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Monday, December 26, 2011

A tradition of violence


Op-ed: B'Tselem field researchers say settler violence against Arabs a routine occurrence

B'Tselem field researchers
Published: 12.26.11, 00:45 / Israel Opinion
Atef Abu a-Rub, Salfit District
Two mosques were torched here recently, in the villages of Yasuf and Brukin. Torching a mosque affects not only the villagers, and not only the situation in the West Bank, but the whole Muslim world. It's an affront to our religion.
Settler Violence

'Price tag amounts to terrorism' / Yoav Zitun

Outgoing Judea and Samaria Division Commander Brigadier-General Nitzan Alon warns against 'growing extremist margins of Israeli public'
Full story

The residents here feel that the settlers are trying to turn the dispute into a religious issue. They are very angry and frustrated, especially because the Israeli authorities, who are supposed to protect us, have not found the perpetrators. Moreover, the authorities themselves have issued orders to demolish mosques.
In the land near the Havat Gilad settlement, they damage olive trees, torch fields and steal Palestinian farmers’ crops all the time. B'Tselem volunteers have filmed settlers setting fields on fire on several occasions.
The damage to the farmers is huge. For many of them, the land is the only source of income for their families. When the settlers steal crops or burn or destroy a grove, there is nobody to turn to for compensation, and the families have to make do with the little that's left.
Large areas of land around settlements are out of bounds for the Palestinians who own the land. They are allowed access only once or twice a year, depending on coordination with the Civil Administration. Whenever the farmers go to their land, many of them discover all sorts of damage to it.

צילום: "בצלם"
Settler sets Palestinian field on fire (Video: B'Tselem)

The worst thing is that people feel there is nobody protecting them, because the ones who are supposed to protect them actually act against them. Last summer, settlers torched fields next to the village of Far’ata. When I got there with a group of journalists, I saw that soldiers were preventing Palestinian firefighters from getting to the fire. The troops also prevented me and volunteers from filming and documenting the incident. We give video cameras to people living in such areas of ongoing friction, so they can try and document incidents themselves.

Salma a-Debi, Nablus District

In recent years, the violence in the Nablus area has come mostly from the Yizhar settlement. People there regularly attack the villages of Burin and Asira al-Qibliya. The last attack happened just four days ago, in Asira. Some villagers who live on the edge of the village, near the settlement, woke at 12:30 am to shouting and screaming. They realized, from past experience, that settlers were again attacking the village.

It was a large group of settlers, and they were throwing stones at the houses. They broke the windows of a taxi parked in the street and tried to torch it. Soldiers who arrived at the spot apparently managed to prevent the torching. The taxi owner said that he would have to pay for the repair on his own. He depends on the taxi for a living. The villagers told me that they didn't sleep at all that night, and that the children didn't go to school the next day.
The people in these villages feel isolated and unprotected in the face of these attacks. They know that the army is supposed to protect them, but when they ask for help, the soldiers often don’t intervene. In some cases, soldiers have even fired tear gas at villagers to get them to move away from the site, even though it's their village and the settlers are the ones who came there and attacked them.
Families who live close to the settlement live in constant fear. They keep their windows closed even in summer, because they're afraid that settlers will try to burn down the house by throwing something through an open window. They never allow themselves to leave the house together, with the whole family going, but take turns staying at home to make sure that somebody is always there. In general, they don’t go out a lot, and when they do, they always return early out of fear that something has happened to the house.

The children don’t sleep well, wet their bed at night, and wake up shouting, and demand that they sleep with their parents. They live in constant fear and always expect the worse.
When they call the police, the policemen arrive late and don’t do what is needed. Many villagers have simply given up, and no longer waste their time complaining. Last week, I spoke with Umm Ayman, a resident of Burin who was assaulted by settlers. When I suggested that she file a complaint, she told me how, in 2008, settlers assaulted her, and she went with her baby daughter in her arms to file a complaint at the Ariel police station. She said that the police officers kept her there for hours and treated her with disrespect, and that nothing came of the complaint. So, why complain again?
Musa Abu Hashhash, Hebron
Hebron is an exceptional case, because the settlement was established inside the Palestinian city. This ongoing exposure to violence has a destructive influence on all the residents, and the children in particular. Families living in the center of the city, where the settlements are located, are especially exposed to physical and verbal violence by the settlers. Although it looks like they've gotten used to their abnormal situation, they still live in constant fear.

