Hundreds of haredim rioted and torched trash cans in Beit Shemesh on Thursday night. Police forces that arrived on the scene made efforts to disperse the crowd but were met with resistance from residents, who stoned the officers and blocked roads. Three people were arrested.
Beit Shemesh turned into the epicenter of the turmoil over hostility directed at women in ultra-Orthodox neighborhoods after media outlets reported that the seven-year-old Na'ama Margolis was harassed by haredim on her way to school. The attackers spat on the girl and yelled insults at her for not being dressed "modestly enough" in their opinion.
- Beit Shemesh: Thousands protest women's segregation
Haredim riot in Beit Shemesh
Court frees haredi who spat on woman
Thursday's riots took place next to the girl's school. A Ynet photographer sent to the scene was threatened by several haredim and had no choice but to leave for fear for his safety.
Scene of the riot
The demands posed by radical religious elements' to exclude women from the public sphere in Israel has been adamantly rejected by state officials across the political spectrum, and was denounced by Chief Rabbi of Israel Yona Metzger and Chief Sephardic Rabbi Shlomo Amar.
Thousands rallied in Beit Shemesh in protest of religious segregation on Tuesday. Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Internal Security Minister Yitzhak Aharonovitch have instructed the police to take a firm hand against such offenses, and the government is debating a series of counter measures.
On Thursday, Attorney General Yehuda Weinstein and senior State Prosecution officials met, at Netanyahu's request, to devise legal ways to combat exclusion offenses.
The panel began outlining a series of new directive focusing on indicting those suspected of verbal of physical exclusion offenses. Initial measures will include ordering state and public institution to apply a zero-tolerance policy should such offenses take place on their premises, as well as imposing hefty fines on offenders.
The Ministerial Committee on Legislation currently has before it a bill proposed by MK Nachman Shai (Kadima), which aims to deem exclusion offenses punishable by a mandatory three-year prison sentence.
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