26 Dec 2011

Israeli PM vows to stop harassment by zealots

3:23 pm on 26 December 2011

Israel's Prime Minister, Benjamin Netanyahu has stepped up pledges to curb Jewish zealotry in Israel after an 8-year-old girl complained of being menaced by ultra-Orthodox men who deemed her dress immodest.

The girl told a television news programme that she was afraid of walking to her moderate Orthodox school in Beit Shemesh because of passersby who object to her clothing.

Her mother, an American immigrant who wore a headscarf and skirt in deference to religious Jewish tradition, said the abuse could include spitting, curses like "whores" and "bastards" and calls to "clear out of here".

Mr Netanyahu said he had ordered law enforcement authorities to crack down on harassment and to remove street signs segregating men from women in some ultra-Orthodox districts.

On returning to Beit Shemesh on Sunday, the Channel Two television news crew was mobbed by ultra-Orthodox Jews.

Police said the assailants stoned the crew's car, wounded a reporter and stole equipment.

Separately, police said they had arrested a Beit Shemesh man for spitting at a woman, and that he could face assault charges.