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Naama Margolese (above), an American-born Israeli girl, sparked a nationwide controversy in Israel after it was reported that the eight-year old faces daily harassment from ultra-Orthodox Jewish extremists on her daily walk to school. On Tuesday night in the city of Beit Shemesh, thousands gathered to protest against gender segregation and violence against women in the community after Margolese told a local news channel that she and her classmates are spat on, jeered at, and physically accosted by ultra-Orthodox men every morning, who believe that the presence of an all-girls school in their community is an affront to their religious beliefs. 'Cause, ya know — if God tells you that you can't have a glass of Yoo-Hoo with your gefilte fish, it follows that He'd also be cool with you throwing rocks at eight-year old girls.
While it shouldn't matter to anyone how women choose to dress in public, Naama is, of course, eight, so it matters even fucking less, and footage of her walking to school, sobbing as dozens of men hurl epithets at her, has attracted a great deal of attention from the national media. Supporters on Facebook have rallied to her defense, and even Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu spoke out against the violence. Yet modern Orthodox women have complained about abuse from ultra-Orthodox Jews for decades, and have accused lawmakers of ignoring harassment in the interest of garnering political support from the community.
Lately, however, ultra-Orthodox Jews — who make up ten percent of the country's population — have been more aggressive about imposing their beliefs on other residents, going on "modesty patrol" to ensure that the women of the neighborhood dress modestly. (The definition of "modesty patrol" is kinda vague, but it's safe to assume that it's the complete opposite of its equivalent practice among American males, "pussy patrol.")
It's now harder for law enforcement officials to turn a blind eye to their behavior, and the case of Naama and her classmates reflects mounting tensions between secular Jews and the ultra-Orthodox communities nationwide. "It is clear that Israeli society is faced with a challenge that I am not sure it can handle," ultra-Orthodox expert Menachem Friedman says of the events of the past week. "[It's] a challenge that is no more and no less than an existential challenge."