The case of the mother from Beit Shemesh, dubbed "Mother Taliban," who was accused of severely abusing her 12 children and turning a blind eye to incest in her family shocked the Israeli public last year.
But it now seems that the fact the affair had taken place among the ultra-Orthodox community in Beit Shemesh is no coincidence. A study by sociologist Dr. Shlomi Doron of the Ashkelon Academic College argues that the rejection of formerly secular haredim by the ultra-Orthodox communities in Jerusalem serves as a catalyst for adopting extreme behaviors.
In a soon-to-be-published book, Doron claims that by refusing to accept into its midst former seculars, the haredi society pushes these people into forming their own separate, sometimes fundamentalist communities.
"Becoming religious is an interesting phenomenon in Israeli society," explained Doron. "On the one hand, these people make a significant, highly-valued spiritual move, and on the other hand, the haredim put many obstacles in their path," he said, referring to obstacles in matters of education, marriage and housing.
"A place in which many former seculars live is considered less desirable. When a new haredi family wants to rent an apartment, the other residents immediately check who they are and whether they have any secular roots," Doron said.
This conduct, he added, forces many families to form communities of their own. "These are people who have cut off all ties with their secular family, secular community and secular identity. When they fail to get accepted into the haredi world, this leads to a personal crisis," explained Doron.
"This vacuum is often filled by people of 'spiritual domination,' like 'Rabbi' Elior Chen, who manage to drag them to horribly extreme places."
Referring to the case of the abusive mother, Doron suggested that being rejected by the haredi world has created not only a spiritual, but also a mental vacuum for her. "When one changes his religious identity and there's no one to welcome him on the other side, this can cause quite serious mental problems… in fact those who are guilty of the extremism of former seculars are to a certain extent the haredim themselves."
The solution for this, concluded Doron, can come only from the great rabbis.