Thousands of chareidi and religious Jews assembled on
Shabbos Parshas Behar-Bechukosai for massive, outdoor
musaf services at the entrance to the city of Beit
Shemesh, in protest at the opening on Shabbos of a
MacDonald's restaurant in the city. The services were held
at directives of the Beit Shemesh neighborhood rabbonim,
whose call was joined by maranan verabonon, the
gedolei Yisroel. Unprecedented in the history of Beit
Shemesh, the event was a kiddush Shem Shomayim.
From 10 AM, minyan after minyan, numbering
altogether thousands of people, began to stream to the road
at the entrance to Beit Shemesh to daven musaf.
Having davened shacharis, read the Torah and said
Bircas Hachodesh in the individual synagogues, the
groups then set out to the massive musaf services.
Many made kiddush before leaving.
The sight of thousands of Jews who had walked a number of
kilometers from distant city neighborhoods wrapped in
talleisim to the entrance to Beit Shemesh was a
moving experience. They walked in large groups, headed by
roshei yeshiva, neighborhood rabbonim, community heads,
roshei kollel, and morei horo'oh from all
sects and circles in Beis Shemesh. Sephardim joined
Ashkenazim, singing Shabbos melodies. The lively strains of
Shabbos songs aroused many Jews who were in their homes,
spurring them to join the crowds marching to musaf in
front of the restaurant that desecrates Shabbos Kodesh.
In order to avert problems of carrying on Shabbos, the Beit
Shemesh rabbonim had suggested that enlarged copies of
musaf be posted on fences near the city entrance.
The flow of people continued for more than an hour. As
Shema Yisroel, Kedusha, and Bircas Kohanim
resounded from each minyan, the prevailing feeling
was of a great kiddush Shem Shomayim.
At the end of the musaf prayers, recited by each
minyan according to its nusach, everyone
joined together in song and dance, forming a lively circle
encompassing the entire area. Then everyone headed for home
under the beating sun. Along the way, many Torah-observant
residents handed out cold drinks.
The few policemen stationed at the site of the demonstration
were idle. A larger police force, stationed further away to
forestall what was expected to be inevitable provocation,
also stood by idly, because the entire event proceeded
remarkably peacefully. Ushers whose job was to maintain
order so that the crowd would not overflow onto the main
road due to pressure on police barricades managed to
maintain order without police intervention.
Chareidi members of the city council also participated in
the huge service. However the absence of the kippah-
wearing mayor of Beit Shemesh, Daniel Vaknin, who had
chosen to spend Shabbos away from Beit Shemesh, was acutely
Exemplary order was maintained at the event, far from the
dire predictions of the secular media. About twenty counter
demonstrators stood in front of MacDonald's, opposite the
Shabbos demonstrators. The small numbers were especially
conspicuous, considering the publicity campaign the
treif food chain has been waging recently. A few
secular drivers tried to drive into the throng, both as it
headed to the prayer site and on its return home.
Miraculously, there were no accidents.