Dozens of ultra-Orthodox youths in the Mea Shearim neighborhood drove out a film crew on Thursday, reportedly throwing stones and hurling curses at the student filmmakers.
Dana Ofer, an actress in the film, said the crew for the Sam Spiegel Film School project had been shooting for hours in a carpentry workshop without encountering any problems. When they stepped outside to film a scene of a man and woman talking, Ofer said young men quickly gathered around them and began cursing them and demanding they leave.
The neighborhood's modesty police patrol then arrived and began shouting and threatening to break their equipment if they did not leave immediately. At one point, members of the mob threw the camera and boom on the ground, but the equipment was not damaged, Ofer said.
She said the film crew, which numbered around 20 people, was very respectful of the sensibilities of the neighborhood and did not do anything provocative. She added that the filmmakers had spoken to shopkeepers and residents of the neighborhood long before filming began, and was told there would be no problems filming there.
Hours after she and the film crew were chased out of the neighborhood, Ofer said she was still coming to grips with the negativity and aggressive manner in which she says the neighborhood residents dealt with her and the film crew.
"I've never seen this sort of hatred or fury," Ofer said. "It was shocking."
The film's director, Itai Akirav, said the seven-minute student film had no connection to Mea Shearim and was not attempting to portray the neighborhood in any light, neither positive or negative. He said the location was not deep within the neighborhood, rather, it was near the entrance to Mea Shearim on Ethiopia Street.
"I checked dozens of locations in Jerusalem before finding this one, which we chose because it looked authentic and really fit what we were filming. The decision to film there had nothing to do with it being in Mea Shearim," Akirav said.
Akirav added that he and the film crew "knew we were taking a risk, but we decided to do it anyway."He also said the shoot proceeded without incident until they filmed a scene with a mixed couple on the street. Akirav said both actors were dressed modestly and there was no touching between them.
"Then all of a sudden about five or six young people appeared and told us to leave and threatened us. We tried to speak to them civilly, but they just kept yelling and screaming and threatened the owner they would burn down his shop."
Akirav said that within moments the crowd grew to around 50 or 60 people, almost all of them youths. Akirav said some of them began throwing sticks and stones, "but it wasn't anything like Intifada level."
At this point, the film crew quickly fled, vowing to film another day in a different location altogether.
Akirav told The Jerusalem Post he had no hard feelings toward the people who drove him out of the neighborhood.
"I feel sorry for them. I don't believe they did it to hurt people, it's just their way of solving problems," Akirav said.
Akirav added that he hoped the incident did not reflect negatively on the entire neighborhood, saying that throughout the filming there were many people from all branches of the Orthodox community who passed by the set and were very curious and supportive.
"They're just like the secular community," he said. "There are all types of people in their community, not all are extremists, just like not all secular Jews are extremists."
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