The angry mob of one hundred men and women marched swiftly
toward the school, determined to drive away the vermin that
had invaded their city. Armed with stones, empty bottles and
rusty iron bars, they steeled themselves for the task at
hand. By the time they reached the school their leader was
already waiting for them.
"Unless we get rid of those parasites immediately," he said
to his followers, "they will take over our homes, our
businesses and then run us out of town." The people murmured
their assent and nodded their heads in agreement. "Now
they've had the audacity to open their own school," the
leader continued. "It's time for action. It's time for us to
take the initiative and get rid of them once and for all!"
With cheers and applause the mob expressed their agreement.
The leader signaled to his deputies, who began deploying the
mob according to plan.
They fanned out and surrounded the school. Two conscientious
citizens strapped their Doberman Pinscher hunting dogs to the
school gate. The dogs, sensing the mounting tension and the
thrill of the hunt, loped nervously back and forth, sniffing
the air for a scent. Friendly back slapping and animated
conversation broke out as a spirit of pre-combat excitement
tinged the air.
"Here they come!" someone shouted. The men threw away their
cigarettes and got ready. Reaching for their clubs, they
stood tall and looked tough.
Twenty-five little Jewish three-year-old girls, accompanied
by a Bais Yaakov teacher, approached in the distance.
Trembling with fear, they followed their teacher toward the
gate. The mob closed in on them and the dogs lunged at the
girls, baring their fangs and straining wildly against the
leash. Panic-stricken, the girls flung themselves against
their teacher and hung on for dear life.
The leader stood before them with arms crossed and legs
firmly planted on the ground. "Leave, or we'll kill you!" he
declared in his flat, metallic voice.
"Yeah, get out of here, you dirty cockroaches!" one of his
followers chimed in.
Then the unexpected happened. "I don't know where I got the
courage to do such a thing," recalls the teacher, "but I
clutched the girls' hands and charged right through the gate.
We just made it to the door when a barrage of stones
spattered the wall all around us. Thank G-d no one was hurt.
I managed to get all the girls into the school and lock the
door, but then another barrage of stones crashed through the
windows and sent shards of glass flying in every direction.
We huddled together in a corner as more projectiles sailed
over our heads and ricocheted off the freshly painted walls.
The mob eventually dispersed, and then we cleaned up and
* * *
When and where did this incident occur? Sixty years ago in
Nazi Germany? Wrong. It happened less than 90 days ago in
Tzoran, a middle-class town in the center of the State of
Yisroel. This may seem difficult to believe, but it's
It all began last summer, when P'eylim / Lev L'Achim launched
a national school enrollment campaign which resulted in 6,500
children from non-religious families being enrolled in Torah
schools. Rabbi Avrohom Sa'ada, Lev L'Achim's man in Tzoran,
registered 25 of the city's children. However, Tzoran lacks
even the most rudimentary elements of a religious lifestyle,
and there was not a single Torah school within a 30-mile
radius of the city. Where would the newly enrolled children
go to school?
Similar problems were encountered in various cities around
the country -- numerous parents had agreed to send their
children to Torah schools, but there were no such schools in
At this stage the gedolei Torah of Eretz Yisroel
convened and decided to establish the Development Fund for
Torah Chinuch in Israel, a special fund to finance the
establishment of new schools in cities like Tzoran. This
decision resulted in the historic visit of the Gerrer Rebbe
and HaRav Aharon Leib Shteinman to the United States last
spring. The fund was subsequently named "Nesivos Moshe" in
memory of the late Agudath Israel leader, Rabbi Moshe Sherer
Working in unison, officials of P'eylim / Lev L'Achim and the
Nesivos Moshe Fund located and leased facilities in five
"trouble spots" and converted the buildings into schools. One
of those spots was Tzoran. Nesivos Moshe provided seed money
to renovate the Tzoran facility and build classrooms in time
for the opening day of school. Chinuch Atzmai agreed to
undertake the operational costs of running the new school.
Rabbi Sa'ada was very pleased with how things were turning
out. That's when the trouble began.
A group of residents closely aligned with Meretz found out
about the new school and instigated a major media blitz.
"Ultra-Orthodox Invade Tzoran," newspaper headlines blared.
