Beit Shemesh Girl’s School Conflict Spills Over to Nation-wide Protests The Beit Shemesh Orot LeBanot School was the subject of discussion in Israel this week as was the Haredi community.

Following the scathing attack on the Beit Shemesh Haredi enclave aired by Channel 2 a week ago, the entire country erupted in a series of anti and pro-Haredi protests, with the Haredi community holding their own massive protest on Saturday night.

The most recent protest was reported by many news outlets as crossing a “red line” for its use of the infamous yellow “Jude” patches and accusations that the government was behaving like Nazis.  The protest was also condemned for the attempt to replicate an infamous picture from 1942 that showed a child held at gunpoint in the Warsaw Ghetto.  Known organizations such as the ADL soundly condemned the protest as did many orthodox organizations such as the OU and the Office of the Chief Rabbi of the UK.

For the last few weeks, the issue of “Mehadrin” buses – those buses which are separated by gender and require women to sit at the back – has rocked the country.  That controversy, which has been ongoing for the last decade, was brought to the forefront with Tanya Rosenblit’s insistence on boarding a Mehadrin bus and refusing to adhere to accepted social norms.  That act, which many dubbed equivalent to Rosa Parks’ refusal to move during the 1960s Civil Rights movement in the US, led to wider discussion of discrimination against women in the Haredi community.  The controversy struck a new note with the Friday night broadcast that told the story of Na’ama Margolis, a religious student at the Orot LeBanot School who has been subjected to harassment by an extremist group known as the “Sikrikim” since September.

Since the broadcast, a number of protests were held.  On the final night of Hanukkah, a protest of around 5,000 individuals was held in Beit Shemesh opposite the Orot LeBanot school.  That protest, which was meant to be apolitical, was politicized by the likes of Tzipi Livni and Shelly Yachimovitch, both of whom were asked not to attend but did so anyway.  Later in the week, protests were held in Tel Aviv and MK Tzipi Hotvely provoked a fight on a Mehadrin bus by boarding the bus with the media and confronting the men and women on the bus.

The Charedi sector also held protests following the broadcast. Those protests claimed that the state was embarking on witch-hunt against the religious.  In addition, the extremist enclave in Beit Shemesh clashed with police and the media several times last week over controversial signs that ask for modest dress and the separation of men and women in public.