CAIRO - Outrage engulfed Israel on Sunday, January 1, after Ultra-Orthodox Jews dressed children as Holocaust victims in protest against public anger over calls for gender separation in the Jewish country.
Prisoner uniforms and yellow badges with the word Jew' written in German are appalling and shocking, Defense Minister Ehud Barak said in a statement cited by Haaretz.
The use of the yellow badge and young children holding their hands up in defeat is crossing the line.
Hundreds of Ultra-Orthodox Jews protested late Saturday against what they say as prosecution of devout Jews seeking gender separation in Israel.
In their protest, children dressed as Holocaust victims, with some wearing yellow badges while others were dressed in prisoner uniforms symbolizing the prosecution of Jews by the Nazi regime during World War II.
In the protest, a child raised his hands in surrender and a yellow Star of David inscribed with "Jude," Jew, in German, was sewn on his jacket.
The image mimicked a memorable photo of a terrified Jewish boy during a roundup in the Nazi-occupied Warsaw Ghetto in World War II.
"Nazis, Nazis," some of the protesters shouted at police.
The Haredi leadership, which is responsible in the most part, cannot accept such behavior, Barak said, referring to the Ultra-Orthodox Jews.
They must put an end to unacceptable behavior of this sort.
The protestors carried posters accusing the "Zionist entity" of carrying out "an unprecedented attack on the 'Haredi' community".
Some groups within the ultra-Orthodox community do not recognize Israel, saying such a state can only be established with the coming of the Messiah.
"You will not be able to impose on us sinful (Western) culture. We will remain faithful to the laws of Holy Torah," read one protest sign at Saturday's demonstration, according to Reuters.
Speakers at the protest singled out an activist, jailed for vandalizing a computer store he deemed heretical in an ultra-Orthodox neighborhood, as a victim of what they called government persecution.
Ultra-Orthodox Jews have sparked a heated uproar in Israel last week by calling for gender segregation on buses.
The call has prompted thousands of Israelis to take to the streets to protest against what they call religious extremism in Israel.
Israeli leaders denounced the protest as an offense to Holocaust survivors.
Putting on yellow badges on children is a gross offense to Holocaust remembrance, Kadima leader Livni said in a Facebook post.
According to Encyclopedia Britannica, the Holocaust refers to "systematic state-sponsored killing of Jewish men, women, and children and others by Nazi Germany and its collaborators during World War II."
The commonly used figure for the number of Jewish victims is six million.
But the figure has been questioned by many European historians and intellectuals, chiefly French author Roger Garaudy.
Even in the debate we are holding today, there are lines we must not cross, Livni, a former foreign minister, said.
Hilltop youth calling IDF officers Nazis and now Haredim with yellow badges are sinning against the collective memory of the Holocaust and meaning of the State of Israel.
Avner Shalev, chairman of Yad Vashem, Israel's national memorial to the Holocaust victims, said the protesters' use of Holocaust imagery was a "profound insult" to survivors.
"This is totally unacceptable and degrades Jewish values," Shalev said on Israel Radio.
The ultra-Orthodox make up only about 10 percent of Israel's population of 7.7 million.
But their high birthrates and bloc voting patterns have helped them secure welfare benefits and wider influence.One of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's biggest partners in the coalition government, Shas, is a party run by rabbis.