Beit Shemesh, Israel – Growing tensions between ultra-Orthodox and religious residents in the town of Beit Shemesh, near Jerusalem, have escalated into violence as three teen girls were beaten up by haredim who claimed they were “immodestly” dressed.
The incident was the last in a series of reported attacks by members of the Haredi Community faction on their religious neighbors, prompted by the latter’s’ alleged “promiscuity” and negative influence on haredi children.
According to reports, the three 15-year-old girls went for a walk on Shabbat passing through the haredi neighborhood. At some point they noticed that they were being followed by several men. A Few minutes later the men entered one of the buildings and then came back outside accompanied by dozens of people who then stormed the girls.
They kicked them until they fell on the ground, and started hitting them and throwing eggs at them while shouting, “Nazis, get out of here.”
Two of the girls managed to escape, while the third got away only after a passerby protested the attack and drew the attention of the crowd. A haredi woman from one of the nearby buildings hid the girl at her apartment and later helped her sneak outside covered in a long haredi-style robe.
The police were called to the place only after the incident had already been over and the attackers long gone.
“My daughter was completely hysterical,” said the girl’s father. “She came home all beaten up and filthy.” He added that he was shocked to discover that the attack was not perpetuated by “bored deprived youth but by adults over 40.
“They kept shouting that girls and boys walking together is promiscuity that spoils their children, but the girls were no way near any boys and the three of them were modestly dressed,” he claimed.
Meanwhile the members of the Haredi Community stream in Beit Shemesh present a different version for the state of affairs in town. Moshe, a haredi resident, said that young religious boys and girls often pass through the haredi neighborhood together, and that on occasion yeshiva students have to “drive them away by force.”
“Boys and girls laughing together is forbidden. This shouldn’t happen in a secular neighborhood, let alone an ultra-Orthodox one,” Moshe stated.
Following the recent weeks’ events, members of the Zionist religious community have approached the mayor and their local council representatives and have also filed a complaint with the police.
Meanwhile, negotiations have also been ongoing between members of both publics in an effort to reach an understanding that would enable coexistence in the mixed town.