Take, for example, the Abu Ayesha family, who live in the Tal Rumeida neighborhood. The children are worried all the time. They run along the road that leads to the house so that settlers who walk around in the street don’t grab and bother them. The Za’tari family, from the al-Bweirah neighborhood, alongside which the Mitzpe Avichai outpost was built, is subjected to stone throwing all the time and constantly feels exposed. They asked the municipality to install more lights outside the house.

באדיבות בצלם
Settlers set field on fire near Hebron (Video: B'Tselem)

Palestinians know that it is the Israeli authorities’ responsibility to protect them, but they have lost all trust in the police. Even when the police try to help, they can’t. It saddens me when people tell me that they feel such despair, that they have no choice but to protect themselves by counter violence, because the police are not doing its job.

Nasser a-Nawaj’ah, Susiya, Southern Hebron Hills
Settler violence is one of the gravest problems in the southern Hebron hills. This is a rural area, and many of the attacks are against shepherds. Almost every week, at least one attempted assault to prevent Palestinians from grazing their flock is recorded. The shepherds face stone throwers, who also yell at the sheep to get them to run away. They arrive with firearms and sometimes with clubs. At times, they bring their flocks to graze on Palestinian crops.

צילום: "בצלם"
Settlers attack Palestinian shepherds (Video: B'Tselem)

The army has provided a jeep with soldiers to accompany children to school on the road that passes close to the settlement Havat Maon. People here can’t understand why, instead of arresting the settlers whom they know are responsible for the attacks, the soldiers accompany the children.

When we complain, it takes the police a long time to arrive. Recently, someone alerted me that a settler had come to steal sand from a Loess mound (rich soil used for agriculture) south of our village. I grabbed my video camera and went there. On the way, I called the police. It took them about two hours to arrive. The settler had already finished what he came to do and left. They didn't check a thing, and didn’t even want to look at the footage of the car’s license plates. They said that the landowner should go to the Kiryat Arba police station with the video.
When soldiers are in the field, they sometimes take the settlers' side. They rarely try to separate the settlers from the Palestinians. Often, when the soldiers are new and don’t know the arrangements in the area, the settlers tell them that we're not allowed to be in a certain place, and the soldiers remove us, even though it is our land and we are allowed to be there.,7340,L-4166395,00.html

Obama isn't good enough

Op-ed: In face of growing threats, Israel needs more reliable ally than President Obama
Shoula Romano Horing
Published: 12.26.11, 10:12 / Israel Opinion
Israel is again facing a very dangerous and unstable time. The Arab Spring has turned into a nightmare of Muslim extremism, with dangerous weapons falling into the hands of terrorist groups.
Hence, Israel cannot afford to have a reluctant US president, like Barack Obama, who will not be there when the Jewish state needs unquestioned and immediate support. Only a president who truly appreciates the Israel-US alliance and values Israel as America’s most important Mideast ally will not use the upcoming danger as a bargaining chip to further weaken Israel.
Foreign Policy

America’s Iraq catastrophe / Orly Azoulay

Analysis: Toppling Saddam Hussein while letting Iran threat grow was a grave mistake
Full story

The record show that both leading Republican presidential candidates Mitt Romney and Newt Gingrich appreciate Israel as an ally and both will be better for Israel than Barack Obama.

Israel has always lived in a very hostile neighborhood, but in the aftermath of the unprecedented regional shakeups of the last year the Jewish state is facing the biggest danger and risk to its survival since 1973.

In Egypt, the Muslim Brotherhood and the more radical Salafists took about 70% of the vote in the first two rounds of the parliamentary elections. The long term danger to Israel is that the peace treaty with Egypt will be revised or cancelled and that a war will break out. Meanwhile, in the wake of Mubarak’s fall, Egypt’s army has been too preoccupied to stop the arms smuggling and flow of terrorists to Gaza and to the Sinai, further boosting the terror threat faced by Israel.

In Lebanon, the Iranian-backed terrorist group Hezbollah possesses more than 60,000 rockets that can reach all major populations centers in Israel. In the chaos of the Syrian civil war, Hezbollah has reportedly been moving heavy weapons from Syria into Lebanon.

In praise of Romney, Gingrich 

Meanwhile, Syria possesses the region’s largest known supply of chemical and biological weapons and more than 1,000 ballistic Scud missiles. In the chaos to following the Assad regime’s likely collapse, many of those can end up in the hands of terrorist groups.

In Morocco and Tunisia the Islamists have won recent elections, and many Libyan and Yemenite rebel leaders are aligned with al-Qaeda. Elsewhere, US officials warn that Iran will have a nuclear weapon within a year, while Turkey, which is led by an Islamist party, has downgraded its long-term military and diplomatic relations with Israel.

