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Haredi and Zionist Beit Shemesh Residents Demanding a Split

Following accusations of election fraud in the city just outside Jerusalem, both sides agree they'd be much better off without one another.
Non-haredi Beit Shemesh residents holding signs as they protest in front of city hall, following the victory of Haredi incumbent Mayor Moshe Abutbul (Shas). The non-Haredi residents demonstrated against alleged election fraud.

Non-haredi Beit Shemesh residents holding signs as they protest in front of city hall, following the victory of Haredi incumbent Mayor Moshe Abutbul (Shas). The non-Haredi residents demonstrated against alleged election fraud.
Photo Credit: Flash90

Three days after the municipal elections in which incumbent Shas Mayor Moshe Abutbul defeated Jewish Home candidate Eli Cohen, the protest storm in the city of Beit Shemesh has not subsided. Thousands arrived at City Hall Thursday night to protest what they have no doubt was a fraudulent election.

It’s true that police discovered in one Haredi-owned apartment in the city hundreds of ID cards belonging to Beit Shemesh residents living abroad – suggesting that some Haredim did embrace the concept of voting early and often. Also, in some voting stations in the city, the voting percentage exceeded 100%, which is an electoral miracle in anyone’s book.

Oh, and according to Channel 10 news, in a few voting booths they ran out of Jewish Home’s Eli Cohen voting tickets, which can really be annoying.

Channel 10 interviewed Beit Shemesh Resident Menashe Elias, who took part in last night’s rally, who said: “We protest because they stole the election. They stole it from us with forgery, with double voting, with forged ID cards. They stole our city.”

That last sentiment, about their city being stolen, has been the broadest common denominator for all the non-Haredi residents of Beit Shemesh. They have all seen, five years ago, how the sweet mannered, inclusive, jovial Shas candidate Moshe Abutbul, sold out their city to the Haredim. In cartoon fashion, Beit Shemesh has since turned from a normal Israeli city where Haredim and their neighbors find ways to get by (as we do in Netanya, my home town), to the center of Haredi intolerance, complete with spitting on little girls, shaming women, segregating the sexes, attacking uniformed IDF soldiers, the works.

Another accusation made by the protesting residents was that the incumbent has imported some 3,000 yeshiva students from Bnei Brak, who voted in Beit Shemesh without establishing residency.

All of the above accusations will surely be investigated by the authorities, but the city of Beit Shemesh would be equally split and politically paralyzed should an investigation discover that, indeed, the non-Haredim have won. At this point the enmity between the two groups – Haredim and the rest of the world – has gotten to the point where governing both groups under the same executive just doesn’t make sense.

According to several media sources, both secular and religious, the one thing protesters in Beit Shemesh seems to agree on is the need to break up the city. It would require a Knesset legislation, but in Israel that process can be amazingly speedy if everybody wants it.

And everybody will lose.

beit shemesh vote

Veteran Haredi journalist Israel Gelis told The Jewish Press that Beit Shemesh, from its inception, has been a traditional Jewish town. Very few in Beit Shemesh are bona fide secular – the town has very little to offer someone who wants to go out and see a movie on Friday night.

Gellis continued on to say that over the past decade, however, two extremist groups have settled in Beit Shemesh: Toldos Aharaon Chassidim, who are, basically, Neturei Karta – and knitted yarmulka American Jews, who are looking to establish a more “progressive” Jewish life in this sleepy city. Those two opposing camps, each in its manner (YY: meaning the American Zionists don’t spit on people or slap women on the street, but the Haredi zealots do), have been weighing down on the system and calling in the media to create a fuss.

Meaning it would probably be simpler to just chase the extremists out to the hills and go back to a life of peace. but that’s not going to happen. Short of that, the city fathers will do well to resist the urges of the extremists and activists, and to find ways to bring back the religious harmony that used to prevail in Beit Shemesh.

There are roughly 85,000 residents in Beit Shemesh, and I suspect most of them have no interest in joining either extremes. But Mayor Abutbul, who has been belittling the complaints of his citizens who voted for the other guy, will do well to work on outreach instead. For one thing – should the city be split, it’s doubtful whether Moshe Abutbul could be re-elected. He’s just not Haredi enough.

