'Haredi attack on girl nauseating, disgusting’

Yishai slams men who spat at girl, says behavior goes against Torah; Livnat: Livni making feminist issue political.

Eli Yishai 311 (photo credit: Marc Israel Sellem)
Eli Yishai 311
(photo credit: Marc Israel Sellem)
Interior Minister Eli Yishai on Monday lashed out at a haredi man who spat on an eight-year-old schoolgirl in Beit Shemesh last week, calling the action “nauseating and disgusting.”
The man claimed the girl, Na’ama Margolis, had been dressed immodestly.
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Yishai told a Shas faction meeting that such behavior goes against the values of the Torah, and the law must be enforced “with all its severity.”
The Shas leader related a Talmudic story in which the sage, Rabbi Yohanan Ben-Zakkai, opposed an extremist group called Sikrikim, after whom the modern-day haredi group is named, saying that the phenomenon in which a minority is more extreme than leading rabbis is at least 2,000 years old.
“I call on everyone, especially the media, to recognize that this is an extremist group,” Yishai said. “There have been attempts at incitement against haredim, and I hope they end soon.”
Earlier in the meeting, MK Yitzhak Vaknin (Shas) grumbled: “There is no discrimination against women – it’s a lie. There’s only hatred of haredim.”
Meanwhile, Culture and Sport Minister Limor Livnat, Labor leader Shelly Yacimovich, MKs Zahava Gal-On (Meretz), Faina Kirschenbaum (Israel Beiteinu), Orly Levy-Abecasis (Israel Beiteinu), Tzipi Hotovely (Likud), Marina Solodkin (Kadima) and others held a meeting in the Knesset to speak out against discrimination.
“This is a struggle for all of society, not just women,” Livnat said, lamenting that not all female MKs were present.
The minister explained that her office is working on battling four phenomena: segregated bus lines; discrimination in cemeteries, in which women are forbidden from eulogizing their loved ones; excluding women from public ceremonies; and segregated sidewalks.
Yacimovich said that the escalation of discrimination against women is terrible, but can also be seen as an opportunity to bring awareness of the fight for equality for women.
“Women still have a lower status in society, despite all of the feminist revolution’s achievements,” she said. “Discrimination is everywhere, not just on buses, and not just among haredim.”
Yacimovich said the struggle against discrimination is a fight for democracy, human rights, the rule of law and sanity in Israel, which women from all sides of the political spectrum should support even if they do not agree on all issues.
Livni slammed the government, saying in the female MKs’ meeting that political agreements allowed the current discrimination to take place, and Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu is not willing to pay the political price of standing up for women’s rights.
Referring to haredim, Livni said Israel cannot turn into a divided country where one group studies in a different language, decides whether or not it wants to serve in the army and spits on the other group.
Later in the day, in response to a Kadima vote of no-confidence on the topic of discrimination against women, which did not pass, Livnat accused Livni of making a feminist issue political.
“Suddenly, when it looks like a primary is near, Livni remembers that she’s a woman,” Livnat scoffed. She pointed out that the Kadima leader had not been involved in recent parliamentary votes on women’s issues, such as raising the retirement age for women.
Livnat said that female MKs from many political parties have worked together to improve the status of women in Israel and fight discrimination, and called on Kadima to leave politics aside and cooperate.
Also on Monday, Israel Police Commissioner Yohanan Danino mentioned the recent controversy over discrimination against women in a Foreign Affairs and Defense Committee meeting, explaining that the police cannot solve all problems.
According to Danino, discrimination against women is a complex social issue, which the police cannot eliminate single-handedly.
At the same time, he said that the police has been aware of and dealing with the matter for months, taking action against lawbreakers.
“The police doesn’t work according to headlines and agendas,” Danino stated. “We have a very clear policy of increasing the chances that criminals will be caught in the State of Israel.
“It doesn’t matter if he is [breaking the law] for reasons of ideology, faith or culture – we are a state of the law, and we will enforce the law without compromise.”