The battle of Bet Shemesh
guardian.co.uk, Monday 31 October 2011
At 8am, little girls carrying backpacks stuffed with books and lunchboxes greet each other with giggles and whispers as they wait for the security guard to unlock the school gates. All are dressed in compliance with the school's regulations: skirt to the knee or below; sleeves at least to the elbow.
The youngest are six, the oldest 12: the age of innocence. But this has not protected these children from becoming the focus of a cultural, religious and territorial struggle between Jews in the city of Bet Shemesh, which many say reflects a wider battle across the country as the ultra-orthodox, or Haredim, grow in number and influence.Since the state-funded religious-nationalist school of Orot Girls opened in new premises in September, groups of extreme Haredi men regularly gather at the gates, screaming "whore" and "slut" at the girls and their mothers....READ MORE