Sisterhood Blog

Throwing Eggs and Jeers at Little Girls

By Allison Kaplan Sommer

  • Print
  • Share Share

It’s not right that the denim-skirted young girls of the Orot Banot school in Beit Shemesh should be the front-line soldiers in the battle for religious tolerance and co-existence in their city. But as they face jeering men and hurled eggs, and tomatoes as they walk to and from their classrooms, that’s exactly what they are.

Back on Sept. 1, I wrote here at The Sisterhood about the national religious girls school Orot Banot winning an important battle merely because it was able to open its doors for the school year.

The opening of the school took place in spite of opposition from a group of extreme Haredi neighbors who zealously opposed the girl’s schools’ location on the seam between national-religious neighborhoods and a Haredi neighborhood. Their campaign to prevent the school from opening won the support of the city’s mayor, who was subsequently overruled by the Ministry of Education.

But any celebration was premature. Just because they got to attend the new school didn’t mean they could do so undisturbed. From the second day of school, a group of Haredi men gather daily on the sidewalk across the street from the school at dismissal time, jeering and attempting to intimidate the girls. Their utterances range from mourning-like whining of “Gevaaaalt!” to insulting “Shikses!” to the bizarre random choice of food items: “Schnitzel!” and “Pizza!”

And so began the game of cat and mouse that continues to this day.

The three players in the game: the Haredi extremists, the Modern Orthodox parents of the girls and their supporters in the community, and the police.

At first, the police stood passively aside while the protesters stood on the sidewalk harassing the girls, bringing some to tears.

The Modern Orthodox parents and supporters worked to distract the Haredim by arguing with them, and photographing their activities. Then, the publicity fueled by videos of the harassment uploaded onto YouTube seem to shame the passive police into action, and they began shooing the Haredim into an alley behind the sidewalk, allowing the girls to pass unobstructed, though the jeers were still audible.

After that, the harassment escalated. During the second week of school when eggs and tomatoes began to be thrown at the children and parents from locations on the high-rise buildings overlooking the street. Video of the egg-throwing can be seen here.

No arrests were made on the spot, but the acts were taped by police, and yesterday, it was announced that after videotaping the perpetrators, two men were arrested for egg-throwing.

Needless to say, it’s been hard for the enraged parents of the embattled girls and the rest of the Modern Orthodox community to remain calm in the face of such behavior.

Debate rages in both Hebrew and English in a Facebook group called We are All Orot Banot as to whether the measured responses preferred by the school are the best strategy or whether the time has come to fight fire with fire – harass the extremists in THEIR neighborhoods, sending the message that if Modern Orthodox residents of the city cannot live in peace, neither can the Haredim.

Half-jokingly, half-seriously, group members toy with ideas of street parties, or driving through the Haredi streets with open windows in their cars, blasting loud Lady Gaga music. Others argue that the harassers represent a small band of extremists, and any aggressive actions will make enemies of the silent majority of the Haredi community which, they believe, wants to live peacefully alongside their Modern Orthodox neighbors.

It is not only the future of the Orot schoolgirls that is at stake in this war. It is the future of a city, and a Zionist dream.

The modern Orthodox neighborhoods of Beit Shemesh are among the most popular destinations for American Jewish immigrants, where a ‘soft landing’ into Israel took place and a little corner of suburban paradise has grown and thrived over the past two decades.

If Orot Banot falls, the future of that community and the diverse city of Beit Shemesh will be as black as the outfits and the motives of the men who spend their afternoons screaming at schoolgirls.


Permalink | | Share | Email | Print | Filed under: Orot Banot, Haredi, Beit Shemesh

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!
  • Could Spider-Man be Jewish? Andrew Garfield thinks so.
  • Most tasteless video ever? A new video shows Jesus Christ dying at Auschwitz.
  • "It’s the smell that hits me first — musty, almost sweet, emanating from the green felt that cradles each piece of silver cutlery in its own place." Only one week left to submit! Tell us the story of your family's Jewish heirloom.
  • Mazel tov to Chelsea Clinton and Marc Mezvinsky!
  • If it's true, it's pretty terrifying news.
  • “My mom went to cook at the White House and all I got was this tiny piece of leftover raspberry ganache."
  • Planning on catching "Fading Gigolo" this weekend? Read our review.
  • A new initiative will spend $300 million a year towards strengthening Israel's relationship with the Diaspora. http://jd.fo/q3Iaj Is this money spent wisely?
  • Lusia Horowitz left pre-state Israel to fight fascism in Spain — and wound up being captured by the Nazis and sent to die at Auschwitz. Share her remarkable story — told in her letters.
  • Vered Guttman doesn't usually get nervous about cooking for 20 people, even for Passover. But last night was a bit different. She was cooking for the Obamas at the White House Seder.
  • A grumpy Jewish grandfather is wary of his granddaughter's celebrating Easter with the in-laws. But the Seesaw says it might just make her appreciate Judaism more. What do you think?
  • “Twist and Shout.” “Under the Boardwalk.” “Brown-Eyed Girl.” What do these great songs have in common? A forgotten Jewish songwriter. We tracked him down.
  • What can we learn from tragedies like the rampage in suburban Kansas City? For one thing, we must keep our eyes on the real threats that we as Jews face.
  • When is a legume not necessarily a legume? Philologos has the answer.
  • 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.