sidewalk.


. The zealots chant kinos (lamentations) to show their distress in the situation.

. One parent is sufficiently upset he attempts to confront the zealots, which the police stop.

. A study in zealot religious fervor.  Chanting kinos (for Elul?).

. The zealot leader, who’s father is the rav of the group’s kollel (or so I was told by another) leading the chants.


. Conversation with a zealot.  This young zealot comes over to discuss with me why I’m standing on the wrong side.  Hebrew, 8 minutes, hard to hear clearly over the chanting.

. This time the police were well prepared and organized.  They brought along a team of Yassam Riot Police (pictured), who are intimidating and known for their violent response in such situations, in case trouble broke out.  Fortunately they did not need to engage.

. After the event, the defenders went to the girls school to pray the afternoon prayer together.  A sign on this school that the zealots are protesting says “Welcome in the Name of Hashem.”


  1. Good post. And thanks so much for coming down today. It is very much appreciated.

    A couple of minor quibbles.

    - The overcapacity issue of the Chareidi schools is a problem of their own and/or the city's doing. The rate of influx of people into Bet Shemesh has been incredibly rapid. Residential buildings are going up much faster than infrastructure and support services.

    These new schools were years in the planning for kids that were also learning in substandard conditions. I would assume most reasonable understand this and know that they need to wait their turn for their schools to be built. (And many schools are under construction throughout RBS.)

    Purely in violation of "do not covet" the people here saw these brand new buildings near their apartments and tried to make a grab for them without waiting their turn. Remember, many people in this community live in a "magiya li" state of being. They expect everything will be handed to them when they want it and if they don't get it, they throw a tantrum.

    - As to the issue with the girls, that's really quite specious and opportunistic. When the boys' school opened four years ago they also protested and vandalized that school. So the whole "tznious" thing rings a little hollow for those of us who were here then.

    - The protest has not just been verbal. Windows have been broken, office equipment has been stolen, and a boy was injured by a thrown rock.

  2. intresting the girls are right in one perspective the haredi in another perspective . Both sides are right mamash ! but the thing is you can only choose 1 side . I feel this arguement is a microcosm of the arguement of the haredi over the modern state of israel which will only be decided when the true geulah comes .

  3. Yasher koach for joining the demonstration! Good updates are also available at Slifkin's blog, Rationalist Judaism. Apparently some Charedi groups are getting involved in protecting the young girls from the zealots' verbal abuse.

    It's a mitzvah not to hurt people with words (onaat devarim). Some of these girls were sobbing and terrified! Anyone screaming at the girls or threatening them should be brought before a beit din and punished severely.

  4. To yishai im glad they were sobbing if they were dressing immodestly before ultra orthodox and making it a habit of it . Better to scream here then in hell !

  5. Anonymous - NOBODY said they were dressed inappropriately. They are NOT - it is a religious school with a dress code. It's just not the same dress code with chumrot as the charedim down the street.

    And NOBODY is brought to Torah, particularly in this generation, by being screamed at. Quit the opposite. There is a chelek of Shulchan Aruch on how to give tochacha, if it's necessary. Screaming at people isn't it and falls in the area the Shulchan Aruch describes as specifically assure on how to give tochacha.

    By that definition, the one religious Jews hold by (the Shulchan Aruch), it's the screamers with the problem.

  6. "Ananamous"
    you are an idiot and a coward. How do you support people screaming at little girls with words like "Shiksa" and calling them prostitutes?
    These are young girls! And these are Jewish girls, where is the modesty of yourself and people you support?
    And anyway you are cowards and idiots. You can't stand up for real issues affecting the Jewish people soo you pick on little Jewish girls? That's how it is. Where is your protests agains't Arabs and goyim infiltrating the Holy Land? Where is your protest agains't the government throwing Jews out of their homes? NOTHING! In fact these "zealots" support these types of despicable behavior with signs like "Arabs yes, Zionists no".

  7. Different Orthodox communities' rabbis have different interpretations of what constitutes tzniut. If someone from a community with a more restrictive standard sees a woman or girl dressed according to another standard (which is agreed upon by thousands of Orthodox rabbis), what is the proper response? Yelling, screaming, destroying property, rioting? No. The proper response is to do nothing and treat the person as a normal human being. If for whatever reason, seeing a person dressed according to dati leumi tzniut standards gives you immodest thoughts, or tempts you to violate the prohibition against deriving pleasure even from looking at a woman's finger, then by all means, look away, and thank Hashem for sending you a challenge to your personal holiness and giving you the ability to overcome it. After all, we can also sin by deriving pleasure from looking at a woman's face, yet we do not yell and scream at beautiful woman and force them to run for their lives out of frum neighborhoods, do we?

