Haredim protest construction of housing units on possible grave site, August 12, 2013.
Haredi extremists rioted in Beit Shemesh on Tuesday, marking the second day of
violent protests against the erection of housing units on land they claim
contains Jewish graves.
The protesters were dispersed after only several
hours, managing to inflict minor damage compared to Monday’s full-blown riot
which hundreds of meters of hillside abutting the construction site were
Meanwhile, one of the most senior haredi rabbis in Israel, Rabbi
Haim Kanievsky, has been called in to deal with the ongoing controversy
surrounding the Goloventzitz building site in Beit Shemesh.
Goldmeier, a local resident who witnessed the final stages of Tuesday’s
protests, noted on Facebook that compared to yesterday’s events “there was
nothing too exciting going on.” “When a police car drove up, they all screamed
‘Nazi’ as they surrounded the car,” he said.
Security guards employed at
the Goloventzitz site in Ramat Beit Shemesh, where the new Ramat Avraham
neighborhood is slated to be built, said they estimated that between 100 and 150
protesters were present on Tuesday.
Several rabbis spoke to the crowd in
Yiddish, excoriating the developers and the rabbis backing them. Among the
speakers was Rabbi Moshe Zorger, a Satmar rabbi from Jerusalem affiliated with
the Eda Haredit.
Guards employed by the developers stopped several haredi
protesters as they attempted to climb under the fences, leading to clashes in
which members of the crowd hurled stones. Guards responded by throwing rocks of
their own, according to witnesses.
“The security started throwing stones.
Big stones,” said Moshe, a yeshiva student from Jerusalem who came to protest.
“We’re not here to fight them. We’re here to stop the digging. They might even
be their grandfathers over there. Who knows.”
As the clashes died down,
some of the remaining protesters set fire to brush adjacent to the entrance of
the site, setting alight a billboard announcing the contested
Thick, acrid smoke drifted across the road as the final
stragglers left the area. “Eventually they lit a fire in the weeds on the
mountainside,” Goldmeier recalled. “I immediately called the fire
While it was burning, it caused a close-by water pipe to
explode, dousing the fire with a heavy spray, keeping it relatively small until
the fire truck got there.”
Posters placed in haredi neighborhoods called
upon residents to go “to war” over the issue of graves and to flock to Ramat
Beit Shemesh to “stop the [construction] with their bodies.”
Of the 29
people arrested yesterday during the riot in Beit Shemesh, 20 had their remand
extended until tomorrow since they refused to identify themselves.
other suspects were released on conditional terms, including an order banning
them from the Goloventzitz site.
In response, Yesh Atid MK Dov Lipman, a
Beit Shemesh resident, called upon security forces to take swift action against
rabbis who incite their followers to engage in violent activities.
two days in which extremists lit fires in our beloved city of Beit Shemesh, we
can no longer sit quietly,” he said. “We are dealing with something which is
endangering the lives of the residents of Ramat Beit Shemesh and the entire
Lipman said that rioters “cannot be released to their homes but
must experience the full strictness of the law,” as must “those who sent them –
the rabbis who incite them.”
The residential apartments project has been
stalled for over two years, due to claims by the haredi Atra Kadisha
organization that there may be Jewish graves at the site, something that might
prohibit construction according to Jewish law.
Kanievsky, perhaps the
most authoritative haredi rabbi after current acknowledged haredi leader Rabbi
Aharon Leib Shteinman, was approached on Monday night by the leaders of Atra
Kadisha at his home, according to haredi news website Kikar
Following a lengthy discussion on the issue, Kanievsky decided
to appoint a panel of three rabbis to rule on the matter. The rabbis on the
panel are Rabbi Shmuel Halperin, rabbinical judge Mendel Lubin and rabbinical
judge Yisrael Marmarosh.
Work has stopped for the time being at the
Over the past two days, accusations have been made
from several quarters that the two-year opposition to construction and the
current protests by the hardliners from Atra Kadisha are being carried out as a
form of extortion, in order to receive money in return for inspection, oversight
and approval of the project.
Atra Kadisha strongly denies this claim,
saying that it is acting in accordance with Jewish law and the ruling of the
head of the Eda Haredit, Rabbi Yitzhak Tuvia Weiss.
Property owner Arye
Goloventzitz also visited Kanievsky Monday night, to protest both the violence
at the site as well as the physical attack he suffered last week in which he was
beaten at his home, apparently in connection to the
Goloventzitz and the Binyan Shalem company, which is
overseeing the building project, say they are acting in accordance with the
ruling of Eda Haredit second-in-command Rabbi Moshe Sternbuch, who ruled that it
was permitted to build at the site.
Hiddush, a religious freedom
campaigning group, said that rioting committed by extremists connected to Eda
Haredi were becoming an annual phenomenon during the summer.
like its not so important what they’re protesting about and why they’re throwing
stones, the most important thing is that the stones are thrown and donors
receive the pictures,” said Hiddush’s director, attorney and Reform Rabbi Uri
Regev. “The protests and violence are renewed each year because the hooligans
know they won’t pay a price. Only if the criminals will be swiftly brought to
justice and the court will impose custodial sentences of a punitive nature will
there be any chance to eradicate the phenomenon.”
Regev also noted that
the dispute over the graves reflected a broader dispute within the Eda Haredit
“over personal interests and money,” being expressed by violence committed by
haredim towards other haredim.
“This fact should serve as a lesson to the
haredi public regarding one of the fundamentals of hooliganism: Someone who is
silent when violence is perpetrated against others is likely to be the next
victim of such violence.”
Lipman also called for strict measures to be
taken against violent protesters, saying their actions endangered the lives of
Ramat Beit Shemesh residents.
“We cannot allow concern for the dead to
come at the expense of the welfare of those who are alive. This is a desecration
of God’s name and disgraces Judaism,” said the MK.
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