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Wednesday, January 25, 2012 

Mayor of Beit Shemesh has got to go

The modern Sikrikim in Beit Shemesh, if you'll call them that, have struck again, this time attacking a lottery advertising employee:
A woman was injured in Beit Shemesh when she was attacked by ultra-Orthodox men while hanging up posters for the Mifal Hapayis national lottery on Tuesday.

According to police spokesman Micky Rosenfeld, Natalie Mashiach, 27, was accosted by several men in the ultra-Orthodox Ramat Beit Shemesh Bet neighborhood, who demanded that she leave the area.

They surrounded her car and pelted it with stones, smashing several windows, and punctured her tires. One stone struck Mashiach on the head, lightly injuring her.

“I was afraid for my life. I thought I was going to die,” she said.

“They came right up to my face and spat at me, so I went back to the car and called the police,” she told the press after the incident.

She had called the police who told her to wait where she was, but while they were on their way to her, 10 young men approached her car, smashed the windows and threw bleach at her, she said. “Fifty, maybe 100 people were watching and pleaded with them to let me leave, but then they threw this liquid on me, which only afterwards I realized was bleach, and I thought they were going to set me on fire, and that this was it. I was going to die.”

Police arrived quickly, dispersed the crowd and arrested three men.
While the woman is lucky to be alive and safe from possible arson attack, the mayor went about this very disgracefully by remaining ambiguous about condemnation, and some Hasidic news sites were dishonest and trivialized the violence by acting as though it was justified:
Mayor Moshe Abutbul said, “I again condemn violence of any kind carried out by extremist elements from both sides, and call on the police to enforce the law with severity and with zero tolerance for those breaking the law and disturbing public order.”

Rabbi Dov Lipman, head of the Committee to Save Beit Shemesh that lobbies against ultra-Orthodox extremism in the city, said Abutbol’s comments are “part of the problem.”

“When a woman is attacked in this way, condemnation must be unconditional,” he said. “He is trying to minimize the extent of haredi extremism in Beit Shemesh when he should be conducting all-night sessions to work out how to solve the problem.”

According to several haredi websites, Mashiach went into the foyer of a synagogue to hang flyers but behaved immodestly when asked to leave.

Lipman said that he had spoken to an ultra-Orthodox witness who denied this version of events and said that Mashiach was outside the synagogue when she was attacked.

Lipman added, “I applaud the police for arresting suspects immediately and for promising more arrests.

There is no doubt that the police force has been more aggressive since we began our campaign to save the city and since a new chief took over two weeks ago.”
However, the mayor himself is going to have to be given the pink slip, because it's clear he's not taking this matter seriously. And if the Hasidic news sites who spoke about this lied, to say nothing of acted as though the woman was "asking for it", then they've desecrated the Ten Commandments' belief in honesty.

And if anybody in the public was just standing around there and not trying to drag those hoodlums away from the woman and her car, I can't help but wonder if that smacks of partial Kitty Genovese syndrome. Some advice to those disturbed by that kind of atrocious behavior: next time, if you can, try to stop those hoods yourself if the police haven't arrived yet, lest someone really get seriously hurt.

Update: some news on one of the suspects who was arrested, and it also tells how those vicious characters even yelled vulgar slurs like "shiksa" and "whore" at the victim.

Update 2: Gail Bendheim at the Jewish Week gives her opinion on these cases. And here's another one on The Forward.

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