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Sep 9, 2011

A Personal Account of the Orot Situation

A Guest Post By: Etana Hecht

As many of you know, this past week in Bet Shemesh has not been pleasant one. For those of you who have been hearing bits here and there, or reading articles in the press, I'd like to give my account as a Bet Shemesh resident.

I'm not an Orot parent (yet! hopefully next year), and I don't even currently live in Sheinfeld (the Dati Leumi neighborhood across from the school), but I lived there for three years, hope to move back sometime soon and am a Bet Shemesh resident. I've been here for eight years, and from the very beginning loved this city. The community of Sheinfeld is amazing, warm, and welcoming with terrific people and shuls. When we first moved in, the Ultra-orthodox community of RBS B was new, and expanding all the time. Slowly the buildings of RBS expanded until they were directly across from the border of Sheinfeld. Gezundeheit, welcome to the neighborhood.

When tensions started due to signs that were put up across the street demanding women who walk through 'their' streets be dressed properly, some Sheinfeld people decided to try and diffuse the tension. We had a Mishloach Manot program where each Sheinfeld family got a name of one of our new neighbors across the street and sent them a super kosher, badatz eida chareidit, closed packaged Mishloach Manot. Lovely, there were some very nice people who lived there and responded with thanks. However, not all of them were so warm to our greetings. Unfortunately, a group of what we now refer to as Kitzonim (extremists) moved in from Meah Shearim. This group self appointed themselves as G-d's personal messengers to deliver messages to all those who they believe are not living their lives exactly how G-d intended us to live. The main point that they bring across with this is their twisted views of Tzniut (modesty). This has manifested itself in a number of ways, over the years including spray painting our property with their messages, chasing and screaming at teenage girls and boys from our neighborhood, spitting at the women who were wearing sandals, even throwing an egg at one girl from our area. I've heard psychologists say that this behavior can be stemming from sexual repression, but that's neither here nor there. The point is, they moved into a mixed city, and started demanding that their new neighbors (who have been here for decades) transform into Bnei Brakers. Now, obviously, we are not total friars (suckers), although sometimes it feels like we are. This has caused various tense periods over the years, during flare ups.

Now that you have some background, here is the issue we are dealing with today. On the border of Sheinfeld, Nofei Hashemesh, and Nofei Aviv (three lovely Dati Leumi neighborhoods) sits a plot of land with two schools that mainly cater to those three neighborhoods. Orot Banim (boys' school) and Orot Banot (girls' school). Overlooking the girls' school are the new buildings on the edge of RBS B that, due to extremely poor planning by the city, reach all the way on the border of 'our' neighborhoods. Orot Banot has been waiting for years for their building to be ready, and this year, finally, the girls looked forward to moving into their new school.

About a week before school was scheduled to start, our neighbors started causing some trouble. They broke into the brand new school, did some vandalizing, threw some rocks, and made it very clear that they were not happy about having a bunch of 6-12 year old Dati Leumi girls learning Torah next door to them. Unfortunately, our mayor is completely wrapped around the fingers of these horrible terrorists. (For that's what they are, as the definition acc. to www.dictionary.com is violence or threats of violence used for intimidation or coercion; terrorism.)

Our lovely mayor, Moshe Abutbol, may he be dethroned bimhaira biyameinu, sent out a message that the girls should not start school in that location, for fear that they may get hurt. Um, hello?!?! How about doing your job as advocate for the citizens of your city and removing the threat, instead of those being threatened? Shame on anyone who voted for this thug. Anyway, after 4 straight days of protests from our community (which he was clearly NOT expecting) B"H the school opened on time, and even uneventfully. Until earlier this week. On Monday, as the girls were getting dismissed, a large group of kitzonim showed up at dismissal, lined the streets on both sides, and made it extremely unpleasant for these little girls to get to their buses/walk home. They also threw a rock into the boys' school and hurt a boy in the leg. They were carrying bricks threateningly. There was much shouting of Shiksa (non-jew) and Prutza (promiscuous girl). (Which, cutely enough, our girls thought they were being called Shnitzel and Pizza) There was chasing, shouting, even some shoving. Parents showed up as quickly as possible and the situation escalated. One of their 'leaders', a man named Moshe Friedman was quoted saying that they'll fight every day for 20 years until there is no longer a girls school next door. Unnamed people from our side saw no choice but to fight fire with fire. They had 'pashkeveilim' (fliers) made up with some of the ringleader's pictures on it and the caption "so and so likes to stare at little girls. How do we know? Every day they show up at Orot Banot to see them as the girls come out of school". On Tuesday, they kept their distance from the school but gathered to shout across the street from Sheinfeld, and then took it even farther. A school bus from a school in RBS called Ahavat Yisrael, (incidentally the school my 10 year old sister attends) dropped off the Sheinfeld girls at the corner. The thugs actually chased two seven year old girls down the street screaming after them. What kind of person picks a fight with a little girl?!?! Needless to say, these little girls are traumatized.