Finally, the recent pullout of American troops from Iraq and their scheduled departure from Afghanistan will leave Israel alone and isolated in the Middle East, encircled by those who wish to destroy her. Given these circumstances, the Jewish state cannot afford to have president who for the last three years has tried to create a new alliance with the Muslim world by distancing himself from Israel, while not hesitating to abandon a close ally like Mubarak.

In contrast, both Romney and Gingrich have made it clear that the US should be willing to stand by its allies and both have criticized Obama’s ambivalence towards Israel. Both have repeatedly pledged to bolster and repair the US-Israel alliance.

Romney’s statement that” Our friends, like Israel, should never fear that we will not stand by them in an hour of need” and Gingrich‘s political courage to state that the Palestinians are “invented people” are the perfect responses to Obama’s Muslim outreach. Now, the Republicans must make sure to nominate the candidate who has the best chance to beat Obama.
Shoula Romano Horing was born and raised in Israel. She is an attorney in Kansas City and a national speaker. Her blog:,7340,L-4166837,00.html

MKs urge Rabbinate to denounce zealots

Six religious lawmakers from different parties send open letter to Israel's chief rabbis, demanding unequivocal condemnation of exclusion of women
Published: 12.26.11, 08:45 / Israel Jewish Scene
Religious Knesset members are demanding that Israel's chief rabbis issue an unequivocal condemnation of the exclusion of women phenomenon, following the recent wave of violations of women's rights.
Six lawmakers on Sunday signed an open letter to Chief Rabbis Yona Metzger and Shlomo Amar, requesting a special conference on the exclusion of women in the ultra-Orthodox society.

Women's Rights

PM orders firm hand against exclusion / Attila Somfalvi

Netanyahu asks internal security minister to instruct police to act against violent attacks targeting women in public sphere. 'We shall not let radical groups hurt women's rights,' he declares
Full story

The letter, initiated by MK Chaim Amsellem (Shas), calls for a clear halachic manifesto stating that these phenomena are forbidden by Jewish Law.

"We're going through hard times right now," the letter says. "Zealots and violent people are trying to impose their opinions on the Israeli society in general and on the religious society in particular, causing a great 'defamation of God'.

"The wide public can't always distinguish between the majority of the sane religious and haredi public and these delusional margins which claim to be the defenders of Torah and Halcha. We must not keep silent at this time." 

'Restore Rabbinate's dignity'

The MKs demand that the rabbis "protest and declare that such phenomena like the 'Taliban women', the exclusion of women while insulting and offending them, hurting little girls in Beit Shemesh and racial discrimination are wrong and forbidden, are not recognized by Halacha and are abominable in the eyes of anyone who cares about the Torah."

The letter was also signed by MKs Zevulun Orlev (Habayit Hayehudi), David Rotem (Yisrael Beiteinu), Tzipi Hotovely (Likud), Uri Ariel (National Union) and Otniel Schneller (Kadima), who also addressed it to the prime minister, president and all rabbis in Israel.
They conclude their appeal with a request for an emergency meeting of all senior religious leader in Israel – including city, community and neighborhood rabbis – "in order to protest and express reservation over these shameful acts.
"This serious issue is one of the most important things the Rabbinate must deal with these days. A clear and unequivocal statement is required to restore the Rabbinate's dignity."

Against 'kosher' buses

The appeal followed a series of incidents, including a young woman's refusal to sit at the back of a "kosher" bus from Ashdod to Jerusalem and the haredi-religious "modesty wars" in Beit Shemesh.

Israel's chief rabbis spoke out against the "kosher" bus lines last week. Commenting on the Tanya Rosenblit affair, Rabbi Metzger said that the haredi public had no right to impose its opinion on the rest of the population. 

"We can't be the world's landlords. This isn't the haredi public's country," the chief rabbi said in an interview to Kol Barama Radio. "We have no authority to impose our opinion on others. This is a public place.
"If we want separation, setting up a special bus company for certain lines is legitimate, and then we'll be the landlords. But as long as they pay like we do, and it’s a public company which doesn't only serve the haredi public – what can we do?"

The office of Rabbi Amar said in a statement to Ynet, "A person can be strict about himself, but not about others. If the haredim want to be strict on their own buses, let them. But imposing it on other people is irrelevant."

