Israelis fear Iranian model
BEIT SHEMESH, Israel
Israeli protesters hold up signs reading in Hebrew: ‘Gender segregation is my red line, stop gender segregation now’ as they protest in the central Israeli town of Beit Shemesh, Israel Dec 27. AP photoThousands of Israelis gathered the night of Dec. 27 to protest against ultra-Orthodox extremists whose campaign for gender segregation has erupted into verbal and physical abuse of women.
The rally in the town of Beit Shemesh was organized in an outburst of public anger after an 8-year-old girl, Naama Margolese, said on national television that ultra-Orthodox men had spat at her on her way to school, accusing her of immodest dress. Police said at least 3,000 people showed up in the town of Beit Shemesh, with “several hundred” police supervising, Agence France-Presse reported.
Some protesters held signs reading “We won’t become another Tehran,” alluding to the Islamic republic in Iran where most women are forced to cover their heads in public. Among the protesters were both secular and Orthodox Jews, some with banners comparing the extremists to Afghanistan’s Taliban zealots. “Excluding women is my red line!” another sign read. “We stop it now.” The rally was originally slated to take place in the courtyard of the school, but the venue was changed after organizers said extremist Haredis – the Hebrew term for the ascetic, black-coated Jews who are in “awe” of God – threatened violence unless the location was changed, Israeli daily Haaretz reported.
Israeli President Shimon Peres has backed the protest, saying the “entire nation must be recruited in order to save the majority from the hands of a small minority.” “No one has the right to threaten a little girl. We are fighting for the soul of the nation and the essence of the state,” Peres said.
Parliamentary opposition leader Tzipi Livni also backed the protest. “We are struggling over Israel’s character not only in Beit Shemesh and not only over the exclusion of women, but against all the extremists who have come out of the woodwork to try and impose their world view on us,” Livni said in a keynote address, Reuters reported.
‘Nuclear silence keeps foes guessing’
JERUSALEM – Agence France-Presse
Israeli President Shimon Peres said Dec. 27 that Israel’s longstanding refusal to confirm or deny reports that it has a nuclear arsenal is itself an effective deterrent. “Israel has ‘real or assumed’ capabilities that are sufficient for deterrence,” Peres’s office quoted him as telling a closed-door annual meeting. Israel is widely believed to have around 200 nuclear warheads, but has a policy of neither confirming nor denying that, a stance which it calls “nuclear ambiguity.”