After that, a request was sent out to parents, and members of the general community to show up at dismissal time to walk the girls down the block so they feel support, and don't have to walk alone. In addition, if large numbers of parents show up hopefully it'll deter 'them' from showing up. I went on Wednesday with my husband and my father. There were about 50-60 of 'our' men there, and many women as well, both parents and non-parents of the school, showing up for support. I made a couple of trips up and down the block with girls who needed to walk to the bus stop or their house across the street. It was the saddest thing, walking with these cute 10 or 11 year old girls and hear them saying as we walked down the block "Baruch Hashem the scary men aren't out today". Where are we that little girls need to be scared of men coming to terrorize them as they walk out of school?!?! From a violent point of view, it was b"H calm yesterday. However, all up and down Rechov Herzog ( the block of the school) there were verbal confrontations taking place.

Anyone who knows me knows that I'm not someone who likes to pick a fight. I'm peaceful, and by nature tend to believe the best in people. Having said that, I went over to a few of the Chasidish wives who were standing around and started talking to them. I said "hi, I just want to talk. I hate this battling between Jews. Can anyone here tell me what's going on?" One lady appointed herself spokeswoman and starts shouting about tznius. I said " relax, no need to raise your voice, I'm just here to talk. I want to hear what you have to say". She said " When I take my boys outside I don't want them seeing girls in short sleeves and without socks" She went on in that vein for a couple of minutes. I let her talk, and then when she finished I said "I understand what you said, now please listen to me. Our community has been here for 20 years. The girls' school was slated to be there before your buildings were even a thought in anyone's head. YOU CHOSE to move into an already mixed city. You didn't move to Bnei Brak, you moved to a place where there are all sorts of people walking around, and the men can't go around terrorizing people if they don't like how they're dressed." She had nothing to say to that and turned around and walked away, but not before one of her friends shoved the camera lady next to me.

Next incident... a bunch of the parents who showed up had their family dogs with them, all on leashes of course. There were many kids who were scared, and I felt bad because they were just little kids. I saw a group of chareidi teenage girls, probably around 13 years old. They were gathered on the sidewalk, clearly wanting to walk but scared of a dog. I have nothing against these fellow Jews, I went over and offered to walk with them past the dog. They stare at me like I'm an alien and one of them blurts out "Why did you Chilonim (secular Jews) build a Chiloni school next to our houses". I felt like I was slapped, and when I retold it to a reporter a few minutes later I couldn't keep the tears from coming. I went home feeling sadder about this absurd situation than I can even explain. I literally felt sick from it and couldn't sleep last night.

Now, Thursday afternoon, I just got back from Orot and I'm happy to report that we did everything we were supposed to, as did the police. Non- Orot parents were stationed along Herzog to make the kids feel comfortable as they walked up to the bus. There was zero provocation from our side, everyone was just there to show support for the girls. We were able to see a group of the troublemakers start to make their way towards Herzog, but B"H the police held them in a little alley that met up with Herzog and didn't let them come onto the street until all the girls were safely where they needed to go. They shouted their chants, but couldn't get close to the kids. There was a bit of commotion when a single trouble maker started shouting and walking down Herzog from the other direction. The police ushered him into the path with the others, and when they resisted, took him away in a police car.

