(photo credit: Ariel Jerozolimski)
Riots that shook the capital’s haredi enclave of Mea Shearim on Sunday night are estimated to have cost some NIS 1 million in property damage, as garbage bins, traffic lights and vehicles – among other things – were vandalized in connection with the relocation of ancient graves in Ashkelon, a Jerusalem municipal spokeswoman said Monday.
On Monday night, what appeared to be aftershocks of the rioting were being reported by police at the intersection of Shivtei Yisrael and Haim Bar Lev streets as dozens of haredi men attempted to block traffic, but were subsequently dispersed by police. A police spokesman also said that young haredi men were sporadically throwing rocks at police officers throughout the neighborhood, and that officers were attempting to restore order.
The violence took place as Mayor Nir Barkat’s decision to cut-off municipal services to the neighborhood and it’s surroundings remained in effect, with a municipal spokeswoman adding that the city was maintaining a “wait and see” attitude before reinstating them, as the potential for renewed rioting had not been ruled out.
“We can’t continue to provide the neighborhood with municipal services when the neighborhood’s residents are attacking municipal employees and damaging city property,” she said. “It’s really an unfortunate situation, but the city’s response is directly connected to what is happening on the ground.”
The rioting was sparked by the relocation of ancient tombs next to Barzilai Hospital in Ashkelon, which began late Saturday night. The tombs are being moved to make way for a new bomb-proof emergency room.
A preliminary archeological inspection of the tombs showed them to be from the Byzantine period and non-Jewish. Yet haredi leaders – and in particular leaders of the Eda Haharedit faction – rejected the findings and leveled severe criticism against the government for agreeing to go ahead with the move, saying such actions were a violation of Jewish law.
The excavation work also sparked rioting – and vandalism – at the site, as well as in Jaffa, were dozens of haredim were arrested, and additional haredim protested on Monday. However, the violence in Jerusalem was the worst.
Meanwhile, the Forum of Organizations for a Free Jerusalem, a group that
led recent protests against “religious coercion” in the capital,
delivered a letter to Barkat on Monday expressing anger over Sunday
night’s violence. The letter included a statement refusing to foot the
“As representatives of the free organizations in Jerusalem, including
student and youth organizations, we are fed up with the heavy burden
that is being forced upon us by haredi rioters,” the letter said.
“According to official documents, the city has invested millions of
shekels from public funds over the past two years for the rehabilitation
of streets and public property [where the riots took place]. It goes
without saying that those who were rioting do not contribute to these
public funds, yet they squeeze out more and more with each wave of