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May 27, 2015 / 9 Sivan, 5775
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Posts Tagged ‘Beit Shemesh’

The Beit Shemesh Spit that Wasn’t?

Friday, December 6th, 2013

Beit Shemesh rose to international notoriety during Chanuka 2011, with a TV documentary hosted by then TV journalist Yair Lapid. During the documentary, we are introduced to a very scared 7 year old girl, Naama Margolise, who refused to go to Orot girls school in Beit Shemesh, due her being harassed by extremist ultra-orthodox protesters (“Kanoim”).

In addition, we see a national religious woman being spat at by an extremist ultra-orthodox man.

The central issue in dispute during that period was the attempted land-grab at Orot School, a national religious designated girls school located on the seam between the national religious and ultra-orthodox communities, by a group of extremist Kanoim.



The image of Naama Margalit became a symbol, overnight, of the struggle for peaceful neighborly relations in Beit Shemesh, respect for the law, and against the alleged ‘free-hand’ policy of the city towards hundreds of out-of-control Kanoim extremists.

Almost exactly two years later, this week MK Moshe Gafni has called upon Yair Lapid, now Finance Minister, to apologise for the “anti-chareidi tirade” which, he claims, was based on a slanderous lie. According to Gafni, there never was a spitting incident.

Gafni said that the police had closed the file, and that Internal Security Minister Yitzhak Aharonovich had stated this was because such a spitting incident never took place:

“Everyone knows that an Israeli political party was founded based on that spitting incident. One man made a television report of the incident on a Friday night, involving mass chilul Shabbos, and told all his viewers that a chareidi man spit at a girl in Beit Shemesh. We chareidi political representatives told whoever would listen that we do not believe the reports and that we never heard of such an awful thing happening.

“The incitement [against the entire chareidi community] that followed was terrible. Now it turns out that Yesh Atid [the political party of Treasury Minister Lapid] was founded based on a spitting incident that never existed. A chareidi did not spit. The Minister testified here in the Knesset plenum that no complaint was ever filed in the matter.

“I now expect that the one who prepared that report on Friday night, and is now the Treasury Minister, Yair Lapid, will come to the Knesset plenum and apologize. He should apologize to the chareidi community whom he turned into a society that spits at little girls. Let us see if Yair Lapid has the courage to ask for forgiveness.”

(Report by Eliezer Rauchberger in Yated Neeman)

The police reportedly closed the “spitting file” – and this has promoted the sudden flurry of activity from the ultra-orthodox political leadership,who are now claiming that their public has been finally vindicated.

It is important to clarify there were actually two incidents in the Lapid documentary (see full Channel Two documentary below) involving spitting/harassment in Beit Shemesh:

Case One: Na’ama Margalese – the iconic 7 year old, filmed being scared and refusing to go to school.

Case Two: Alisa Coleman – the modern orthodox woman seen being spat at by an ultra-orthodox man

Case 1 did not go to the police. Perhaps this was because the TV item was filmed several months after the traumatic events, or because it was unclear what those events were, or who the culprit was. When Interior Minister Aharonovich reported that there was no complaint received by the police, he is referring to this case.

Indeed, Minister Aharonovich stated in response to MK Moshe Gafni: “I did not say that such an incident did not occur. Only that the police never got a complaint in the matter.”

Case 2 was reported immediately to the police by Mrs. Coleman, and criminal charges were brought in court against an ultra-orthodox resident of Beit Shemesh. Although there is video of the incident, and numerous witnesses, the case has now been closed by the police. According to reports, this was due to the two sides deciding not to pursue the case further.

Mrs. Coleman said today that she has not been contacted by the court, nor was she a party to any agreement to not pursue the case further. She is now seeking an explanation from the state prosecution department “why they decided to drop such a cast iron case, which was so politically charged?”.

When asked to comment on this case, MK Rabbi Dov Lipman, whose political journey which brought him to the Knesset started with the Orot Girls School protests, stated:

“We have a clear video of a man spitting on a woman. The police didn’t say the spitting didn’t happen. They simply could not prove that the guy who they arrested for it did it. That is the entire story.

