Peres Urges Israelis to Protest Against Religious Extremism

More than 10,000 people expected at a rally in Beit Shemesh to protest exclusion of women; President says all citizens of Israel must defend the character of the country against ultra-Orthodox fanatics.

Haaretz
DPA
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Haaretz
DPA

President Shimon Peres on Tuesday called on Israelis to attend a demonstration against religious fanaticism, after two days of rioting by ultra-Orthodox extremists in Beit Shemesh.

Thousands were expect to attend the Tuesday night rally in Beit Shemesh, a city south-west of Jerusalem, organized by pro-democracy and equality activists.

President Shimon Peres.Credit: GPO

"The entire nation must be recruited in order to save the majority from the hands of a small minority," Peres urged. "This obligation is everyone's responsibility."

"Today is a test for the nation, not just for the police. All of us, religious, secular, traditional ... must as one man defend the character of the state of Israel against a minority which breaks our national solidarity," Peres told reporters Tuesday.

More than 10,000 people are expected at a rally in Beit Shemesh on Tuesday to protest the exclusion of women as well as violence against girls and women by Haredi extremists. The rally will begin at 6 P.M., near the Orot girl's school.

On Sunday, violence erupted in Beit Shemesh as ultra-Orthodox men clashed with police officers and attacked two television news crews. At least six people were arrested or detained for questioning.

The violent scenes in Beit Shemesh on Sunday, when a Channel 2 news team was attacked by 200 Haredi men, were repeated on Monday.

On Monday morning, dozens of ultra-Orthodox men surrounded police officers and municipal inspectors who came to remove, for at least the third time this week, a sign on Hazon Ish Street, in the Haredi neighborhood Nahala Vemenuha, ordering men and women to use separate sidewalks. The men tried to prevent the sign's removal, calling the police officers "Nazis" and dancing around them in circles.

A few hours later a crew from Channel 10 was attacked as it tried to film a piece on education in the city. Police officers dispatched to the scene after the news team called for help clashed with dozens of Haredim. Some of them lay on the ground in an attempt to keep other members of the group from being arrested. Three people were taken into custody.

About an hour later, a second television crew was attacked as it filmed the controversial sign. The Channel 2 camera crew was pelted with eggs, and a videographer was physically assaulted. Police officers sealed off the street and found themselves facing around 300 Haredim who shouted at them to leave, threw rocks at them and set dumpsters on fire. Officers detained three suspects for questioning.

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