Monday, January 16, 2012

Setting the Record Straight

Guest Post by Etana Hecht

My name is Etana Hecht, and I moved to Bet Shemesh with my family 7.5 years ago. Since then, I've gotten married and tried out several communities before settling with my husband and 2 children in the Sheinfeld area of Bet Shemesh. Sheinfeld is an amazing community, a yishuv-like feeling within a city. As many of you have been seeing in the media, there is a group of troublemakers trying to run our beautiful community out of town. Now that you have a little background of our city, you can understand why we're fighting so hard to save it.

In a series of articles covering the entire situation here in Bet Shemesh, Ami Magazine interviewed the Mayor of Bet Shemesh, Moshe Abutbol. The Mayor has been studiously ignoring a volatile situation in our city for months, thereby enabling grown thugs to continue their daily harassment of little girls (and women) who were walking home from school. With the media outbreak of our Bet Shemesh "story", he has been forced to address the issue, at last.

In the interview I refer to below, he straight out lied on numerous issues. I immediately wrote to the editor to set the record straight, and got a response that with a little tweaking, he'd publish my response. A couple of days later, I received a letter from the editor stating that he would not be publishing any material on the Bet Shemesh issue. Having received that, I must get my response out there to set the record straight, specifically about one man who the Mayor slandered who has done more good for this city than any other individual. 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- (Ami reporter) 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".

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".

Etana Hecht
Bet Shemesh