Holon's Chief Rabbi Avraham Yosef, the son of Shas' spiritual leader Rabbi Ovadia Yosef, joined the condemnations against the "kosher" bus lines as well.
He referred to a haredi man who scolded a blind woman sitting at the front of a bus as "stupid", adding: "It's insolent; it's a basic lack of understanding… It's foolish and has nothing to do with fear of God.",7340,L-4166642,00.html

Livnat slams Livni over women's exclusion

Political face-off as culture and sports minister slams opposition chairwoman: 'Suddenly when elections are approaching Livni remembers she is a woman'
Moran Azulay
Published: 12.26.11, 14:45 / Israel News

While female Knesset members try to show unity in the face of women's exclusion, two prominent female politician were seen butting heads on Monday. Culture and Sports Minister Limor Livnat slammed Opposition Chairwoman Tzipi Livni at the Knesset plenum. "She never thought women's status was important enough, she only realized she was a woman on the eve of the 2009 elections."

In a recent interview with Ynet Livnat condemned the phenomenon of women's exclusion but said she doesn’t mind sex segregation within the haredi sector.

Addressing Livni, she said Monday: "Did anybody hear her speak out against raising women's pension age? No!"

"Suddenly when elections or primaries are approaching she remembers she is a woman," Livnat charged. She slammed Livni and Kadima over attacking the government despite calls to leave aside partisan affiliation. "Did the prime minister invent what is going on in Beit Shemesh or has it been going on for years?"

Earlier on Monday, in a meeting of female MKs, the Kadima leader claimed that the Israeli government "represents a world view and political agreements which facilitate all of the social phenomenon we are witnessing. It's not only a women's issue and not merely a matter of law enforcement, it is an entire moral and ideological system."

Livni added, "The are certain political costs that this government is unwilling to pay. We need to decide whether the State of Israel is going to be a country divided into tribes who don't talk to each other but rather spit on one another. ",7340,L-4167049,00.html

Rabbis maintaining 'disturbing silence' amid uproar over gender segregation

  • Published 00:30 26.12.11 Latest update 00:30 26.12.11

Beit Shemesh is a microcosm of the wider ultra-Orthodox community, and of Israel itself; many wonder where the rabbis have gone.

By Yair Ettinger Tags: Jewish World Orthodox Jews

The small bubble of tension that is rising about Beit Shemesh bears notice. Local elections are still far off on the horizon and Mayor Moshe Abutbul (Shas) sits confidently atop a wide, stable coalition that guarantees him the support of the Labor Party (the world of Beit Shemesh is filled with wonders), yet two opposition forces are kicking into high gear, preparing for a political showdown.

What distinguishes these two forces, which compete with each other, is the fact that both operate on the Haredi playing field: the "Tov" party, which has under its belt an ultra-Orthodox political success (it managed to send a representative to the city council after the last elections, overriding the objection of local rabbis and religious functionaries ); and the "Am Shalem" faction, led by Shas renegade and former MK Haim Amsalem, who recently established a power center in Beit Shemesh.

David Eisenbach David Eisenbach, who was arrested on suspicion of spitting at Na’ama Margolese.
Photo by: Michal Fattal

These two rebellious movements appeal to moderate Haredim, English-speaking Haredim, disappointed Shas members, Haredi "home-owners" (referring to ultra-Orthodox who work for their living ) and others who are alienated from traditional leaderships of Shas and other mainstream religious parties. Beit Shemesh is filled with such off-the-mainstream Haredim, particularly in the town's new neighborhoods.

Eli Friedman, chairman of "Tov," and Dov Lipman, a representative of Am Shalem, gave interviews on secular media outlets, and Lipman expressed himself on Facebook. Their viewpoints acutely attack Haredi extremists, and strike squarely against Mayor Abutbul. Nobody can cast doubt about their strict level of Orthodox observance, and for both, it is important to be identified as a "Haredi" activist; but under current extremist circumstances in the city, they sound as though they belong to Meretz. The future of these two movements remains unclear, yet both bear witness to important facts of the past and present in Beit Shemesh. And Beit Shemesh is in many ways a miniature representation of the Haredi world, and of the State of Israel as a whole.

Many wonder about where the rabbis have gone. Can it be that the current media uproar, in which virtually every day Haredi extremism reaches the front pages of the newspapers, hasn't reached the rabbis' attention? Can it be that the norms of the outside, secular political world are completely foreign to them? Are the statements and denunciations uttered by the prime minister kept away from them? Do the rabbis have nothing to say about acts of violence that occur in Beit Shemesh?

