by Etana Hecht
[Editor’s Note: Contributing to this blog, I know full well that editors must sometimes – often – pull the plug on discussion after fruitful exchange gets to the point of diminishing returns. From the feedback I get from irate readers, I also know of the frustration they feel when some points of view never see the light of day because discussion has been cut off. I can understand and accept the decision of my friends the Frankfurters of ending Ami’s coverage of the Beit Shemesh debacle and moving on. Blogs have a bit more flexibility; we can provide an outlet where print media cannot. I know Etana and her family, and think it worthwhile for the public to read her contribution.]
As most of you have probably seen in the media, Bet Shemesh has been having problems with a group of thugs who call themselves Chareidi who have been causing much trouble and pain to many of the citizens of Bet Shemesh. In a series of articles on this issue, Ami Magazine interviewed Mayor Moshe Abutbol to answer some questions about the situation. In his responses, there were a few false statements, as well as some horrible, false slander about one man who has done more than any other individual in the fight to save our city. In fact without him we would have no one guiding us as to how to go about the fight in the proper way. At first I was told that with some tweaks Ami would publish my response, and then I received an email that they are not publishing any more letters about Bet Shemesh. Having said that, I must do my part to set the facts straight wherever I can, lest no one believe the Lashon Hara that was said about Dov Lipman, and so that readers can understand the truth about certain statements the mayor falsely claimed as true. Below is my response:
To Whom it may Concern,
As a Bet Shemesh resident, I’d like to address numerous factual errors in your column entitled “Q & A with Beit Shemesh Mayor Moshe Abutbol” Issue 52.
1- Abutbol stated the following: “If it would have been designated as a boys’ school, the charedim would have been able to accept it and restrain their opposition. The entire outcry began the moment it was designated for girls.” He then continues on to say that if the two buildings would simply switch places, the entire issue would be solved.
This is false. When the boys’ school opened 3 years ago, there were protests and vandalism to the building as well. The reason they were able to keep it going this year, was so that they could hide their real agenda under the cries of ‘tznius’. In addition, they harass the the girls as they leave and walk up the block to the buses or their house, which is the exact same route that they would take if the buildings were switched, as they’re right next door to each other.
2- Sam Sokol asked why we haven’t seen any protests from the Chareidi part of Bet Shemesh against the extremists, to which Abutbol answered as follows: “As I said before, the Chareidim do not want to be seen as supporting the construction of a girls school in the middle of the Chareidi neighborhood”. I have two issues with this statement. Number one, all we were looking for was a condemnation of violence from as many frum leaders as possible, in order to alienate and malign the extremists. No politics necessary in said condemnation. Number two- the school in question is NOT “in the middle of the chareidi neighborhood”. It is on the border of three Dati Leumi neighborhoods that have been around for decades, and a few RBS B buildings which sprung up 5 years ago. In no way can it be described as it was, “in the middle of a chareidi neighborhood”. This description is exactly part of the problem. This group set their sights on obtaining the school building for their own needs, and they will use any means to achieve their goal, with no thought of the pain they cause to others.
3- Abutbol mentioned Dov Lipman numerous times. As a resident for the same amount of time that Rabbi Lipman has been here, I can attest to the fact that there is NO ONE in this city who has given of himself in the form of time and energy the way he has. There was much negativity towards him in the article, but I’d like to address one specific sentence which will capture what needs to be said about the rest of the comments aimed toward Rabbi Lipman. Abutbol stated “For three years Lipman fought against every building that went up to house chareidim. He fought the growth of chareidim day and night”. Nothing could be further from the truth. It is easily refutable, as in every single interview Rabbi Lipman has given, as well as in every talk I’ve personally had with him on the subject, he CLEARLY states that his goal is equal affordable housing for ALL populations. He’s been working tirelessly to mitigate the damage of the extremists, and Abutbol should be grateful to Rabbi Lipman for doing what Abutbol should have been doing all along, instead of calling him a “thorn in the side of Bet Shemesh”.