“This does not relate to the four months of assaults on little girls that we experienced and that were also caught on video.”

The protests and campaign during Chanuuka 2011 in Beit Shemesh was about the land-grab at the Orot school by extremist “Kanoim”, and the intolerable behaviour by Kanoim to other members of the Beit Shemesh community.

In conclusion, with the closing of the Case Two, the alleged spitting at a national religious woman by an ultra-orthodox man, the police have not “vindicated the ultra-orthodox public” who Moshe Gafni stated in the Knesset that he represents.

The police have closed a file on one individual, in unclear circumstances, which did not constitute vindication for this particular man, and certainly not for his colleagues, arguably a few hundred extremist “Kanoim”.

As for the “entire ultra-orthodox public”, to whom Yair Lapid apparently now owes an apology, the closing by the police of the Coleman spitting case is neither here nor there.

As far as I know, no one ever alleged that the “entire ultra-orthodox public” was guilty of spitting at Mrs. Coleman!



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Attorney General Asks Court to Order New Elections in Beit Shemesh

Wednesday, November 27th, 2013

Attorney General Yehuda Weinstein has decided to appeal to the Jerusalem District Court for an order to annul last month’s disputed local elections in Beit Shemesh and to order a new vote.

He said that a police investigation of alleged fraudulent voting showed sufficient evidence to support charges that vote were cast by people who used identity cards of those out of the city or might not even be living. Shas Haredi religious incumbent Mayor Moshe Abutbul narrowly won the election, beating Jewish Home candidate Eli Cohen, who also is appealing to the court to cancel the election.

Police have said that their investigation has widened to include several people beyond those who were present at the raid of forged identify cards shortly before the election.

A police raid on two homes before the elections last month uncovered 250 false identification cards that people intended to use to cast extra ballots. Eight people were arrested, and police found several hats in the homes, indicating that people had intended to change their appearance to represent people who were not in the city at the time of the voting.

Supporters for Jewish Home candidate Cohen also accused Shas activists of throwing out some ballots that had been cast in favor of Cohen.

Archaeologists Discover 10,000 Years of History near Beit Shemesh

Monday, November 25th, 2013

Israel Antiquities Authority excavations prior to the widening of a highway in Beit Shemesh, west of Jerusalem, have uncovered rare finds of a 6,000 year old cultic temple, the first 10,000 year old building to be discovered in the Judean plain and a nearby cluster of rare axes

The large excavation area will be open to the public on Wednesday.

Settlement remains were unearthed at the site, the earliest of which dates to the beginning of the eighth millennium BCE and latest to the end of the fourth millennium BCE.

The finds revealed at the site range from the period when man first started to domesticate plants and animals, instead of searching for them in the wild, until the period when of the beginnings of proper urban planning.

The oldest artifacts that were exposed at the site are ascribed to the Pre-Pottery Neolithic period of approximately 10,000 years ago.

“This is the first time that such an ancient structure has been discovered in the Judean Shephelah (plain),” according to Drs. Amir Golani, Ya‘akov Vardi, and Ron Be’eri and Binyamin Storchan, excavation directors on behalf of the Israel Antiquities Authority,

The building, almost all of which was found, underwent a number of construction and repair phases that offer evidence that whoever built the house did something that was totally innovative because up until this period man migrated from place to place in search of food.

The cluster of nine flint and limestone axes that were discovered lying side by side near the prehistoric make it “apparent that the axes, some of which were used as tools and some as cultic objects, were highly valued by their owner,” the archaeologists said.

“Just as today we are unable to get along without a cellular telephone and a computer, they too attributed great importance to their tool,” they added. “Based on how it was arranged at the time of its discovery, it seems that the cluster of axes was abandoned by its owner for some unknown reason,”

In the archaeological excavation conducted at Eshta’ol, an important and rare find from the end of the Chalcolithic period in the second half of the fifth millennium BCE was discovered in the adjacent area.