The simple answer is that the Haredi rabbis, particularly in the Ashkenazi community, do not feel committed to any agenda or public viewpoint, certainly not anything rooted in media coverage. They do not "respond" and, assuming they are aware of public consternation concerning the Haredim, do not feel obligated to expectations of any sort harbored by secular Israelis, who believe they (the rabbis) should deal with this or that phenomenon.

Not only that, but if Haredi rabbis do have an official position, it is one of complete negation of what they see as a campaign against the Haredi community, as another attempt to uproot religion. The closest thing to a response has been headlines such as one that appeared in Bnei Brak based newspaper "Yated Ne'eman" on Sunday which said, "The tendentious and deceitful incitement continues."

Another key reason is the leadership crisis among Haredi rabbis. The Haredi community is awaiting for comments from Rabbi Yosef Shalom Elyashiv, the Lithuanian Haredi leader, and Rabbi Ovadia Yosef, the spiritual leader oh Shas, neither of  who have addressed the incidents so far.

None of this, however, is directly relevant to Haredi extremists in Beit Shemesh, who do not oblige dictates given by the mainstream Haredi world. In recent years these elements seem to have spun far from the main Haredi rabbis.

"The main problem concerning Beit Shemesh is our silence, the disturbing silence maintained by religious, Haredi people. We are the first people who really ought to come out and oppose such extremism," stated Rabbi Dr. Dov Halbertal Sunday. Halbertal suggested that if a prominent figure, such as Rabbi Yosef Shalom Elyashiv, issued a denunciation of violence emanating from the Haredi fringe, it would cause convulsions in the Haredi world, including its extremist fringes.

Yet Elyashiv persists in his silence, as do the main Haredi media outlets. In their eyes, the Haredi community is the subject of a serious blitz, and those from the Haredi camp who are willing to cooperate with the media are playing into the hands of those who wish to uproot the Torah. Any criticism that does exist in newspapers such as "Mishpacha," Hebrew for "family," or "Be Kehila," Hebrew for "in community," is very subtle indeed. 

Even so, the winds of change are blowing. The call for change, for stopping the Haredi gangs, for putting an end to extremism, are coming from the Haredi street. Until last week, these voices were mainly heard in internet forums, where members can comment anonymously, but on Sunday they were clearly visible in the headlines of Haredi websites, such as "Kikar Shabat," Hebrew for "shabbat square," that called on extremists by name, and called to denounce them. One example is journalist Asher Gold, who called on members of the public to join a religious-nationalist protest in Beit Shemesh on Tuesday.

Many are not prepared to put up with the tyranny of Haredi gangs in Beit Shemesh, or incidents such as the recent one where little girls are spat at, and not just because they understand how much damage the extremist minority is doing to the ultra-Orthodox majority.

Mea Shearim - Michal Fattal - December 2011 An Ultra-Orthodox man walks by a gender-segregated store entrance in the Mea Shearim neighborhood of Jerusalem.
Photo by: Michal Fattal

Petition to protest ultra-Orthodox discrimination against 7-year-old Beit Shemesh girl

  • Published 03:24 25.12.11
  • Latest update 03:24 25.12.11

Na'ama, who lives with her religiously observant family in Beit Shemesh, is afraid to walk the 300 meters between home and school because of the violence she has faced from Haredi men who say her clothes are too revealing.

By Revital Blumenfeld

More than 4,000 people say they will attend a march in Beit Shemesh this week to protest the exclusion of women and girls from the public sphere and the increasing Haredization of the city. The day, time and venue of the event have yet to be announced. 

A number of times in recent weeks girls and women in Beit Shemesh have been been cursed and spit at, and even had rocks thrown at them, by members of the city's ultra-Orthodox community who claimed their dress was immodest. 

Beit shemesh haredi school - Gili Cohen-Magen - August 29 2011 Parents convening in Beit Shemeshafter ultra-Orthodox men staged a sit-in at the national religious school.
Photo by: Gili Cohen-Magen

A sign put up in the city center under the aegis of the municipality instructs women to use separate sidewalks and "walk quickly, without drawing a crowd and without talking to each other." 

But it is the tears of a 7-year-old girl, broadcast on Channel 2's Friday-night news magazine this weekend, that is galvanizing thousands; only two days were needed for those 4,000 people to confirm their attendance at the march. Na'ama, who lives with her religiously observant family in Beit Shemesh, is afraid to walk the 300 meters between home and school because of the violence she has faced from Haredi men who say her clothes are too revealing. 

