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September 6, 2013     Heritage Florida Jewish News
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September 6, 2013

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PAGE 2A HERITAGE FLORIDA JEWISH NEWS, SEPTEMBER 6, 2013 Kobi Gideon / Flash90 / JTA Hadassa Margolese walking her daughter Naama to school in Belt Shemesh a few days after Naama was harassed by haredi Orthodox men, December 2011. By Ben Sales TEL AVIV (JTA)--Two years ago, Hadassa Mar- golese became a symbol of resistance to haredi Orthodox domination after she allowed her 8-year-old daughter to tell an Israeli reporter how religious men had spit on her as she walked to school. The report made headlines around the world and cast Margolese into the spotlight as a defender of the rights and values of the Modern Orthodox community in L Belt Shemesh, a city of ap- proximately 75,000 justoff the main highway between Jerusalem and Tel Aviv with a growing haredi population. Now Margolese has depart- ed Belt Shemesh--driven out not by the haredi Or- - thodox with whom she once clashed but by members of her own Modern Orthodox community. In May, Margolese pub- lished a column on the web- site of the Israeli daily Maariv detailing the degrading treat- ment she had endured during her monthly visits to a public mikvah, or ritual bath, a practice required by religious laws on marital intimacy. But rather than rally around her as it did in 2011, some in the Modern Orthodox commu- nity turned on Margolese, subjecting her to a steady stream of online vitriol. "I was airing our own dirty laundry as opposed to before, when I was airing another community's dirty laundry," she said."I hear from so many women about their negative experiences [at the mikvah]. I thought people would say, 'Yes, let's change this.' " Margolese, 32, is some- thing of a reluctant activist. Unlike many Israeli social changes I can possibly make, but on the other hand, being a public figure isn't so simple," she said. "Really the only way to change things is by being public. If you're not public, nobody cares what you have to say." Born in Los Angeles, Mar- golese came to Israel at 2. A self-identified feminist, Margolese says inequalities between men and women in Judaism have bothered her since she was a child, when she began to question why Orthodox men bless God each morning for not making reformers, who aggres, them women. sively seek media attention and speak in confident tones, Margolese is quiet and unassuming, cautious of offending friends and guarded when it comes to her personal life. She assumed the protest mantle two years ago, she says, mainly out of neces- sity. And from the time that conflict died down until the mikvah column, she largely retreated into private life, vis- iting Belt Shemesh's haredi neighborhoods only when necessary. "I really have very mixed feelings about it because I want to make whatever Now she is living a more tranquil life in a town of secular and Modern Ortho- dox families she prefers not to name. Margolese plans to continue to be active on the mikvah issue, though in a more circumscribed way, conducting low-key meetings with activists and politicians, and confining her writing to her biog. "I'd like to be asocial activ- ist," she said. "I don't think I have a thick enough skin to be a politician." In her mikvah column, Margolese described the way mikvah supervisors would question her Jewish observance and stare at her as she entered and left the water naked. An attendant would interrogate her about how thoroughly she cleaned herself and demand that she return to the sink for another wash. "I'm supposed to feel clean after the mikvah," Margolese wrote, "but instead I feel degraded and dirty." Soon after the column was published, Margolese was at a meeting of the Knesset Cau- cus for the Advancement of Women. She planned to stay afterward to meet politicians sympathetic to her cause, but shaken by a stream of nega- tive comments being posted to her Facebook wall--some of them by friends--she left early. "The humiliation I felt from these individuals was worse than all of my negative mikvah experiences all put together," Margolese wrote on her biog. "I knew about the gossip going on around me. I cried for days. I couldn't breathe. I stopped leaving my house other than to go to work. I decided that it is time to move." Margolese's departure comes as tensions between the Modern Orthodox and haredi residents in Belt Shemesh continues to