    According to Chabad websites, "The Lubavitcher Rebbe delivered a stinging rebuke to Orthodox elements in the USA and Israel for publicly belittling non-Orthodox Jews." The Lubavitcher Rebbe was a great tzaddik, a leader of thousands of fervent charedim, and he didn't even think people should belittle non-Orthodox Jews! If we shouldn't belittle non-Orthodox Jews, surely we shouldn't harass and scream at children guilty of the heinous crime of being raised in a different Orthodox sect than ourselves! Could a better example of baseless hatred ever be identified? G-d have mercy on us.

  8. Better to sob here than in hell? (Paraphrasing Anon).

    First, do you really believe girls taught by their (Orthodox) rabbis how to follow the laws of tzniut, and who follow them as they were taught, will suffer in purgatory because they didn't follow your community's minhag? Even if your community's view is the only correct view, and the dati leumi are really heretics (Hashem forbid), then wouldn't the girls be considered to have been raised in captivity?

    Second, it is beyond obvious that screaming at young girls is not an effective means of communicating that your community's minhag or halacha regarding tzniut is right and theirs is wrong. If you want to convince anyone, perhaps you could write an article making a rational argument with reference to classical sources and contemporary rulings? That just might convince some people to makes their standards stricter. Screaming at children will only tempt people to conclude that the charedim -- the people, their religion, their gedolim, their minhagim, their halachic rulings -- are corrupt, wrong, against everything the Torah stands for and, thus, heretical. I don't believe those things are true, but when you hurl abuse at children because of differences of opinion over skirt length sizes and such, people are going to come to those conclusions. And when secular people come to such conclusions (and fail to differentiate between charedim and other orthodox groups, as many of them do), that will keep them from ever even considering making tshuvah, Heaven forbid.

  9. If these "gentleman" were truly so holy that they could not bear the sight of even young girls' fingers, then they would not have moved into any of the buildings on Herzog. After all, the existence of Dati Leumi and (GASP) Chiloni women in the area long pre-dated these buildings. There are full grown women, with full grown parts, out and about on Herzog all hours of the day and night. Also, the girls only pass buy their homes for a few minutes at times that these holy Torah scholars should be Shteiging away in the Beis.

    So either the particular problem that these folks have is that of pedophilia or it is something else altogether; maybe a land grab? Maybe, like dogs, they are trying to pee on what they think is their turf. Either way, not a pretty picture.

  10. The religious ignore the Torah again as usual. Do not covet. Remember one of the 10? It's a complete farce and what's so wrong is that the t'shuvah rabbi's call for Jews to come to the system that ignores one of the 10. It's finished people, you will get the mashiach you never wanted. You wonder why I am so against this derech that is so anti-Torah but wearing the costume of the Torah.

  11. something missing from the story here. c a r e f u l how you judge.

  12. Im just following halacha on tziniut likebthe hasidic zealots , ive sen all to well what happened to western civilization with womens immodesty womens lib and the gay agenda ! so get off my case .

  13. To Rabbi- Thanks for standing for what is right.
    I would like to thank you for actually helping myself correct the negativity I had agains't all termed "Haredim".
    To ananamous- if you are such a "holy zealot" concerned about Tzniut, why don't you go deal with with prostitutes and really immodest ladies? Why little girls of all people (that are dressed according to Halacha by the way).
    Go to Tel-Aviv beach and make your crusade there.
    Picking on Religious young girls only makes you look like the pricks you are. And only sullies the reputation of the Torah you claim to follow.

  14. To Anonymous:

    How can little girls be immodest? Says something about the person thinking such a thing than the girls themselves.

    Didn't Rashi teach his own daughters? If a girl or woman doesn't know Torah, how can she be expected to keep a kosher home and to follow the mitzvot?

    Women are supposed to follow the same mitzvot as men. We just don't have the same time constraints.

  15. Akiva,
    good point!

    1/ Is this guy speaking about "meshichistim"...? at the beginning of the clip ?

    2/ when looking at that "sinat chinam", such a hate... I cannot but think at the Rebbe's wisdom and strong stance for Ahavas Israel...

  16. Anonymous - sounded that way to me too at the beginning, which is why I asked him what he meant. I think it was "mezichistim", which he explained meaning 1/2 religious people and then later in the conversation just referred to them as secularists (chiloni in Hebrew). He had to work hard to socially separate himself from his fellow observant but not chumra keeping Jews.


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