After the broadcast, Beit Lessin Theater actor Tsviki Levin started a Hebrew-language Facebook group - "1,000 Israelis are going to Beit Shemesh to protect little Na'ama." He was overwhelmed by the response.
"I started the group in Na'ama's name, but she's just a symbol of something much greater and more dangerous to all of Israeli society," Levin said last night. "There are hundreds of girls and women like her, who pay the price of exclusion, threats and humiliation from extremist Haredi factions that are dangerous to the State of Israel." 

Levin said the marchers do not intend to enter the city's Haredi neighborhoods or cause a provocation; rather, thousands of people will probably walk through the streets, holding lit candles "to illuminate the darkness" that is plaguing Israeli society, he says. 

According to Levin, the aim of the protest is to mobilize Israel's "sane and democratic majority."
"No one is deluding himself into thinking that this protest, whatever its size, can stop the next Haredi from spitting on a girl tomorrow; instead, the purpose is to raise the consciousness of Israel's moderate and democratic majority," Levin said. 

According to Levin, this majority "includes religious, secular and even Haredi people who believe that the principle of democracy is sacred above all and that we must protect freedom and the hope that we still have a democratic state that wants to remain so for many more years." 

Levin added: "We're spitting distance from an existential threat to the state. It starts with spitting at a 7-year-old girl and continues with laws of darkness and silencing in the Knesset."

Girl, 8, becomes poster child for anti-Haredi backlash

  • Published 00:30 26.12.11 Latest update 00:30 26.12.11

The outpouring of support for Na'ama has been matched, if not surpassed, by the public outrage at 'Moshe,' the Haredi driver who, in a televised report, explained why spitting at a young girl was justified.

By Mordechai I. Twersky 

The nationally televised image of 8-year-old Na'ama Margolese - the Beit Shemesh schoolgirl so traumatized by taunting Haredim that she refused to cross the street in their direction even with the aid of her mother - has gripped the country, turning the shy daughter of North American immigrants into a poster child for the searing national debate over the exclusion of women. 

"I'm frightened," cried the youngster, paralyzed by fear, as she stood on the street next to her school, refusing to budge. It was the same corner where she and her classmates have been cursed and spat at by ultra-Orthodox Jews for the past year. 

Na’ama Margolese, segregation Na’ama Margolese, the 8-year-old Beit Shemesh girl so traumatized by taunting Haredim that she refused to cross the street in their direction even with the aid of her mother.
Photo by: Courtesy

"We'll walk just a little bit," her mother, Hadassa, assured her as she held her hand. "No, no!" Na'ama shouted, her cries turning to a chilling, shrieking squeal. Less than 24 hours following the Friday night broadcast on one of the country's leading news magazines, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu issued a rare Saturday night statement, condemning what he called "religious violence against women in the public sphere."
According to the statement, the prime minister has instructed Public Security Minister Yitzhak Aharonovitch to "act aggressively" against such incidents. 

The outpouring of support for Na'ama has been matched, if not surpassed, by the public outrage at "Moshe," the Haredi driver who, in the televised report, sat behind the wheel of his car and explained, ever so casually, why spitting at a girl he was told was seven years old was justified. 

"To spit on a girl who does not act according to the law of the Torah is okay," said Moshe. "Even at a seven year old. There are rabbis who empower us to know how to walk in the street and how a woman should act."
In fact, Na'ama is an Orthodox girl. In the report, she and her mother are shown wearing long-sleeved blouses, with their skirts extending past their knees. Hadassa - who together with her parents immigrated to Israel from Chicago in 1983 - is wearing a kerchief over her hair, as is the practice among some married Orthodox women. "As far they [the Haredim] are concerned, I'm not a religious woman," said Hadassa, who has branded her daughter's attackers "terrorists" and called for their arrest and incarceration

Israel city braces for thousands of protesters against exclusion of women

  • Published 00:28 27.12.11 Latest update 00:28 27.12.11

Haredim clashed with police officers, calling them Nazis, throughout Monday; at least six were arrested or detained for questioning.

By Yair Ettinger, Revital Blumenfeld, Oz Rosenberg and Ophir Bar-Zohar

More than 10,000 people are expected at a rally in Beit Shemesh on Monday to protest the exclusion of women as well as violence against girls and women by Haredi extremists. The rally will begin at 6 P.M., near the Orot Banot school.

The school's arguably most-famous student is Na'ama Margolese, the 8-year-old American immigrant who became a focal point after Channel 2 news broadcast a story Friday night showing her facing a daily gauntlet of abuse from Haredi extremists as she walks to school. The rally was originally slated to take place in the courtyard of the school, but the venue was changed after organizers said Haredi extremists had threatened violence unless the location were changed.