flare. Last month, a group of haredi men reportedly smashed the windows of a bus after a women refused to give up her seat and sit in the back. This week, police arrested 14 haredi rioters who blocked a major street and set trash bins on fire to protest construction at a Belt Shemesh site that once may have been a burial ground. Such clashes are not the cause of Margolese's depar- ture, but they have led other families to ditch Belt Shem- esh in recent years, according to City Councilman Shalom Lerner. "I'm sorry she's leaving, but it's her right if she feels better elsewhere," Lerner said. "Hadassa isn't the first one to leave and is not the only one thinking about leaving. The past five years haven't been good." And they aren't necessarily going to get better. Though a number of ini- tiatives aimed at promoting coexistence in Belt Shemesh were launched in the wake of the incidentwith Margolese's daughter, the city is still wrestling with its identity. An acrimonious mayoral campaign is underway, pit- ting the haredi incumbent against a Modern Orthodox opponent. Activists say the result will determine the city's future. But whatever the outcome, Margolese will be watching from the sidelines, not the trenches. "If I still lived in Belt Shemesh, I would still be trying to change things in Belt Shemesh, like the separate sidewalks [for men and women] and the signs saying to dress modestly," she said. "But I don't live in Belt Shemesh anymore, and there are not issues like that in the place where I live." AF1621 via Wikimedia Commons EI AI and China will increase flights. SW Orlando The Marketplace at Dr. Phillips 7600 Dr. Phillips Blvd. (407) 355-0340 Orlando 2400 East Colonial Drive (407) 894-1718 Ocoee Shoppes of Ocoee (407) 798-2000 Altamonte Springs Palm Springs Shopping Ctr, (407) 830-t770 Lake Mary Lake Mary Centre (407) 833-0848 East Orlando 715 North Alafaya Trail (407) 249-9475 REAL. GOOO. FOOD. WWW.TOOJAYS,COM SO GOOD This year, let Too Jay's do the holiday preparation. Bring family and friends and break the fast with us, or take out our deluxe smoked fish platter to celebrate in the comfort of your own home. Either way it will be a meal worth waiting for. Yore Kippur Platter $13.29ee Your choice of any combination of fish: liced Nova Smoked Whitefish Baked Salmon Whitefish Salad 1SagelY, Cream Cheese And all accompaniments. In a sign of growing eco- nomic partnership, Israeli and Chinese transportation authorities have signed an agreement to significantly increase the frequency of pas- senger flights between their countries. According to the deal, Israel and China can oper- ate 14 regular passenger flights as well as seven we are WASHINGTON, DC--Join- ing presidents and giants of the Civil Rights movement as part of the national com- memoration of the March on Washington, Alanvan Capelle, CEO of Bend the Arc: A Jewish Partnership for Justice, spoke from the steps of the Lincoln Memorial, urging his fellow American Jews and all Ameri- cans to continue the struggle for civil rights. "The vision Dr. King offered cargo flights between the countries. Until now, only Israel's EIAI operated three weekly flights to Beijing, while China's national airline, Air China, does not provide any flights to Israel. Approximately 50,000 passengers per year travel between Tel Aviv and Beijing, while another 30,000 make the trip via other stopovers. us 50 years ago wasn't only a dream. It was a call for equal- ity but it was also a demand for justice," van Capelle said. "We may be closer to equality but we are far from justice... Every year Jews around the world recall how Moses led his people out of slavery and towards the Promised Land. But the desert came first. Jews believe that the only way to the Promised Land is through the desert. We are taught that "I believe that the agree- ment is likely to bring to Israel hundreds of thousands and even millions of Chinese fans of the history of the Israeli people and of Jewish sites, which attract millions of visitors from around the world," Israeli Transporta- tion Minister Yisrael Katz said, the Jerusalem Post reported. 9JP 'there is no way to get from here to there except by join- ing together and marching.'" Van Capelle's brief speech was part of the Let Freedom Ring Commemoration and Call to Action event at the Lincoln Memorial, which cel- ebrated the 50th anniversary of the historic March onWash- ington for Jobs and Freedom and Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.'s incomparable "I Have A Dream" speech.