Na’ama Margolese, segregation
Na’ama Margolese, the 8-year-old Beit Shemesh girl so traumatized by taunting Haredim that she refused to cross the street in their direction even with the aid of her mother. Photo by Courtesy
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An 8-year-old girl who became the symbol of a recent public struggle against gender segregation and religious extremism returned to school on Thursday, for the first time since a violent incident that sparked a nation-wide protest movement.

Na'ama Margolese turned into a household name last week after Channel 2 broadcasted a segment in which the young girl's described being spat on and accosted by ultra-Orthodox men over what they deemed to be her indecent apparel.

The story soon became a focal point for a rising protest movement against the exclusion of women in the public sphere, with thousands of Israelis amassing in Beit Shemesh to speak out against gender segregation.

On Thursday, Na'aman, escorted by mother Hadassah, arrived at her school following the Hanukkah break, for the first time since that incident. She was welcomed by Education Minister Gideon Sa'ar and members of the Knesset's Committee on the Status of Women.

The 8-year-old did not comment upon entering the school, with her mother saying that she hoped "everything we have done thus far will lead to change, and that things will be quieter from now on."

Hadassah Margolese told reporters that Beit Shemesh mayor Moshe Abutbul attempted to meet with the family, who rejected his offer. "He didn't help with the harassments until now," she said, adding that she has "faith in the state and the police."

"We're headed for a victory for the entire State of Israel," she said.

Speaking at the occasion, Sa'ar said that Israel won't "back down in the face of bullying and threats," adding that he was "impressed by the educational actions taking place in the school in the last few months."

"There's a drop in disturbances, but we need to work to make them go away completely," the education minister said.

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