Haredi children protesting in Beit shemesh on Monday.
Haredi children protesting in Beit shemesh on Monday.Olivier Fitoussi
On Monday night, MK Chaim Amsellem (Shas ) visited the Margolese family at home and participated in their Hanukkah candle-lighting ceremony. Amsellem gave Na'ama a siddur, or prayer book, in which he wrote a dedication: "When you walk to school, an entire nation is behind you."

Beit Shemesh Mayor Moshe Abutbul had asked to visit the family for candle-lighting Monday but the Margoleses firmly rejected the request, even after repeated phone calls and text messages from city officials.

Ultra-Orthodox men in Beit Shemesh - Olivier Fitoussi - 27122011 Ultra-Orthodox men in Beit Shemesh trying to keep police from removing a sign ordering women to walk on the other side of the street – for the third time this week.
Photo by: Olivier Fitoussi

Meanwhile, violence continued in Beit Shemesh on Monday as Haredim clashed with police officers and attacked two television news crews. At least six people were arrested or detained for questioning.

The violent scenes in Beit Shemesh on Monday, when a Channel 2 news team was attacked by 200 Haredi men, were repeated on Monday: On Monday morning, dozens of ultra-Orthodox men surrounded police officers and municipal inspectors who came to remove, for at least the third time this week, a sign on Hazon Ish Street, in the Haredi neighborhood Nahala Vemenuha, ordering men and women to use separate sidewalks. The men tried to prevent the sign's removal, calling the police officers "Nazis" and dancing around them in circles.

A few hours later a crew from Channel 10 was attacked as it tried to film a piece on education in the city. Police officers dispatched to the scene after the news team called for help clashed with dozens of Haredim. Some of them lay on the ground in an attempt to keep other members of the group from being arrested. Three people were taken into custody.

About an hour later, a second television crew was attacked as it filmed the controversial sign. The Channel 2 camera crew was pelted with eggs, and a videographer was physically assaulted. Police officers sealed off the street and found themselves facing around 300 Haredim who shouted at them to leave, threw rocks at them and set dumpsters on fire. Officers detained three suspects for questioning.

Like the social protests of the past year, the rally scheduled for tonight came together spontaneously on Facebook. Within hours of the airing of the television segment, Beit Lessin Theater actor Tsviki Levin started a Facebook group called, in Hebrew, "1,000 Israelis are going to Beit Shemesh to protect little Na'ama." He soon linked up with the Be Free Israel (Israel Hofshit ) movement, and additional organizations such as Hitorerut Yerushalmim (Wake up Jerusalem ) joined them.

Na'ama Margolese, city officials, Tanya Rosenblit - who became a symbol of the cause when she recently refused to sit in the back of a public bus carrying Haredi passengers - and Zion Sultan, a local journalist and activist against religious coercion, will take part in lighting the Hanukkah menorah on stage.

Buses will be chartered, using donated funds, to bring participants from Jerusalem, Tel Aviv, Haifa and the Sharon region. Organizers say Meretz and Kadima are expected to charter additional buses for their respective party workers.

Israel Hofshit said politicians would not be allowed to address the rally or to conduct political activities, in keeping with the request of Beit Shemesh residents who say they don't want the event to become political.
A group of Haredi residents of Beit Shemesh led by Rabbi Dov Lipman has asked to take part in the rally. Lipman has requested permission to address the crowd.

Ron Paul is not anti-Semitic but is anti-Israel, former aide says

  • ublished 03:06 27.12.11
  • Latest update 03:06 27.12.11

'He wishes the Israeli state did not exist at all,' says former senior aide; 'He has zero credibility and should not be taken seriously,' Paul camp responds.

By Natasha Mozgovaya and Haaretz

Republican presidential candidate hopeful Ron Paul supports calls for the abolishment of Israel as a Jewish state, and the return of it, in its entirety, to the Arabs, though he is not an anti-Semite, Eric Dondero, a former senior aide of the libertarian Texan congressman, wrote in a blog Monday.

“He wishes the Israeli state did not exist at all,” Dondero wrote. “His view is that Israel is more trouble than it is worth, specifically to the America taxpayer.”

Ron Paul - Reuters - 27122011 U.S. Republican presidential candidate and Representative Ron Paul (R-TX) speaks at a Town Hall Meeting at the Historic Clinton Engines Building in Maquoketa, Iowa, December 22, 2011.
Photo by: Reuters
“He sides with the Palestinians, and supports their calls for the abolishment of the Jewish state, and the return of Israel, all of it, to the Arabs.”

