Religion Magazine

Bet Shemesh Festival on the Chopping Block

By Gldmeier @gldmeier
The Bet Shemesh Festival, which has been running annually on Sukkot for 15 years, has become a landmark event in Bet Shemesh. People travel from all over the country to enjoy the variety of musicians, along with the festival associated with it.
Unfortunately, the Bet Shemesh Festival is no more. Mayor Moshe Abutbol has said that the city does not have the money to fund it this year, and therefore it will not happen.
Bet Shemesh Festival on the chopping block
On the one hand, if the city really does not have money, and we all know there is a deficit in the Bet Shemesh coffers and the city financial situation is not great, to put it mildly, it is a good thing to start cutting out the extras. In tough times we have to trim down.
On the other hand, is the city trimming down anywhere else? How much money did Eyal Golan cost the city recently - that was close to 200,000nis. What about all the free or highly subsidized events in the summer, and the upcoming sukkos, vacations, for the Haredi community - is the city canceling those events for lack of funds?
Canceling the Bet Shemesh Festival is more than just trimming down. It is short-sightedness (unless it is "mechuvan" to get that specific result). The Festival brings money into the city, as people buy goods from local merchants, and it puts Bet Shemesh on the map and in the public eye for good reasons rather than bad reasons.
MK Rabbi Dov Lipman has sent an open letter to the mayor, Moshe Abutbol. Lipman writes:
ראש העיר אבוטבול היקר,    ב-15 השנים האחרונות, כל תושבי בית שמש מכל הרקעים נהנו מהפסטיבל בחול המועד סוכות. כל עם ישראל היה מצטרף יחד כדי לשיר ולרקוד - משמעות ארבעת המינים המסמל את האחדות בעם. אירוע זה גם הביא אנשים מחוץ לבית שמש שהגיעו וראו את הצד היפה של העיר שלנו. אני הייתי המום ועצוב לשמוע שביטלת את האירוע, והשנה לא יתקיים פסטיבל סוכות. האחריות להחלטה זו היא שלך - כראש עיר וכמחזיק תיק  מורשת ישראל . אני לא רק מגנה את ההחלטה שלך, אבל קורא לך לשנות אותה. בית שמש זקוקה לאחדות ואירוע זה מבטא את האחדות .איך אתה יכול לטעון שאתה  מספק את צרכי כל האזרחים מצד אחד, ומצד שני אתה מבטל מסורת שנתית זו שכל כך הרבה תושבים בעיר מצפים לה. אנא החזר את הפסטיבל. אפילו אם בשלב מאוחר זה אתה יכול רק לארגן אירוע בקנה מידה קטן יותר, אנא עשה זאת. אם זה לא יכול להיות מסודר לסוכות לארגן אחד לחנוכה ולאחר מכן נמשיך את המסורת בסוכות שנה הבאה. העובדה שלא ענית למכתב שלי בנושא זה אינה מבשרת טובות. דע לך שאני מדבר בשם אלפי תושבים בעיר.  כמו תמיד אני הייתי שמח להיפגש איתך בכדי לדון כיצד אנו יכולים לעבוד יחד למען בית שמשותושביה.     שנה טובה,   ח"כ הרב דב ליפמן

translation:
Dear Mayor Abutbol,  For the past 15 years, Bet Shemesh residents from all backgrounds have enjoyed the Bet Shemesh Festival on chol hamoed.
All types of Jews would join together to sing and dance - a living example of the unity symbolized by the lulav and etrog. This event also brought people from outside Bet Shemesh to come and see the beautiful side of our city. I was shocked and saddened to hear that you have cancelled the event and there will be no festival this year.
The responsiblity for this decision lies with you - as mayor and as holder of the moreshet yisrael portfolio.
I not only condemn your decision but call on you to change this decision. Bet Shemesh needs unity and this event expresses that unity. How can you claim to be providing all citizens with their needs while cancelling this annual tradition which so many in the city look forward to and enjoy?
Please reinstate the festival. If at this late stage you can only arrange a scaled back event then please do so. If it cannot be arranged for sukkot then arrange one for chanukah. And then continue the sukkot tradition next year.
The fact you have not replied to my letter about this issue does not bode well for this happening but I know I speak for thousands of residents in making this demand.
As always I would welcome the opportunity to meet with you to discuss how we can work together for the sake of bet shemesh and its citizens.
Wishing you a shana tova and with the hope that you will reinstate the festival, MK Rabbi Dov Lipman
Obviously many people are upset and disappointed. People are truing to call in to the Iryah to complain and get the message out.
The mayor might talk a good game, but he really does seem to be doing whatever he can to make some sectors of Bet Shemesh feel unwanted and unwelcome.
It is a shame because all these incidents and events will end up being used in the campaign to split the city.
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