The Sefardi haredi mayor of the Jerusalem bedroom suburb of Beit Shemesh, Rabbi Moshe Abutbol of the Sefardi haredi Shas Party, reportedly accused the chairman of the HaBayit HaYehudi Party, Israel’s Finance Minister Naftali Bennett, of turning Beit Shemesh into “a battlefield” – even though hundreds of haredim had rioted for four straight days when Abutbol made his remarks.
Haredi Mayor Again Blames Victims Of Haredi Violence And Their Supporters, This Time For Turning Beit Shemesh Into A “Battlefield”
Shmarya Rosenberg • FailedMessiah.com
The Sefardi haredi mayor of the Jerusalem bedroom suburb of Beit Shemesh, Rabbi Moshe Abutbol of the Sefardi haredi Shas Party, reportedly accused the chairman of the HaBayit HaYehudi Party, Israel’s Finance Minister Naftali Bennett, of turning Beit Shemesh into “a battlefield” – – even though hundreds of haredim had rioted for four straight days when Abutbol made his remarks.
“The attempt to foment unrest in the city is inappropriate and mistaken in any respect. This is true even if [Lapid] is looking for a good headline or to attempt to explain the bizarre ousting of [recently replaced Bayit Yehudi mayoral candidate] Mrs. [Aliza] Bloch in the middle of the race.…[These reasons do] not justify turning Beit Shemesh into a battlefield and to further polarization between the various sectors in the city,” Abutbol wrote in the local Chadash Beit Shemesh newspaper on Friday, the Jerusalem Post reported.
Abutbol's remarks angered some residents – especially because of the long history of haredi violence in the city and Abutbol’s long track record of doing nothing to curtail it.
Haredim have stoned women and young children, vandalized and stoned occupied public buses, terrorized 8-year-old haredi schoolgirls they deemed to be immodestly dressed, and repeatedly attempted to force women to gender-segregate public buses and sidewalks.
Just last week, hundreds of haredim rioted on four consecutive days, stoning police and construction workers and leading to the first significant arrests of haredi rioters in many years – perhaps because Abutbol is in a hotly contested re-election campaign that even significant blocs of moderate haredim fed up with the years of violence and Abutbol’s tepid response to it hope he loses.
Member of Knesset Rabbi Dov Lipman, a moderate haredi from Baltimore who immigrated to israel and who lives in Beit Shemesh, condemned Abutbol.
“The incitement began when the mayor sat quietly next to his spokesman as he said that they intend to turn Beit Shemesh into a larger haredi city than Bnei Brak and continued through his refusal to put up government funded cameras where the extremists act out and his decision to close a [Modern Orthodox] girls school because extremists made threats. The mayor is responsible for extremist control in the city and as a result large numbers of haredim plan to join the general population in unseating him in October,” Lipman reportedly told the Jerusalem Post.
Late last week, Abutbol also condemned his major opponent in the upcoming elections, Eli Cohen, who is running on the combined endorsement of the Shemesh Chadasha and HaBayit HaYehudi list.
“[Cohen] does not know his right from his left of the haredi community…[he should] not stick his head into areas in which he has no understanding and try to create politics on the backs of the haredi public over sensitive issues that he does not understand,” Abutbol reportedly told the Hebrew-language haredi news website Kikar HaShabbat.
Abutbol, who has done next to nothing to curtail these waves of haredi violence, told Israel television news reporters five years ago that secular Israelis who enter the staunchly hasidic Ramat Beit Shemesh Bet neighborhood could be viewed as causing “provocations.”
Abutbol did nothing to curtail the haredi violence those “provocations” provoked.
Beit Shemesh was originally a mixed town made up of secular and Zionist Orthodox-Modern Orthodox Jews.
Eventually, mainstream haredim began to move in. They were followed by haredim seeking affordable housing left the cramped Jerusalem neighborhood of Mea Shearim and began populating the newer Ramat Beit Shemesh neighborhood in an area which abutted an existing Modern Orthodox neighborhood.
Meanwhile, Abutbol was elected by a combination of haredi and traditional Sefardi voters.
Able to count on Ashkenazi haredi bloc votes, Abutbol was able to move to turn Beit Shemesh into a predominantly haredi city with the cooperation of Israel’s Housing and Construction Ministry when it was under Shas control – as it was until this year.
Abutbol and Shas flooded Beit Shemesh with new haredi residents while turing a blind eye to the increasing violence some of those haredim brought with them, often blaming the victims of these violent attacks for “provoking” haredim by dressing as Modern Orthodox women do, or by failing to gender-segregate public buses and sidewalks as these haredim demand – or by daring to fly Israeli flags within their eyesight.