Ultra-Orthdox Followers Remain Faithful to Convicted Woman

"The whole trial was one long string of lies," declared A., a disciple of the so-called "Taliban mom," yesterday. "What did she do wrong? She never did any harm to anyone. Me, she taught only good things. To love God, is that bad?"

A., unlike most of the woman's disciples, lives in Jerusalem rather than Beit Shemesh. Once a month, she would host a class in her home where the "Taliban mom" would lecture on modesty and purity. Her mentor's conviction for child abuse has not shaken her faith.

"First they said she was psychologically ill, then when it pleased them, they said she was normal, because it served their interests," A. charged. "They wanted to convict her."

Since her arrest, the woman's connection with her disciples has tapered off, and the disciples no longer meet. But they still present a unified front: Publicly, at least, not one even entertains the thought that she might be guilty.

"She's unique in her generation," declared another disciple, S., from Beit Shemesh. "She helped and saved many people. She only wanted to do good."

But she abused her children, and they testified against her.

"I heard they cried during the trial. I spoke with one of the daughters who supposedly testified. They took her words out of context. Everything [the police] asked and [the children] answered, [the police] wrote down something different. It's all lies. I know the younger children. I've seen how the youngest girl dances around her mother and goes under her dress. I've seen her love for her daughter.

"Every mother can get upset and yell and give punishments," S. continued. "She used to say, 'my education is firm.' She didn't give in; she insisted."

S. is convinced that her mentor was convicted because of her clothing and because of what the court viewed as her extremism, not because of her deeds. She compared the woman to Joseph in the Bible, who was jailed for a crime he did not commit, while only God knew he was innocent.

"This happened to her precisely because she was a righteous woman," S. declared.