"Eric Dondero is a disgruntled former staffer who was fired for performance issues," CBS news quoted Paul spokesman Jesse Benton’s response to the column. "He has zero credibility and should not be taken seriously."

A recent Public Policy Polling telephone survey of 597 likely Republican caucus voters in Iowa found Paul leading with 23 percent of the vote, followed by 20 percent for former Massachusetts Governor Mitt Romney and 14 percent for Gingrich, making Paul the leading candidate in the Republican race for the White House.

Paul’s views on Israel are already known to many. These views led the Republican Jewish Coalition, a organization of Jewish Republicans to exclude the Texan congressman from a debate they held in the beginning of December, explaining ," there is no reason "to allow Paul to pretend he is anything but an extremist who is far outside of the mainstream, especially when it comes to issues concerning the U.S.-Israel alliance." 

'Exclusion of women' in Israel is nothing new

  • Published 03:43 26.12.11 Latest update 03:43 26.12.11

Why and wherefore is this 'exclusion of women' festival is taking place at the moment. Why right now? What has changed?

By Merav Michaeli

I am simply wondering why and wherefore this "exclusion of women" festival is taking place at the moment. Why right now? What has changed? I mean, the exclusion and discrimination are far from new. Not on the buses, not on the billboards, not in the streets of ultra-Orthodox neighborhoods or in secular and perfectly Tel Avivian spaces - in the army, in the Knesset, in the government, in the print media and television, on various public committees and in the workforce.

It is so tiring to constantly reiterate that the struggle against segregation on the buses has been taking place for more than a decade; that over the years, there has been a struggle to appoint a woman to the committee that selects rabbinical court judges; that the judges themselves are always men; and that both secular and religious women are totally subjected to them for as long as there is no civil marriage in Israel.

It is exhausting to bring up time and again, as part of the ongoing struggle of decades, the income gaps, the low status of housework and raising children, the poor representation of women in the public arena, the stereotypical portrayals of women in the media, the sexual exploitation, the small number of female representatives in the Knesset and the even smaller number of female cabinet ministers, the physical oppression, and the number of women who are murdered by abusive partners every year.

And women have long been aware of these issues. Feminist organizations - religious Jewish feminists and Arab feminists included - have been fighting for decades against all aspects of exclusion and discrimination. Even women who do not call themselves feminists know exactly what kind of oppression they live under, even if they call it by other names. In lectures that I give, I hear - below the myth adopted by women that equality reigns and the sky is the limit - the awareness of this oppression, and the fear of recognizing it openly.

None of this is new for men either. The rhetoric about discrimination against women has been around for quite some time. There are only a few men who discuss discrimination against women or attempt to change the situation, but most men do not consider it to be their problem. They place themselves somewhere between sympathizing with women and feigning denial of any kind of oppression. Either way, it does not take any of them by surprise.

So what happened? Perhaps the political climate that brings the right-wing, super-Jewish, anti-democratic feelings - as well as various forms of oppression - to the surface is causing more and more people to lose any shame they might have had about excluding women. And perhaps this sloughing off of shame is what is annoying the public. Exclusion and discrimination are acceptable, but they must be done quietly to maintain the facade of equality. Perhaps this is a kind of inertia, in a good way. The masses protested the cost of living and the difficulties of life this summer with all their might, but nothing much happened; this is another way of shouting that people are still unhappy. And perhaps it's good news that when men and women think something is no good, they feel they can do something about it.

It is clear now that when something happens and it's not clear why it is happening, the talmudic question must be asked: Mai nafka mina? What practical difference does it make? Or as the Arabic saying goes, who is getting something out of this?

The ones who benefit from this festival of (and against ) the exclusion of women include secular men, who are taking the opportunity to be seen as enlightened by hatefully condemning religious people, even as they themselves continue to exclude women. Others who benefit include the men in the army, who don't want women to be too high-ranking and have the rabbis keeping women down for them; the men in politics, who come out looking like knights but won't be vacating their spot in the party for a woman; the men in the media and in advertising, for whom women do the work and claim their right to be sex objects on display; the rich men, who have been spared being targets of protests against economic inequality; and the men in the government, who do not have to deal with the occupation or the lack of hope now that all topics other than the exclusion of women have been shunted aside.

After all, this is the perfect subject: All those in favor of doing away with the exclusion of women, please raise your hands. Sure, why wouldn't the men raise their hands? And thus do they all benefit from the festivities. Instead of making it possible for women to take part in the public discourse and do real things, they keep us busy and distracted by all this talk about, and struggle against, the exclusion of women.