During the course of the excavation, 6,000-year-old buildings were exposed and a stone column was discovered alongside one of them. The standing stone is 1.30 meters (51 inches) high and weighs several hundred pounds.

“The standing stone was smoothed and worked on all six of its sides, and was erected with one of its sides facing east,” according to the excavation directors.”

“We uncovered a multitude of unique finds during the excavation,” said Dr. Amir Golani, one of the excavation directors on behalf of the Israel Antiquities Authority. “The large excavation affords us a broad picture of the progression and development of the society in the settlement throughout the ages. Thus we can clearly see that in the Early Bronze Age, 5,000 years ago, the rural society made the transition to an urban society.

“We can see distinctly a settlement that gradually became planned, which included alleys and buildings that were extremely impressive from the standpoint of their size and the manner of their construction. We can clearly trace the urban planning and see the guiding hand of the settlement’s leadership that chose to regulate the construction in the crowded regions in the center of the settlement and allowed less planning along its periphery.

“It is fascinating to see how in such an ancient period a planned settlement was established in which there is orderly construction, and trace the development of the society which became increasingly hierarchical.”

Aerial view of excavations prior to widening the highway at Beit Shemesh,

Aerial view of excavations prior to widening the highway at Beit Shemesh,

Attorney General May Appeal to Court for New Elections in Beit Shemesh

Monday, November 25th, 2013

The smell of election fraud in Beit Shemesh is beginning to stink so much that residents may get a chance to flush the sewage and vote a second time for a mayor, perhaps without phony voters.

Attorney General Yehuda Weinstein is considering an appeal to the courts to order new municipal elections in the city in the wake of deepening suspicions by police investigators of widespread fraud among Haredi backers of incumbent Mayor Moshe Abutbul.

The Justice Ministry told Israel Radio, which reported on Weinstein’s concerns Monday, that the attorney general is following the police probe and will issue a decision in several days concerning an appeal to the courts. A court order to cancel elections and hold a re-run is rare but not without precedent.

The recent election was bitterly fought between Jewish Home candidate Eli Cohen and Mayor Abutbul, backed by the Shas party. Abutbul won a narrow victory, winning 51.9 percent of the vote while Cohen won 46.1 percent.

Jewish Home hollered ”foul” and raised questions whether Abutbul’s voters really were the same people who cast the ballots.

A police raid on two homes before the elections last month uncovered 250 false identification cards that people intended to use to cast extra ballots.

Eight people were arrested, and police found several hats in the homes, indicating that people had intended to change their appearance to represent people who were not in the city at the time of the voting.  Supporters for Jewish Home candidate Cohen also accused Shas activists of throwing out some ballots that had been cast in favor of Cohen.

Police investigators have discovered that the alleged fraud ran far and deep, and Israel Radio said there are suspicions that many more people were involved.

Beit Shemesh has been deeply divided over the past several years between local secular and national religious communities on one side and Haredi and extreme Haredi groups on the other.

The bitterness in the city has caught brought unwanted international attention to Beit Shemesh, which has a large number of Americana and British immigrants.

Violence and hate attacks reached the point where one Haredi man spat on a young girl, daughter of American olim, who eventual left the city.

Mayor Abutbul and the Awkward Issue of Beit Shemesh Child Abuse

Tuesday, November 12th, 2013

Rapidly turning into a theater of the absurd, Beit Shemesh’ newly re-elected mayor has jumped right into more trouble.

In parallel to the series of damning reports about abusive election practices which may have enabled Moshe Abutbul to earn his second term in office as mayor, two new reports were published over the weekend.

The most popular, was a six minute piece by Shay Stern on Channel 10, which uses confrontational cynical humour to draw out interviewees, and focused on Beit Shemesh.

