A bookstore in the capital’s ultra-Orthodox Mea She’arim neighborhood is struggling against a wave of attacks by a haredi group called Sikrikim (“Sicarii”) that other business-owners have called the “mafia of Mea Sha’arim.”
Since the bookstore, known as Or Hachaim/Manny’s, opened in March 2010, men have smashed its windows several times, glued its locks shut, thrown tar and fish oil, and dumped bags of human excrement inside.
Chief Rabbi Yona Metzger was harassed and had stones thrown at him while leaving the store last year.
The bookstore, located on Mea She’arim Street, is popular with Anglo residents and tourists and carries many English- language holy books and Judaica items in addition to Hebrew books. The harassment stems from the bookstore’s refusal to accept demands made by the neighborhood extremist group, which would require all businesses to observe specific “modesty standards.”
At Or Hachaim, the Sikrikim’s demands include putting up a sign asking customers to dress modestly, removing all English-language books, signs and advertisements, and closing its website, which is in English, all so as not to attract tourists, who are not dressed modestly, said Marlene Samuels, one of the three managers of the bookstore, along with her husband, Manny, and Meir Dombey. Manny Samuels previously ran Manny’s Bookstore, which was well-known in the Anglo community.
“These people are very extreme; they terrorize lots of people here, and they are a very insular group,” Marlene Samuels said. She added that despite filing four complaints with the police and providing surveillance footage that clearly identified four of the men who have been vandalizing their shop, the police has not gotten involved.
“In the last few weeks, the police said they just don’t want to get involved in this neighborhood,” she said.