A shy 8-year-old schoolgirl has unwittingly found herself on the front line of Israel’s latest religious war.
Naama Margolese is a ponytailed, bespectacled second-grader who is afraid of walking to her religious Jewish girls school for fear of ultra-Orthodox extremists who have spat on her and called her a whore for dressing “immodestly.”
Anyone who calls an eight year old girl a whore should be ashamed of themselves, because their God most definitely will be.
The girls school that Naama attends in the city of Beit Shemesh, to the west of Jerusalem, is on the border between an ultra-Orthodox neighbourhood and a community of modern Orthodox Jewish residents, many of them American immigrants.
The ultra-Orthodox consider the school, which moved to its present site at the beginning of the school year, an encroachment on their territory. Dozens of black-hatted men jeer and physically accost the girls almost daily, claiming their very presence is a provocation.
No, firing guns is a provocation. Yelling whore at eight year olds is provocation. Going to school is not.
The televised images of Naama sobbing as she walked to school shocked many Israelis, elicited statements of outrage from the country’s leadership, sparked a Facebook page with nearly 10,000 followers dedicated to “protecting little Naama” and a demonstration was held in her honour. As the case has attracted attention, extremists have heckled and thrown eggs and rocks at journalists descending on town.
“Who’s afraid of an 8-year-old student?” said Sunday’s main headline in the leading Yediot Ahronot daily.
Beit Shemesh’s growing ultra-Orthodox population has erected street signs calling for the separation of sexes on the pavements, dispatched “modesty patrols” to enforce a chaste female appearance and hurled stones at offenders and outsiders.
Great to read of the response from most normal Israelis. The fanatics sound like they would be happy living with the Taliban.
Naama’s case has been especially shocking because of her young age and because she attends a religious school and dresses with long sleeves and a skirt. Extremists, however, consider even that outfit, standard in mainstream Jewish religious schools, to be immodest.
Maybe a hajib?
Protesters held signs reading, “Free Israel from religious coercion,” and “Stop Israel from becoming Iran.”
The abuse and segregation of women in Israel in ultra-Orthodox areas is nothing new, and critics accuse the government of turning a blind eye.
The ultra-Orthodox are perennial king-makers in Israeli coalition politics – two such parties serve as key members of the ruling coalition. They receive generous government subsidies, and police have traditionally been reluctant to enter their communities.
Worth remembering this story, when our own extremists advocate getting rid of a threshold for MMP, so we would end up like Israel (which has been increasing their threshold).