Israeli President Shimon Peres is calling for the public to support a protest against Jewish religious extremism planned in Beit Shemesh on Tuesday night.
The city, west of Jerusalem, has been under the spotlight since allegations surfaced that an eight-year-old girl was being harassed by ultra-orthodox Jews for not dressing conservatively enough.
Other residents, like Sarit Ramon, say similar incidents have been happening for a long time: “I can’t tell you what’s been going on in recent
weeks, but the situation has been catastrophic for years. This didn’t start today, but now unfortunately when a child is harmed and spat at it creates noise. When I said that I was spat at a year and a half ago, people just raised an eyebrow. I hope it will be over,” she said.
Now Peres has spoken out, calling on all Israelis to face those he claims are threatening the solidarity of the state.
Following a meeting with Israeli ambassadors, the President said it was important for everyone to show that the actions of the extremists have no place in a secular society: “Today, the test is for the nation, not just for the police. All of us, the religious, the secular, the conservative, all the branches must come together as one to defend the image of the state of Israel,” he said.
Some of the city’s ultra-orthodox residents were detained when they clashed with police at a demonstration on Monday.
The more extreme orthodox Jews in Beit Shemesh want to introduce gender segregation and more modest dress for women.