I don't know what will be, and how this will end. I pray that somehow, these Kitzonim will quietly disappear from our beloved city of Bet Shemesh. However, until that happens we need to keep up the fight as peacefully as possible so as not to lose our city to them. We need the greater non-chareidi, and "american Yeshivish" community to not only support us, but join in the fight, because they need to realize that they're next.

I know this was long, but the purpose was to show you the view of someone who's here, who's been here for awhile and who doesn't want to go anywhere. I also want to dispel the rumor that it's a two sided battle. That couldn't be farther from the truth. This has been all the way through, a ONE SIDED provocation, with side two coming in to do what we need to do to protect our girls and our community.


  1. fyi, even Bnei Beraq is not this extreme...this is Meah Shearim extremism that should not be allowed to proliferate.

  2. Nothing about Lipmans instigation from the video a few days ago?

    So much for balanced reporting.

    Are you going to open the forum for one the the kanoim to express his version of events?

  3. I extended an invitation for anybody who wants to write a guest post about the topic. That invitation is still open. I did not say I would only post one side of the story. Anybody who wants to write a post, with your name on it, with a thoughtful perspective, from either side of the issue, is welcome to. It does not have to be a kannoi who is unlikely to see this blog, but it could also be someone who supports them.

  4. Mrs RBS - I didn't mean that Bnei Brak was extreme, but that had they moved to Bnei Brak they would not have had an issue with how ladies were dressed.
    Anon, I'm just curious if you were there. If you're so vehemently against Rabbi Lipman, why don't you show up one day and see for yourself? Not to support us, G-d forbid, just to get all the facts. Although the mind is a very powerful thing, you're going to believe what you already decided to no matter what you may see.

  5. Great article Etana! Your father must be so proud. :)

    Anon, I was standing a few feet from Dov in the video taking pictures. Your accusation is false.

    It is actually very much to Dov Lipman's credit that these creeps know who is and got so upset at the sight of him.

    Dov has shown tremendous leadership, not only through this crisis, but so many others since these creatures (ie the extremists)moved to our neighborhood.

  6. Etana,

    thats my point. when was the last time you spent time in Bnei Berak? its not like what you think...granted there are no flagrant tznius violations, but it certainly is more like Boro Park and even Flatbush at certain times...there is really no comparison to the Meah Shearim standards....and i didnt mean it as a criticsm of your remarks, just for you to understand that there is literally no comparison.

  7. Thanks, I appreciate the clarification.

  8. Etana,

    Excellent post.

    As a proud religious Zionist living in RBSA I would like to show support to those in Bet Shemesh, especially the children, who have to experience this.

    I would also like to suggest to those DL in Bet Shemesh as well as those in RBSA that we must band together.

    Not against anyone else but rather for ourselves.

    When the mikve on Dolev was in danger of losing Rav Spektor's supervision we barley heard from the community in Bet Shemesh. Yes, there was support from some rabbonim and a few citizens but not the uproar we could have used.

    There are schools and organizations here in RBSA that could be in danger of the same treatment that Orot has received in Bet Shemesh.

    Ahavat Yisrael,Moriah, Etrog, Harel, Lema'an Achai, Gila, Shaalei Torah and Noga could all one day be protested by kannoim here in RBSA.

    What makes it more frightening is that the "kannoim" in RBS aren't as obvious.

    Many of them are Anglo and have nice smiles and yet they would like to see nothing more than every kipa seruga, Israeli flag and sandal wearer leave this community.

    So I appeal to you... let's strengthen eachother so that truly everyone will be able to live here, comfortably and forever.

  9. Dear sisters of the DL community,

    If you are so interested in peace with your neighbors, why can't you dress as the Halacha requires? The newest fashion by you is that married women leave all the back part of their hair out/uncovered. What is your heter for this and for your short sleeves and unstockinged feet?
    If each one of you wold try to dress as she should, you can rest assured that the problems, with these "kanoim"(as you call Them) will disappear.
    Hash-m says in His Torah if he will see "Davar Ervah" in his nation he will move away from them. This means His protection will be removed from us. As a proud religious Zionist" you should be the ones trying to secure the security of our land, by dressing the why the Halach tells us. For it is only with His help we are able to overcome the sea of Arabs surrounding us.

