JERUSALEM (JTA) — Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu called on the Israel Police to act aggressively against violence against women in the public sphere.
The order came from Netanyahu Saturday night through Public Security Minister Yitzhak Aharonovitch following a television expose the previous evening showing an 8-year-old Modern Orthodox girl who said she was afraid to walk to school because of harassment from local haredi Orthodox men.
Netanyahu reportedly also spoke with Attorney General Yehuda Weinstein to make certain that laws against excluding women from the public space were enforced.
Also Saturday night, a haredi Orthodox man was arrested on suspicion of spitting at a woman helping girls on to a school bus at a Modern Orthodoxo elementary school in the Jerusalem suburb of Beit Shemesh. The man and other attackers said she was immodestly dressed, according to Haaretz.
"Israel is a democratic, Western, liberal state. The public sphere is open and safe for everyone — men and women alike. There is no place for harassment or discrimination," Netanyahu said Sunday at the start of the weekly Cabinet meeting.
"While we will use all legal means at our disposal, I would like to emphasize that this is not just a legal issue. It is also a social issue. It is also a question of public and social norms," he said. "Therefore, I appeal to all public figures and spiritual leaders to act against this phenomenon. The public sphere in Israel will be open and safe for all."
Netanyahu was scheduled to meet Sunday with haredi Orthodox lawmakers to ask them to speak out against the segregation of women in public spaces, Haaretz reported.