Goodbye Bet Shemesh

Goodbye, Bet Shemesh

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

My story began while doing everything in my power to protect my daughter, and her friends from extremists who terrified 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

As far back as I can remember, I have always been a feminist. I have always had strong opinions regarding what I thought was right and wrong. The difference is that now my opinions were 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, and it’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 no longer a place where I feel comfortable living in, was the reaction to my most recent article which spoke about the current situation at the woman’s Mikvah. I had written about a very personal experience I had gone through, not mentioning in the article which Mikvah this specific incident took place in.

For a very long time, nearly 11 years to be exact, I have had issues from time to time in different mikvahs worldwide. I felt that some kind of change must take place in order for 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 take place. I am grateful that more women feel 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 feeling humiliated. Women who feel that they have no control over their body 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 astounded me. 

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 mikvah experiences combined.

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, I call it our “emergency exit”.

The negative reaction I felt from my community only came from approximately 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 mikvah situation, which I do. However, I cannot get past the humiliation, shock, and pain I felt 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. 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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