After three days of haredi riots, Rabbinical leaders have called off a massive demonstration, planned for this week, over the arrest of 19-year-old Yisrael Valis who is suspected of beating his infant son to death. The move was done in an attempt to put a lid on violent protests in Jerusalem's Mea Shearim neighborhood, officials said Sunday.
The streets of Jerusalem's most well-known haredi neighborhood were unusually tranquil Sunday, after back-to-back nightly demonstrations on city streets, in which haredi protesters set garbage bins on fire, pelted police and motorists with stones and blocked traffic in the area.
"The intention is to get this topic off the front pages, which is only doing us damage," said Shmuel Popenheim, editor-in-chief of Haedah the weekly mouthpiece of the virulently anti-Zionist Edah Haredit, which had been spearheading the protests.
"All these demonstrations do not add anything to our cause," he added.
The suspected baby killer, is facing manslaughter charges for beating his three-month old baby to death.
Valis, who allegedly hurled the baby against the wall after he started to cry, is suspected of repeatedly biting, beating, pinching and punching the infant since he was born because he "did not accept him" due to a defect in the neck muscles with which the child was born, police said.
In the meantime, the Jerusalem District Court asked the Police to determine whether Valis poses a danger to society. When that information is received, the State Attorney's Office will consider releasing Valis under restricted conditions.
On the other hand, the New Family organization petitioned Attorney General Menachem Mazuz to prevent the release.
In an effort to ease tensions, Rabbinical sages and Valis' family issued a statement last week, which was read out by megaphones in the close-knit neighborhood Friday, calling on the protesters to refrain from violence and from burning trash on the street.
Their call for calm appears to have worked, with the protest on Saturday night much smaller than on previous nights, police said.
Extremist elements in the haredi community had previously threatened to riot and to "make Jerusalem burn" if the suspected baby killer is not released from custody, even though police said that he has admitted beating his child.
The Edah Haredit is an amalgamation of extremist hassidic sects who believe it is strictly prohibited to establish a Jewish state before the messiah comes even if it is governed by Jewish law.
Jerusalem police spokesman Shmuel Ben-Ruby said Sunday that police would continue to work to maintain law and order, and would not tolerate any violent lawbreakers. He noted that there were no further contacts with Rabbinical leaders over the weekend, following last week's meeting held after the infant was pronounced dead at Jerusalem's Hadassah Hospital, and amidst pugnacious Edah Haredit charges of a police "Pessah-eve blood libel" against the haredi community.
Even as the violent protests subsided, posters reading "Blood Libel 2006 in Jerusalem,' in both Hebrew and English remained affixed on neighborhood billboards Sunday, alongside announcements of the massive protest planned "in the coming days."
The advertisements were signed by "the committee for the protection of religion."
In the meantime, Valis himself has been receiving visitors at his Jerusalem detention cell.
The Jerusalem Municipality said that the haredi riots over the last week have caused NIS 140,000 in damage, including the destruction of 30 city garbage bins.