The story of Naama Margolese, a soft-spoken 8-year-old schoolgirl, has prompted plans for a demonstration Tuesday by Israelis outraged at the actions of a group of ultra-orthodox Jewish extremists.
Margolese was shown crying on the way to her religious Jewish girls school in images televised Monday, after having been spit on and bullied by extremists in her neighborhood, the Associated Press reports. The ultra-orthodox men also called her a prostitute for dressing “immodestly.”
“When I walk to school in the morning I used to get a tummy ache because I was so scared ... that they were going to stand and start yelling and spitting,” Margolese told the AP Monday. “They were scary. They don’t want us to go to the school.”
Margolese attends a school in Beit Shemesh, a city to the west of Jerusalem that borders an ultra-Orthodox neighborhood and a community of modern Orthodox Jewish residents, many of whom are American immigrants. Margolese herself is American.
Students say they are physically accosted and jeered at by dozens of men in black hats almost every day.
Following the televised report on Margolese Monday, some 300 ultra-Orthodox residents pelted police with stones and eggs, the BBC reports. Extremists also heckled and threw eggs and rocks at journalists who came to Beit Shemesh, including a crew from Israel Channel 2 News.
Following the clashes, unidentified ultra-Orthodox activists from Beit Shemesh issued a statement condemning the violence, according to the BBC. But they also accused the media of initiating “deliberate provocations in order to make the peaceful, quiet and tolerant residents, who live their lives according to their beliefs, look bad.”
Margolese’s story has continued to spread, with many shocked Israelis speaking out about the incident, including Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. “The Israel police are taking, and will take, action to arrest and stop those who spit, harass or raise a hand. This has no place in a free and democratic state,” Netanyahu told his cabinet.
Margolese’s story has also sparked a demonstration planned for Tuesday evening, in which thousands of people are expected to attend.
Many of the demonstrators say they are outraged over the way ultra-Orthodox Jews treat women. They name incidents in which women have been asked to sit at the back of busses, female faces have been removed from advertising in Jerusalem, and streets have been closed to them, according to the BBC.
In Beit Shemesh, street signs have been erected calling for the separation of sexes on the sidewalks and “modesty patrols” work to enforce a chaste appearance in women. In the video of Margolese walking to school, her mother is shown wearing a skirt that is only knee-length and calf-length boots, the Independent reports.
Ultra-Orthodox Jews represent 10 percent of the population in Israel. Partly because of higher of birth rates, their ranks are growing.
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