FaithWorld

Religious affairs minister fears Jewish disputes could tear Israel apart

January 4, 2012

(Israelis take part in a protest against violence by religious zealots trying to impose their religious code on the town of Beit Shemesh, near Jerusalem December 27, 2011. The placard reads, "Exclusion of women is my red line." REUTERS/Baz Ratner)

Israeli society could be torn apart if disputes between ultra-Orthodox and less observant Jews continue to heat up, Israel’s religious affairs minister said on Wednesday.

In a telephone interview, Yaacov Margy, who also serves as director-general of Shas, a religious party in Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s coalition government, condemned an incident last month in which zealots seeking gender separation spat at a schoolgirl they accused of dressing immodestly.

That attack was disclosed by an Israeli television station, whose report on the violence stunned many in the Jewish state, where concerns over religious coercion are mounting among its mainly secular population.

Margy said such incidents and ultra-Orthodox protests – in the latest, on Saturday, children were dressed as Nazi Holocaust victims to suggest public persecution of the community – had been overblown in the media.

“If they ganged up on an 8-year-old girl, this is something that must be uprooted. We have a police force, courts – anyone who is violent must be dealt with. But we don’t have to go crazy,” he said.

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