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Young Girl Spit Upon, Terrorized by Ultra-Orthodox Men Sparks Massive Protest Against Religious Extremism in Israel

Cross-posted from Tikkun Daily. by David Harris-Gershon
Thousands take part in a rally against gender segregation and violence against women in Beit Shemesh, near Jerusalem.

Thousands take part in a rally against gender segregation and violence against women in Beit Shemesh, near Jerusalem.

For years, secular citizens and municipal authorities alike have turned a blind eye as ultra-Orthodox extremists – mirroring the Taliban – have imposed strict gender segregation and modesty rules in public spaces in Israel, forcing women off of sidewalks, banishing them to the back of buses and assaulting those who dare show tiny amounts of skin. However, after a recent Channel 2 news report on 8-year-old Na’ama Margolis and her heartbreaking story of trauma – a story of the gauntlet of abuse she suffers at the hands of ultra-Orthodox men on her walk to school every morning  – few in Israel are turning a blind eye anymore. Indeed, it’s all the country has been able to talk about in recent days. The news report, which aired on Friday and shows Na’ama crying as her American-born mother shields her while walking to school, immediately galvanized the anger of a nation that for too long has been quiet on the issue of gender segregation and rising religious coercion. By Tuesday evening, that galvanized anger had suddenly and unexpectedly translated into a massive rally near Na’ama’s school in Beit Shemesh (near Jerusalem), where nearly 10,000 citizens from across the country chanted against religious extremism and offered support to those who, like Na’ama, were suffering at the hands of a tiny, yet powerful religious minority. With settler violence on the rise – violence that has led to attacks against both Palestinians and Israeli police, violence that has led to the burning of mosques and vandalism on IDF bases – the issue of religious extremism was already one that had taken center stage in the public discourse. Now, after the airing of Na’ama’s story and Tuesday’s massive rally, Israel’s very soul – its nature and future as a State – is an issue that not only hangs in the balance, but now hangs on the tongues of citizens everywhere. What Israel will look like in twenty years remains uncertain. However, what is certain today is this: Tuesday’s rally brought tears of joy to Na’ama’s mother and a smile to Na’ama’s face, for they know that they are not alone in what is becoming a national struggle against religious extremism.


Follow the author – David Harris-Gershon – on Twitter @David_EHG. To read more pieces like this, sign up for Tikkun Daily’s free newsletter, sign up for Tikkun Magazine emails or visit us online. You can also like Tikkunon Facebook and follow us on Twitter.
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