Stern interviews Eliran Cohen, an openly gay man who lives in Beit Shemesh. Liron states that there are (of course) many other gays in Beit Shemesh; furthermore, Eliran says he personally knows Moshe Abutbul who is well aware of Eliran’s orientation for many years.

In Stern’s interview with Moshe Abutbul, he claims “there are no gays in this pure and holy city” and that if there were, “they would be dealt with by the ministry of health and police.”



For the press, it was such a good scoop, they couldn’t make this stuff up.

In a follow-up interview on Galei Tzahal (Army Radio) Moshe Abutbol was asked about his statement regarding gays.

Abutbul awkwardly responded that he hadn’t understood the term “gays,” and had thought it meant “pedophiles.”

Although Abutbul is ultra-orthodox, he is by no means closeted. Abutbul was not brought up ultra-orthodox, he served in the army (as a driver), taught in public schools, and hosted a radio show, and it is not plausible that he doesn’t know what “Gays” means.

While his explanation seems to give a context to his remark about health services and police, it still leaves the unexplained claim that “they don’t exist in our pure and holy city”.

Magen,” the Beit Shemesh Child Protection Center, has received around one hundred reports of child abuse so far in 2013 in Beit Shemesh – of which over 85% are allegations of sexual abuse of children.

Which leads us to the other report about Beit Shemesh published in Makor Rishon and Maariv over this past weekend.

In an expose article entitled “How Did an Ultra-Orthodox Chasidic Layman Become a Dominant Influence in the Beit Shemesh Welfare Department?” journalist Yifat Ehrlich wrote about the role of one Amram Rotter.

Apparently, Amram Rotter is a liaison between the Social Services and the Ultra-Orthodox community in Beit Shemesh.

According to the allegations in the article, Rotter’s real power in the Welfare Department has far exceeded his liaison role, and involves case management of even very sensitive cases, such as sexual and other abuse of children in the ultra-orthodox community. Rotter apparently sits on case management committees, and has allegedly used his influence to get perpetrators off, and victims harassed.

Iris Tzur, manager of the Social Services in Beit Shemesh, presents the importance of Rotter’s liaison role, plays down his influence in professional decisions, and points her finger at “my boss”, Moshe Abutbul, who apparently instructed her to use Rotter’s services.

Abutbul himself, claims that Rotter was elected by a committee of rabbis to represent the interests of the chareidi community – and points his finger at Richard Peres, who held the Social Services portfolio on the Municipal Council.

To the best of my knowledge, there is no such rabbinical committee in Beit Shemesh, and I am confused why Iris Tzur would have said Abutbul designated Rotter, if it was really secular Labour Party member Richard Peres (her immediate boss).

However, one thing is becoming clearer.

I now understand why Moshe Abutbul thinks there are no pedophiles in Beit Shemesh – as his professional information on this topic comes from… Amram Rotter.

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Beit Shemesh: Has the Fat Lady Sung?

Tuesday, November 5th, 2013

Frankly, Beit Shemesh cannot compete with the neck-and-neck US elections of 2000 – between Bush & Gore.

For an election by over 100,000,000 US voters to be decided by just 537 solitary votes in Florida, was astounding. A statistical and historical feat which cannot be repeated. It took from the election date of 7th November to the final Supreme Court decision on 12the December for the final result, the Bush victory, to be absolutely final.

However, that unprecedented 2000 US election aside, the Beit Shemesh municipal elections are probably the most contentious I have known.

The municipal elections were on October 22, and two weeks later, no-one knows if the game in Beit Shemesh is over, with just 930 votes separating the election day victor Moshe Abutbol, from contender Eli Cohen.

Beit Shemesh’ equivalent to the hanging, dimpled, or pregnant chad of the malfunctioning voting machines in Florida – is election fraud.

For example, there were over 800 invalidated voting slips – allegedly due to deliberate tampering.

Many recorded cases of duplicate voters – people who arrived at the voting station and were amazed to be told by election officials “you have already voted, good bye!”

Votes were also allegedly cast by dead people and absent people.

Buildings were stuffed with more registered voters than could possibly live there.

