Goodbye Bet Shemesh

Goodbye, Bet Shemesh

This post is for my friends who have been there for me from before the events which took place in Bet Shemesh over the past two years, and then remained at my side throughout.

My story started while doing everything in my power to protect my daughter and her friends from extremists who terrified little boys, girls, and their parents on a daily basis for months.

bet shemesh demonstration
Walking to the Bet Shemesh demonstration. Photo: Oilivier Fitoussi Haaretz

When the municipality, government, and the Bet Shemesh police force failed to do their job in protecting our children while walking home from school, I joined together with others in an attempt to take things to the next level. We went ahead with the determination to do everything in our power to stop the extremists from their acts of violence against our children.

I gave up being the very private person that I was, for the sake of our children feeling safe and secure. I would do it again in a heartbeat. My one and only agenda was keeping my daughter happy and secure as all children should feel.

Hadassa Margolese, fighter for religious tolerance, quits Beit Shemesh

I have always been a feminist. I have always had strong opinions about what I thought was right and wrong. Just that now my opinions became public. I realized that I can contribute by voicing what I feel needs change.

I have had friends who agree with what I believe in and friends who disagree with what I believe in. That’s fine, that’s normal. I have had respectful debates, respectful disagreements- agreeing to disagree.

What pushed me over the edge and caused me to feel that Bet Shemesh is not a place where I feel comfortable living in anymore, was the reaction to my most recent article which spoke about the current situation at the woman’s Mikva. I wrote about a very personal experience I had gone through, not mentioning in the article which Mikva it took place in.

For a very long time, nearly 11 years to be exact, I have had issues from time to time in different mikva’s worldwide. I felt that some kind of change must take place in order for all women to feel safe, secure and comfortable when going to fulfill this mitzvah. This seems to be an issue throughout Israel, as seen in the ITIM petition.

I wrote the article hoping that some kind of change would be made. I am grateful that more women are feeling that they can speak out now because that will only help create the change for us women who so desperately want it.

I am saddened that there are so many stories of women who feel humiliated, and feel that they have no control over their bodies at the mikvah.

The reactions I received from people who were my friends, was shocking. The social media shaming, and individuals going out of their way to contact religious news publications such as Arutz Sheva, to further shame their former neighbor and friend.

I didn’t see that coming. I was accused of all sorts of things. The humiliation I felt from these individuals, was worse than all of my negative mikva experiences put together.

I knew about the gossip going on around me. I cried for days. I couldn’t breathe. My heart raced so fast I thought I would just stop existing. I wanted to stop existing. The shaming worked. I felt the full force of cyberbullying, and it broke me. I stopped leaving my house other than to go to work. I decided that it is time to move It is what I call our “emergency exit”.

The negative in my community only came from about two handfuls of people, the support I received was by far more than the negative. People told me to continue writing, continue speaking out about the mikva situation, which I do. However, I cannot get past the humiliation/ shock/ pain I was in by the way people- my friends and neighbors behaved, spoke, made fun of, and wrote about me.

Would these people have had the nerve to speak to me in such a way to my face? Or is it easier to hide behind a computer?

I have disagreed with people many times. Never, ever to my recollection, have I ever humiliated someone, made them feel so embarrassed to their face, or through social media. And I have learned a lesson- I will never treat someone who I so strongly disagree with, the way I was treated.

I am leaving and saying goodbye, Bet Shemesh completely heartbroken. I am leaving friends who I have met through our common goal of making this city a better place for us all to live in, and to you, I wish all the best, and may you continue having the strength to fight for what is just and right. Bet Shemesh is, and always will be a part of me.

I am speaking for myself, as I always have, and not on behalf of anyone else.

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