Ultra-Orthodox Jews take part in the 'Mayim Shelanu' ceremony to collect water from a natural spring to make matza.
(photo credit: REUTERS)
The director of the Kiryat Yovel Communal Administration, Yechiel Levi, has said that his strategy to force haredim (ultra-Orthodox) to move out of the Jerusalem neighborhood was “to strangle” the community.
Levi’s comments were broadcast on Tuesday and evinced heavy criticism from President Reuven Rivlin, Jerusalem Mayor Nir Barkat and haredi political leaders.
Kiryat Yovel was for many years a secular community, but the rapid growth of the haredi population has led them to spread throughout the neighborhoods in Jerusalem, including Kiryat Yovel.
The arrival of large numbers of haredi families has led to clashes within the neighborhood over available resources and infrastructure as well as cultural values, especially regarding Shabbat.
“One needs to strangle the haredi population so that they leave the neighborhood,” Levi said in an interview with Army Radio. “When you strangle them, they leave. When you make it hard for them, then they’re not so excited about living [here]. That’s the mechanism that works today.”
Levi was also asked why movie screenings on Shabbat for Kiryat Yovel residents were done in a center within the haredi area of the neighborhood.
“To demonstrate that we do not need to be concerned where to do it,” he answered.
Numerous public and political leaders expressed outrage at Levi’s comments, with even Rivlin stepping in to denounce the community administration’s sentiments.
“A public servant must be committed [to serve] the entire public, not just one sector,” said Rivlin.
“Levi’s comments saddened and angered me a great deal. Jerusalem, our capital city which brings together the four tribes of Israel, must not be turned into a battlefront between its residents.”
Barkat also castigated Levy, and initially called upon the national organization of community centers to fire him.
“We cannot tolerate such serious and unacceptable comments from a public servant paid by the taxpayers through the municipality and Education Ministry,” he said.
However, later on Tuesday, Barkat issued a statement to the center’s leadership noting that Levi profusely apologized for the comments and called for tolerance and peaceful coexistence in the neighborhood, and therefore he should be allowed to remain in his position.Daniel K. Eisenbud contributed to this report.