For Now, American Enclave Feels No Fear

Naama Margolese Says 'Everything Is Good' in Beit Shemesh

Calm After Storm: A mother held her daughter close as they walked to school last year. For now, parents have less fear about their daughters being accosted by extremists in the flashpoint town of Beit Shemesh.
Calm After Storm: A mother held her daughter close as they walked to school last year. For now, parents have less fear about their daughters being accosted by extremists in the flashpoint town of Beit Shemesh.

By Allison Kaplan Sommer (Haaretz)

Published July 16, 2012.
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“I myself was scared to walk by them and Naama was absolutely flipping out,” she recalls. “We came home extremely traumatized, and I thought to myself there was no way that this was going to continue, I was sure the police were going to stop it. I just couldn’t imagine that they wouldn’t. But the second, third, fourth, and every other day was like that: with the yelling, spitting, throwing bricks into the boys’ school [located nearby], throwing human feces, throwing vegetables, eggs.”

A committee of volunteers was quickly organized to protect the girls on a daily basis. Hadassa’s neighbor, Alisa Fox Coleman, read about it on Facebook the first day the Haredi agitators appeared. She could hear the cries from her home and recalls that “there was that split second” where she decided to run down the road to the school to protect the girls - even though none of her four children attended the school. Coleman, a fit, confident personal trainer originally from Great Britain, was there every day physically protecting the girls, ushering them away from the screaming, spitting and various flying objects.

Another neighbor, Dov Krulwich, who moved from New York to Israel 15 years ago, came to the school that first week because he didn’t believe the stories of what was happening. Unlike many of the women in his neighborhood, he feels comfortable in the Haredi community, shops and moves freely in their neighborhoods, and prays in their synagogues when he misses the prayer times at his local synagogue.

When he first heard about the Haredi demonstrations against Orot, he was sure his neighbors were overreacting.

“I thought it couldn’t possibly be as bad as what I heard. And everyone said, ‘If you don’t believe it, come and see. And when I came and saw, I was blown away. I couldn’t believe that religious Jews would do this to each other.

“On instinct, I took out my cell phone and started video taping it,” he adds. “And because I work in the Internet and media professionally, I put it up on YouTube. The world had to see it. Somebody had to make it stop. I was convinced that if the world would see it, then rabbis and political leaders would see it and make it stop.”

Krulwich’s contribution became invaluable to the fight. Every time there was harassment, he left his home office space and headed over to record the violence and the inaction of the police, despite the fact that he himself was harassed, and once even pushed to the ground. With his meticulous documentation of events, they were impossible to deny. Like Coleman, his involvement bore no relation to his own children, who don’t attend the school, but was simply because “it was unacceptable that this was happening in our neighborhood.”

What devastated him was that that no rabbis spoke out against the harassment, he says: “This is a community where a girl walks down the street in the wrong kind of shirt fabric, and there are signs on the wall and proclamations against it. And yet when there were 20 grown men standing here abusing schoolchildren, no one said a word … What brought me there was simply the feeling that it should not be happening. It sounds very noble but I didn’t feel noble, I felt bad. This shouldn’t be happening: this is not how the religious world in Israel or anywhere should be acting.”

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