  10. Good grief, how do you think that women dressed in the times of Chazal? They certainly weren't wearing stockings!

    And if you're so concerned about halachah, why aren't you bothered about all the Charedim here who don't teach their children a trade, against the explicit dictates of Chazal?

    Besides, it is mamash sick that you blame lack of tzniyus (according to your interpretation) for what the kanna'im do. Is it muttar to chase and yell at a little girl because she is not dressed according to your particular shittah regarding these things?

  11. "We need the greater non-chareidi, and 'american Yeshivish' community to not only support us, but join in the fight, because they need to realize that they're next."

    You are right on target there. And their Rabbis aren't warning them because they'd also be all too happy for the slightly "modernish" contingents of their congregations to move out.

  12. Dear Mr/s Historian,
    In the times of Chazal they wore dresses to the floor, so there was no need for stockings. But as today frum women in Eretz Yisroel have accepted on themselves to wear stockings this is now Daat Yehudit and needs to be done. (What do you have to say (Historically) about the way their hair is all out at the back? In the times of Chazal it was a Busha for a married woman to have uncovered hair as we see from Parshat Sotah.)

    If what you people call kanna'im, were here on the internet, I, maybe, would ask them the question you are asking. But I would word it differently; because the way the girls and their mothers dress, is not just a different Shitah its a matter of Halach.
    By the way you may have noticed I said "Maybe" when I said I would ask them the question. Who said that the stories been told about them are true? I never saw them take place. So it would be believing Lashon Harah if I took them at face value. But I have seen the way DL that ladies, disregard the basic Halach in the way they dress.

  13. @Etana - thanks for sharing your thoughts so articulately.

    @Anonymous - I give a lot of credit to Dov Lipman, but I have to say I was surprised to see him shaking his fists in the air so provocatively in one of the videos. Not exactly a diplomatic or dignified move. It's that kind of thing that can keep a person from moving up in the political sphere.

  14. Eretz Yisroel in the Lens ,
    You wrote "The newest fashion by you is that married women leave all the back part of their hair out/uncovered."
    I ask - how do you know? Do you look at married women? I don't. I know my wife covers all of her hair but I REALLY couldn't tell you (and frankly, I don't spend time thinking about) how much of their other other men's wives cover.


    PS You guys really are racking up the style points with the way you give 'tochecha.' If this litle-girl-stalking thing doesn't work out, maybe you can start second careers giving kiruv seminars.

  15. Anonymous,
    You wrote "Nothing about Lipmans instigation from the video a few days ago?"
    I have a BETTER question - how come the kanaim have their 'protest' EXACTLY at 1 PM as the girls are being let out from school. They could scream and carry on at 11 AM or at 2 PM or at 4 PM (its not like they need to earn a living or anything).
    WHY specifically at 1 PM? So they can intimidate the girls themselves !!!
    This is NOT the first time that extremist haredim from Beit Shemesh have directly confronted KIDS instead of picking on someone your own side.
    Sticking up for little girls against a BULLY is your definition of "instigation." The "instigation" was having it out with little girls instead of adults.

  16. This comment has been removed by the author.

  17. I Happen to be a Woman Myself, so, YES I do look at the way other women do or do not cover their hair.
    Your wife is to be highly praise. She is doing a mitzvah that ensures your parnasha and will give you good children (remember Kimchit). She should encourage her friends to do the same.

  18. In the times of Chazal they wore dresses to the floor, so there was no need for stockings.


    But as today frum women in Eretz Yisroel have accepted on themselves to wear stockings this is now Daat Yehudit and needs to be done.

    Frum women have NOT accepted it upon themselves. Charedi women have accepted it upon themselves. That makes it Dat Charedi, not Dat Yehudit.

    (What do you have to say (Historically) about the way their hair is all out at the back? In the times of Chazal it was a Busha for a married woman to have uncovered hair as we see from Parshat Sotah.)

    No. It was a bushah for her to have her hair untied.
    And you can be sure that Chazal would not have approved of the sheitels that charedi women wear.

