Jan 26, 2012

Potential Twinning With Bet Shemesh Called Into Question

Many Israeli cities have partnerships with other cities around the world. They call them twin cities or sister cities. Bet Shemesh has a lot of sister cities. It promotes development, business ties and tourism between the cities. I do not know how a city chooses which city to partner with, based on what criteria.

Bet Shemesh has "sisterships" with a number of cities around the world. According to the Bet Shemesh municipal website, they have twinning programs with 9 cities. The countries include the USA, England, Germany, China, South America and Croatia.

A city that has been considering entering into such a partnership with Bet Shemesh, and recently passed the decision to do so, is Montogomery County in Maryland. Unfortunately, they read the news out in Montgomery County. Bet Shemesh has been the subject of a letter to the editor calling into question the decision to twin with Bet Shemesh considering the recent bad press.

From the Gazette:
Last summer, The Gazette published a glowing article about Montgomery County's Sister City Program, extolling the good works done in the impoverished city of Morazan, El Salvador.

Briefly, the same article mentioned that the program would next move into Beit Shemesh in Israel, with county officials explaining that it was chosen because the Jewish community there already had a relationship with the city. However, that same city is recently in the news — the Washington Post, Christian Science Monitor and others — for its ultra-orthodox residents' extreme harassment of children who they say are dressing "immodestly."

The Christian Science Monitor article reported: "In Beit Shemesh, prominent signs calling for modest dress and excluding women from certain sidewalks near synagogues have been tolerated for years in the ultra-Orthodox neighborhood near the elementary school, which happens to serve a less strict group of Orthodox Jews ... For months now, 8-year-old Na'ama Margolis and her classmates have endured insults and spitting ..."

Even other Israelis have reacted with outrage. Einat Horovitz, a spokeswoman for Israel's nonprofit Religious Action Center, was quoted as saying, "This ties into whether we are a democratic liberal state that protects women's rights, or whether we're not going to be a democracy in the future."

So, we have to ask, why is Montgomery County twinning with such a city? Did it do any research, other than the recommendation of the local "Jewish community?” (Note that the more liberal Jewish Voice for Peace condemns this choice.)

When residents inquired by phone, we learned that the decision was made behind closed doors, without even county council involvement, and that "human rights" was not a consideration. It's also worth asking why a town in Israel — which ranks as the fourth largest arms exporter in the world and has the eighth largest military — needs the support of Montgomery County (compared to the obviously needy El Salvador).

Pam Bailey, Washington, D.C.
(Tip of the Hat to Joel)


  1. From the end of the letter is seems clear to me, that the writer searched for any bad thing they could find about the city in Israel, it would not have mattered which city it was.

  2. Evidently someone out there is trying to make noise:

    How much anyone is paying attention, is another matter.

  3. I say that the Iriya can't have it all ways, perseceuting non-Chareidim, and then advertising itself as a city of peace and tolerance to twin with cities abroad and get their money too. i would try to stop donations from abroad too, that go throught the Iriya, and donate striaght to the charity

  4. Just to note the Jewish Voice for Peace that the letter says is pushing the end the twinning opposes Israel's very existence.

    Their problem with Beit Shemesh is they consider Beit Shemesh a settlement in occupied Palestine

    Make no doubt about it while these lunatics are a real problem and Israel must deal with them, outside groups are taking advantage of this not to help the residents of Beit Shemesh but to attack the very legitimacy of Israel.

  5. Let's all be honest and face facts: some of the very dregs of what calls itself the "charedi world" live in Beit Shemesh.

    These thugs in tzitziot are besmirching the very name of Judaism in their zeal to oust anyone and everyone who does not come up to their so-called "high standards" - an oxymoron if ever there was one.

    Until the more moderate residents of RBS stand up for themselves, the modern-day fascists will trample all over the town, its public image, and its inhabitants.

    No wonder people hate us, the Jews, without any discrimination.

  6. Topeka, KS should twin with BS (well, at least RBS).


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