ShareThis Page
U.S./World

Israelis stage mass protest against extremists

| Wednesday, Dec. 28, 2011

BEIT SHEMESH, Israel -- Thousands of Israelis poured into this Jerusalem suburb on Tuesday night in a protest against religious extremists who have targeted women and enforced strict division of the sexes in public life.

As Hannah Beinish sat and watched the crowds from her rooftop garden, she wondered why they hadn't come sooner.

"The problem with these extremists is not a new problem. They have been growing in strength and in numbers for years," said the 42-year-old Beinish, who has lived in the city of Beit Shemesh for nearly 20 years.

"Only now the public has noticed and come to support us. I really hope it's not too late."

The Israeli public has been rocked by a series of recent reports about the behavior of extremist Jewish groups, which has included forcing women to sit at the back of public buses, erecting signs calling for the separation of the sexes on sidewalks and even the physical assaults of schoolgirls by ultra-Orthodox men who found their school uniforms immodest.

Naama Margolese, an 8-year-old American immigrant who attends the Orot school in Beit Shemesh, became a focal point of the outcry after an Israeli news station filmed her facing daily abuses from extremists.

TV news footage showed the shy, bespectacled second-grader shaking and brushing tears from her eyes as she described men who spat at her and called her "prostitute" for attending the school.

A group of extremists has taken issue with the Orot school's location, near a hard-line religious school for men. Though the Orot school was exclusively for Orthodox girls -- nearly all of whom dress in long skirts and long-sleeved shirts -- in August a group of men began gathering every week to curse and threaten the students.

"My stomach hurts every time I need to walk to and from the school and I know those men will be there," Naama said. "They are scary."

TribLIVE commenting policy

You are solely responsible for your comments and by using TribLive.com you agree to our Terms of Service.

We moderate comments. Our goal is to provide substantive commentary for a general readership. By screening submissions, we provide a space where readers can share intelligent and informed commentary that enhances the quality of our news and information.

While most comments will be posted if they are on-topic and not abusive, moderating decisions are subjective. We will make them as carefully and consistently as we can. Because of the volume of reader comments, we cannot review individual moderation decisions with readers.

We value thoughtful comments representing a range of views that make their point quickly and politely. We make an effort to protect discussions from repeated comments either by the same reader or different readers

We follow the same standards for taste as the daily newspaper. A few things we won't tolerate: personal attacks, obscenity, vulgarity, profanity (including expletives and letters followed by dashes), commercial promotion, impersonations, incoherence, proselytizing and SHOUTING. Don't include URLs to Web sites.

We do not edit comments. They are either approved or deleted. We reserve the right to edit a comment that is quoted or excerpted in an article. In this case, we may fix spelling and punctuation.

We welcome strong opinions and criticism of our work, but we don't want comments to become bogged down with discussions of our policies and we will moderate accordingly.

We appreciate it when readers and people quoted in articles or blog posts point out errors of fact or emphasis and will investigate all assertions. But these suggestions should be sent via e-mail. To avoid distracting other readers, we won't publish comments that suggest a correction. Instead, corrections will be made in a blog post or in an article.

click me