Kiddush Hashem in Beit Shemesh

Rabbi Yaacov Haber

I had the privilege of attending a “Town Hall Meeting” arranged by Rabbi Yaacov Haber last week, at his Kehilas Shivtei Yeshurun (KSY) shul in Ramat Beit Shemesh.

The rav introduced the event by observing that there had been a huge Chilul Hashem around the world, centered on the recent events in Beit Shemesh.

The purpose of the evening was to have a forum, for all present to float ideas which would (or could) create a Kiddush Hashem.

Rules: one minute on the timer for each speaker; any negativity is forbidden and will be stopped in its tracks. On with the show…!

Out of around a hundred people who attended, over twenty people chose to speak. The attendees were all anglos, and included broad representation of dati leumi and Chareidi people. Men/Women were approximately 50/50. There were also some individuals from Givat Sharett, including those who have been directly involved in the struggle there, such as Dov Krulwich and Daniel Goldman.

In spite of the controversial and highly charged events in recent weeks, I do not recall even a single “negative” remark in the one hour event. The time keeping was rigorously enforced, by the all-smiling MC David Geffen, and so everyone had an opportunity to speak on an equal footing.    

According to the event organizers, the following Kiddush Hashem-Ideas were proposed during the evening:

* Mass Love Your Neighbor Rally (maybe for 100,000 charedim
* Coordinate more closely with the police to arrest and close down trouble makers
* Rabbanim from all the camps meet on a regular basis
* Shul meetings… (maybe a couple of members from each shul)
* Definitive Statement against violence from all the leaders officially posted up on the streets
* Find a symbol (like the orange ribbon for gush katif) to represent “We love all Jews”, that becomes the In-Thing to wear or put on our car etc. (Rabbi Haber would like to buy the T-shirt)
* Invite someone from CNN to see the good side of Beit Shemesh
* In depth academic study of WHY and WHAT can be done
* So that those that want to be separate can be separate, establish areas for re-location
* Keep back tzedaka money for individuals and institutions in BET until Anti-Violence conditions are met.
* Ongoing Dialogue for the leaders
* Vote for a Mayor that can solve the problem
* Produce PR, explanatory and family videos for Youtube etc.
* Different Kehilot meet for kiddushim
* Story books for kids – maybe the adults will learn from them
* Daf Shalom – something like daf yomi that the community does each day for shalom.    
* Large significant delegations visit the Rabbinical leaders
* Nashei Shalom – the women from all the side should meet, strengthen relationships and lay the foundation for genuine achdut
* Organize an immediate response team to violent outbursts
* Anglo Gimmicks such a singing evenings – fun things that bring the communities together
Website for ideas
* Hire a top of the line PR firm to present the good side of Beit Shemesh
* On a personal level to make sure to change our judgmental, distancing, even hateful language that can sometimes unwittingly be used at the Shabbat Table
* Achdut Merchandise in the shops
* When we talk to people, publicize the goodness in RBS BEG e.g. guarding the eyes (love “them” as well)
* Hugging expeditions to various parts of Beit Shemesh, combined with idea 6 to be handed out before the hug J - The 1st expedition leaves from KSY at 11am on Friday Jan 13 ~ 18th Tevet
* A book from Rav Haber

It is true that, in the cold light of day, many of these ideas sound zany; and surely questions will be asked what was in that pipe we were passing round....
Indeed, as I drove away from the KSY shul, in order to do some errands in Beit Shemesh, I passed dozens of RBS Bet residents, crowding around an incident involving a bus, and a large dumpster. I believe protesters had thrown stones at the bus and tried to block the main road with the dumpster.

For a blessed hour, perhaps we had experienced the eerie quiet and peacefulness of the eye of the storm.

I do hope that some of the ideas will spawn practical projects, as the need for "Beit Shemesh" to have positive associations tomorrow, instead of the negative ones today, is a supremely important mission.

However, as Rav Haber said (I paraphrase): if the only thing to come out of this evening, is this evening, and Hashem delights in our efforts to bring about a Kiddush Hashem, then this has been worthwhile.

Please send further ideas and questions to:

If you have some nice photos of the evening, please email to me, so I can post them here (with credits!).


  1. Like. Thanks for a positive post amidst all the horrible negativity.

  2. David, yasher koakh on your correct grammar in the statement "... there had been a huge Chilul Hashem around the world, centered on the recent events in Beit Shemesh." Many people err by saying/writing "centered around".

    As for the story books for kids, I know a terrific writer: she won the first 2 grants she ever applied for, survived the "dot-com" business bust in the '90s journalism world and has a way of writing memorable messages. Let's chat with Rabbi Haber about this.

  3. What about a white ribbon?

    Let's get the copy-writers working on a t-shirt! I don't know about hebrew but in English some ideas: can play on words eg shemesh = sun, so not to fire of machlokes but yes to fire of Torah/Mitzvos/Shalom/Shechina etc. Or brotherly love...

    work with me here :)


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