And, to cap it all, the extensively publicised case of over 200 fraudulent ID cards, found in two apartments and a vehicle on election day in Beit Shemesh.

Whereas some of these alleged incidents may have been spontaneous, others were too extensive and sophisticated, and clearly required organizational structures, chains of command, and money.

With the publication of the gagged details of the arrests in Beit Shemesh, the picture is becoming clearer that an organized mafia was apparently running the election fraud campaign.

The cliche rule is to follow the money, and at the street price of 300 NIS per ID card for 250 cards is a neat 75,000 NIS. That’s just for one aspect of what seems to have been a far wider scam. Such money is not from individual enthusiasts – but is campaign money.

Shaya Brand, Yakov Porush (son of MK Meir Porush), David Tefilinski are listed amongst the suspects. These are “machers” who hustle around the elected officials and run the political party Koach.

What is even more disturbing to me than the mafiosa, a la Chicago, who appear to be running the upper echelons of Beit Shemesh, is the religious garb of the alleged crimes.

A low-point in the elections was a “Kol Korei” rabbinical announcement demanding that the the faithful vote for Moshe Abutbol, and one of the chareidi parties “Chen,” in return for blessings, while cursing-out (“poresh min hatzibur”- loosely “traitor”) anyone who didn’t vote or God forbid, voted for another candidate or party.

Big name national rabbonim appear as signatories, and numerous local rabbonim also.

(Perhaps the national rabbonim never saw or signed this document…).

Overlooked at the time, was that this Kol Korei, which undoubtedly influenced wavering voters to vote for Moshe Abutbol, was in contravention of the Election Law, Section 122.

This section explicitly forbids persuading voters by offering blessings and dispensing curses.

It also carries a five year prison sentence for anyone who breaks this law.

Whereas this may sound excessive, the reasoning behind it is to avoid rabbonim from issuing fatwas and Israeli elections becoming jihads. Once a specific candidate or party is standing in the Name of God, campaigning can become a dangerous crusade and deeply corrupted.
As indeed seems to have happened in Beit Shemesh.
The Kol Korei was mass-distributed door to door in Beit Shemesh, was proudly hung up in synagogues, and was published in a local “newspaper” Chadash. The Kol Korei was an official propaganda document in the Moshe Abutbol/Chen election campaign.

It is very unclear if there is enough objective evidence to force a re-vote – as there are few precedents for this in Israel. This will become clearer after the Election Committee of the Knesset reviews the Beit Shemesh elections next week.At this stage, the Fat Lady Hasn’t Sung.

However, if the mafia was toppled in Chicago by a bust for tax evasion, perhaps the alleged mafia in Beit Shemesh could be toppled, by enforcing Election Law, Section 122.

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Did my Deceased Mother-in-Law Vote in Beit Shemesh?

Friday, November 1st, 2013

It may qualify as the least funny mother-in-law joke.

We received a phone call at home from a unit investigating the recent election fraud scams in Beit Shemesh.

They were particularly interested in my mother-in-law’s voting habits.

My mother-in-law? Voting?

My mother-in-law passed away over three years ago.

That apparently was just the point…

Even though my mother-in-law is in her grave, she is still registered as a voter in Beit Shemesh.

Apparently, part of the (alleged) election fraud was that the scammers called hundreds of local homes impersonating pollsters.

When the person called by the ‘pollster’ said that the registered voter would be absent during the election (such as they were travelling abroad, or were in general absent from this world, because they’d died) this went down as a positive finding – and these people’s identities were then faked to enable people to vote in their place.

Absent people make great fake voters.

I don’t know if my mother-in-law actually did vote in this Beit Shemesh election.

I could guess though, that as I voted Eli Cohen, any mother-in-law would surely have voted for Moshe Abutbol!!

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Printed from: http://www.jewishpress.com/blogs/tzedek-tzedek/did-my-deceased-mother-in-law-vote-in-beit-shemesh/2013/11/01/

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