    But all this is beside the point. You can't possibly point to alleged infractions of tzniyut as the problem here. The problem is allegedly frum men who think that it's okay to smash windows, slash tires, scream at and chase little girls, and throw rocks at people. (Of course, you can stick your head in the ground and claim that you refuse to believe that this happens, but if so, then there's not much point in your being in this conversation.)

    What would you say if the groups in which women wear burkas (that cover their faces and entire bodies) decided that Charedi women don't dress sufficiently b'tzniyut and started harassing and attacking charedim?

  19. Dear Eretz Yisroel in the Lens,

    I am a chardei women who dresses according to halachah (& respect those who "yish al me lishmoch" also), you know as well as I do that this machlokes has nothing to do with tzinus. If the girls adopted a beis yakov uniform nothing would change.
    This is a matter of control of property and opinion. As long as a 'degel yisroel', photos of "Rav Tzvi Yehuda Kook zt"l', and limud of kedushas haeretz is taught - no peace can and will be made. Here in the USA exile, we can have a YI and shtieble, zionist day school and yeshiva ketana on the same block. The atmosphere of eretz yisroel leaves no room for daas shonos.

  20. There is much blame on BOTH sides here. For sure the "zealots" have the right to scream and shout but not if that affects the small children. They should voluntarily move their shouts further away. On the other hand, I allocate more blame to the anglo DL community (of which I am a member). Some in the anglo DL community are clearly prejudiced in the comments they make and naming shaming people is way overboard particularly accusing them of being interested in small kids. You can ruin people for years both socially and financially by making these bald reckless and slanderous assertions. Making fun of these people (as the smirking Lipman and other DL anglos did and which was ironically captured on their own video) is troublesome and an indicator of an agenda. Lipman is IMO using this to advance himself politically. The whole situation is disgraceful.

  21. Dov Lipman was trying to get them to stop. Yelling at them just makes them yell back. Laughing at them is a strategy to deflate them and try to get them to give up. Dov Lipman was most certainly not trying to make personal advantage of this; he was working flat-out to try to solve the problem.

  22. Eretz Yisrael in the lens, you have absolutely no idea what you're talking about. Understand the facts first. Rechov Herzog is on the border between RBS B and Sheinfeld. Sheinfeld is a mixed community with DL, Chardal, and Chiloni which long pre-existed the aprtments that were built on Herzog. Anyone Chareidi person who was so sensitive to womens' dress would NOT have have moved into any of the apartments on Herzog.

    Further, you are implicitly justifying the use of violence against those who's observance, or lack thereof, you do not agree with.

    This issue, and many others that have set off these terrorists have nothing to do with Tznious. They threatened violence against people across the street who had TVs in their homes. Mind you, they couldn't actually see what was on the TVs from that distance, it was just that they could THAT they had TVs.

    They used violence against the BOYS Orot school when it opened. What as the Tznious issue there? They through rocks at cars that drive on Herzog. I know some sports cars can be "sexy" but really? The list goes on and on.

    This is not about Tznious. (As many have pointed out their level of Tznious is really a pile of Chumrot.) It's about control. It's base male aggression that is genetically encoded from pre-historic times. They want to control the city and they want to control, what they see as, their "turf".

    The Torah is supposed to guide us beyond these base instincts not be used as an excuse to justify them!

  23. So sad, you're comment is so sad. You sound like the liberal Palestinian supporters who always carp about the "cycle of violence" when we defend ourselves against terror attacks.

    Let's separate out the violence from all the other issues. How dare you compare terrorizing little girls to some vague prejudices!

    Of course people in a free society have a right to protest and speak their mind. Nobody is arguing otherwise. But these extremists have, over and over, crossed the line into terror.

    Yes, there is undo prejudice in our community regarding Chareidim. But there is also prejudice against Palestinians. Would you "allocate more blame" to us because of that prejudice?

    As for Dov. This man has worked tirelessly on behalf of our community. He, actually, is NOT prejudiced against Chareidim. Over the years he has made many contacts in the Chareidi community in Bet. He has created alliances and has even dialoged directly with the extremists and their leaders.

