black-hatted haredi protest 248.88.
(photo credit: Ariel Jerozolimski)
They are protesting the opening of a parking lot in Jerusalem, claiming to be pained by the desecration of Shabbat.
Yet for those haredim who rioted on Saturday, the possibility of being arrested and forced into a police van to be driven to the city lockup on Shabbat did not seem a sufficient deterrent against violence.
"The moment when a participant is led away to a police van that approaches the scene becomes one of the most bitter points of contention between us and the police," said Boaz, a haredi who took part in the weekend demonstration and who declined to provide his last name. "A godly effort erupts to prevent it."
But, he added, the odds of being arrested at an event attended by hundreds or even thousands of people is so small that protesting is worth the risk.
"Statistically, it almost does not happen," he said.
Moreover, the protesters come determined to avoid arrest at all costs.
"They come ready, physically, to run as needed," he said.
Fifty-seven haredim were arrested over the weekend for disturbing the peace, Jerusalem Police spokesman Shmuel Ben-Ruby said. They were taken to the city's Russian Compound jail, where they were held overnight until their remand hearing at the adjacent Jerusalem Magistrate's Court on Sunday.
Most of the suspects were driven to the lockup in a police van, he said, adding that the decision on whether to take them to the detention center by vehicle or on foot depended on "the distance, the time and the police weight load at the moment."
He noted, for example, that the haredim arrested on the city's Rehov Bar-Ilan were not going to be walked to the detention center, which is located near city hall, a roughly 20-minute walk.
Police plan to press charges against all 57 detainees; some were remanded in custody on Sunday while others were released on bail and ordered to stay out of the city.
Boaz, the haredi protester, said most of the people arrested in the demonstration were passersby who got caught up in the melee and were arrested to "send a message" - an assertion hotly denied by police.
He was certain that the demonstrations would continue, rejecting police and municipal projections that they would peter out.
"Look, the haredim have nothing to lose - they are not losing money or work by coming to the protests," he said. "In contrast, the police and the city have to amass forces, which takes time and money."
The protester noted that a previous dispute over Shabbat traffic on a major city thoroughfare, Rehov Bar-Ilan, took years to resolve.
"It's going to be a hot summer," he concluded.