Hundreds of Haredi residents living in Ramat Beit Shemesh took to the streets last night, staging a protest against a National Religious girl’s school that opened two weeks ago at the beginning of the school year, claiming the girls and their parents are evil, as is the government that is supporting them.
Since the beginning of the school year, Haredi and National Religious residents living in the Kiryah Haredit and Sheinfeld neighborhoods have been clashing over the Orot LeBanot girl’s school that sits on the border of the two neighborhoods. The school was given to the National Religious residents of the Sheinfeld neighborhood by the national and local government.
However, Haredim object to the presence of the girls, whom they view as immodestly dressed and impeding on their way of life. There have been several clashes between the two neighborhoods, most of which have been instigated by Haredi activists who harangue and throw eggs and tomatoes at the students when they arrive and leave school. The parents of students responded by bringing watchdogs with them in order to keep the girls safe. The protest staged last night points to an escalation in the drama in Beit Shemesh and is likely to lead to additional confrontations.
Last night’s protest included senior Haredi rabbis from Ramat Beit Shemesh and the Kiryah Haredit sections of the city. The protestors began the rally with prayers consisting of Selichot and Psalms and were followed by calls for “maintaining the character of the neighborhood.”
During the protest, emotions were inflamed thanks to a National Religious counter-protest held across that included parents of the students, who are between the ages of 6 and 12 as well as speakers accusing the National Religious community of being backed by “an evil regime.” At one point during the protest, a clash erupted between the two groups and a female journalist was attacked by Haredi activists.
Beit Shemesh Mayor Moshe Abutbul and Deputy Mayor Moshe Montag have been trying to deflate the situation and have called on the two sides to calm down. The police for their part have arrested most of the individuals who instigated the clashes by attempting to occupy the school two weeks before the school year began as well as those who are responsible for throwing objects at the girls.