Five Beit Shemesh rabbis linked to the Mea Shearim-based haredi umbrella group Edah Haredit have banned haredim from shopping in an a newly-opened haredi-owned supermarket there, part of the Osher Ad chain.
Haredi Rabbis Ban Beit Shemesh Supermarket
Shmarya Rosenberg • FailedMessiah.com
Five Beit Shemesh rabbis linked to the Mea Shearim-based haredi umbrella group Edah Haredit have banned haredim from shopping in an a newly-opened haredi-owned supermarket there, part of the Osher Ad chain, Globes reported today.
Osher Ad is owned by Gerrer hasidim. Ger and Edah Haredit are fighting – sometimes physically – for control of valuable housing stock in Mea Shearim. Rival haredi gangs have beaten members of the rival grouping there and in Beit Shemesh, and a home occupied with by a family with small children was set on fire in Mea Shearim last year as attackers used rocks and sledge hammers to break down walls and doors and shatter windows.
"Great depravity prevails in this place, and there is terrible spiritual danger from forbidden sights and other frightening stumbling blocks, may God preserve us, with incalculable consequences. We therefore hereby issue a severe warning not to go there!" the rabbis – wrote Yehoshua Rosenberger, Nosson Hacohen Kopschitz, Moshe Tuvia Dinkel, Shlomo Zalman Perlstein, and Mordechai Goldstein – about the new Osher Ad store in Beit Shemesh, which opened less than a month ago.
Osher Ad cancelled all advertisements scheduled for publication in Beit Shemesh.
"We didn't want to place people in a position of conflict, and we have no intention of sending advertisements this week either," the sources in Osher Ad told the Israeli business daily Globes. "This whole group is deluded and irrelevant. Go to Jerusalem, to the Geula neighborhood [abutting Mea Shearim], and you'll find 10-15 such warnings there every day. They are same lot who have come to live in Beit Shemesh as well. This isn't the haredi community, this is the Yerushalmis [Mea Shearim Jerusalemites], and they are the ones who caused all the commotion with the spitting on the little girl in Beit Shemesh. It's the same kind of people."
Last year groups of haredi men affiliated with Edah Haredit attacked and harassed little girls going to and from school in Beit Shemesh. Even though the pre-teens are Orthodox and were dressed modestly, the haredi men spat on them and chased them down the street screaming while screaming “whore” and “shikasa” at them.
The girls’ Orthodox Zionist school, Orot Banot, is located adjacent to a haredi neighborhood populated by the Yerushalmis, who want the school building for their own use.
Haredim in the town stoned a woman as she was driving in her car because they believed her to be immodestly dressed. One of the windows of the car was shattered during the attack. A similar attack happened there several months ago, as well.
Earlier this year, signs ordering women to walk on the opposite side of the street from men were removed from haredi areas of Beit Shemesh by the city under pressure from Israel’s High Court of Justice. Haredim stoned city workers and replaced the signs when the workers retreated.
The pretext for the current announcement by the five Yerushalmi rabbis banning Osher Ad is the chain's decision to remove a sign that had been placed at the entrance to the supermarket ordering women to dress modestly. It was paired with a bin of large black shawls given by security staff to women whose clothing did not pass haredi muster.
Complaints from non-haredi shoppers and national media attention forced Osher Ad to remove the sign – although it left the shawls in place at the front door for ‘voluntary’ use.
Shufersal Ltd., a rival supermarket chain known in the US as Supersol slashed prices, apparently to take advantage of the attacks on Osher Ad.
"We are adjusting prices, and checking all the stores in the area [to meet or beat their prices],” sources at Shufersal told Globes. "We won't let ourselves become uncompetitive. Whatever they do, we will do too. We have a working mechanism. There is no way that we will be caught dearer [i.e., with higher prices]. On the contrary, we can only be caught being cheaper."
Globes reports that the conflict and the price war have helped Shufersal's sales, and the chain's branches in Beit Shemesh (and also in Ma'aleh Adumim, a suburb of Jerusalem where competition is also fierce) are reporting higher inventory turnover – but sources believe that these Shufersal branches are actually losing money.
Yesterday, the director of Israel’s Antitrust Authority, Professor David Gilo confirmed a Globes report that it had opened an investigation into Shufersal’s apparently predatory pricing policy.
“[But] one has to be very careful before intervening in conduct that lowers prices,” Gilo told Globes. “It could be that what is happening in these markets is that there is fierce, but healthy, competition."