"New School A Threat -- Stand Up for Your Rights," posters
announced. That same night a huge torch-lit procession was
held before the school building. Hundreds of Meretz activists
from Tel Aviv were bussed in to bolster the ranks of the
All the big guns of the political left were in attendance,
including the leader of Meretz, Yossi Sarid. Spitting venom,
he lividly denounced this attempt by "the forces of darkness"
to infringe upon the freedom and the legitimate rights of the
people of Tzoran. Of course, he neglected to point out that
the 25 parents of the newly enrolled children were themselves
residents of Tzoran. We who live in Israel are used to this
strange phenomenon -- popular catch phrases such as "freedom"
and "legitimate rights" do not apply to anyone who has even
the slightest religious leanings.
"Let those who want religious schools for their children
leave and go elsewhere," yelled the local leftist political
candidate, Gidi Bleicher. "We will stop them at all cost! If
left with no alternative, we will take the law into our own
hands." This last hysterical pronouncement elicited a loud
round of cheers and applause from the angry mob.
Ever since that first massive demonstration, groups of well
over 100 protesters -- as well as a number of fierce-looking
attack dogs -- have stood vigil in front of the school and
subjected the 25 students to unspeakable verbal and physical
abuse. The ghastly confrontation described above took place
on September 1st, 1998. However, there have been many other
similar incidents accompanied by acts of violence:
On the night of the 16th of November 1998, the school's
administration held a PTA meeting attended by all 25 parents.
While the meeting was in progress, the citizens of Tzoran
padlocked the front door of the school and trapped the group
of parents and teachers inside the building. They then
shattered the windows of the school and hurled rocks, iron
bars and canisters of hot tar at their helpless victims
trapped inside. At this point the police were forced to step
in, and as a result four suspects were arrested on the
following morning. Representatives of Nesivos Moshe filed
charges against the four suspects for property damages in
excess of $40,000.
The police force's long overdue intervention discouraged
further acts of violence and caused the number of
demonstrators to dwindle to less than twenty. As the public's
interest waned, the leaders of Tzoran's anti-religious
movement decided to move the struggle to the courtroom,
filing charges against the school for supposedly violating
On December 3rd the court vindicated the school's
administration of all charges. A group of infuriated
demonstrators responded by breaking into the school on the
night of December 6th and vandalizing the building. Walls
were defaced and furniture broken.
On the following morning demonstrators armed with stones and
attack dogs again surrounded the building and refused to
allow students or teachers into the school. However, this
time the school's principal had the foresight to bring along
a video camera. She filmed the entire episode and reported
the incident to the police, who promptly arrested four
In view of these recent setbacks, anti-religious activists
have now adopted a different strategy: terrorizing the
parents of the newly-enrolled children. They and their homes
are bombarded daily with eggs and rotten tomatoes, and piles
of garbage are deposited before their front door every single
Ironically, the instigators of the anti-religious movement in
Tzoran belong to a registered nonprofit organization called,
"Freedom for the People of Tzoran." It is an interesting
brand of freedom they have chosen to promote. Freedom cannot
be gained by terrorizing innocent citizens, vandalizing
property and pitting attack dogs against defenseless
children. If that is freedom, what then is oppression?
Rabbi Avrohom Sa'ada and his group of 25 courageous parents
are the greatest enigma in this saga. How do they stand the
pressure? What keeps them going?
"The children are coming back to the ways of Torah," Rabbi
Sa'ada explains, "and they are pulling their parents along in
the same direction. This alone gives me the strength to go
Rabbi Sa'ada illustrates the point:
"On Rosh Chodesh Kislev a group of 8 parents attended a
weekend kiruv seminar and made leaps and bounds in
their commitment to Yiddishkeit. Recently they
circulated a signed petition requesting the municipality
build a mikveh and set up a kosher eruv for the
residents of Tzoran. Yesterday the school held a Chanukah
party attended by both teachers and parents. Tomorrow -- the
third day of Chanukah -- fifteen more parents will be going
off to one of Lev L'Achim's kiruv seminars. Next week
we hope to open an after-school enrichment program for the 25
pupils of our school as well as for the children of the
community at large. Plans are already under way for next
year's enrollment campaign, which we expect will add at least
three new classrooms to the school. The school's
establishment is directly responsible for all of these
encouraging signs of spiritual growth.
"You can't imagine," Rabbi Sa'ada says, "what a sensation it
is to know that I am playing a role in this process. I
wouldn't give it up for all the riches in the world."
Yoram Buskila, one of the Tzoran parents, offers a similar
explanation: "We've discovered something very precious in
this school," he says. "My children are gaining a familiarity
with our people's heritage that I myself lack, and the beauty
of these teachings simply astounds me. Lev L'Achim is helping
my wife and I to make up for all those lost years and
discover more of this beauty. It's something that is
definitely worth fighting for."