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School girl’s plight deepens Israel debate on zealot Jews in Beit Shemesh

JERUSALEM (Reuters) – Eight-year-old Naama Margolese told Channel Two TV she was terrified of walking to her moderate Orthodox school because of passersby who wanted her “to dress like a Haredi” – the Hebrew term for the ascetic, black-coated Jews who are in “awe” of God.

“I`m afraid I might get hurt or something,” the girl said.

Margolese`s mother Hadassa, an American immigrant who wore a headscarf and skirt in deference to religious Jewish tradition, said the sidewalk abuse could include spitting, curses like “whores” and “bastards” and calls to “clear out of here”.

Channel Two showed a Beit Shemesh street sign ordering women to keep to one side, away from a synagogue. A few ultra-Orthodox men who were interviewed disavowed religiously motivated aggression toward women. Others sought to justify it. Some shunned the TV crew, shouting at the journalists to leave.

The report resonated in Israel given recent media focus on the impact of ultra-Orthodox gender segregation on public transport and in the conscript military, where some religious troops boycott women instructors and entertainers.

The ultra-Orthodox make up only about 10 per cent of Israel`s population of 7.7 million. But their high birthrates and bloc voting patterns have helped them secure welfare benefits and wider influence. One of Netanyahu`s biggest partners in the coalition government, Shas, is a party run by rabbis.

Haredim riot in Beit Shemesh after segregation signs removed

JERUSALEM (Ynet) 1 hour ago – Dozens of haredim riot, hurl stones as officers, municipal inspectors remove signs calling for women’s exclusion; some signs already put back up; municipality to install hundreds of security cameras.

Police forces accompanied by Beit Shemesh municipal inspectors removed public signs calling for segregation between men and women in the city on Sunday. This prompted dozens of haredim to crowd around the officers. They hurled stones and cursed the officers. Some haredim called police “Nazis.” There were no reports of injury.

Hillary Clinton Says Mehadrin Buses & Kol Isha Protest In IDF Remind Her Of Iran

WASHINGRON DC (Yeshiva World) Dec. 4, 2011 – US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton voiced deep concern on Saturday over a wave of anti-democratic legislation in Israel and in particular a bill proposing to limit donations to human rights organizations. Clinton also criticized the growing exclusion of women from Israel’s public life.

In a closed session at the Saban Forum attended both by Israeli and American decision-makers Clinton addressed the issue of discrimination against Israeli women. She expressed concern for Israel’s social climate in the wake of limitations on female public singing and gender segregation on public transport.

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Among the Israeli representatives taking part in the forum were Minister Dan Meridor, Opposition Chairwoman Tzipi Livni, former Mossad chief Meir Dagan and former IDF Chief of Staff Gabi Ashkenazi.

Clinton, a longtime advocate for women’s rights, noted she was shocked at the fact that some Jerusalem buses have assigned separate seating areas for women. “It’s reminiscent of Rosa Parks,” she said, referring to the black American woman who refused to give up her seat to white passengers in the 1950s.

Referring to the decision of some IDF soldiers to leave an event where female soldiers were singing, she said it reminded her of the situation in Iran.

Finance Minister Yuval Steinitz said Clinton’s comments were “completely exaggerated”.

Game changer: Hillary says Israeli restrictions on women remind her of Rosa Parks and Iran

On the exclusion of women, Netanyahu is slick and shallow

(Haaretz) – Netanyahu is not interested in stopping these things, which share the fertile ground that produces the raging campaigns against the judicial system, the Palestinians, Israeli Arabs, and mosques.

Now we can relax: Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has said he won’t let the extremists hurt women. Israel’s public space, he said, “must remain open and safe to all.” In an impressive display of alacrity he urged the attorney general to check whether local governments were enforcing “the laws against excluding women in the public sphere.”

Netanyahu once again proved he is a terrific PR agent, with his finger on the pulse of the Israeli street, and leveraged the public’s discomfort into branding himself as the father of the nation. With one hand he dictated a review of the legal code, and with the other promised, “We won’t give in to the extremists.”

Rabbis maintaining ‘disturbing silence’ amid uproar over gender segregation

"But I will not let myself be reduced to silence."

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