    Thank God he has political aspirations! He is a true man of the people, the very concept of what a public servant is supposed to be. Halevi more people like him would involve themselves in the political process. This country would become a far better place to live.

  24. Dear Historian
    If you are such a good Historian you would know that the Talmidim of the Baal Shem Tov came here about 1780 and the Talmidim of the Gra started coming about 1812. they adopted a dress code based on what was wore by the Jews living here then;which included covering one's feet. So this makes it Daat Yehudit for ALL WOMEN, chardie and otherwise.
    People who came in from the outside after this time can not come and change what has been going on for hundreds of years.
    The women with the face coverings are also going against the Halach. (This is not the forum to discuss why), the shateils are problematic and many of our Rabonim call out against them.

    But this does not mean that each group should not do what they have to. But if DL people think (as someone wrote)that plain , basic Halachot are "really a pile of Chumrot" then we in trouble.

    All we have heard is the DT side of the story. Once the other side has presented their part of the story, then one can Judge who is in the right and who is not.

  25. there is not really another side of the story. Any other side of the story can be presented by the use of politics and lobbying in relation to the Iryah, to the Misrad HaChinuch, to a committee of parents or neighborhoods.
    The other side of the story cannot be presented by hafganot against the girls that include screaming at them, insulting them, throwing rocks, dumping rotten items in the school, breaking windows and the like. That is not a side that needs to be listened to.

  26. But Rafi,
    Its OK to call 7 year old girls prutzot !! (promiscuous) Its OK to throw things at the boys school,
    After all, there is "Lipman's instigation." They were INSTIGATED into doing it. And these 40 batlanim coincidentally HAPPENED to be there, every day, at the same time, just as the little girls were being dismissed.

  27. I live in Givat Sharrett (in one of the anglo communities). I will not take issue with people's complaints about the chardeim. But... I do object to the way this is being fought. Publicly humiliating people with posters and claiming so and so is this or that with their addresses is outrageous misconduct. I think (hope) this nonsense will simmer down and this will become a non issue soon. We should all concentrate on Elul, repairing one's bein adom l'chavero and asking forgiveness of the people we have hurt. There is a lot of gossip and lashan hara in the DL anglo communities about other neighbors (you cant sit down for lunch at a neighbor's house without hearing bad stuff at the table from others present about so and so) and this hostility is not good for us. We seem bent on hurting other people's feelings. Personal hurt inflicted on others does not go away. You need to ask the person for forgiveness. What are we doing to ourselves, communities and children with all this vindictiveness ?

  28. "After all, there is "Lipman's instigation." They were INSTIGATED into doing it. And these 40 batlanim coincidentally HAPPENED to be there, every day, at the same time, just as the little girls were being dismissed."

    This is inane. It's not a state secret when school ends each day.

  29. the Talmidim of the Gra started coming about 1812. they adopted a dress code based on what was wore by the Jews living here then;which included covering one's feet. So this makes it Daat Yehudit for ALL WOMEN, chardie and otherwise.

    Nonsense. It determines the norms for their own communities, nothing more. Just as those who object to sheitels do not determine Dat Yehudit.

    The women with the face coverings are also going against the Halach.

    But they don't think so! THEY see YOU as being a prutzah. So what would you say if they started breaking the windows of your kids schools, slashing your tires, and screaming at your kids and chasing them? Would the blame lie with you, or would the blame lie with them? Is it okay to do that to someone who, IN YOUR OPINION (BUT NOT THEIRS OR THEIR RABBIS OPINION) is going against halachah?

  30. Further follow up to "So Sad"...

    "...naming shaming people is way overboard particularly accusing them of being interested in small kids."

    I was actually borderline on this issue. Today these cretins through eggs at the girls waiting at the bus stop on Yarden. So now I'm very comfortable in saying that, if anything, naming these animals as potential pedophiles is actually quite underboard.

    Also, keep in mind that one of them actually admitted, in front of witnesses, that he's enticed by 8 yr old girls. In general people who are violent and obsessed with what women wear have a much higher propensity toward sexual deviancy.

    In reality, if we truly cared, we'd try to get social services involved to investigate each and every one of their homes.

  31. Menachem Lipkin, well said. Thanks for your informative comments.


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