Thousands of Israelis poured into the streets yesterday to protest calls by Orthodox Jewish extremists for gender segregation. Fury erupted after a group of Orthodox Jews harassed young girls on their way to school for not dressing "modestly." Stop Israel "from becoming Iran," said signs held by protesters in the town of Beit Shemesh west of Jerusalem, reports the BBC. President Shimon Peres expressed support for the demonstrators who aim to "save the majority from the hands of a small minority," he said. "No person has the right to threaten a girl, a woman, or any person in any way," he added.
Schoolgirls and parents in the community have complained of harassment by groups of Orthodox men claiming the little girls are wearing "immodest" dress. "When I walk to school in the morning I get a tummy ache because I'm so scared that they are going to start yelling and spitting," Naama Margoles, 8, told AP. Naama's story, told in a recent documentary, has infuriated Israelis. Women also report being taunted as prostitutes for wearing T-shirts and skirts. The Orthodox extremists are demanding that males and females walk on opposite sides of the street in town. Ultra-Orthodox Jews make up 10% of the Israeli population, but large families are driving up their numbers.