So, a lot of people from afar have been asking me what's going on in Beit Shemesh. (And please don't ever, ever call it BaiS Shemesh.) The answer is a whole lot of nothing and...everything.
When I leave my house I don't have to dodge rocks or spit or other unmentionables. No one ever yells "SHIKSA" at me when I go shopping, at least not in my neighborhood. My kids b'h are not victims of any sort of religious harassment. So don't worry, we personally are not under siege. (You might be curious: on a personal note, we are not on the ultra-frum side of things. But don't worry: my hemlines are still ok and even though TPH now wears a Kippah srugah, yes, we are still Jewish. Shocking, I know.)
On the other hand, a whole heck of a lot is going on just down the hill and it's too close for comfort. In Ramat Beit Shemesh Bet, a mere 15 min walk from where we live, worlds are colliding and it ain't pretty. The most recent wave of protests started in September when a National Religious school opened up near an ultra orthodox neighborhood. Today's and yesterday's news out of Bet is that there are many ultra-orthodox men protesting. But by protesting I don't mean marching with signs. In RBS B protesting means burning and flipping dumpsters. It means pouring gallons of oil onto the roads to make driving dangerous. It means blocking traffic by sitting in front of buses at crowded intersections. It means throwing cinder blocks into car windows, with or without children inside. And it means more verbal abuse to anyone different who dares pass through their neighborhood.
So what exactly are they protesting? Well, tomorrow it might be something else, but today they are protesting the arrest of 6 of their community members who have been arrested for tax fraud, money laundering and collecting money under the pretense of charity. What exactly is there to protest? That we live in a country governed by actual (gasp!) laws? That we don't live in the wild west? That swindlers have been caught? What exactly IS there to protest? Maybe they do really feel that these individuals are innocent, but I fear that in this case "protest" means "display our anger and frustration in any way we deem appropriate".
What starts to get scary is that the Aida chareidiS (yes, that one's fine with an S) reportedly took a stand today and said that as a group they do not follow Israeli law and will not abide by laws or enforcement by police. That above all, Torah is law. This particular usage of Torah scares me because I'm not quite sure where they've found in the Torah that it's ok to spit on little girls, harass grown women, or to make the roads (in their own neighborhoods?) dangerous to drive on.
We had an interesting conversation on Shabbos regarding the Parsha. There are 70 years missing in Moshe Rabeinu's life that is not chronicled in the Torah. Every year, (Shemos, Va'era, Bo) we like to take down the Midrash and find exactly what Moshe was up to during those years. Pretty interesting if you ever want to take a look.
This year TPH drew our attention to something very specific that actually is in the p'sukim. In the Torah that WE learn in our house, it says that Moshe fled from Paroah to Midyan. There the daughters of Yitro were trying to draw water from the well and were being harassed and chased away from the well by the local shepherds. Moshe (and I'm pretty sure we all hold of Moshe Rabeinu) didn't spit at these non Jewish girls who were most probably not dressed according to the "frummest" of standards. He didn't sit from afar and yell "PRUTZA" at them. Instead, he stepped up to the plate, er, well and did what any real Torah abiding frum Jew would do. He helped them. They weren't Jewish, but he stepped forward and helped another person in need. I'm pretty sure the word used there is "and he saved them".
These are the type of people that I see when I open the Chumash. To me Moshe Rabeinu is somebody that my sons can model their behavior after. Now, I'm not sure what Torah these other folks are learning or where it says in their Torah that they are justified to act the way they do, but once again I know that the best I can do is teach my kids that in our Torah we act like Moshe Rabeinu. Simply? Be a mentch!
So while things are coming to an ugly head down the road, I applaud and thank those people who are brave enough and invested enough to take a stand against this craziness in any way that they can. And to those people who just sit on the couch and watch what's going on with a "that doesn't affect me" eye, you are so very wrong. Today it's just down the road. But if it's not stopped soon who knows where it will be tomorrow?
So that's what's going on in Bet Shemesh. In MY Bet Shemesh however, it's the same old, same old. Grocery shopping, working, homework, cleaning the floors, the occasional breakfast with friends or husband if I'm lucky. Oh, and teaching my kids that no matter what, in OUR Torah we learn from the best, and if nothing else, we are mentchen.