On Monday, just two weeks after a big demonstration sparked by an incident in which an ultra-Orthodox man spat at a local 8-year-old girl dressed "immodestly," another student at Beit Shemesh's Orot state religious school was targeted by Haredi teens on the short walk home from school.
The victim this time was a third-grader, whose parents asked to identify him only as A. He was surrounded by a group of boys who shouted and spit at him and then threw a large rock in his direction that hit him in the back.
The boy's father, Jeff Klein, a new immigrant from the United States, relates the events his son relayed to him. As the boy was walking home from school alone, around five boys approached him and started shouting at him.
"He didn't understand what they were saying, he still doesn't know Hebrew well, and certainly not Yiddish," Klein said. "So he tried to escape, and then one of them threw a rock at him, hit him in the back." His son ran home and told his parents what had happened.
Klein said that a few weeks ago, while his son was walking with a friend and his dog in a field between their home and a Haredi neighborhood, they were approached by a Haredi man who screamed at his son and threatened to kill the dog because it was tameh (ritually impure), according to the son. Klein filed a complaint with the police, but no suspect has been apprehended.
Klein and his family immigrated to Israel from the U.S. state of Ohio just six months ago, directly to Beit Shemesh. He said he never imagined he was coming to a center of conflict over religious differences among Orthodox Jews.
"Not in a million years" did I expect to find this kind of atmosphere here, he said, adding that before they left for Israel he told his son about the problems with Palestinian terror, and warned him to avoid people who looked suspicious. "I never dreamed that Orthodox Jews would be the ones I'd have to teach my son to watch out for ... that's the big disgrace to my mind, that even children" are subject to terror at the hands of other Jews in Israel, Klein said.
To Klein, the fact that Monday's attack on his son had nothing to do with the issue of modesty proved that the attacks against Naama Margolese and other girls and women were merely a symptom of a wider problem of intolerance on the part of Haredi extremists.
"The intolerance isn't only against women, it's their general intolerance. The fact that they shout 'shiksa' at little girls is another example of their intolerance for anything that's different," Klein said, adding that children in the community imitate their elders, "and the result is that boys throw rocks at my son."
In related news, a man from the city's Haredi community admitted to police yesterday that he had sent several threatening emails to Tanya Rosenblit, the Ashdod woman who caused a stir when she refused to sit in the back of a public bus headed for Jerusalem. The suspect said he did not threaten Rosenblit. He wrote her, "Stalin is very proud of the education he gave you" and "Tanya, Tanya, where were you before ... you showed Haredi figures the Achilles heel of secular culture.