A youth covers his face with stickers in Hebrew reading “Beit Shemesh is a Zionist town,” as thousands of Israelis gathered in the town, near Jerusalem, Tuesday night to demonstrate against a radical Jewish group that is trying to impose its ultraconservative lifestyle.
Attempts by ultraconservative Jews to impose their religious views on others in the town of Beit Shemesh have given rise to protests and a national debate about the character of what is, nobody denies, a religious state.
Opposition leader Tzipi Livni and President Shimon Peres joined with moderate protesters trying to “save the majority” from the extreme views of ultra-Orthodox Jews who make up about 10 percent of the country’s population.
Below, the BBC explains the origins of the anti-ultraconservative reaction. —PZS
Protesters, some holding signs reading “Free Israel from religious coercion” and “Stop Israel from becoming Iran”, gathered on Tuesday evening.
Anger spilled over after an eight-year-old American girl, Naama Margolese, said she was afraid to walk to school in the town because ultra-Orthodox men shouted at her.
“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,” she said in a subsequent interview with The Associated Press on Monday.