About the Author: Yori Yanover has been a working journalist since age 17, before he enlisted and worked for Ba'Machane Nachal. Since then he has worked for Israel Shelanu, the US supplement of Yedioth, JCN18.com, USAJewish.com, Lubavitch News Service, Arutz 7 (as DJ on the high seas), and the Grand Street News. He has published Dancing and Crying, a colorful and intimate portrait of the last two years in the life of the late Lubavitch Rebbe, (in Hebrew), and two fun books in English: The Cabalist's Daughter: A Novel of Practical Messianic Redemption, and How Would God REALLY Vote.


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12 Responses to “Haredi and Zionist Beit Shemesh Residents Demanding a Split”

  1. Anonymous says:

    Yori – How can you possibly make a moral equivalence between Neturei Karta and knitted Yarmuilka American Jews. It is repugnant. American Jews live and let live. They are tolerant. They only act when they see basic injustice which has been the case in Bet Shemesh. You have actually equated the two groups which is astounding to me. Shame on you. Lenny Solomon – Bet Shemesh

  2. Stephen Leavitt says:

    It was part of Gelis's quote – not Yori's. The article has been updated to make that clearer.

  3. Ch Hoffman says:

    which one gets Sodom?

  4. Anonymous says:

    I do not find this knitted Jews so tolerant.
    Oh, no they do not spit on you physically
    But I lived between them.

    And they spit on all other groups with valiant words.
    And Jewish home really hate so called Haredi Jews.

    They tell that poverty of others is not there problem.
    Their problem is that they can not go twice a year on a expensive holiday.

    Therefore the poor have to get less children allowance.

    And this article almost not based on any facts.
    Yes there are forged ID found.
    But most probably used for other purposes.

    And do you know there are this years much more times forged ID founds.
    But ever time with non Haredi people.
    This is not news.
    On that you can not build your article full of vermin

  5. Anonymous says:

    very easily.. both are extremists in their own way. They don't care who they hurt. They are full of hate. I have seen so much hatred being said/written by the many anglo americans from Beit Shemesh that it makes me truly sick! They besmirched all of world Jewry with their Hatred of Charedim!!! They exploited young little girls as political pawns just because they didn't get their way. They terrorized children trying to sleep last night.. I can go on and on. If anything I bet there is more fraud coming from the Eli Cohen supporters as they are the ones who have been desperate to get rid of Abutbul from the day he walked in the door!!! They threaten to boycott businesses just because they don't agree with the paper they advertise. They did this by the Orot Saga and they are trying to do it again!!!!

  6. Aldo Mimoun says:

    Haredim should move to Bethlehem,Ramallah, Gaza and Jericho. They'll feel at home there, and will have enough antagonists to vent their anger against.

  7. Rivka Wapner says:

    "Both sides are extremists– and should go to the hills"– How dare you condemn American Jews who had THE COURAGE WHICH YOU LACK and moved to Israel. You feel free to blacken us while sitting by the flesh pots of Boro Park, Flatbush and Kew Gardens. Move to Israel. Then let your voice be heard. Do mitzvot for real and not merely as chinuch. The Goldene Medina is becoming tarnished. Don't do another "chet hameraglin" You will need us for the time you will be thrown out of America by the rising assimilation and Antisemitism. SHAME- David Wapner- Bet Shemesh

  8. Stephen Leavitt Thank you Stephen Leavitt!

  9. What a bizarre hate filled article. The Dati Leumi Anglo community in Bet Shemesh is what turned Bet Shemesh from a sleepy with many social problems to a place where people want to live. There was no decent library, so they created one, there was no swimming pool, so they donated one, there were no schools that provided excellent religious studies with excellent bagrut certificate, so they collected donations created them. It is a true honour to live with such wonderful people. They are not extremists at all. Do we HATE it when Charedi men spit on us and throw rocks at us? yep. Do we hate it when the Haredi mayor digs up our soccer ground and refuses to let cultural centre not to be built (even thoughthe money to build it was donated) . Oh yes we do. Do we hate it when the Haredi mayor puts out election posters that puts Charedi children behind barbed wire and call us evil. Oh yes we do. To compare victims of violence to the perpetrators is nothing short of obscene.

  10. Atara Nurenberger Beck says:

    We can't get into that article anymore. Can you post the whole thing?

  11. Peter Roman says:

    I would say split the town and let the Haredi's drown in their own sewage as they wont or can't pay for their basics. let's see how they like them apples?

  12. Sounds like you just vented your anger. Now which kettle is calling the teapot black?

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