Margolese’s departure comes as tensions between the modern Orthodox and Haredi residents in Beit Shemesh continues to flare.
Last month, a group of Haredim smashed the windows of a bus after a women refused to give up her seat and sit in the back. This week, police arrested 14 Haredi rioters who blocked a major street and set trash bins on fire to protest construction at a Beit Shemesh site that once may have been a burial ground.
Such clashes are not the cause of Margolese’s departure, but they have led other families to ditch Beit Shemesh in recent years, according to City Councilman Shalom Lerner.
“I’m sorry she’s leaving, but it’s her right if she feels better elsewhere,” Lerner said. “Hadassa isn’t the first one to leave and is not the only one thinking about leaving. The past five years haven’t been good.”
Though a number of initiatives aimed at promoting coexistence in Beit Shemesh were launched in the wake of the incident with Margolese’s daughter, the city is still wrestling with its identity. An acrimonious mayoral campaign is underway, pitting the Haredi incumbent against a modern Orthodox opponent.
Activists say the result will determine the city’s future.
This article was written by Ben Sales for the JTA.