After 20 months of attacks and a quarter million shekels in damage, a religious bookstore in the ultra-Orthodox Mea She’arim neighborhood of Jerusalem decided on Monday to accede to the demands of extremists responsible for the violence.
Under the terms of the compromise, Ohr Hachaim/Manny’s put up a large sign requesting that all customers dress modestly. A mashgiach, who checks the store’s inventory to make sure there are no controversial books, will go over the books in the coming week and require that some books be removed from the shelves, though they will not be permitted to remove any English books, said Marlene Samuels, one of the store’s managers.
A haredi group called Sikrikim deemed the store as “promoting immodesty,” and since Manny’s opened in March 2010, the group has smashed its windows more than a dozen times, glued its locks shut, thrown tar and fish oil at the store and dumped bags of human excrement inside. The owners were also personally threatened multiple times.
One of the group’s leaders has been arrested, which apparently allowed the bookstore owners to reach a “compromise” than fell short of acceding to all of the extremists’ demands. Nevertheless, this strikes me as a result an abdication of responsibility by Israeli authorities. The owners had to pay for their own security guards. How about a police patrol protecting the store? The leader was arrested, great. But what about all the lower-level thugs who perpetrated the vandalism and threats? The Israeli government has long permitted Haredi extremists to be above the law, permitting them enforce “modesty” rules on public streets via violence and threats, illegally segregating the sexes on public buses, tolerating violent demonstrations against construction projects allegedly taking place on ancient cemeteries, and so on. Not to mention the greatest malfeasance of all, allowing Haredi extremists to take control of domestic relations law. With the Haredi population increasing exponentially, the government needs to stand up for liberalism while it still can.