"There are two sides to every argument, but I don't have time to listen to yours."
In the months leading up to our Aliyah, a peeping tom was caught for the second time outside our building. This time he was caught with his pants down (literally). Tom happened to belong to our community and was regularly seen at our shul. We decided to make a minimal amount of information public so people could take steps to protect themselves. The community rallied around Tom as they perceived him to be the injured party. Numerous people claiming to represent the Rabbi put pressure on those involved to keep the story quiet. Tom needed to be helped by the community and avoid facing the Justice System.. We were told that if we didn't like it we could leave.
The people who were hurt by the incident were of no concern to anyone. The victim moved back home with her family, undoing a year's worth of effort by tenants of our building to get out the previous drug dealing family. She was replaced by another drug dealing family. The older single mother who had caught Tom was terrified as she was told by police they considered it to be a gateway crime. Of course Rachel was terrified at night or when she was alone, especially since we lived on the ground floor and I would play hockey late at night. Aliyah happened to be our escape from dealing with the issue head on.
Our community has three mikvahs. There is Dolev at the top of the hill which is the nicest and newest. It is in close proximity to most of the Datei Leumi (DTL) community. Further down the hill is Lachish, which is currently closed for renovations. It is in close proximity to the more Charedi community. The Luz mikvah is supposed to be privately built million plus dollar to serve the Charedi community. At this point it is more of a bargaining chip, than having any realistic prospects of being built.
When the new Charedi Mayor came to power, there were plans to replace the Rabbis in charge of the Mikvahs. Our Rabbi who was heavily involved in protecting the DTL community's interests gave a personal guarantee, nobody would ever be subjected to an unwanted 2o minute "Mehadrin" Bedikah. One day Rachel did go to the Mikvah and was subjected to the "Mehardin" experience. She came home bleeding and in tears. We later learned the Mikvah had been split in half and Rachel had ended up on the Charedi side.
A few weeks ago someone posted that the Charedi Rabbis were once again taking over the Mikvah and action should be taken to stop it. Part of the political horse trading that lead to the original split was that the Charedi would take over Dolev and the DTL would take control over Lachish. The mikvahs would be traded again when the never to be built Luz mikvah was built. The political part of the agreement has been broken. Although it presents legal issues, it is not relevant to the needs of the community.
A local Rabbi (who's shul attracts a similar crowd to when we were in TO) had one of his henchman post to the list that everything the person said was not true. The Rabbi should be contacted for clarification. Rachel challenged the claim and was turned over to e-mailing the Rabbi. He was surprised she didn't report her experience to him. Going to our Rabbi who went to the Rav of the city didn't seem like a logical course of action to him. At his request she went into great detail as to what happened. Without answering any questions, he said that he would not continue by e-mail, he would be available for a meeting in person but not for at least another week.
A number of concerns emerged about the change in control. Numerous women have had similar experiences to Rachel. There had been a sign that it was forbidden for women to toivel at Ben HaShmashot on Friday night. According to Sephardic tradition this is the ideal time to go. Waiting until night fall to accommodate the Ashkenaz tradition forces them to deal with leniencies they cannot rely on. There is a legitimate fear that some women will simply skip out on this important mitzvah if it is made to difficult. Another variable is the DTL half of the mikvah was getting twice as many people as the Charedi side. It is not very often that there is such a clear cut way of measuring preference for one methodology over another.
The Rabbi mentioned before had the Charedi position clarified. As he does not write in his own name, a post written and approved by someone who interview the Rabbi sufficed. In the comments section the writer was forced to conclude that the Rabbi felt any complaints against the Charedi Mikvah were outright lies. The DTL had been pushing for Rav Ovadiah Yoseph to take up the Sephardic cause. As the spiritual head of Shas he could use his political power, especially since the Mayor belongs to Shas. He was told that the sign never existed. With all concerns swept under the rug he easily gave his blessing to the take over.
How often do we break our teeth to make excuses for inappropriate behaviour based on a persons religious or community standing? How often do we simply toss aside the feelings of those who have been injured emotionally or physically because it is easier not to deal with an issue? Why is it okay to threaten someone else for not following one particular Rabbi? How often is somebody tossed outside the camp for having a different perspective on a situation?
The Charedi community has used the State to more or less build the type of community they want. For the most part I am willing to let them live the lives they want as long as I can do the same. The Charedi community has moved beyond looking after themselves to imposing their views on everyone else. The backlash has already begun. If their leadership and trouble makers don't learn to play nicely with everyone else, they will end up reversing the gains they have made. A good start in Beit Shemesh will be to let the communities function as an essential public service. Continuing with the status quo is the best way to serve both communities. Nobody wins from the nationally publicized religious battles.