Israeli Family That Fought Ultra-Orthodox Radicals Forced To Leave Beit Shemesh

Margoleses Driven Out by Modern Orthodox — Not Haredim

Hadassah Margolese walks her daughter, Na’ama, to school in Beit Shemesh after the girl was harassed by ultra-Orthodox men.
jta
Hadassah Margolese walks her daughter, Na’ama, to school in Beit Shemesh after the girl was harassed by ultra-Orthodox men.

By Ben Sales

Published August 13, 2013.
  • Print
  • Share Share
  • Single Page

(page 2 of 2)

In her mikvah column, Margolese described the way mikvah supervisors would question her Jewish observance and stare at her as she entered and left the water naked. An attendant would interrogate her about how thoroughly she cleaned herself and demand that she return to the sink for another wash.

“I’m supposed to feel clean after the mikvah,” Margolese wrote, “but instead I feel degraded and dirty.”

Soon after the column was published, Margolese was at a meeting of the Knesset Caucus for the Advancement of Women. She planned to stay afterward to meet politicians sympathetic to her cause, but shaken by a stream of negative comments being posted to her Facebook wall – some of them by friends – she left early.

“The humiliation I felt from these individuals was worse than all of my negative mikvah experiences all put together,” Margolese wrote on her blog. “I knew about the gossip going on around me. I cried for days. I couldn’t breathe. I stopped leaving my house other than to go to work. I decided that it is time to move.”

Margolese’s departure comes as tensions between the Modern Orthodox and haredi residents in Beit Shemesh continues to flare.

Last month, a group of haredi men reportedly smashed the windows of a bus after a women refused to give up her seat and sit in the back. This week, police arrested 14 haredi rioters who blocked a major street and set trash bins on fire to protest construction at a Beit Shemesh site that once may have been a burial ground.

Such clashes are not the cause of Margolese’s departure, but they have led other families to ditch Beit Shemesh in recent years, according to City Councilman Shalom Lerner.

“I’m sorry she’s leaving, but it’s her right if she feels better elsewhere,” Lerner said. “Hadassa isn’t the first one to leave and is not the only one thinking about leaving. The past five years haven’t been good.”

And they aren’t necessarily going to get better.

Though a number of initiatives aimed at promoting coexistence in Beit Shemesh were launched in the wake of the incident with Margolese’s daughter, the city is still wrestling with its identity. An acrimonious mayoral campaign is underway, pitting the haredi incumbent against a Modern Orthodox opponent.

Activists say the result will determine the city’s future. But whatever the outcome, Margolese will be watching from the sidelines, not the trenches.

“If I still lived in Beit Shemesh, I would still be trying to change things in Beit Shemesh, like the separate sidewalks [for men and women] and the signs saying to dress modestly,” she said. “But I don’t live in Beit Shemesh anymore, and there are not issues like that in the place where I live.”


The Jewish Daily Forward welcomes reader comments in order to promote thoughtful discussion on issues of importance to the Jewish community. In the interest of maintaining a civil forum, The Jewish Daily Forwardrequires that all commenters be appropriately respectful toward our writers, other commenters and the subjects of the articles. Vigorous debate and reasoned critique are welcome; name-calling and personal invective are not. While we generally do not seek to edit or actively moderate comments, our spam filter prevents most links and certain key words from being posted and The Jewish Daily Forward reserves the right to remove comments for any reason.





Find us on Facebook!
  • Why genocide is always wrong, period. And the fact that some are talking about it shows just how much damage the war in Gaza has already done.
  • Construction workers found a 75-year-old deli sign behind a closing Harlem bodega earlier this month. Should it be preserved?
  • "The painful irony in Israel’s current dilemma is that it has been here before." Read J.J. Goldberg's latest analysis of the conflict:
  • Law professor Dan Markel waited a shocking 19 minutes for an ambulance as he lay dying after being ambushed in his driveway. Read the stunning 911 transcript as neighbor pleaded for help.
  • Happy birthday to the Boy Who Lived! July 31 marks the day that Harry Potter — and his creator, J.K. Rowling — first entered the world. Harry is a loyal Gryffindorian, a matchless wizard, a native Parseltongue speaker, and…a Jew?
  • "Orwell would side with Israel for building a flourishing democracy, rather than Hamas, which imposed a floundering dictatorship. He would applaud the IDF, which warns civilians before bombing them in a justified war, not Hamas terrorists who cower behind their own civilians, target neighboring civilians, and planned to swarm civilian settlements on the Jewish New Year." Read Gil Troy's response to Daniel May's opinion piece:
  • "My dear Penelope, when you accuse Israel of committing 'genocide,' do you actually know what you are talking about?"
  • What's for #Shabbat dinner? Try Molly Yeh's coconut quinoa with dates and nuts. Recipe here:
  • Can animals suffer from PTSD?
  • Is anti-Zionism the new anti-Semitism?
  • "I thought I was the only Jew on a Harley Davidson, but I was wrong." — Gil Paul, member of the Hillel's Angels. http://jd.fo/g4cjH
  • “This is a dangerous region, even for people who don’t live there and say, merely express the mildest of concern about the humanitarian tragedy of civilians who have nothing to do with the warring factions, only to catch a rash of *** (bleeped) from everyone who went to your bar mitzvah! Statute of limitations! Look, a $50 savings bond does not buy you a lifetime of criticism.”
  • That sound you hear? That's your childhood going up in smoke.
  • "My husband has been offered a terrific new job in a decent-sized Midwestern city. This is mostly great, except for the fact that we will have to leave our beloved NYC, where one can feel Jewish without trying very hard. He is half-Jewish and was raised with a fair amount of Judaism and respect for our tradition though ultimately he doesn’t feel Jewish in that Larry David sort of way like I do. So, he thinks I am nuts for hesitating to move to this new essentially Jew-less city. Oh, did I mention I am pregnant? Seesaw, this concern of mine is real, right? There is something to being surrounded by Jews, no? What should we do?"
  • from-cache

Would you like to receive updates about new stories?




















We will not share your e-mail address or other personal information.

Already subscribed? Manage your subscription.