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      Despite Low-Show Protest, Anti-Hareidi Campaign Presses On

      Women's groups, Israeli press continue to hype "women's exclusion" issue; new victim to win fame is a female soldier.
      By Gil Ronen
      First Publish: 12/28/2011, 8:19 PM

      Hareidi man walks by poster regarding gender separation.
      Hareidi man walks by poster regarding gender separation.
      Flash 90

      The anti-hareidi campaign in Israel's press, soon to go into its third week, continued in high gear Wednesday, despite a disappointing protest Tuesday in Beit Shemesh. The protest had been touted by the press, which used it to highlight other instances of separation of men and women in the hareidi - and religious Zionist - lifestyle. 

      The press used the incident where 7 year old Naama Margulis of Beit Shemesh was spit upon by an extremist hareidi who accused her of being immodestly dressed - a despicable act that might have been prevented if law enforcement officers had found a way to stop the hareidi harassment of girls going to a religious Zionist school bordering their homes - as a symbol of all the issues that secular Israelis criticize in the religious Zionist and hareidi lifestyles.

      The press put a brave face on, showed close-angle shots of the protest to make it difficult to assess the number of participants, and claimed that the protesters had numbered 4,000, when they numbered in the hundreds.  Press outlets continued to place the subject of "women's exclusion" at the head of their news coverage Wednesday. 

      The latest heroine to receive wall-to-wall coverage is Doron Matalon, a soldier. Matalon said that she got on the 49 bus in Jerusalem and was asked by a hareidi man to move to the back of the bus because it is segregated. When she refused, he allegedly called her a bad name,but this was denied by witnesses on Radio Kol Hai. . As of 7:00 p.m. Wednesday, the story was the top headline at both the Ynet and NRG news sites, and television Channel 2's news website as well. 

      The Knesset voted down Wednesday a proposal to establish a committee of inquiry regarding "women's exclusion." The proposal, which was submitted by MK Zehava Galon of Meretz, fell by a margin of 31:48 after a stormy debate.

      Thursday morning, Attorney General Yehuda Weinstein will hold a preliminary discussion and consultation with senior members of the Prosecution regarding "women's exclusion," at Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu's behest. The discussion will center, among other things, on legal means for ways of dealing with the phenomenon. 

      Hareidi Knesset Members Moshe Gafni (UTJ) said Wednesday afternoon that the entire campaign was meant to cause a split between Netanyahu and his hareidi coalition partners.