School conflicts and strikes are a normal part of Israeli life at this time of year. Today we take you to Beit Shemesh (again).
Several years ago the education ministry and the municipality of Beit Shemesh built a new building for the girls of Orot, a state-religious elementary school. The new school adjoins the boys’ branch of the school and borders a haredi neighborhood. (Rafi has a map with explanations.) When protesters from the haredi buildings began vandalizing the building, the Orot parents from the school camped there overnight. A participant told me that she was called a Nazi and a prutza (whore). People threw garbage and feces.
The mayor has refused to grant a license to occupy the building on September 1, the first day of school, because he cannot guarantee the safety of the girls.
The idea that little girls could be at risk of violence from their Jewish neighbors, over the character of a school, is sickening.
People want to distance this group from mainstream haredim, by pointing out that the protesters are emotionally disturbed, extremists, don’t abide by Jewish law, and so on. That may be so.
The question is whether the haredim in the neighborhood provide silent support, and are happy to let the extremists do their dirty work. I am sure that many object, and perhaps they are scared to speak out. But the leaders who remain silent ultimately condone violent tactics by those who identify themselves as members of their community.
The claim that they object to the students being girls makes little sense. After all, there is no shortage of girls and girls’ schools in haredi neighborhoods, and they don’t all dress like this. The boys’ building has been there since before the haredi neighborhood was occupied. The national-religious parents, including the immodestly dressed mothers who inhabited the building must have been visible in the neighborhood from when the school first opened.
“But now as the time has come these same Datiim Leumiim [MiI: the abbreviation used spells out dalim, meaning weak or poor] and good-for-nothings (lit. “Rekim”) are entering the building. This is after they were offered a bigger building in another location but they refused and insist on setting up camp davka in the midst of Haredim in order to ‘break the Haredim’ using their own words.
In advance of the start of the school year, and knowing that their entry would cause an earthquake, they came as thieves in the night yesterday and entered the building with deceit in order to establish facts on the ground. Immediately when this became known, avreichim [yeshiva students] from the neighboring areas came to protest and in response the DLs called up about thirty of their thugs together accompanied by dogs (on four legs) to deter the avreichim who did not fear them.
This morning they brought to the place hundreds of boys and girls, youths as well as virgins [sic], men and women, in unseemly clothing [lit. "levush pritzut"] as is their custom and in an abominable mix of men and women, and stood on the other side as they danced together to the sound of amplified women’s song (may the merciful one save us) swearing and insulting and even lifted their hands and chairs against the dear avreichim who stood guard.
In their unruly immoral and unseemly behavior they showed the inhabitants of the adjacent neighborhood how it will indeed be if they succeed in inhabiting the building, when the immodest [lit. "Prutzot"] girls will come every day to the neighborhood and in the way they look will destroy the foundation the holiness and purity of the neighborhood to its foundation and the blood/money [lit. "damim tartei mashma"] that we have invested in this quiet and holy corner in order to educate and bring up our offspring in the way of Torah and modesty and holiness will at once be to nothing.
This is not a time to be quiet!
We cannot see our holy neighborhood be destroyed by those whose whole aim is to harass us and steal our homes! We are determined to fight with dedication [lit. "mesirut nefesh"] against this lowly and vicious plot! We will not rest as long as the serious danger threatens the continuation of our existence as Jews fearful of God and his Torah!
We turn at this last moment to those responsible and the thieves: know that we are determined because this is as bad as an edict of eviction!
And to you the citizens of Beit Shemesh who are fearful of Gods word we cry: Come please to help us, stand by us to save our inheritance that it may not be trampled and looted by foreigners and thieves!
Prepare for the battle for our homes!
Inhabitants of Kiryat Hasidim
The haredi neighborhood borders on a national religious one, and the haredim in question are adamant about not giving an inch to a non-haredi element. This story has been repeated over and over in Beit Shemesh, in different forms. I’m afraid we will not see the end any time soon.
Further links on this story:
Rafi at Life in Israel posted a number of guest posts and updates: