One after another the Haredim came up to the reporters. Some gave their full names, some refused to give any name or — as with one leading rabbi — asked that their names not be published. Some approached in the streets of Beit Shemesh, some made a phone call.
They’re not reaching out to protest the media’s portrayal of the ultra-Orthodox, after Haredi residents of Beit Shemesh harassed and spat at religious Zionist schoolgirls, attacked a television news crew trying to film a sign that ordered women to walk on the other side of the street, and called the police “Nazis” when they escorted municipal officials who took down the sign.
They’re reaching out to plead for the help of journalists who work for secular newspapers, which many ultra-Orthodox now think will play a decisive role in increasing the public pressure on the extremists living in Beit Shemesh and Jerusalem. They want the police and the government to get on the extremists’ case, because the leadership vacuum created by politicians, rabbis and newspapers that serve the ultra-Orthodox world has left mainstream Haredim looking for help in places they normally wouldn’t go.
Changes are afoot even within the Haredi media. True, the ultra-Orthodox Yated Neeman newspaper warned in its lead headline on Monday of an “incitement campaign” against the ultra-Orthodox, which it said was aimed at breaking up the coalition alliance between Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and the Haredi parties, as well as putting a damper on the goal of making more Jews Torah-observant. But several writers for Haredi websites are consistently and vigorously attacking the extremists - and even declaring them to be enemies of the ultra-Orthodox, no less.