Wednesday, January 16, 2008

What we can do about Bet Shemesh

Those of you who read the paper, or fine blogs like Cross Currents, know that a group of zealots (ie Kanoim, ie hooligans) have been making life difficult for the good people of Ramat Bet Shemesh. They set fires. Throw rocks. Beat women. And more.

Recently, I've been pleased to learn that the law-abiding people of RBS have finally said Ad Kaan (enough).

And we can help.

First some background:

Over the past number of years, expats from Bet Yisrael and Meah Shearim have purchased apartments in RBS, and like all expats they've had trouble adjusting to their adopted communities. Instead of assimilating, or keeping to themselves, the new residents of RBS are attempting to use violence to rebuild the city in their own image. This has been going on for about 5 years. Their say their goal is to "increase the holiness of RBS," but their tactics, which include vandalism, death threats, harassing phone calls, beatings and arson, suggest something else. To date, the police have been reluctant to get involved.

According to what I've read and heard, the various people involved in the violence can be divided into the following groups:

1. Foot Soldiers: 40-50 people
2. Planners: Around 10
3. Assorted extremists that fan the violence: Hard to estimate, maybe around 10
4. Rabbis who support actively: 3
5. Rabbis who support passively: 5

To my mind, the real criminals are the planners, and the Rabbis who offer them aid and comfort. One of the Rabbis is Shea Rosenberger, a Rabbi (group 4) who was approached by Ilan Shmueli, the owner of a RBS pizza shop, that had been targeted by the thugs. Shmueli wanted Rabbi Rosenberg to help stop the violence. Instead the Rabbi brushed him aside with a warning: "You might end up dead."

Another thug is Chaim Luzer Heimlich (group 2) I'm told Chaim Luzer was the organizer of the pizza shop attacks described by the New York Times on November 2, 2007 Heimlich is also accused of attacking one of the anti-hooligans. As the story goes, Heimlich saw the man, and with a few phone calls arranged for a mob to come and harass the man with name-calling, shoving and spitting.

One of their rising stars is Moshe Friedman (group 2), gabbai of the Tiferes Yerushalayim shul. He is quoted in many newspapers articles about the ongoing violence in RBS, and appears in the video link above. R'Friedman is said to pay for pashkevlim with money he raises in England and Williamsburg. Allegedly, some of this money is also used to provide the hooligans with stipends.

About a month ago, after a woman was viciously beaten on a RBS bus, the other side began to push back with a demonstration for peace which was attended by over 1000 people. The leaders of these law-abiding RBS citizens are now receiving telephones death threats at their homes at all hours of the day and night. They have been told by the thugs to prepare for their own funerals, and they have been threatened with cherem and all forms of violence.

If it terrifies you to think of Judaism being commandeered by thugs. I urge you to stand up and be counted. Here's what you can do:

** E-mail charedi knesset members. Ask them to support the police. Ask them to denounce the thugs. You can start with MK Moshe Gafni [] MK Meir Porush [] and MK Yaakov Litzman []

I am told the local Degel Hatora representatives, Moshe Montag and Shmuel Greenberg, are working to HELP the extremists get free land for their yeshiva. When you contact the Charedi MKs tell them to order Montag and Greenberg to stop supporting extremists hooligans.

** You can also call the the men I've named --though please be cordial and polite. Ask questions if you doubt any of the details reported here, and politely ask them to desist:

Moishe Friedman
Cellphone Number 972-57-317-7844

Chaim Luzer Heimlich
Cellphone Number 972-57-319-9218

PS Get a load of this! The good guys hit back and played a trick on the chief thug. They took out an ad in the local paper advertising Moshe Friedman as a salesman for contact lenses!

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